When we control our tongues by proper eating, all our senses are controlled a requisite for spiritual life.

Last month we discussed the importance of continence and how the vegetarian and nonvegetarian cuisines influence one's ability to remain continent. This month we'll explore continence in relation to control of the tongue. Srila Prabhupada writes,

The demands of the body can be divided into three categories the demands of the tongue, the belly, and the genitals. One may observe that these three senses are physically situated in a straight line, as far as the body is concerned, and that the bodily demands begin with the tongue.

Cuisine and Continence

Thus, controlling the demands of the tongue in turn controls the demands of the stomach and of the genitals. Since the functions of the tongue are to taste and to vibrate, tongue-control is demonstrated by how much and what one tastes and vibrates.

"There is no possibility of becoming a yogi," Lord Krsna declares, "if one eats too much or eats too little." In other words, one should eat what is necessary to keep the body and soul together and avoid whimsical fasting. The scriptures recommend fasting for spiritual advancement, not for health or any other material purposes.

More important for continence than avoiding overeating is eating only Krsna prasadam. Again Srila Prabhupada explains,

If one can restrain the demands of the tongue by limiting its activities to the eating of prasadam, the urges of the belly and genitals can automatically be controlled. … There are six kinds of rasas [tastes], and if one is agitated by any one of them, one becomes controlled by the urges of the tongue. Some persons are attracted to the eating of meat, fish, crabs, eggs, and other things produced by semen and blood and eaten in the form of dead bodies. Others are attracted by eating vegetables, creepers, spinach, or milk products, but all for the satisfaction of the tongue's demands. Such eating for sense gratification including the use of extra quantities of spices like chili and tamarind is to be given up by Krsna conscious persons.

However, the story doesn't end with eating only prasadam. for if one accepts prasadam only for its palatable taste, he's also trying to satisfy his tongue. Thus this scriptural warning: "That person who runs here and there seeking to gratify his palate and who is always attached to the desires of his stomach … is unable to attain Krsna." A devotee eats opulent prasadam only on special festival days, for on a daily basis opulent prasadam will endanger his health and his ability to remain continent and to grow spiritually. Nourishing, tasty, simple vegetarian meals, therefore, are the mainstay in a devotee's diet.

As for the vibrating function of the tongue, a devotee talks only of transcendental subjects. His heart is immersed in Krsna, and he takes pleasure in discussing Krsna's qualities, pastimes, and devotional service. In this way, the devotee so endears himself to the Lord that the Lord says, "The pure devotee is always within the core of My heart, and I am always in the heart of the pure devotee. My devotees do not know anything else but Me, and I do not know anyone else but them" (Bhag. 9.4.68).

A nondevotee may try to control the tasting and vibrating demands of the tongue, but his reasons for doing so are different from a devotee's. For health a nondevotee may avoid meat-eating. For social prestige and for keeping trim a nondevotee may observe moderation in eating, and for the sake of his listeners, he'll tailor his talk to interest and please.

A devotee's goal, however, is not to maintain his health, not to preserve his social status, and not to seek approval. A devotee's prime motivation in all matters is to please Lord Krsna. So a devotee's sense control is not a self-created bother that is cast off from time to time, but bliss. Srila Prabhupada writes,

One who has tasted the beauty of the Supreme Lord Krsna in the course of his advancement in Krsna consciousness no longer has a taste for dead, material things…. The result of Krsna consciousness is that one becomes increasingly enlightened, and he enjoys life with a thrill, not only for some time, but at every moment.

As a devotee immerses himself in the beauty and tenderness of devotion, he liberates his spirit, transcends the stress and distress of nondevotional life, and tastes a higher happiness. The devotee relishes Krsna's prasadam and hearing and talking about Krsna naturally, just as a young boy and girl take pleasure in being together. Continence, therefore, is achieved automatically when the tongue and other senses engage in their ultimate engagement of serving Krsna.

(Recipes from The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, by Adi-raja dasa)

Fruit Turnovers

(Mithe samosa)

Preparation time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Servings: 10

8 tablespoons melted butter
1 ½ cups white flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
5 apples, cored, peeled, and cut into small pieces 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
¼ teaspoon powdered ginger 
4 tablespoons sugar 
ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil for deep-frying

1. In a large mixing bowl, rub half the melted butter into the flour with your finger-tips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the salt. Gradually add the cold water. (Some cooks make a richer dough by substituting yogurt for the water, or by using cold water and yogurt.) Mix with your hands to form a dough. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead it until it's smooth and firm. Then gather the dough together in a lump, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside for half an hour.

2. Stir-fry the apples and the other half of the butter over a medium flame for 5 minutes. Then add the spices and sugar. Lower the heat and continue to stir until most of the liquid cooks off and the mixture thickens. Then turn it onto a plate to cool.

3. Knead the dough again and form it into 10 balls. Grease the rolling board and roll out the balls like thick puris. Place a tablespoon of filling on half of each round and fold the round in half over the filling. Moisten the dough where the two edges meet; then press the two layers of dough together along the edge of the filling and pare away the excess. Now pick up a samosa in one hand and use the other to pinch and twist the sealed edge in successive folds to form a pleated top. Each samosa should have 10 to 12 pressed-down folds. Make sure there are no holes by which the filling can escape during the deep-frying. Prepare all the samosas in this way and arrange them on a plate.

4. Heat the ghee over a medium flame in a vessel for deep-frying. Put in as many samosas at a time as will fit without touching one another. Fry them for 10 to 12 minutes, turning them gently with a slotted spoon until they are golden brown on both sides. Remove them and put them in a colander to drain. Sprinkle with the powdered sugar, or sugar-coat them by dipping them in thick syrup. Offer to Krsna hot or cold.

For a variation, almost any sweet fruit, such as strawberries, peaches, pineapples, mangoes, or figs, can be used for the filling.

Stuffed Okra

(Bhindi Massaledarh)

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Servings: 4-6

1 pound fresh okra
7 ounces panir (milk curd)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
3 fresh chilies
3 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil 
¼ teaspoon asafetida

1. Wrap a piece of cheesecloth around the panir and gently squeeze out most of the water. Remove the cheesecloth, put the panir into a bowl, and set it aside. Grind the cumin, ginger, chilies. and coriander leaves into a fine paste with a mortar and pestle or electric grinder. Mix the paste, along with the turmeric and salt, into the panir. Knead it into a smooth dough. Cover it with a moist cloth and set it aside.

2. Wash the okra pods and pat them dry with paper towels. Trim off their heads and tips. Slit each pod lengthwise, being careful not to cut all the way to the ends or through to the opposite side. Gently pry back one side of the cut okra with your thumb, then the other side, carefully loosening the pod from the seeds in the center. Stuff each pod with just enough panir mixture to fill it. Take care not to force the edges too wide, otherwise it will break in half.

3. Heat the ghee in a wide saucepan. When it begins to smoke, toss in the asafetida. Add the stuffed okra pods, carefully placing them with the stuffing facing upward. Reduce the flame to very low and cook covered for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the pods stuffing-side down. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes more until they become golden-brown. Lift the pods out gently and offer to Krsna.

Vegetable and Dal Stew


Preparation time: 45 minutes

Servings: 4-6

5 cups water 
2 teaspoons salt
11/3 cups mung dal, green split peas, or whole lentils 
1 ½ pounds assorted vegetables such as eggplants, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, or squash 
2 ounces tamarind 
2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons ground cumin 
2 teaspoons ground coriander 
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or 2 fresh chilies, minced 
1 teaspoon turmeric 
4 tablespoons grated coconut

1. Start by putting the water, with the salt added, over a flame to boil. Sort, wash, and drain the dal. Add the dal to the boiling water. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove any froth and dal skins that collect on the surface; then cover and cook over a medium flame for 15 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. The dal should become soft but not mushy.

2. While the dal is cooking, wash and cut the vegetables into small cubes. Break up the lump of tamarind, boil it in a small amount of water, and extract the juice.

3. Heat the ghee in a saucepan and fry the mustard seeds. After they finish popping, add the powdered spices, fry for a few seconds, and then add the vegetables. Stir-fry for 8 to 10 minutes, until some of the ghee is absorbed into the eggplant and all the vegetables are slightly browned. Add the grated coconut and fry for 2 more minutes.

4. By this time the dal should be ready. Empty the vegetables and the tamarind juice into the dal and mix well. Lower the heat and cook uncovered until the dal is fully cooked and thick and the vegetables are soft. Offer to Krsna.

Saffron-flavored Milk with Pistachios

(Masala doodh)

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Servings: 4 cups

4 cups milk
10 saffron strands or ¼ teaspoon saffron 
4 cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
3 tablespoons honey 
1 tablespoon finely ground pistachio nuts

Bring the milk, saffron, cloves, and cinnamon to boil in a saucepan. Adjust the heat so that the milk maintains a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Then remove from the heat, stir in the honey, and discard the cloves. Sprinkle the ground pistachio nuts over the top. Offer to Krsna steaming hot.