therefore, if anyone does not eat for ten days, even though he might live, yet, verily he becomes a non-seer, a a non-hearer, a non-thinker, a non-understander, a non-doer, a non-knower. But on the entrance of food, he becomes a seer, he becomes a hearer, he becomes a thinker, he becomes an understander, he becomes a doer, he becomes a knower. Mediate on food.
Instead of stopping here, the dialogue continues. In the next verse (VII.9.2),
Venerable Sir, is there anything greater than food?
Yes, there is something greater than food.
Do Venerable Sir, tell me that.
The dialogue goes on further, to equate water, heat, ether, and life as Brahman.
PS: Let not anyone stay away from food without any reason, and let not anyone take verse VII.9.1 (the first verse above) as a justification for their gluttony.
PPS: Somehow I cannot empathize more with this verse VII.9.1 than on a Ekadasi day!
Note added on 03/26: The dialogue between Svetaketu Aranyaka and his father Uddalaka, from Chandogya (VI.2.1 to VI.7.1) (in pages 454-465) also emphasizes the importance of physical needs. I am quoting from Shri Radhakrishnan's translation beginning at VI.7.1 and page 454:
- VI.7.1: For fifteen days do not eat any food. Drink water at will. Breath which consists of water will not be cut off from one who drinks water.
- VI.7.2: Then for fifteen days, he did not eat any food; and then he approached him saying, 'what sir, shall I say?' The Rig Verses, my dear, the Yajus formulas and the Saman chants. He replied: 'They donot occur to me, Sir'
- VI.7.3: He said to him: Just as my dear, of a great lighted fire, a single coal of the size of a firefly may be left which would not thereafter burn much, even so, my dear, of your sixteen parts only one part is left and so with it you do not apprehend (remember) the Vedas. Eat. Then you will understand me.
- VI.7.4: Then he ate and approached his father. Then whatsoever he asked him, he answered it all.
- VI.7.5: To him, he said, 'Just as my dear, of a great lighted fire, a single coal of the size of a firefly may be left, and made to blaze up by covering it with straw and with it the fire would thereafter burn much"
- VI.7.6: So, my dear, of your sixteen parts only one part was left, and that, when covered with food, blazed up. With it, you now apprehend the Vedas. For, my dear, the mind consists of food, and the breath consists of water and speech consists of hear. Then he understood what he said; he understood it all.
Of couse, each sub-chapter ends with the father Uddalaka telling Svetaketu, the mahavakya of Chandogya:
tat tvam asi svataketo ...
I have a previous post on Mahavakyas of Vedanta(warning: it still needs some polishing).