27. MORE EXPERIMENTS IN DIETETICS
I was anxious to observe
in thought, word, and deed, and equally anxious to devote the maximum of
time to the Satyagraha struggle and fit myself for it by cultivating purity.
I was therefore led to make further changes, and to impose greater restraints
upon myself in the matter of food. The motive for the previous changes
had been largely hygienic, but the new experiments were made from a religious
Fasting and restriction in diet
now played a more important part in my life. Passion in man is generally
co-existent with a hankering after the pleasures of the palate. And so
it was with me. I have encountered many difficulties in trying to control
passion as well as taste, and I cannot claim even now to have brought them
under complete subjection. I have considered myself to be a heavy eater.
What friends have thought to be my restraint has never appeared to me in
that light. If I had failed to develop restraint to the extent that I have,
I should have descended lower than the beasts and met my doom long ago.
However, as I had adequately realized my shortcomings, I made great efforts
to get rid of them, and thanks to this endeavour I have all these years
pulled on with my body and put in with it my share of work.
Being conscious of my weakness,
and unexpectedly coming in contact with congenial company, I began to take
an exclusive fruit diet or to fast on the Ekadashi day, and also
to observe Janmashtami and similar holidays.
I began with a fruit diet, but
from the standpoint of restraint I did not find much to choose between
a fruit diet and a diet of food grains. I observed that the same indulgence
of taste was possible with the former as with the latter, and even more,
when one got accustomed to it. I therefore came to attach greater importance
to fasting or having only one meal a day on holidays. And if there was
some occasion for penance or the like, I gladly utilized it too for the
purpose of fasting.
But I also saw that, the body
now being drained more effectively, the food yielded greater relish, and
the appetite grew keener. It dawned upon me that fasting could be made
as powerful a weapon of indulgence as of restraint. Many similar later
experiences of mine as well as of others can be adduced as evidence of
this startling fact. I wanted to improve and train my body, but as my chief
object now was to achieve restraint and a conquest of the palate, I selected
first one food and then another, and at the same time restricted the amount.
But the relish was after me, as it were. As I gave up one thing and took
up another, this latter afforded me a fresher and greater relish than its
In making these experiments
I had several companions, the chief of whom was Hermann Kallenbach. I have
already written about this friend in the history of Satyagraha in South
Africa, and will not go over the same ground here. Mr. Kallenbach was always
with me, whether in fasting or in dietetic changes. I lived with him at
his own place when the Satyagraha struggle was at its height. We discussed
our changes in food, and derived more pleasure from the new diet than from
the old. Talk of this nature sounded quite pleasant in those days, and
did not strike me as at all improper. Experience has taught me, however,
that it was wrong to have dwelt upon the relish of food. One should eat
not in order to please the palate, but just to keep the body going. When
each organ of sense subserves the body, and through the body the soul,
its special relish disappears, and then alone does it begin to function
in the way nature intended it to do.
Any number of experiments is
too small, and no sacrifice is too great, for attaining this symphony with
nature. But unfortunately the current is nowadays flowing strongly in the
opposite direction. We are not ashamed to sacrifice a multitude of other
lives in decorating the perishable body and trying to prolong its existence
for a few fleeting moments, with the result that we kill ourselves, both
body and soul. In trying to cure one old disease, we give rise to a hundred
new ones; in trying to enjoy the pleasures of sense, we lose in the end
even our capacity for enjoyment. All this is passing before our very eyes,
but there are none so blind as those who will not see.
Having thus set forth their
object and the train of ideas which led up to them, I now propose to describe
the dietetic experiments at some length.