Ayurveda Aur Hum

Ayurveda Aur Hum

Trigunas (Satva, Rajas and Tamas) – The three fundamental features of nature

According to Ayurveda, man is made up of the five basic elements of nature, Panch Mahabhutas, that is, Akasa (Ether or Space), Vayu (air), Tejas (fire), Ap (water) and Prithvi (Earth). These five elements have evolved in man to form the different body organs and organ systems, out of which the five sense organs (the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and the nose) form the senses through which man perceives the external world in five different ways. Through these sense organs, the external object is not only felt, but also absorbed into the human body in the form of energy. This energy composes the human body in the form of three basic humors, known as the tridosha (three doshas).1,2

The Tridoshas are also formed from Panch Mahabhutas, in Vata dosha, the mahabhuta involved are air (Vayu) & space (Akasa); in Pitta dosha, fire (agni) and water (Jala) are involved, and in Kapha dosha, water (Jala) & earth (Prithvi) mahabhuta are involved.[i],2 These humors (tridoshas) psychologically correspond to Trigunas (Satva, Rajas and Tamas), which play an important role in the manifestation of personality in humans.

The concept of Guna dates back to Atharva Veda, it was discussed in Bhagawad Gita and later included in Sankhya Darsana. The concept of Triguna has been utilized to explain the concept of personality in modern era as well.

The development of consciousness is apparently rooted in this concept of Triguna. These are known as (sattva) called as stability; rajas called as activation and tamas called as inertia. Manas has been ascribed the functions which are mental functions and mental processes (manovritti, manopravritti). They are considered to be manifestations of Triguna. These psychological features are not restricted to humans alone, but are also attributed to almost all living beings, including the food we eat, animals around us and all other elements in the environment we live in. Each living being is said to have a predominance of one or the other feature, Guna/Prakriti, which gives that matter its unique quality.[ii]

All human beings are combinations of the three gunas and therefore these three features together promote different kinds of personalities based on the dominance of one or the other Gunas. Each personality can be deduced based on his/her mode of worship, the type of food consumed and other activities of everyday life.[iii]

The Sattva Guna3

Sattva guna is mainly the “spiritual quality”. When sattva guna is dominant, a person has natural desire to be good and caring. In such individuals, the mind and senses are at a constant, and an understanding to differentiate between desirable and undesirable, and undutiful and dutiful action prevails.

The sattva dominant people consider work as their duty. They perform work with calm understanding and free of doubts. When sattva is dominant a person pays homage to divine and spiritual values. Strength and respect for Gurus (teachers), nonviolence, meditation, kindliness, silence, self-control, and purity of character are common traits of sattvic action. One of the limitations of sattvic guna is that it binds people through attachment to happiness and knowledge. The sattva guna also brings with it the problem of goodness.

Qualities in a Sattvic personality:

  • Mental strength
  • Respect for Gurus (teachers)
  • Non-violence
  • Kindness
  • Silent demeanour
  • Self-control
  • Meditative

The Rajas Guna3

Rajas guna is nothing but the “active quality”. Rajas guna in people drives more passion and desire in them, which may subsequently lead to greed, activity, taking up work, and restlessness. People with rajas-dominant personality are full of attachment and a desire to get rewarded for their actions. Due to the dominance of self-interest in these individuals, they have a distorted picture of what’s right and what’s wrong. These individuals refrain from detachment and abandonment. Enthusiasm, interest, and activity are some of the attributes of this guna.

Qualities in a Rajas personality:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Interest
  • Activity & work driven
  • Restlessness
  • Desire
  • Greed 

The Tamas Guna3

Tamas guna is essentially the “material quality”. Tamas arises from hopes and illusions, and it makes people prone to qualities such as ambiguity, idleness, fantasy, and persistence. Some common characteristics of Tamas-dominant people include cautiousness, apprehensiveness, and tendency to seek revenge. Tamasic guna also suggests disillusionment and cynicism.

In people with tamasic guna, happiness is short-lived and usually originates and ends in self-delusion. One positive quality of tamas personality is their willingness to work very hard. On the other hand, one limitation of tamas personality is easy attachment to possessions and self-centred tendencies.

Each Guna gives certain typical qualities to the person, based on which an individual can be classified as belonging to that particular Guna type. Ayurveda describes seven classifications of human personalities based on combinations of these Gunas and their dominance with respect to each other.2

The Trigunas are thus the foundation for all existence. They are contained in balance by Prakruti (nature). When this balance is disturbed, there is an interaction of the gunas, which eventually endangers the evolution of the universe.1

Qualities in a Tamas personality:

  • Cautiousness
  • Apprehension
  • Revengeful
  • Hard working
  • Materialistic

References

[i] Lad V. Ayurveda: The science of self-healing: A practical guide. Lotus press; 1984.

[ii] Shilpa S, Murthy CV. Understanding personality from Ayurvedic perspective for psychological assessment: A case. Ayu. 2011 Jan;32(1):12.

[iii] Srivastava K. Concept of personality: Indian perspective. Industrial psychiatry journal. 2012 Jul;21(2):89.