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08 October, 2011

Classification of Food

       For every human being is composed of the three gunas known as sattva trans-active, rajas active and tamas inactive. Mixed in different proportions they constitute different individuals. Sattva being pure, stainless, appears to be luminous and healthy. Sattva expresses as happinesss which keeps the sattvika people engaged in the world. A sattvika person promotes peace and happiness both for himself and the world around. He does not rest content until he reaches the state of supreme bliss. The fruit of good action, sattva purity. Knowledge arises from sattva guna.

       Rajasika persons become fully involved in the affairs of this world. They act incessantly for fulfilling their manifold desires. In the process they develop more. Thus generating endless desires they engage themselves in feverish activity. Rajas expresses as thirst, longing, craving for what you do not possess and as attachment, belonging, possessiveness for what you possess. Rajas expresses as agitation at the mental level. The fruit of rajas, sorrow. Greed arises from rajas guna.

       Ignorance, inertia, heedlessness and delusion arise from tamas. Tamas expresses as ignorance at the intellectual level. Tamas expresses as heedlessness, indolence and sleep. A tamasic person lives through inertia, laziness and sleep. The fruit of tamas is ignorance.

       For every one food is threefold. How? Is it in terms of nutritional value? Should everyone take threefold food, like protein, carbohydrate and fat in a certain proportion? Or should we take a little bit of sattvika food, a little bit of rajasika food and some tamasika food? It is not threefold in these senses but in terms of guna, it is so according to what is liked, priya, by people,

       Lord declares in Verses 8,9 and 10 of Chapter XVII Bhagavat Gita about the food choice of sattvika, rajasika and tamasika types. This classification has led to an erroneous belief. That consumption of the type of food determines distinct human nature. People wrongly believe that sattvika food will make a person sattvika. And rajasika and tamasika food will create rajasika and tamasika persons. The verses in fact do not convey that. Food is gross. Human mind-intellect is subtle. Food can mould the physical body. Not the subtle body.

       These verses actually mean that beings naturally choose the food designated as their type. A sattvika person would choose sattvika food. Likewise the rajasika and tamasika persons choose rajasika and tamasika foods. The word priya means dear. This word indicates that the food described in each verse is agreeable, pleasant, dear to the respective class of person. They prefer that particular food.

       Also the type of food consumed becomes conducive to growth of their respective nature. Though there may be no direct cause-effect relationship. Sattvika food promotes sattvika nature, not produce it. So do rajasika and tamasika food promote their respective nature. Food therefore is related to personality development as soil to cultivation. Seed and not the soil is the actual cause of vegetation. Yet the right type of soil becomes conducive for the growth of the particular flora.

       This truth is clearly seen in the case of animals. The carnivore and herbivore. Carnivorous animals consuming meat are ferocious by nature. They cannot be tamed, controlled. Whereas, all herbivorous animals living on vegetation can be tamed, controlled. Hence, vegetarian food would be more conducive to control the mind and be peaceful. Sattvika people thus tend to take to vegetarianism. However, mere consumption of vegetarian food will not make the one sattvika.

I.Sattvika food is that which develops and promotes the following:

1. Longevity – duration of long life, longevity and vitality.

2. Purity – keeping the mind un-agitated, pure. Makes the intellect sharp, subtle.

3. Strength – Food give you strength, energy & vigour.

4. Health – you eat food which are purely healthy to keep body’s fitness.

5. Happiness – Food give you taste and gives you some pleasure - Mind’s satisfaction, contentment and fulfillment.

6. Cheerfulness – some food is esthetically pleasing and amiable attitude towards life.

       Again, the food that is eaten is divided according to its nature. Some Sattvika foods are:

1. Savoury – some food is succulent, juicy; appetising food.

2. Oleaginous – some are creamy & Oil producing like nuts.

3. Substantial – some food remain for a long time in the body like that meant for building bone etc., which sustain the body well.

4. Agreeable – Some foods are pleasing to your mind. Pleasing taste and flavour. The presentation of the food, how it looks, is very important because the very sight of the food should please you.

II.Rajasika food. All these things viz., bitter, sour, salty, are necessary for all for good health and even prescribed for Ayurveda. But they have to be used in moderation. But Rajasika person goes to the extreme with these. What is said here is that they are to be avoided in extremely. Rajasika people have a distinct tendency to choose foods which are:

1. Highly Bitter

2. Very Sour – like yoghurt that is fifteen days old.

3. Excessively Salty.

4. Very hot – it is so hot and you cannot touch it without burning your tongue or shedding tears, like red chilies or jalapeno peppers.

5. Excessively pungent – Food that is excessively pungent like chilies for the tongue. Like food offensive to the nose.

6. Dry –very astringent like parched grains, dry fruits.

7. Burning – any burning food that causes inflammation. Stinging the tongue causing eyes and nose to water.

       And these Rajasika food produces:

1. Pain – Negative effect, hangover.

2. Grief – A sense of remorse following consumption.

3. Disease or ill-health – Unwholesome food causing distemper, disease to the body.

III.Tamasic people relish food which is:

1.Stale refers to food cooked more than three hours earlier. When there was no refrigeration, cooked   food  that had been standing for three hours in a tropical climate would be teeming with bacteria and therefore, unfit for consumption and inadequately cooked.

2. Tasteless – food has lost the taste, essence, it once had, and therefore, its nutritive value. Insipid, flat.

3. Putrid – Foul-smelling, obnoxious.

4. Rotten – Cooked food that has been kept overnight – yesterday’s leftovers. It includes all fermented things, which are sometimes used as medicines, as ayurvedic medicicnes but are not good for you as food.

5. Refuse – Polluted food left over in one’s plate after the meal.

6. Impure – Unclean.

(1) Swami Dayananda’s Bhgavadgita Home Study Course and
(2) Srimad Bhagavad Gita Commentaries by A Parthasarathy.

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