The foundation of Ayurvedic medicine is based on cultivating health and longevity. Ayurveda uses the worldview of guna to discern the patterns that can support or oppose the cultivation of health and longevity.
Guna were originally defined in Sankhya philosophy and are key aspects of Vedic and Tantric worldview. Guṇa (Sanskrit: गुण) depending on the context means ‘string, thread or strand’, or ‘virtue, merit, excellence’, or ‘quality, characteristic, attribute, property‘.
Fundamentally, there are three (tri) guṇa, that have always been and continue to be present in all beings, things, and phenomenon in the world. These three guna are called: sattva (virtuous, constructive, harmonious), rajas (passion, active, restless), and tamas (darkness, destructive, interia). All of these three gunas are present in everyone and everything, only the proportion varies. The interplay of these gunas defines the nature and character of someone or something, and their progression through time.
In sattva, sat, refers to the essence of being. It is light and luminous in nature and represents stability in truth, harmony, and virtue. It is the principle of clear discernment and perception. Its movement is inward and upward, and its goal is to support the evaluation of consciousness. It represents a harmonious mind that brings clarity and awareness.
Rajas is the principle of movement. It creates the agitation that spurs action and motion; it is mobile and motivated and is the principle of motion or vibration. Its energy is directed outward and is action-seeking. Mentally, it is the restless thinking or “monkey mind,” is desiring and “I-ness”, and delusional in terms of believing in the objectivity of the desire. This leads to the misconception that reality and happiness lie outside, which is considered to be the root cause of pain and suffering.
Tamas express the quality of resistance and inertia. Its motion is downward, and causes decay and dissolution. It is the principle of materiality. While tamas is necessary for the well-being (i.e. sleep, structure, body), it creates obsessive thoughts, sense of being stuck, limited focus, ignorance and fogginess that inhibits clear perception and free heart.
Moving towards a Sattvic Mind
All three of these energies are essential to life. If it were not for tamas, there would be no inertia, which allows for rest. And if without rajas, there would be no imbalance, which leads to transformation.
Mordern society has become highly rajasic: distracted, hyperactive, and over-stimulated. Although the most effective way of transformation towards sattva is by direct experience of consciousness through meditative practices.
We can also apply the Ayurvedic principles, and understanding to create a lifestyle and diet that is helpfuk in cultivating sattvic mind.
According to Tantra and Ayurveda we are the end result of all our desires and experiences. When our mind is imbalanced and leads to over indulgence in the material world, it creates rajasic and tamsic mind. Ayurveda calls this “Prajnaparadha” (Sanskrit), means “crime against wisdom“, refers to the things we do that we know are unhealthy or lead us away from our own truth, actions that deny our inner knowing or wisdom – like accepting the invitation for dance party when you know you really need to rest, or eating that fiery beef burrito when you know it will give you heart burn and indigestion.
Creating sattvic mind is the key to cultivating life, open heart and raising awareness. Using yoga, pranayama (breathwork), pratyahara (withdrawal from sense indulgence), and eating appropriate diet according to one’s constitution, one can move from a rajasic and tamsic to a sattvic mind. In addition to diet and lifestyle, sattvic behaviors like love, compassion, and nonviolence in thought, speech and action also help in cultivating a sattvic mind.
Another way to increase sattva is through consumption of foods like almonds, freshly cooked grains and vegetables with mild aromatic spices.
The preparation of food also plays an important part in determining which guna it promotes. Freshly cooked vegetarian food is usually sattvic and becomes rajasic by adding chilies, frying or over-cooking, and tamasic by cooking in advance and keeping it for too long. For instance a potato is a perfectly fine sattvic food when baked or cooked freshly with relatively low heat in comparison to deep frying. Freshly made french fries with heating spices like chili, pepper and mustard becomes rajasic. And frozen french fries cooked using microwave are tamasic.
In general Ayurveda recommends to essentially follow a sattvic diet and add rajasic foods in moderation when the energy is needed, while tamasic foods should be consumed in small amounts.
Anguish and suffering is result of the conflict among the three guna which control the mind.
~ YogaSutra 2.15
“Both Ayurveda and yoga seek to reduce the lower Gunas of Rajas and Tamas. They are factors of mental and physical disease which Ayurveda addresses and the spiritual ignorance that yoga seeks to dispel.“ ~Dr. Frawley
Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Practitioner & Teacher of Ayurveda and CranioSacral Healing Work. Born in India with over thirty years studying and practicing healing work in the lineage of the Siddha tradition. Traveled extensively through the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal, and India, to learn Tantric meditative and healing practices. integrates Siddha Ayurveda, Craniosacral work and Chinese Medicine to offer teachings and healing services for wellness and personal transformation.
LAc., Dipl. OM (NCCAOM), DAOM., MBA.