The Sanskrit word IAST|guṇa has the basic meaning of "string" or "a single thread or strand of a cord or twine". In more abstract uses, it may mean "a subdivision, species, kind", and generally "quality".

In Samkhya philosophy there are three IAST|guṇas (based upon the three "tendencies"), IAST|tamas guṇa, IAST|sattva guṇa, and IAST|rajas guṇa.

In classical literature

In classical literature (e.g. Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita), a IAST|guṇa is an attribute of the five elements, five senses, and five associated body parts:
* ether, associated with the IAST|guṇa śábda ("sound") and with the ear.
* air, associated with the IAST|guṇa sparśa ("feeling") and with the skin.
* fire, associated with the IAST|guṇa rūpa ("appearance", and thus color and tangibility) and with the eye.
* water, associated with the IAST|guṇa rasa ("taste", and thus also flavor and tangibility, as well as shape) and with the tongue.
* earth, associated with all the preceding IAST|guṇas as well as the IAST|guṇa gandha ("smell") and with the nose.

In Samkhya philosophy

In Samkhya philosophy a IAST|guṇa is one of three "tendencies": tamas, sattva, and rajas. These categories have become a common means of categorizing behavior and natural phenomena in Hindu philosophy, and also in Ayurvedic medicine, as a system to assess conditions and diets. IAST|Guṇa is the tendency of the mind and not the state of mind or action itself. For instance, IAST|sattva guṇa is that force which tends to bring the mind to purity but is not purity itself. Similarly IAST|rajas guṇa is that force which tends to bring the mind to perform some action but is not action itself.

*"Sattva" (originally "being, existence, entity") has been translated to mean balance, order, or purity. This typically implies that a person with more of Sattva has a positive or even orderly state of mind. Such a person is psychologically kind, calm, alert, and thoughtful. Compare also the bodhisattvas in Buddhism. Indologist Georg Feuerstein translates "sattva" as "lucidity".

*"Rajas" (originally "atmosphere, air, firmament") leads one to activity. This type of activity is explained by the term Yogakshem. Yogakshem is composed of two words: Yoga and Kshem. Yoga in the present context is acquiring something that one does not have. Kshem means losing something that one already has. Rajas is the force that creates desires for acquiring new things and fears for losing something that one has. These desires and fears lead one to activity. (Rajas is etymologically unrelated to the word raja.) Feuerstein translates "rajas" as "dynamism".

*"Tamas" (originally "darkness", "obscurity") has been translated to mean "too inactive", negative, lethargic, dull, or slow. Usually it is associated with darkness, delusion, or ignorance. A tamas quality also can imply that a person has a self-destructive or entropic state of mind. That person is constantly pursuing destructive activities. Feuerstein translates "tamas" as "inertia".

In Nyaya philosophy

In Nyaya philosophy, 24 IAST|guṇas are enumerated as properties or characteristics of all created things, including śábda, sparśa, rūpa, rasa, and gandha.
#rūpa: appearance (shape and color).
#rasa: taste.
#gandha: smell.
#sparśa: feeling (touch).
#IAST|sāṃkhya: amount.
#IAST|parimāṇa: dimension.
#IAST|pṛthaktva: distinctness.
#IAST|saṃyoga: conjunction.
#vibhāga: disjunction.
#paratva: remoteness.
#aparatva: proximity.
#gurutva: weight.
#dravatva: fluidity.
#sneha: viscidity.
#śábda: sound.
#buddhi/jñāna: enlightenment/knowing.
#sukha: pleasure.
#IAST|duḥkha: pain.
#icchā: desire.
#IAST|dveṣa: aversion.
#prayatna: effort.
#dharma: merit or virtue.
#adharma: demerit.
#IAST|saṃskāra: the self-reproductive quality;

In grammar

In Sanskrit grammatical tradition (Vyakarana), "IAST|guṇa" is a technical term referring to the vowels "a, e, o",( i.e., the full grade ablaut stages; see Ashtadhyayi).


ee also

*Nirguna Brahman, Saguna Brahman

External links

* [ Gunas - a table of correspondences, based on Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana, Vaishnava Vedanta tradition] Java applet
* [ Gunas - a study based on Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana, Vaishnava Vedanta tradition]
* [ Tour of Vedic universe - humans and gunas, Vaishnava Vedanta tradition]
* [ Gunas] Gunas from Spiritual Glossary
* [ 3 Guna-Avatars-Mountains of Switzerland in Interlaken]

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