Ayurvedic philosophy provides an idea of the creation of the universe, from which the concept of Trigunas (Tri – 3 and Gunas – Qualities) of Nature is evolved out.
According to the philosophy of Ayurveda, there was just Darkness (un-manifest) in the onset of creation which implies Purusha (Consciousness) and Prakriti (Nature). The universe is the union or combination of Prakriti and Purusha (the Female and male aspects of creation).
Prakriti manifests itself in every gross or subtle, living or non-living, matter in the universe whilst Purusha is the cause behind moment (or life) of that matter.
Both are abstract entities according to Samkhya Philosophy, with Purusha remaining unchanged or inactive and Prakriti staying active and changeable.
What Are Trigunas?
There are 3 forms through which Prakriti manifests itself in a matter, known as Trigunas or 3 qualities of Nature. The word Prakriti also consists of 3 root words
- Pra means Sattva Guna
- Kr means Rajas Guna
- Ti means Tamas Guna
Trigunas combines in different composition to develop the 5 elements of the body, which also known as Pancha Maha-Bhoota.
|Triguna/ Combination of Trigunas||Predominant Elements of the Body|
|1. Sattva||Akasa (Ether)|
|2. Rajas||Vayu (Air)|
|3. Sattva + Rajas||Agni (Fire)|
|4. Sattva + Tamas||Jal (Water)|
|5. Tamas||Prithvi (Earth)|
Further 5 elements fused together to form tri-doshas.
Characteristics of Trigunas
Look around yourself & within you, every single thing, living or non-living contain characteristics of trigunas.
The matter surrounding you is movable, Blood continuously circulates is because of Rajas Guna (activity) present in nature and the body.
You able to stop your mind fluctuations for a while in meditation practice, it’s only possible because of Tamas Guna (inertia) present in mind.
On the other hand, remember the times when mind swings from here to there, it’s because of Rajas Guna. Also, In the state deep meditation, when you feel your inner-self, the joy comes out of it is because of Sattva Guna (balance).
Trigunas presents everywhere.
Got the picture?
Sattva Guna Characteristics
Sattva is the state of balance between activity and the inertia. Sattvic state characteristics are happiness, wisdom, spiritually connected, compassionate, lightness in body & mind, self-control, concentrated, gratitude and selflessness. Sattva Guna symbolizes with white color.
Rajas Guna Characteristics
Rajas Guna is known for ‘fickling & activity’ state among trigunas. Characteristics of Rajas guna are desire, fear, depression, and anxiety, selfish, excited, workaholic, ambitious, chaos, restlessness and angry. Rajas Guna symbolizes with Red color.
Tamas Guna Characteristics
It has the nature of being underactive while rajas guna has overactive and sattva has balance. Tamas or TamoGuna is lowest in trigunas. It symbolize with Dark color. It signifies Illusion, ignorance, mental dullness, laziness, greed, confusion, attachment, and heaviness.
Trigunas and Personality
You might have heard, this/that person has a good personality. What does personality mean?
Trigunas have been utilized to explain the concept of personality in the modern age.
Trigunas are the primary attributes of your existence as a human being that helps in shaping characteristics of everything of material or immaterial in you. These 3 qualities, in different proportions, lead you to behave, react, conceptualize, and comprehend the nature of your surroundings differently.
A Study published in reserachgate describes:
The characteristics of inherited Gunas by an individual can be changed due to physical, psychological and social influences. Also, it leads to determination of behaviour of an individual at that particular time.
The proportion of each Guna may rise or fall anytime that certainly affects your personality and traits pertaining to a specific Guna or combination of Gunas.
How Trigunas Affect Personality?
Any changes whether it’s physical, mental, or psychological occurs in a human being, has the root 5 elements which composed the body. These 5 elements perceived in the body through 5 physical senses. Further, data collected through senses passed through mind, intellect and then modified according to the dominant Guna.
Hence, Guna is the final step which influences the Personality of a person.
Every person has some ego according to which they perceive processed data according to their intellect (Buddhi). As showing in the above illustration, Trigunas are stemming out of ego, which is also called I-sensor or modifier, decides the personality of a person.
Now, in the end, what comes out as a result of raw data (collected through 5 senses) is called the Personality of a person and it depends upon the trigunas which dominant at a particular time.
The Person With Sattva Guna
Sattva refers to Pure hence indicates your personality type as such. Sattva Guna is the positive and spiritual quality that, when dominant, you have a natural tendency to be kind, caring, and Hence possesses Sattvic Personality.
Sattvic Guna is present in a correct proportion in you if you are:
- Mentally Strong
- Respect your Teachers (Gurus)
A person with dominant Sattva Guna is calm towards his work and duty differentiating between the desirable and undesirable circumstances.
The more sattvic your nature is, the more drawn you are to love, compassion, kindness, and attachment to happiness. So you shall remain healthy and disease-free in this state.
There are 7 types of sattvic personality a person is found in. know here which one you are!
The Person With Rajas Guna
Rajas people are very desirous and full of attachment. Due to their acute self-interest, sometimes they may face difficulties in differentiating between right and wrong. It’s called Rajasic Personality.
Rajas Guna is in the balanced proportion if you are:
- Deeply Interested
- Dedicated to Work
Raja refers to Passion, which lies in between Sattva and Tamas acting as a catalyst or a bridge. Rajas balance Sattva and Tamas to create the motivation, creativity for inspiring change, movement, and right action.
If Rajas Guna in a person got imbalanced, it has a converse effect whose predominance may hype Anger, Agitation, or Anxiety. There are some natural ways to reduce the excess of Rajas guna.
The Person With Tamas Guna
Tamas means Darkness, which indicates the psychological state of Illusion, negativity, dullness, and inactivity. The state of the dominance of Tamas Guna is indicated by the selfish, uncaring, cynical behavior & hence called Tamasic Personality.
Once you observe a change in your Tamasik Guna, you will experience:
- Timely Sleep
- Balanced Diet
- Openness to others
- Appreciative in nature
- Concerned about others
- Active towards helping others
A person having imbalanced Tamas Guna can experience its effects in short-lived happiness, materialism, possessive feelings, and a keen desire to harm others.
A book 1 written by Harish Johari categorized People in 7 types based on the trigunas. These 7 types are the following.
People with dominant Sattva Guna.
People with dominant Rajas Guna.
People with dominant Tamas Guna.
People with dominant Sattva–Rajas Guna combination.
People with dominant Sattva–Tamas Guna combination.
People with dominant Rajas–Tamas Guna combination.
People with balanced Gunas or with Sattva–Rajas–Tamas Guna combination.
The above list of Gunas shows that:
Trigunas never exist in isolation in a person and always act in conjunction with each other. Even trigunas compete with each other and dominating guna decides the Personality of a person.
Till now, you would have know which personality belongs you well, based on Trigunas.
Now the question arises, how can we manipulate Gunas within us for our and others’ wellbeing?
Balancing the Gunas
Gunas in itself is not a physical quantity but its presence can be seen by these 3 means:
- Action we perform
- Intention behind the action,
- And, Reaction.
By paying attention to these 3 points, we can work on balancing the Gunas lies within us.
The Action & The Intention
All action is universally engendered by the attributes (gunas) of primordial nature (prakriti). A man whose self is deluded by egoity thinks, “I’m the doer” – Bhagavad Gita 3:27
Initiation of action begins with the intention behind it. To get the Guna behind the action, Ask yourself these questions every time you begin work:
- Why I am doing this (Intention)
- How I am doing this (Manifestation)
Sometimes, at a certain stage of life, you might be doing work which has Sattvic intention (Why I am doing this) but its manifestation (How I am doing this) could be Tamasik or Rajasic.
For example, Being a thief, a person stole something to fulfill the requirements of their family. Here the Manifestation (How he does it) is Tamasik but the intention (Why he does it) of thief could be Sattvic. But the predominant Guna is Tamas.
Pay attention to the Intention and manifestation of work and you would be able to balance the predominant Guna. Here, the role of how we act to the result of work begins.
How you react to the result of work is what you become and it’s the one that will linger, grow, and multiply within you.
Again in the same example, if the thief contemplates the action he has done (stealing), his heart must be filled with sorrow, dullness, and insult (because sattva was there in his intention).
This thought process of reacting to the action could change his mind (Though it has very low chances) and his Tamasik nature could be transformed into Sattva.
Rajas Guna: A Step From Tamas to Sattva
Though everyone’s thought would be to escalate the ratio of Sattva Guna and while they do so, they overlook the overall balanced state of these three combined. The approach hence should be to upkeep all the three Gunas without focusing too much on particular quality.
An escalated ratio of Sattva leads you to feel spiritually egotistic, while the one with Rajas can make you greedy and workaholic, Tamas, on the other hand, makes you ignorant.
Method to follow is to work on transforming your Tamas into Rajas, and when Rajas is attained balance it to bring focus on Sattva lifestyle.
Tamas to Rajas
For Example, if you are feeling Tamasik quality (depressed, anxious, irritated and lazy) in your nature, undo its predominance by engaging yourself more in physical yoga asana, meeting with positive people, traveling to new places, and eating the light food. These activities will help you to lift up your energy level (from inactivity to activity – From tamas to Rajas).
Rajas to Sattva
When you feel activeness in your nature, it’s the sign of predominance Rajas Guna. Now you would be more energetic in this stage, as compared to before (in tamas guna).
To bring focus on Sattva from Rajas, engage yourself in activities like meditation, reading, non-profit works, and simply you can follow Yamas to balancing the excessive energy within you.
- Dhanwantri: A Complete Guide to Ayurvedic Life [Source]
Most of us are aware about sad gun (good habits) & bad gun ( bad habits). But many of us are unaware of how human beings unconsciously & subconsciously are dominated by those characteristics.
With conscious efforts & practice, one can change own personality from Tamas to Rajas & finally can achieve Sattva.
Nice post & detailed explanation by the author.
Thanks for the post.
Can I balance the happening of 3 gunas just by observing the nature of my Karma? The way “balancing of Gunas” is explained through thief story sounds quite interesting but in my opinion it’s not possible to implement it in all aspect of life.
Indeed, a great explanation on trigunas.
SHIV IS PARUSHA AND MAA PARWATI IS PRAKARTI
WITHOU PRAKARTI SHIV IS ALSO SHAV (DEAD BODY)….
OM NAMAH SHIVAY
A very detailed explanation. Thanks for the post.
Shiva King of Yogis Lord of the Univers is nirguna absolute pure spirit being beyond all phenomenon
The Nistha Nirvanam absolute emptiness devoid of all content the unsurpassing all transcendent enlightment of the Buddha Sakyamuni Buddha the Tataghata the Buddha of immense compassion.
3 gunas are the part of nature i.e. Prakriti. Anything that is beyond Prakriti is unaffected by the Gunas & that is Purusha (absolute consciousness). In yoga, Shiva is considered the prime source of consciousness that pervades in all beings.
Absolute consciousness is that something which sees the play of Gunas but never gets affected by Gunas, It’s called Nirguna. Hence Shiva is nirguna.
I came to know about the concept of gunas after listening it first time in my philosophy class. I was very curious to learn how 3 gunas & personality of a person is interconnected but i didn’t get it clearly during my class.
The way it’s defined using mind’s process of collecting data from 5 senses made it very easy to understand connection between personality and gunas.
Thank you for clarification, Ashish.