02 Dec Mahatma Gandhi and the Boy Who Ate Sugar – December 3 2018
Posted at 20:12h in Daily Thoughts
If you have a problem with sugar, don’t eat sugar.
Some time ago I was asked if I would like to write something for a website about the intersection of spiritual practice/spirituality and weight management. I was happy to say yes, only to watch one month, then two go by without beginning to write. Granted, I had been busy, but that is not the only reason for my avoidance, and it became one of those things that niggles at the back of the brain, something you wish you’d done already, a burr under the saddle, if you will, that will guarantee an occasionally rough ride.
And what is the other reason for not having written this piece? I am reminded of a story I once heard:
A woman came to see Mohandas Gandhi, waiting in line for more than half a day with her son at her side in order to have an audience with him. When at last it was their turn to speak to him, the woman said, “Mahatma, please. Tell my son he must stop eating sugar. It is ruining his health, his teeth, it affects his mood. Every time he has it, I see the change in him and there is nothing I can do to stop him from eating it, and then eating more. He’s a good boy, but when it comes to sugar, he becomes a liar and a thief and a cheat and I’m afraid it will ruin his life. Please, Gandhiji, tell him to stop.”
Gandhi looked at the boy for the longest time as he cowered there, trying to hide in his mother’s sari. Finally, Gandhi broke the silence and said. “Come back to me in two weeks time.”
Two weeks later the woman returned with her child and once again waited in line for hours before finally it was again their turn to see the Master. “Mahatma,” said the mother. “We have returned. We came to you for help with this boy and eating sugar and you asked us to come back after two weeks.”
“Yes, of course I remember,” said the master. “Come here, child.” He motioned the boy forward.
The boy, at the urging and prodding of his mother, disentangled himself from her sari and stepped up to the Mahatma who reached out, putting his hands on the boy’s shoulders and pulling him in close. He looked the boy squarely in the eye and said, firmly, “Don’t eat sugar,” then released him.
“That’s it?” said the mother. “That’s all you’re going to say?” She was flabbergasted. “Why didn’t you just tell him that two weeks ago?”
“Because,” replied Gandhi, “Two weeks ago I was still eating sugar myself.”
We teach what we need to learn. I became a teacher of meditation at least in part because I had spent so long in abject suffering and aloneness, in a constant negative experience of the world, that I needed to be reminded daily of the truth of my being, the truth of the omnipresence of consciousness and the capacity of each of us for bliss. I’m not sure if Gandhi’s life was improved by quitting sugar, but we know the boy was given an opportunity for change by the fact of it. And from the Veda we learn that everything happens for all reasons, so what we can assume is that whether or not Gandhi ‘needed’ to quit eating sugar, something in his own evolution was served by the process.
So I followed his example and, at least for some time – long enough to write the piece, at least – I was able not to eat sugar. And now, more often than not, I notice when a voice other than the voice of self-love tells me to have a cookie–come on, just one–and, rather than having the cookie, I can ask, if I am not this voice, who am I? What would I not have to feel if I ate the cookie? What would I be able to continue to ignore if I ate the cookie? If I were the perfection of nature, what would I do instead?
Today I will slow down enough to ask who’s doing the talking inside my head, and I will decide if the voice is for me or against me. I will listen for the ‘right’ thought or action to occur to me via something other than this voice.