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Home page > Vaidya Atreya Smith > Rasa means nourishment

Rasa means nourishment

The Caraka Saṃhitā is considered to be the most authoritative text on Āyurveda in India.

The Caraka Saṃhitā states that nourishment of the human body is derived from Rasa in the section Sūtrasthāna, Chapter 26, Sūtra 9.

“.… the source material for the manifestation of Rasa is based in the primary category of matter related to cohesion; nourishment & emaciation are the actions of Rasa ….”

The Sanskrit word Rasa is defined in the Monier-Williams dictionary as coming from the root Ras and means, “the juice, liquid, fluid or essence of any plant or living substance”. However, it can also mean the fluid or liquid essence of the human body. The word Rasa in Āyurveda often means the categorization of taste, or taste as a sense, and so can even be used to indicate the tongue which is the organ of taste.

Then again the word Rasa also means something more profound according to the Monier-Williams dictionary. It states that Rasa can mean “the inclination for something” or even “love, affection and desire” either generally or directed towards something. The dictionary further states that Rasa can indicate “charm, pleasure, delight” and the “feelings or sentiment prevailing” in an object or situation. Additionally, Rasa can indicate “tranquility or contentment”.

Rasa means:

- the essence of any living substance
- juice, liquid, fluid
- taste, the sense of taste, the tongue
- love, affection, desire
- charm, pleasure, delight
- feelings, sentiment
- tranquility, contentment
- the inclination for something

Nourishment according to Āyurveda is: “Any substance, when taken correctly, that sustains tissue metabolism, gives contentment to the mind, and evokes emotions such as delight is considered nourishing”

Why would the oldest, most respected text of Āyurveda use a word that has so many different meanings to indicate nourishment? This is because Āyurveda recognizes that to nourish the human being all aspects of the physiology and psychology must be taken into account.

By this definition a substance that has all the necessary vitamins and minerals may not be considered “nourishing” in Āyurvedic thought. According to this concept nourishment is something that should invoke a profound effect both physically and psychologically in a person. Perhaps it is like smelling your favorite meal as a child and having those odors stir memories of love and affection that surrounded your early home life. This example would indicate that something more than just tissues and fluids are being nourished and maintained by food. Thus, from the Āyurvedic point of view our senses interact with food to extract nourishment, pleasure, happiness and even love.

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