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The famous Sri Vaishnava Acharya Ramanujacharya was once asked by his shishya Vangipuram Nambi what the obstacles to Moksha are. In response, he gave a list of 83 obstacles to Moksha, known as the Virodhi Pariharam. The 55th item on the list is "Bhojya Virodhi", which means "food is an obstacle". Here is Vangipuram's explanation of what falls under that obstacle:

The obstacles in this head are: food eaten in the houses of materialistic family; food eaten in houses of ordinary people related by natural kinships; the god's prasadam at special occasions given by people desirous of trivial objectives; not accepting prasadams in divyadesams of great influence; food eaten in houses of mere devotees of God; food self-cooked in srivaishnava houses; food given on an account; food offered for fame; wedding food; food for posthumous rites; food given for a price; defiled food; food given on a declaration; food given with some pride; food touched by others; food kept in vessels touched by others; food cooked by people thinking of other god or chanting other verses; food not cooked by people thinking of the God and reciting divyaprabandham; food not prepared with the objective of God and bhaagavatas but with the objective of oneself; food served from vessels not having the emblem of tirunamam; food not already offered to the God; food offered by ordinary people to the God; food cleaned of others sight; food offered only to the God and not to Sesha Seshaashana (Anantha Garuda adhi nithyasooris) and Alwars; food defiled as a category; food defiled owing to its possession; food circumstantially defiled owing to falling of worms,insects hair etc; food eaten in the row of non-bhaagavatas; food eaten after chanting bad things; food not offered with dvaya chanting; food eaten with the sense of enjoyability; food eaten without sense of its being prasadam of bhagavan; food eaten without a sense of worship of internal God; food eaten without completion of the God's worship; food not eaten as the prasadam of the food accepted by bhaagavatas; food not taken as the prasadam of a good Acharya; food eaten with a mere wrong sense as the remainder of pancha prana aahuthis; food eaten without an understanding of the power of sanctification of the seeing and touch etc of special bhaagavatas; food eaten with hesitation to mix with bhaagavatas who are sanctifiers of the row in which they are sitting (pankti pavanar); regular food in one's house and regular food in the houses of persons equal to the Acharya.

Now there are many items I could ask about, but I'm interested in the part in bold. My question is, what does Vangipuram Nambi mean by saying that "food cleaned of others sight" is an obstacle to Moksha?

Does it mean that it's bad to eat food that's free from other's people sight, i.e. you should eat in the presence of others? That seems to be the meaning, but that's contrary to the traditional advice that you should eat when others aren't looking, to avoid their evil eye. But perhaps that advice is for those who are concerned with the materialistic harm that comes from the evil eye, and not for those who seek Moksha. Perhaps those seeking Moksha should be willing to share their food with onlookers.

Are there any commentaries on the Virodhi Pariharam that shed light on this?

  • I think everyone believes that, it is bad to eat infront of people, it leaves bad impression on food Items. – Yogi Mar 27 '17 at 18:45
  • @Yogi Well, the Virodhi Pariharam seems to be saying the opposite. Like I said, I think the advice to not eat in front of other people may be advice for people who care about material prosperity and harm, not for people seeking Moksha. – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 27 '17 at 18:56
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According to Dharmasastras, it is a sin to eat food while someone is onlooking and its also not polite/humane either to do so. So one has to share his/her food with others. And one has to be respectful while sharing it. That means before one can start eating, he/she has to offer it to those who are around. Now comes the problem. After sharing one's food, it becomes the sesham (remainder) of whom it is being shared with. A person seeking moksham can accept the sesham of Acharyas/Bhagavathas only. But we don't know about the spiritual practice of the onlooker and there is no means by which we can verify it. So naturally, food eaten in others' company is an obstacle to moksham. That's the reason why traditional (Sampradayic) elders avoid eating publicly.

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    Welcome. Nice answer. But pls. also do try to quote from writings/lactures of Acharyas in support of your answer. As providing some sources is mandatory on this site. – SwiftPushkar Feb 16 '18 at 10:15

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