Chanakya Thoughts: How food determines progress and good life

Food is the first basic essential for survival. We all have to eat to live. Some of us even live to eat. And there is so much discussion about food in every home, workplace, schools, governments and even on the internet.

Food channels, shows, videos, books all get maximum attention. To an extent that in a country like India, at a wedding, the success is defined not by how well the marriage ceremony was conducted, and if the bride and bridegroom was happy, but how good the food was!

Well, we are lucky to be in a country, where there is so much variety of food available. Different fruits and vegetables, spices, grains and pulses are accessible in plenty. Also, traditionally there are many practices in every family and community that are passed on from generation to generation. The ma and dadi ma style of cooking is the heart of every house. “What to prepare for breakfast, lunch and dinner today?” is an everyday dilemma.

With such a unique food culture that our country and civilisation has, let us take a peep into Chanakya’s mind and understand his views on food for the body and thought.

Chanakya said, “Of those dying while on duty, the sons and wives shall receive the food and wages.” (5.3.28)

While making state policy, Chanakya assured sufficient food supply for all. Even in the case of a person dying on duty (like a solider in a battle), his family was ensured food and salary.

It is interesting to note Chanakya did not say ‘wages and food’. First priority was food and then the wages. So food is more important than money. Even if you have money, the first essential requirement to survive is food. And when one is well fed, every activity can be carried forward. If not, as one of my Sanskrit teachers said: “Bhooke Peth pe research nahi hoti” (A researcher cannot work on an empty stomach). Even religious books speak about food and water to be divine gifts to mankind. And, therefore, we need to share the same with others. So what should be our attitude towards food?

Attitude of gratitude

Even though there is plenty of food available, India is ranked 94th in global hunger index 2020 among 107 countries. The government is working towards ensuring food to everyone through the ‘National food security act’ and other various policies and strategies including its distribution. So if you are among the lucky ones to have a fridge and stomach full, count your blessings. Have an attitude of gratitude. Whenever you sit for a meal, say a prayer, thank the people who produced and prepared it for you. They deserve a big thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Store it, share it

‘Don’t waste food’ — we have heard this many times. But we need to take it beyond a slogan. One should feel bad for every morsel wasted. I remember this particular incident from my childhood: After finishing lunch, I got up to wash my hands. And, suddenly my grandfather called me back and said, “Finish your food.” I looked at him, puzzled, as I had already finished everything. He then pointed out to the plate, “You have left that one grain of rice.” Coming from an army background, he taught me the value of every single grain on the plate. We also need to store food for tough times. We need to ensure food supply not only for today, but forever. Make sure you share a part of your food with the less privileged. ‘Roti Bank’, an NGO started by D. Sivanadhan, former Commissioner of Mumbai police and Director General of Maharashtra police, has been feeding millions of poor people on a daily basis. We require more role models like him.

Think beyond the belly

Now what will you do after your stomach is full? Don’t just keep eating forever. Go beyond the belly. Have some good thoughts also. Read more, meet wise people, have discussions with others on a variety of topics. Have a hobby, join a new course, develop a new talent.

Even though life starts with food, life should not be limited to food alone. Your quality of life actually depends on your quality of thoughts. So, let us all have an all-round healthy life. Good food and great thoughts.

(The writer is Founder Director of Chanakya Aanvikshiki Pvt Ltd, a best-selling author and an expert on Chanakya’s teachings. He can be followed on his twitter @rchanakyapillai)

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