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In Hinduism, food is categorized into Tamasic, Rajasic, Sattvic, or combination of them. What does these categories signify? Can anyone consume food from any of these categories?

Are there any restrictions on which types of food to be used in offerings and prayer?

  • I am positive the divission of fertilized eggs as tamas and unfertilized as rajas is from Manu smrti, The Laws of Manu. As far as scriptural basis goes. – user3312 Jul 13 '15 at 20:02
  • In nutshell, "Tamas" = Stale/Preserved food, "Rajas" = Tasty/Stimulating food, "Satvik" = Fresh/Healthy food. – iammilind Aug 5 '15 at 5:06
  • You can ask Ayurveda related questions here: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/102499/ayurveda – Amit Saxena Sep 1 '16 at 22:57
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Tamasic

Tamasic foods are those that have a sedative effect on the mind and body. In general, they are considered detrimental. According to yoga, these foods are to be avoided as they can cause mental dullness and physical numbness. However, in times of pain they are allowed to alleviate suffering.

Examples include: meat of an animal, fish, the fertilized egg, onion, garlic, scallion, leek, chive, mushroom, alcoholic beverages, durian, blue cheese, eggplant, opium, and any food which has been kept overnight before consumption.

Rajasic

Rajasic foods are those that have a stimulating effect on the mind and body. They are considered to be neither beneficial nor harmful. These foods lead to aggressiveness and irritability, and are often obtained in a way that harms another organism.

Examples include: caffeinated drinks (such as coffee, tea (both black and green), cola drinks, and energy drinks), brown or black chocolate, paan, ginkgo biloba, overly spicy food, salty food, and the unfertilized egg.

Sattvic

Sattvic foods are those that lead to clarity of mind and physical health. These foods are to be consumed on a regular basis. Sattvic foods are generally those which can be obtained without harming either another organism or one's self. Only Sattvic foods are acceptable as offerings to the Hindu gods, with rare exceptions.

Examples include: water, cereal grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, unpasteurized and unhomogenized fresh milk and all fresh milk derivatives (mostly ghee, but also butter, cream, fresh or cottage cheese (paneer), and yogurt (lassi)), and raw honey.

Eggs

Eggs are a very complicated case and don't have a clear cut answer. Since there's debate as to the validity of the sources that categorize it as Tamasic or Rajasic, I'd like to provide some moral insight here.

Specifically, I want to address "vegetarian eggs". A "vegetarian egg" or an egg without an embryo developing in it is produced when a hen does not mate with a rooster before laying the egg.

I have been taught that one reason such eggs are not considered suitable for consumption is that by preventing fertilization you are preventing the birth of an animal, which is considered unjust by some. The reasoning here is that blockading the creation of life is similar if not equal to extinguishing it.

Again, I don't have a source for this besides the personal teachings of my parents and gurus, so if someone has a reference from the scriptures that would be very helpful!


Sources (please add more as you edit, and remember to paraphrase):

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    The recent addition of unfertilized egg into Rajasic food is mostly without any attribution from any source, AFAIK. Wiki mentions it without any citations. – Vineet Menon Aug 8 '14 at 15:41
  • @VineetMenon I've been doing some digging and have found sources that cite eggs as Rajasic, others that say they're Tamasic, and nothing besides Wikipedia that makes a distinction between fertilized and unfertilized. However, what's written here is in line with my personal experience in talking to my elders and gurus. If you have something more tangible, please share; otherwise I think our best bet is to go with what people have been taught outside the Internet, as long as there are no contradictions. – Akshay Aug 8 '14 at 18:12
  • @VineetMenon I've also started a question on Meta discussing a supercase of this issue, as I think it's important. I'd be very happy to hear more from you and others there. – Akshay Aug 8 '14 at 18:28
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    I never had any religious guru so, cannot say anything about it. Moreover, personally I have never experienced anything different in eating a fertilized egg from an unfertilized one. Hell, I cannot even distinguish each other. Hope someone can clarify this.. – Vineet Menon Aug 9 '14 at 6:20
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    there are lot of restrictions in cow's milk before it can be declared satvik - first, the cow's own calf must have drunk its mother's milk before milking the cow each day. the cow must not have been artificially inseminated, cow must not be milked by keeping different or fake calf near it, nor with machines, nor when cow is pregnant, nor in first 10 days after giving birth, and cows must not be killed after they stop milk production etc. Nowadays it's almost impossible to find such milk sold commercially in cities, you have to go to goshala or mutt or ashram and request. – ram Jan 2 '17 at 0:32
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From yogic perspective, this is what I found in Kriya Yoga book of Raga Ragini Trust, Mysore.

Our knowledge of food is usually based only on its gross material content like carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, water and fiber. Yogic concept of food takes into account the total dimension of human existence. Our gross body is formed of atoms and molecules. Apart from gross body we all possess prana, mind, intellect, emotions and spiritual dimension.

A balanced diet is therefore according to yoga is that diet which restores balance at all these levels. Only such diets can aid holistic living.

Foods to eat:

  • Whole grains promote the production of neurotransmitter serotonin that increases your sense of well being.

  • Green, yellow and orange vegetables and fruits are all rich in minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals which boost immune response and protect against disease.

Foods to avoid

  • Coffee and other caffeinated beverages: if you are currently addicted to coffee, drink black tea; it has less than a third of the caffeine of coffee and none of the harmful oils.

  • Fried foods and foods rich in fats are immune depressing, especially when stress is doing that as well.

  • Reduce animal foods. High protein foods elevate brain levels of dopamine and nor-epinephrine, both of which are associated with higher levels of anxiety and stress.

For better efficiency in body structuring, breathing pattern, managing mental and emotional imbalances one must change from high calorie meat diet to a low calorie vegetarian diet.

Yoga classifies food into 3 categories namely satvic, rajasic and tamasic.

Satvic food

  • Food that increases vitality, stamina, health, cheerfulness, appetite.
  • Its quality is savour, oleaginous, substantial (in values) and agreeable, fresh, wholesome (with nutrients) natural, balancedly cooked. Farm fresh fruits and vegetables, wholesome grains, fresh cow's milk belong to this category.
  • They give energy, lightness, agility and sharpness mind.
  • People in yoga, fine arts, intellectuals, scholars and social reformers like such foods.

Rajasic food

  • Food that are bitter, sour, salty, hot, pungeant, dry and spicy.

  • Its quality: taste appeal, stimulating nerves, speeds up metabolism and hipes activity

  • Coffee, Tea, Pepper, Green Chillies and high quality wines are of this nature

  • They push aggressiveness, competitiveness, will enhance ego, restlessness, passionate, slow degeneration of fitness.

  • Men in army, administrators, sports persons, business and entrepreneurial persons like such food.

Tamasic food

  • Stale, foul odour, artificial colored and flavored, preservatives added, cooked overnight, emulsifiers, fermented food or drinks, adulterated, leftover, prepared meat of animals dead long back, too cold, deep refrigerated foods are tamasic.

  • Such foods causes heaviness, lethargy and collapses faster.

  • Men of inertia like such food

One has to offer what he eats and what is available to him for god, but one has to mind the above points.

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    Please append your information to the community wiki above instead of creating a new one. The purpose of this Q&A is to have one canonical answer to the question instead of several scattered ones. Thank you! :) – Akshay Sep 27 '14 at 5:51
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There are Three types of Guna

1. Sattva (the quality of goodness): Sattva is Calm, Saintly. Its brings up quality that allows spiritual holiness, forgiveness and submission to God. Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart. BG reference

2. Raja (the quality of passion): Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease. Onions and garlic fall into this category.BG reference

3. Tamas (the quality of ignorance): Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness.BG reference

We are what we eat, so you see. When you see the whole picture in Gunas perspective it will start making sense altogether. Why we can't eat certain types of foods, why we do not use some types of food in our Pujas (rituals or worship).

In order to be a saint/God's servant, humans must suppress raja and tamas guna, and eating sattvic food is a large part of that.

  • 1
    Please append your information to the community wiki above instead of creating a new one. The purpose of this Q&A is to have one canonical answer to the question instead of several scattered ones. Thank you! :) – Akshay Sep 5 '14 at 13:21
  • Please update the BG reference links. Giving Page not found error. – gangadhars Sep 1 '15 at 4:04
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re: eggs. The scriptures do not refer to this matter explicitly nor specifically simply because it was not traditionally an item that people ate. Fundamentally, the menstruation of a chicken (or of any other animal for that matter) was never considered as something (like manure or phlegm) that people would even contemplate eating. It is therefore implicit within this that its guna can be none other than Tamas - be the egg fertilised or not

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Personally, for me (the mind of a neophyte devotee of Lord Shiva) I get confused about eggs. If I was to attempt becoming a perfect devotee I would not eat eggs because of their kind of 'disgusting' nature. They are not exactly a 'clean' thing, hence salmonella poisoning.. BUT as a neophyte devotee who's just trying to do what service i can while maintaining an average person's material life style I DO eat eggs. I'm working towards getting my eggs directly from a farm (as well as all my other foods, if possible) so that I know for a fact that the Hen's aren't in torment to supply me with my egg breakfast. In summary, no I don't think we should eat eggs because they dirty are nature and bring us closer to demonic nature rather than a syncopation with God Head. But as I said i'm not trying to be the perfect devotee right now and as long as the currently living animals aren't harmed i'm going to continue to eat eggs probably, and as a chef will cook and serve them to the public...probably...All in all though I don't think Lord Shiva gives a damn as long as i'm not eating things like fish, chicken, pigs or beef and things of that ilk, and neither do I. (he may think my egg breath is a little stinky tho ;)

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