सा ह वागुवाच, यद्वा अहं वसिष्ठास्मि त्वं तद्वसिष्ठोऽसीति; यद्वा अहं प्रतिष्ठास्मि त्वं तत्प्रतिष्ठोऽसीति चक्शुः; यद्वा अहं संपदस्मि त्वं तत् संपदसीति श्रोत्रम्; यद्वा अहमायतनमस्मि त्वं तदायतनमसीति मनः; यद्वा अहं प्रजातिरस्मि त्वं तत् प्रजातिरसीति रेतः; तस्यो मे किमन्नम्, किं वास इति; यदिदं किञ्चा श्वभ्य आ कृमिभ्य आ कीटपतङ्गेभ्यस्तत्तेऽन्नम्, आपो वास इति; न ह वा अस्यानन्नं जग्धं भवति, नानन्नं प्रतिगृहीतम्, य एवमेतदनस्यान्नं वेद; तद्विद्वांसः श्रोत्रिया अशिष्यन्त आचामन्ति, अशित्वाचामन्ति; एतमेव तदनमनग्नं कुर्वन्तो मन्यन्ते ॥ १४ ॥
इति प्रथमं ब्राह्मणम् ॥
sā ha vāguvāca, yadvā ahaṃ vasiṣṭhāsmi tvaṃ tadvasiṣṭho’sīti; yadvā ahaṃ pratiṣṭhāsmi tvaṃ tatpratiṣṭho’sīti cakśuḥ; yadvā ahaṃ saṃpadasmi tvaṃ tat saṃpadasīti śrotram; yadvā ahamāyatanamasmi tvaṃ tadāyatanamasīti manaḥ; yadvā ahaṃ prajātirasmi tvaṃ tat prajātirasīti retaḥ; tasyo me kimannam, kiṃ vāsa iti; yadidaṃ kiñcā śvabhya ā kṛmibhya ā kīṭapataṅgebhyastatte’nnam, āpo vāsa iti; na ha vā asyānannaṃ jagdhaṃ bhavati, nānannaṃ pratigṛhītam, ya evametadanasyānnaṃ veda; tadvidvāṃsaḥ śrotriyā aśiṣyanta ācāmanti, aśitvācāmanti; etameva tadanamanagnaṃ kurvanto manyante || 14 ||
iti prathamaṃ brāhmaṇam ||
14. The organ of speech said, ‘That attribute of the Vasiṣṭha which I have is yours.’ The eye: ‘That attribute of steadiness which I have is yours.’ The ear: ‘That attribute of prosperity which I have is yours.’ The mind: ‘That attribute of abode which I have is yours.’ The organ of generation: ‘That attribute of generation which I have is yours.’ (The vital force said:) ‘Then what will be my food and my dress?’ (The organs said:) ‘Whatever is (known as) food, including dogs, worms, insects and moths, is your food, and water your dress.’ He who knows the food of the vital force to be such, never happens to eat anything that is not food, or to accept anything that is not food. Therefore wise men who are versed in the Vedas sip a little water just before and after eating. They regard it as removing the nakedness of the vital force.
The organ of speech came forward first tö offer the tribute and said, ‘That attribute of the Vasiṣṭha which I have is yours. With that you are the Vasiṣṭha.’ The eye: ‘That attribute of steadiness which I have is yours. You are that steadiness.’ The rest is similar. The other organs gave one by one their attributes of prosperity, abode and generation. (the vital force said:) ‘If it is so, you have handsomely paid me tribute. Now tell me, endowed with such attributes that I am, what will be my food and my dress?’ The others said, ‘Whatever is known in the world as food, including dogs, worms, insects and moths—whatever is food for dogs etc., and with that every food that is eaten by other creatures—is all your food.’ We are here enjoined to look upon everything as the food of the vital force.
Some say that he who knows the food of the vital force can eat anything with impunity. This is wrong, for it has been forbidden by other scriptures.
Objection: May this not be an alternative to them?
Reply: No, for this is not an injunction in favour of promiscuous eating. The passage, ‘He never happens to eat anything that is not food,’ is merely a eulogy on the meditation enjoined about regarding everything as the food of the vital force, for it should be treated as a part of that injunction. It has no power to contradict what has been enjoined by other scriptures, for it has quite a different meaning (viz. to extol the above meditation). What is sought to be enjoined here is the idea that everything is the food of the vital force, not that one should eat everything. Your assumption that the eating of everything is allowable is totally false, for there is no authority to support it.
Objection: The man who knows about the food of the vital force is identified with the latter, and as such everything can be regarded as his food; hence the eating of everything is surely allowable in his case.
Reply: No, for anything and everything cannot be one’s food. It is true that this sage is identified with the vital force, but he possesses a body through which he has attained his knowledge, and the eating of every kind of food such as those of worms, insects and gods is incongruous with it. Hence it is meaningless to declare in that connection that the eating of all sorts of food is free from blame, for the blame in question would never arise.
Objection: But as identified with the vital force, he does eat the food of even worms, insects, etc.
Reply: True, but there is no scriptural prohibition regarding it. So it would be quite in order, like the Palāśa flower (Butea Frondosa), which is naturally red. Hence it would be meaningless to say that he is allowed to eat everything as the vital force, for the eating of everything would not in that case amount to a blame. But the prohibition is with regard to the sage in relation to a particular body, and no exception has been made in his favour. Therefore he will certainly incur blame if he transgresses that prohibition, for the passage, ‘He never happens to eat anything that is not food,’ has a different meaning.
Moreover, the meditation on everything as the food of the vital force is being enjoined here not for the vital force as associated with the body of a Brāhmaṇa etc., but for the vital force in general. Just as, although everything may be food for the vital force in a general way, some kind of food helps to sustain the life of certain creatures, as poison does for the worm born in it, but it would do palpable harm in the form of death etc. to others in spite of its being the food of the vital force, similarly, although everything is food for the vital force, yet, if it eats forbidden food while associated with the body of a Brāhmaṇa etc., it will certainly incur blame. Therefore it is entirely misleading to think that the eating of forbidden food is harmless.
‘And water that is drunk will stand for your dress.’ Here too we are enjoined to look upon water as the dress of the vital force. It cannot of course be used as dress. Therefore the natural act of drinking water should be meditated upon as dressing the vital force. He who knows the food of the vital force to be such—that everything is its food—never happens to eat anything that is not food. Even if he eats something that should not be eaten, that too becomes regular food, and he is not touched by the blame due to it. It is a eulogy on this meditation, as we have said. Similarly he never happens to accept anything that is not food. Even if he accepts something that is forbidden, an elephant, for example, that too becomes the kind of food that it is allowable to accept. There too he is not touched by the blame of accepting something that is unacceptable—which is also said by way of eulogy. The result of the meditation, however, is identification with the vital force, for what has just been stated is not meant to be a result of the meditation, but simply a eulogy on it.
Objection: Why should not this itself be the result?
Reply: It cannot, for he who sees the vital force as his own self attains identity with it as its result. And since he is identified with the vital force, and has thus become the self of all, even a forbidden food becomes allowable food; similarly even unacceptable gifts become acceptable. This is a eulogy on the meditation, taking the acts just as they occur in life. Hence that passage has not the force of an injunction directed to a definite result.
Since water is the dress of the vital force, therefore wise men, Brāhmaṇas, who are versed in the Vedas sip a little water just before and after eating. What do they mean by it? This is being stated: They regard it as removing the nakedness of the vital force. It is a fact that a person giving a dress to another thinks that he is removing the nakedness of the latter; and it has already been said that water is the dress of the vital force. The passage means that while drinking water one should think that one is giving a dress to the vital force.
Objection: But a person sips water just before and after meals with the object of purification. If that also means removing the nakedness of the vital force, the act of sipping would have a double effect. But one and the same act of sipping should not have a double effect. If it is for purification, it is not for dressing the vital force, and vice versa. Under the circumstances there should be another sipping of water to dress the vital force.
Reply: No, for it can be explained by the twofoldness of the action. These are two separate actions. The sipping of water by one before and after eating enjoined by the Smṛti is for the sake of purification, and is simply an act; there the purification does not require any meditation etc. Here we are enjoined to look upon the water that forms part of the act of sipping as dress for the vital force. But if that is done, it will not contradict the purpose of purification attaching to the act of sipping, for it will be a different act (from meditation). Therefore in the act of sipping water before and after eating, we are simply enjoined to meditate upon the water as being the dress of the vital force. It is an injunction, since it is not known from any other source.