Knowledge, Happiness and Food Habits


Through the past several essays we have analyzed “experience”, what it is and how it evolves. Let us take a break from this analytical approach for a while. Instead let us put to use, what we have learned thus far.

We have learned that anything “experienced” by the “I” (the inner person) is the result of its connection through the body, mind and intellect of the person. Such connection occurs through three co-existing connectors, with one being dominant over the other two. The three connectors are: Knowledge (of the laws of nature at play), Bias (Partial knowledge influenced by our attachments and preferences) and Ignorance (of the laws as well as the ignorance of our bias). Any and all our experiences are perceptions through the role of these connectors.

Looking for such connectors by itself can be a life long occupation! Indeed it is said that the enlightened person remains steady and unaffected by any happenings around, since he/she sees the world as nothing more than the interplay of the three connectors! None of us may ever be “enlightened” in such an ideal manner. But, we should not make such perfection and awe about it as deterrent to become better in smaller, incremental steps.  It is certainly possible that we can learn on methods and evidences to look for the connectors, even in ordinary aspects of life. This is our mission in the rest of this essay.

 Knowledge:

 “Knowledge” pertains to the intuitive as well as explicit understanding of the laws of nature at work. For instance, once we understand the principles of electric discharge across charged particles, we can relate to the same phenomena if it occurs at the high altitude among the rain clouds or if it occurs in a glass jar in a laboratory experiment. It might even occur in common events such as touching a metal with silk cloth or dry hands heavy with static charge. Laws of nature are permanent, eternal, and invariant of time, place or circumstances. Their remarkable consistency is a matter of wonderment in itself! Such knowledge also leads us to the recognition of the consistency or the common principles at work in all situations which on the surface appear to be distinct and different.

The same can also be said of the world that is beyond physical descriptions. This includes our feelings, emotions, ideas and beyond that the consciousness which serves as the substratum of our entire cognitive world. Just as one can acquire the knowledge of physical laws – like the principles of electric discharge – through analysis, inference and experimentation, one can also acquire an understanding of the common principles at work on any subject matter or situation. Hence life itself becomes a space for observation all the time! Such observer is not affected by the situation or circumstances positively or negatively. But, the joy of observation, comprehension and understanding the common principles at work prevails for ever!

As we observe and comprehend each law of nature, one step at a time, we begin to see that laws of nature do exist irrespective of the situation and circumstances.  In fact and indeed they do exist, whether we know them or not, whether we understand them or not! Each of us can also begin to see that our mere existence and our ability to search for these laws of nature are also governed by certain other laws! When we recognize the laws of nature at work, we use them wisely. When we do not recognize or understand them, in those instances (which may be many or few) we are humble and modest to have the faith that such laws do indeed exist. This knowledge leads to the understanding of the oneness of the universe or the comprehension that “I” as an individual am nothing more than the microcosm of the universe at large (Thath Thwam Asi) co-existing under the eternal and omnipresent and omnipotent Laws of Nature (and their metaphoric enabler – God).

Through tranquility, reflection and self-control one acquires the KNOWLEDGE through which one can perceive the same and changeless presence in all beings of the world; they also lead to the recognition of the undivided presence in all divided aspects. B.G. 18. 20.

The Knowledge  which through reasons of attachments leads to separation or division and hence sees many severally divided existences in all beings, places, things, etc. arises out of Bias (leading to turbulence or agitated nature) of a person.    B.G. 18. 21.

The Knowledge that leads to unalterable attachment to one activity, object or effect as if it were the whole of life, ignoring the true realities and narrowness of its scope, is declared to be Ignorance or illusion.  B.G. 18. 22.

 Happiness:

We have learned the role of three connectors with respect to “Knowledge”. Then it should be relatively easy to perceive the role of connectors in any other aspect of life! To continue this challenge, let us consider the experience we call as “Happiness”.

That experience which appears in the beginning like poison, and transforms into nectar in the end, that pleasure of transformation is declared as belonging to knowledge (and its effect through tranquility).  Such HAPPINESS arises out of the purity or clarity (through self control) of one’s own mind and its power of reasoning.   B.G. 18. 37.

That happiness, which arises out of the contact with the objects of nature and sense organs, which at the beginning is like nectar but slowly turns into poison (disliked and in disfavor due to its inability to satisfy the continued and increasing needs arising out of desires), such happiness is described as belonging to bias (and its effects through turbulence, agitation or passion, desires and wants)    B.G.18. 38.

That pleasure which at the beginning as well as in its continuance is deceitful to one’s own self and leads to sleep, sloppiness and lack of direction – such happiness is declared as that arising out of ignorance. B.G. 18. 39.

The readers are encouraged to reflect on each of these verses. They are rich with content, with tools or guidelines of value in many situations.

Food habits:

Now let us take a lighter topic: “food habits”. We see the dominance of “Knowledge” when the principles or laws pertinent to the subject matter are clear. One would readily admit that the nutrition expert is more knowledgeable on proper food habits than others! Of course we don’t always follow the rules. Nor is it necessary. At those times when we deviate from the basic principles of good diet, we make such a choice because we are willing to let our preferences (bias) overwhelm us or we are indeed unaware (ignorant) of our choice or habits. Deviation from proper food habits are sure to happen. An enlightened life is not to be certain that we make only the correct choice all the time. Instead we are honest in our recognition of the deviations when they occur and why? This objective assessment on its own accord leads to compliance with proper choice more often than not! These simple truths are captured in the verses below:

Dominance of knowledge (and understanding of the role of food in nourishing and sustaining our well being) leads to lightly salted, lightly greased, wholesome food, which promote life, health, vitality and strength.   B.G. 17. 8.

Bias (or partial knowledge overwhelmed by our attachments) lead to choice of foods of extreme nature (such as extremely bitter, sour, salty, excessively hot, sharp, of strong odor and taste) leading to pain, sickness and sorrow.   B.G. 17. 9.

Ignorance (on the role of food for our well being) leads one to choose to live with stale, taste less and unhygienic foods.   B.G. 17. 10.

It is important to note that in all of the verses quoted above, the basic principles for food habits are applicable irrespective of food options (Vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Kosher, etc.), place of living, country or ethnic origin, family life or monastic, etc.

In each of the verses above, the dominant connector is mentioned (and its dominance among the three co-existing connectors is implied). The examples cited above also show that it is possible to look at any topic or any aspect of our life from a point of view of looking for the connectors and their roles. Such view is not clouded by differences and details that we generally tend to perceive. It is such progression in our view point that is described above as the knowledge “through which one can perceive the same and changeless presence in all beings of the world; perception of the undivided presence in all divided aspects”. This is the ultimate value and power of the anatomy of our experiences!

We have also seen such analysis of the connectors at play in a few of our earlier essays such as:

https://sipractce.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/many-facets-of-silence/

https://sipractce.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/on-giving-and-receiving-gifts/

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