The Three Gunas: How to Balance Your Consciousness
Posted on: Saturday,July 4th 2009
We live in a magical universe filled with great forces of life and death, creation and destruction. Divine powers can be found everywhere to lift us into a greater peace and understanding. But, “undivine” forces are also ever present, working to lure us down further into confusion and attachment. Truth and falsehood, ignorance and enlightenment form the light and dark, the illumination and shadow of the world. In this basic duality of creation, we struggle not merely to survive but also to find meaning in our lives. We must learn to navigate through these contrary currents so that we can benefit by the ascending spiritual force and avoid the descending nonspiritual inertia. Nature herself is the Divine Mother in manifestation and the universe is her play of consciousness. She provides not only for material growth and expansion that moves outward, but also supports our spiritual growth and development, which moves within. Nature possesses a qualitative energy through which we can either expand into wisdom or contract into ignorance. Nature functions through conscious forces, spirits if you will, which can be either enlightening or darkening, healing or harming. Most of these powers are unknown to us and we do not know how to use them. Trained as we are in a rational and scientific manner to look to the outside, we lack the ability to perceive the subtle forces hidden in the world around us. However, for any real healing of the mind to be possible, we must understand these forces and learn how to work with them as they exist, not only in the world but also in our won psyche. Ayurveda provides a special language for understanding the primal forces of Nature and shows us how to work with them on al levels. According to Yoga and Ayurveda, Nature consists of three primal qualities, which are the main powers of Cosmic Intelligence that determine our spiritual growth. These are called gunas in Sanskrit, meaning “what binds,” because wrongly understood they keep us in bondage to the external world.
The three gunas are the most subtle qualities of Nature that underlie matter, life and mind. They are the energies through which not only the surface mind, but also our deeper consciousness functions. They are the powers of the soul which hold the karmas and desires that propel us from birth to birth. The gunas adhere in Nature herself as her core potential for diversification.
All objects in the universe consist of various combinations of the three gunas. Cosmic evolution consists of their mutual interaction and transformation. The three gunas are one of the prime themes of Ayurvedic thought and will occur throughout the book. They form a deeper level than the three biological humors and help us understand our mental and spiritual nature and how it functions.
SATTVA is the quality of intelligence, virtue and goodness, and creates harmony, balance and stability. It is light (not heavy) and luminous in nature. It possesses an inward and upward motion and brings about the awakening of the soul. Sattva provides happiness and contentment of a lasting nature. It is the principle of clarity, wideness and peace, the force of love that unites all things together.
RAJAS is the quality of change, activity, and turbulence. It introduces a disequilibrium that upsets and existing balance. Rajas is motivated in i8ts action, ever seeking a goal or an end that gives it power. It possesses outward motion and causes self-seeking action that leads to fragmentation and disintegration. While, in the short term, Rajas is stimulating and provides pleasure, owing to its unbalanced nature it quickly results in pain and suffering. It is the force of passion which causes distress and conflict.
TAMAS is the quality of dullness, darkness, and inertia and is heavy, veiling or obstructing in its action. It functions as the force of gravity that retards things and holds them in specific limited forms. It possesses a downward motion that causes decay and disintegration. Tamas brings about ignorance and delusion in the mind and promotes insensitivity, or unconsciousness that causes consciousness to become veiled.