Gunas Theory

Gunas - Qualities that Affect all Aspects of Our Lives

We often get completely involved in the grosser aspect of our lives, the nuts and bolts things, and consequently don't realize the subtler things that influence our lives in a significant way.

Yogis, in their on-going effort to improve themselves, try to shape their lives and consciousness by both the grosser external aspects and also the subtle forces or qualities which pervade every aspect of their existence. These subtle forces or qualities are called gunas. When properly understood and applied in a scientifically correct manner, the proper understanding of gunas can very effectively mold one's consciousness and character. Furthermore, understanding these principals helps make sense of all of the things that are happening around us. It's as though a light flashes in our heads, and we think, "Yes, that seem so obvious. Why didn't I see that before?"

Gunas pervade everything. They cover much more than just the physical plane. Subtle things like speech, smell and even thought are better understood within the context of gunas. There is nothing that we experience that does not fit into one of the three guna categories. They can be applied to experiences, environments and even desires. They help to give us a very clear picture of how things affect our minds.

One of the areas in which a practical knowledge of the gunas is essential is food. Foods shape our thoughts and our consciousness. Next month, when we discuss the practical application of this philosophy, we will go into this in more detail.

Of the three gunas, sattva (purity) is of the foremost concern to yogis. Sattvic things make both the body and mind healthy. They uplift ones consciousness and help one's higher nature to come into play.
Rajas is the quality that makes the mind active, passionate or restless. It is that aspect which is continually moving, which doesn't allow the mind to be quiet and peaceful.

Tamas is the gunas which projects a dull, lazy or lethargic energy. Tamasic things bring our energy right down; they tend to make us almost inert.