03 July, 2008

The 3 Gunas

Food ...as you eat, so you become
According to ayurveda, foods are sattvic, rajasic or tamasic or a combination of these theree gunas. These can be defined as

Sattva: Essence, corresponds to Pitta
Rajas: Activity, corresponds to Vata.
Tamas: Inertia, corresponds to Kapha

Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic Foods

Food contains prana. The main consideration when categorizing foods as sattvic, rajasic, or tamasic is their effect on the human organism. Do they create heat or dryness in the body? Do they create extreme cold? Do they stimulate the human organism--including the glandular secretions and the psychic centers (chakras)? Do they have an extended nourishing effect? What are the aftereffects? Are the foods readily digestible, or do they take some time and energy to digest? Do the foods disturb the doshas: wind (vata), bile (pitta), and/or mucus (kapha)?

Sattvic foods:
These are juicy, light, unctuous, nourishing, sweet, tasty. They give necessary energy to the body without taxing it. These form foundation of higher states of consciousness and lead us on meditative path. A Sattvic diet is excellent for those individuals who desire to live a quiet, peaceful and meditative life. Sattvic foods comprise the diet of many sages, yogis and spiritual teachers. Expression of the soul is dependent on the body, and the body is dependant on food.
Example: fruits, fresh vegetables. Especially sun foods and ground foods. Many Sattvic foods are sun foods are those that grow one meter or more above the ground. They have a quickening and lightening effect on the body's nervous and digestive systems. Milk and fresh milk products, few herbs and spices and nuts. Wheat and barley are sattvic grains. When cooked with excessive butter and spices, their sattvic nature is converted to rajas. Roasted garbanzo beans (chick peas) are sattvic, but when eaten frequently, they produce gas and thus become tamasic. If garbanzo beans are sprouted and eaten raw, they are sattvic. Fried moong beans also produce gas when eaten frequently and, therefore, give tamasic energy. Split peas are good if boiled with a little salt, turmeric, and coriander powder. They can be flavored with a small amount of cumin and asafetida once cooked.

Fresh fruit juices from sweet, ripe fruits are the best sattvic foods. Cow's milk is the most sattvic.

Almonds, as well as sunflower, cucumber, pumpkin, and honeydew melon seeds, are very nourishing. Almonds are rendered more sattvic when soaked overnight, peeled, and ground into a milky substance. After honey, raw cane sugar (jaggery) is the best sweetener, and, like honey, it is sattvic.

Kheer (rice cooked in milk) is sattvic. Fresh buttermilk and lassis (liquified yogurt with raw sugar) are also sattvic.

Mountain salt (rock salt) is sattvic and therefore recommended above sea salt, which is rajasic.

The ancient Ayurvedic criteria for foods to be considered Sattvic were quite simple: foods were grown organically on good rich fertile soil; foods were to be of attractive appearance, and be harvested at the correct time of year. Foods should be whole foods full of life-force and enzymes and be as close as possible as they are in their natural fresh state.

Becoming Sattvic

One should focus on work, self-improvement and intellectual or spiritual pursuits. Maintaining a positive nature, demonstrating generosity, kindness, openness, fairness (equality) and forgiveness also increases Sattva Guna. In addition spiritual inclination, faith and belief in the Great Spirit or God, engaging in selfless service or charitable activities help to become Sattvic.

Rajasic foods:
Food of a king or of a restless and energetic disposition.
These are bitter, sour, hot, dry, salty and pungent. They tend to increase excitement of the human body and hence for create lot of motion, activity and pain.These foods create sensuality, sexuality, greed, jealousy, avarice, anger, delusion, conceit, fantasies, egotism, and irreligious feelings. They create an unstable intellect. Rajasic foods are tasty only if a taste for them is developed.These foods impart extra weight and fat to the body and create a feeling of uneasiness after eating
Example: fried and overcooked foods, sweets sold in shops, spicy foods, stimulating vegetables, salted bread, biscuits, sodas, homogenized milk, and all aphrodisiacs are rajasic in nature. Indian breads--parathas, puris, and rotis--are rajasic. Red peppers, hot spices, pickles, oils, dry and fresh ginger, and salt are rajasic. Bread made with a pinch of salt is rajasic in nature. Foods that are hot in temperature while eaten, hot drinks, cold foods, and cold liquids are all rajasic. The temperature of food should not be greater than the temperature of the body and blood.
Eating in a hurry is also considered rajasic.

Tamasic foods:
These are dry old decaying distateful/unpalatable. They consume large amount of energy to be digested. They are foundation of ignorance, doubt, pessimism,greed, laziness, irreligion and criminal tendencies. Tamasic foods create a severe inferiority complex and antagonistic feelings.
Example: processed, canned, frozen, stale food. Meat, fish, egg and alcohol.Ancient Rishis have said you take on the karma of the animal you eat. When you eat meat you are ingesting all the stress hormones released when that animal was killed. The hormones released at death are present in the flesh when you eat it. At a cellular level, your body is getting the message that you are dying. Through the centuries it has been observed that vegetarians have a more refined etheric body and brighter aura.

Drugs, such as marijuana, hashish, opium, cocaine, and heroin, are tamasic because they disturb body chemistry, dull consciousness, and obscure perception of reality.
Incompatible food combinations--like milk and vinegar, or radishes and honey--produce tamas in the body chemistry. When hot and cold foods are taken together, they become tamasic.Candies, biscuits, and bread more than eight hours old are tamasic. Cod liver oil and shark liver oil, are tamasic. Medicines that create dullness are tamasic. By overcooking, foods become tamasic. Leftover food is also tamasic.

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