Svetketu wanted to show his knowledge, just a young man’s desire. He must have dreamed that his father would be very happy. Although the father was saying, “Wait for two weeks and fast,” he started talking about the ultimate, the absolute, the brahman.
The father said, “Wait two weeks, then we will discuss about brahman.”
Two days’ fast, three days’ fast, four days’ fast, and the father started asking him, “What is brahman?” In the beginning he answered a little bit, recited what he had crammed, displayed. But by the end of the week he was so tired, so exhausted, so hungry, that when his father asked, “What is brahman?” he said, “Stop all this nonsense! I am hungry, I think only of food and you are asking me what brahman is. Right now, except food nothing is brahman.”
The father said, “So all your knowledge was just because you were not starved. Because you were taken care of, your body was nourished, it was easy for you to talk about great philosophy. Now is the real question. Now bring your knowledge!”
Svetketu said, “I have forgotten all. Only one thing haunts me: hunger, hunger – day in, day out. I cannot sleep, I cannot rest. There is fire in my belly, I am burning, and I don’t know anything at all. I have forgotten all that I have learned.”
The father said, “My son, food is the first step towards brahman. Food is brahman – annam brahma.” A tremendously significant statement. India has forgotten it completely. Annam brahma: food is God, the first God.
If you drop the analytical mind, science disappears. If you drop the analytical mind, you can’t be affluent; you are bound to be poor and hungry, and you will lose your first contact with godliness.
The West is in that contact; nothing is wrong about it. This orientation in analysis is a significant step towards knowing godliness. I am not against it. But one should not stop at it. Food is not an ultimate value, it is a means to an end. And if you have a meditative pilgrimage you start transforming food into prayerfulness.
It depends… The painter eats food, but it becomes painting in him. The poet also eats the same food, it becomes poetry in him. The lover also eats the same food, it becomes love in him. The murderer also eats the same food, it becomes murder and destruction in him. Alexander, Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler, Gautam Buddha, Jesus Christ and Krishna, they were not eating different kinds of food; the food was the same, more or less. But in Adolf Hitler it becomes destruction, in Gautam Buddha it becomes compassion. Food is raw energy; it depends on you how you transform it. You are the transformer; you are really significant, not what you eat.