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Sattva and Sattvic diet in Ayurveda
In Hindu philosophy, sattva (Sanskrit sattva / सत्त्व "purity", literally "existence, reality"; adjectival sāttvika "pure", anglicised sattvic) is the most rarefied of the three gunas in Samkhya, sāttvika "pure", rājasika "dim", and tāmasika "dark". Importantly, no value judgement is entailed as all guna are indivisible and mutually qualifying.
For an object or food to be sāttvika, it must be uncontaminated and should not spread evil or disease in the world. On the contrary its presence must purify the surroundings. Thus when an individual consumes such a food, he must feel that he is eating pure food. The food should be healthy, nutritious and clean. It should also not weaken the power or equilibrium of mind. This idea disallows aphrodisiac or other drugs and intoxicants that can affect the mind in such a way. It also disallows food or objects obtained after killing or causing pain to a creature. This is because the object would then have source in an Evil act. It also excludes stale and pungent-smelling food.
Some objects that are considered sāttvika are:
Flowers, fruits, and food that are allowed as offerings to God
The milk of a cow which has grown in good surroundings, is healthy and has been obtained after the calf of the cow has been fed well. In cases when the cow has been ill treated, it becomes sinful or evil to drink such milk. It must be remembered that the cow is sacred for the Hindus.
Sattva is a state of mind in which the mind is steady, calm and peaceful. A sattvika man or woman works with no attachment to the result.
A person or creature can be called sāttvika if the creature has predominantly sāttvika tendencies.
A sāttvika individual always works for the welfare of the world. He is always hardworking, alert and lives life moderately. He leads a chaste life. He eats moderately. He speaks the truth and is bold. He never uses vulgar or insulting language. He does not feel jealous nor is he affected by greed and selfishness. He does not cheat or mislead anyone. He does not even allow any evil tendencies to enter his mind. He has good memory and concentration. He also has keen interest in improving his spiritual knowledge, and spends time worshiping god or meditating. In the extreme state he may even perform penance or uninterrupted meditation. A satvic individual can be recognized if his mind, speech and actions synchronize. Manasa, vacha, karmana are the three Sanskrit words used to describe such a state.
Some of the people considered by Hindus to be sāttvika are:
Holy men and bhaktas like Tulsidas, Tyagaraja, Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram
Ancient rishis like Vashishta, Kashyapa
Modern day sages like Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, Vivekananda
Divine beings in the heavens
Some flora and fauna like lotus (symbolizes purity), cow (symbolizes the earth mother)
Sattva is a calm, peaceful and clear energy. The Sanskrit word is based on the principle "Sat" or "being, as it should be, perfect"
People that are Sattvic are calm, centered, compassionate and unselfish.
Food that is Sattvic is nourishing & easy to digest. Cereals, Fresh Fruit, Pure Water, Veggies, Milk, Yogurt
How sattvic diet purifies the mind?
We all know how anger, fear and hatred damage us internally – the impact of positive and negative emotions and attitudes on health has been analyzed and explored by modern medical science to expose surprising clinical results. For example, a study conducted in domestic arguments pointed out that couples that fight frequently damage not only their relationship, but also their health. Scientists at the University of California found that arguing with the spouse numbs the reflexes of the immune system.
A study conducted in California and reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that anger or hostility damages the arteries even in young adulthood. Hundreds of people aged between 18 and 30 years were examined through a ten-year period, and those who displayed hostility or an attitude of “cynical distrust” showed upto 2.5 times the risk of hardening of coronary arteries. Negative emotions are often the cause of major neuro-psychiatric diseases including various types of anxiety disorders, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and various phobias as well.
The impact of depression and anxiety on heart disease and other physical illnesses is well-documented. The Archives of Internal Medicine recently published a study that shows people suffering from depression had more than 70% greater risk of suffering heart attacks and other cardiac problems. The profound nature of the mind-body link has only been superficially considered by modern medicine. However, it is already clear that mental health is an essential aspect of physical health.
Ayurveda divides mental attributes (gunas) into three broad classes – sattvic, rajasic and tamasic (adjective forms). In short, sattva, rajas and tamas (noun forms) signify knowledge, passion and ignorance respectively. The Ayurvedic form of treatment, which finds its roots in Indian philosophy, seeks to eradicate the latter two, and enhance sattva (knowledge and purity), since rajas and tamas generate harmful negative emotions that weaken and destroy the human system from within. An Ayurvedic diet ensures the purgation of rajas and tamas guna and the enhancement of sattva guna.
Thus the basis of Ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle guidance is not only to balance the doshas, but also to increase sattvic temperament. This includes avoiding conflict, aggression, hostility and other negative emotions that adversely affect physical and mental health. Such a lifestyle is stress-resistant - it is serene, peaceful, patient and tolerant and avoids extremes of emotions. Sattvic people are positive, generous, kind, open, fair and forgiving. They look at life as a productive, learning experience.
Focusing on a sattvic diet enhances sattva guna, which ultimately generates pure and lasting happiness and gives total peace of mind. In Indian philosophy, happiness is divided into three types, depending on which mode or guna it was achieved in. Happiness that “tastes like poison in the beginning but like nectar in the end” is said to be happiness obtained from the mode of sattva or goodness.
The main factors involved relate to diet, lifestyle and emotions. In terms of diet, eat freshly prepared food, eat more plant-based foods and decrease the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, processed food and meat. Lifestyle should be balanced between work, family and social concerns with light exercise and regular routines to minimize stress. As for emotions, conflict aggression and hostility should be minimized and a positive and optimistic outlook adopted. Meditation is recommended to help you detach from and balance the emotions.
A sattvic attitude not only benefits the individual, but also contributes to a more peaceful and productive community. Starting on an individual level by adopting Ayurvedic principles in your lifestyle can work towards peace and harmony in your family and community. Regardless of your faith, ethnic or economic background, modifying your diet, and developing sattvic qualities may seem a small step but it is one in the right direction. The impact on your health, attitude and peace of mind will be remarkable.