Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ask Asha: How to Stop Overeating

[You can ask your own question here.]


I listened to your talk on Karma, and among so many other wonderful points I 'heard' was a mention of food/overeating as being low on the spectrum of material -spiritual energy or vibration. I would like to hear more about this topic on a spiritual level-this is a trap of mine. Thank you.

from US


Dear D:

Your attachment to food puts you in good company. As a young monk, Swamiji said to Master, “Help me to overcome my attachment to good food.” Master replied, “When ecstasy comes, everything goes.”

In other words, we do have to eat. And to prefer food that is pleasing to the palate does not rank that high on the list of things that bind us to delusion. In fact, Swamiji has said, the body seems to absorb better food that it enjoys eating.

You may have noticed, if you have visited Ananda, that the meals are delicious. We often joke that food is the last “legitimate pleasure” of the yogi! The deliciousness of the food at Ananda, however, is within a healthy spectrum: vegetarian, fresh, carefully and consciously prepared.

We don’t have to be fanatical about what we eat. Both Swamiji and Master have cautioned against a diet that is too extreme. Master recommended what he called “proper eatarianism.” Find a simple diet that works for you, he said, preferably vegetarian or mostly vegetarian, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and then don’t give the matter more thought.

Food is not a path to God-consciousness. Merely purifying the body will not liberate the spirit. A pure heart, not a pure stomach, opens the doorway to divine consciousness.

If your attachment to food, however, moves from a mere preference for good tastes, to a wanton disregard of the rules of health, then it does need to be taken seriously.

Anything that we do that is against our own long-term interests has to be overcome. To consistently eat wrongly — too many sweets, fats, red meats, starches or whatever your particular weakeness is — will jeopardize your health. Self-evident.

It takes time each incarnation in a human body to grow up, to find your path, to begin to practice and make spiritual progress. Once you get all that in place, to give up or incapacitate that body prematurely (compared to what would happen if you follow the rules of health) is unfortunate. You may lose years of this incarnation merely struggling against pain, lethargy, or other disability. It may be impossible to meditate, do Kriya, serve, or in other ways work dynamically for God-realization.

Yes, of course, any experience can be used for spiritual progress. But the body is enough of an obstacle already. Why make it worse?

However, karma cannot be dismissed with a mere wave of the hand. We spend a long time getting into these delusions and it takes comparable effort to get out of them.

The obvious question is why do you act against your own interests?

In his wonderful book, God Is For Everyone, Swamiji explores a fundamental premise of life. Everything we do has two motivations: to experience happiness and to escape pain.

The question you need to answer is what happiness do you expect to gain, or what sorrow you expect to avoid, by acting in the way you do? This is such an obvious starting point, I presume, you have already explored it.

I can only suggest that you try to answer the question at the highest level you can. Understanding that your passion for ice cream, for example, is really a longing for God, can make even your Kriyas an antidote to over eating.

Whatever you decide, however, has to be completely sincere and deeply linked to your actual feelings. It won’t work to just band aid a spiritual platitude over a real life problem. Even if your deepest motivation is superficial compared to the Infinite, it is not superficial to you. Divine Mother understands and She will help you.

There is no set “karmic reason” why a person over eats or does anything against his own interests. You have to ask yourself not merely, “What am I doing?” but “What is the effect on me of this action? What attitude or feelings does this action bring out of me?” The answer is always individual.

Here is another way to overcome this tendency. In meditation, once you have entered a peaceful state, center yourself, without resistance, in the fact of your tendency to eat wrongly.

Then lift your consciousness to the spiritual eye. At that point, feel as deeply as you are able the vibration of Yogananda, the freedom of his spirit. Merge your vibration into his, bringing with you your wrong attitude toward food.

You will find that in his presence your tendency will simply dissolve. You can’t be with him and also hold to that vibration. Do this repeatedly and you will find a great change in your consciousness.

In the middle of his Sunday service on May 22, 2011, Swamiji talked about this way of overcoming difficulties. You may find that helpful.

Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of]

1 comment:

  1. Excellent points. As a writer on sports and fitness for over 40 years, I've been amazed by how prescient Paramhansa Yogananda was in his advice on diet. Many, many of his statements on dietary matters, which very likely sounded baffling at the time, have since been verified in the laboratory. He advised those wanting to lose weight, for example, to "eat a big salad for lunch." More than 50 years later, a medical doctor and former U.S. national gymnastics team member, Joel Fuhrman, MD, described the solid scientific evidence for the notion that eating foods that are extremely nutrition-dense and that provide bulk, absolutely kill hunger. For more information, see (specifically, the book Eat to Live, which wonderfully confirms Yogananda's teachings based on solid, reputable research). In my own struggles to keep my weight down (I am a distance runner), I've found Yogananda's advice priceless. His teachings are summarized in a wonderful compilation by an Ananda member, Craig Roberts, DC, titled "Living Radiance: The Nutritional Teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda." That book is available here:


Be nice, stay on topic, and have fun!
Choose the "Name/URL" option if you don't have an account.
(The URL is optional.)