Sri Ramana Maharshi's diet recommendations

Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi's Life

Sri Ramana Maharshi's Teaching

Devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi

Books by and about Sri Ramana Maharshi


Sattvic food in moderate quantities

In general the Maharshi refused to give instructions for physical discipline.

When asked about postures for sitting in meditation he replied simply: "One-pointedness of mind is the only good posture."

When asked about celibacy he would not enjoin it but said that married persons also can attain Realization.

But when asked about diet he quite emphatically prescribed vegetarianism: "Regulation of diet, restricting it to sattvic (i.e. pure and vegetarian) food taken in moderate quantities is the best of all rules of conduct and the most conducive to the development of sattvic qualities of mind. These in turn help one in the practice of Self-enquiry."

The passage quoted continues with a Western lady pleading that a concession should be made for Westerners and with Bhagavan refusing to do so. It should be added that in 'sattvic food' he included milk, though an animal product, but not eggs, which are considered too stimulating or rajasic.

It was characteristic of Bhagavan that he would never enjoin vegetarianism on any devotee unless asked, but if asked he was quite categorical about it. It often happened in his lifetime, as it still does today, that even without asking, his devotees would develop that aversion to animal food which I have mentioned as a general feature in the aspirant in modern times.

In conclusion, it can be said quite definitely that vegetarianism is beneficial to those who follow a spiritual path in the conditions of the modern world, and especially to those who aspire to follow the path of the Maharshi.

~ Arthur Osborne

photo of Ramana Maharshi eating
Sri Ramana Maharshi

Ahimsa stands foremost in the code of discipline for the yogis

Mrs. Piggott returned from Madras for a further visit. She asked questions relating to diet regulation.

D.: What diet is prescribed for a sadhak (one who is engaged in spiritual practices)?

M.: Satvic food in limited quantities.

D.: What is satvic food?

M.: Bread, fruits, vegetables, milk, etc.

D.: Some people take fish in North India. May it be done? No answer was made by the Maharshi.

D.: We Europeans are accustomed to a particular diet; change of diet affects health and weakens the mind. Is it not necessary to keep up physical health?

M.: Quite necessary. The weaker the body the stronger the mind grows.

D.: In the absence of our usual diet our health suffers and the mind loses strength.

M.: What do you mean by strength of mind?

D.: The power to eliminate worldly attachment.

M.: The quality of food influences the mind. The mind feeds on the food consumed.

D.: Really! How can the Europeans adjust themselves to satvic food only?

M.: (Pointing to Mr. Evans-Wentz) You have been taking our food. Do you feel uncomfortable on that account?

Mr. Evans-Wentz: No. Because I am accustomed to it.

D.: What about those not so accustomed?

M.: Habit is only adjustment to the environment. It is the mind that matters. The fact is that the mind has been trained to think certain foods tasty and good. The food material is to be had both in vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet equally well. But the mind desires such food as it is accustomed to and considers tasty.

D.: Are there restrictions for the realised man in a similar manner?

M.: No. He is steady and not influenced by the food he takes.

D.: Is it not killing life to prepare meat diet?

M.: Ahimsa stands foremost in the code of discipline for the yogis.

D.: Even plants have life.

M.: So too the slabs you sit on!

D.: May we gradually get ourselves accustomed to vegetarian food?

M.: Yes. That is the way.

~ Talk 22, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Food influences the mind and it must be kept pure

Mrs. Piggott: Why do you take milk, but not eggs?

M.: The domesticated cows yield more milk than necessary for their calves and they find it a pleasure to be relieved of the milk.

D.: But the hen cannot contain the eggs?

M.: But there are potential lives in them.

D.: Thoughts cease suddenly, then `I-I' rises up as suddenly and continues. It is only in the feeling and not in the intellect. Can it be right?

M.: It is certainly right. Thoughts must cease and reason disappear for `I-I' to rise up and be felt. Feeling is the prime factor and not reason.

D.: Moreover it is not in the head but in the right side of the chest.

M.: It ought to be so. Because the heart is there.

D.: When I see outside it disappears. What is to be done?

M.: It must be held tight.

D.: If one is active with such remembrance, will the actions be always right?

M.: They ought to be. However, such a person is not concerned with the right or wrong of his actions. Such a person's actions are God's and therefore they must be right.

D.: Why then the restrictions of food given for such?

M.: Your present experience is due to the influence of the atmosphere you are in. Can you have it outside this atmosphere? The experience is spasmodic. Until it becomes permanent practice is necessary. Restrictions of food are aids for such experience to be repeated. After one gets established in truth the restrictions drop away naturally. Moreover, food influences the mind and it must be kept pure.

The lady told a disciple later: "I feel the vibrations from him more intensely and I am able to reach the `I' centre more readily than before."

~ Talk 24, 4th July 1935, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Moderate, Pure, and Wholesome

The other aid to self-investigation that Sri Ramana mentions in the ninth paragraph of Nan Yar? is mita sattvika ahara-niyama. The term ahara-niyama means 'food-restraint', but since the Sanskrit word ahara etymologically means procuring, fetching or taking, it can apply not only to the physical food that we take into our mouth, but also to the sensory food that we take into our mind through our five senses. Therefore, in order to keep our mind in a condition that is most favourable for us in our efforts to cultivate skill in the art of self-attentive being, we should by every reasonable means endeavour to ensure that both the physical food that we take into our body and the sensory food that we take into our mind are of a suitable quantity and quality.

The quantity and quality of the food we should consume is described by Sri Ramana as mita and sattvika. The word mita refers to the quantity of food we should consume, and means measured, limited, frugal or moderate. The word sattvika refers to the quality of food we should consume, and basically means pure and wholesome, or more precisely, endowed with the quality known as sattva, which literally means being-ness, 'is'-ness, essence or reality, and which by extension means calmness, clarity, purity, wisdom, goodness and virtue. The restriction or niyama of eating only sattvika food means
abstaining from all types of non-sattvika food, which includes all meat, fish and eggs, all intoxicants such as alcohol and tobacco, and all other substances that excite passions or dull the clarity of our mind in any way.

~ Michael James,  Happiness and the Art of Being

Sri Bhagavan's Feet
Sri Ramanarpanamastu