The Gunas

By January 3, 2019 Yoga No Comments

The Gunas

The word Guna is a Sanskrit word that translates as “quality” and it represents the three-fold nature being; tamas, rajas and sattva. These three qualities or states combine in various proportions to give rise to the objects in the world, including ourselves. The Gunas go on changing every moment. Only the soul or purusha is beyond the scope of these transformations.

The three Gunas have the following qualities;

Tamas: structure, inertia, stability, darkness

Rajas: movement, activity, expansion/contraction,

Sattva: balance, pureness, harmony, light, purity

The three Gunas are present in all human beings but they are not constant. Sometimes sattva predominates, at other times Rajas or Tamas predominates. Human nature an be veiwed through the Gunas as;

Tamas: procrastination, laziness, dullness, depression, ignorance, lethargy

Rajas:  cravings, desire, greed, anger, passion, anxiety, discontentment

Sattva: knowledge, peace, harmony, goodness

The Gunas and food is a good one to understand and it may change your perspective on what you eat and when you eat.

Tamas: stale, frozen food, artificial additives & preservatives, long shelf life products, re-heated food

Rajas: spicy and hot food like onions, garlic, chilli

Sattva: fresh organic produce, food with low food-miles i.e. straight from garden to table, not overly stimulating, good food combinations i.e. lentils & rice, or corn & beans, food that is easy to digest.


Yoga & auspicious living

Yogic practices awaken sattva but this is more than just practicing asana and pranayama. In the Bhagavad Gita the practices of yoga which develop one into a Yogi are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga.

With continued and consist dedication to the path of yoga the mind becomes less influenced by the Gunas to a point where supreme awareness is achieved which is ultimately freedom from the Gunas which is a very high state of self-realization.

For most of us the everyday-life awareness of the Gunas gives one a practical starting point for living life auspiciously e.g. shifting behavior from tamas to rajas, or rajas to sattva. It is sattvic behavior which lifts the spiritual aspirant from the mundane and inauspicious living, to auspiciously living their lives.


Further reading

Bhagavad Gita –

Taming the Mind –