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Chapter 17

Jai: Grandma, how do I know what foods to eat?

Grandma: There are three types of foods, Jai. (Gita 17.07-10) The foods that bring long life, virtue, strength, health, happiness, and joy are juicy, smooth, substantial, and nutritious. Such health foods are the best. They are called Sattvik or healthy food.

Foods that are very bitter, sour, salty, hot, oily, and acidic are called Rajasika or undesirable foods. Such junk foods are unhealthy, cause diseases, and should be avoided.

Foods that are not well cooked, spoiled, tasteless, rotten, burned, left-over, and impure (such as meat and alcohol) are called Tamasik or bad foods. One should not eat such foods.

Jai: How should I speak to others?

Grandma: You should never tell a lie. Your words should not be harsh, bitter, nasty, or insulting. They should be sweet, useful, and truthful. (Gita 17.15) One who speaks politely wins the heart of all and is liked by everybody. A wise person should speak the truth if it is helpful and keep quiet if it is harsh. To help those in need is the universal teaching.

Jai: How should I help others?

Grandma: It is our duty to help those who are less fortunate and can’t help themselves. Help anyone who needs help, but never expect anything in return. Charity is not only the best, but also the only use of wealth. We all should help a good cause. Give back what belongs to the world. But there are responsibilities. Money given in charity should be earned by lawful means. And we must make sure that the receiver is not a person likely to use the gift for evil purposes. (Gita 17.20-22)

Jai: Will God give us what we want if we sincerely pray for it?

Grandma: Full faith in God makes things happen. There is nothing impossible for faith. Faith works miracles. One must have faith before starting any work. It is said in the Gita that we can become whatever we want to be if we always think about it and pray to God with faith. (Gita 17.03) Always think about what you want to be, and your dream can come true.

Here is a story about a crow that had faith.

23. The Thirsty Crow

It was a hot summer day. A crow was very thirsty. He flew from place to place looking for water. He could not find water anywhere. Ponds, rivers, and lakes were all dry. The water in the well was too deep. Crow was very thirsty for water. He flew and flew. He was getting both tired and thirsty, but he did not give up the search.

At last he thought death was near and remembered God and started to pray for water. He saw a pitcher of water near a house. This made him very happy as he thought there must be water in the pitcher. He sat on the top of the pitcher and looked into it. To his great frustration he found that the water was at the bottom of the pitcher. He could see the water, but his beak could not reach the water. He became very sad and started to think how he could reach the water. Suddenly an idea came into his mind. There were stones near the pitcher. He picked up stones from the ground, one by one, and started dropping them into the pitcher. The water began coming up. Soon the crow could reach it easily. He drank the water, thanked God, and happily flew away.

Thus it is said, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” The crow did what we all should do. He did not give up. He had faith that his prayer would be answered.

Here is another good story:

24. The Rabbit and the Turtle

A turtle always moves very slowly. His friend, the rabbit, often laughed at the slow turtle. One day, the turtle could not bear the insults and challenged the rabbit to run a race with him. All the animals in the jungle laughed at the idea because a race is usually between equals. A deer volunteered to be the judge.

The race started. The rabbit ran fast, and soon he was ahead of the turtle. As the rabbit came closer and closer to the winning post, he felt sure of winning. He looked back at the slow moving turtle, who was far behind.

The rabbit was so sure of winning that he thought, “I will sit under the tree and wait for the turtle. When he comes here, I shall run fast and cross the finish line before he does. This will make turtle angry, and it will be fun to see the turtle insulted.”

The rabbit then sat under a tree. The turtle was still far behind. A cool wind was blowing gently. After some time passed, the rabbit fell asleep. When he woke up, he saw the turtle crossing the finish line. The rabbit had lost the race! All the animals in the jungle were laughing at the rabbit, and he learned a valuable lesson:

“Slow and steady wins the race.”
You can succeed in any work if you work hard with strong faith. Be enthusiastic about what you want, and you will get it. We are the creation of our own thoughts and desires. Thoughts create our future. We become what we always think of. So never think a negative thought or allow doubt to enter your mind. Keep going toward your goal. You cannot get anything through laziness, negligence, and delay. Keep your dream alive in your heart, and it will come true. All difficulties can be removed by faith in God and a firm determination to succeed. But the fruits of success must be shared with others. If you want your dream to be fulfilled, help fulfill someone else’s dream!

Here is a story of a man who learned that God helps those who help themselves.

25. A Man Who Never Gave Up

Yava was the son of a sage who practiced hard penance to get the blessings of Indra, the King of Devas. He tortured his body with austerities and thus awakened the sympathy of Indra. Indra came before him and asked why he was hurting his body.

Yava answered: “I wish to be a great scholar of the Vedas. It takes a long time to learn the Vedas from a teacher. I am practicing austerities to get that knowledge directly. Bless me.”

Indra smiled and said: “Son, you are on the wrong path. Return home, find a good teacher, and learn the Vedas from him. Austerity is not the way to learn; the path is study and study alone.” With these words, Indra went away.

But Yava would not give up. He did his course of spiritual practice (austerities, penance) with even greater effort. Indra again came before Yava and warned him again. Yava announced that if his prayer was not answered, he would cut off his arms and legs one by one and offer them to the fire. No, he would never give up. He continued his penance. One morning, during his austerities, when he went to bathe in the holy Ganga River, he saw an old man on the bank throwing handfuls of sand into the river.

“Old man, what are you doing?” asked Yava.

The old man replied: “I am going to build a dam across the river so people can cross the river easily. See how difficult it is now to cross it. Useful work, isn’t it? ”

Yava laughed and said: “What a fool you must be to think you can build a dam across this mighty river with your handfuls of sand! Go home and do some other useful work.”

The old man said: “Is my work more foolish than yours of learning the Vedas, not by study, but by austerities?”

Yava now knew that the old man was Indra. Yava earnestly begged Indra to grant him learning as a personal wish.

Indra blessed him and comforted Yava with the following words: “I grant you the wish you want. Go and read the Vedas; you will become learned.”

Yava studied the Vedas and became a great scholar of the Vedas.

The secret of success is to keep thinking about what you want all the time and never give up until you get what you want. Do not let negative thoughts, such as delaying to start work, laziness, and carelessness stand in your way.

Before starting or ending any work or study, repeat OM TAT SAT, the threefold names of Brahma.

Jai: What does OM TAT SAT mean, Grandma?

Grandma: It means Krishna, the Almighty God, only exists. OM is used before starting any work or study. OM TAT SAT or OM Shantih, Shantih, Shantih, is also used at the end of any act.

Chapter 17 summary: There are three types of food --- Sattavik, Rajasik and Tamasik --- and they affect our well-being. Tell the truth in a pleasant way. Give charity to a deserving candidate, and give it wisely to avoid its misuse. You can become whatever you want to be if you work hard towards your goal.
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