Brown Rice & Buddha


Brown rice is nice. Whole grains are a wonderful gift. In it’s natural state, rice with the husk still on provides many soothing, healing, building nutrients and cleans and tones our digestive tract.

Beyond this, our intuition knows even more. These kernals of life force are offered with great generosity to include us in the chain of procreation, connecting us with the great universe.  To alter this by processing the rice into white takes matters into our own hands beyond our understanding and abberrates a natural chain of events designed to support us, contributing to weaknesses, breakdowns and dis-ease. both physical and otherwise.  By dis-ease, we can include the environmental impact of the unnecessary step of processing the rice.  This is not worth the trade-off, however we choose to justify it.

Let us consider the implications of white rice, white flour and white sugar:
Although rice and flours have been around for over 5,000 years, refined grains and sugar were created to increase the shelf life of commercially distributed food products, and became a mainstream practice in Europe and North America after World War II. Today these white products are offered by large companies comprised of many people, all of whom are compelled by the organization’s prime goal to generate profit. The temptation to overlook ethical issues, consideration of the ultimate purpose of the company, or issues relating to longevity and success of society as a whole, is such a temptation that these structures often default to an exchange with the public that is self-serving, destructive and insincere. You can hardly say this is intended, because a corporation isn’t a person -it is a soul-less machine determined to keep its stock prices up at any cost. This motivation is the one thing that even its owners and managers must comply with.  If this corporation were a person it would be a psychopath.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the people who run it are psychopaths, but the destructive effect is the same.

So, from this we have white rice, white flour and white sugar - described to us as “better” than the natural equivalent, and from successful advertising, saturation of availability and cultural momentum we are given a substitute that harms bodies, harms the environment and undermines the very essence of the service relationship. This is the resonance of these white products from its history and in the present - a product of competitive aggression, delusion and confusion.  This is what we eat when we eat it, and this is what we support when we buy it and sell it.

Today this issue is not a mystery to anyone who would spend a few moments thinking about it -the information is available and clear. And it is clear the way it feels as we swallow and digest it. It doesn't move through the body easily - creating a bloated feeling just the way "stuck chi" feels.

White rice has lost more than 75% of the nutrients of brown rice, and has none of the roughage or essential fatty acids that are required by our system for healthy function. Consumption of refined grains is understood, even by the mainstream medical community, to be contributing factors to cancer, diabetes and many other problems.
The process of cultivating a perfectly good whole grain such as brown rice, then forcibly removing its goodness, creating pollution while doing so, and discarding the useful part as if it were waste seems karmically dubious to this writer.
Then, as a consumer to "enjoy" this white product more than the natural version, is an erroneous twist of perspective.  It may appear to be an apparent victory for those who “sold” this spin of the story and as a convenience or “refined” choice for the consumer.  These can be seen as delusive and confused thoughts.




























Now, in a spiritual community, say, on a meditation retreat, the purpose is to remove delusion and attempt to reduce negative or confused thinking, in order to reveal clarity. Buddhists saying prayers about taking food only to "build our strength to help all beings", or Hindus, Muslims or Christians thanking God and pledging allegiance to Right ways/the ways of God’s universe - thanking Lakshme, Allah and Mother Earth for her offerings - is it appropriate to have chosen white versions for the meal at this occasion?  Choosing whole grains represents the awakened and thorough attitude that spiritual practice suggests. So we can help ourselves and the whole Earth in this one simple way -don't eat white. Taste buds quickly adjust and in the end default to what is natural.

The use of whole grain products promotes balancing of our systems on many levels. We exercise our will towards clearer behavior. We provide our bodies and our spirit with good resonance. Our purchase from the companies producing truly whole grain, un-tampered foodstuff will have a more positive effect.

In some cases white food has been donated to a temple, or a retreat has been arranged at a facility that doesn't offer whole grains. Perhaps it is ungracious to be insistent or make a fuss in this case.  But consider this:   to whom are we doing a favour if it is harmful to ingest such matter?  What are we teaching to retreat participants by engaging with food-like stuff of this nature, or to a venue but leaving them out of this wonderful discovery?  Do we offer chocolate bars, pepsi, vodka coolers, beef jerky as features of retreat food or temple food just because they are donated or happen to be what the venue offers to other guests?

Especially when the matter is directly under our control, there are clear reasons to purchase brown rice and avoid white sugar, and white flour for use in our churches, temples and spiritual gatherings, as well as in everyday situations.  
In Zen temples where such attitudes and subtle matters are strictly controlled, we treat the absolute cleaning of a bowl so as not to waste or be lacking in thorough-ness as a holy matter-more often than not we have chosen white rice white flour!

 It is fair to recognize a perspective that all material things are just echoes of a Consciousness that will arrange or adapt, so just focus on transforming one’s consciousness and don’t stress over small physical issues  I have heard and enlightened Guru say "Food doen't really touch you - the true You.” This perspective has its context I am sure. Nevertheless, the same Guru also once said “on the way to enlightening one’s self, you must go through the body,” and   “...Our cells carry the seeds of the intent of what nourished them”.  So we can take awareness and focus on whatever is needed for each of us at that time. From this perspective, the contents of this article are offered for those who will hear it, not a dogma rant!

I have seen church-goers praising the Lord then chatting with their happy red faces and big bellies over cake and coffee. I have seen Krishna devotees having great chanting sessions and Dharma talks about including all acts in one’s devotion path, then sitting down to dinner in their own temple using styrofome plates for 300 people.  And I have seen Tibetan Lama devotees offering plates of jujubes and marshmallows, urging me to have some because it was “blessed” by the Lama, carrying healing energy. I have seen people who eat without regard and look great after many years, held together by faith -perhaps we all are. Who knows how the layers of things are playing out within each one of us? But when something crosses your plate, you have the opportunity to include it in your path and to be cautious about “justifying” it to serve attachments that may not be serving you and others in return.

So let us be appreciative of brown rice and whole grains as our everday means for awakening! Let us be compassionate, aware, grateful and supportive of nature's way in our temples, churches and spiritual get-together's, in our childrens' and grown-ups' schools in everything we offer to the public and in our everyday lives - and let’s include or bodies and our hearts!