Sattva Raja Tama

Abstract

The three subtle basic components (trigunās) of Sattva, Raja and Tama are the very fabric of creation. Unknown to modern sciences, they permeate through all living and non-living, tangible and intangible things. The vibrations emitted by anything are dependent on its predominant subtle basic component. This also influences the behaviour of all things. The proportion of these components in human beings can only be changed by spiritual practice.

1. Introduction and definition

The purpose of this article is to give our readers a strong foundation about the concept of the three subtle basic components. It is a very important article for our readers as it forms the basis of many of the articles on this website.

According to modern sciences, the Universe is made up of basic physical particles that include electrons, protons, neutrons, mesons, gluons and quarks.

At a spiritual level, however, the Universe is made up of something even more basic. These basic particles are known as the three subtle basic components (trigunās) namely Sattva, Raja and Tama. In the word triguna, “tri” stands for three and “gunās” stand for subtle-components.

The characteristics of each of these components are described in brief in the following table:

The 3 components Characteristics Adjective Example
sattva Purity and knowledge Sāttvik Sāttvik man – lives in service of society with no expectation of recognition or reward or any ulterior motive
raja Action and passion Rājasik Rājasik man – lives more for personal gain and achievement
tama Ignorance and inertia Tāmasik Tāmasik man – has no problem about stepping on other’s toes to get ahead or harming society

We call the components subtle because they are intangible, not physical in nature and they cannot be seen with any instruments such as the latest electronic microscopes. Technically advanced physical instrumentation in the future too will not be able to measure them. These three subtle basic components can only be perceived by the subtle sense organs or our sixth sense (ESP).

  • The subtle basic Sattva component is the most subtle or intangible of the three subtle basic components. It is the component nearest to divinity. Hence its predominance in a person is characterised by happiness, contentment, virtues like patience, perseverance, ability to forgive, spiritual yearning etc.
  • The subtle basic Tama component is the basest of the three. Its predominance in a person is reflected by laziness, greed, attachment to worldly matters etc.
  • The subtle basic Raja component provides fuel to the other two, i.e. brings about the action. So depending on whether a person is predominantly sāttvik or tāmasik the subtle basic Raja component will bring about actions pertaining to Sattva or Tama.

Due to the intangible nature of the subtle basic Sattva, Raja and Tama components, schools and universities that teach modern sciences are unaware that they exist. Hence they do not include them in their curriculum. As a result, the concept of the three subtle basic components may seem alien to some of us. However this does not discount the fact that they pervade our entire existence and the world we live in. Depending on which one of the three subtle-components is predominant within us, it influences how we:

  • React to situations
  • Make decisions
  • Make choices
  • Live our lives

Since they are not physical in nature, it is difficult to put a finger on them and give them a physical characteristic. Through this article, we have endeavoured to give you a sense of what these three subtle-components are about and how they influence our lives.

2. Comparison between the smallest physical elements and the three subtle basic components

The following table gives some basic differences between the smallest physical elements known to modern sciences and the even more basic subtle-components that are known to Spiritual science.

Parameter

Smallest physical particle

Subtle basic components

Type Physical Subtle or intangible
How to measure? By physical instruments such as an electron microscope By our sixth sense (ESP) through the medium of our subtle-senses.
Make up All of the physical world All of creation, whether the physical, psychological or spiritual realm. The smallest physical particles are also made up of a combination of Sattva, Raja and Tama. Even our thoughts, which are intangible, are made up of the three subtle-components.
Their characteristics Influence the physical attributes of creation such as whether something is solid or fluid etc. Influence the behaviour of all of creation, the decisions and choices we make etc. However the Sattva, Raja and Tama components even affect physical attributes, e.g. the Tama component causes materialisation or solidification.

3. What do the subtle basic components look like?

The following diagram obtained through the sixth sense (ESP) shows what the three subtle basic components look like when they are active.

2-SRT-waves

The three subtle basic components are basically intangible particles. When they are active, i.e. when there is energy accompanying them, they appear in a wave form.

Explanation of the diagram

  • Colour: The subtle basic Sattva component appears yellow, the subtle basic Raja component red and the subtle basic Tama component black in colour when perceived through highly active sixth sense.
  • Wavelength: The subtle basic Raja component being the most active is reflected in its wavelength, whereas the subtle basic Sattva component being more tranquil has a longer wavelength. The disorganised and distorted nature of the subtle basic Tama component is reflected in its irregular wavelength.
  • Amplitude: The amplitude of the Raja component is the highest as it is the most active. The amplitude of the subtle basic Sattva component is lower and regular, whereas that of the subtle basic Tama component is low and irregular.
  • Length: Their length is dictated according to the need of the function.

4. The three subtle basic components and the five Cosmic Elements

The three subtle-components also make up the five Absolute Cosmic Principles (Panchamahābhūtās). The five Cosmic Principles are Absolute Earth (Pruthvītattva), Absolute Water (Āpatattva), Absolute Fire (Tējtattva), Absolute Air (Vāyutattva) and Absolute Ether (Ākāshtattva) Principles. The Cosmic Elements are intangible in nature and are the subtle most aspect of the actual elements that we can see and feel. For example, the Absolute Water Principle is the subtlest form of the water that goes to make up the rivers and the oceans etc. In short, the five Absolute Cosmic Elements are the building blocks of the Universe.  But they are also made up of the three subtle basic components.

The following table shows how each Cosmic Element differs in its composition with regards to the proportion of the three subtle basic components.

The three subtle basic components and the five cosmic elements

Sattva Raja Тama
Earth 10% 40% 50%
Water 20% 40% 40%
Fire 30% 40% 30%
Air 40% 40% 20%
Ether 50% 40% 10%

As you can see from the table above, the Absolute Earth Principle has the highest amount of Tama; hence it is also the heaviest. The subtle basic Tama component limits existence, whereas the subtle basic Sattva component makes it expansive. This explains why the Absolute Earth Principle is the most inferior among the five Cosmic Elements. It also explains why the Absolute Ether Principle is the most subtle and sattvik and thus the most powerful. The reduction in the Tama subtle basic component across the five major Cosmic Elements makes the elements progressively less tangible. For example, Fire is less gross or tangible than Earth.

Humans are composed predominantly of the Absolute Earth and Absolute Water Principles. As an individual starts evolving spiritually, he or she starts functioning at progressively higher levels, like the Absolute Fire Principle etc. This is characterised by a sense of radiance emanating from a spiritually evolved person. As this happens, the individual’s basic needs begin to decrease, such as the need for food and sleep.  In addition, his comprehension and capacity to perform various activities increases markedly both quantitatively and qualitatively.

5. The three subtle basic components and the world

5.1 Natural Disasters

If there is an increase in the Raja and Tama in the world, it translates into increased wars, terrorist activities and natural disasters. The increase in Raja and Tama in the world causes a destabilisation of the five Cosmic Elements resulting in catastrophic natural disasters. Please refer to the article on the reason behind the increasing intensity of natural disasters.

5.2 Non-living things

The following chart shows the relationship between non-living things and the three subtle-components.

The proportion of subtle basic components in various non-living objects

Sattva Raja Тama
Temples of God, holy places,  places of pilgrimage 5% 1% 94%
Regular/average places 2% 2% 96%
Evil places 1% 1% 98%

 

5.3 Living entities

The following chart shows the relationship between living entities and the three subtle-components. As you can see, life has a greater value in terms of the Sattva subtle basic component across the board as compared to even religious places as shown in the table above.

The proportion of subtle basic components in various living objects

Sattva Raja Тama
Saint 50% 30% 20%
Average man 20% 30% 50%
Evil person 10% 50% 40%
Intellectually disabled person 10% 30% 60%
Animals and birds 10–20% 25–40% 40–65%
Vegetation 5–10% 10–15% 65–85%

This is also one of the main reasons why the spiritual level of a person in particular premises has more impact on the overall vibrations emanating from that place as opposed to the premises itself. For example, if a person of the level of a Saint enters premises that have negative vibrations due to defects in construction, it will have negligible effect on the Saint. Thus the sciences of Feng-shui and the science of studying premises (vāstushāstra) are of more relevance to persons at lower spiritual levels or those who do not perform any spiritual practice.

6. The three subtle basic components and human beings

In the following sub-sections, we expand on how the three subtle basic components impact different aspects of our lives.

6.1 In relation to what we are comprised of

What are we comprised of - Sattva, Raja, Tama

 

Percentage of three subtle basic components

Body

Sattva

Raja

Tama

The Physical body

20%

40%

40%

The Mental body or the Mind

30%

40%

30%

The Causal body or the Intellect

40%

40%

20%

The Supracausalbody or The Subtle Ego

50%

40%

10%

As the subtle basic Raja component is related to the functioning of the body, its proportion is the same in all the bodies. However as you can see from the table above, there is considerable difference between the Sattva and Tama components across the various bodies. This has a direct impact on the ability of the body to provide us sustainable and long lasting happiness. For example, the Sattva component in the intellect body is high compared to the physical body. Therefore the quality of the happiness we experience when we are intellectually stimulated and satisfied is of a higher quality and more lasting than happiness experienced due to the physical body.

 

6.2 In relation to spiritual level

Spiritual level and the proportion of the three subtle basic components are very closely interlinked. However their relationship is pretty much a chicken and egg thing. We can say that a person’s spiritual level is defined by the predominance of the Sattva, Raja and Tama components. Alternatively we can also say that the predominance of any one of the Sattva, Raja and Tama components defines a person’s spiritual level. As we do spiritual practice we begin to change the proportion of the three subtle basic components within us towards there being more proportion of the Sattva component. In other words, we change the Tama component into Sattva.

As we generate more of the Sattva component within us (in proportion to the other two subtle-components), it positively affects our spiritual level and also our personalities.

The following is a graph that shows the different proportions of the three subtle basic components within us as we increase our spiritual level through spiritual practice.

8-spiritual-level-sattva-raja-tama

Footnotes:

  1. After the 50% spiritual level, the proportion of the three components remains static. The reason for this is that one cannot have any less than 20% Tama. If this did happen the person would begin to dematerialise. Consequently, as long as one has a physical body the Tama component cannot be less than 20%. However the effect of the components on the person is diluted with a further rise in spiritual level, so much so that at the spiritual level of 80%, the effect of them is negligible on the person. In the next sub-section we explain this dilution in detail.
  2. As long as an evolved Saint of 100% spiritual level is within a physical body, He will be made up of the three subtle basic components. As soon as He dies and leaves His body all of the three subtle basic components become zero and the Saint merges completely with God.

6.3 Reduction of the influence of the three subtle-components with increasing spiritual level

As we grow spiritually what intrinsically happens is that the darkness of the five senses, mind and intellect begins to reduce and consequently the Soul (i.e. the God) within us begins to illuminate. Refer to the diagram below. This is also known as the dissolution of the five senses, mind and intellect. We refer to the five senses, mind and intellect as darkness or ignorance as they keep us away from identifying with our true state, i.e. the God within us or the Soul.

The Soul, which is the God within us, is beyond the three subtle basic components and is therefore not comprised of them. Therefore the more the light of the Soul is illuminated within us through spiritual practice, the less the influence of the three subtle-components in dictating our personalities, choices and actions. In the final stages of our spiritual growth when the light of the Soul illuminates us almost completely, we live our lives in complete unison with God’s will and the three subtle-components are diluted and exert a negligible influence on our personalities.

9-reduction-of-the-influence

 

6.4 With relation to our personality

Sattva, Raja, Tama - faces

In the below table, we have provided a few pointers that will help to distinguish the type of personality that a person displays according to the predominant subtle-component.
These are just pointers to give one a basic understanding. A correct analysis of the predominant subtle basic component in a person can only be ascertained through one’s sixth sense (ESP).

 

Sattvik person

Rājasik person

Tamasik person

Personality defects

Complete control on emotions, thoughts and actions

Angry, jealous, proud, egoistic, bossy, attention seeking, greedy, going to any extent to fulfil worldly ambitions and desires, worrying, day dreamer

Lazy, inactive, depressed, extremely selfish, not thinking about others or even harming them when fulfilling one’s selfish ends, irritable

Virtues

All virtues, truthful and lawful, tolerant, serene, stable intellect, not egotistical.
Eventually goes beyond virtues and defects. Fearless about death.

Industrious but directionless efforts in terms of spiritual growth

None

Main way of gaining happiness

Acquiring knowledge, skills, helping others, meditation, increasing spiritual level. Eventually goes beyond happiness-unhappiness and towards Bliss

Gaining authority, worldly possessions

Eating, drinking, sexual intercourse etc.

In relation to others

Living to serve society and help people grow spiritually. Here growing spiritually means in a more universal sense according to the 6 basic laws of spiritual practice.

Self-centred or helping others with a lot of ego about the help being given

Harming others. Most tamasik – harming society at large in the name of religion or some ideology.

Sleep

4-6 hours

7-9 hours

12-15 hours

Spiritual power

High

Slight

Very low 1

Footnote:

  1. The exception to this is a subtle-sorcerer (māntrik) who may have a lot of spiritual strength due to undertaking spiritual practice for evil reasons but is predominantly tamasik.

These attributes are not mutually exclusive. For example, a certain sattvik person may need 9 hours of sleep or a tamasik person may have a virtue like tolerance. But the person’s nature is decided by the overall sum total of the virtues and defects. Hence one should not decide about oneself or others based on one or two characteristics but the overall picture needs to be taken into consideration.

Also it is very rare that a person is found to be entirely sattvik, rajasik or tamasik. Mostly a person is either Sattva-Raja or Raja-Sattva or Raja-Tama predominant. A Sattva-Raja person would have characteristics of both Sattva and Raja in almost similar proportion with a predominance of Sattva. In the case of a Raja-Sattva person it would be just opposite.

Depending on the subtle-component that is most predominant within a person, they will accordingly display that type of personality. However as much as one may dress up or camouflage oneself behind expensive clothes and accessories and sophisticated small talk, the basic frequencies that one emits will be based on the subtle-component that is most predominant within one. People with advanced sixth sense can look beyond the external veneer that people project to the world and pick up these subtle and intangible frequencies. As a result, they can easily tell a person’s basic nature i.e. sattvik, rajasik or tamasik and the characteristics that they are most likely to display.

A true litmus test of an individual’s predominant subtle-component is when one is left to oneself. A person generally shows his or her true colours in a situation where the person is not being monitored and is reflected by the individual’s behaviour. The following example will help crystallise this point.

Let us take an example of a class of students in the 4th grade. They are a noisy, rowdy bunch with a teacher who tries hard to discipline them. If the teacher’s voice is very firm she has a fair chance of keeping the class quiet. As a result, the class is quiet only in her presence. However the moment she leaves the class they are back to their mischievous ways. This is because these children are basically rajasik and tamasik in nature.
If on the other hand there is a sattvik child in the class and his fellow students try to enlist his participation in some incorrect act like bullying, playing a nasty prank or indulging in cheating, the child would absolutely not be able to comply as his basic nature is sattvik. He is more likely to get a knot in his stomach than enjoy whatever his classmates are suggesting. He would not be able to live with himself if he did any incorrect act.

Thus rather than superficially trying to change children through moral value lectures, a permanent change could be found if they were encouraged to do spiritual practice and were brought up in a spiritually conducive environment that would increase their Sattva component.

7. The three subtle basic components and our lifestyle

Everything around us can be categorised as sattvik, rajasik or tamasik depending on the predominant subtle-component that they are made up of. The predominant subtle-component in anything can only be measured with one’s sixth sense (ESP).

We have provided a few generic examples of the various facets of the world we live in and the dominant subtle-component. Depending on whether we are sattvik, rajasik or tamasik individuals, we will gravitate towards sattvik, rajasik or tamasik lifestyles. Also associating ourselves with particular components through our lifestyle choices increases the respective subtle-components within us.

The three subtle basic components and our lifestyle

Sāttvik

Rājasik

Tāmasik

1-salad

Food

Wheat, cucumber, spinach, sugar, milk, butter, clarified butter (ghee), cinnamon, almonds, walnut, cashew nuts Highly salty, bitter, sour, pungent and hot foods (e.g. boiling hot tea or coffee), onion, garlic Dried vegetables, chilled or frozen foods, twice heated foods, foul smelling, stale, soiled food, half cooked (as in meat that is rare), uncooked food, food difficult to digest, non-vegetarian food, wines and alcohol
2-colour

Colour

White, yellow, blue Red, Crimson, Green, Violet Black, any shade of colour that has a high percentage of black
3-clothes

Clothes (material)

Natural fibre such as cotton, silk, cowhide Hide of animal skins Man made clothes such as lycra, nylon etc., Torn clothes, Unironed clothes
4-music

Music

Hymns written by Saints, music composed by Saints Country music, pop music, most film songs etc. Heavy metal, music that encourages violence and drugs
5-movies

Movies

Enlightening society to make the world a better place spiritually or at a worldly level Action films, thrillers Pornography, Violence, Horror movies
6-books

Books

Books that increase spiritual understanding in the universal sense of the word Books that increase emotions and attachment to the world Books that incite degradation of Spirituality, harming of society
7-students

Company and
entertainment

Seekers of God practicing spirituality according to the five basic principles of spiritual practice Social engagements where the topic of conversation is primarily worldly issues, business etc. Shopping as a pastime Company of drug addicts, rave parties, parties that promote any type of addiction, meeting that facilitate the harming of society
8-couple

Marriage

Spiritual growth takes centre stage in the couple’s relationship, spiritual love without expectation Gathering worldly possessions, worldly love with expectation Discord, mistrust, violence and fighting

 

8. The three subtle-components and ghosts (demons, devils, negative energies etc.)

Ghosts (demons, devils, negative energies etc.) are primarily Raja and Tama predominant. A ghost that is lower in the hierarchy, i.e. below 50% spiritual strength such as a common ghost is Raja-Tama predominant. A ghost that is higher in the hierarchy, i.e. above the 50% spiritual strength such as a subtle-sorcerer from the 6th or 7th region of Hell ( Patal) is Tama-Raja predominant.

As ghosts are Raja-Tama predominant, they frequent Raja-Tama environments on Earth as they are most likely to find Raja-Tama predominant people there. These like-minded people are ideal targets for possession and carrying out the plans of ghosts on Earth. In other words, a person who is predominantly tamasik and who has a liking for harming others stands a high risk of being controlled by ghosts to harm society.

The principle behind protecting oneself against a ghost is to increase one’s sāttviktā. As ghosts are tamasik, they cannot tolerate highly sattvik environments or people. It is for this reason they simply cannot possess a higher level Saint or a Guru.

Refer to the article on ‘Why does a possessed person manifest when in contact with a higher sattvik influence?

9. In summary

The key points to take away from this article are:

  • All of us emit Sattva, Raja or Tama frequencies depending on which subtle-component is predominant in us. The more the Sattva component within us the better our personalities and the higher the sustainable success and contentment in our career, relationships and lives.
  • The Sattva component can be increased through spiritual practice along with dissociating oneself from Raja and Tama influences as much as possible.
  • The company that we keep is a strong influence in helping us in our spiritual practice.
  • Ghosts take advantage of Tama predominant environments and people to carry out their activities of harming society and reducing Righteousness ( Dharma) in the world.