Proper Understanding of The Bhagavad Gita – Part 125

In the following verse, Lord Krishna speaks about the types of food, sacrificial ceremonies, the discipline of speech, conduct and other aspects of the personal code of conduct and different types of spiritual practices and the three Gunas.

What is Saatwik Food?

आयु:सत्वबलारोग्यसुखप्रीतिविवर्धना: |
रस्या: स्निग्धा: स्थिरा हृद्या आहारा: सात्विकप्रिया: || 8||

rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirā hṛidyā āhārāḥ sāttvika-priyāḥ

Bhagavad Gita Vh 17 Verse 8

General Meaning:

Saattwik persons like and prefer foods which enhances life and longevity, which are pure, increase strength, improve health, joy, cheerfulness, foods which are substantial, creamy, juicy and are naturally agreeable.

Explanatory Notes:

It is interesting to know that Lord Krishna has not told that Saattwik food will make you Saattwik. Instead, he opines that Saattwik people like or prefer Saattwik food. Also, it is important to remember that spirituality and Saattwik are not the same things. Saattwik or pure or positive is one of the three Gunas or qualities of Mother Nature, the Creator. It creates and maintains the Creation by using these three Gunas or qualities. Spirituality or Yoga is above the Saattwik, the Raajasik, and the Taamasik. The Saattwik Guna is the highest and nearest to spirituality. It is easier for Saattwik people to practice spirituality.

Understand the meanings of these components.

Analyzing impartially, unbiased and scientifically, it is interesting to note that Lord Krishna has not categorized food as vegetarian or non-vegetarian, or, vegan or lacto- vegetarian or egalitarian, etc. This makes the teachings universal, applicable to all civilizations and cultures. Mostly, this applies to the tradition, culture, religious group and availability, etc. The teachings of Bhagavad Gita are free from superstitions and dogmatic views. Thus, it appeals to all groups of human beings and cultures.

Types of Food

Now let us discuss some examples of such individual groups of food.

  • Traditionally, in the Vedic Culture and its descendants, the following is maintained – Grutch Aaayuh – means Ghee or clarified butter enhances longevity.
  • Ghee has dominantly healthy fat or cream, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. So, it is also Sthiraa, Snigdha and Hriddyaa. Dugdha Balam – Milk gives strength and vitality. It is also Snigdhaa, Rasyaa, Sthira etc.
  • Proteins – of both vegetarian origin and non vegetarian origin gives strength, stability and prevention of malnutrition and weakness.
  • Fruits, vegetables, and nuts come under Aarogya or freedom from various types of diseases and in recovery from diseases. These also come under Rasyaa or Juicy, Savoury, Sthira, Hrudyaa.
  • Yogurt or curd and some other mildly fermented food like Kaanji etc, enhance happiness, joy, and cheerfulness. These, and cheese, also are naturally agreeable to most people if not to all.
  • All fruits are good. These are packed with anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins and fibers. These prevent diseases, help in health and healing. Same thing with vegetables. Some fruits like ripe banana enhance mental peace and are also healthy nutrients. These are all Saattwik foods.
  • Very often, combinations of these groups of foods are beneficial and nutritious. For example, rice, bread, and crackers are dry. These come under Raajasik food, but mix Ghee, Butter, Soup, Dal (lentils), with these, they become Saattwik.

These are not the last word on Saattwik food. It depends on the quantity and quality too. For example, Lord Krishna told the following:

विविक्तसेवी लघ्वाशी
vivikta-sevī laghuāśhī

The Bhagavad Gita Ch18 Verse 52

The meaning is the thoughts should be pure and Saattwik food eaten in small but adequate quantities at proper times, also come under Saattwik food.

What is Raajasik Food?

कट्वम्ललवणात्युष्णतीक्ष्णरूक्षविदाहिन: |
आहारा राजसस्येष्टा दु:खशोकामयप्रदा: || 9||

kaṭwamla-lavaṇāty-uṣhṇa- tīkṣhṇa-rūkṣhya-vidāhinaḥ
āhārā rājasasyeṣhṭā duḥkha-śhokāmaya-pradāḥ

Bhagavad Gita Ch 17 Verse 9

General Meaning:

The foods which are bitter, sour, salty, too much hot, pungent, dry, and burning, are liked by people of Raajasik quality and such foods produce pain, grief, and diseases.

Explanatory Notes:

The Rajasik foods are of the following nature:

  1. Bitter, such as karela or bitter gourd, neem or margosa, quinine (medicine) taste.
  2. Amla – like vinegar, tamarind and other acidic tasting foods like cranberries and other unripe berries.
  3. Labanah – too salty.
  4. Excessively hot like too hot tea or coffee or soups or other cooked food items which are eaten hurriedly when too hot.
  5. Teekhnah – pungent like the chilies, green and red, and black pepper. Black pepper is less so.
  6. Rukshya – dry such as crispies, crackers, biscuits, toast bread, chips, popcorns, puffed rice, dry poha (chiwaraa) etc.
  7. Bidaahi – burning, inflammation-causing such as very hot green and red chillies, strong alcoholic drinks.

People with dominant Raajasik qualities love these types of foods. Such foods are the causes of diseases and sufferings.

What is Taamasik Food?

यातयामं गतरसं पूति पर्युषितं च यत् |
उच्छिष्टमपि चामेध्यं भोजनं तामसप्रियम् || 10||

yāta-yāmaṁ gata-rasaṁ pūti paryuṣhitaṁ cha yat
uchchhiṣhṭamapi chāmedhyaṁ bhojanaṁ tāmasa-priyam

Bhagavad Gita Ch 17 Verse 10

General Meaning:

The food which is stale, tasteless and devoid of nutritional value, which is putrefied and rotten, which is leftover and refuse and impure; such foods are liked by the Taamasik people.

Explanatory Notes:

Taamasik people are generally characterized by physical, mental and intellectual dullness and lethargy and dominantly negative in attitude. Spirituality is out of the question for them. Maybe the Taamasik food they take makes them so or because of their basic qualities or Gunas, determines the food they like. Taamasik foods are stale, nor freshly cooked, are leftovers from previous meals and plates, exposed to dust, dirt, insects and bugs and other animals. These foods are putrid having bad smell and taste. These foods do not have any nutritional value; rather they are impure and are a source of diseases.

The Saatwik Yagyna (Sacrifice)

In the following verses (shlokas) Lord Krishna speaks about the 3 grades or qualities of spiritual, religious and code of conduct.

अफलाकाङ्क्षिभिर्यज्ञो विधिदृष्टो य इज्यते |
यष्टव्यमेवेति मन: समाधाय स सात्विक: || 11||

aphalākāṅkṣhi bhiryajño vidhi-driṣhṭo ya ijyate
yaṣhṭavyameveti manaḥ samādhāya sa sāttvikaḥ

Bhagavad Gita Ch 17 Verse 11

General Meaning:

That sacrifice which is performed by people without any desire for the resulting fruits and as authorized by the Holy Scriptures and performed with firm faith, that sacrifice is a duty and such sacrifice is Saattwik or Pure.

Explanatory Notes:

Yagnya or sacrificial ceremony or ritual is a Vedic traditional religious procedure. The original concept and details of rituals belong to the Yajur Veda. (The other Vedas are – Rig Veda, Saam Veda, and Atharva Veda). It is mainly Sakaam or done with desires and their rewards which are purely materialistic. These rituals and conditions of performance are very well defined and governed by sets of rules and regulations. Lord Krishna discarded the traditional old concepts of Yagnya or sacrifice and redefined Yagnya or Sacrifice or such ceremonies and rituals. He says, these Yagnyas, as long as are Sakaam or full of desires and result-oriented, cannot give peace or joy and liberation. They need not be material to gain oriented. Lord Krishna gave a new interpretation and direction to this, known as Yoga Vedanta. It depends on Niskaam Karma or the performance of duties without being concerned about the results, rewards, or punishment. These Yagnyas can be

  • Dravya Yagnya,
  • Gnyan Yagnya,
  • Yog Yagnya,
  • Prana Yagnya,
  • Tapo Yagnya,
  • Swadhyanya Yagnya,
  • Aatma Samjama
  • Yagnya and many others.

All these Yagnyas or sacrifices, if done without any desire for results, become Saattwik and lead to liberation or Self Realization. However, these should be performed as per the guidelines provided by the Holy Scriptures i.e. Veda and Vedanta.

The Raajasik Yagyna (Sacrifice)

अभिसन्धाय तु फलं दम्भार्थमपि चैव यत् |
इज्यते भरतश्रेष्ठ तं यज्ञं विद्धि राजसम् || 12||

abhisandhāya tu phalaṁ dambhārthamapi chaiva yat
ijyate bharata-śhreṣhṭha taṁ yajñaṁ viddhi rājasam

Bhagavad Gita Ch 17 Verse 12

General Meaning:

The sacrifice or Yagnya, which is performed desiring the fruits and with arrogance and ostentation, know that O’ Best of Bharatas, as Raajasik.

Explanatory Notes:

Lord Krishna is advising Arjuna to remember that the sacrifice ceremony or Yagnya which is performed seeking benefits and reward and done with lots of show-offs and with arrogance, as Raajasik Yagnya. Liberation or Self Realization is not possible with this Jagnya even if lots of sacrifices are involved.

The Taamasik Yagyna (Sacrifice)

विधिहीनमसृष्टान्नं मन्त्रहीनमदक्षिणम् |
श्रद्धाविरहितं यज्ञं तामसं परिचक्षते || 13||

vidhihīna masṛiṣhṭānnaṁ mantra-hīnam adakṣhiṇam
śhraddhā-virahitaṁ yajñaṁ tāmasaṁ parichakṣhate

Bhagavad Gita Ch 17 Verse 13

General Meaning:

That Yagnya which is performed without chanting of right mantras, where the guidance of Vedas is lacking, where no food is distributed, where donations and presents are not given, where there is no faith or sincerity; such Yagnya is declared as Taamasik.

Explanatory Notes:

The Yagnyas or sacrificial ceremonies have to be performed according to the code and rules and conditions set by the expert ancient masters in the Vedas. There has to be right physical, mental and religious and spiritual conditions.

What is an Ideal Yagyna?

It should also be for the benefit of the Karta or the organizer individually and also for the community. The priests and helping hands have to be adequately materially rewarded and appreciated. Food, the source of life or Prana, should be plentiful and shared. The rituals should be performed with humbleness, faith, sincerity, and exact and correct pronunciation of mantras or expression of offerings to God. The Yagnya Kunda or the fireplace into which oblations are offered should be constructed with the right geometrical proportions as this represents the cosmic configuration while chanting prayers and mantras.

Word of Advice

Dear friends, these Yagnyas or Sacrificial Sessions are a highly organized community activity.


Meaning: for the happiness, welfare, and benefit of many and most people.

These sessions are not individualistic or selfish or elitist. It is a spiritually scientific method of inviting the Blessings and God’s grace for the welfare and well-being of all beings of Creation. The negative aspects are excluded and absent. Life to be meaningful and enjoyable and with simultaneous material and spiritual benefits should be considered as a grand and continuous Yagnya or Sacrificial session. Lord Krishna re-emphasized and presented these with a much larger, simpler, and more effective spiritual procedure, removing all superstitions and illogical factors. The result is KRIYA YOGA. If anybody cares to study the Bhagavad Gita with a positive attitude, faith and sincerity will surely find out the truth. May the Merciful Lord, God, Paramatma, Param Brahmam, the One in All and All in One, who is the ultimate source and destination, Bless You, Guide You, Protect You and Inspire You and remove your troubles born of ignorance of the Supreme Truth.

With Love and Best Wishes,
Paramahansa Atmananda Ji

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