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Yoga Psychology | Sattva Rajas Tamas – Trigunas II

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Sattva Rajas Tamas – Trigunas II

In Part I, we had touched upon the evolutes arising out of the fusion of Prakrti / Prime Nature and Purusha / Prime Consciousness. We saw how the 5 Jnanendriyas/ Organs of Knowledge and the 5 Karmendriyas/ Organs of Action are the only ways for us to know or experience anything, and to interact with our environment. Our individual and unique ways of Knowing and Action or Doing, reflect our unique combination of the Trigunas or the 3 Prime Qualities – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.

We had also seen how all Yoga must be seen on 3 levels-the External, the Internal and the Secret levels.

Part I introduced us to the External or the ‘real world’ understanding of the effects of the Triguna. Now, we must step up onto a higher level, to gain a deeper understanding of the Triguna. Through understanding comes the experience and through the experience comes transformation. This is the path of Yoga.

In Part I, we had dealt with the psycho-dynamic or body-based aspects of Triguna, now we shall deal with the Cognitive, Conative and Affective, or the purely psychological aspects of the Triguna. We are going to peer into the lakes of our minds to observe the reflections of the Triguna-Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, the ripples that we feel as emotions and see as thoughts.

The Internal experience of Triguna

artistic representation of the concept that reality is a projection of the mind

Reality as Projection

Just as the 5 Organs of Action and Knowledge (Karmendriyas and Jnanendriyas) are the only means of interacting with and knowing the world outside, just so are the 4 Parts of the Mind, the masters of the Karmendriyas and Jnanendriyas.

It is the mind that sees, not the eye, it is the mind that smells, not the nose, it is the mind that touches, not the hand. And so, we see the Internal Experience in this realization, that it is the mind that is all. Control over the mind is control over the experience. And experience is the proof of life. So, to control our lives, our very destinies, we only to need to control the mind, the experiencer of destiny.

The unquestioning mind refers whatever is seen or heard, by the Jnanendriyas to the memory complex, the Chitta, in order to make sense of what is being seen, heard, etc., and therefore, the mind is always referring the present to our past experiences. Having categorized the present experience through the lens of the past, the presumptuous mind then projects the categorized present experience, onto the future as expectations. So, in most cases what we are actually seeing or experiencing as the present, is a combination of the remembered past and the expected future. And so, we completely miss the actual present moment.

This method of experiencing reality is Projected reality, where the mind projects onto actual reality, its own past experiences and future expectations, changing completely the actual experience of reality, giving Reality, the Egos own image. In other words, we create the world, within our own minds, in our own image. What we experience as the world is a perfect reflection of what we are.


Sattvic people believe that our work lies in discovering more of the reality of the world out there, and in bringing whatsoever benefit we can to the world's inhabitants, including ourselves. The first point makes us all scientists, artists and explorers, while the second point makes us humanists. This is the way of Sattva in the External World.

To a Sattvic individual, the world is always bright and joyous and all its people are ever free, masters of their own destinies, some are seen to be aware of this mastery and others not. A Sattvic individual never undertakes any work or activity thinking about success or failure, gain or loss, fame or blame. Rather, he/ she does things only because they love to. Though a Sattvic person might seem benign on the outside, the fact that he/ she does things only from their heart, makes them invulnerable to domination or corruption. An open heart can never be conquered by force or by guile. In its complete vulnerability, the open heart of the Sattvic people, make them invulnerable to the pains and tragedies of normal life which are mostly caused by our own selfish or ignorant thoughts and actions.

Sattvic individuals are intuitive and empathetic. Due to the Clear Awareness nature of Sattva, such individuals have few prejudices and are the torchbearers of liberty and inclusivity.

Cognitive, Affective and Conative qualities: Sattva

COGNITIVE - Clear Thought, Self-aware, Non-Judgemental, Highly Discerning AFFECTIVE - Aesthete, Skillfully Adaptive and Harmoniously Creative, No Passion-Based Actions, High On Intensity, Pro-Life/Loves All Aspects of Life & Living CONATIVE - Compassion is seen as the Highest Reasonableness, Rationally Non-Selfish, Accepting of others Views/ Reasons, Selfless

RAJAS – Its My Rajasic World

Our work, according to competitive society lies only in satisfying self-interest. And it matters not if others have to be trampled upon in order for us to reach the top. And to encourage the required competitiveness and ruthlessness in us, schools, colleges and our friends are always reminding us that there is no place for weakness in this world where everybody is competing for the next dollar. And so weakness is looked down upon and as a result, the victim is seen as deserving his fate as he is weak, a loser, and the winner deserves to take it all.

For Rajasic people, the world is a stage to prove themselves and they wish to do so by dominating others. Due to the Yogically accepted fact that every emotion is always born with its opposite, this desire to dominate, among the Rajasic people comes coupled with a fear of being dominated, of being a ‘nobody’, of becoming a loser. Constantly running towards a success that is never permanent, and always running away from failure, the life of Rajasic people is beset with ups and downs, fleeting pleasures and intense pain.

Rajasic individuals have high intellectual capacity. Due to the dominance of the intellect powered Ego, Rajasic individuals hold strong faith in their own beliefs, whether based on science or creationism or any other theory. Further, Rajasic individuals are also convinced that it is their own beliefs which are the ‘true beliefs’ and all other belief systems are wrong. From scientific fundamentalists to religious and other fundamentalists, the basis of all fundamentalism is the dominating energy of Rajas.

Cognitive, Affective and Conative qualities: Rajas

COGNITIVE - Confusion: Moving between states of Clear Thought and Delusional Thought, Partially Self-Aware, Highly Judgemental, Discerning Only During Clear Thought Time,

AFFECTIVE - Pleasure Seeking-Stoics, Dominating and Protective over the Weak, Mostly Passion-based Actions, Inconsistent on Intensity, Moves Between Extremes of Pro & Anti Life

CONATIVE - Self-Projection is seen as the Highest Reasonableness, Rationally Selfish, Desire to Dominate Others Views, Selfless only while Protecting

TAMAS – Who gives a Tamasic sh*t about the World

Tamasic individuals never question their own thoughts or actions.

Tamasic individuals function from purely selfish interests. Tamas does not provide the vital energy to activate the desire to dominate or to project one’s self onto the world, unlike Rajas. And so, the Tamasic individual has half felt desires and wishes that will never come true because he/ she refuses to work towards it.

Tamas looks at the rest of the world with Tamasic eyes and so sees violence, corruption and rot everywhere. Even when they look at a happy scene, Tamasic individuals only see the dark side of the scene, missing out on the light. As they cannot love, Tamasic people do not believe that anyone truly loves with an open heart. Tamasic people see ulterior motives behind even the most charitable and generous actions of others and so refuse to engage in charity or generosity themselves.

Constantly critical of others, but never themselves, Tamasic people never change as they see even the best of humanity as being lower or more corrupted than their own selves, and so not being able to have faith in role models, living or dead Tamasic individuals see no need to reform and have no specific direction or intention in life themselves.

Tamasic people are mostly instinctive, living as they do for most of the while, between fear and lust, trying to run away from the former and trying to hunt the latter. Born hunters, Tamasic individuals see the world as a ‘wild and anarchic’ place that would basically fall apart and be taken over by marauders if there were no police, army or legal systems in place. Of course, Tamasic individuals think this way because they themselves are potential marauders, rapists, criminals, etc, and they project their own repressed selves into the people and society, seeing the unacknowledged parts of themselves being reflected in society.

Cognitive, Affective and Conative qualities: Tamas

COGNITIVE - Delusional, Non-Self-aware, Blindly Critical or Accepting, Non-Discerning,

AFFECTIVE - Pain Fearing, Submissive and Demanding Submission from the Weak, Low on Passionate Actions-High on Instinctive Actions, Low on Intensity

CONATIVE - Self-protection is seen as Highest Reasonableness, Irrationally Selfish, Submits to Social Delusions, Never Self-less

Once again, as in Part I, we must always keep in mind that Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic qualities do not exist in exclusion to each other. Rather, their unique mixture in each of us, termed Mishran, in Samskrit, is constantly changing and leads to natural evolution. At the end of natural evolution, we arrive at a species like Humans, where the intellect has evolved to the point of being self-aware, and then the Mishran of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, reaches the potency that will give birth to self-willed evolution. And that is evolution as per one’s own will or desire.

Content and Image ©AryaMarga Society

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