A- A+

Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 4: Sarvannanumatyadhikaranam: Topic 7 (Sutras 28-31)

Food restrictions may be given up only when life is in danger.

Sarvannanumatischa pranatyaye taddarsanat III.4.28 (453)

Only when life is in danger (there is) permission to take all food (i.e., take food indiscriminately) because the Sruti declares that.

Sarvannanumatih: permission to take all sorts of food; Cha: only; Pranatyaye: when life is in danger; Taddarsanat: because the Sruti declares that.

This and the subsequent three Sutras indicate what kind of food is to be taken.

Chhandogya Upanishad declares, "For one who knows this, there is nothing that is not food" (Chh. Up. V.2.1). The question is if such Sarvannanumati (description of all as his food) is a Vidhi or Vidhyanga or a Sruti (praise).

The Purvapakshin maintains that it is enjoined on one who meditates on Prana on account of the newness of the statement. It has an injunctive value, as such statement is not found anywhere else.

The Sutra refutes it and declares that it is not an injunction, but only a statement of fact. We are not justified in assuming an injunction, where the idea of an injunction does not arise. It is not Vidhi or injunction as no mandatory words are found. Can a man eat and digest all things? No. Prohibited food may be eaten only when life is in danger, when one is dying of hunger as was done by the sage Chakrayana (Ushasti) when he was dying for want of food. Sruti declares this.

Sage Ushasti was dying of hunger on account of famine. He ate the beans half-eaten by a keeper of elephants but refused to drink what had been offered by the latter on the ground of its being a mere leaving. The sage justified his conduct by saying, "I would not have lived, if I had not eaten the beans, but water I can do without at present. I can drink water wherever I like."

From this it follows, that the passage "For one who knows this" etc., is an Arthavada.

Abadhatccha III.4.29 (454)

And because (thus) (the scriptural statements with respect to food) are not contradicted.

Abadhat: becausc of a non-contradiction, as there is no contrary statement anywhere in Sruti; Cha: and, also, moreover, on account of non-sublation.

The topic commenced in Sutra 28 is continued.

And thus those scriptural passages which distinguish lawful and unlawful food such as "When the food is pure the whole nature becomes pure" (Chh. Up. VII.26.2) are non-sublated. The statement of the Chhandogya Upanishad will not be contradicted only if the explanation given is taken, and not otherwise.

Only then other Srutis will have unhindered applications. Only in this view will the Sruti "When the food is pure the mind becomes pure" have application.

Clean food should generally be taken as there is no contrary statement anywhere in Sruti to the purifying effect of clean food. There is nowhere any passage in Sruti, contradicting the passage of the Chhandogya Sruti which declares that clean food makes our nature pure.

Unlawful food as a general rule clogs the understanding and obstructs the clear works of the intellect. But in the case of the sage, whose heart is always pure and intellect keen, the taking of such food does not obstruct the working of his brain, and his knowledge remains as pure as ever.

Api cha smaryate III.4.30 (455)

And moreover the Smritis say so.

Api: also; Cha: moreover; Smaryate: the Smriti says so, it is seen in the Smritis, it is prescribed by Smriti.

The previous topic is continued.

Smriti also states that when life is in danger both he who has knowledge and he who has not can take any food. "He who eats food procured from anywhere when life is in danger, is not tainted by sin, as a lotus leaf is not wetted by water."

On the contrary many passages teach that unlawful food is to be avoided. "The Brahmana must permanently forego intoxicating liquor". "Let them pour boiling spirits down the throat of a Brahmana who drinks spirits". "Spirit-drinking worms grow in the mouth of the spirit-drinking man, because he enjoys what is unlawful."

From this it is inferred that generally clean food is to be taken except in the case of extreme starvation or in times of distress only.

When the Upanishad says that the sage may eat all kinds of food, it must be interpreted as meaning that he may eat all kinds of food, in times of distress only. The text of the Upanishad should not be construed as an injunction in favour of eating unlawful food.

Sabdaschato'kamakare III.4.31 (456)

And hence the scripture prohibiting license.

Sabdah: the scriptural passage; Cha: and; Atah: hence; Akamakare: to prevent undue license, prohibiting license, as to non-proceeding according to liking.

The previous topic is discussed and concluded here.

There are scriptural passages which prohibit one from doing everything just as he pleases, which forbid man to take undue liberty in the matter of food and drink. "Therefore a Brahmana must not drink liquor" (Kathaka Sam.). Perfect spiritual discipline is absolutely necessary for controlling the mind and the senses and attaining knowledge or Self-realisation. Such Sruti texts are meant for this discipline.

Therefore, it is established that the Sruti does not enjoin on one who meditates on Prana to take all kinds of food indiscriminately.

As there is Sruti which forbids license in food and drink, the Sruti referred to above in Sutra 28 is an Arthavada.

The permission to take all kinds of food is confined to times of distress only when one's life is in danger. One must strictly observe the injunctions of the scriptures in ordinary times.