In our daily life, we always identify things as Good and Bad. This identification can be wrong. Cause there is another one we miss…The one that is destined, pure. There is gray, in between black and white, right?
So according to Yoga Philosophy everything within the universe is composed of the Three Gunas, meaning that the qualities of nature. Why I am writing this down? Actually, does it matter to you to identify things, cases, even the food you have? It has to! In regards to attain consciousness, first step is to discriminate the real and unreal. So as I mentioned my last yoga post , in order to develop the inner peace and consciousness, we have to develop viveka (discrimination power) and vairāgya; dispassion. So if we discriminate things happening to us, we can have a clear sight. Let’s look at Three Gunas in detail, so that you can understand what I mean. But first, we are starting with some basic information regarding Vedanta.
Basics of Vedantic Terms
I have to start with some basic explanations first. There are some concepts you need to understand for the beginning. According to Vedānta Philosophy (the last parts of ancient Hindu scriptures), Brahman is the Infinite, Uncaused, Eternal and Supreme Reality. It is beyond all qualities or attributes, beyond subject and object. Brahman, cannot be defined or known by any process of the intellect. So the grate non-dualistic (Advaita) philosopher Śaṅkarācārya states Brahman as: “Brahman is real. The universe is unreal. The individual soul is Brahman.”
Ātman is the absolute consciousness in the individual. It is one with Brahman, without limitations. In brief, Brahman refers to the Absolute is seen in the whole universe, on the other hand, Atman refers to the Absolute is seen in the individual.
Jiva is the individual soul. If we define the limitations as Upadhis (body & mind), which veil the consciousness, we will have a equation:
Jiva = Atman + Upadhis
Individual Soul = Absolute Consciousness in the Individual + Limiting Adjuncts
Māyā, is the creative and illusory power of Brahman. Māyā manifests in the individual in the form of avidyā (ignorance). So this ignorance makes us forget our real Self (Atman), and we identify ourselves with the upadhis. The Self is identified with the uphadis, called Jiva. Jiva suffers, cause it identifies itself with limitations. Jiva will have to be born and reborn again until it realizes its true nature, which is Atman.
So now, we have some understanding of the basics of Vedantic terms. Now, it’s time to learn what are Three Gunas:
Three Gunas | Qualities of Nature
Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are the Three Qualities of Nature; Three Gunas. The three gunas have been compared to three strands which binds us to this illusory world. Maya has no existence indecent of the gunas. They are present in varying degrees in all objects gross or subtle, including the mind, intellect and ego. The gunas can be seen as operating at the physical, mental and emotional levels. Everything within the universe of Maya is composed of the three gunas.
At the end of a cycle, when the universe is drawn back into a state of non-manifestation, the gunas are in a state of equilibrium. At this time, Maya, in association with Brahman, exists as cause alone, without any of the manifestations. Then, due to karmic factors, the equilibrium of the gunas is disturbed and they begin to assert their individual characteristics.
Sattva manifests as purity and knowledge. Sattva binds a person with attachment of happiness. The qualification of consciousness is Sattvic. It manifests as focused mind, calmness and concentration.
Rajas manifests as activity and motion. It binds us with attachment to activity. It manifests as unfocused mind, agitation and restlessness.
Tamas manifests as inertia and laziness. It binds us with attachment of delusion. It makes us stubborn, lazy, apathetic and depressed.
These ‘three qualities of nature’ always exist together. There cannot be pure sattva without rajas and tamas, nor pure rajas without sattva and tamas and nor tamas without sattva and rajas. The difference between one being and another lies in the various preponderances of the gunas. As long as a person is attached to any of the gunas, he remains in bondage.
Yoga represents the scientific approach to the attainment of truth by going beyond nature and gunas. So truth lies beyond three gunas.
In conclusion, you can apply this knowledge to your daily life and observe your mind and body reacting to things you do, things you eat or you feel. As long as you observe, you can develop the discrimination power; viveka.
For example, you can observe your mind when you drink coffee. How it reacts? How is your heart beat when you drink coffee, and also how is your mind? It stimulates activity. So you can identify the quality of your nature at that time as rajas.
Or when you meditate… How do you feel? Do you feel unsafe? Or restless? No! Cause you step into Sattva. So that your mind becomes calmer, focused and the brain waves are slow also.
You can practice three gunas to the objects you see, the feelings you have or the condition of your body.
Don’t worry, I ‘ll write another post to detail and make it simpler soon. Thanks for reading!
*Source: Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Course Manual – 2016
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