Nourishing the Mind
At the core of all true religion is our need for the higher food of light, peace and bliss, and in order to fulfil our higher destiny, we cannot live on physical bread alone. In the Christian tradition, so central is this teaching that it comes in the Lord’s Prayer, and is the inner meaning of the taking of bread and wine in the sacred rite of the Eucharist. Christ’s references to this higher nourishment are numerous, from his promise to the woman at the well, that he will provide her with the water, which, when drunk, she will never thirst again, to his declaration: ‘I am the bread of life’ and his statement ‘I have meat to eat that ye know not of.’
The absorption of food, in the material sense, is our most essential and intimate contact with the physical world. In a sense, our body is comprised of the food we eat, hence it is called in the Taittiriya Upanishad the food sheath. Deprived of food the mind atrophies, and revives when its hunger is relieved.
Our path to higher knowledge begins when we become discerning, not only as regards the physical food we take in, but rather the mental imagery we allow to impress the sensitive and retentive tablet of our mind. This idea is expressed by St Paul:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians, 4:8)
By ‘thinking on these things’, and guiding our thoughts away from their opposites, we awaken the capacity to assimilate the soul-satisfying food of shanti and ananda (the higher peace and bliss), sourced in our own being. In the verse of Maulana Rumi: ‘If thou wilt renounce this drinking (of worldly pleasures) for a day or two, thou wilt dip thy mouth in the drink of Paradise.’
Reflection on the teachings of the illumined sages provides the mind with the food of wisdom, which, when assimilated, opens the way to the realisation of the higher Self. As Jesus teaches his disciples, his essence is the life and light of our own being, and can be realised as the reality within. The true faith is that which feeds on this divine repast and makes it the focus of one’s life. This is far deeper than any profession of faith, and involves the transmutation of the mind into the light of Truth.
Christ contrasts the food which gives everlasting life and the conviction of the immortality of our true being, with the physical food, the supply of which is uncertain and needs constant renewal and much labour. He does not underestimate our physical needs, but expects those close to him to seek sustenance from the deepest source. Once this channel to the region of the inner light has been opened and is cherished and guarded, its access depends on no outer materials, and the light of Truth within becomes our consummate feeder and our supreme provider. The invitation is always there.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and shall open to Me the door, I will come in unto him, and sup with him, and he with Me. (Revelation, 3:20)
The purpose of the higher Yoga is to show the way to this true nourishment, and remind us of the essential oneness in Light of all the knowers of Truth. For each represents and personifies the fountainhead of knowledge, peace and fulfilment. Jesus also speaks of the joy and fulfilment that comes to those who embrace his teachings and try to follow them. ‘These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.’ (John, 15:11)
A modern exponent of the path to wisdom has described the nutriment we draw on when we tap this fountain, as ‘a light and a drink in one—a light which is at first formative and supporting, and which, when fully revealed, proves to be all-enveloping and causeless. It is a drink as well, entering into the being like a draught of nectar, which will cause slow time to become vital and flowing.’