The three gunas, or qualities, that form the foundations of this maya of reality, including our own selves, are sattva = purity, rajas = passion and tamas = inertia.
A sattvic person is dedicated to the spiritual path: truthful, wise, luminous, healthy, devoted and shining, she is completely surrendered to her higher self, God, the Universe. Sattvic’s shadow, according to Sivananda, is that she becomes puffed up with her spiritual ‘prowess’ and strong sadhana and can develop a holier than thou attitude, which is a stumbling block on the path to liberation.
A rajasic person embodies passion and action. She has a great thirst for success and achievement. She is highly driven and competitive, full of ambition. The shadow is that rajasic people are never satisfied. The more she acquires through their hard work and determination, the more she wants and the greedier she becomes. Fame, reputation, wealth and power are important to the rajasics.
A tamasic person is ‘ignorant, lazy, indolent and heedless’ (Hey, I’m quoting this from a Bhagavad Gita translation – not my words!). Out of the three gunas, this one is the bottom of the barrel. There’s no recognition of her own divinity in a tamasic person. She is thoughtless, forgetful, negligent and sloppy, unable to discriminate between the divine and the mundane. In my BG commentary, tamasics are just a stage higher than lifeless matter – oh dear.
We can tell which guna/quality sways us most by which food we’re drawn to. And if you find yourself on the tamasic end of the spectrum, don’t despair – if we start to eat a sattvic diet, we can become more sattvic in our nature.
According to the Bhagavad Gita, ‘The foods which increase life, purity, strength, health, joy and cheerfulness, which are savoury and oleaginous (what a great word for oily!), substantial and agreeable, are dear to the Sattvic people.’
‘The foods that are bitter, sour, saline, excessively hot, pungent, dry and burning are liked by the Rajasic and are productive of pain, grief and disease’ (already regretting last night’s curry?). This includes salt, chillies, mustard, cloves, condiments, pickles, excess of food. Okra, deep-fried foods, meat, fish, eggs, sweets, potato, fried bread, curd, brinjal, carrots, onions, garlic, lemon, tea, coffee, paan and tobacco.
‘That which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten, refuse and impure is the food liked by the Tamasic‘. This includes cannabis, opium, cocaine, charras etc, leftovers, burnt or half-cooked food, stale, dry, without juice, unripe or overcooked food, alcohol. Anything that has been cooked more than three hours ago is tamasic. Eeep – no more leftovers for us, then!
Green diet, anyone?
Sat nam x