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What is basic nature and the concept of the three subtle basic components (trigunas)?

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According to modern sciences the smallest particles include electrons, protons, mesons, quarks, gluons and neutrons. However according to the science of Spirituality we are made up of even finer particles or components. These components are subtle in nature and cannot be seen with any instruments such as microscopes. These can only be perceived by subtle sense organs.

These most subtle-particles are known as the three subtle basic components (triguṇās) which are made up of the following:

  • Purity and knowledge – (Sattva)
  • Action and passion – (Raja)
  • Ignorance and inertia – (Tama)

From now on throughout this document, we shall refer to these components collectively as the gunas of Sattva, Raja and Tama and their adjectives as sāttvik, rājasik and tāmasik. For example when we refer to a man as sattvik person, it means that he has more of a Sattva component in him.

Each and every one of us is made up of these three subtle basic components. However the proportion of each of the three subtle basic components within each individual varies according to the level of spiritual evolution/maturity in a person.

A graph of the composition of 3 subtle components in an average person in the current era

In today’s world the average person is filled more with the tama component. The different permutations of these three subtle basic components (trigunas) define a person’s basic nature.

As one does spiritual practice, the tama component get converted to the Sattva component and even the Raja component gets purified.

The process of how the component of Raja get purified is explained below.

A graph of the composition of the 3 components in a person doing spiritual practice

The impure Raja tendencies which once manifested as volatile anger and uncontrollable passion, they now get converted into purified Raja manifestations. This person now uses the action component of Raja to do constructive actions like doing good deeds for others and serving God. By doing spiritual practice there is an intrinsic change at a granular level bringing about a complete change in a person’s personality for the better.


Let’s 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, but the moment she leaves the class they are back to their mischievous ways. This is because these children are basically rājasik and tāmasik in nature.

If on the other hand there is a sāttvik 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 were 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.

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