The 3 Gunas in Ayurveda

Ayurveda:  The 3 Gunas
In his book, Ayurveda and Panchakarma: The Science of Healing and Rejuvenation, Dr. Sunil Joshi writes:

 "All phenomena in the universe come under the influence of three primary phases of activity called the three gunas.  Nature uses its creative mode, referred to as sattva, to bring life into manifestation.  It then uses uses its organizing, activating phase, called rajas, to build and maintain what has just been created.  When the purpose of that stage is complete, it uses it destructive mode, called tamas, to bring it to an end."

According to Dr. Joshi, the same gunas that govern our existence also regulate our minds.  Thus, it can be said that three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) refer to the quality of the mind and the character of the person.

In Ayurveda (the ancient Indian science of life and health), a balance in the three gunas is important in determining psychological health of an individual.  Just as an imbalance in the Ayurvedic doshas can lead to disease and physical illness, an imbalance in the gunas can lead to destructive behaviors and mental illness.  A balance in the gunas is vital, since a health body requires a healthy mind and a healthy mind requires a healthy body.

Just as is the case with the the three doshas, the three gunas are present in every individual, with one or two gunas sometimes being dominant.  The state and balance of the gunas can change or alternate in their predominance in response to a particular set of circumstances.  Environmental factors, including diet, are thought to influence the balance in the gunas.  Thus, the food consumed is considered to have an impact on and a direct relationship to the state and quality of gunas.  In fact, in Ayurveda, all foods (including beverages) are described or categorized as being sattvic, rajastic or tamasic.

When referring to a proper balance of the gunas, the ideal is that the the mind be primarily sattvic (creative, pure, calm, gentle, considerate), and just enough rajastic (active, passionate, ambitious) and tamasic (inert, ignorant, fearful) to bring needs, desires and aspirations to realization and fruition.

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