The mind, according to the three gunas


The three gunas reflect the three prime attributes or qualities of nature: Sattva (clarity), Rajas (distraction), and Tamas (dullness). These qualities are constantly in flux, moving and interacting with each other. The exact interplay of the gunas at an individual level defines the essential qualities of everyone and everything.

So why is it important to understand them? The gunas help us comprehend our psychology and implement lasting changes in our life.

What are gunas?

Just like the doshas reflect our body constitution, the gunas help us understand our mental constitution. But they move a little differently. The gunas are not static; you move through all three in the space of one day.

In thinking about how the doshas and gunas work together, it can be useful to picture perpendicular lines. The doshas sit along a horizontal line, with each of us placed at one fixed point along it. The gunas are on a vertical line, beginning in Tamas, moving through Rajas, and finally arriving in Sattva.  

Moving through the gunas in this way helps us foster peace of mind and spiritual growth. Identifying where we sit along each line provides a precise indication of where we’re at in life.

This is the first goal: understanding where we are. Then, we dance between the gunas to balance ourselves before ultimately transcending all three.

It’s important not to approach the gunas as mere cognitive tendencies or emotional characterisations. They reflect our present mental state and allow us to make choices that lead to a more balanced and harmonious life.

Take our gunas test to find out your individual mental constitution. This test allows us to identify where we are, and start making positive changes to improve our quality of life. It doesn’t matter where you start, it matters that you start!

Image Credit: NisargaYoga

Image Credit: NisargaYoga

The three gunas

SATTVA (The mind itself)

Harmony, balance, order, stability, purity, and clarity.

Naturally, our minds are clear and pure. This is the Sattvic state. But as we become attached to the external world, our mind becomes obscured by negative thoughts and emotions.

Enlightenment and self-realisation occur through pure Sattva. This is what awakens our consciousness. You know that feeling where your heart and head seem perpetually at odds? Sattva is what brings them back to unity. The fundamental power of healing for both our minds and bodies exist within Sattva.

Trying to picture the Sattva type? Imagine someone exhibiting divine virtues and clarity of mind. A pure Sattva resembles a saint or sage from the days of old. It is incredibly rare to have a highly Sattvic nature.

Sattvic types are content, joyous people who follow the wisdom of nature and look internally for peace and happiness.

Reach out if you want to know more about your personal mental state and want to take action.

RAJAS (Mental turbulence)

Dynamic, energetic, agitating, changeable, and disturbing.

Most of us fall into the realm of Rajas. It’s the central condition of our culture today.

Rajas exhibits aggressive traits and hostility. Easily distracted, Rajasic types are hyperactive and overstimulated. They can also be prone to disturbing thoughts.

Seeking fulfillment in the external world is the manifestation of Rajas. Disturbed thoughts, manipulation, and the ego all exist within it. Rajas seeks power, entertainment, and external stimuli.

Trying to picture the Rajas type? Imagine someone who is successful outwardly but lacks internal sensitivity and awareness. They are charismatic and powerful.

Rajasic types are busy, agitated people who are always moving and motivated, looking externally to achievements and material possessions for happiness.

Reach out if you want to know more about your personal mental state and want to take action.

TAMAS (The dark dullness)

Heavy, inert, negative, lethargic, resisting, and dull.

Tamas is the mind clouded by fear, ignorance, and apathy. When our mind is overtaken by external or subconscious forces, we can become resistant to change. Tamas lacks clarity, sensitivity, and focus.

Tamasic types tend to respond only to their own physical needs. It is often born out of excessive Rajas. Think about how you feel after running a marathon. It’s likely you’ll be exhausted. Similarly, after periods of over-stimulation in Rajas, we fall into the depressive lethargy of Tamas.

Trying to picture the Tamasic type? Imagine someone sleepy and inattentive, with deep blocks and low energy. Filled with despair, they are prone to depression and apathy. Pure Tamas leads to incapacitation, addiction, and severe psychological issues.

Tamasic types are negative, inactive people who are trapped in darkness and struggle to see the possibility for peace and happiness.

Reach out if you want to know more about your personal mental state and want to take action.

Image Credit: Unbroken Self

Image Credit: Unbroken Self

Moving through the gunas

In order to move from one guna to another, we need to take all aspects of our lives into account. Have we balanced our lifestyle such that it feels harmonious? Or does it cause stress and anxiety? What about apathy and boredom?

Reflect on your workspace. Does it invite Rajas (chaos and high pressure)? Does it invite Tamas (negativity and conflict)? Or does it provide Sattvic clarity and calm? The same goes for your living environment.

Pay attention to how you feel after you do something. Sometimes we can feel good while we’re doing something, but it comes with significant consequences later on.

Balancing Tamas

To reduce Tamas, it is recommended to avoid:

  • Oversleeping

  • Overeating

  • Passivity

  • Inactivity

  • Tamasic (dulling) foods: processed foods, meat, alcohol, bread, eggs, and sugary foods.  


Balancing Rajas

Self-discipline is necessary to restrain our Rajasic traits. To reduce Rajas, it is recommended to avoid:

  • Over-exercising

  • Over-working

  • Loud music

  • Excessive thinking

  • Excessive purchase of material items

  • Rajasic (stimulating) foods: fried food, spicy food, sugar, chocolate, onions, garlic, salt, and stimulants.


Increasing Sattva

When it comes to Sattva, the goal is to increase these tendencies. To achieve this, we must reduce our Rajasic and Tamasic tendencies. We should also seek out positive environments and engage in activities that spark joy.

We can also increase Sattva through consumption of Sattvic (fresh) foods like whole grains, legumes, oils, non-meat protein, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.


Take our gunas test to find out your individual mental constitution. 

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