Understanding Your Energy - Three Gunas ModelContext ·
There is an Indian philosophical concept called Gunas which is found in nearly all Hindu schools of philosophy. It consists of three Gunas that are present in all objects and all beings in the world.
The Gunas are a useful model to apply in your life when meditating or in daily life. It defines how your energy levels are. Gunas also give you context so you know how and when to switch your energy levels.
These three Gunas are called Tamas (darkness, destructiveness, lethargy, chaos); Rajas (passion, activity, will, confusion); Sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious, euphoric, exalted, high).
All three Gunas are present in all beings and objects surrounding us but vary in their impact. We humans have the unique ability to consciously change the level of state of the Gunas in our bodies and mind. This is an act of will. The Gunas are a natural part of our psyche and form a rhythym as our bodies and minds each cycle through the three Gunas. They cannot be taken out of our psyche but we can learn to observe them inside ourselves and adjust their impact on us.
The Three Gunas
Tamas is a state of darkness, inertia, inactivity and materiality. It’s a feeling of being wiped out, hungover, lethargic. Traditionally it’s said that tamas manifests from ignorance and deludes all beings from their spiritual truths.
To help reduce tamas avoid tamasic foods, over sleeping, over eating, over drinking, inactivity, passivity and fearful situations. Light exercise is one way to overcome tamas assuming the body is already rested. Tamasic foods include heavy meats, and foods that are spoiled, chemically treated, processed or refined.
Rajas is a state of action, change and movement. The nature of rajas is one of attraction, longing and attachment and rajas strongly binds us to the fruits of our work. It is will in action and at these times you are likely to find yourself working, being wilful, achieving and being absorbed in your tasks. You are achieving your desires.
To reduce rajas avoid rajasic foods, over exercising, over work, loud music, excessive thinking and excessive materialism. Rajasic foods include fried foods, spicy foods, and stimulants.
Sattva is a state of harmony, balance, joy and intelligence. Sattva is the Guna that meditators and yogi/nis strive towards as it reduces rajas and tamas and thus makes higher states of consciousness including ‘liberation’ possible.
Working with the Gunas
To increase sattva reduce both rajas and tamas, eat sattvic foods and enjoy activities and environments that produce joy and positive thoughts. Sattvic foods include whole grains and legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables that grow above the ground.
All yogic practices were developed to create sattva in the mind and body. So meditating, fasting periodically, practicing yoga and leading a yogic lifestyle strongly cultivates sattva.
Indeed, could this be part of the solution to today’s modern lifestyle ills? Certainly cultivating or restoring a more sattvic state of consciousness (mind and body) would allow one to deal with stress, anxiety and many other ills of the 21st century.
The key to working with the gunas is to change state by moving to the next Guna. For example if you aere feeling tamasic, try a little light exercice to get your stagnant energy going. Recognising you are in satva, withdraw inside yourself by meditating or, rest so that you may byild on your satva state.
The mind’s psychological qualities are highly unstable and can quickly fluctuate between the different gunas. The predominate guna of your mind acts as a focus that effects our perceptions and perspective of the world around us.
Thus, if your mind is in rajas it will experience world events as chaotic, confusing and demanding and it will react to these events in a rajasic way. You see these people at work or the gym all the time.
Similarly, people whose mind is more sattva may enjoy that state - a natural high from yoga or meditation, or from achieving a goal and the bursting from the rajas to sattvic states. Conversely euphoria may cause people in sattva to turn to alcohol or drugs to celebrate and extend the sattvic cycle.
In our day to day life we cycle from tamas to raja to sattva then collapse to tamas again from which the cycle renews. This can happen over minutes, to hours, to days. Meditation (and yoga) helps to limit the tamas and extend the sattvic states without the use of stimulants.
All gunas create attachment and thus bind one’s self to the ego. Tamas to the couch, rajas to excessive thinking and busyness, sattva to thrills or highs.
“When one rises above the three gunas that originate in the body; one is freed from birth, old age, disease, and death; and attains enlightenment” (Bhagavad Gita 14.20).
While the goal is to cultivate sattva, our ultimate goal is to transcend their misidentification of the self with each of the gunas and to be unattached to both the good and the bad, the positive and negative qualities of all life.
To that end, meditation offers that separation out, bringing the mind, body and ephemeral aspects of ourselves into alignment and relief from the 21st century.