On the Mysteries of the Gunas
The Gunas are a simple metaphysic.
That is, they were a symbolic set of classification used by Krishna to
help explain human states of awareness.
An interesting thing has happened in many modern Hindu interpretations
of the Bhagavad Gita; in many of these interpretations the Gunas have
been seen as a ladder, a set of steps to be taken.
This is not so. In reality, the Gunas are an alchemical formula.
Just as you could say a chemical compound is made of several ingredients,
no one of which is 'better' or worse than the other, in Alchemy (the chemistry
of the soul) you can say that the human spirit is made up of a number
And just as in chemistry, it is not that one ingredient is better and
Mankind is described as a bridge between the animal and the divine.
We are neither gods nor beasts, but have both within us, and on top of
this have a complex set of frustrations and desires born of our intermediate
In the alchemy of the Gunas this is expressed through the interaction
of the three Gunas, or elements.
The Guna Tamah is the element of our animal nature.
It is the bestial, the deluded, within us.
The Guna Rajah is the intermediate.
It is our passion and frustration, our lusts that make us human.
The Guna Sattva is the godlike element.
It is what makes us nobler, and able to conceive of a reality beyond our
A human being is not simply one of the three; modern would-be Hindu alchemists
have tried to say "this type of person is a Rajah person, or this one
is a Tamah person".
And they see the goal as that of becoming a Sattva person, thinking that
this state of 'holiness' is enlightenment, when you are only thinking
of good and kind things and of God.
In fact, they are wrong.
No one is ever only one of the three.
Someone who is enlightened will still be Rajah, Tamah and Sattva, in fact
they will be all three to the fullest.
And all people, enlightened or not, have all three components in them,
just as all people have blood and water and air inside of them.
It is not an either/or choice, it is impossible to avoid having all three
if you are human.
Different people will have different balances of these elements.
For some, Tamah will be the most prominent.
These people will be little more than animals.
They will care about nothing more than sex, violence, and gross physical
They will often fight, often get drunk or high on drugs, they will have
no sense of the divine and a very limited understanding of death.
A person who is mainly Rajah will have a very acute awareness of death,
they will know fear, they will know uncertainty far better than a Tamah
The Tamah person will be very simple compared to someone who is mostly
The 'Rajah person' will live for causes, with goals, with passion, always
desiring for themselves or for the world.
They will try to put their agenda on life.
Someone who is mostly Sattva will know death also, but they will have
an understanding, an acceptance.
They will be less likely to try to force life to fit their desires.
They will be conscious of God, they will be devoted, and will try to be
caring for the world without trying to 'save' it.
For this reason many religionists think it would be best to be all Sattva,
that this is spirituality.
But it is not so.
It cannot be.
Krishna says that spirituality is when you can see that there is a presence
beyond all elements.
When you understand that all three elements are within you, and no longer
struggle against them, you will find something greater.
A Sattva person may try very hard to resist his human and animal side.
They may try to always behave as what they consider to be godlike.
But only when you can accept that you are all three, when you can be at
peace with all of yourself, all elements, only then will you start to
Do not deny yourself.
Do not fixate on any element, let them all be.
Find the force that is beyond all the elements, you will see that humanity
and life itself is greater than the sum of its parts.
Then you can discover yourself, and then you can begin to discover God.
Return to title
<< Previous Chapter
Next Chapter >>