Diet plays a prominent part in keeping up Brahmacharya. Purity of food brings in purity of mind. There are certain kinds of food that make the mind and the body very strong and steady. If proper attention is given to the purity of the food that we take, Brahmacharya becomes quite easy.
The influence of foodstuffs on the brain cells, emotion and passion is remarkable. A confection of sparrow produces an aphrodisiac effect. It directly stimulates the reproductive organs. Garlic, onions, meat, fish and eggs stimulate passion. Mark how elephants and cows that live on grass are quiet and peaceful and how tigers and other carnivorous animals that live on meat are turbulent and ferocious. Instinct or the voice from within will guide you in the selection of articles of diet that are conducive to the keeping up of Brahmacharya.
Cheru, Havis Annam, milk, wheat, barley, bread, ghee, butter, dried ginger, green gram, potatoes, dates, plantains, curd, almonds and fruits are all Sattvic articles of food. Cheru is a mixture of boiled white rice, ghee, white sugar and milk. Havis Annam is also a similar preparation. This is very useful for spiritual aspirants. Milk is a perfect food by itself, containing as it does, the different nutritive constituents in a well balanced proportion. This is an ideal food for Yogins and Brahmacharins. Fruits are great energy producers. Bananas, grapes, sweet oranges, apples, pomegranates and mangoes are wholesome and nutritious. Dry fruits such as grapes, raisins, dates and figs, sweet fresh fruits such as bananas, mangoes, Sapotas, melons, limes, pineapples, apples, wood apples and sweet pomegranates, sugar and sugar-candy, honey, sago, arrowroot, milk, butter and ghee of cows, tender coconut water, coconut, almonds, pistachio nuts, Toor Dhal, Ragi, barley, maize, wheat, rice of red paddy whose bran is only partly removed and rice of good smell or sweet taste, and all preparations from any of these grains, and white pumpkin are Sattvic articles for keeping up Brahmacharya.
Highly seasoned dishes, hot curries, Chutnies, chillies, meat, fish, eggs, tobacco, liquor, sour articles, oil of all kinds, garlic, onions, bitter things, sour curd, stale food, acids, astringents, pungent stuffs, roasted things, over-ripe and unripe fruits, heavy vegetables and salt are not at all beneficial. Onions and garlic are worse than meat.
Salt is the worst enemy. Too much salt excites passion. Even if you do not take salt separately, the system will derive the necessary quantity of salt from other foodstuffs. All foodstuffs contain salt. Giving up of salt helps you in controlling the tongue and thereby the mind and all the other Indriyas.
All kinds of peas and beans, both fresh and fried, horse gram, sprouted grains, mustard, all sorts of chillies, asafoetida, lentils, brinjals, lady’s finger, cucumbers, bamboo shoots, papaw fruit, drumsticks, all varieties of gourd such as white gourd, snake gourd and squash gourd, radish, leeks, mushrooms of all kinds, things fried in oil or ghee, pickles of all sorts, fried rice, sesame seeds, tea, coffee, cocoa, all kinds of vegetables, leaves, roots, fruits and foodstuffs that create wind or indigestion, grief, pain or costiveness or other sickness, pastry preparations, foods that are dry and burning, foods that are bitter, sour, saline, over-hot and pungent, tobacco and its preparations, foods and drinks containing liquor or narcotic drugs such as opium and bhang, food preparations which are stale or have become cold subsequent to their removal from the hearth or which have lost their natural taste, smell, colour or form, and milk of buffalo, goat or sheep should be avoided as they are either Rajasic or Tamasic by nature. Lemon juice, rock salt, ginger and white pepper can be used in moderation.
Mitahara is moderation in food. Take wholesome Sattvic food half-stomachful. Fill a quarter with pure water. Allow the remaining part free. This is Mitahara. Brahmacharins should always take Mitahara only. They should be very careful about their night diet. They should never overload the stomach at night. Overloading is the direct cause for nocturnal emissions.
Control of tongue is a sine qua non if you want to control lust. The tongue must be controlled first. Then it will be easy to control the passion. There is intimate connection between the tongue and the organ of generation. Tongue is an organ of knowledge. It is born of the Sattvic portion of the water-Tanmatra. The organ of generation is an organ of action. It is born of the Rajasic portion of the water-Tanmatra. They are sister organs as the source is the same. If the tongue is stimulated with Rajasic food, at once the reproductive organ also gets excited. There should be selection and restriction in diet. You should take food only when you are really hungry.
Fasting controls passion. Fasting destroys sexual excitement. It calms the emotions. It controls the Indriyas also. Passionate young men and ladies should take recourse to occasional fasting. It will prove highly beneficial. Fasting is a great Tapas. It purifies the mind. It destroys a great multitude of sins. It destroys all the impurities of the body and all sorts of poisons. It eliminates uric acid deposits. Young, robust Brahmacharins should observe fasting whenever passion troubles them. You will have very good meditation during fasting, as the mind is calm. The chief object in fasting is to practice Dhyana rigorously during that period as all the Indriyas are calm.
Avoid excessive fasting. It will produce weakness. Use your commonsense. Those who are not able to observe a full fast can fast for nine or twelve hours and can take milk and fruits in the evening or at night.
During fasting, the internal digestive organs such as the stomach, the liver and the pancreas take rest. Ninety per cent of the people in this world take more food than what is absolutely necessary for the body. Overeating has become their habit. All diseases take their origin in overeating. An occasional complete fast is a great desideratum for all to keep up good health, relieve the internal organs and maintain Brahmacharya. Diseases that are pronounced incurable by allopaths and homoeopaths are cured by fasting. Fasting develops will-power. It increases the power of endurance. Manu, the Hindu law-giver, prescribes in his code the remedy of fasting for removal of the five capital sins also.
It is better to drink a large quantity of water, either tepid or cold, according to temperament and inclination, during fasting. It will flush out the kidneys and remove the poison and all sorts of impurities in the body. In Hatha Yoga it is termed as Gata-Suddhi or purification of the flesh-pot, the physical body. You can add half a teaspoonful of soda bicarbonate to the water. Those who fast for two or three days should not break their fast with any solid food. They should take some kind of fruit juice, either sweet orange juice or pomegranate juice. They should sip the juice slowly. You can take an enema daily during fasting.
Fasting is more a spiritual Kriya than a physical Kriya from the viewpoint of health. You will have to utilise the fasting days for higher spiritual purposes and in the contemplation of God.
Excerpts from “Practice of Brahmacharya” by Swami Sivananda