Friday, November 15, 2013



Three types of characteristics seem to accrue in every created object.  These are known as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in Hinduism. These three entities in the purest form are fundamental entities. The permutation and combination of these cause the world phenomena. Sattvaguna makes for light and lightness, d goodness and purity, knowledge and wisdom. It can be called centripetal force. Tamoeguna is the antithesis of Sattvaguna. It makes all that is dark and heavy, evil and impure, ignorant and deluded.  It can be called centrifugal force. Rajoeguna maintains a delicate balance between the two opposing forces. Therefore it has got to be in a state of constant internal tension and activity. This restless activity is the chief characteristic of Rajoeguna. It manifests itself as ego, passion, greed, ambition etc. in the psychological world. At the cosmic world the three deities of the Trinity, Vishnu, Siva and Brahma play the human drama of creation, preservation and dissolution. Vishnu represents Sattva the power of existence and preservation. Siva represents Tamas, the power of destruction or annihilation. Brahma stands for Rajas   and symbolizes the possibility of existence resulting from the union of opposites and plays the part of creation. Let us go more into thesedetail characteristics.

Guna normally means quality. According to Sankhya school of thought it has a more technical and deeper meaning.  In Sanskrit Guna also means a strand or string. According to Sankhya School the world has two parts—Spirit (Purusha) and Matter (Prakriti). Prakriti is composed of three extremely subtle and intangible substances (gunas) called Sattva-guna, Rajo-guna, and Tamo-guna. Prakriti is compared to a rope of three strands constituting the above three types of strands called gunas. The concept of gunas plays a very important role in Hinduism. Gunas and their activities dominate The Doctrine of Incarnation, The doctrine of Karma, Theories of Creation, and Liberation from Worldly Affairs (Samsara) called Moksha.

The existence of these gunas can only be known indirectly. These intangible gunas are so subtle and fine that compared to them even the photons or the sub-atomic particles like electrons and neutrons are relatively gross. The gunas are finer and subtler than anything that we know of in this world. And yet, according to Sankhya philosophy, everything in this world is composed of these three gunas.

Their existence cannot be directly perceived because of their extreme subtlety. Just as we cannot see electricity and yet we know its presence by seeing its manifestation in electrical appliances, so also we can know the presence of the gunas indirectly by seeing their various manifestations. Each guna has its own distinctive qualities or characteristics; they manifest themselves through objects in the world. By seeing these characteristics,   presence of the gunas can be inferred. One may wonder how extremely subtle Gunas through the process of evolution can become the tangible world? Its possibility can be corroborated by the modern physics which says that something as subtle as energy can be transformed into solid matter. Some physicists are also of the opinion that the primary building blocks of this manifold universe are most probably three types of extremely subtle quarks, a particle that carries fractional electric charge, a word coined by Murray Gell Mann, American physicist 1964. We also know that the nucleus of every normal human cell contains twenty-three pairs of chromosomes each of which is a thread-like structure made up of about eighty thousand genes.  These genes are made up of DNA (double helix molecule of deoxyribonucleic acid) and at regular intervals along a strand of DNA, one of just four nitrogen based chemicals are attached. These chemicals, abbreviated A, G, C and T are the letters of the genetic code. But science still does not know exactly how this genetic code works, and still scientists are working on methods to properly sequence them. Understanding the genetic codes will lay the ground work for conquering most of the diseases and also solving many of the riddles of life.

Sattva-guna is light or buoyant, bright or illuminating. The luminosity of light, the ability of the mind and the senses to know things; the reflecting power of mirror, and the transparency of glass and crystal are all due to the presence of Sattva-guna in them (brightening or illuminating effect). It has the ability to reveal or make things known. Happiness, contentment, satisfaction, joy or bliss state of mind etc., or revelations depend on the presence of Sattva guna. The fruits of good deeds bring pleasure and enjoyment to the doer. A person, who exhibits the Sattva temperament, entertains pure thoughts and actions. No negative or bad thoughts grow in his mind. He, therefore, enjoys much happiness and is always looking for knowledge that can lead him to salvation. A Saattvic individual is an ideal human being.  He is intelligent, sensitive, concerned about the needs of others and peace-loving. His actions are exemplary, his thoughts noble and judgments wise. Such a man at the time of his death has no difficulty in reaching Brahman for eternal peace and ecstasy.

Rajoe-guna causes activity, movement of restlessness, avarice, hankering, anger, egoism, vanity and the urge to dominate over others.   It is also of the nature of pain or suffering. It is the cause of all types of painful experiences. The fruits of bad deeds cause suffering and pain. Movement or restlessness, pain or suffering is due to Rajo-guna. A person with Rajas nature is greatly attached to pleasures of the earthly kind, continually desiring to possess more and working hard towards this end. He is never happy with what he has achieved and is always wanting more. Because of this thirst for material pleasure the Rajasic individual is never continually happy. He does not become one with Brahman when he leaves the physical earth, but is reborn in the world amongst men of his own kind.

The characteristics of Tamoe-guna are inertia, sluggishness, heaviness and negativity. It resists activity or movement. It makes the mind incapable of knowing things clearly making it sluggish. It causes confusion, mental depression, bewilderment and ignorance. It induces drowsiness and sleep. A person indulged in Tamoe-guna is very passive, inactive and lacks enthusiasm to lead a good life. He only seems to exist, as if without any purpose. It is a listless and aimless life that he leads. After he completes his life on this earth, he suffers untold sorrows, which is called living in hell, and then takes birth again in the lowest category of living species on earth.

The faith held, the food consumed, the sacrifices performed, the austerities undergone and the charity given by each individual vary in accordance with his predominating guna. The three gunas in an individual are in perpetual conflict with one another, each one trying to subdue the others in order to become predominant. A preponderance of sattva-guna is conducive to a person’s spiritual growth. Such a person acquires a divine nature and is blessed with God-vision. Sattva-guna leads to spiritual liberation. Rajoeguna causes bondage through attachment to action. Tamoeguna causes confused thinking or senseless violence. While Sattva encourages only aspirations for attaining higher spiritual peace and happiness Rajas prompts a person to run after gains, deriving the so called earthly happiness from them, and Tamas the most inferior of all, only indulges in being uninterested and uncaring for anything. We should cultivate the Guna that we want to strengthen the most. If a person subdues Rajas and Tamas, then he encourages the Sattva to take predominance in his life and vice versa.

He that is born with inclinations towards the divine (sattva guna) is fearless and pure. He is non-violent and free from anger. He renounces the fruits of his labor, working only for the sake of work, not reward. He has a tranquil mind, with malice towards none. He is charitable towards all and is devoid of craving, he is gentle, modest and study. He always pursues the study of the Self. Such a person is called Saattvic person.

A person in whom Rajoeguna predominates has inner thirst.  He is passionate and covetous. So he hurts others. Being full with hatred and lust, envy and deceit, his desires are never ending. He is unsteady, fickle and easily distracted. He is ambitious and acquisitive. He seeks the patronage of friends and parades with the family pride. He clings to pleasant things. He is greedy and sour.

He who is born with demonic tendencies (tamoeguna) is deceitful and insolent. He is a conceit. He is full of wrath, cruelty and ignorance. He gratifies his passion. Fascinated by numerous desires, caught in the net of delusion these addicts of sensual pleasures have no room for purity, right conduct or truth. 

Geeta says that the characteristics displayed in people’s nature are not those that they acquired just by chance or luck. It was what they carried with them because of different deeds and ways of life they lived in various births in the past.

People with pure hearts and minds offered their worship to benevolent Gods and so were born Saattvic.  People who displayed Rajasic qualities propitiated demigods, so that their earthly possessions were protected and hoped their wealth and power would grow continuously for them. The Taamasic people paid obeisance to the dead and evil spirits very much in keeping with their attitude of indifference and perversion.

The Saattvic persons carried their penance to perfection, bodily, verbally and mentally. They never expected anything in return for what they did, taking pleasure in whatever they gave alone. The Rajasic persons carried penance only so that others who saw them, revered them for it and glorified their names, while they also believed the Gods rewarded them for their actions with material blessings. The Taamasic persons tortured themselves and others, little knowing what the significance their action was, causing grief not only to themselves but even to the Lord Almighty!

When Saattvic persons wished to gift something away, they did so to deserving persons in their hour of need, never expecting any benefit from their action for them. The Rajasic persons gifted with a selfish motive behind every action, hoping to reap advantage sometime in their life. The Taamasic persons never cared for what they gave away, whether it was useful to the persons to whom it was made, being the most unworthy gesture.

“The mode of goodness attaches one to happiness (of learning and knowing Supreme-spirit); the mode of passion attaches to action, and the mode of ignorance attaches to negligence by covering the self-knowledge. These gunas in an individual are always at conflict with one another. Goodness (Sattva) prevails by suppressing passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas); Passion (rajas) prevails by suppressing goodness and ignorance and Ignorance (tamas) prevails by suppressing goodness and passion” says Geeta in 14-9 and 14-10.

“Self knowledge arises from the mode of goodness; greed arises from mode of passion; and slowness of mind arises from the mode of ignorance” says Geeta in 14-17. “They who are established in goodness go to heaven; passionate persons are reborn in the mortal world; and the ignorant, abiding in the lowest mode of ignorance (tamoeguna), go to lower planets or hell or take birth as lower creatures” says Geeta.

“Attachment to the gunas (due to ignorance caused by previous Karma) is the cause of birth of the living entity(Jeeva) in good and evil wombs” says Krishna in Geeta (13-12).To attain spiritual liberation, a spiritual aspirant has to transcend these three gunas  Lord Krishna advises Arjuna in Bhagavadgeeta: “Go beyond the three Gunas”. In other words go beyond matter and manifest your divine spirit. “A portion of the Vedas deals with three modes of states (gunas) of the material nature. Become free from pairs of opposites; be ever balanced and unconcerned with the thoughts of acquisition of preservation. Rise above the three states, and be self conscious” says Geetha in 2-45. The three states of goodness, passion and ignorance are solely material in nature.

WHO IS GUNAATEETA?The eternal Super-spirit is called Attribute-less (Nirguna), because it does not have any of the three attributes, gunas of material Nature (Prakriti). The word Nirguna has been commonly misunderstood as formless. Nirguna refers to the absence of material form and attributes as we know it. “Whatever is born animate or inanimate—know them to be born of the union of the Field (Prakriti or Matter) and the Knower of the Field (Purusha or Spirit)”, says Krishna in Geeta, 13-26. Spiritual Being (Purusha) enjoys three modes (gunas) of material nature by associating with Prakriti. Attachment to the gunas (due to ignorance caused by previous Karma) is the cause of the living entity (Jeeva) in good and evil wombs. Even those who are predominantly Saattvik in their previous birth are necessarily to be reborn, if they desire to be elevated beyond the state of gunas (gunaateeta state) in order to merge with the Supreme after the present birth. The man who identifies himself more with his Jeevaatman, instead of his physical body, is victorious in shaking the shackles of the three Gunas and comes to be called, the Gunaateeta. His attitude of mind is perfectly balanced. He is completely unmoved by whatever changes that take place around him or even to his own body. He becomes so much one with his Self and the Supreme Spirit (Paramaatman) that he looks at his body and the rest of the world with complete detachment and considers himself as the sole servant of God. He considers pain and joy with the same response as gifts from God, ultimately leading to his eternal salvation, Moksha.  “When the Jeevaatman that is present in the body of the individual sees none else than Paramaatman who is above all Gunas, that person comes to me immediately” says Krishna in Bhagavadgita.

Drawing its strength from Sankhya philosophy, Life science of early Indian tradition and Indian medicine (Ayurveda) postulates the structure of individual organism is essentially similar to the universe. Important in Ayurveda is the notion of equivalence of macrocosm (Brahmaanda) with microcosm (Pindaanda). The gunas constitute the universe. According to Sankhya school, Prakriti (Nature) is composed of three extremely subtle substances called Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Before the creation of the world these three gunas remain in a state of perfect equilibrium. If we compare the pre-creation state of Prakriti to a river, then Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas are three streams flowing side by side in it. At that state there is perfect harmony among them, they flow without overlapping one another. When they start intermingling and overlapping, the state of harmony is lost and creation starts. The process of creation starts when Prakriti borrows consciousness from Purusha and starts acting like a conscious entity.

The first sign of Prakriti’s conscious activity is seen in its tendency to change itself. It undergoes a process of gradual transformation, the final outcome which is this manifold world. In other words, primordial energy becomes the world through a process of evolution.

Everything in nature goes back to un-manifested infinite energy (shakti) known as Avyakta or Prakriti at the time of Dissolution.  At the outset of Creation, the Being appears as Hiranyagarbha due to the outstanding merits acquired by him during the previous cycle. Hiranyagarbha, the first born Jeeva of a cycle, is endowed with infinite powers of knowledge, will and action. The rest of Creation is his doing. Puranas introduce him as Brahma, the Creator.

Brahma does not create anything from void. He projects the Brahmaanda out of Himself.  He becomes the Universe. Whatever he wills, he becomes. And he wills accord to a set pattern, which he discovers by meditating on what exactly happened during the previous cycle. By meditation he finds all that have been lying in the casual state and waiting to be manifested. According to the order of the previous cycle and the urgency of manifestation he goes on to project out of himself myriads of objects, gross and fine, by his mere will.

The sum total of all subtle bodies (Sookshma or Linga sareera) is his body. It consists of three concentric chambers or sheaths (kosha), known as the Vijnaanamaya, Manoemaya and Praanamaya Koasha. The Vijnanamaya Kosha consists of intellect (buddhi) and five subtle senses of knowledge (Jnaanendriyas); endowed with the power of knowledge, this chamber (kosha) is the seat of the subject of experience and action. The Manoemaya Kosha consists of the mind and five subtle senses of knowledge and is endowed with the power of will. The Praanamaya Kosha consists of five Praanas and the five subtle senses of action (Karmendriyas), and is endowed with the power of action.

All these sheaths (koshas) constituting Hiranyagrbha’s body are made up of five elementary (sookshma) Bhootas, which are exceedingly fine and are also known as Tanmaatras. The word Bhuta literally means what has come into Being, an entity as opposed to the un-manifested (avyakta). Tanmaatras means “that alone”; hence it stands for elementary Bhootas so long as it is not mixed up with others. The five elementary bhootas are Aaakaasha, Vaayu, Tejas, Aaapa and Kshiti. These should not be confused with what we understand by ether, air, fire, water and earth. The Tanmaatras as conceptualized by our Rishis are altogether different from the present day science.

These Tanmaatras, however do not emerge all at once out of Avyakta. Aakaasha comes out first, a portion of it transforms itself into Vaayu, a portion of which again transforms itself to Tejas; from Tejas in this way comes out Aapah and from Aapah Kshiti.

Avyakta, out of which the Tanmaatras emerge, is said to be characterized by three traits depending on its three distinct components, namely, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Sattva is that principle in nature which goes to illumine things, that is, to reveal them to our consciousness. Rajas is that which brings about all changes; it is the dynamic element in nature. Tamas is the element of ignorance and inertia. The stamp of these three constituents is found on all that come out of Avyakta. Even the elementary Bhutas or Tanmaatras bear this stamp. Each is said to have an illuminating (saatvika), a dynamic (raajasika) and an inert (taamasika) part.

The illuminating portions of the five elementary Bhutas—Aaakaasa, Vaayu, Tejas, Aaapah and Kshiti—build up respectively the subtle senses of knowledge corresponding to the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose (shrotra, twak, chakshu, jihva and naasika). The illuminating portions of them all combine to compose the intellect (buddhi) and mind. Similarly the dynamic portions of the Bhuta separately form the five Praanas. The three chambers (Kosha) composing Brahma’s body, are built up in this way by the illumining and dynamic portions of the Tanmaatras. Brahma has such a cosmic subtle body (sukshma sarira). In it is comprehended the fine bodies (sukshma sarira) of all living beings.  

Bhagawan Sankara in his Tattwa Bodha says that the five great elements (Panchabhootas) are the Material Cause of the world while Truth alone existed as Efficient Cause before Creation. From Maaya space was born; from space, air; from air, fire; from fire, water; from water, earth.

The three qualities of Maaya are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. These three qualities in their un-manifest form remain in a state of equilibrium. When this balance is disturbed the creation starts.

Among these five elements, out of the Saattvic aspect of Space, the organ of hearing, the ear evolves. From the Saattvic aspect of Air, the organ of touch, the skin evolves. From the Saattvic aspect of fire organ of sight, the eyes evolve. From the Saattvic aspect of water, the organ of taste, the tongue evolves. From the Saattvic aspect of earth, the organ of smell, the nose evolves. These are the five sense organs. From these five elements, the inner instrument of the mind, intellect, ego and memory are formed.

From the Rajas aspect of Space, the organ of speech, voice is formed. From the Rajasic aspect of Air, the organ of grasping, the hands are formed. From the Rajasic aspect of   Fire, the organ of locomotion, the legs are formed. From the Rajasic aspect of Water, the organ of procreation is formed. From the Rajasic aspect of Earth, the organ of excretion is formed. These are the physical organs controlled by motor nerves. From the total Rajas aspect the five Vital forces (Panchapraanas) are formed—Praana, Apaana; Vyaana; Udaana and Samaana.

From the Tamas aspect of these five elements,  five gross elements are born, that is the Space, air, Fire, Water and Earth that  we see and feel. Our own body occupies space.  We have plenty of air within us. The body has heat and around 60% of it is made up of water. There is the earth (food) element which makes most of its weight. Thus there is identity between microcosm and macrocosm. The individual as well as the world both are made up of these five elements.

God’s vision is possible with the help of Sattva-guna. With predominance of Sattva-guna one becomes divine in nature and is blessed with God-vision. Bhagavadgeeta in 16-01 to 16-03 says those endowed with divine virtues have 26 qualities. These are: Fearlessness, purity of inner psyche, perseverance in the yoga of Self knowledge, charity, sense restraint, sacrifice, study of scriptures, austerity, honesty, non-violence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, equanimity, abstaining from malicious talks, compassion for all creatures, freedom from greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, splendor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, absence malice, and absence of pride. When divinity dawns, the human weaknesses vanish of their own accord as the petals drop off when the flower develops into the fruit, says Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

“Sattvaguna gives spiritual liberation. Rajoeguna causes bondage through the attachment to action. The mode of passion (Rajas) is characterized by intense craving and is the source desire and attachment. Rajas binds the living entity (Jeeva) by attachment to the fruits of work. The mode of ignorance (Tamas) –the deluder of living entity (Jeeva)—is born of inertia. Tamas binds Jeeva by carelessness, laziness and excessive sleep” says Bhagavadgeeta in 14-07 and 14-08. “One who dies during the dominance of goodness goes to heaven—the pure world of knower of the Supreme. When one dies during the dominance of passion, one is reborn as attached to action; and dying in ignorance one is reborn as lower creature” says Geeta (14-14; 14-15).

“When one transcends (or rises above) the three modes of material nature that create the body, one attains immortality or salvation (Mukti), and is free from the pains of birth, old age and death” says Lord Krishna in 14-20 of Bhagavadgeeta.

Maharshi Manu one of the earliest Rishis of Vedic Period has set certain guidelines called Manu Neeti for developing a civil society. His thoughts on Trigunas are as follows:

 Know the Serenity (Sattva), Activity (Rajas) and Darkness (Tamas) to be the three qualities of the self, through which the Supreme Spirit pervades all existence in the entire Universe (XII-24).

Serenity (Sattva) is declared to have the form of knowledge, Activity (Rajas) of love and hatred, and Darkness (Tamasa) of ignorance. Such is the nature of these three, which is all-pervading and clings to everything created (XII-26).

When man experiences in his soul a feeling of full bliss, a deep calm, as it were, and pure and light, then let him know that of those three qualities, it is Sattva that is dominant (XII-27).

That which is mixed with pain and does not give satisfaction to the soul, one may know to be the quality of Activity (Rajasa), which is difficult to conquer, and which always  draws embodied souls towards sense objects (XII-28).

That which is coupled with delusion, which has the character of an indiscernible mass, which cannot be fathomed by reasoning and which cannot be fully known, one must consider as the quality of Darkness (Taamasa) (XII-29).

The study of the Vedas, austerity, pursuit of knowledge, control over the senses, performance of meritorious acts and meditation on the Self are the marks of the quality of Serenity (Sattva) (XII-31)

Delight in enterprising, instability, persistence in wrong practice, and continual indulgence in sense objects is the characteristic of Activity (Rajasa) (XII-32).

Covetousness, sleepiness, incontinence, cruelty, atheism, leading an evil life, a habit of soliciting favors, and inattentiveness are the marks of the quality of Darkness (Tamasa) (XII-33).

Studying Veda, austerities, acquisition of true knowledge, subjugation of the sense organs, abstention from doing injury and serving the Guru (preceptor) are the best means for attaining supreme bliss (XII-83).  

A yogi knows that the path towards satisfaction of the senses by sensual desires is broad, but it leads to destruction. He knows also that vast majority follow that path. The path of a yoga practice is like the sharp edge of a razor, narrow and difficult to tread, and there are very few who can follow it. A yogi is fully aware the paths of ruin or of salvation lie within him. The Yogi who is also human is also affected by the three gunaas. By his constant disciplined study of himself and other objects which his senses tend to pursue, he learns which thoughts, words and actions are prompted by tamas and which by rajas. With unceasing efforts he weeds out and eliminates such thoughts as are prompted by rajas and tamas and he works to achieve a saattvic frame of mind. When the Sattva guna alone remains, the human soul has advanced a long way towards the final goal of liberation.

Pull of Gunaas can be compared to pull of gravity. The discipline perfected by Yoga enables the practitioner (Saadhaka) to be freed from the pull of Gunaas. Once the Yogi experiences the fullness of creation or the Creator, his thirst for objects of senses vanishes and he looks at heat or cold, pain or pleasure, in honor or dishonor, in virtue or vice with dispassion ever after. To him triumph and disaster look the same. He then liberates himself from the pairs of opposites and passes beyond the stage of pull of Gunaas. He is then called Gunaateeta, one who has transcended the Gunaas. He is free from the shackles of birth and death, from pain and sorrow and becomes immortal. He no longer has any self identity as he lives experiencing the fullness of the Universal Spirit. He thus attains Liberation or Kaivalya as mentioned by Patanjali in his Rajayoga.

Summing up, Sattva, Tamas and Rajas are the three aspects or component traits of cosmic energy. The principle of poise in nature is designated as Sattvaguna. Through this, things are revealed to consciousness. The intellect, mind and subtle organs of knowledge have this guna in their make up. In individual nature, predominance of this generates purity, equanimity and the power of clear vision. Rajas is the principle of dynamism in nature bringing about all changes. The relative appearance of the absolute as the universe is projected through this. Vital energy and the subtle organs of action have Rajoeguna in their make up. Predominantly Rajoeguna in individual nature generates passion and restlessness. The principle of inertia, ignorance and insensitiveness is projected through Tamoeguna in nature. The reality is veiled by Tamoeguna. The physical universe has Tamoeguna in its make up. Predominance of Tamoeguna in individual nature generates lethargy and ignorance.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad describes the eternal conflict between good and evil symbolically, and show that evil is more powerful than good. For instance, demons (evil) outnumber the celestials, and even in the creation of the Gunaas, Sattva (good) is pitted against the combined might of Rajas and Tamas (evil). In this context, the chance to become divine or otherwise, is open to the individual. For good to triumph, one has to seek God’s grace.

There is a story in the Khila-kaanda of Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad which illustrates how the same teaching is interpreted differently according to the degree of maturity of the aspirants. The Devas (the celestial race), human race and the demon race (asuras) seek instruction from the Creator (Prajaapati). Prajapati utters one syllable “DA”, as his teaching to all of them. Devas do not possess enough control over their senses being Satvaguna dominated. For them the instruction “DA” meant “daamayata” meaning control your senses. Humans are possessive (Aham) being predominantly egoistic in nature. To them the teaching “DA” meant “Datta”—give or be charitable. The Asuras are cruel by nature and are Taamasic (dark) predominantly. To them the teaching “Da” meant “Dayadhvam” or be compassionate. Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad mentions only of viraja homa, a fire sacrifice to be relieved from rajoeguna, as this homa is meant for humans only.

You are aware of Ucchchishta Ganapati, the Ganapati associated with unclean things like orts, whose worship belongs to Vaamaachaara, left-handed path,that is heterodox and unclean path and said to give quick results. Paarvati, in the language of philosophy is Maayaa-prakriti, comprising of three Gunas—Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Sattva is stated to be pure and, as compared to it, Rajas and Tamas are said to be impure. Since creation is impossible out of pure Satttva, even as gold does not lend itself to be shaped itself to be shaped into ornaments unless mixed with baser metals, it has got to be mixed with Rajas and Tams to effect it. This seems to be the import of the story of the impure substances being used by Mother Paarvati to shape Ganapati which has inspired Vaamaachaara tantric followers to propitiate Ganapati in the form of Uchchishta Ganapati.

Lord Krishna advises Arjuna in Bhagavadgeeta as follows which serves equally well all of us:

“Traigunyavishayaa vedaa nistraigunyoe bhavaarjuna | Nirdvandvoe nityasattvasthoe niryoegakshema aatmavaan || (2-45)--Portion of Vedas only deal with three Gunas of material Nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance). Be free from dualities (opposite); be ever balanced and unconcerned with the thoughts of acquisition and preservation. Rise above the three gunaas, and be Self-conscious, O Arjuna--become Gunaateeta (transcend the three gunaas). This advice is meant for all who seek salvation.

This lecture has been prepared for the Vedanta class at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville, by N.R.Srinivasan by suitably extracting and editing from the following sources:

1.   Swami Bhaskarananda,The Essential of Hinduism, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore Chennai, India.
2.   Swami Nirvedananda, Hinduism At A Glance, Ramakrisahna Mission, Calcutta Student’s Home, Kolkata, India.
3.   Dr. Ramananda Prasad, The Bhagavad-gita, American Gita Society, Fremont, California, USA.
4.   Shardanand, Sacred Laws of Manu, Chaitanya Bharati 2004,Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America Inc., Washington DC.
5.   B.K.S.Iyengar, Light on Yoga, Schocken Books, New York
6.   Vidya Ravindra, The Bhagavadgita, Golden Goose Publishing,
7.   Swami Tejomayananda, Tattva Bodhah, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai 400072, India.
8.   Swami Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati, Hindu Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mun mbai, India.
9.   Swami Harshananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.



Among the five great elements space, air, fire, water and earth, from the Saatvic aspect of space, ear, the organ of hearing evolved; from the saatvic aspect of air, skin, the organ of touch is  evolved; from the saatvic aspect of fire, eye, the organ of vision is evolved; from the saatvic aspect of water, tongue, the organ of taste is  evolved; from the saatvic aspect of earth, nose, the organ of smell is evolved. From the total rajasic aspect of these five subtle elements five vital airs (Pancha Praanas-Praana, Apaana, Samaana, Vyaana and Udaana) are formed. The inner controllers (antahkaranaas) of the mind, intellect, ego and memory are formed from the total saatvic aspects of these five elements. The Intellect is responsible for decision making. The Ego is responsible for doing anything. Memory is instrumental in thinking or recollection. These are presided over by different deities: the Mind (Manah)—Moon; the Intellect (Buddhi)—Brahma; the Ego (Ahankaara)—Rudra; and the  Memory (Chitta)—Vaasudeva.

From the Rajas aspect of space the organ of speech, mouth is formed; from the rajas aspect of air, hands, organs of grasping are formed; from the rajas aspect of fire, the legs, organs of locomotion are formed; from the rajas aspect of water, the organ of procreation is formed; from the rajas aspect of earth anus, the organ of excretion is formed.

From the Tamas aspect of these five subtle elements, the five gross   elements are formed. This is known as Pancheekarana.

Thus there is identity between Microcosm and Macrocosm

Practical Applications of the Concept of Gunas
By Pradeep Srivastava |  IndiaDivine.Org
Before we get into the practical applications of the concept of gunas, it would make sense to have a basic understanding of what gunas are. The following excerpt from wikipedia would provide an overview of the gunas.
“Guṇa (Sanskrit: गुण) depending on the context means ‘string, thread or strand’, or ‘virtue, merit, excellence’, or ‘quality, peculiarity, attribute, property’. The concept originated in Samkhya philosophy, but now a key concept in various schools of Hindu philosophy. There are three gunas, according to this worldview, that have always been and continue to be present in all things and beings in the world. These three gunas are called: sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious), rajas (passion, active, confused), and tamas (darkness, destructive, chaotic).
All of these three gunas are present in everyone and everything, it is the proportion that is different, according to Hindu worldview. The interplay of these gunas defines the character of someone or something, of nature and determines the progress of life.
In some contexts, it may mean ‘a subdivision, species, kind, quality’, or an operational principle or tendency of something or someone. In human behavior studies, Guna means personality, innate nature and psychological attributes of an individual.”
There is no single word in English language translation for the concept guna. The usual, but approximate translation is “quality”.
As you can see, in the material world, gunas are all-encompassing. Even an atom, which makes up all the objects of the world, has the three gunas manifested in it: sattva in the proton, rajas in the electron, and tamas in the neutron. All the three gunas are present in everyone and everything in varying proportions. Typically, we use gunas to describe characteristics of human beings, but there is no reason that the gunas cannot be used to describe the characteristics of all the entities of the material world, living as well non-living.
Gunas can also be used to characterize all the fundamental operational principles that have been identified by philosophers. However, since I am thoroughly familiar with only Hinduism, I intend to focus only on the philosophy of Hinduism. I have tried to be as thorough as possible, but I suspect that there are infinite applications of the concept of gunas and therefore, no one person can capture all the applications. After I hit the number 18 on these applications, I decided to stop, for 18 is an auspicious number and even Gita and Mahabharata  stops after 18 chapters. I am sure the reader will get the message that I am trying to convey. I hope that, going forward, others would further expand on the applications of the concept of gunas.

[In 18,  1 stands for Sagunabrahman followed by 8 his Eight  controllers (Ashta Dikpalakas) It holds good even if 1 extends to infinity by adding several Sunyas who  as zero and Nirguna Brahman remains as silent invisible spectator--NRS]

1. Living Being (Experiencer)=Intellect, Mind, and Body
Intellect=Sattva; Mind=Rajas; Body=Tamas
2. Living Being (Experiences)=Thinks, Feels, and Perceives
Thinking=sattva; Feeling=Rajas; Perception=Tamas
3. Living Being (Fields of Experience)=Thoughts, Emotions, and Objects
Thoughts=Sattva; Emotions=Rajas; Objects=Tamas
4. Five Elements=Sky, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth
Sky=Sattva; Air, Fire, Water=Rajas; Earth=Tamas
5. Five Knowledge Sense Organs=Ears, Skin, Eyes, Tongue, and Nose
Ears=Sattva; Skin, Eyes, Tongue=Rajas; Nose=Tamas
6. Five Knowledge Senses=Sound, Touch, Sight, Taste, and Smell
Sound=Sattva; Touch, Sight, Taste=Rajas; Smell=Tamas
7. Five Work Sense Organs=Mouth, Hands, Feet, Reproductive Organ, and Excretory Organ
Mouth=Sattva; Hands, Feet, Reproductive Organ=Rajas; Excretory Organ=Tamas
8. Five Work Senses=Speech, Grasping, Locomotion, Reproduction, and Excretion
Speech=Sattva; Grasping, Locomotion, Reproduction=Rajas; Excretion=Tamas
9. Five Koshas=Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vigyanamaya Kosha, and Anandamaya Kosha
Anandamaya Kosha =Sattva; Vigyanamaya Kosha+Manomaya Kosha + Pranamaya Kosha=Rajas; Annamaya Kosha=Tamas
10. Seven Chakras=Muladhara(Lowest), Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, Ajna, and Sahaswara(Highest)
Anahata+Vishuddha+Ajna+Sahaswara=Sattva; Svadhisthana+Manipura+Anahata=Rajas; Muladhara=Tamas
11. Antahkarana=Manas, Buddhi, Chitta, and Ahamkara
Buddhi+Chitta=Sattva; Manas=Rajas; Ahamkara=Tamas
12. Four States of Consciousness=Waking, Dreaming, Deep Sleep, and Turiya (the base-consciousness, Brahman, that transcends the other three states of consciousness)
Waking=Sattva; Dreaming=Rajas; Deep Sleep=Tamas
13. Five Pranas=Prana, Apana, Udana, Samana, and Vyana
Prana=Sattva; Udana+Samana+Vyana=Rajas; Apana=Tamas
14. Three Bodies=Causal Body, Subtle Body, and Gross Body
Causal Body=Sattva; Subtle Body=Rajas; Gross Body=Tamas
(Note: Causal Body (Karana Sharira)=Sheath of Bliss (Anandamaya Kosha); Subtle Body (Sukshma Sharira)=Sheath of Intellect (Vigyanama Kosha)+Sheath of Mind (Manomaya Kosha); Sheath of Vitality (Pranamaya Kosha); Gross Body (Sthula Sharira)=Sheath of Food (Annamaya Kosha))
15. Fourteen Worlds (Lokas)=7 Higher Lokas (Bhu, Bhuvar, Svar, Mahas, Janas, Tapas, and Satya) + 7 Lower Lokas (Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahaatala, Rasaatala, and Patala)
16. Four Varnas=Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras
Brahmans=Sattva; Kshatriyas=Sattva+Rajas; Vaishyas=Rajas+Tamas; Shudras=Tamas
17. Four Ashramas=Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, and Sannyas
Brahmacharya=Sattva; Grihastha=Rajas+Tamas; Vanaprastha=Sattva+Rajas; Sannyas=Sattva
18. Four Purusharthas=Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha
Dharma=Sattva; Artha=Rajas+Tamas; Kama=Rajas+Tamas; Moksha=Sattva
It is not hard to see how deep, thoughtful, and insightful the philosophy of Hinduism is. I also hope that this write-up would inform the reader about certain core principles of Hinduism and hopefully motivate one to study those principles in detail, especially, in light of the fact that in the era of Internet so much information on every topic is so readily available online, free of charge.