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Summary of Question:Caffeine
Category:Sikh Practices
Date Posted:Monday, 4/26/1999 8:46 AM MDT

I know that many Sikhs drink tea/cofee. But just as alcohol affects the central nervous system, so does caffeine. Alcohol is a CNS depressant and caffeine is a CNS stimulant- they both alter one's state of mind. So is drinking caffeine really justified for a Sikh?

Dear Friend,
This is a very good question because it will cause you to become even a little more analytical.

First of all, any substance which we might use can also be ab-used (abused) if taken in excess. This, of course, includes sugar, fatty foods, junk foods, etc. One can binge on practically anything.

And it is true that alcohol affects the nervous system, as well as caffeine, as well as ginger tea. The fact that they affect the nervous system is not, in itself, the problem. Many medicines are made in an alcohol base which are very desirable at the time they are needed and appropriate. The vanilla used in flavoring foods is also frequently made in an alcohol base, and the alcohol in vanilla is not always cooked out.

What Guru Gobind Singh said, in Rehit Maryada, that we should Not use is Intoxicants. When alcoholic beverages are used socially or recreationally, or as a means of escape, we quickly become altered in our perceptions, judgments, motor coordination, speech, and sense of values. Ultimately, our capacity to meditate is impaired, and so our relationship with the Infinite and the sacred. If you compare this with moderate amounts of caffeine, even though the caffeine is stimulating, it doesn't seem to have the same distorting affect on our sense of reality as alcohol does. However, if someone becomes genuinely intoxicated by drinking coffee or caffeinated tea, then they too should certainly avoid it. Coffee and tea are both herbs and there are, in fact, many genuinely positive herbal remedies and medicines based on these two herbs that have been beneficial for centuries. As human, we have a great capacity for intelligence and appropriate personal choices to find wisdom and utilize many substances for our gre
ater benefit. Guru was saying, in effect, "Intoxication is not a benefit. It will tear down your perceptions, judgments, the purity of your actions, and your capacity for living the Truth." But it is also consistent with the Guru's wisdom and teachings not to use anything else to excess or to our detriment. That would also include excesses of caffeine.

There are very many people who, living in stressed, technological and industrial cultures, use large amounts of caffeine in order to cope with the pace of life. Unfortunately, their adrenal system has gotten depleted and "burned out." Or, they enjoy the speedy thrill of "the fast lane" of life. In either case, relying on caffeine for energy robs the body of its natural capacity to produce energy. A much better, more healthful source of energy, one that heals us rather than harms us, is to use the power of breathing and exercise, along with a diet that supports the endocrine system to produce energy naturally and abundantly. This is one of the primary aims in the practice of the ancient and sacred science of Kundalini Yoga. You can be healthy, you can be happy and you can be intelligently free of addictive dependencies. That is a choice called healthy lifestyle. Sikhs should practice a healthy lifestyle.

If you are ever in a pattern of life where your personal energy just cannot keep up with the demands you perceive being made upon you, then STOP, take a time-out and re-evaluate everything. There is something wrong with that picture. At this time, you are using your intelligence to advance learning. Guru will never tell you to do anything that is in violation of your innate wisdom and intelligence. Instead, He will enhance it. Keep going and growing, and be well.

With blessings and love to you,
Krishna Singh Khalsa

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