Three states of Mind

The Man, the Mind and the world  

The senses together with mind, intellect, ego and consciousness makes the world of man. The eyes, ears etc. connect with the external object, send in the details of it to the mind which then connects with intellect and ego or personal experiences to produce the conscious knowledge about the object of visualization, hearing etc. Thus the real world is in the action, reaction of mind to the external objective world. Thus the world is not what is outside but what is in our perception, our decoding of it and our reaction to it. The real sense of self is beyond all that. This makes the mind as the most important instrument in the hands of the man. If the man is willing to stand up with and work the mind, then he becomes intelligent. If he is not able to control it then it falls apart and bound to lead him to destruction.

The Hinduism and Yoga philosophy understands this and is particular about the various tendencies, characteristics, attitudes of mind and how mind can be cultivated for more informed life and happiness. This commentary is an effort to understand the various characteristics of mind, its effect, its modification and ultimate selection of attributes that one needs for the appropriate stage of life.

Mind and its tendencies per Vedanta

The mind is said to be in three states or gunas  namely, Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. Gunas in Sanskrit means quality, attribute, virtue, or characteristic. These thress gunas operate in man in his mind/thought/action in various proportions. In fact, these three characteristics make up the world. Everything that is manifested such as space, time, knowledge, action, result, material goods, the situation is a composition of these three attributes. The interaction between these qualities leads to the evolution of man. All the three gunas are important and cannot operate in isolation and yet they have been graded as per the benefits that accrue to the man because of these traits.

Three states of Mind

Now what are the qualities of each of these states. Each of them has some inherent attributes associated with it, acts on person in certain way and there are ways to overcome it.

Tamo Guna: It is a state of ignorance.  Tamo guna represents a state of darkness, inertness, a state where ones memory is weak and who is indifferent. Inertia, coarseness, heaviness, obstruction and sloth are some of the qualities of people with dominance of tamo guna. Tamas is the state of ignorance, darkness, laziness, indulgence and brute force.  It is lowest of the three forces/gunas. It promotes darkness, dissolution, death, destruction, sloth and resistance. It is also a guna or quality that is needed to counter evil. It is the lowest, heaviest, slowest and most dull like an earthen pot. It is devoid of the energy of rajas and brightness of sattva.

Tamas is due to ignorance, poverty, backwardness, illiteracy, disease, malnutrition, poor health, bad habits and resultant weak mind. It results in ignorance and heaviness as it opposes knowledge and lightness and produces the nature of sorrow and sadness that leads to a state of being bound by the circumstances.

Tamas can not be countered by sattva but has to be changed by engaging in action which is a rajasic quality.

Rajo Guna :

It is a state where is mind is full of passion and motion. The leading attribute of rajo guna are  quality of energy and activity. Dynamism, activity, excitement and pain and pleasure are the leading characteristics of the people dominated by this quality. Rajasik people are action oriented, who have strong belief in their doership, individualistic, and blinded and attached to the results of their action. Ideal example for rajo guna dominated person are business men, soldier and politicians. They are driven by their sense organs and mind and like to enjoy life in its fullest possibility. They love food that is pungent, sour and gives pleasure to senses.  In terms of color red depicts them well.

Rajas is the state of activity whose chief motives are power and enjoyment. When one is in this state, the mind makes him restless, a workholoic, seeker of new sensations and variety. He has a passion for new places, person, objects, activity, music, books, travel, food and enjoyment in general. They are extraverts. They tend to be judgemental and seeing both good and bad and hence are affected by pain and pleasure to a great extent.  It is worldly, achievement oriented mind always in search of something and hence in continuous state of activity and agitation arising out of it. Rajo guna is needed whenever any action is to be carried out. The down side of this need for uncontrolled activity is unfixity of mind affected by distractions that prevents a person from being focused in an activity for a long time there by creating obstacles in reaching desired results.

Rajo guna when combined with tamo guna results in actions that is detrimental but still needed to wake up people from their state of apathy and darkness.  And when rajo and sattva guna is combined the result is beneficial to everyone. Rajo guna in its own tends to be activity for selfish gain and when combined with sattvik tendencies would result in collective goodness. The activity driven state when finds an outlet that is uplifting, purposeful, pure and beneficial goal the outcome is bound to be liberating. If on the other hand one tries to control the restlessness by artificial means it is likely to find outlet in some other means that could be detrimental. So well directed and controlled activity is essential for peace and happiness.

Intensely active mind is known to take a satvic turn and history is repeat with such examples

Sattva Guna:

Sattva is the quality of purity and light. It is a state where one is not attached to the result despite performing, where one has faith in self and poise, fineness, lightness, illumination and joy are the qualities. Knowledge is the prime mover here and saint, sage are the people in whom Sattva is said to be dominant. Sattva people are said to like food that is wholesome, pure and easily available and their color is white.

Sattva is the state of serenity, calmness. It is not the apparent state of calmness and laziness of tamas. It is rather an active state and like the calmness on the top of lake where in ripples have stopped post the creation of ripple when a stone is thrown in.   It is a state where mind is controlled and unaffected by the thoughts emanating from and the actions of external world. It is where the mind is not affected by the dualities of pain and pleasure. It is a state where patience and desires are under control. It is a state where mind is steady unaffected by the turbulence created by the external world and internal deliberations on it. It is a state of awareness where in one knows that the world is in mind and ultimate peace is in mind. There is no dualities in the world and that there is only one creator and everything else is the different manifestation of the same. It is ultimate state where and which leads to liberation.  It leads to a state of great knowledge, of pure and determined will and a state of being-consciousness-bliss. Sattvic virtues are patience, generosity and Sattva guna is developed by prayer, thinking, good company, meditation, light food, discrimination and self-learning.

The result of such state of mind is that because of its steadiness one is able to get rid of ignorance and gains knowledge. He gains freedom from the pain and pleasure syndrome comes from the activities. The mind is able to enquire into various aspects of the world and is able to take impartial and superior decisions, though it is not the ultimate aim of it. The mind that delights in itself ultimately and becomes capable of engaging in focused activities for a longer duration is the character of mind in Sattva dominated persons. It is the mind that is capable of turning out outstanding work whatever may the field in which one is engaged.

Sattva to be effective has to manifest on its own accord and should not be forced.

The result of tamo is carelessness and laziness, rajo is anger and sense of balance or equilibrium is from the result of sattva state dominating.  Rajas is akin to life force in one and Tamas is the physical body and Sattva is the natural state of mind a state where the externalities have no effect and the state where mind is calm, conscious and happy.

-by Karparation