On September 29th, 2013, Badarikashram celebrated Gandhi Peace Day. As part of the festivities, Mangala ji gave a talk on Gandhi’s raw food diet, and her experiences while trying to follow it. I found it fascinating and thought you might also. So, here is a copy of the speech she gave.
Gandhi wrote: “I would like to say to the diligent reader of my writings and to others who are interested in them that I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search for the Truth, I have disguarded many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to draw inwardly or that my growth will stop at the dissolution of the flesh. What I am concerned with is my readiness to obey the call of the Truth, my God, from moment to moment, and therefore, when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two writings of mine, if he still has faith in my sanity, he would do well to choose the latter of the two on the same subject,” April 29, 1933, in the Harijan
Keep this in mind as we further look at Gandhiji’s experiments and beliefs about health, diet, and nutrition. Gandhi also said “I have found after prolonged experiment and observation that there is no fixed dietetic rule for all constitutions…laymen out to acquire a workable knowledge of the body which plays such an important part of the evolution of the soul within. And yet about nothing are we so woefully negligent or ignorant as in regard to our bodies. Instead of using the body as a temple of God we use it as a vehicle for indulgences and are not ashamed to run to medical men for any variety of ailments.”
Gandhiji conducted many experiments in dietetics which began in earnest in England while he was studying law. There he explored many facets of vegetarianism trying different combinations. Here the seed was sown for his lifelong commitment to vegetarianism in spite of experimenting with meat eating. He even started a branch of the Vegetarian Society during his stay abroad.
Later he felt that control of the palate was essential in observing the vow of brahmacharya. He pursued his experiments with brahmacharya in mind. He felt that a bramacharya’s food should be limited, simple, spiceless and if possible, uncooked. The ideal diet he concluded was fruits and nuts. Brahamacharya means control of the senses in thought, word, and deed.
In spite of his personal strictness he studied the nutritional requirements of people and advocated a number of changes in the national diet of India. He was very advanced for his time. He realized the dangers of overconsumption of sugar and salt. He gave up sugar entirely and salt for ten years straight although after some time he reintroduced a small amount of salt due to the advice of medical friends. Through he lent towards being a vegan he eventually included goat’s milk in his diet due to some health issues. He of course always advocated non meat eating under any circumstances. Vegetarianism he felt was one of the priceless gifts of Hinduism. He would now, however, be disturbed by the number of meat eating Hindus both here and in India and I am sure would have a lot to say to them. Conversely he probably would be encouraged by the growing number of vegans and vegetarians throughout the world, especially pleased to see so many dietary options.