(The following is a summary of speech in Sanskrit delivered to the students of the Hindu Theological High School, when His Holiness visited that institution on May 1, 1958).
Purity of mind (Chitta suddhi, चित्त शुध्दि:) is the basis on which sanatana dharma rests. While every one of us is very much attached to our Dharma and feels proud of it, very few actively practice the principles enunciated therein. Several factors contribute to purity of mind. Of this, purity of food is an important one. The maharshis have declared that purity of food leads progressively to the cultivation of several virtues. The taking of food is a physical act. What bearing could it have on purity of mind? This is a doubt that is likely to arise. By means of an example, not quite edifying, the relationship between the nature of food taken and the quality of mind may be illustrated. Let us take the example of liquor. Does not its use definitely affect the mind and bring about its distortion? Thus some articles of food exercise wholesome influence on the mind, while others evoke unhealthy tendencies. There is no doubt that the quality of food has a subtle psychic and psychological effect. That is the reason why we have in our land a comprehensive code of restrictions relating to food.
Right choice of food definitely brings about purity of mind. This in turn leads to the promotion of bhakti and jnana – devotion and wisdom. One practical way of ensuring purity of food is to prepare it ourselves. We have the shining example of large numbers of people in our holy land, who prepare their food themselves, offer it to God, and then take it for the sustenance of the body. Pupils and teachers will do well to take to self-cooking (swayampaaka, स्वयम्पाक:). They can practice it on Sundays which are holidays. They should cook their food themselves and offer it to God within. Sri Krishna has stated in the Gita that He is the Jataraagni, the vital fire within, that consumes or digests the food taken. When the food taken becomes thus an oblation to God, it becomes incumbent that what is offered to Him should be uncontaminated. It is improper to offer impure food to God.
If only students and teachers get into the habit of preparing their own food and taking it as a sacred offering made to God, they would have practiced an essential principle of Sanaatana Dharma. If the root is nourished properly, the tree will grow, of its own accord, to huge proportions, bearing flowers and fruits. There is no meaning in watering the leaves and stems from above. Purity of food is the basis on which the superstructure of a good life has to be built. In the new basic schools started by Government, pupils are required to cook their own food; but there each person does the cooking by turns and the food cooked by one is shared by all. Instead of each pupil getting his turn once a way, it is better that every one prepares his food every day. This practice will be helpful to us when we go on pilgrimage or travel. As it is, when people are away from homes, they have very often to take impure food out of necessity. But if they practice swayampaaka, they can easily avoid that difficulty. They will be happy themselves; their spiritual tempo will also improve and there will be no disturbance to the daily observance of their religious duties.