the three gunas

the three gunas

According to the yogic philosophy, the entire creation is made up of five elements. And each of these five elements has three primary qualities (gunas). These are:

  • Sattva (clarity, harmony, righteous action),
  • Rajas (passion, activity, restlessness), and
  • Tamas (negativity, laziness, darkness). 

Everything in this creation, including us humans, is governed by these three qualities. They also depict our states of consciousness, such as wakefulness, dream, and sleep state.

The three gunas also manifest in other forms. Our food can be Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic. Our thoughts and intellect can be Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic. Our attitude and actions can be Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic. 

These three qualities are present in all objects and living beings in various degrees. And at any given time, one guna is always more present or dominant than the others. When Sattva dominates in your life, then Rajas and Tamas stay behind the curtain and their effect is minimal. When Rajas dominates, Sattva and Tamas are in the background. And when Tamas dominates, then Sattva and Rajas are in the shadows, and their effect is the least. This interplay of gunas is the entire mechanism of life and existence in the world.

These three qualities emerge in cycles, one after the other, and it is natural to experience each of them from time to time. Sometimes you feel happy, joyful, and alert (Sattva). Sometimes you feel confused, sad, and burdened with too many things to do or too many goals to accomplish (Rajas). And sometimes you just feel dull, sleepy, and lazy (Tamas). 

We as human beings have the ability to consciously change the levels of the gunas in our bodies and minds. By altering the presence and influence of external objects, diet, lifestyle, and associations, we can increase or decrease the qualities. Whichever guna is predominant will have a direct impact on how we perceive the world around us. It will affect our thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, actions, choices, attachments, and other aspects of our nature. That’s why it’s recommended to always work towards keeping our levels of Sattva high by leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle. 

Spiritual practices such as meditation and chanting mantras can help you in this regard. In addition, practicing yoga and pranayama, living a non-violent lifestyle, surrounding yourself with positive and uplifting people, participating in selfless and benevolent deeds, and performing activities that bring you and others joy enhance the sattvic elements in your mind and body.

Always remember, the higher the Sattva, the more happiness, positivity, and clarity one experiences.