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Qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas – Sariraka Upanishad

Non-violence, truth, non-theft, continence and non-possession, absence of anger, service to elders, cleanliness, contentment and honesty, non-conceit, candor, faith and non-injury are the qualities of Sattva.

I am the doer, enjoyer, speaker, am conceited these are the qualities of Rajas.

Sleep, laziness, delusion, attachment, sex and theft are the qualities of Tamas.

The person of Sattva is above, of Rajas is in the middle and of Tamas, low.

Right knowledge is Sattvika; of rituals, Rajasa; blindness, Tamasa.

Sariraka Upanishad

Sattva (Purity, Harmony, Goodness): Sattva represents qualities such as non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, self-restraint (continence), non-possessiveness, absence of anger, service to elders, cleanliness, contentment, honesty, non-conceit, candor, faith, and non-injury. Individuals dominated by Sattva tend to exhibit these virtues. They are characterized by clarity of mind, spiritual awareness, and a tendency towards constructive and harmonious behavior.

Rajas (Passion, Activity, Desire): Rajas embodies qualities such as pride, desire for action, attachment, conceit, ambition, restlessness, and enjoyment. Those influenced by Rajas are driven by desires, seeking fulfillment through various actions and experiences. They may exhibit ego-driven behaviors and often experience fluctuating states of mind, swinging between happiness and sorrow.

Tamas (Inertia, Ignorance, Darkness): Tamas is associated with qualities such as laziness, delusion, attachment, lethargy, ignorance, darkness, inertia, and indulgence in sensual pleasures. Individuals dominated by Tamas are prone to lethargy, inertia, and a lack of clarity or awareness. They may struggle with negative emotions and behaviors, often leading to stagnation and suffering.

Hierarchy of the Gunas: The above verses from Sariraka Upanishad also highlights a hierarchy among the Gunas, with Sattva being superior, Rajas being in the middle, and Tamas being the lowest. This hierarchy suggests that individuals dominated by Sattva tend to have a higher level of consciousness and spiritual evolution, while those dominated by Rajas and Tamas may be less evolved spiritually and more driven by worldly desires and ignorance.

Types of Knowledge: The verses further distinguishes between types of knowledge associated with each Guna. Right knowledge, characterized by clarity, truthfulness, and spiritual understanding, is considered Sattvika. Knowledge associated with rituals and external actions, driven by desires and ego, is labeled Rajasa. Conversely, knowledge characterized by ignorance, delusion, and lack of discernment is termed Tamasa.

Overall, these concepts provide a framework for understanding human behavior, motivations, and spiritual evolution in Hindu philosophy. They emphasize the importance of cultivating qualities associated with Sattva to transcend worldly desires and achieve spiritual enlightenment.