Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Three Gunas

Gunas are a concept in Samkhya Hindu philosophy.  The word "guna" is Sanskrit for "string;" it can also mean "single thread of a cord."  They each represent a type of principle or motivation in the human personality. While there are several types of philosophy that refer to gunas, the Samkhya philosophy recognizes three of them: Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva.  Together, these make up the Triguna.

The guna that is known as Tamas (literally translated as "darkness") tends to be a self-centered and slow-moving motivation.  It can be described as apathetic, lazy, and senseless.  Emotions and actions such as hostility, bad reasoning, and self-delusion can often be rooted in Tamas.

Rajas, which means "passion," seems to go toward extremes.  While it is indeed a passionate and active guna, it also has the tendency to go overboard.  Rajas is active, creative, emotional, sensitive, but can also anxiety ridden, overly boastful, and aggressive.

Sattva is translated as "goodness," and this is the guna which one should strive to allow to shine.  It corresponds to our better nature: industriousness, compassion, and focus on helping and caring for others as opposed to material attachments.

It is said that everything in the world corresponds to at least one of these three gunas.  According to Samkhya belief, they are separate entities, yet they are all still somehow attached to one another.  Passion cannot exist without Darkness, which cannot exist without Goodness, which cannot exist without Passion, and so on.  They are a part of each other, while being apart from each other at the same time.

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