Gita Series – 154: Bhagavad Gita Chapter XVII. Verse 5 – 7
“Those who resort to severe austerities indiscriminately, not approved by scriptures, are full of hypocrisy and egotism and are obsessed with desire, attachment and pride. Those who debilitate the elements of their body by resorting to such practices also cause injury to Me, the Supreme Soul, dwelling in their hearts. They are senseless persons with demoniac qualities. The food that is consumed also depends upon the innate qualities of men, is also divided into three groups. In the same way, sacrifice, penance and charity are also of three kinds. Now listen to these differences.”
Self denial beyond a particular level is dangerous and causes irreparable damage to the five basic elements in the body. It is not advisable to fight against the nature, and even if one resorts to such practices, nothing is attained except damaging the inherent nature of the body composition. Causing such imbalance injures the soul as well. A soul is nothing but the Lord’s direct representative. It can also be said that individual soul is a miniscule representation of the Lord Himself. Depletion of the potency of the basic elements causes sickness. For example, if one undertakes fasting, the digestive fire burns without fuel (food and water), and causes heat related problems. Ayurveda explains at length, the necessity of maintaining the equilibrium of the elements in the body. Generally, people resort to austerities to appease gods. Austerities never appease the Lord, as it causes damage to the body, the Lord’s abode. Instead of appeasing Him, one deluded by ignorance, causes discomfort to Him. Such austerities are not advocated by Holy Scriptures. They are not necessary, as they affect the body and in no way purify the mind, which alone is the essential factor in spiritual life. Kṛṣṇa says that those who pursue such austerities not approved by the sacred scriptures, to demonstrate their unfounded powers, are hypocrites, egoistic and prideful. Those who are endowed with these qualities have the tendency to indulge in pleasures and enjoyments thereby afflicting the mind. Kṛṣṇa calls these men as senseless and berserk. It is to be understood that the Lord can be realised only by peaceful means and without causing any damage to the body. When the Lord within is called sanctum sanctorum, the body that covers the sanctum sanctorum is called the temple. The temple or any place of worship should always be kept clean, as the Lord can never be realized amidst impurities.
Everything that exists in the universe is broadly divided into three categories and food is not an exception. The purity of the mind is directly related to the quality of food that one consumes and a man consumes food depending upon his guṇa. Food, mind and guṇa are interrelated. Kṛṣṇa explains this further in the next few verses.