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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?

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  • 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 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. 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.. 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.
    – mar
    Jan 2 '17 at 0:32
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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.

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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 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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