For Health and Happiness of Mind (and body)
Sāttva (sāttvika) – meaning purity in Sanskrit. One of the Trigunas (universal qualities) that pervade all creation. These are the qualities that govern the universal consciousness. The three together are Sāttva, Rājas (Rājasika) and Tāmas (Tāmasika). In terms of the macrocosm, Sāttva is infinite clear space, Rājas is atmosphere and Tāmas is solid substance / matter.
Each life form; every human being is a microcosm – a perfect replica of the great creation. In the human mind, Sāttva is the pure essence of light, right action and spiritual purpose. Rājas is the movement, the change(r) and the irritation / excitability – the initiator. Tāmas is the inertia, the darkness and confusion. Where the tridoshas govern the body and can be the cause of health or disease of the tissues, so trigunas influence the mind and the mind can have such an influential hold over the body. They can give clarity, perception and intelligence or be the cause of lethargy, doubt, anxiety and impure or unclear thought.
More on Rājas and Tāmas in a different post. I wanted to write about Sāttva because I mention it regularly in reference to certain foods and herbs. Every thing, every living substance (life force) has some of each of these qualities. For example; without rajas, for every good and pure intention there could be no right action or initiation and without tamas, there can be no grounding or stability. In order to live a life, in human form, we are all made up of all of these qualities. It is possible to increase the proportions of the desirable aspects of our natures, but this can only be done through right actions, right thoughts and right living. Sāttva is not cultivated just because a person wishes to be and contrives to act “more sāttvic“.
Caraka Samhita says “individuals having the excellence of mental faculties are characterised in good memory, devotion, gratefulness, wisdom, purity, excessive enthusiasm, skill, courage, valour in fighting(!), absence of sorrow, proper gait, depth of wisdom and sincerity in actions and virtuous acts” These are the characteristic features of a Sāttva-sāra (sattva predominant) individual. (caraka samhita Vol II, Cha VIII, 110)
A Sāttvic diet consists of items which increase the Sāttva qualities of our minds. Nurturing health through happiness and from the principle qualities of the food that we consume (in predominance) is a fundamental principle of Ayurveda. It is not enough to simply follow a healthy diet, rich in nutrients. That food also must nourish your mind and soul, it should be full of sunshine and forces that will enrich you, as an individual. Everything in Ayurveda is balanced, it is recognised that everybody is made up of varying proportions of all qualities, be it the mahabhutas of the tridoshas (vata, pitta, kapha) producing the physical body or the trigunas of the mind.
By nature, Sāttvic foods are predominantly vegetarian, however, according to Ayurveda, each individual is just that (unique) and in certain circumstances, every food could be vital to that person. By the same token a Sāttvic food item may not always have Sāttvic quality. For example, in winter months, a peach cultivated under plastic and warmed by electricity in order to grow, cannot have the same Sāttvic qualities as one, grown in the summer months (correct season), in it’s correct environment. Everything has to be contextualised.
So – here is a basic list. As I study more, I will add to and edit this. Thus far, I have only been able to find general information which I cannot find referenced in Caraka, Sushruta or Ashtanga. I intend to study further and will verify this as soon as have a trusted source!
My intuition, however, tells me that you can just feel that quality in certain foods – we all long for the summer months where honey-sweet fruit and vibrant aromatic herbs are available to us in abundance.
No one can deny the complete joy to be had from fruits and veggies cram packed full of sunshine sweetness in those summer months – with some more information, maybe we can start to learn how to carry that feeling through some of the darker colder winter months so that we can ease that feeling that creeps in as the short dark days start to take effect on our spirits.