There are 3 natural forces that move, sustain and bind the entire creation. These 3 forces are qualities that the 5 elements take in the process of manifesting and binding matter.
These qualities are intrinsically acting all the time in all organic and inorganic matter. These qualities give character, flavor and foundation to the earth bodies (physical, etheric, emotional and mental.)
Your matter or earth bodies are constantly under the influences of these 3 qualities. As a matter of fact, you may believe that you are these qualities when you have remained under their influence for too long.
As long as we remain in our bodies, inclusively when we are in the process of incarnating into a new body, we will have to deal with these 3 natural forces.
What are the 3 natural forces?
It has been in the science of Ayurveda that I have found the most coherent description and understanding of these 3 forces.
In the Ayurvedic philosophy they are called “Gunas,” which in Sanskrit means “the one that binds,” because if wrongly understood they will keep us bound to the external world and the never ending dance of the elements.
On another hand it is because of the gunas that all matter is bound to each other in endless combinations and permutations. It is because of the gunas that we are able to experience the mystic dance of the elements in our bodies and in our mind. It is through them that we are able to go into the process of decay, rest and clarity.
These qualities are in constant influx and interaction with each other to maintain balance, regeneration and evolution.
The 3 qualities of matter or gunas are:
· Tamas: related to substance, density, creates inertia.
· Rajas: related to energy, creates imbalance.
· Sattva: related to essence, intelligence, imparts balance.
These qualities are not only present in our food but also in our environment, in our words, in our actions, in our mind and in the company that we choose.
Let’s start with this quality of inertia and rest. Yes, we do need that quality to regenerate and relax, however this quality can be polluted by indulging, inertia and attachment.
In the herb kingdom for example; there is a nerve-calming herb called valerian, a lovely herb to help relaxation and sleep. If we take this herb for more than 10 days we can start feeling dull in body and mind.
Tamas is present when we sleep. Our body becomes denser, inactive. If we sleep too much then tamas increases and we become dull and lethargic.
When tamas is present in your earth bodies you acquire characteristics like gluttony, indulgence, sloth, addictions, negativity, attachments and over identification with limitations.
Tamas promotes ignorance, delusion in the mind and promotes insensitivity, attachment toward material gains and loss of awareness.
A person in a tamasic state sees the world as confused and unsafe, therefore takes a position of defending, opposing and irresponsibility.
Tamas is heavy, veiling or obstructing in its action. It is like the force of gravity that retards the movement of the elements, maintaining them in specific limited forms.
When we are referring to tamasic food we are addressing food that pulls our energy down, that has little or no vitality and does not promote clear thinking.
Foods that fall under the tamasic category are:
aged cheese, pickles, meat, fish, curds, leeks, margarine, ice cream, texturized vegetable protein, mushrooms, alcohol and any other fermented foods, including vinegar, bread, pastries and cakes. Any stale, overripe or under ripe, tasteless and rotten foods are also considered Tamasic, as is tobacco, any kind of drug and any foods that have been processed, including those that are preserved in any way, canned or frozen. Tamasic food is also all fast food, fried food and microwave food. This also includes left-overs.
For the purpose of our goal, which is to evolve and expand our self-perception, we avoid tamasic food.
It is because of this quality that we are able to change, to do and to experience the turbulences in our lives. It is the quality of activity, it is an energy that moves outwardly seeking a goal or seeking something that gives power.
This may sound exiting to you, however if we hold a position of self-seeking action for a period of time, it will lead us towards fragmentation and disintegration.
Short term, rajas can produce pleasure and stimulation, but because of its imbalanced nature it quickly turns into pain and suffering.
To be around rajasic people can be inspiring, since they have good energy, and they are doers. However, they burn themselves out with over extension of their capacities and skills.
Rajasic minds have strong opinions and seek power over others, often regardless of their means. They are impatient, inconsistent in dealing with their own needs or problems and do not wish to take their time or responsibility to get well. They blame others for their experiences, and they are dominated by an ego in pursuit of happiness.
People under the rajasic influence have the illusion of being in control of their life because they are able to manifest their goals. They are, however, not aware of their spiritual purpose or satisfied by their achievements.
The quality of rajas is present as well in all substances in nature, including our food. It is the type of food that over-stimulates our senses and has the alchemy to make us aggressive and goal oriented.
Rajasic foods are very hot, bitter, sour, dry, or salty. Eating too fast also increases rajas.
Examples of rajasic food are:
coffee, garlic, onion, chocolate, caffeinated teas, soft drinks. Avocado, beans (garbanzo, kidney), brewer’s yeast, buttermilk (not freshly made), cheese (hard, cottage), chili, dates (dried), eggs (white, yolk, whole), eggplant, guava, kefir ( not freshly made), lemon, lentils (red), lime, malt syrup, mango (unripe), molasses, olives, peanut oil, peanuts, peppers, pickles, peas (green dried), pistachios (salted), rhubarb, rice bran syrup, salt (all kinds), sour cream, sugar (white, brown, date, fructose, jaggery), sugar cane juice, tomatoes, vinegar, yogurt (not freshly made).
Remember that this list does not mean not to eat the foods; it is rather a description of foods that produce activity and restlessness.
To have a predominant sattvic quality in our life is a key to our physical health, to our creativity and spirituality.
When we are addressing sattva we are considering the flow of the natural intelligence. We are dancing in balance around the pure perception of our existence, our purpose and our self-realization.
Sattva induces cleanliness, purity, adaptability, creativity and balance between tamas and rajas. The sattvic mind is peaceful and that peace cuts all physiological roots of illness and imbalances.
With sattva present you take responsibility for your life and your experiences, and you are decorated by kindness, compassion, clarity and service.
When sattva predominates you see life as a learning ground, you take the position of an “experiencer” without taking any dual positions. Your wrong and right concepts dissipate, leaving the “experiencer” with the aim to understand and to seek the mysteries of the self.
Sattva as a state of balance is responsible for all true health and healing, which at the ends, leads towards liberation.
The balance of sattva is between the qualities of tamas and rajas. Sattva is the perfect combination of the energy of rajas with the stability of tamas.
This may sound like a wonderful “achievement” for your self-evolution, however I have experienced that vibrating in a sattvic quality can lead to attachment to virtue and purity.
I also have known practitioners of Ayurveda and seekers of truth to get entangled in avoiding or favoring one quality over another. It is all about progression, evolution and non-attainment of any thing.
In your journey of refining your taste buds to a pure energy, you need to consider food that has maintained its nutritional value, through the way it has been cultivated, handled and cooked.
I must admit that the ideal sattvic food to eat is the food that you grow yourself in an organic way. If that is not possible (for now) choose fresh organic fruits, vegetables, grains, ghee and legumes.
Examples of sattvic food includes:
Alfalfa sprouts, almonds, amaranth, apple, apricot, artichoke, arugula, asparagus, banana (ripe), basmati rice, beans (azuki, black, broad, fava, green, lima, mung, navy, pinto, bean sprouts (all), bee pollen, beets, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, buckwheat, butter, buttermilk (fresh), cabbage, cantaloupe, carob, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, cheese (freshly made), cherry, coconut (ripe and unripe), collards, corn (fresh), cornmeal, cranberries, cream (sweet), cucumber, dates (fresh), figs (fresh and dried),fruit juices (freshly made), ghee (clarified butter), grapefruit, grapes, honey (raw), honeydew melon, kale, kohlrabi, lentils (black, tan), lettuce, mango (ripe), maple syrup, Mother’s milk, milk (fresh, raw, pure), millet, mung dahl, mustard greens, nectarines, nuts (Brazil, cashew, chestnuts, macadamia, pine, pecans, walnuts), oats, oranges (sweet), okra, papaya, parsnip, peaches, peas (black eye, green), pineapple (sweet), plum, pomegranate, prunes, pumpkin, quinoa, raisins, raspberries, rice, rutabaga, sesame seeds, sorghum, soy beans, soy milk (freshly prepared), spinach, strawberries, sugar cane (raw), summer squash, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, tangerines (sweet), turnip, watercress, watermelon, wild rice, winter squash, yams, yogurt (fresh), zucchini.
Sattva guna is a step towards transcending the nature of the elements and its qualities. It is my experience that this involves a process, lead by patience, acceptance and awareness, to discover the wonders of the moment.
The transcendence of the sattvic nature opens a space of emptiness, emptiness full of potentialities, stillness, beyond time and space, knowing, only what is necessary in the moment, and no intervention upon the elements and their qualities.
With the management of the gunas we are establishing a foundation for the subtle vibrations of the divine to descend into a clean and welcoming home: Our bodies.