In this post, we’ll explore the 3 Gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), defining exactly what they are, their characteristics, how they impact us mentally and physically and more.
What Are Gunas?
Gunas translates literally from Sansktrit to quality and refers to the properties that combine to determine the nature of everything in the cosmos ― from energy to matter to consciousness.
These three attributes are intimately connected ― continually interacting with and effecting each other ― dominating or submitting. Their dance shapes our perception of reality and combines to form our psychology and physiology.
The 3 Gunas
There are 3 Gunas: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. All 3 are necessary: without Sattva one would not be inspired, without Rajas one would not move and without Tamas one would not sleep.
The 3 Gunas are present in everyone but in different proportions.
Sattva is associated with the soul. Rajas is associated worth the mind. Tamas is associated with the body. Ultimately therefore, our job is to harmonize all 3 Gunas by bringing balance to the mind, body and soul.
Below we’ll explore each of the 3 Gunas in more detail.
Sattva translates literally from Sanskrit to pure. Its direction is upward. It carries a neutral charge and represents being. It is light and peaceful and thus, it calms the mind and body and creates health and healing.
Rajas translates literally from Sanskrit to passion. Its direction is outward. It carries a positive charge and represents movement. It is active and aggressive and thus, it stimulates the mind and body and creates anxiety and agitation.
Tamas translates literally from Sanskrit to dark. Its direction is downward. It carries a negative charge and represents inertia. It is ignorant and dull and thus, it dulls the mind and body and creates decay and depression.
Below is a table summarising the characteristics of the three Gunas.
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Gunas & Food
In line with the 3 Gunas, there are 3 types of food: Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Each type of food impacts the mind and body and ultimately the three Doshas differently. Below we’ll explore each of them in more detail.
Sattvic foods are sweet in taste and thus they calm the mind and body.
Sattvic foods are pure and high in nutrients. They are easy to digest, increase life-force energy and ultimately and create health and well-being.
Examples of Sattvic foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, ghee, nuts, honey and herbal teas.
Ayurveda teaches that Sattvic foods should be embraced.
Rajasic foods are spicy in taste and thus stimulate the mind and body.
Rajasic foods are neither pure nor impure and neither high nor low in nutrients. They neither increase nor decrease life-force energy and are neither healthy nor unhealthy.
Examples of Rajasic foods include onions, garlic, chillis, refined sugar, coffee, tea and tobacco.
Ayurveda teaches that individuals who engage in strenuous physical activities should consume moderate quantities of Rajasic foods. Consuming Rajasic foods in excess can lead to imbalance.
Tamasic foods are heavy in taste and thus dull the mind and body.
Tamasic foods are impure and low in nutrients. They are hard to digest, decrease life-force energy and ultimately create sickness and disease.
Examples of Tamasic foods include meat, fish, eggs, alcohol, non-vegetarian foods, foods that are overcooked, burned, fermented, fried, barbequed and full of preservatives.
Ayurveda teaches that Tamasic foods should be avoided.
Gunas Foods Table Summary
Below is a table summarising the characteristics of the 3 Gunas in the context of food.
The three Gunas are a harmonious trinity of energy that are the cause of all creation, both animate and inanimate.
Sattva is light and peaceful and it calms the mind and body and therefore creates health and healing. Rajas is active and aggressive and it stimulates the mind and body and therefore creates anxiety and agitation. Tamas is ignorant and dull and it dulls the mind and body and therefore creates decay and depression.