The natural and holistic philosophy of Ayurveda describes innate qualities of human beings that are classified into three different categories known as trigunas, which is the metaphysical aspect of Ayurveda. The three biological elements or doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) are constituents of the human body. The trigunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) are integral constituents of the mind. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are also known as Mansa dosha, or the psychic constitution. Therefore, trigunas are the various Ayurvedic mind types.
According to Ayurveda’s metaphysical views, the elements of life were omnipresent at the onset of creation. While the creation of life became possible a few billion years ago, although the building blocks of life have been omnipresent and immortal. The Pancha Mahabutas (Five Elements) are the building blocks of the three doshas as well as the trigunas. Humans have one or two dominant doshas or gunas. The universe would not exist without the Pancha Mahabutas, as the doshas and trigunas intrinsically connected with each other, and are responsible for a person’s physical and psychological development. It has been believed that the trigunas were present on earth before the creation of life, and took the form of physical properties on the primitive Earth.
Triguna philosophy does not only apply to energy, but to physicality as well. The mental and physical characteristics of an individual in a particular state of health is determined by the predominance of one of the trigunas.
The trigunas have the following characteristics:
Sattva is the energy of creation. The Sattvic state is a healthy, disease-free body. People with this guna are inherently good and caring. Sattva governs the senses and is the aspect of intellect and knowledge. When Sattva is dominant, a person treats work as worship.
People of Sattvic nature are usually of the Kapha dosha constitution.
Qualities: Happiness, harmony, purity, balance, holistic, creative positive, building, virtue, peace, constructiveness, goodness, spirituality, consciousness and universalizing
Rajas is the movement of energy particles. Rajas guna governs achievement and will power. Rajas people are very desirous and full of attachment. Due to their acute self-interest, sometimes they may face difficulties in differentiating between right and wrong.
People of Rajasic nature are usually of the Pitta dosha constitution.
Qualities: Activity, self-indulgence, passion, ego, individualization, dynamism, movement, self-centredness and drive
Tamas is the inert substance which is capable to convert into new substances. Tamas governs negative thinking in the mind and stimulates sleep, apathy and lethargy. People with Tamas guna dominant are cynical, apprehensive and vindictive.
People of Tamasic nature are usually of the Vata dosha constitution.
Qualities: Imbalance, chaos, disorder, impurity, destruction, anxiety, delusion, negativity, inactivity, dullness, lethargy, inertia, violence, ignorance and viciousness
In her paper titled A New Approach to Indian Philosophy and Personality – A Study, Tejal V. Dhulla states that the gunas inherited by an individual can be changed due to physical, psychological and social influences and the behaviour of an individual is determined by the personality operating at that time.