Transformation – Elements and Gunas

Transformation – Elements and Gunas

Lookout Point Sunset by Paul VanDerWerf
Lookout Point Sunset by Paul VanDerWerf

The stages of enlightenment are not a goal but a platform for living a better quality of life. Even the movement in that direction improves life, both personally and collectively.

I’ve often written about the gunas and their transformation to support this, including the refinement of perception.

Essentially, tamas (inertia) transforms to sattva (clarity, purity) through the fire of rajas.

While the gunas come back to qualities of consciousness itself, they show up even on the surface in emotions, the qualities of food, and so on.

Thus, while the gunas are subtle, they also express on the surface so can be recognized right in our daily experience. Further, we can recognize symptoms of their transformation, like refined perception or our emotional tone.

Spiritual groups that culture fear such as “eternal damnation” or guilt are not being helpful. They’re inviting us to culture energy that can take us to our own little hell. Although happily, that’s never eternal. Everything can be healed.

What I’ve talked less about is transforming the elements. The five elements are much less subtle than the gunas, but they operate behind the surface appearance.

For example, for most of us, space is an abstract idea. We pay little attention to the space of our experience. Yet it can become more prominent in some transformations, like when we fall back into witnessing or first wake up. When we’re the conscious container of experience, we’re more aware of the space value. When we say consciousness is infinite or boundless, that’s what we’re pointing to. Similarly, we may say full or empty. But again, these are the qualities of space, expressed by consciousness. Pure consciousness itself simply is, prior to expression.

The earth element is prominent in physical matter and the solid state, water on the energy/ emotional level and in the fluid state, fire on the mental level and plasma state, air on the intellect level and gaseous state, and space on the causal level.

And yet all are always present and all operate on the causal level, giving qualities that appear as other densities.

Because of this subtlety, most of us are oblivious to elemental qualities and thus their transformation.

Yet their transformation dramatically changes the flexibility and pliability on levels where the process is further along. However, the appearance can remain the same. We’re turning down the dial of subtle density.

People often report experiencing subtle beings, for example, that look as detailed and real as someone standing in a physical form. Yet they’re clearly not and do not need to be. We just need to be clear enough on their level to experience them like that.

(Note: this is not a reference to other “dimensions.” Subtle means finer resolution in the same space, not a different space.)

In the same way, two physical forms can have vastly different levels of density and resolution even if superficially they seem much the same. Yet zoom into one and they become translucent where the other maintains its solidity.

There are a variety of ways we may experience this process and thus various ways of framing it.

For example, as we purify, there is a shift from various qualities of release into flow. Instead of twitchy or sharp sensations, transformation takes on a flowing grace. Our arm doesn’t jerk, it flows like a dance move as various channels open and qualities shift from solid, to liquid, to gas.

Maharishi spoke of stress being like a line on rock. As we soften, it becomes like a line on sand, then water, then air.

Mixed in to this process for some of us is aging. Aging can take us in both directions. As we slow and get more stiff, we’re heading earthward. And yet, as we complete and let go more and more, that leads us the other way, supporting our spiritual process.

It’s a big topic that I’ve not closely defined. But recent work on the Yoga Sutra book highlights this process in abilities like mastery of the elements and yogic flying. When we’re less dense, our abilities can expand quite a bit. We’re not defined so much by resistance or inertia.

Of course, this development is also taking place in a collective that’s still pretty dense. Yet with so many awakening, and consciousness descending into more and more dense layers, everything is softening.

At some point, there will be a phase transition and life will transform in ways we can barely imagine.

Average rating 4.9 / 5. Vote count: 19

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.


  1. Gina L Westbrook

    Your first statement that the purpose of enlightenment is the expansion of happiness and joy in life, I found very powerful. For the unawakened, because our concentration tends to be on enlightenment, we tend to lose track of that, it’s good to be reminded that “the purpose of creation is the expansion of happiness” and that expansion is an infinite one, and thus happiness and bliss will expand infinitely. That is the ultimate goal of life. Thank you for this. Oh! and I really appreciated your definition of subtle

    1. Hi Gina
      In other words, exactly. Not a goal in and of itself. Most are only vaguely aware that they’re largely suffering through life, their play a tragedy. Much clearer when we step out of it. Not that life becomes perfect but much smoother and more satisfying when we’re working with, not against it.

  2. Michael

    Hi David!

    Yeah elements…always fascinating!

    With the bodies having different densities i totally know what you mean but even then there are some signs that are visible, for example most people ( with no subtle perception) when they look at the palms of my hands will say that they look a little translucent like one could see what is below the surface skin, but i agree it will mostly look similar to a dense physical body. 🙂

    In a tamil siddha tradition they describe the transformation of elements (within the body) as follows: earth becomes unhindered earth, water becomes non-flowing fluid, fire becomes silent fire, air becomes undying air and space becomes un-vapourising sky.

    Essentially the body itself will become nondual…meaning, less food, and less water is needed (and less excretion), less sleep is needed, only 1 or 2 breaths per minute while being active, the body reacting to outside forces less strong (more cold tolerance, less to no sweating in summer heat etc.

    in bön tradition (Tibet) they talk about the denser five elements returning to their original state which they then call not the five elements but the five lights.

    a fascinating subject!
    much love

    1. Thanks, Michael. Fascinating details indeed. Don mentions a similar resolution of the gunas below.

      As the elements are basically causal, that is a lit field. The gunas are distinct colours there, before they blend and merge. Have not experienced the elements as lights but rather densities but I’m sure that’s possible. Fascinating to consider the calming of the elements too.

      In the time we have here, it’s pretty rare for anyone to reach this level of embodiment. Higher ages and longer lives help a lot. We’ll see how this unfolds.

      With the palms, another change I’ve heard of is the vanishing of lines, asssumedly as the karma completes.

    2. Thanks again, Michael. Was discussing this with a very awake friend recently. We recognized that earth doesn’t go away. We still need to be grounded, for example. But it transforms as you describe. The quality remains but the limitations lift. This can be described as a purification of even the essence of our form.

  3. don salmon

    Wonderful – I especially like the view of stages of enlightenment not as a goal but a way of living. In the path of surrender and self giving, one may be aware of stages/shifts etc but all for the Glory of God (or whatever one prefers to call “Her”:>))

    Interesting about the transformation of the gunas. I’ve frequently seen writings in the Vedic tradition about the transformation of tamas into sattwa.

    Sri Aurobindo has an interesting take on it. As the Divine Mind (“supramental consciousness” in his words) “descends” (not literally a descent – not the same as the commonly known experience of sensing energy/Shakti descending through the head into the body, but rather, the successive transformation of body, (annamaya), life (pranamaya) and mind (manomaya) as successive stages of enlightenment unfold) – as the supramental descends, the gunas are transformed, each into the “higher octave” of what might be referred to as their “Source”.

    As he puts it (infinitely wiser than I just did!):

    The three gunas become purified and refined and changed into their divine equivalents: sattwa becomes jyotih, the authentic . spiritual light; rajas becomes tapas, the tranquilly intense divine force; tamas becomes sama, the divine quiet, rest, peace.

    1. Beautiful, Don. The Gita talks about transcending the gunas as we need to go to source to disentangle. But when we come back into daily life, we’re back in the field of the gunas. This is another way of framing the transformation that follows.

  4. Bill

    As usual Davidya, you write like chocolate cake with raspberry filling and coconut on top; sweet and so tasteful at the same time! A small contibution for the aging process, which I have been involved with directly here (at 79 years), has been a fascinating stage of subtle relationships and interactive stages which move in and through both the yin and yang, male and female and all the scriptural interactions described throughout the various Upanishads.

    One of the most interesting for me has been the ever stronger emergence of the feminine and its reminders of the quality of time (physical) and how integral that is in the experience of the balance of the dance. At the same time, as you point out, the flow becomes surprisingly mixed together with the feminine seeming to be leading the way at this moment, into the next stage. But that then transforms once more, in a renewed way here, into the grace of our Baba and all of the other beings which we are a part of, making the excitement of transformation even greater.

    As usual, a big gassho and thanks for your efforts to share the finer points of the truth with our ever developing collective!

    1. AH, thanks for sharing, Bill. It’s fascinating how distinctive the process becomes in different physiologies even though it’s essentially the same process.

      Yes, the masculine was more dominant earlier on, silent transcendence. Now the feminine is far more prominent and expanding. Partly growing integration but also deepening and embodying the totality.

  5. John R

    Hi David –

    I had not previously read your 2017 post called “On Dimensions” (“dimensions” link above). Funny thing, in a certain Zoom chat last Monday, I mentioned “higher dimensions” and a certain someone with initials DB disagreed with the use of the word because it means “a direction in space.” Now I’ve read your 2017 post and the comments, including those from Jerry Freeman. Sorry, but I think I’m with Jerry on this one! His citation to Merriam-Webster, definition 5 (“a level of existence or consciousness”) was the same one I latched onto.

    Besides, there’s the ultimate source: Rod Serling of “Twilight Zone” fame, who said, “You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.” (Okay, I know, we’re not really in the “mind” here….) And let’s not forget Buckaroo Banzai, who traveled in the 8th dimension and whom you quote at the end of your book!

    But more importantly, from the experience here as Sattva becomes more prominent, perception further refines, and our subtle friends become more apparent, I agree that it’s all in the same space, not different spaces. Damn, this is fun! 🙂 (And I love Liliya’s comment too. 🙂 )

    1. (laughs) Yes, one of my rants. And yes, it’s true “dimension” is a common way to describe other apparent spaces, and an accepted definition. But as I mentioned there, it’s a poor use of the word as it implies all sorts of misleading ideas. For example, like mind is somewhere else.

      Another big one I’ve even seen physicists make: we say the energy level is another dimension and mind is another. That makes 5 dimensions. But each “dimension” here is 3D too. So it’s actually 9. And yet, it’s still actually only 3 as it’s all in the same space. Space is more subtle than all of these layers and thus contains them all.

      Further, “3D” itself is just a model to map space. It’s not in itself reality. Yet its so ingrained the map is confused with the road. Buckminster Fuller proposed a 4D space model based on the tetrahedron (instead of the cube). It leads to more rational mathematics.

      Ah, but Buckaroo was talking about 8 dimensions of physical space. 🙂

      The issue with modern 11, 20, etc models of physical space is the materialist paradigm. They refuse to recognize “subtle” as it was cast out in early formal science, so they’re adding dark matter, extra dimensions, etc to compensate. Pointless complexity that doesn’t explain reality well.

      So yeah, trying to shift collective concepts is a beast. 🙂

    1. Hi Guru
      Panchakosha means 5 sheathes. This ends at the causal or bliss body where consciousness is seen as the source. The mechanism of the jiva isn’t yet known. I use a more inclusive 7-sheathes model.

      Typically in Refined Unity, we become aware that consciousness is aware of itself globally and at every point. One of those points expresses forward as jiva. When we take birth, the jiva descends into the heart and resides there until death.

      Jiva is sometimes described as like a wave on an ocean.

      Patanjali calls Self Realization kaivalya (singularity) because it’s that point waking up to itself as atman.

      When we don’t know who we are, we become lost in the content of experience and confuse our body-mind as who we are. And yet we can experience them so they’re content, not the experiencer.

      As for which kosha, jiva operates through several. It is a point of consciousness, atman. But it expresses forward and resides in the heart, which is the intellect kosha. But its origin is in atman.

      Brahman is beyond and inclusive of all this.

  6. Guru

    This is the clearest answer I have received. soul, jiva, spirit, no self are words used in various traditions. some teachers don’t talk about reincarnation. In this context your answer gives clarity which I have to digest. Thanks for your blogs.

  7. Jean

    One thing I’ve noticed recently is that when I catch a twitchy energy rising up I can calm it to a more wavy bliss like sensation.
    This works when I apply a seed mantra for the related chakra. I’ve had a couple of episodes of leg twitching recently and this certainly helped a lot.

    1. Hi Jean
      Yes, there are long histories of using mantras for healing or smoothing healing, as you describe. I mention a book on the topic on the Recommended page. The key is using the qualities to facilitate the release. You don’t want to be using mantra or technique “against” unwanted sensations as that interferes with the process. Sometimes, a bit of experimentation is needed to find what helps.

      The greatest technique is to learn to allow whatever is arising. This goes deeper and deeper in surrendering our resistance to what is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest