guNAs: part 1

Vedanta builds a lot over Samkhya's description of prakRti. prakRti is made up of three guNAs: sattva, rajas and tamas. Although guNa translates to quality in English, its not literally that. Sw. Nikhilananda of Ramakrishna Math gives a good example to negate this in introduction to Atmabodha. He says that guNa is not a quality the way hardness is the quality of wood, etc. Let me try to explain this a bit. If you remove the quality of hardness from wood, it may have some other quality, lets say brown colour. If you remove that, you'll still have something else, and so on. That is, there are many qualities to wood. Even if you remove them all, it will still remain to be something that you may or may not be able to define, but, yes, it will still be. But with prakRti, its not so; all the guNas add up to make prakRti. Without sattva, rajas and tamas, prakRti doesn't exist! Having said that, lets see what these guNAs are.

rajas is a guNa that adds activity to everything that is otherwise at rest. tamas makes things lie down to inactivity, which is different from rest. Say, if rest is a neutral activity, tamas is a negativity of that resting, which is laziness. sattva is a guNa that bridges rajas and tamas. While rajas is what makes a human nature human, tamas makes it devilish and sattva makes it godly. rajas is what keeps a human being involved in doing something worldly throughout the lifetime (and beyond). Every person, however, is a mix of all three; one of the guNAs maybe predominant though, defining the person's characteristics.

Not only things visible, but things not visible are also made up of guNAs since they are a part of prakRti... everything is. So all bodies, from the grossest to the subtlest are formed of guNas. In other words, all matter is made up of guNAs, all mind is made up of guNAs.

to be continued...
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