A Parable of the Gunas

A brief summary of what are Gunas first…..

They mean Threads or Primal Energy Flows. There are three ~ Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas. We are always being affected energetically speaking by these ”flows”. I will put in a more detailed post on Gunas at the end of this, but this little story occurred to me this morning out on my walk and so I sketched it.

Meet Atman.

Atman is an embodied soul, at play in the fields of the Lord. Generally things are going okay with Atman. (Say ”Hi” Atman! )

Now, Atman is going along in a generally balanced state (especially when things are going well)..Atman feels just fine.  The body feels poised and balanced and harmonised. Atman is experiencing Sattwa. Atman feels Gooood…..

And then things begin to change. For whatever reason, Atman feels blocked…..old stuff coming up, as they say. The mind and body feels sluggish and lazy and dull. Atman has met Tamas.

Tamas is inert, static, doesn’t feel like doing much, likes to obstuct, like to lie in bed and eat ice-cream all day. It is not ”evil”, because it is a wholly natural thing,  but it does accumulate and has its own force. Its energy is like that of molten lava or soil creep,  moving slowly, yet effectively consuming all before it.

Often the embodied Atman responds by stubbornly ignoring Tamas, turning its back, and hoping it will go away of its own accord.

But even if ignored Tamas accumulates, and consumes, and becomes harder to ignore. Atman is being shoved back by the forces of Tamas. It causes stagnation and obstruction for embodied Atman. (Poor Atman 😦 )

Sometimes embodied Atman decides to fight against Tamas. There will be discipline, Atman decides, and battle-plans are drawn up. Weapons are chosen and the great stultifying force of Tamas is fought against, as if it is something that can be conquered (á la Vikings!)

Atman fights against Tamas, but it always exists. Nothing can decrease it. Tamas cannot be defeated by focussing on it and fighting it. Tamas has to be climbed over lightly, with the mind on the higher plane, moving towards Sattwa. Tamas will be overcome by just doing, not thinking. Acting but not fighting. One step up after another. Allowing Tamas to exist because it is the grounding force that holds the Universe together, but skipping over its bad effects with a light heart. Or a silver ladder. Jacob’s ladder? The heart and mind focussed on the Heavens…

So, Atman ACTS, and does not fight or waste energy ”thinking” or battling; it simply makes the exact, necessary effort and ascends to Sattwa again.

Atman is pretty relaxed now, feeling groovy to be back in harmony. The views from this new plateau look Goooood….But Ruh Roh! Look out behind you, Atman!

Rajas is sneaking up on Atman, wanting a piece of the action.

Rajas is natural effort. Ambition. Desire. Passion. Activity. Rajas wants to chase Atman’s heels, move Atman quicker,  achieve the goal, even the spiritual goal. It wants to BE at the Party ALREADY.  Atman suddenly feels the breath of Rajas on the back of its neck ~ it is pretty hot after all  ~ and Atman thinks, OH NO!

Atman tries to wrestle with Rajas, tries to subdue passion…..

…to put it back in its box. Rajas is embarrassing. All that sweaty desire. All that naked ambition. It’s a red-faced, swaggering bully! Embodied Atman tries to build a wall to hold back Rajas…

But no walls will hold back nature. Active, passionate, consuming Rajas is as essential to life as the dark, holding power of Tamas. And, of course, whatever is resisted will persist.

There is one way, however, that Atman knows to dissolve excess Rajas. To keep it balanced. And this method is Stillness. Atman must anchor Rajas with stillness, for when it is calmly observed, Rajas quietens.

And thus Rajas quietens and does not overwhelm Sattwa, and Atman can go along on its merry way…

…stepping up lightly when it meets Tamas, and so on.

What Atman does is use a little Bit of the good energy of Rajas (effort) to overcome Tamas (inertia) as needed, just the right amount of spice to make the stew good,  keeping the focus on Sattwa (harmony), and not over-thinking…..

And Atman uses a little bit of Tamas, the good side of Inertia…Stillness…to overcome Rajas (Passion)…..

Again just the right amount.  The natural balance between action and inaction, effort and stillness, attraction and aversion, effort and non-effort, and so on, thus enabling the harmonious state of Sattwa to abide …forever and ever, Amen…

(Well, as much as possible ~ Atman is embodied as a Human Being after all…and this ain’t no fairy-tale..)




Generally just Being. Nothing in particular, no claims to fame. I like gardening and the sea, nature, art in all forms from poetry to films and everything in between, and being in the company of my family.

Posted in Uncategorized, Yoga

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