Transcending Virtues (Gunas) From Darkness (Tamas) to Light (Sattva)

The Gita articulates about the three “gunas”, interpreted variously as “qualities”, “virtues”, “properties”, of which one and all consists, in various proportions. These are sattva (knowledge, harmony, clarity), rajas (zeal, activity, purpose), and tamas (unawareness, confusion, devastation). These are the three basic individualities or attributes that are present in all things, together with your body and mind. As soon as you realize how these gunas work, you will be able to comprehend better and steer your inner world and to work with what life is offering you.

In terms of activity, these gunas can be considered in the following way:

  • Tamas = inertia
  • Rajas = movement
  • Sattva = balance

In terms of colors, these gunas can be contemplated in the following way:

  • Tamas = black (the dearth of all colors)
  • Rajas = the different colors (even though customarily represented as red)
  • Sattva = white (the amalgamation of all colors)


The Three Gunas: Tendencies — Past, Present and Future

The divine origins of personality and propensity have been traced through a body of wisdom that has subsisted since earliest times. In Vedic philosophy, human inclinations, behaviors, personalities and characteristics are largely classified into three groups or Gunas:

  • Tamas — regressive, indolent, and dwelling in the past
  • Rajas — action oriented, insistent and ahead of its time
  • Saatvik or Sattwa — balanced, reasonable, focused on the present as well as on self-improvement

In the present day, every human being has each of these three gunas or personalities within. However, the Saatvik personality grants us a higher and more progressive state of subsistence than Rajasic personalities. This, in turn, grants us a higher awareness than Tamasic personalities.

Each of these Gunas has its purpose. Let’s understand it first of all.

  • Saatvik – The term ‘Satta’ means the qualities that offer love, kindness, wisdom, understanding, intellect, affection and forgiveness. So Satvik is the heavenly qualities and helps us in going towards divinity.
  • Rajasic – The term ‘Rajasic’ refers to a self-seeking desire, obsession, aggression and impulsiveness. It creates violence, competition and binds in this selfish world.
  • Tamasic- These are the qualities that block us from understanding the joy and wisdom. It refers to inactivity, darkness, steadiness, lack of knowledge, attachment and the like.

Tamasic Tendencies 
People subjugated to Tamasic tendencies are typically indolent, boring, low-activity individuals who are dwelling in the past and more expressive and grumpy than normal. On the positive note, they can also be the cheering influence in a few circumstances. By and large, they may show signs of stronger bonds of love and fondness. At times, it may become too strong for their good as well as the good of others. They are not serious-minded persons and cannot be counted upon for enthusiasm and acting to attain essential goals. For instance, dreamers who accomplish very little are naturally subjugated to Tamasic tendencies. Furthermore, they are controlled by others. But on the positive side, they turn out to be the ones who tend to be significantly involved in family life.

Rajasic Tendencies 
On the positive note, Rajasic tendencies drive accomplishment, vitality, planning as well as thinking. But on the negative side, they can push you to the extreme, making you destructive, dominating and exceptionally ahead of the time. In incredibly severe cases, Rajasic tendencies can lead to sadistic behavior. Excessive Rajasic personality may cause you to question the status quo continually — often needlessly, as for the most part; strong self-centered tendencies are driving you. Unnecessary, baseless insurgence, attempts to abandon any sense of right or wrong, and rebellious or oppositional feelings originate from these tendencies. Dominant Rajasic tendency might cause you to become shallow, fake, mechanical, insensible, inconsiderate or even devoid of emotions such as affection, love and empathy. People with Rajasic tendencies are dominating and insistent and may go to any lengths to oblige themselves or their thoughts on others.

Saatvik tendencies
Saatvik tendencies help you maintain a sense of poise, allowing you to continually tune your personality and behaviors each time the balance swings towards edges. Saatvik tendencies provide us with the power of seeking, or the capability to aspire to and accomplish the higher reaches of spiritual advancement. The Saatvik personality strengthens your moral compass, expanding your intuitive sense of right and wrong and further developing your character and strengths.

Since the quantity of the three Gunas in a person can be changed, an individual must try to move from tamas to rajas and further from rajas to sattva.

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