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In Vedic philosophy, sattva (Sanskrit sattva / सत्त्व "purity", literally "existence, reality"; adjectival sāttvika "pure", anglicised sattvic) is the most rarefied of the three gunas in Samkhya, sāttvika "pure", rājasika "excitable", and tāmasika "indifferent". Importantly, no value judgement is entailed as all guna are indivisible and mutually qualifying.
For an object or food to be sattvic, it must be uncontaminated and should not spread evil or disease in the world. On the contrary its presence must purify the surroundings. Thus when an individual consumes such a food, he must feel that he is eating pure food. The food should be healthy, nutritious and clean. It should also not weaken the power or equilibrium of mind. This idea disallows aphrodisiac or other drugs and intoxicants that can affect the mind in such a way. It also disallows food or objects obtained after killing or causing pain to a creature. This is because the object would then have source in an evil act. It also excludes stale and pungent-smelling food.
Some objects that are considered sattvic are:
- Flowers, fruits, and food that are allowed as offerings to God
- Neem tree
- The milk of a cow which has grown in good surroundings, is healthy and has been obtained after the calf of the cow has been fed well. In cases when the cow has been ill treated, it becomes sinful or evil to drink such milk (Note that the cow is sacred in Hinduism)
- Nature has always had a connotation with being sattvic. Because of this, Hindu philosophy does not encourage the eating of animals, or the destruction of nature and its habitats.
Sattva is a state of mind in which the mind is steady, calm and peaceful. A sattvic man or woman works with no attachment to the result. Other's disagree. Citing the Bhagavad Gita, all three gunas (satvas, rajas, tamas) are chains, be they of gold, silver or steel. Thus working without attachment requires rising above all three gunas, including the sattvic guna.
A person or creature can be called sattvic if the creature has predominantly sattvic tendencies. The name "sattvik" implies one who is divine, pure, and spiritual.
Sattvic individuals always work for the welfare of the world. They are hardworking, alert, generous. They live life moderately, and have good memory and concentration. Sattvic qualities include leading a chaste life, eating moderately, using precise language and speaking truths palatably. A sattvic individual speaks compliments and avoids vulgar or insulting language, is never jealous, and is unaffected by greed and selfishness. Such an individual is confident and experiences abundance. It is not in the nature of a sattvic individual to cheat or mislead others. A sattvic person will show what is and describe destinations, but then allow others to choose for themselves. A sattvic person does not allow evil tendencies to enter his or her mind but supports an inner paradise that broadcasts out to the world; he or she will have keen interest in improving spiritual knowledge and will spend time worshiping divinity or meditating and, in an extreme state, may even perform penance or uninterrupted meditation. A sattvic individual can be recognized if their mind, speech and actions synchronize: manasa, vacha, karmana are the three Sanskrit words used to describe such a state.
Some of the people considered by Hindus to be sattvic are:
- Holy men and bhaktas like Tulsidas, Tyagaraja, Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram
- Ancient rishis like Vashishta, Kashyapa
- Modern day sages like Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, Vivekananda
- Divine beings in the heavens
- Some flora and fauna like lotus (symbolizes purity), cow (symbolizes the earth mother)