The Gunas

Through a long process of evolution we ascend through the different guna states as our consciousness is purified. Guna means quality, and these states are essentially characteristics of behaviour and attitude which the tatashta jiva (influencible living being) experiences as it passes through the cycle of birth, death and rebirth under the jurisdiction of karma. The whole of created existence operates under the law of cause and effect (karma), and is subjected to the influence of the gunas or qualities of nature or prakrti.

Through the cycle of samsara we evolve birth after birth throughout all species of life, eventually arriving in a human body. Due to karma we carry many samskaras (impressions) of memories held in our subtle bodies (antakarana) from our experiences which cause us to identify in different ways with our experiences. When we first evolve to the human species of life we still carry many unconscious behavioural characteristics of animalistic consciousness. Similarly to children who have just started a new school, essentially they are still children but they are now in a school for adolescents and are yet to have evolved those behavioural characteristics. So it is with the early stages of human birth. Consequently such souls still act like animals whose characteristics are simply to eat, sleep, mate and defend. They are generally expressing only tamasic and rajasic qualities, and so they are lacking in selfawareness and consideration of others, and principally only concerned with their own selfish desires being fulfilled. As a result, due to lack of evolved humanistic culture and expanded awareness they can create great disturbance in society. They live principally to fulfil their sensual desires and so are generally only interested in eating, sleeping, having sex, accumulating and surviving. As with the animal kingdom such persons fight in order to establish pecking order and strive to get ahead in life competing with others to accumulate possessions and status within society, and so we experience conflict, war and discontent.

As we evolve and begin to embody some of the more sattvic qualities, becoming established in the mode of goodness, we can begin to touch the potential of the human experience and we develop a higher taste and reach for higher things. As a part of this evolutionary process we bring the mind and senses under control, and as tamasic and rajasic tendencies begin to loose prominence. We are then able to embody more Sattvic qualities such as love, compassion and service, become harmonious in society, and the soul begins to aspire for the Divine and therefore it approaches its potential.

Maya, or Prakriti, consists of the three gunas (qualities): Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The three gunas have been compared to three strands which constitute the rope of Maya, which binds us to this illusory world. Maya has no existence independent of the gunas. They are present in varying degrees in all objects gross or subtle, including the mind, intellect and ego. The gunas can be seen as operating at the physical, mental and emotional levels. Everything within this universe of Maya is composed of the three gunas.

The three gunas are:

Tamas – the mode of ignorance:

Characteristics:
Selfishness, laziness, flesh eating, intoxication, cruelty, inertia, deceiving, stale stagnant energy.

Absence of Self-awareness.

Overseeing Deity: Shiva – Destruction

Food Types:
Flesh (all meat, birds and fish), eggs (chicken menstruation) old stale food, food that has no prana, mouldy (mushrooms), rancid food (e.g. ‘matured’ and blue cheese) food that has been produced using cruelty and which has caused suffering (factory farmed food) processed food.

Style of Eating: Over-eating. Ready meals, TV dinners and fast food.

Binding Quality: Attachment to Delusion


Rajas
– the mode of passion:

Characteristics:
Lack of self-control, lust, greed, jealousy, anger, oppression, individualist drive, sense of me as the doer, pride, fiery.

Competitive Self-awareness

Overseeing Deity: Brahma- Creation –

Food Types:
Overly rich flavoured, over spiced, stimulating foods, caffeine, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, red chillies.

Style of Eating: Desirous eating. Food eaten in a hurry and prepared unconsciously.

Binding Quality: Attachment to Activity


Sattva
– the mode of goodness.

Characteristics:
Purity, knowledge, piety, selfless, humble, tolerant, balanced.

Considerate Self-awareness.

Overseeing Deity: Visnu – Preservation –

Food Types:
Fresh, whole, organic, living, prana rich foods. Fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses.

Ethically and freshly produced organic milk, yoghurt, butter, paneer (freshly made cheese) and ghee.

Style of Eating: Offered, sanctified foods. Self-prepared food made lovingly with consciousness and eaten slowly.

Binding Quality: Attachment to Happiness