|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 245 ]
To grasp the more subtle aspects of proper eating, we have to understand the concepts of the three gunas (pronounced "goonaaz"), which are sattva, tamas and rajas.
The gunas are the primary 'qualities' or 'attributes' of nature, or that which the manifest universe is composed of—intrinsic qualities which are inherent in everything. These are the mental traits respectively of clarity, distraction and dullness. The mind, depending on many factors, may be in any one of these states at any given time.
Sattva represents the qualities of quietness, calmness, peacefulness and cleanliness. A sattvic mind is a mind possessed of such qualities and one conducive to higher states of realization and spiritual experience.
The tamasic characteristics are dullness, inertia, laziness, immobility, and darkness—the opposite end of the spectrum from sattva. A tamasic mind is dull, lethargic, unmotivated, tired and lazy.
Rajas is active energy. It is energetic and constantly mobile. A rajasic mind is in a constant state of distraction, enrapt in its lower, animal nature, enslaved by passions, cravings and uncontrolled desire, which is typical of modern man.
Everything in nature can be seen to fit into (or possess as its primary character) one of these three gunas. A particular food can be sattvic, or light and enlivening, lending to clarity of thought, etc. Another food may stimulate passion, excite, and arouse urges and so forth, and hence be rajasic. Still other foods are inherently dulling, leading to heaviness and lethargy, or are tamasic.
As well, all the activities that one engages in fall into one of these same three categories; as do thoughts, the company of certain people, one's physical environment, etc. All things in this manifest existence stimulate within the being one of these same three ranges of qualities.
The practice of yoga is sattvic—as is meditation, devotional singing, a positive and nurturing community of others, as well as a wholesome and balanced vegetarian diet. One must strive to cultivate this quality of sattva, as it is the only state (of mind) conducive to true knowledge and understanding, spiritual growth and evolution...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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