Monday, 25 November 2013

The Vedic Science behind Eating With Your hands

Hands are considered our most precious organ of action. Our hands and feet are said to be the conduits of the five elements--space, air, fire, water and earth. One of the five elements courses through each finger. Through the thumb, angushtha, comes space; through the forefinger, tarjani, air; through the midfinger, madhyama, fire; through the ring finger, anamika, water and through the little finger, kanishtha, earth.

In Vedic tradition, we eat with our hands because the five elements within them begin to transform food and make it digestible even before it reaches the mouth. This transformation also heightens the senses so that we can smell, taste and feel the texture of the foods we are eating. We can also hear the sounds of eating. All of these sensations are a necessary prelude to beckoning agni, the fire of digestion, to ready itself for the meal to come.Eating with your hands is remembering your sacred nature.
 
In ghronikah mudra the five fingertips form a petal around a lump of food about the size of a plum. This is one of the two main mudras used for eating solid food.

In annabhakshana mudra, use the fingertips to pick up a small amount of food, sufficient to fit on the base of the four fingers. Use the thumb to advance the food forward and into the mouth. This is the second of the two main mudras for eating any solid food. This mudra practice cultivates our discrimination in eating good quality food in the appropriate quantity and in a tranquil environment.

 Kangulah mudra is taking food with the thumb, forefinger and mid-finger. Engage this mudra when eating long, slender pieces of food. As we bring food to our mouth in kangulah mudra, the palm of the hand faces upward, evoking the spirit of consciousness as we touch upon Nature. This mudra cultivates a gentle reverence for Nature's precious gifts. The first mudra, Ghronikah, activates and balances the element of earth within the body. The earth element controls our sense of smell and gives us added vision to "smell our way," that is, to be keenly aware of our connection to Mother Nature.


Kadambah mudra crouches the five fingers around firm, solid food. This mudra is reserved for eating round-shaped fresh fruits that fit neatly in the palm of the hand, such as mango. Practicing this mudra helps us to remember to be grateful for every speck of Nature's food.


Mukulah mudra is eating with all five fingers tightly knitted together. In this mudra a minimal quantity of food is taken at a time, for example, ten grains of cooked rice. The mudra is used in annaprashanam, or the ceremony of first feeding, one of the 16 samskaras, usually performed in the fifth or sixth month of a child's life.  Every bite of food must serve to awaken cosmic memory of the first food we, as conscious human beings, imbibe from the Mother's nectary.


Khatakamukhah mudra is tasting or sampling food with forefinger, mid-finger and thumb tightly pinched. This mudra measures the equivalent of a half-teaspoon. It is used to mete out spices and condiments in cooking. We may also use it as a pinch-measure for medicines. Food is the most potent form of medicine. We need to exercise caution. Keeping our hearts open but our hands half-closed when receiving food is a good policy to maintain. Khatakamukhah mudra helps us to exercise firm discretion around food.