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Being Mindful of the Tamas Inside Us

Sattva Rajas Tamas Gunas Yoga Sankhya

It is said that nature or Prakriti has three distinct qualities – Sattva (lucidity), Rajas (action), and Tamas (inertia). They are also referred to as Gunas (or qualities). All the manifest reality comprises is a combination of these 3 Gunas.

In the Dvaita or Dualistic system, the universe is a part of 2 distinct categories – Prakriti and Purusa. Prakriti is the physical universe as we experience it and Purusa contains the souls embedded in the universe. The catalysts in the evolutionary process are the 3 Gunas that are inherent in Prakriti.

The 3 Gunas – Sattva, Rajas, Tamas

These Gunas can be considered as threads of a rope. In Yoga, the mind is Prakriti; hence, all its thoughts are fundamentally a combination of these Gunas. At any given time, one of these Gunas is playing a dominant role.

When Sattva is predominant, the qualities of lucidity, tranquility, wisdom, discrimination, detachment, happiness, and peacefulness manifest. When Rajas is predominant, passion, energetic endeavor, attachment, and creativity activity manifest in us.

Tamas – The Least Favorable Guna

The least favorable of all Gunas is Tamas. When Tamas is predominant, stillness, ignorance, delusion, lethargy, sleep, and disinterest manifest. Any time we are lethargic, or don’t want to act it’s the Tamas Guna playing a predominant role inside us. Binge-watching, or binge-eating for instance is the tamas guna manifesting in us. We all know it’s harmful.

Increasing Sattva Quality through Yoga

One of the goals of Yoga is to maximize the proportion of the Sattva Guna of the mind and correspondingly decrease Rajas, and Tamas. When all the traces of Rajas, and Tamas are stilled, the mind attains its highest potential and displays all qualities inherent in Sattva. By concentration and meditation, the distracting influences of Rajas, and tamas can be curtailed, and the Sattva constitution of the mind can exhibit its full potential.

Increasing the Sattva quality helps. According to classical philosophy, the first evolute emerging from Prakriti when it is churned by Gunas is Buddhi, intelligence. Intelligence is characterized by discrimination, knowledge, will, virtue, detachment, and Sattva is the predominant quality in it. This essentially means that in the purest state buddhi is lucid, peaceful, happy, tranquil and has the power to discriminate. These are all qualities of Sattva.

25 Tattvas of classical sankhya philosophy. These include Purusa, Prakriti comprising of 3 Gunas i.e. Sattva, Rajas, and Tama.
Source: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin Bryant

Also Read
Basics of Yoga
Bhakti Yoga
Hatha Yoga
Yoga vs Sankhya (pdf)

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