Shojin Ryori inspired yogic diet

What is Shojin Ryori?

Shojin ryori, otherwise also known as temple or Buddhist cooking, is one of the classic Japanese cuisines. Shojin ryori was introduced to Japan from China by the monk Dogen, the founder of Zen Buddhism, whose practice emphasizes seated meditation. Buddhist tradition forbade killing animals for human consumption, which was believed to cloud the spirit and interfere with meditation. As a result, the meals they ate were made without meat or fish and also abstained from the use of pungent flavors like garlic and onion. These principles became the foundation of shojin ryori.


A typical shojin ryori meal is centered around soybean-based foods like tofu along with seasonal vegetables and wild mountain plants, which are believed to bring balance and alignment to the body, mind, and spirit.

What is Yogic Diet? Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic?

Before we talk about Yogic diet specifically, we need to understand what is “Guna”. Guna is a Sanskrit word that signifies “rope”. In an abstract use of the word, it can signify “subdivision”, “species”, “type” and generally “quality”. According to the Bhagavad Ghita, a Guna is the subtlest quality in nature and exists in all human beings, in various grades of concentration and combination, moving in different physical, emotional and mental levels. Basically, they are three qualities that compose the universe.


Guna is one of the three tendencies: Tama (dull, inertia, ignorance), Sattva (grace, kindness, pure), and Raja (passion, energy). They are in charge of categorizing behaviors and natural phenomenon, and can be utilized in medicine as well. Ayurvedica is used in diagnostic systems with various conditions and diets. According to Ayurveda, medicine and food are Sattvic, Rajasic, or Tamasic, or a combination of the three. 

As such, the food that we eat can be also classified into three types – Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Here is a quick look at some foods and how they are categorized.

Sattvic FoodsRajasic FoodsTamasic Foods

Grains such as rice, wheat, and oats, legumes, moong dal (whole green gram)

Meat and fish, excessively spicy, salty, and sour foods

Meat and fish, white flour, food with preservatives, food kept overnight

Fresh green vegetables such as spinach, green beans, steamed vegetables with moderate spices

Pungent vegetables, excessive intake of potato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower

Foods with excessive starch, canned and tinned food

Fresh fruits such as pomegranates, apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes

Jams, jellies, flavored and preserved foods

Jams, jellies, flavored and preserved foods

Fresh fruit and vegetable juices

Wines, alcoholic drinks, soda, cola, and coffee

Hard liquor like whisky and rum

Fresh or lightly roasted seeds and nuts

Fried food, roasted and salted food, and mustard

French fries, chips, foods preserved with salt

Fresh buttermilk, fresh curd (yoghurt), butter, and ghee (clarified butter).

* Fresh milk is Sattvic but once pasteurized, it turns a little Tamasic.

Sour milk and cream

Too cold or pasteurized milk, curds, and cheese

Coconut oil, sesame oil, and olive oil


Excess intake of fats, oils, sugars, and pastries

Spices such as ginger, cardamom, dalchini (cinnamon), saunf (fennel), dhaniya (coriander), and haldi (turmeric)


Chilies, garlic, onions, pickles, and vinegar


Honey, jaggery and raw sugar

Brown or black chocolate

White sugar and white flour

(Reference: Written with inputs from Dr. Sharika Menon, Vaidya, Art of Living)  

Being of Sattvic or “pure” mind is the goal when we practice, and this quality is also present in the food that we eat. Ideally a yogic diet would be rich in sattvic foods, which are freshly prepared, light and healthy and do not go to any extremes of tastes.  

According to Ayurveda, this is the best diet for a Yogi to adopt. It helps purifies our body and calms the mind.

Shojin Ryori inspired yogic diet – what’s on the Menu?

Now, it is not hard to tell Shojin Ryori diet is somehow largely in line with what we envision for a sattvic diet. That said, Shojin Ryori diet might contain certain elements that we wish to modify or remove to make it 100% sattvic. Foods in Shojin Ryori diet that we might want to avoid: tempura (deep-fried foods are generally considered Tamasic), miso, or fermented soybean paste (fermented foods are generally considered Tamasic), mushroom (considered tamasic because it grows in the dark).


For that, here is a Shojin Ryori inspired menu curated just for yogis! Bon appetite!



Option A: Brown Rice

Option B: Soba




Steamed vegetarian gyoza

Chawanmushi (egg-option)/ Tofu (vegan-friendly)



Option A: Vegetable salad with roasted sesame dressing

Option B: Vegetable shabu-shabu


Dessert: seasonal fresh fruits

Drink: buckwheat tea