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The three Hindu gunas – a meeting of psychology, spirituality and cosmology

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gunas by Gustavo Peres via Flickr

The Samkhya philosophy of Hinduism outlines three gunas (Skt. = string or tendency) of sattva, rajas and tamas. The gunas are qualities apparently found in material nature (prakṛti) with a corresponding consciousness found in living beings.

A refined guna in material nature brings about a higher or elevated state of mind. A mediocre guna brings about a mediocre mind. And a lower guna brings about a sluggish or possibly lazy conscious attitude.

Sattva is the highest of the three gunas. It relates to calm, light and peaceful personality characteristics.

Rajas has to do with “excitement, action, passion or force,” and also refers to a mysterious force said to be contained in vaginal fluid, which some yogis allegedly took inward through the urethra to facilitate mystical union.

Tamas relates to the personality attributes of darkness, slothfulness, grief, fear and laziness.

Taken together, the three gunas are associated with the creation (rajas), preservation (sattva) and destruction (tamas) of all things, signifying the key elements that make up an essentially cyclic Hindu cosmology.

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