Ayurveda provides a special language for understanding the primal forces of Nature and shows us how to work with them on all levels. According to Yoga and Ayurveda, Nature consists of three primal qualities, which are the main powers of Cosmic Intelligence that determine our spiritual growth. These are called gunas in Sanskrit, meaning “what binds” because wrongly understood they keep us in bondage to the external world.
From tamas comes the power of ignorance that veils our true nature. From rajas comes the power of Imagination that projects the world and puts us in bondage to the multiplicity of the external. From Sattva comes the clarity or peace through which we can perceive the truth.
1) Sattva - intelligence, knowledge, purity, imparts balance
Sattva means the quality of stability, harmony, virtue or being (sat). It is said to be light in nature and luminous. It has inward and upward motion and brings about the awakening and development of the soul. Sattva gives happiness. It is the principle of intelligence.
2) Rajas – energy, action, passion, causes imbalance.
Rajas means the quality of attraction, turbulence or activity. It is said to be mobile and motivated. It possesses outward motion and causes self-motivated or self-seeking action that leads to disintegration, Rajas creates pain and suffering. It is the principle of energy.
3) Tamas – substance, inertia, ignorance, creates inertia.
Tamas means the quality of dullness, darkness and inertia. It is said to be heavy and veiling or obstructing. It has downward motion and causes decay, degeneration and death. Tamas causes delusion. It is the principle of materiality.
Since both the external world and the internal world of the mind are made of matter, the qualities of the three gunas are seen in both.
For example, in the external world we see:
Sattva -- equilibrium and serenity
Rajas -- dynamism and movement
Tamas -- inertia and stagnancy
In the internal world of the mind, these are experienced as:
Sattva -- Purity, compassion, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, comprehension, recognition, generosity, patience, kindness.
Rajas -- Desire, greed, jealousy, anger, attachment, possessiveness, hyperactivity, nervousness, anxiety, aggressiveness, competitiveness, power, prestige, name and fame.
Tamas -- Impurity, dullness, envy, fear, delusion, confusion, depression, stupor, unconsciousness, coma.
One of the factors that influences the quality and strength of the material quality that predominates in your mind is your destiny. Otherwise, because the mind has an adoptive nature, it is also strongly affected by the quality of your environment and associations. It is also influenced by the quality of the food you eat.
The three gunas are the most subtle qualities of Nature that underlie matter, life and mind. They are the energies through which not only the surface mind, but our deeper consciousness functions. They are the powers of the soul which hold the karmas and desires that propel us from birth to birth. The gunas adhere in Nature herself as her core potentials for diversification.
All objects in the universe consist of various combinations of the three gunas. Cosmic evolution consists of their mutual interaction and transformation. The three gunas are one of the prime themes of Ayurvedic thought. They form a deeper level than the three biological humors (Vata- Pitta-Kapha) and help us understand our mental and spiritual nature and how it functions.
Sattva is the quality of intelligence, virtue and goodness and creates harmony, balance and stability. It is light (not heavy) and luminous in nature. It possesses an inward and upward motion and brings about the awakening of the soul. Sattva provides happiness and contentment of a lasting nature. It is the principle of clarity, wideness and peace, the force of love that unites all things together.
Rajas is the quality of change, activity, and turbulence. It introduces a disequilibrium that upsets an existing balance. Rajas is motivated in its action, ever seeking a goal or an end that gives it power. It possesses outward motion and causes self seeking action that leads to fragmentation and disintegration. While in the short term Rajas is stimulating and provides pleasure, owing to its unbalanced nature it quickly results in pain and suffering. It is the force of passion that causes distress and conflict.
Tamas is the quality of dullness, darkness, and inertia and is heavy, veiling or obstructing in its action. It functions as the force of gravity that retards things and holds them in specific limited forms. It possesses a downward motion that causes decay and disintegration. Tamas brings about ignorance and delusion in the mind and promotes insensitivity, sleep and loss of awareness. It is the principle of materiality or unconsciousness that causes consciousness to become veiled.