Gunas – Inherent and Infused

Gunas – Inherent and Infused

189 by Ravi Shah
189 by Ravi Shah

The gunas are the 3 fundamental qualities whose blend gives everything its basic characteristics. I talked about their origins here. They are:

Sattva: purity or clarity of the flow (golden)
Rajas: movement itself, energy or fire, and transformation (red)
Tamas: resistance or inertia, impediment to movement, solidity (blue)

These qualities show up in flavours, awakening, karma, the works. One way to see them is as a polarity of Sattva & Tamas, with Rajas as the mediator and transformer between them.

Recently, I noted how the gunas have 2 styles, inherent and infused.

Inherent gunas are created by the laws of nature we embody. For example, if we take after a family of runners, we know we have solid rajas.

There will also be what we might call semi-inherent gunas that are created by our karma. They’ll be prominent in our life until the karma completes, then they’ll fade.

Perhaps we’ll see an urge to save money, for example, driven by an old security fear. A clear intellect and financial planning can drive that same impulse. Same action, different quality behind it, different results.

Infused gunas are the influences created by our actions and habits. A regular effortless meditation, moderate fresh food, and so on will culture sattva and can swing our balance of qualities.

Dwelling on our anger or frustration will culture more fire. Then the question is: is this fire transforming to open things up or close them? Does the fire lead to evolution or destruction? (It can transform in both directions.) Depression, resistance, and such will culture more inertia.

The trick is, life is structured in layers. Quality, suitable food primarily helps the physical. If we’re controlling and anxious about that food, that will have more of an impact than the quality of the food. Our attitude has more power than our actions. And from a spiritual perspective, it’s inner sattva we need to awaken, not perfect diet.

The goal here isn’t eliminating any of the gunas, it’s shifting the balance toward sattva for quality of life. We still need rajas for doing and tamas for form. But if either guna dominates, they reduce our quality of life.

It’s helpful here to develop intuition and fine feelings as they’re closer to the gunas. We can use them to discriminate and find the qualities we seek in our decisions.

For example, when we grocery shop it’s then easy to check the quality and suitability of food before we put it in our cart. Not mood-making, but sensing. Ditto for deciding if we can trust someone. How do they feel energetically?

Related to this is prana or life-force. Living things have prana, including fresh food. Our body can use that prana, along with the nutritive values. Natural environments are also rich with prana.

Processed foods usually lack prana. They need our existing life-force to digest. They take more than they give. Plus, they typically culture more inertia (tamas).

We’re not just eating and digesting food for our body, but also digesting our emotions and our mind. Everything we “consume” becomes a part of us. You are what you eat isn’t just physical food but the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the people we hang out with, the places we go… everything we experience is something to be processed that becomes us.

The key with infusion and shifting the balance is what we favour with our attention. And how we relate to our experiences. If we relate to something we’re experiencing as bad, it will have more of an effect than if we’re neutral.

I’m not suggesting control here – that’s resistance and inertia. Just a natural favouring when choice is available. Spiritual practices can really help.

Some of what life brings us is not a choice. But it is arising to help us learn or resolve. Just do your best to experience and digest it as it is. And where we have choice, we learn to favour what is nourishing.

As our habits of attention and intention shift, life becomes smoother and more satisfying on every level of experience.

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