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The Three Gunas and the personality

The personality of an individual is not only a function of his or her constitution but also of his or her karma. While its beyond the scope of ayurveda to be able to determine the specific samskaras present within a person's consciousness, it is possible to determine the general state of a person's consciousness. Ayurveda utilizes the language of the gunas to express this state. The Three Gunas are Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. They mean clarity, disturbance, and ingnorance, respectively. The dominant guna is a reflection of the evolution of the soul as it grows from ignorance to awareness and from awareness to transcendence.

The qualities of the Sattvic mind are clear and pure with an awareness to their connection to spirit and emotions that are transcended. They can be likened to a still lake. No wind on the lake makes it look like a sheet of glass or a mirror with the moon and stars reflecting upon it. Their minds are clear, pure and still with the light of the spirit reflecting through it. They can be unattached to the physical work of life and do not get caught up in the stories and dramas of the world. Their minds are at peace and they appear to be happy and content. It’s a transcendent state of mind that neither feels nor represses distracting emotions. They see nothing to be angry or sad about and has nothing to fear. There is only unconditional love and absolute faith. The concepts of right and wrong, good and bad do not exist for them. There is only God. The sattvic mind is immersed in the perfection of creation.

The Rajasic mind can be described as active with a distracted connection to spirit and expressive emotions. They have a quality of turbulence and activity which brings about distraction. With an internal chatter about the many dramas happening in our lives, which includes the many challenging emotions people face. This distracts them to their connection to spirit. They are like waves on a lake. Wind is blowing and someone has thrown a rock in the middle of the lake. The light of the moon and stars are splintered off the many directions of the waves with no clear reflection. So to with a rajasic mind there is no clear reflection of spirit. Gods light becomes scattered and splintered as it moves through them. Causing them to be distracted from their true nature as spirit and causes them to believe that they are only a body, mind and senses. As a Rajasic mind evolves toward sattva they will begin to contemplate the nature of their existence. Catching glimpses of clarity within the splintered light they experience enough of the light and occasional clarity that they sense there is more to life than meets the eye. They may be deep thinkers and philosophers. But their process is often painful both physically and emotionally. With this painful process of evolution many rajasic individuals are unhappy, caught up in the drama of self-improvement and may be physically and emotionally ill. These individuals are quite emotional. They either express their emotions safely with writing or talking, if they are more evolved, or they may be explosive with yelling, screaming and hitting if they are less evolved.

The Tamasic 87qualities of the mind can be described as dark and inert with an ignorant connection to god and repressed emotions. This brings about a complete forgetting of one’s nature as spirit. There is not much activity of the mind and it is completely removed from the higher awareness. There is very little, if any self-awareness, self-inquiry, or deep thinking. The world feels very black and white to the Tamasic mind. Emotions that surface are often the darker emotions of human nature. Think of the lake as if someone came and stirred it up with a great big stick. Mud mixes up from the bottom with the water causing it to be dark and murky. You can not see what is under the surface. They can not see through their muddy mind to their true nature as spirit. Gods light is completely obscured. There is not much contemplation and life becomes over-simplified. There are clear and rigid lines between right and wrong, good and evil. Extremist views are common. When under stress or trauma, dark emotions emerge. When this occurs individuals may cause harm to themselves or to others through destructive behaviors. They may appear surprisingly happy and at peace with themselves on the surface but ignorance is bliss. And that’s what it is, ignorance in the mind. They break apart from stress and will cause great harm to others and themselves. They repress emotions causing physical disease.


Here is an expert from my textbook. I thought having it word for word for you would bring better clarity.


Ladder to enlightenment

It is easy to understand the course of soul evolution. New incarnations are tamasic, ignorant of their nature. As a person grows and evolves, awareness increases and a person becomes more rajasic. Further growth and evolution lead to higher states of awareness and realization of God. Such a person eventually transcends the physical world. This is sattva.

The purely sattvic individual is self-realized and has reached enlightenment. Such a person’s soul is then liberated and merges back with the ocean of pure consciousness.

The difference between the “purely” sattvic person and the sattvic person is a matter of degree an ease. Whereas the sattvic person acts harmoniously and peacefully as a matter of self-discipline, the purely sattvic individual does so as the natural expression of who he or she is. Both may be Self-realized, the master of their egos and their senses.

The purely sattvic individual does not have to “try” to be perfect. Perfection is his/her natural expression. It is the result of many past lives of great discipline cultivating the sattvic mind. Such a person, rarely incarnated, is often viewed as a great spiritual master who, as with the Buddha, Krishna, Moses, or Christ, is understood to be an incarnation of God brought to earth to change the course of human evolution and behavior.


from Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine chapter 6: Ayurvedic Psychology 1, pg. 262



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