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Dr K K Aggarwal

Understanding the Gunas

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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The mental state of a person in Vedic language is described in terms of gunas. The present state of mind of any person is a result of mixing of three gunas of nature called tamas, rajas and satoguna. In terms of states of mind, they are called tamas, rajas and satva and the nature of a person is described as tamsik, rajsik and satwik.

Whether it is Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagwad Gita or the text of Ayurveda, all talk about these gunas. The sankhya philosophy also says that a mixture of the three makes the cosmic mind as well as the human mind. Bhagwad Gita talks in great detail about the nature, yagna as well as diet depending upon these gunas.

A satwik diet enhances satoguna in a person and makes him/her with a predominant satwik nature. The same is true for the other two gunas. According to Ayurvedic texts and in Atharvaveda. any food that comes from the roots or underground part of the tree, is tamsik in nature. Tamsik foods should not be eaten raw. They should either be slow cooked or soaked in water for hours before consumption.

Foods which are from the top part of the tree like coconut, fruits, leaves and flowers are satwik in nature and can be consumed fresh, as they are. Food which comes from the middle part of the tree is often rajsik in nature.

Fresh, soaked, sprouted, natural food are often satwik, while left over foods are tamsik in nature. Most satwik foods are naturally white.

Ramayana also has characters with different nature. Kumbhakaran represents a person with tamsik nature, Meghnad and Ravana with rajsik nature and Vibhishan with satwik nature. One can see that the diet of Kumbhakaran was left over foods, onions, radish, carrots and non vegetarian food, all are tamas producing.

Shastras also teach us about satwik food. In Vedic knowledge, God is represented by the consciousness and whatever is offered to God is the one, which is offered to consciousness and hence all offerings to God are soul healing and soul nurturing food items. Only satwik foods are offered to God as one can live on satwik food forever. Examples are dry fruits, fruits and milk. One cannot live on rajsik or tamsik food hence, they have to be taken in moderation only.

The offerings to God include honey, milk, curd, fruits and vegetables, etc. Panchamrit, offered in Puja, a mixture of milk, curd, ghee, honey and sugar, is a classic example.

Yogashastra also talks about the role of satwik diet in great detail. It says people who eat less are yogis, people who eat in moderation are bhogis and people who eat a lot are rogis. The synonymous are tamsik for rogis, rajsik for bhogis and satwik for yogis.

In terms of proper diet, one should eat dinner lighter than lunch, eat only natural food in the night and follow the principles of moderation and variety.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

Understanding the Gunas

By Dr K K Aggarwal
Filed Under Spirituality - Science Behind Rituals | Tagged With: , , , , , , | | Comments Off on Understanding the Gunas

The mental state of a person in Vedic language is described in terms of gunas. The present state of mind of any person is a result of mixing of three gunas of nature called tamas, rajas and satoguna. In terms of states of mind, they are called tamas, rajas and satva and the nature of a person is described as tamsik, rajsik and satwik.

Whether it is Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagawad Gita or the text of Ayurveda, all talk about these gunas. The sankhya philosophy also says that a mixture of the three makes the cosmic mind as well as the human mind. Bhagawad Gita talks in great detail about the nature, yagna as well as diet depending upon these gunas.

A satwik diet enhances satoguna in a person and makes him/her with a predominant satwik nature. The same is true for the other two gunas. According to Ayurvedic texts and in Atharvaveda. Any food that comes from the roots or underground part of the tree, is tamsik in nature. Tamsik foods should not be eaten raw. They should either be slow cooked or soaked in water for hours before consumption.

Foods which are from the top part of the tree like coconut, fruits, leaves and flowers are satwik in nature and can be consumed fresh, as they are. Food which comes from the middle part of the tree is often rajsik in nature.

Fresh, soaked, sprouted, natural food are often satwik, while left over foods are tamsik in nature. Most satwik foods are naturally white.

Ramayana also has characters with different nature. Kumbhakaran represents a person with tamsik nature, Meghnad and Ravana with rajsik nature and Vibhishan with satwik nature. One can see that the diet of Kumbhakaran was left over foods, onions, radish, carrots and non vegetarian food, all are tamas producing.

Shastras also teach us about satwik food. In Vedic knowledge, God is represented by the consciousness and whatever is offered to God is the one, which is offered to consciousness and hence all offerings to God are soul healing and soul nurturing food items. Only satwik foods are offered to God as one can live on satwik food forever. Examples are dry fruits, fruits and milk. One cannot live on rajsik or tamsik food hence, they have to be taken in moderation only.

The offerings to God include honey, milk, curd, fruits and vegetables, etc. Panchamrit, offered in Puja, a mixture of milk, curd, ghee, honey and sugar, is a classic example.

Yogashastra also talks about the role of satwik diet in great detail. It says people who eat less are yogis, people who eat in moderation are bhogis and people who eat a lot are rogis. The synonymous are tamsik for rogis, rajsik for bhogis and satwik for yogis.

In terms of proper diet, one should eat dinner lighter than lunch, eat only natural food in the night and follow the principles of moderation and variety.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

Today the only thing observed in Navratre is food-fast for nine days and most of us either do not eat anything or eat only limited food during these days.

Fast does not mean ‘not eating’. Rather it basically means controlling the desires and simultaneously cultivating positive mental attitudes. Desires can be of many types. Desires to eat tasty food, desires to smell, desire to listen to a particular music, desire to watch beautiful things, etc.

Fast therefore can be of many types. Food fast means controlling the desires for food items which you otherwise may not resist to eat. Eye fast means, not watching things which are Rajsic in nature. Ear fast means avoiding listening to Rajsic (stimulating) music. Action fast means not indulging into activities which stimulates and creates Rajsic thoughts in the mind, and speech fast means not speaking anything evil, etc.

In Navratre during the first, three days, a person is required to indulge into activities which reduce the negativity in the body. The physical purification involves regular bath (of the external body as well as various orifices); mental bath which involve self-confession exercises, and willful attempts not to think negative. During these three days, a person tries to restrain himself from thinking, speaking or doing any activity which can harm the other person. The five obstacles to internal happiness are attachment, anger, desire, greed and ego. A person tries to restrain from all these negativities. These negative thoughts should also not be suppressed or repressed as otherwise they will manifest into some internal diseases.

The next three days, after the negativity in the mind has been reduced, involves building positivity in the mind by way of various positive mental exercises. These involve mixing up with people, sharing, giving, donating, socializing, reception, etc. Cultivating an opposite thought to a negative thought in the mind is the easiest way of tackling the negative thought. Calling all the people you know during these three days helps in creating social health.

The same was taught by Gandhi Ji as “ do not see evil, do not hear evil and do not speak evil”

The last three days involves reading and understanding good scriptures and learning from the sins of others.

Once you have concurred the negativity in the first three days (representing Kali) and have built up happiness and positivity in the mind (representing Lakshmi) the only thing left is to acquire spiritual knowledge (representing Saraswati). During these last three days a person is purified enough to understand and grasp the knowledge of ‘Self’ and to understands and discriminate between good and bad. One also learns to stay cool irrespective of the face of life being joyful or disturbing. One learns to continue his actions while detaching it with the results.

After the nine days of self-discipline is complete, the person acquires inner happiness which is nothing but one’s exposure or appointment with the true self or the consciousness ( Rama). That is what Dusshera is with killing of Tamas (Kumbhakarana), Rajas ( Meghnath) and ego (Ravana).

And the birth of consciousness is equivalent to being in touch with birth of Lord Rama which is called “Ramnavmi”. Hence we should celebrate Ramnavmi as a disciplined way of acquiring internal happiness and not as a forced nine days of fasting.

The same interpretation lies in the Navratre ending up with Dusshera the win over the ego and attaining inner happiness.

The Spiritual Meaning of Lord Shiva

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Most of us worship Lord Shiva without understanding the deeper meaning behind him. In Hindu mythology, Shiva is one of the three forms of God (Brahma, Vishnu & Mahesh).

The Parmatama or spirit or GOD can be equated to a mixture of three forces representing Generator, (Creator or Brahma); Organizer; (Maintainer or Vishnu); Destroyer (Winding up or Mahesh or Shiva).The same three forces are also present inside our body to perform any work, which can be linked to create or generate an idea, maintain or organise the contents of the idea, and then destroy or wind up so that new work can be undertaken through Ganesha – the Lord of new happenings.

For day to day life, one has to understand and implement the principles of Lord Shiva which can be known by understanding the meaning of Shiva.

Shiva is worshipped in the sitting meditating pose, sitting on a deer’s skin at white Himalaya in the background of blue sky. Shiva is also depicted in the form smeared with the ash of graveyard, having a snake on neck,Ganga coming out of his matted hairs, three eyes, blue neck, trishul on one hand and damru on his other hand.

All these symbolic representations have a deep spiritual meaning and tell us about Shiva’s principles of success.

Shiva’s third eye means thinking differently or using the eyes of our mind and the soul. The message is, whenever you are in difficulty, use your intelligence and wisdom or think differently for getting different options. The third eye opening also represents the vanishing of ignorance (darkness or pralaya).

Shiva sitting in an open-eye meditating pose indicates that in day-to-day life one should be calm as if you are in the meditation rose. Calmness in day-to-day practice helps in achieving better results. In allopathic language it is equivalent to mindfulness living.

The snake around the neck represents one’s ego. One should keep the ego out and control it and not let it overpower you. The downward posture of the head of the snake represents that ego should be directed towards the consciousness and not outwards.

The blue neck (Neelkanth) represents that one should neither take the negative emotions out nor suppress them but alter or modify them. The blue color indicates negative thoughts.

The same in the neck indicates that negative slow emotions akin to negative emotions are neither to be drunk nor to be spitted out but to be hold temporarily and with continuous efforts (matted hairs) with cool mind (moon) and with positive thoughts (Ganga) should be directed towards the consciousness keeping the ego directed towards it (sheshnag).

Suppressed anger or any other negative emotions will release chemicals in the body causing acidity, asthma, angina and diarrhea. Expressed anger on the other hand will end up into social unhealthiness.

he ash on the skin of the body of Shiva reminds that everything in the universe is perishable and nothing is going to remain with the person.  The message is that ‘you have come in this world without anything and will go back without anything, then why worry’.

The Trishul in one hand represents control of three factors i.e. mind, intellect and ego. It also represents controlling your three mental gunas i.e. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.  The damru, the hollow structure, represents taking all your ego and desires out of the body.

The blue sky represents vastness and openness and the White Mountain represents purity and truthfulness.

If one adapts to Shiva’s principles in day-to-day life, one will find no obstacles both in his routine life as well as to one’s spiritual journey.

On the Shivratri day, the custom is to fast. The fast does not just indicate not eating on that day, but its deeper meaning signifies fasting of all bad things in life like – “seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil”. Fasting also indicates controlling the desires for eating foods (like fermented, sweet, sour and salt) and control the negative thoughts both in the mind, deed as well as actions.

Diwali is celebrated on the day of Amavasya but the festival is symbolized by inner happiness, lighting or Purnima.

Moon in mythology is symbolized by cool positive thoughts. Normally on the day of Amavasya one encounters negatives thoughts and on the day of Purnima positive thoughts.

Diwali is the only day in a year where one experiences positive thoughts on the day of Amavasya, hence some people believes Diwali symbolizes Diwali with inner Purnima and out Amavasya.

Diwali celebrations also coincide with the terminal phase of Chaturmas, the four months of negative state of mind.

The purification process in Chaturmas starts with 1st Navratre falling on Amavasya. During these nine days one undergoes mind, body and soul detoxification by not thinking negative, doing positive things and acquiring soul based knowledge.

The mind, body detoxification during Navratre ends with killing of Tamas (Kumbhakarna), Rajas (Meghnath) and ego (Ravan) and of consciousness (Rama) over the evil.

These benefits do not lead to inner Moksha or happiness until 20 days, the day of Diwali. In order to continue getting benefits of Navratre one needs to fast with positive state of mind every fourth day till Diwali.

On Sharad Purnima, the fast involves thinking positive with a cool mind to get health benefits. Four days later, on Karvachauth again, one fasts and worships the Moon with positive thoughts and acquires longevity benefits. Four days later on Ahoi Ashtami again, one worships the moon and the stars with positive thoughts and acquires fertility benefits. On the day of Dhanteras one acquires a win over the fear of death (Yama). On this day, the fast involves deeper meditation (Samudra manthan) to get all the benefits of Samadhi.

At the end of the meditation in the state of Samadhi, one gets in touch with the consciousness or the God, the insight gets illuminated and a person experiences bliss, a state of ecstasy of inner happiness and that is what is called experiencing inner Purnima on the day of outer Amavasya and the festival is celebrated as Diwali.

Let us all worship this Diwali as a state of positive mental state. This one month of purification of thoughts helps one in combating the depression phase seen in winter.

Diwali is the only Amavasya where one does not do Shraadh pooja.  On Diwali Amavasya (falling in Chaturmas) one is allowed to start any new project. Even deaths on this Amavasya are considered auspicious (unlike on other Amavasya days).

Navratri is the detoxification of body, mind and soul. Body detoxification involves Navratri diet containing eating less devoid of cereals. In Navratri diet flour is replaced with Kuttu or Singhara flour; pulses with amaranth or Rajgiri and Rice with Samak rice. Mental and soul detoxification involves practicing Yoga Sadhna as described in nine forms of Durga.
1. In mythology Mata Shailputri is a daughter of mountain king – Himalaya. She is the first among nine avatars of Durga and worshiped on the First day of Navratri.
2. In yogic language it represents the lowest chakra, Muladhara chakra. And the bija sound to chant is LAM in the sacral root area. In allopathic language it represents activation of sacral plexus.
3. The Mother Goddess has a half moon in her forehead & she is holding a trident (trishul) in her right hand & lotus flower in her left hand. She rides on mount Nandi a bull.
4. Bull in mythology represents ‘desires’. On the first day we must let go our desires.
5. Trishul in mythology represents balancing Tamas, Rajas and Satwa
6. Lotus in mythology indicates practicing detached attachment.
7. Moon in mythology means thinking with a cool mind.
8. Shailputri represents the shakti or power of the root chakra, who, upon awakening, begins Her journey upwards in search for the last crown chakra (Shiva).
9. In Navratri pooja on the first day Yogi keep their mind concentrated on Muladhara chakra as the starting point of spiritual discipline or Yoga Sadhna.

What to do on first day
1. Let go your desires
2. Keep the mind cool
3. Practice detached attachment
4. Balance Tamas and Rajas guna with Satwa. or to stay in balance.
5. Concentrate on Muladhara chakra (sacral root)
6. Chant LAM reducing the respiratory rate to 2-4 per minute.
7. In Ayurveda Muladhara chakra represents the earth element.
Gist: On the first day we control (riding), our desires (bull) by balancing (Trishul) the mind with cool thoughts (moon) and practicing detachment (lotus). This can be assisted by chanting LAM focusing on sacral chakra.

One day someone asked me why Muslims and Hindus fight with each other when they worship each other’s GODS. Hindu worship ALI in DIWALI and Muslims worship RAMA in RAMAZAN.

Diwali and Ramadan both have one thing in common and that is one month of spiritual Yagna.

In Hindu spiritual Yagna, the process starts from first day of Navratri on Amavasya and ends up on Diwali, again on Amavasya. The first 10 days involve intense spiritual practice and the rest 20 days entails receiving its benefits.

The first nine days, called Navratri are devoted to a process of purification and detoxification of mind, body and soul. During this period a person is required to lead a Satwik spiritual life devoting first three days into activities, which reduces negativity in the mind and the body; the next three days he is supposed to indulge in positive behavior and happenings and in the last three days he is supposed to read and learn about spiritual positive things in life.

Respectively, these three phases of purification are symbolized as worshiping the Goddesses, Kali, Laxmi and Saraswati. The spiritual purification process involves eating only Satwik food, one which is offered to God, and following the principles of Satwik lifestyle which are Satwik Ahaar, Satwik Vichar, Satwik Vyavahaar and Satwik Achaar. There is a custom of worshiping wheat and barley grass during this period. They are detoxifying grasses when consumed in the form of juices. The Satwik fast observed during this period helps in cleansing the internal body.

Once the nine days purification process is complete, on 10th day one gets the first benefits symbolized with Vijaydashmi as one conquers on that days a victory over Tamas (Kumbhakaran), Rajas (Meghnad) and Ego (Ravana). The victory over the Ego entails the ruling of Satwa (Vibshishan) and reunion of Mind (Lakshamana), Body (Sita) and Soul (Rama).

As per the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali when one attains an ego free mind one is likely to get benefits over a period of time.

The first benefit is seen on the fourth day after Vijaydashmi, on Sharad Purnima, a day known for health benefits. People on this day gather in the night and eat kheer rich in moon rays.

Again after four days on the day of karvachauth one gets benefit of the longevity of the spouse which gives safety to the family. On this day all married women fast and prey for their husbands.

Four days later on “hoi ashtami” one prays for the longevity of their children. This ensures old age protection for the family.

Four days later again on “dhanteras” one gets the benefit of wealth. On this days people worships silver items. On this day no dealings are done and people spend only to invest of silver and gold items for future needs of the family.

By this time the person, who has indulged in the process of purification, learns the true purpose of his or her existence. The inner ignorance and darkness goes away and one gets the true meaning of wealth and that is inner happiness. The day it happens it is called Diwali where on the day of Amavasya (darkness) one gets internal lighting (Diwali).

Diwali, therefore, is a one-month long spiritual Yagna with nine days of purification and 21 days of acquiring spiritual benefits out of it.

Ramadan similarly involves a deep intense purification process of mind, body and soul. In Christians the similar spiritual purification process is celebrated as Easter.

Today the only thing observed in Navratre is food-fast for nine days and most of us either do not eat anything or eat only limited food during these days.

Fast does not mean ‘not eating’. Rather it basically means controlling the desires and simultaneously cultivating positive mental attitudes. Desires can be of many types. Desires to eat tasty food, desires to smell, desire to listen to a particular music, desire to watch beautiful things, etc.

Fast therefore can be of many types. Food fast means controlling the desires for food items which you otherwise may not resist to eat. Eye fast means, not watching things which are Rajsic in nature. Ear fast means avoiding listening to Rajsic (stimulating) music. Action fast means not indulging into activities which stimulates and creates Rajsic thoughts in the mind, and speech fast means not speaking anything evil, etc.

In Navratre during the first, three days, a person is required to indulge into activities which reduce the negativity in the body. The physical purification involves regular bath (of the external body as well as various orifices); mental bath which involve self-confession exercises, and willful attempts not to think negative. During these three days, a person tries to restrain himself from thinking, speaking or doing any activity which can harm the other person. The five obstacles to internal happiness are attachment, anger, desire, greed and ego. A person tries to restrain from all these negativities. These negative thoughts should also not be suppressed or repressed as otherwise they will manifest into some internal diseases.

The next three days, after the negativity in the mind has been reduced, involves building positivity in the mind by way of various positive mental exercises. These involve mixing up with people, sharing, giving, donating, socializing, reception, etc. Cultivating an opposite thought to a negative thought in the mind is the easiest way of tackling the negative thought. Calling all the people you know during these three days helps in creating social health.

The same was taught by Gandhi Ji as “ do not see evil, do not hear evil and do not speak evil”

The last three days involves reading and understanding good scriptures and learning from the sins of others.

Once you have concurred the negativity in the first three days (representing Kali) and have built up happiness and positivity in the mind (representing Lakshmi) the only thing left is to acquire spiritual knowledge (representing Saraswati). During these last three days a person is purified enough to understand and grasp the knowledge of ‘Self’ and to understands and discriminate between good and bad. One also learns to stay cool irrespective of the face of life being joyful or disturbing. One learns to continue his actions while detaching it with the results.

After the nine days of self-discipline is complete, the person acquires inner happiness which is nothing but one’s exposure or appointment with the true self or the consciousness ( Rama). That is what Dusshera is with killing of Tamas ( Kumbhakarana), Rajas ( Meghnath) and ego (Ravana).

And the birth of consciousness is equivalent to being in touch with birth of Lord Rama which is called “Ramnavmi”. Hence we should celebrate Ramnavmi as a disciplined way of acquiring internal happiness and not as a forced nine days of fasting.

The same interpretation lies in the Navratre ending up with Dusshera the win over the ego and attaining inner happiness.

About the author: Dr K K Aggarwal is Padmashri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee, President Heart Care Foundation of India, Dean Board of Medical Education Moolchand Medcity, Sr. Physician & Cardiologist, Chairman Ethics Committee Delhi Medical Council, Visiting professor Clinical Research DIPSAR, Past President Delhi Medical Association and Past Academic and Research Wing Heads IMA.