In addition to the Doshas, Vedic science identifies three operating principles, whose dynamic interaction underlies the mechanics of the creation and evolution of the manifest universe. These are known as the Three Gunas:
- Sattva – purity, progress, evolution
- Rajas – transformation, dynamism, motion, energy, desire
- Tamas – inertia, dullness, decay
Sattva and Tamas are naturally opposed to each other. Rajas is the force that is complementary to both. Tamas destroys the current state. Sattva simultaneously creates a new state. Rajas provides the impulse to action and coordinates the activity of Sattva and Tamas.(5) Cultivation of Sattva supports spiritual progress.
We are “nourished” not only by our diet, but also by our surroundings and our choices in activity. Pollution, filth, darkness, violence, conflict, and the many forms of negativity and sensory overload that characterize so much of network television programming, the internet, and popular writing are borne with a price. Cleanliness, generosity, tolerance, light, love, walks in nature, etc. enhance the quality of Sattva. That which increases Sattva also supports the production of Ojas.
In general, a vegetarian diet is more Sattvic than any diet inclusive of animal flesh, which is always tainted by the act of killing. Nevertheless, many foods besides animal flesh are dominated by the quality of Tamas. Such foods include mushrooms, mold-ripened cheeses, alcohol, cigarettes, narcotics, recreational drugs, peanuts, and stale, tasteless, leftover and spoiled food. All these things produce dullness in the mind. It’s a matter of degree. For example, carrots and beets are Sattvic, while most other root vegetables are mildly Tamasic. It’s reasonable to have them on occasion in small quantities.
Pungent foods like onions and chilies, excessively sour or salty foods, and stimulants like coffee increase Rajas and the associated impulse for action. In contrast, milk, rice, ghee (clarified butter), mung beans, sweet ripe fruits, sesame, blanched almonds, honey, wheat, and many vegetables possess Sattvic qualities. Overall, a Sattvic diet is one that is light, fresh, nourishing, organically-grown, balanced in the six tastes, prepared with love and taken in moderate amounts.(6) According to Ayurveda, a Sattvic diet is most conducive to health, vitality and longevity. A diet dominated by Rajas or Tamas invites disease and suffering.