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Three Gunas and Their Significance in Hinduism


According to the Hindu sacred books, our bodies are made up of three kinds of energies, namely the Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The qualities that we possess depend on the proportion of these three elements in the body.

The Three Gunas

Guna in Hinduism basically means tendency. It speaks of the tendency of a human towards a particular incident or a particular task. It fundamentally refers to a quality of a human being. The three Gunas in Hinduism are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. It is believed that every human being possesses all the three Gunas in different proportions. All the three Gunas have a share in the human body. The more one Guna is there, the more related qualities a person will possess. Let us understand them further.


What Is Sattva Guna?

"Sattva" refers to the element of purity and piousness. It relates to Godliness and is constructive by nature. It aims at bringing harmony. Thus, the first, Sattva is the highest of the three Gunas and is symbolic of a pristine self, replete with calmness and composure.


What Is Rajas Guna?

"Rajas" is the second Guna. It relates to passion and motion. It promotes activeness of the body. It aims at bringing action and results. Rajo Guna or Rajas keeps us attached to the materialistic world and its lures. The second Guna thus, is descriptive of a self-centred attitude towards life and people.


What Is Tamas Guna?

The third Guna is the "Tamas". Tamas relates to ignorance and darkness. It brings in negativity and bad qualities and prevents the person from achieving knowledge. Thus the third Guna is a tendency that symbolizes ignorance and arrogance.

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The Three Gunas And Associated Qualities

Satva Guna renders the qualities of patience, tolerance, love and happiness. It blesses the person and brings awareness. These qualities match with those of a sage. These take a man towards self-awareness. Love, happiness, kindness, etc., all belong to the Satva Guna.

Rajo Guna bestows the qualities of action. These do not allow the man to sit idle and force him to work. These are the qualities of a king. The word Rajo Guna has been derived from the hindi word 'raja' or ruler. So, the man always strives to be the ruler and the controller of the surroundings. The Rajasik mind remembers the bad deeds of others and instructs the body to react in a similar way with the person. It, therefore, keeps the man entrapped in the cycle of desires and outcomes.

Rajo Guna bestows the 'sansarik' qualities, which are anger, lust, want, etc. It pushes the man towards the sensations. It has likes and dislikes as well. A Rajo Guni person makes use of the senses, and acts accordingly, running for the fulfilment of the desires and his satisfaction.

The Tamas or the Tamo Guna brings the qualities of a demon. It brings cruelty, laziness, and ignorance. These qualities categorize a man in the lowest strata of humans and keep him under an illusion. He is the unaware one, and remains so if he stays under the control of his Tamasik qualities.

However, Satva Guna is the best among the three and is of the highest order. It increases a person's potential. It makes him fit to live in any and every situation.


The Importance Of The Three Gunas

Possessing the Satvik qualities does not at all mean the person becomes a hermit. In fact, while he knows the Satva, or the reality of the life and the world, he can strive towards the attainment of materialistic goals with a more aware mind. That is why Sattvikta, the state of possessing Sattva Guna has been prescribed in the Holy Gita as well. The importance of these qualities has been discussed in all the religions, including Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and others, in different ways.

The Rajo Guni strives for the achievement of materialistic goals for his own inner pleasure. The Sato Guni, on the other hand, understands the need of the action and is not attached with the result just like the Rajo Guni is. His happiness is not affected by the outcome. He is in the state of an equilibrium.

This is what Krishna explains to Arjun in the Gita, before the war between the Pandavas and the Kouravas. While Arjun is bound to take Rajsik actions of fighting for the throne and aiming for victory, he also knows that the bigger aim behind the war was the establishment of Dharma on earth. Krishna tells him that he must see the war as a need and should not attach himself with the outcome. Fighting the war was a circumstance that he had to deal with, but one must not wait for the outcomes.


Which Guna Should We Ideally Possess?

As humans, we must refrain from breeding the tendencies of Tamas, for we automatically slip into a lower level of vibration and will be unable to attract positivity from our lives. The protective forces of the universe also do not protect us during the hour of need when we fail to adopt the tendency of Sattva. Moreover, if we dwell in the state of Tamas and are controlled by the state of Rajas, we are bound to never discover our truest potential in the realm of human existence.


How Can We Possess The Satvik Qualities?

So, to become a possessor of the Satvik qualities, one definitely does not always need to be a sage and renounce the world. We should refer to the ideals given by Lord Krishna and try to act accordingly, in order to achieve the best qualities of the universe, the Best Guna Satva Guna. While Tamasik Gunas are completely unhealthy and dangerous for the growth of the man and his spiritual intellect, Rajasik Gunas still have a tendency towards improvement and attainment of the Satvik nature.

While these qualities depend a lot upon the Zodiac that we are born under, they, of course, can be controlled and managed through yoga and spirituality. It is said that people must choose their career according to the Guna that is the most dominant pushes people to adopt the Sattva state, a state that is free from undue misery. The Sattva state is a state of supreme joy no matter what situations may be encountered in life through spirituality.

Spirituality does this by teaching us the ways to control our thought processes. The ways of regulating these qualities might be physical in nature, including the eating habits, the time we wake up, etc., or they may be mental, such as through meditation or breathing exercises. Practices that awake the Satvik qualities all are undertaken for this transition towards the Satva Guna. After all, action leads to action and then to character.

Read more about: spirituality yoga
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