Understanding the Gunas can completely change your life. They determine how we perceive the world around us and promote awareness about our current state of being.
Pic: Sattvic food
So what exactly are Gunas? According to Hindu philosophy, there are three basic attributes that exist in all things in the universe in varying degrees - in humans, animals, natural and animate objects. These qualities are referred to as Gunas. They are Sattva (purity and harmony), Rajas (activity and passion) and Tamas (darkness and chaos). The Gunas are constantly interacting with each other though one Guna is always predominant than the others. The dominant Guna determines our behaviour, attitudes, perceptions, perspectives and actions. For example, a person who is predominantly sattvic will be positive and joyful, a person who is rajasic will be competitive and driven by passion, while a person who is tamasic will have a negative attitude and will be lazy. However, these are not permanent states of being as the Gunas easily fluctuate from one to the other. The aim is to attain enlightenment by increasing sattva and decreasing rajas and tamas.
An important way to balance and nourish the Gunas is by the food that we consume. The food we eat regulates how we think and feel. Let’s explore the 3 Gunas of food and how our food choices affect each Guna.
The qualities of Sattva are pure, natural and clean. Based on these attributes, Sattvic foods include seasonal fruits and vegetables, organic milk/dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. These foods are light, fresh and nourishing and are not harmful to nature and living beings. Sattvic food should be consumed thoughtfully in moderation (No overeating!) and without external distractions (No TV or mobile phones while eating!). Consuming Sattvic food gives you a feeling of contentment.
Rajasic foods give you instant energy, although this is not long-lasting. The food is overly spicy, rich, sugary, salty and caffeinated. These include coffee, tea, chocolates, sodas, fish, chicken, pickles, potatoes, refined sugar, onion, garlic, etc. Rajasic food is not an ideal choice for daily consumption. It leads to poor digestion and health problems and promotes Rajasic attributes like selfishness, anger, hate and manipulation. Rajasic foods benefit our body but not our minds.
Tamasic foods do not benefit our body or mind but instead leads to laziness, overeating, obesity, diabetes and heart and liver disease. This includes foods like red meats, processed, frozen and fast foods, desserts, reheated food and consumption of alcohol. These are the most harmful foods for our well being and should be avoided. They promote negative Tamasic qualities.
We should be aware that anything we eat affects our mind, body and soul. As such we should make a conscious decision to consume pure and natural foods that are good for us.