The 3 Gunas (Satsang)

The 3 Gunas (Satsang)

The topic for the Satsang on Sunday, 7th October, 2012 was ‘3 Gunas’ (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas).


Following is the transcript of the speech made by Dr. Jayadeva Yogendra and Smt. Hansaji Yogendra on the topic.

Smt. Hansaji and Dr. Jayadeva Yogendra

“We are born with some temperament and that carries us through life. We don’t even detect it unless often we are told that we are a very angry person, etc. But then we can’t repair the whole thing.

These are very basic qualities. The Yogis of the old times, they discovered something wonderful – The human being has 3 basic qualities and they are changing and we are influenced by them and we act and suffer the consequences also. And that goes on. We are totally clamped into this. Either we are dull, stupid, lazy or we are energetic, active, quarrelsome or we are balanced and can see things better. And these 3 qualitites keep on changing. Sometimes we are balanced, sometimes we are angry and upset.

The training in yoga is to see if we can increase the Sattvic qualities. The more we maintain balance, the more we see things with clarity, the better for us. But we have never tried to understand and improve. All our life goes on like that.

A solicitor once told me he had a neighbour who was very quarrelsome. He used to meet everyone. He’d begin speaking ill about somebody and once he’d start, he wouldn’t stop and all his life this was his nature. He never could settle down to understand and function the right way. So these are those basic traits that should settle down in our personality. But we can’t correct them, they are part of our nature. Only when situations that happen, accidents happen, quarrels take place and then we are told to bring a change in ourselves, which we can’t do quickly.

There is the story of a man who was punished and was to be hanged. He was pleading innocent, but the judgement was very clear. Next day, he would be hanged. A lawyer was a little concerned. He went to jail and asked this man, “Tell me, did you murder that man?” The man said, “Sir, I did not. I tell you honestly, it is a wrong allegation.” He was very sincere. The lawyer asked, “Did you anytime murder somebody?” The man said yes, a month ago, he murdered somebody. The lawyer went away. The next morning the statement was made that the man was to be hanged for murder. However the lawyer was so influenced by the meeting that he resigned and he wrote a book, a lecture on these qualities – how we get into a system where we just can’t change them.

So you see, we should understand ourselves, understand our basic nature, consequences and start making some attempt to change. We could turn out into better persons.”


“The 3 Gunas is an important thing to understand because this fluctuation between Rajas, Sattva and Tamas is continuous in all of us. Actually our personality gets affected by so many factors. Extreme hot or cold weather makes us Tamasic, where we become dull and lethargic, easily hurtful and keep absorbing negativity. The type of food we eat also affects the mind. As the food, so the mind, as the mind, so the thoughts, as the thoughts, so the action, as the action, so our life and even death. That’s a big thing. If we overeat or under-eat, or we eat ready-made packaged food, refined and frozen food, etc, we become Tamasic. So we should be careful of what we eat. Routine also affects us. If we wake up after sunrise or sleep after sunset or sleep less, it makes us Tamasic. If we are sitting around, not doing anything, we become Tamasic. Even thoughts (Vicar) affect us. If we keep worrying, feeling hurt, feeling sad, we are Tamasic. Anything we overdo, makes us Tamasic.
It is difficult to come to a Sattvic state from a Tamasic state. If you are in a Tamasic state, first go into a Rajasic state. If you are sitting around, start moving and doing something. Depressed? Start looking at positive things.

But, in Rajasic state, emotions are not in control. The person keeps acting n that state and does not think. Here we need to bring balance.

Sattvic state is a more mature state where we act but in balance; where we know what is right and what is wrong.

So the objective of our discussion today is that no state is constant. A person may act wisely one moment but go into a Tamasic or Rajasic state in the other. It is very difficult to maintain the same state throughout. A lot of awareness is required.

There is the story of Vivekananda and his Guru Ramakrishna Paramhamsa. One day Vivekananda was walking and he heard some people talking bad about his Guru. He felt very indignant and angry. He went and shouted at them. When he returned to the Asrama and narrated the incident to his Guru, Ramakrishna scolded him and told his he should have kept quiet and left those people alone.

The next day, another student of Ramakrishna came to the Asrama very sad and depressed. When asked what had happened, he said, he heard some people on the road talking bad about his Guru. Ramakrishna asked him, “So what did you do?” The student said sadly, “What could I do? I felt very bad.” The Guru scolded him and told him, he should have gone ahead and talked to the people and told them they were wrong.

The others did not understand the contradicting behaviour of the Guru. But he knew that Vivekanand had an aggressive, Rajasic nature and had to bring some Tamas into his personality while the other student was Tamasic and needed to bring some Rajasic qualities in his personality.

So we should understand that even at home, no one can be the same and work the same way. We need to see what level they are on and explain to them accordingly. If today someone is treating you well, do not get disturbed if tomorrow they act differently. We must not react. We must increase awareness about ourselves and bring ourselves to the correct state.

There is a state even higher than these 3 states, called ‘Gunatitha‘ which is beyond the three Gunas and does not get affected by them.


Q & A

Q. How can a pure witnessing person help us?
A. Dr. Jayadeva – If there is such a person, he is definitely a good person, a wise person. He can advise us and advise other individuals. This will help.
Smt. Hansaji – If he can see things from a witness point of view, and if we take advise from him as a third person and act accordingly, we will have less problems in life.

Q. It is said in science that onion and garlic are good for the heart. Then how can we avoid it?
A. Dr. Jayadeva – If you have read that, then keep on eating them, no harm.
Smt. Hansaji – Yes, they may be good for the heart, but we are talking about the mind. If you have heart problem, eat. If you don’t have a problem, avoid them. We generally eat such food according to the season. Use them moderately. These foods are not easy to digest. They irritate the alimentary canal. As medicine, they can be used in small quantities, otherwise avoid.
Q. We are influenced by various factors. How do we know what qualities we are born with and who are we today?
A. Dr. Jayadeva – One thing you can do is be very careful, try to understand, maintain notes, talk to others in exchange and you will get good advise. Another way is to take your money bag and go to the doctor. He will tell you what to do.
Smt. Hansaji – Keep observing yourself an why you behave the way you do. We make mistakes. Make sure they do not repeat. Listen to good things and ponder over them. Otherwise with lack of awareness, we depend on doctors and medicines for everything.

Q. I Talk to myself. Is it good?
A. Dr. Jayadeva – Occasionally, thinking, introspection is good. But making it a habit and all the time thinking and talking is not good.
Smt. Hansaji – Instead of talking to yourself, talk to God. Observe yourself and don’t talk to yourself loudly or others will consider you mad.

Q. A person who has already reached to a higher level of Sattvic Guna, can he go into other levels of Rajas and Tamas in any situation, anytime?
A. Dr. Jayadeva – Well, if we had a measuring instrument, we could have measured if the person has gone into Sattvic state. Actually, these things don’t have to be seen, you have to feel it and experience it and that way you can understand and change.

Smt. Hansaji – While the body and nature exist, the three Gunas will keep changing. All three Gunas are there, only the proportion differs. Try and maintain balance and not overdo Tamasic and Rajasic states. Be alert always.


Q. How to take the first step for Swadhyaya on ourselves?
A. Dr. Jayadeva – Keep a diary and write on what you did.
Smt. Hansaji – Yes, write on what you did during the day, when you got angry, etc. But don’t write of others.

Q. Rising inflation is becoming a big threat to a person’s satisfactory life. What is your opinion?

A. Dr. Jayadeva – Well, you have spoken this, everyone has heard. If they have heard you, they will give you some money.

Smt. Hansaji – Stop this kind of thinking that there is inflation and things are getting expensive. Keep some faith that in this big world even an ant and even an elephant finds some food from somewhere. If there is a problem, the solution will also come. Thinking will not help.
Satsang is an open meeting held every Sunday from 9:30 to 10:30 am at The Yoga Institute, Santacruz East, Mumbai. It involves an interesting presentation to the public, made by the students of the Teacher Training Course. Each week, a new presentation of a Yogic concept is made in a simple way through skits and decoration for the general public, followed by a short speech from our Gurus, Dr. Jayadeva and Smt. Hansaji Yogendra.
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