In Nisarga yoga, you see how you function, you watch the motives and the results of your behaviour. Before we can unravel the apparent blocks to living the life you are, you learn to watch your mind, and see and understand how it arises and operates.
The ‘Three Guṇas’ underpin the philosophy of mind in yoga. They are particularly significant in terms of their psychological manifestation. Guna means strand, attribute or quality, and in the Bhagavad Gita they are described as the very fabric of existence, the veil that obscures wholeness in a covering of duality. We can also think of the gunas as different levels of consciousness. Studying the gunas reveals how the mind is operating.
We can compare the strands of a rope to personality; the various strands, or gunas, entwining to create our individuality. Within each of us are a balance of the gunas. Remember, you are not limited to the person you take yourself to be – you are the One Life expressing yourself as a person for a while.
The three gunas are:
– Sattva (harmony, virtue)
– Rajas (energy, passion)
– Tamas (restraint, passivity)
The gunas have produced the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep (also named consciousness or harmony, activity and rest).
“The gunas form the basis of the most compassionate account of human nature… They not only explain differences in character; they describe the basic forces of personality and allow the possibility of reshaping ourselves after a higher ideal. Because personality is a process, the human being is constantly remaking himself or herself. Left to itself, the mind goes on repeating the same old habitual patterns of personality. By training the mind, however, anyone can learn to step in and change old ways of thinking; that is the central principle of yoga.” (Source: Eknath Easwaran)
“The various qualities or gunas entwine to produce the individuality of a person. The attribute of each guna is usually seen as psychological rather than physical, but the mind has great capacity to affect the physical side of your life.” (Source: Komilla Sutton)
“[All] three are always present at some level of awareness, and their proportions change: their interplay is the dynamics of personality.” (Source: Eknath Easwaran)
It’s important that we recognise both the gifts and the challenges that the gunas have to offer us.
“The guṇas are continually interacting and competing with each other, one guṇa becoming prominent for a while and overpowering the others, only to be eventually dominated by the increase of one of the other guṇas.” (Source: Edwin Bryant)
Our behaviour is the result of the “three gunas”, taught Nisargadatta Maharaj.
“All desires aim at happiness. Their shape and quality depend on the psyche (antahkarana). Where inertia (tamas) predominates, we find perversions. With energy (rajas), passions arise. With lucidity (sattva) the motive behind the desire is goodwill, compassion, the urge to make happy rather than be happy. But the Supreme is beyond all, yet because of its infinite permeability all cogent desires can be fulfilled.” (Source: Nisargadatta Maharaj)
“It is in the nature of sattva to reconcile and neutralise tamas and rajas and rebuild the personality in accordance with the true nature of the self. Sattva is the faithful servant of the [true] self; ever attentive and obedient.” (Source: Nisargadatta Maharaj)
Complete this three gunas personality quiz to find out which of the gunas is currently dominating your personality
Rajas is the quality of taking action. This guna indicates an outward search for the answers of life. You are driven by a great inner thirst. As you seek recognition, respect and success, you might be a high achiever.
Tamas is the attribute of darkness or ignorance. You may sometimes / often feel apathetic, lazy, sluggish, fearful, foggy and prone to depression and sadness. You may avoid situations, feel tired a lot of the time and lack motivation. You find it easy to sleep and habitually move yourself away from stress, but may experience periods of loneliness.
Sattva is the attribute of purity and lucidity. You are mostly calm, easy-going, accepting, contented and have your focus on realising your true Self / Truth. You’re very discerning and have a mind for clarity. You put others first and lead a compassionate and orderly life. The attainment of self-realisation is important you.
You do well to balance the other two gunas and mostly utilise them well. You probably find it quite easy to do self-inquiry and meditation. You follow the light and your intuition. You believe in purity of being, thought and action.
While sattva is thought to be the most ideal guna to have, too much of it can make us dysfunction in the physical world. It’s all about balance, but balance comes easy to a truly sattvic person.