25 Jan Unveiling of the 3 Gunas
Do you commonly experience that your mood fluctuates throughout the day? You feel lethargic in the morning and need gossip over coffee to kick start your office work. In the afternoon, you are in search for a meaningful life and decide to pursue spirituality. As the sun sets, you feel totally alive and all geared up to stretch and finish your project to give a hard competition to your colleague. But your Boss instead appreciates your colleague and you go to bed at midnight with an awfully upset and envious mind thinking about why life is unfair to you?
In the Holy book of the Hindu religion – Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, chapter 14, Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna that this constantly fluctuating nature of the mind can be attributed to the presence of the three Gunas (qualities):
- Sattva: characterized by calmness, truthfulness, tranquility, generosity, compassion, satisfaction, and discipline.
- Rajas: attributed with activity, passion, restlessness, dissatisfaction and envy of others.
- Tamas: is associated with sleep, laziness, anger, fear, anxiety, depression, negligence and a feeling of helplessness.
How are the Gunas connected to the mind?
Many spiritual traditions have viewed everything in the universe as part of an interconnected web of energy. In the last century, Science has also proved that everything in the material world is energy. These three Gunas are present in the material energy, and our mind is made from the same energy. Hence, all the three Gunas are present in our mind as well. All living species have a mind and thus all living creations in this world, are governed by the 3 Gunas in various degrees.
One Guna or Quality is always more dominant than the others in every creature. This predominant Guna affects our perspective about life and the world around us. For example, a person with high Rajas Guna is attracted to the pleasures of the material world, exerts himself for worldly gain and is usually restless.
Even while having 1 predominant Guna, we all experience mood swings as our temperament oscillates amongst the three Gunas in a given day as well. Swami Mukundananda beautifully states that they can be compared to three wrestlers competing with each other. Each keeps throwing the others down, and hence sometimes the first is on top, sometimes the second, and sometimes the third. In the same manner, the three Gunas keep gaining dominance over the individual’s temperament, which oscillates amongst the three modes. Depending upon the external environment, the internal contemplation, and the sanskārs (tendencies) of past lives, one or the other Guna begins to dominate. There is no rule for how long it stays—one Guna may dominate the mind and intellect for as short as a moment or for as long as an hour.
Typically, the external environment that surrounds us most of the time, determines which Guna will predominate and which two will become subordinate in a day. For example, because there is abundance of rajasic environment around us, we are easily overpowered by this Guna even with the slightest association. The tamasic Guna is the one most easily triggered, in the Kaliyuga. For example, when somebody condemns us, our spontaneous reaction is to lash back at that person.
Yoga and Meditation trains the mind for sattvic attributes and thoughts. However, some people are easily attracted to the path of spirituality, due to already existing sattvic qualities whereas some others need exposure to a sattvic environment in abundance or more persistently, to experience the sattvic traits.
A balance of these three Gunas is quintessential to our perceptions and way of life. Read more on how we can influence the three Gunas of the Body and the Mind.