rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirā hṛdyā
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 17.8
Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
No commentary by Srila Prabhupada.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
It is well known that sattvika foods increase the life span (ayuh). They also increase strength of will (sattva) as well as physical strength, freedom from disease, happiness and delightfulness in eating them. The food should be tasty or juicy (rasyah). Jaggery has taste but is coarse or dry. Sattvika food should also be mild, with oil (snigdha). The foam of milk, though tasty and mild, is insubstantial. Sattvika food should be substantial, with long lasting effect in the body (sthira). Jack fruit and other items are sweet, mild, and substantial, but are not beneficial to the stomach and other organs. Sattvika food should be beneficial to the heart, stomach and other organs (hrdya) as well. Thus it is understood that foods such as rice, wheat, other grains, milk and sugar are dear to the sattvika people, because they have all four of the above mentioned qualities. As those foods are dear to them, the foods are understood to be sattvika. However, even if food has those four qualities, if it is impure, the sattvika people do not like it. Thus, purity should be added as a quality of sattvika food. One should compare the description of tamasic food mentioned later. The adjective used to describe tamasic food is amedhya, ritually impure, not to be offered in sacrifice.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
17.8 To a man endowed with Sattva, foods preponderating in Sattva become dear. The foods preponderating in Sattva promote longevity. Again they promote intellectual alertness. ‘Sattva’, means internal organ, viz., knowledge which is the effect of the internal organ is here meant by the term Sattva. For the Sattva is the cause of growth of knowledge, as declared in: ‘From Sattva arises knowledge’ (14.17). Even as the food preponderant in Sattva is the cause of the growth of knowledge, likewise, they promote strength and health; they also promote pleasure and happiness. As the time of assimilation they, by themselves, promote happiness, viz, by the performance of actions which cause happiness. They are sweet, viz., abundant in sweet juices. They are mixed with oil, viz., wholly oily. They are substantial, viz., they originate substantial effects. They are agreeable viz., they appear to the eye in beautiful forms. Food of this kind, full of Sattva-guna, is dear to the person characterised by Sattva.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Foods that bequeath longevity, full of energy, bestow good health and vigour with happiness and satisfaction are relished by those in sattva guna the mode of goodness. Such foods in sattva guna particularly increase life and are juicy, savoury, rich and nourishing, like invigorating serum which remains long in the body and are agreeable and pleasing to the palate. Foods of this type which are chewed, licked, sucked and drunk are relished by those situated in sattva guna.
Foods that are excessively bitter, sour, pungent, salty, spicy, dry or burning are very much liked by those situated in raja guna the mode of passion. Such foods cause pain even while eating them which leads to distress of the body, misery, depression and subsequent disease and sickness all produced by these foods.
Food cooked more than three hours before, that is cold, tasteless, without aroma, stale, decomposed and foods that are amedhyam or forbidden for offering to the Supreme Lord such as meat, fish, fowl, eggs, wine, alcohol, garlic, onions and mushrooms which come from fungus and are impure are preferred by those in tama guna the mode of ignorance.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Eating foods that are of sattva guna the mode of goodness are pleasurable. Joyfulness is the immediate result. Whatever continues to be pleasurable is joyous to hrdya the heart. Even if all foods are cooked they all do not get digested the same. Ghee and honey are absorbed into the body directly, fruits take an hour to digest and vegetables and grains up to six hours. Some foods although bitter are agreeable to health such as kerala or bitter melon and some foods although sour like yoghurt are agreeable to health if not taken at night. Both of these are of sattva or goodness. Such is the nature of the pious and the saintly and that nature is maintained by the intake of foods that are sattva. The Shabda Niranya states: Hridyam is that which is pleasing to the heart and makes one desire for more. Pleasure is what is pleasing for the moment. Sukham or happiness is that which continues to keep one joyous long after the activity has ended. That food which retains its agreeability even after consuming repeatedly is rasyam which is delicious and nutritious.
But when foods are excessively bitter, spicy, salty. sour, pungent, etc. and result in discomfort and misery culminating in sickness and disease they are of raja guna the mode of passion. The food which is eaten more than three hours after it is cooked is known as yatama. When the food is tasteless it is also called yatayama. Food that once was flavourful but later becomes later has no taste is known as gatarasyam. The Suddhasastra states that one devoted to serving the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations should thoroughly understand the nature and quality of food.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna commences with the three-fold divisions of foods with the words ayuh-sattva meaning promoting longevity. Food that promotes spiritual knowledge which is the quality of intelligence has been corroborated previously in chapter XIV.XVII stating that: Wisdom verily arises out of sattva guna the mode of goodness. Whereas greed and lust are the by products of raja guna the mode of passion and lethargy and nescience is produced by those in tama guna the mode of ignorance. The word bala meaning strength and refers to food that gives the power to perform one’s duty. Foods that are pleasant to eat, that bestow mental tranquillity, that are sustaining and easily digestible, that are nourishing and their essence remains invigorating the body even after digested are the foods which are dear to those endowed with the qualities of sattva guna.
Foods which are extremely acidic, salty, spicy, pungent and bitter such as azadirachta indica or burning such as chillies which burn the mouth, throat and stomach simply bring about distress and misery which leads to sickness and disease. The prefix aty meaning extremely at the end of the word lavanaty meaning extremely bitter applies to all the descriptions up to vidadhinah which means burning. Such foods are dear to those characterised with raja guna.
Foods which are half cooked, insipid, stale, tasteless, polluting, contaminated or leftovers from someone and foods that are forbidden to offer to the Supreme Lord such as meat, fish, fowl, eggs, onions, garlic, mushrooms, wine, alcohol, etc. are the foods of choice for those situated in tama guna.
The obvious conclusion is that those who are spiritually motivated and desire their best self interests should conscientiously avoid all foods characterised by raja guna and tama guna and resort exclusively to foods that are of sattva guna.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
17.8 Aharah, foods; ayuh-sattva-bala-arogya-sukha-priti-vivardhanah, that augment life, firmneess of mind, strength, health delight; [Life-a brilliant life; firmness of mind or vigour; strength-ability of body and organs; happiness-pleasure of mind; delight-great joy even at seeing other persons prosperous.] and which are rasyah, succulent; snigdhah, oleaginous; sthirah, substantial, lasing in the body for long; [Beneficial to the body for long.] and hrdyah, agreeable, to one’s liking; are sattvika-priyah, dear to one endowed with sattva.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
17.7-10 Aharah etc. upto tamasapriyam. What is old : that for which [three] yamas have elapsed [after cooking].
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
rasyah snigdhah sthira hrdya
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
āyuḥ — duration of life; sattva — existence; bala — strength; ārogya — health; sukha — happiness; prīti — and satisfaction; vivardhanāḥ — increasing; rasyāḥ — juicy; snigdhāḥ — fatty; sthirāḥ — enduring; hṛdyāḥ — pleasing to the heart; āhārāḥ — food; sāttvika — to one in goodness; priyāḥ — palatable.