Building the Physical Environment
As part of this discipline to build the manifestation of the Divine in the physical life there are more steps you need to take. Exercise a taste in the choice of your clothing. Do not wear torn or ugly clothes; that attracts forces of disharmony and poverty. You do not need to go in for expensive clothes, your choice may be simple but the clothes must be whole and clean. Look up the recent studies in the effect of colours on the psychology of man; you will be more selective in hues and colours.
What applies to your physical body also applies to your physical surroundings. You need to organise your immediate environment on wholesome lines: there shall be an order, a system, a pleasing arrangement of things. It is easier to do this if you recognise that there is a consciousness in all material objects and it is part of the development of your own consciousness to regard and respond to the consciousness in things around you. To take care of material objects with as much feeling and care as you have—or are expected to have—when you deal with living beings, to arrange them in a becoming order instead of throwing them pell-mell, promotes your own growth. Isha vasyamidam sarvam, all this is for habitation by the Lord. You must live in this spirit. Utilise everything to its utmost. Do not waste or let things rot. Give, give with love, let each gift be a carrier of your consciousness and goodwill.
I spoke of body-exercises in the morning. Those who cannot make it at that hour, must fix some other convenient time; but it must be done regularly. The physical basis must be laid with care, love and regular attention. The needs of the body must be sensed and respected. Every one must find the golden mean for his body in matters of food and sleep. In this approach, the body must not be despised or treated as a recalcitrant. It shall not be starved or overworked. The body shall not be punished for the ills of the mind or vital desire. Remember the old saying, shariram adyam khalu dharmasadhanam, the body, indeed, is the means for realising the Truth.
In matters of food, follow the dictum of the Gita: neither too much nor too little. Experiment and find out the type and the quantity of food that best suits your system. Do not change your food-habits suddenly, by switching over from non-vegetarian to vegetarian etc. While it is true that the nature of the food one eats influences one’s temperament, it is also true that there are many other factors that determine one’s temperament. One can also, by will, change one’s temperament to a large extent. Learn to avoid heavy or gross stuff. Balancing in diet is what is called for. Do not make a fetish of food.
What is more important is how you take in the food and what you make of it. Before you eat, remember and invoke the Divine. Offer the food to the Divine within you. Offer your gratitude to all those who have made it possible for the nourishment to be available to you. In quietude, in silence, take the food as prasad, as grace. I have noticed, in many homes in the West, they say grace at the table before eating the meal. If possible, do it in your own home so that all share in the Bounty of God in the right spirit. I personally find the following verse from the Gita most apposite to our purpose:
brahmarpanam brahma havih brahmagnau
brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahma-karma-
Om. Shantih. Shantih, Shantih.
Freely rendered in English, it runs:
The Divine is the offering;
The Divine is the oblation;
The Divine is the Flame;
The Divine is the offerer;
The Divine is the Goal
of one who works with his mind on the Divine.
Om. Peace. Peace. Peace.
Remember the Mother’s injunction that you eat to live and not live to eat. Keep out greed. The body generally gives a signal when the quantity taken in is enough. Stop at that. Do not force yourself to eat out of false considerations. You do not need to throw, if you take care to take just what is likely to be enough. There is no bar to getting tasty dishes. What is unspiritual is to indulge in attachment, in greed. Eat well, eat happily. Do not allow movements of anxiety, worry, tension, upsetting emotions like anger to interfere and vitiate the food you take in. Have a prayerful will that the food eaten must nourish the body and build it into a fit vehicle of God.