This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007


Dimensions of Indian diet and their role in modifying the psychological aspects of the personality

M S Chaya — SVYASA, Bengaluru


We are what we eat. Holistic approach to diet and nutrition has gained momentum as the world is going through a variety of problems that are basically rooted in the wrong diets and sedentary lifestyles.

Mind and diet relate to each other in a double feed back fashion. What goes on psychologically affects the diet, digestion, absorption and ultimately the growth and development, and the resulting change in turn affects the psychological functioning, mood and emotions.

Yoga and Ayurveda have brought about the intimate connection between diet, mind and consciousness. Diet has an intimate connection with our soul, and the essence of what we eat reaches the soul. It is not only the food we cook and eat that is important, but also from which soil we get it, how it is grown, how it is harvested, how it is stored, how it is cooked, how it is served and how it is eaten that is equally important and not just the nutrients alone which modern science talks about.

Ayurveda talks about balancing the tri-doshas through the food to balance the personality, whereas yoga talks about the Gunas, mainly three- sattvik, rajasik and tamasik, for example sattva guna is a force that leads us to purity of mind and body, has an orderly state of mind, such a person is psychologically calm, kind, alertful and full of humility, whereas a rajasik person is always rushing, stimulated and stressed, full of desires and activity, and tamasik person is lethargic, dull and slow, full of negativities.

The food we eat has these Gunas and can influence our personality, these three Gunas are there in everybody in different proportions and we keep shifting between these Gunas i.e., rajasik to tamasik or sattvik. The food items also have these Gunas in different proportions as well and it is for us to choose and make judicious combination to enhance Sattva and reduce Rajas and Tamas. As the name suggests the later two Gunas dominating food makes one sick (SIK). The diet we take can lead us to form a particular personality. These Gunas are basically the behavioral and natural phenomena, which can be modified through the food we eat.

Though at the outset there appears to be differences in the Modern scientific concepts and ancient concepts, if we look at it deeply, there are a lot of similarities.

This presentation is aimed at how both the modern science and traditional wisdom of diet and nutrition can be integrated so that we can work with greater harmony with the environment and inner peace and wisdom.

The role of these diets in modifying the psychological aspects of the personality traits are discussed in this presentation.

Email the author, Dr. M.S. Chaya, at