The Gunas Chart

A cheat sheet to the gunas: the three essential aspects of nature.

May 6, 2013    BY Rolf Sovik

The yoga tradition tells us that prakriti is an intermingling of three entities, or gunas, that are constantly shifting in relation and proportion to one another. They have differing qualities, and their activities either conceal or reveal the presence of purusha, which is the observer of their movements.

 

   

Sattva

 

Rajas

 

Tamas

Key Features

 

light, upward moving, pure, transparent, inspiring, warm

 

active, moving, agitated, restless, throbbing

 

dark, heavy, inert, downward-moving, opaque

Mind

 

clear, content, inspired to spiritual pursuits, concentrated, accepting

 

flooded with thoughts, excited, hyperactive, nervous, wordly

 

unclear, heavy with depression, hopeless, no inspiration, dull

Emotions

 

faith, devotion, peace, humility, contentment, cheerfulness, detachment, yearning for liberation, love

 

desire, anger, greed, hypocrisy, arrogance, jealousy, egoism, envy, ambition, competitiveness, expectation

 

sadness, lack of enthusiasm, stubbornness, clinging, apathy, hopeless, dejection

Energy

 

light, joyful, supple

 

energetic but restless

 

dull, heavy, listless

Body

 

energetic, light, and composed

 

unsteady, too active

 

heavy, stiff, immobile

Food

 

light, fresh, easily digested, neither under- or overcooked, calming

 

strong taste, heavily spiced, pungent, overly salted, disturbs sleep, causes dreams

 

stale, heavy, full of additives/preservatives, overly sweet, induces sleep, overcooked

Attached to

 

knowledge and happiness

 

action

 

negligence, sloth, and sleep

Works

 

without desire for fruit according to scriptures, faith in duty, happy

 

seeking fruit, hypocritical, ostentatious, anxious/stressed

 

with foolish obstinacy, fails to observe scriptures or right practice, without faith

Environment

 

clean, fresh, quiet, peaceful, harmonious, cooperative, green, uncongested

 

conflicted energies, exciting, busy, plays music constantly, argumentative

 

dull, dark, stale, unclean, congested with old ideas, depressing, slothful

Understanding

 

knows virtue

 

unclear virtue/vice

 

obscured thinking

Rolf Sovik
President and Spiritual Director of the Himalayan Institute and a clinical psychologist in private practice, Rolf Sovik has studied yoga in the United States, India, and Nepal. He holds degrees in philosophy, music, Eastern studies, and clinical psychology. Former Co-Director of the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo, NY he began his practice of yoga in 1972, and was initiated as a pandit in the Himalayan tradition in 1987. He is the author of Moving Inward, co-author of the award-winning Yoga:... Read more>>