Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, the three Gunas
In Hinduism the gunas are in the traditions of Sankhya, Yoga, Bhagavad – Gita and Ayurveda three main qualities whose interaction produces all forms of “creation” which emanates from the Prakriti, the Original Nature. They are the three fundamental qualities of Prakriti, the Primordial Nature. They are very subtle, they are the causal factors of creation; without them no life process!
The science of the three gunas as the science of the five elements is a pillar of Ayurvedic and Vedic science.
- Sattva : stability , harmony, virtue. Satva is light, brightness. It provides enlightenment, development of the soul, brings joy. This is the principle of all intelligence.
- Rajas : turbulence , movement , motivation and passion. Rajas is selfishness, it leads to disintegration. It creates pain and suffering, emotional fluctuations (fear, desire, love, hatred). This is the principle of energy.
- Tamas : dullness , darkness, inertia. It hinders and hides, is a passive force blockage. It causes degeneration and death . It gives the illusion leading us towards ignorance and attachment. This is the principle of materialization.
The three Gunas
These three forces are required in ordinary activities, but also have spiritual implications. In manifestation the three Gunas differentiates, Sattva gives birth to the mind generates Rajas and Tamas the vital force creates the form and substance through which the body takes birth.
There are three fundamental laws that manage the Gunas :
- The law of alternation : they are constantly in dynamic interaction , the three forces are interconnected and affect each other in various ways.
- The law of continuity : the Gunas tend to maintain their specific nature during a specific time when they are dominant, for example Rajas becomes Tamas and retains this quality for some time.
- The night Tamas, becomes sunrise as Rajas, Rajas passes to day as sattva . This is done gradually and alternately.
Originally the five elements includes the Gunas:
- Ether comes from Sattva , clarity
- Fire comes from Rajas and energy
- Earth comes from Tamas , inertia
- The air comes from Rajas and Sattva, lightness and movement
- The water comes from Rajas and Tamas , movement and inertia
In Ayurveda we often use the three Gunas to define the Mental. Harmonious if it is Sattvic or heavy if it is Tamasic , Rajasic if it is agitated.
The mind is balanced, clear-sighted if the three Gunas are in harmony. But it is Sattva which manages everything because it is the right balance between Rajas and Tamas .
That’s why yoga and meditations are designed to increase Sattva to find peace and harmony of mind and to be one with nature .
Gunas are factors of illness but sometimes healing :
Sattva brings health , Rajas and Tamas disperses energy by its inertia and leads us to degradation. Feeding Sattva can destroy the disease but it is sometimes powerless against it because it is too tolerant.
But these are temporary methods and it needs to be controlled because the balance remains Sattva. Chronic diseases are in general Tamasic because Tamas results in an accumulation of toxins and waste at the physical and mental level. Very painful diseases are the responsibility of Rajas representing pain.
Health is a state of Sattvic adaptation and balance, preventing any excess.
To determine the mental constitution of an individual, we use tables of habits, qualities and defects.
How to control the Gunas and move towards Sattva which is the highest quality regarding spiritual growth:
- Food is very important , avoid very spicy food, alcohol , meat, any heavy and greasy food, better use fresh, organic products. The goal is to purify the body .
- Practicing yoga , meditation and mantras will purify the mind.
- Avoid too much sleep, get up early is Sattvic.
- Develop spirituality , compassion, pure feelings
For each type of Prakriti corresponds a state of the Gunas . Vata can be Sattvic , Rajasic or Tamasic – same for Pitta and Kapha.