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Question
Dear Mr. Pandey,
I am trying to figure out what determines the level of life energy in a given food item. There is the concept of prana (which I understand is abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables, for example) and the concept of Ojas, which one obtains from certain tonic herbs and foods that are not necessarily fresh, often even in powdered form (which would seem to be "dead" from the point of view of prana). Cooking is also supposed to lower a food's prana content considerably. But there are apparently some substances, or energetic qualities, present in the ojas-producing herbs or foods, that exert their action regardless of how "living" the herb or food is?
Can you shed some light on this question? I would appreciate it very much.
Many thanks in advance and warm greetings!
Aaron Epstein

Answer
Hi Aaron,
I would like to clear your concept your views regarding Ojas. There are foods having three different characteristics i.e. Sattvic, rajasic and tamasic. Only Sattvic foods promote oajas within us. All the foods, which are raw, fresh, pure and easily digestible are sattvic foods. Fresh vegetables, fruits, honey, cow milk, and cow milk products like, curd, ghee, butter are sattvic foods. Rajasic foods are the hot and spicy foods, stimulants like teas and coffee, fish, eggs and meats, drugs, aphrodisiac (it includes herbs and foods) are rajasic foods. Onions, garlic, carrot are rajasic foods. Onion and garlic are considered by some spiritual texts as tamsic foods too. Wine, bear, alcohol, beef, pork, stale foods, left overs, over cooked and under cooked foods, over heated foods, tobacco, liquors, rotten foods, reused foods, drugs, aphrodisiac are tamasic foods. Onions, garlic, some drugs and aphrodisiac are considered both rajasic and tamasic. If you prepare a food and keep it in refrigerator for more than three hours and again recook it, it becomes tamasic.
Remember, only sattvic foods have Ojas creating properties.
Ojas also depends on how one eat a food. Eating in haste turns a sattvic foods into rajasic. It also depends on in which environment / surroundings and with what intention the food has been prepared. The nature of cook also is responsible for the foods' characteristics. That's why in India the conservative Brahmins do not eat foods prepared by persons who are not of sattvic nature.
If one is in anger or in any negative mood during cooking or eating even the sattvic food would have rajasic or tamasic effect. It has been seen that even rajasic foods or tamasic foods couldn't have their relative effect on the eater if the eater was in pure sattvic state of mind during eating. So, state of mind of the cook during cooking and the eater during eating has great impact on the characteristic of foods.


I am disciple of Swami Sivanada's Yoga tradition. Due to paucity of time, here, I am copying and pasting the views of that tradition on yogic diet.It will help you in understanding the concept of energy and ojas regarding foods:

A beginner should be careful in choosing food-stuffs of Sattvic nature. Food exercises tremendously vast influence over the mind. You can see it obviously in everyday-life. It is very difficult to control mind after a heavy, sumptuous, indigestible, rich meal. The mind runs, wanders and jumps like an ape all the time. Alcohol causes great excitement of the mind.

Evolution is better than revolution. You should not make sudden changes in anything, particularly so in matters pertaining to food and drink. Let the change be slow and gradual. The system should accommodate it without any trouble.

Food is only a mass of energy. Water and air also supply energy to the body. You can live without food for several days; but you cannot live without air even for a few minutes. Oxygen is even more important. What is wanted to feed the body is energy. If you can supply this energy by any other means, you can entirely dispense with food. Yogins live without food by drinking nectar. This nectar flows through a hole in the palate. It dribbles and nourishes the body. A Jnani can draw energy directly from his pure, irresistible will and support the body without any food whatsoever. If you know the process of drawing the energy from the Cosmic Energy, then you can maintain the body for any length of time and can dispense with food completely.

Food is of four kinds. There are liquids which are drunk; solids which are pulverized by the teeth and eaten; there are semi-solids which are taken in by licking; and there are soft articles that are swallowed without mastication. All articles of food should be thoroughly masticated in the mouth until they are reduced to quite a liquid before being swallowed. Then only they can be readily digested, absorbed and assimilated in the system.

The diet should be such as can maintain physical efficiency and good health. The well-being of an individual depends more on perfect nutrition than on anything else. Various sorts of intestinal diseases, increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, lack of high vitality and power of resistance, rickets, scurvy, anaemia or poverty of blood, beriberi, etc., are due to faulty nutrition. It should be remembered that it is not so much the climate as food which plays the vital role in producing a strong healthy body or a weakling suffering from a host of diseases. An appreciable knowledge of the science of dietetics is essential for everybody, especially for spiritual aspirants, to keep up physical efficiency and good health. Aspirants should be able to make out a cheap and well-balanced diet from only a certain articles of diet. What is needed is a well-balanced diet, not a rich diet. A rich diet produces diseases of the liver, kidneys and pancreas. A well-balanced diet helps a man to grow, to turn out more work, increases his body-weight, and keeps up the efficiency, stamina and a high standard of vim and vigour. You are what you eat.

Where can Sannyasins in India, who live on public alms get a well-balanced diet? On some days they get pungent stuffs only, on some other days sweetmeats only and yet on some other days sour things only. But they are able to draw the requisite energy through power of meditation. This unique Yogic method is unknown to the medical profession and to the scientists. Whenever the mind is concentrated, a divine wave bathes all the tissues with a divine elixir. All the cells are renovated and vivified.

Hope, it will help you in having a clear concept regarding Ojas. Feel free if you have any concern regarding the answer of your question.

Regards
Shashank Shekhar
http://www.liveperson.com/shashank-shekhar

PS
I was too busy for the last some days and hence couldn't answer you on time. I am extremely sorry for the late response of your question.
Shashank Shekhar

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