Going beyond the food matter, though, no matter what your faith, thoughts or beliefs, Self-Realization only can be obtained through self-inquiry with a clear, pure and reflective mind. It doesn’t matter much “what you believe” as it does “how” you are viewing your experience.
In Ayurveda, perhaps the most important factor for me as a Rawfoodist is the teachings on Sattva. This connects Ayurveda to the raw food lifestyle at a passionate, personal level. The Ayurvedic wisdom is that since food has a major effect on the mind and body, a Sattvic diet enhances both the health of the body as well as purity and strength of the mind.
So, what is Sattva? Sattva is the one of the three basic components of the Triguna. “Tri” stands for “three” and Guna is the “subtle” component. The other two components of the Triguna are Raja and Tamas. Tamas is the subtle base. It offers substance and inertia. It is like glue as it provides attachment. Raya is the fuel and energy that brings about passion, action and motion. Sattva is the purity and light. It is the closest to divinity. It is wisdom andknowledge and understanding.
In science, we understand that all things are made up of the basic particles of electrons and protons and neutrons and photons. Ayurveda teaches that the Triguna is what makes these particles exist. Therefore, the Gunas become the very fabric of creation and influence the behavior of all things. The Triguna are viewed as “subtle” because they are tangible, not physical in nature and cannot be seen with any scientific instruments. They are intangible. These three subtle components can only be perceived by the subtle sense organs and our sixth sense of perception.
So, then the question then becomes if Sattva is purity and wisdom and knowledge, “What is a Sattvic diet and how do we find it? I must admit finding the answer to this question is perhaps like finding the fountain of youth. But there is much Raja and Tamas energy to wade through. With all the different views and opinions and diets, who has the authority for saying that certain foods are Sattvic? There is so much information out there about “diets” and what is best for mankind. Equally, there is also much disagreement among experts and gurus on their school of though and background. So, where do we seek to find the truth? Well, let’s simplify it…..at a basic level, a Sattvic food is one that leads to good health, mental clarity, poise, and spiritual advancement.
Let’s look at Ayurveda’s teaching on a Sattvic Diet?
Sattva foods are those that will cause the body to gain health and for the mind to be calm and peaceful. This is what constitutes the Sattvic diet. To some extent, this requires knowing the needs of one’s own body and being sensitive to the effects of various foods on our system. Foods which are very suitable and nutritious for one person may not be right for another. Common sense and wisdom are the essential ingredients to find the best Sattvic diet for yourself.
In terms of particular foods to be eaten, the raw food gurus and spiritual yogi’s have all answered this question, but the answers have different variations.
One common element to an Ayurveda Sattvic diet and Raw foods is that they are both primarily vegetarian. Vedic Spiritual texts elevate cows to sacred status. It also favors raw butter for consumption especially by children or those convalescing. I suppose one could reasonably argue that dairy products (such as yogurt, milk, lassi, etc.) also belong to the Sattvic food category. And Raw foodists are generally supporters of raw milk and dairy products. From my own personal clinical experience, I would even suggest that many lacto-intolerant individuals are actually sensitive to the pasteurization and not necessarily the milk.
In Ayurveda, food, any food that is obtained respectfully with kindness, love, and humane treatment is Sattvic. It is common knowledge that “heat” or “fire” will destroy (rajas energy), I will add and further assumption that any “living food” that is “cooked” is no longer Sattvic…it becomes rajasic. According to the Vedic principle of Ahimsa (nonviolence), any food procured through violence to animals (and I add to living food) cannot be considered Sattvic.
According to Ayurveda, taste and the effects of taste on our mind and body is very important. Foods which are too bitter, sour, salty, pungent, dry, and hot can lead to pain, distress, and disease of the body. Interestingly, Vedic texts also teach that foods cooked more than three hours before being eaten, foods which are tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed and unclean should be avoided by spiritual aspirants and those who seek excellent physical and mental health. Well, what about all those processed foods in our kitchen cupboards. How long ago were they “cooked” and preserved before landing on our shelves?
Interesting the Ayurvedic tests were written many thousands of years ago before overcooking and over-processing became a problem to mankind. In Bhagavad-Gita (Vedic texts), Sri Krishna states, “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it:’ . To me this seems to suggest that Sri Krishna is sanctioning a diet based on leaves and fruits and water as the best one for spiritual growth. I am no scholar on the Bhagavad-Gita, but my liberal interpretation of this verse would be that the Sattvic diet is generally plant based and includes all or most vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, etc
My personal experiences
Having been raised with a Standard American Diet and experimented with a variety of foods, I feel that a vegetarian diet can be as healthy or unhealthy. For example, if I am a lacto-vegetarian and eat too many pizza pieces, the feeling of discomfort is likely to follow. I believe this also holds if one eats bucket loads of ice cream or chocolates or sweets or nuts on a frequent basis. So, is vegetarian diet healthy? It depends!
The point is that a vegetarian diet can be either healthy or unhealthy depending on the nature of food eaten as well as the quantity of food consumed. Ayurveda emphasizes moderation in eating and sleeping. “There is no possibility of ones’ becoming a yogi if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” Clearly, over consumption of food leads to problems and one can logically conclude that the quantity of food consumed is probably an important element in a diet being considered Sattvic. In a world of “supersized” foods, we can safely assume our society lives of Tamas diet.
Sattvic diet is also a matter of degree. Some diets may be very Sattvic, while others may be moderately Sattvic. Finally, the thoughts and the emotional balance while eating the food has an effect on our system and should be considered. This is why in many religions, prayers and showing of gratitude for the food being consumed is offered. This mental state while eating helps the diet become more Sattvic.
What does it all mean?
So what does it all mean and what are the lessons from Ayurveda and this discussion of the Sattvic, Raw diet? Here is what I think some of the lessons are. See if you agree.
Whatsoever you eat, eat in moderation (easier said than done!).
Educate yourself on proper nutrition, be sensitive to your body, and see what foods work for you.
- Emphasize fresh vegetables and fruits and eat a diet which is mostly plant-based.
- Do not eat foods which are too salty, bitter, or have gone stale and putrid.
- Regardless of the food being eaten, eat with gratitude, prayerful attitude, and with mental poise.
- Chew the food carefully and taste it deeply without rushing.
There are literally thousands of great sources on the web and hundreds of books in stores to help you educate yourself on the Raw food, vegetarianism, Ayurveda and nutrition. Go do some research and find out for yourself! The answer lies within the individual.