The Trigunas (Three Mental Characteristics)

Hinduism’s concept of trigunas is an insightful analysis of the human psyche. Read further to learn about these mental qualities, and check to which category you belong.

The Trigunas

The three mental qualities are Sattwa (holiness, purity), Rajas (drive, action) and Tamas (inertia, laziness). Each person’s mind is made up of a mix of these basic characteristics in various proportions. His/her character, conduct, aspirations, temperament, actions and words depend on the strength of these three basic qualities in the mind. Each individual’s drives and values are unique. This is because the ratio of the three basic qualities differs in each person.

Sattwa (Holiness and Purity)

The foremost qualities of a sattwic person are guilelessness, humility, mercy, forbearance, patience, honesty, control over the senses, kindness, spirit of sacrifice, compassion, dispassion, discrimination, truthfulness and love.

Rajas (Drive and Action)

The characteristics of a rajasic person are pride, authoritative, dominating and manipulative nature, greed, assertiveness, love for spending and materialism, willfulness, workaholism, competitive instinct, love for grandeur, desire for leadership, ambition and passion.

Tamas (Inertia and laziness)

The foremost mental qualities of a tamasic person are aversion, possessiveness, treachery, stealth, gluttony, covetousness, deceit, obsession, lust, hatred, perverted desires, pessimism, miserliness, envy, fatalism, lack of motivation, sloth and dullness.

The Human Mind

One of the above qualities usually dominates the human mind. A saint is mostly sattwic, a sports person will be rajasic, while drug and alcohol addicts have a predominant tamasic streak. How does one inherit the three qualities? Hinduism says that these basic qualities carry over from one life to another, as a person’s unfulfilled desires, dreams and aspirations are transported into the next birth together with the soul.

In childhood, these mental qualities are dormant. Most children are not affected by them. The same applies to realized saints, though they are essentially sattwic. That is why both children and sages are lovable and divine.

Introspect to Know Your Nature

As one ages, one’s disposition towards life changes. A rajasic person today may give up his ambition and become sattwic tomorrow. Do some introspection to find which of these three characteristics are predominant in your psyche. The Bhagavad Gita also provides an elaborate explanation about the impact of these three important mental qualities on the human mind.

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