Jain View Of Life ► 1 Aspects of Life ► 1.03 Health and Hygiene

Posted: 21.11.2011

Health and Hygiene

Health and fitness are important considerations in modern time, and food is the major factor affecting health. It provides energy for growth, maintenance, and physical activity; the requirement for nutrients begins at the moment of conception and without food none could survive. That food which is considered the basis of life is called Aoja Ahara in Jain scriptures. That food which is continually being absorbed by every pore of the body is called Roma Ahara. A third type of food known as Kaval Ahara (the morsel of food) is taken by mouth. All these foods influence the entire behaviour patterns of character, thoughts, and emotions.


You Are What You Eat

Food not only preserves the body and supplies it with energy, but our thoughts, emotions, and behaviour will be in accord with the food we intake daily in our diet. Pure food keeps the mind in a peaceful state, while highly spiced, enervating, or stale food causes the mind to be restless, unstable, impure, and inordinate.

Within this reference, the illustration of Bheeshma Pitamah is conceivable. The war of Mahabharat had come to an end, and Bheeshma Pitamah was lying on his bed of arrows giving advice to the Pandavas. Suddenly Draupadee laughed loudly. On being asked the reason, she told Pitamah that right now he was giving a great demonstration of Dharma. She asked what had happened at the time when Dushasan was trying to make her naked in front of his eyes in the assembly of Kauravas; why had he kept quiet? Bheeshma replied politely that his mind went impure due to eating kauravas unjust grains, but now Arjuna had taken out all the impure blood by means of his arrows.


Scientific Perspective

Scientific research shows that food produces innumer­able chemicals in the body. The body uses some of these chemicals to form neurotransmitters in the brain which act as communicators and are utilized by the brain to control the body. Food also provides the materials which the body requires to manufacture many different amino acids. On the negative side, foods can generate uric acid, poisons, toxic elements, etc., which create mental and emotional problems that encourage violent activities such as suicide, violence etc. From all perspectives, proper food is the most basic way to establish harmony with physical, mental, and emotional health.


Balanced Diet

Professional dieticians emphasize the requirement for a balanced diet. In Acharya Mahapragya’s view, a balanced diet not only contains proteins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, water, and indigestible fiber, but it also requires sun rays and air in sufficient quantities. The rays of the sun are the best source of vitamin D. Sun rays also provide calcium and phosphorus which the body requires. Experts on dietetics say that those who do not habitually take in the rays of the sun are subject to many ailments; the sun bath makes up many diet deficiencies of the body. There is a great description of Atapana (sun bath) in Jain literature. One who wants to live a healthy, sublime, and happy life should regularly go to an isolated place, strip down, and take a sun bath.


The Importance of Oxygen

Air is an important factor in health. With an abundant intake of oxygen, less food is required for adequate nourishment and, conversely, a lesser intake of oxygen requires a higher quantity of food. The air must be mixed with the food for assimilation and absorption, otherwise, we obtain less food value from what we eat. It has been said by scientists that if everyone gives attention to a balanced diet and thorough chewing of the food, half of the hospitals would be closed.

In sarcastic language, it has been said that, if you are ill, you must consult a doctor so that the doctor can earn a living, and you should buy whatever medicine the doctor prescribes so that the manufacturer and the seller can make a living; you should not take the medicine just so you can live. However, any person who neglects health and fitness will regret it later on. Decadence of health habits usually start between the ages of twenty five to thirty years, and the critical decade of life is between the ages of thirty and forty. During this period, a person must be conscious of health, especially a regimen of diet and exercise in place of time consuming and time wasting habits.


Food Categories

All food stuff can be classified into three categories: wholesome food (Hitahara), moderate diet (Mitahara), and strength-giving (Sattvik).


Wholesome Food

A person needs only two grams of salt per day, and when fried and salty foods are eaten, an excess of salt is consumed. The result of this is that kidney action is impaired and health suffers. Fried and salty foods require a lot of water, and when a person drinks water to quench thirst, water levels increase in the body and a person gains weight. Naturopaths say that sugar is also as harmful as salt; sugar is sweet poison. Poison can kill instantly, but sugar kills gradually. The use of both sugar and salt should be minimized for maintenance of health.


Moderate Diet

In Bhagawati Sutra, a whole food is prescribed to be thirty two morsels; any meal of less than thirty two morsels, even if it is only one morsel less, is considered a moderate diet. For preservation of health, the stomach should not be completely filled with food; always try to fill one half of the stomach with solid food, one quarter with water, and leave one quarter for air. Overfilling the stomach overtaxes the digestive system and may result in a breakdown of the digestive organs.


Sattvik Food

Sattvik foods consist of milk, milk products, cereals, nuts, fruits, roots, vegetables, etc. Salty, very hot, and spicy foods are Rajas foods (endowed with the quality of passion). These food increases craving in the eater and lead to disease. Non-vegetarian foods are considered Tamas foods (endowed with the quality of darkness). Tamas foods consisting of meat, heavily refined and processed grains, starch, and sugar play havoc with our health. Frying food instead of light steaming, boiling, or baking is harmful. As a result of all these factors, there has been a worldwide increase in the incidence of the degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, hyper-acidity, constipation, indigestion, and mental and emotional ill health. All these diseases are caused by an imbalance in daily diet, eating junk food, and over consumption. Hitahara (wholesome food), Mitahara (moderate diet) and Sattvik food (strength giving) are based on nutritional recommendations which serve two purposes - body building and maintenance of body temperature. They contain an adequate balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, etc.


Chewing and Intervals Between Meals

At mealtime, each morsel must be chewed thoroughly before swallowing. Saliva glands release saliva during mastication which helps proper assimilation of food. If food is not properly chewed and is swallowed in haste, it causes extra effort for the stomach and intestine. The gap between the two main meals should be six hours. A small snack can be taken if you feel hungry after three hours but continuous eating between meals causes problems of indigestion and overweight.



Overweight or excess fat is a major health problem. It is caused by eating more calories than one needs. The excess calories are converted to fat which is stored in the body and cause heart disease, high blood pressure, and many other digestive diseases. A fast every fortnight gives the digestive system a much needed rest, gives the body a chance to cleanse itself of accumulated toxins, flushes out waste products, and alleviates over weight.



Water can be taken at least one hour after or before a meal, otherwise, it interferes with digestion. One should not cook or eat while angry, worried, or upset because these kinds of emotions create toxins in the blood stream. These emotions affect everyone who cooks or eats. To sustain health, you should avoid eating for three hours before sleeping and sleep on the left side so that the right nostril will not be restricted. This will enable proper breathing which will aid rapid and proper digestion.

The correct volume for every meal consists of 50% grains, 20% to 30% vegetables, 10% to 15% cooked beans, and 5% soup.



Good health is the result of maintaining a dynamic balance in the food we eat. We all must reevaluate our present orientation and try to modify our dietary practice towards temperance, thus naturally producing a condition of harmonious adaptability promoting health and hygiene.


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