Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Austere Diet of Himalayan Hermits is Healthy



Saint Serafim (Image not from Himalayas)


While different hermits in the Himalayas follow different dietary patterns and restrictions, this is a description of a common one that consists of five types of food. These are

Wheat: Usually as flat unleavened bread made on an open wood fire but at times also as cracked wheat boiled with milk added to it. A few influenced by the Sikh temples also use semolina cooked as a sweet mashed preparation. Mystic hermits live a life in harmony with nature and would never cut a tree for their wood needs. Much dead wood may be found on the forest floor along with twigs and dry leaf useful to get the fire going. If necessary some branches might be taken from a tree. However, hermits often tend to young tree saplings that come up on their own in the forest clearing weeds from around them to improve their chances of survival or by shifting them to safer locations. The flat round pieces of bread cooked on wood fire called roti are extremely delicious when eaten hot, straight off the hot plate, and with some clarified butter spread on them. But unlike leavened bread they tend to go leathery when cold.

Usually surrounding villagers gift some wheat after the harvest to hermits in nearby forests that is ground into flour every month or so according to need. Whole wheat grains store better and longer than flour made from it. A Hermit also may purchase the wheat if he has some charitable income. Most have some rich business and political clients who need the solace provided by them desperately due to their difficult and stressful lives and give cash gifts on their visits. Mystics due to their simple lives and unburdened souls are quickly able to discern the source of  worldly difficulties and the flow of destiny. Therefore they can often suggest the course of action that shall lead to easing such difficulties or a path of solace in case they discern it as an unavoidable one. They do not store money however but either spend it for any essential need or give it away to one who might be needy for purchase of a cow for example to a nearby villager who might later gift some wheat, clarified butter or milk but that is not a condition for the gift given without any demand. Their own needs are simple and their most expensive possessions may be some blankets for winter, some cotton sheets worn as garments, leather sandals, prayer beads or lucky gem stones, grass panels or mattresses and some brass vessels for cooking or carrying.

Milk Products: As milk, butter and clarified butter extracted from it and yoghurt that preserves better in summer when milk would spoil. Clarified butter has a long shelf life as compared to butter. Hermits do not keep a fridge or any other modern devices although now some may keep mobile phones. Their isolated abodes usually have no access to electricity and phones may be recharged periodically in a nearby village or town.. Hermits with a few disciples may keep as many as four cows for it so that at least one is yielding milk. At times clarified butter or butter milk is also gifted by nearby farmers

Green Leafy Vegetables: A hermit collects these from surrounding forests and also may grow some around the hermitage. The leaves are collected selectively and gently from plants when the sun is up so that a plant or tree is hurt no more than a human is in a haircut. Picking from plants when the sun is up helps them to heal quickly whereas plants plucked after sun down may suffer in pain till morning. Plants are as much of a life form as oxygen breathing animals that complement life by being carbon breathing life forms.

Roots: Root crops like potatoes, carrots, turnips and numerous other wild roots that only hermits know about, collected after a shrub has completed its life cycle so as not to kill the plant.

Fruit: A fruit a day is welcome varying with seasons from bananas, apples, mangoes and wild berries. A Hermitage usually has some of its own fruit trees


Some hermits, especially those living closer to urban centers rather than forests employ rice and lentil beans in varying amounts in their diet. Nearly all keep rice for special occasions, for example, a sweet rice pudding of rice and milk is common on festive occasions and a preparation of much softened rice and moong lentils is the prescribed diet if a stomach is upset from polluted water or some other source

Aside from this, a hermit may consume some luxuries when available and these are jaggery, wild honey and nuts form trees. When traveling, a hermit usually carries some roasted grains and nuts for times when food cannot be cooked and fresh fruits are not available and these are roasted peanuts, roasted Bengal gram (chick peas) roasted rice and wheat grains. At times these roasted nuts and grains are ground into a powder and consumed after wetting. It is called sattu. It is especially useful if an older hermit does not have strong teeth. Many hermits in their younger days have led careless worldly lives before a change of heart and becoming hermits, a prescription for ruining teeth well before one turns fifty.

Although this diet appears austere if one were to analyze, it has all the necessary ingredients for a healthy life for everyone, not just hermits and we could all learn something from it. Being a vegetarian and simple diet it is also a highly spiritual one because – we are what we eat.

It must be pointed out that whatever has been written in this note refers to sincere seekers for there are criminals, charlatans and vagabonds too that hide in the guise of mystics. Meat and alcohol consumed secretly may be common part of their diet (Cannabis on the other hand may be consumed by some sincere mystics openly since it is regarded by many as a divine medicinal herb in the Himalayas,  only looked down in modern times because evil prevails in it and many other good things are regarded as bad at such times such as caring for the poor, vulnerable and elderly). The fraudulent hermits and mystics exist to exploit society for sex, fame, money and power etc. all the worldly things worldly humans try for but in this case highly deplorable because of the hypocrisy and deception. The mystic disguise offers them a cover for their nefarious activities. It does not take much for any wise human to see through them by checking out who their life style and followers. A giveaway is if they have collected much wealth and assets despite the fact that they claim the wealth does not belong to them but a trust they have created to hold it. Even the wealth of a trust belongs to a person for all practical purposes, if they control it. However, the gullible get sucked in. 

Some images of  some spiritual portions of  Himalayas and some well known hermits (perhaps the most sincere ones are however not well known and their images are not available ) are here:

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