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The moral basis of Vegetarianism


M.K. Gandhi

Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad


Excerpts from Chapter 7: Our Daily Diet




Whole, unpolished rice is unprocurable in the bazaars. It is beautiful to look at and rich and sweet to the taste. Mills can never compete with this unpolished rice. It is husked in a simple manner. Most of the paddy can be husked in a light chakki without difficulty. There some varieties the husk of which is not separated by grinding. The best way to treat such paddy is to boil it first then separate the chaff from the grain. This rice it is said is most nutritious and naturally, the cheapest. The majority of rice, found common in the bazaars is always more or less polished, whether hand-husked or milk-husked. Wholly unpolished rice is always hand-husked and is every time cheaper than the mill-husked rice, the variety being the same.




The bran-less wheat flour is as bad as polished rice is the universal testimony of medical men. Whole-wheat flour ground in one’s own chakki in any day superior to, and cheaper than, the fine flour to be had in the bazaars. And, the weight is also not lost. The richest part of wheat is contained in its bran. There is terrible loss of nutrition when the bran of wheat is removed. A large part of the millions that flour-mills make will remain in and circulate among the deserving poor when village grinding is revived.




Another physician quotes a text against the use of sprouted pulses but he too lacks actual experience for supporting his text. And this has been my complaint against many Ayurvedic physicians. Our physicians appear to be too lazy to unearth that wisdom in the real sense of the term. They are satisfied with merely repeating the printed formula. I am as anxious as the tallest among them can be to free ourselves from the tyranny of western medicines which are ruinously expensive and the preparation of which takes no count of the higher humanities.




It is my firm conviction that man need take no milk at all, beyond the mother’s milk that he takes as a baby. His diet should consist of nothing but sun baked fruits and nuts. He can secure enough nourishment both for the tissues and the nerves from fruits like grapes and nuts like almond. Restraint of the sexual and other passions becomes easy for a man who lives on such food. My co-workers and I have seen by experience that there is much truth in the Indian proverb that as a man eats, so shall he become.




My own experience of taking honey mixed with hot water extends to more than four years. I have experienced no ill-effect whatsoever. Objection has also been raised against the use of honey on humanitarian grounds. This objection has considerable force though the western method of gathering honey is much cleaner and less open to objection. I fear that if I would be strictly logical, I should have to cut down many things I use. But life is not governed by strict logic. It is an organic growth, seemingly irregular, growth following its own law and logic… Western doctors bestow high praise upon it. Most of them who condemn the use of sugar in un-measured terms speak highly of honey which they say does not irritate as refined sugar or even gur does.




According to the medical testimony, gur is superior to refined sugar in food value. Villagers may do without gur themselves, but their children cannot without undermining their stamina… Retention of gur and its use by the people in general means several crores of rupees retained by the villagers.




No one perhaps, as far as I know, has eaten as much fruit as I have, having lived for six years on entirely fruits and nuts and always having had a liberal supply of fruit as part of my ordinary diet. But, I had in my mind, when writing, the special conditions of India. Its people should have, by reason of its extent and variety of climate, a most liberal supply of fruits. I therefore suggested what seemed to me to be feasible. Wild berries, for instance, grow abundantly. They may not be taken to the market for sale but can be used for the plucking. This is a vast field for research. It can bring neither money nor perhaps fame. But it may earn the gratitude of dumb millions.


Green Leaves


I had introduced to me the leaves of sarsav, suwa, turnip-tops, carrot-tops, radish-tops and pea-nut leaves. Besides these, it is hardly necessary to state that the radish, turnip and carrot tubers are also known to be edible in their raw state. The vitamins contained in these vegetables are wholly or partially lost in cooking.




Common salt may be rightly counted as the King among condiments. Many people cannot eat their food without it. The body requires certain salts and common salt is one of them. These salts present naturally in various foodstuffs but get lost in un-scientific ways of cooking. The deficiency of salt has to be made up by a separate addition of sales.


Chillies, fresh or dry, pepper, turmeric, coriander, caraway, mustard, methi, asafetida etc. are other few condiments which are taken for satisfying our palate.  All condiments destroy the natural flavour of vegetables and cereals. Salt should be taken as necessary and chillies burn the mouth and irritate the stomach. Excessive use of chillies caused one man a premature death.


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