What Is Sattva?

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sattva (one of the gunas, characterized by intelligence, purity, harmony, and goodness)

Sattva Definition

Sattva represents one of the three fundamental gunas, or qualities, that are believed to shape the nature of all existence. The three gunas are sattva, rajas, and tamas. Sattva is often regarded as the most elevated and harmonious of the three.

Sattva is characterized by clarity, lightness, and an absence of excessive attachment or aversion. It is associated with qualities such as wisdom, compassion, love, and contentment.

person standing in woods joyfully

Sattva Deep Dive

Sattva and The Three Gunas

The three gunas: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, are fundamental qualities or attributes that are believed to shape the nature of everything in the universe, including human behavior, thoughts, and experiences.

These gunas are central concepts in various Indian philosophies, including Vedanta, Samkhya, and Yoga.

Sattva is characterized by purity, balance, and harmony. It represents a state of equilibrium and clarity.

Sattva is associated with qualities such as wisdom, compassion, love, contentment, and self-control. In the mental state of sattva, the mind is calm, focused, and free from excessive desires or aversions. It allows for clear thinking and discernment.

Acts of selfless service, meditation, mindfulness, compassion, and virtues like honesty and humility are expressions of sattva. Sattva plays a crucial role in spiritual growth, as it fosters inner balance and self-realization.

a tree in a field

The Sattvic Diet

Consuming a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains aligns with sattvic principles. Such foods are considered pure and nourishing, contributing to physical health and mental clarity.

Conversely, a diet heavy in processed or excessively spicy foods may promote rajas or tamas.

The sattvic diet is rooted in Ayurveda and yogic philosophy, emphasizing foods that promote purity, clarity, and balance. This diet is believed to support physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual growth.

Below you will find further details on the principles of the sattvic diet, examples of sattvic foods, plus the foods to avoid.

Principles of the Sattvic Diet:

  • Freshness: Sattvic foods are fresh, minimally processed, and prepared with care. Freshness is essential to maintain the vitality and life force (prana) in the food.
  • Purity: Sattvic foods should be pure, free from additives, chemicals, and preservatives. The idea is to consume foods in their natural and unadulterated state.
  • Balance: The sattvic diet seeks to balance the three gunas by emphasizing sattvic foods. These foods are considered to have a harmonizing influence on the mind and body.
  • Moderation: Portion control is essential in the sattvic diet. Consuming moderate quantities of food helps maintain physical and mental balance.
  • Mindful Eating: Sattvic eating involves mindful and grateful consumption. It’s a practice of savoring each bite, eating with awareness, and expressing gratitude for the nourishment.
a women carrying a basket of fresh vegetables

Examples of Sattvic Foods:

  • Fruits: Fresh fruits, especially those that are sweet, ripe, and in season, are sattvic. Examples include apples, bananas, mangoes, and papayas.
  • Vegetables: Sattvic vegetables are fresh, leafy greens, and non-starchy varieties. Examples include spinach, kale, broccoli, and carrots.
  • Whole Grains: Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet, and oats are considered sattvic. They provide sustained energy and fiber.
  • Legumes: Mung beans, lentils, and chickpeas are sattvic legumes when cooked simply and without excessive spices.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds are sattvic when consumed in moderation.
  • Dairy: Fresh, organic, and unprocessed dairy products like milk, yogurt, and ghee (clarified butter) are considered sattvic. They are a source of calcium and protein.
  • Herbs and Spices: Mild and aromatic herbs and spices like basil, mint, coriander, and cardamom are sattvic. They enhance flavor without overwhelming the senses.
  • Sweeteners: Natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and jaggery can be used in moderation to sweeten sattvic dishes.
  • Water: Pure water is the preferred beverage in a sattvic diet. Herbal teas and fresh fruit juices, especially when diluted with water, are also acceptable.
a healthy spread of plates containing salads, curry, toast, and an acai bowl

Foods to Avoid in a Sattvic Diet:

  • Stimulants: Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants that can disrupt mental clarity and balance.
  • Processed Foods: Highly processed and artificially flavored foods are considered tamasic and should be avoided.
  • Fried and Heavy Foods: Greasy and fried foods can be rajasic and tamasic, so they are not typically part of a sattvic diet.
  • Excessive Spices: Overly spicy or pungent foods, such as those with excessive chili peppers, can be rajasic and are best consumed in moderation.
  • Artificial Additives: Foods with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives should be avoided as they are not considered pure.

It’s important to note that the sattvic diet is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and individual dietary needs may vary.

Some people may find that a predominantly sattvic diet supports their well-being and spiritual practices, while others may incorporate sattvic principles into their existing dietary choices.

Always consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist before making significant dietary changes.

Sattva Cultivation and Acts of Compassion

Engaging in regular meditation and mindfulness practices is a way to cultivate sattva. During meditation, the mind becomes calm and focused, leading to greater clarity and inner peace.

Sattva is exemplified when one can maintain a clear and tranquil mind, free from distracting thoughts.

Acts of compassion and selfless service (seva) are sattvic in nature. When individuals engage in acts of kindness and service to others without expecting anything in return, they embody sattva. Compassion and a desire to alleviate the suffering of others are sattvic qualities.

Ultimately, sattva represents a state of purity, balance, and harmony in Indian philosophy. Examples of sattva can be found in various aspects of life, from personal habits and interactions to spiritual practices and creative expressions.

Cultivating sattva is a pathway to greater clarity, inner peace, and spiritual growth.

a woman sat on a yoga mat in seated meditation

Sattva In Your Life

Incorporating the concept of sattva into everyday life can contribute to inner peace, balance, and personal growth. Below are some suggestions of ways to embrace sattva in your daily life:

1. Meditation and Mindfulness

Regular meditation and mindfulness practices calm the mind, reduce restlessness, and nurture sattva. Even a few minutes of daily meditation can promote mental clarity and inner balance.

2. Sattvic Diet

Consume a balanced and sattvic diet. This includes fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Avoid processed and overly spicy foods. Eating mindfully and in moderation supports physical and mental well-being.

3. Physical Activity and Yoga

Engage in regular physical activity, such as yoga or other forms of exercise. These practices promote physical health and mental clarity. Yoga, in particular, helps balance the body and mind.

4. Acts of Kindness and Compassion

Practice acts of kindness and compassion toward others. Volunteering, helping those in need, or simply offering a kind word can cultivate sattva and deepen your sense of connection with others.

two hands holding each other

5. Cultivate Virtues

Embrace virtues like honesty, humility, patience, and forgiveness in your interactions with others. These qualities reflect sattva and contribute to harmonious relationships.

6. Simplicity and Contentment

Simplify your life by reducing unnecessary possessions and commitments. Embrace contentment with what you have, rather than constantly seeking more. This can lead to a sense of inner peace.

7. Nature and Solitude

Spend time in nature and seek solitude when needed. Nature has a naturally calming and sattvic influence. It provides an opportunity to connect with the harmonious qualities of sattva.

8. Self-Reflection and Self-Inquiry

Engage in self-reflection and self-inquiry practices to understand your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This self-awareness can lead to personal growth and the cultivation of sattva.

9. Following Positive and Uplifting Content

Consume media and content that promote positive and uplifting messages. Reading spiritual literature, poetry, or engaging with art that inspires feelings of peace and beauty can enhance sattva.

a book being held by a woman's hands with pressed flowers in between 2 pages

10. Spiritual Practices

Explore spiritual practices that resonate with you. This might include prayer, chanting, or studying sacred texts. These practices can deepen your connection with your inner self and the qualities of sattva.

11. Balanced Work-Life Routine

Maintain a balanced work-life routine. Avoid overcommitting or overworking, as this can lead to increased rajas and tamas. Prioritize self-care and rest.

12. Mindful Speech

Practice mindful and truthful speech. Avoid gossip, harsh words, or hurtful communication. Kind and honest communication aligns with sattva.

13. Gratitude

Cultivate a sense of gratitude for the simple joys in life. Expressing gratitude daily can shift your focus toward positive aspects and increase your sense of contentment.

Remember that the journey toward sattva is a gradual process, and it’s normal to experience fluctuations in the dominance of the gunas in different life circumstances.

The key is to cultivate self-awareness and make conscious choices that promote the qualities of sattva, ultimately leading to greater inner harmony and well-being.

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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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Amy is a yoga teacher and practitioner based in Brighton.

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