In the wake of Swami Vivekananda’s Anniversary, the Vedanta Society of Toronto is holding, among many other events, Vivekananda Dinner. To mark this special occasion, the Society is launching a souvenir magazine to pay tribute to this world teacher.
Dinner is an event where all members of the family come together around one table to eat. In the process, they discuss about their problems, challenges and successes. This creates a feeling of togetherness, a feeling that we are not alone in this world and a feeling of love. In India, if you have been invited to dinner as a guest, they feed you with a lot of love and care. According to the Indian tradition, a guest should be treated like God, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava!’
Generally, before taking food, we all pray to God in our own sweet ways. The food must be eaten with a sattvika (pure, calm, alert and serene) mind. When we offer food to God, it becomes Prasad (consecrated offering). Prayer cleanses the food of its impurities. In our monasteries and also in many households, a verse from the Bhagavad Gita is recited as a prayer - ‘Brahmarpanam Brahma Havir, Brahmagnau Brahmanaahutam, Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam, Brahmakarma Samadhina’, The act of offering is God, the oblation is God, by God it is offered into the Fire which is God, He who sees God in every action attains God. This verse indicates the unity of existence. The Supreme consciousness pervades the whole universe and is the reason for all actions.
Vedanta says that pure food makes the mind pure. What is food? It is not only what we eat through our mouth to nourish the body, but also what we take in through our senses. Swami Vivekananda was fond of Sankaracharya’s explanation about food. According to Sankara, "That which is gathered in through the senses is Ahara or food.” Therefore, the intake through the senses should be pure to make the mind pure. The controlling of what may be called the subtle body, which includes mind, is no doubt more difficult than controlling the physical body. But the control of the physical body is also necessary to enable one to control the subtle body. Therefore a beginner must pay particular attention to all such dietetic rules as have come down from the line of one’s accredited teachers. However, the extravagance that has driven religion entirely to the kitchen is a peculiar sort of materialism which should be avoided.
Swami Vivekananda’s mission was to rouse the innate purity of human soul. Purity is the precursor of divinity. He declared, “My ideal, indeed, can be put into a few words and that is: to preach unto mankind their divinity, and how to make it manifest in every movement of life.” To achieve this divinity, continuous struggle is necessary. Let us not forget Swamiji’s emphatic exhortation: “Arise, Awake and Stop Not till the Goal is reached.”