Ayurveda Day 40: The Path to Enlightenment pt.1 – The Mahagunas

We know of the 3 doshas – the convenient grouping of the 5 elements that represent how nature functions. Kapha being the stable form of matter (earth and water), Pitta being the transformative, active form of nature (fire with a little water), and Vata being the least stable form of matter, decay, and movement (air and ether).

The doshas are a convenient way for us to categorize all of physical existence. We can look at people, diseases, and medicines all in terms of their dosha. But it is important to note:

You are not the doshas.

The doshas represent imbalance. Dosha literally means fault. It is true, all physical things are made up of the doshas. This we cannot deny. Most of us spend our lifes being a slave to them or struggling to transcend them. But there are a few of us who manage to move past the doshas, and rather than be used by them, can use them for our purpose, our dharma. This is what the truly enlightened masters have succeeded in doing. It does not matter if you are a Kapha, Pitta, or Vata type. Anyone can transcend the doshas. But how that enlightenment looks will be different depending on which dosha dominates you.

So how do we act in accordance with our enlightened, higher self? How do we transcend the doshas? This is where the Mahagunas come in (maha meaning great, guna meaning thread or quality or virtue).

The gunas, much like the doshas, divide our path to enlightenment into three stages: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.

Think of the Gunas as pools of water.

The Sattvic lake will be clear and deep. Looking into this lake will cast not only your reflection but reflect all the heavens above. Still, the pool is tranquil and not agitated, causing you to be able to see deep into the lake as well.

The Rajasic lake will be agitated. There will be disturbances, called vrittis, that are like pebbles. We throw these pebbles into our own lake based on our karma, our choices. When the lake is disturbed in such a way, it obscures the clarity of its depths, and distorts the reflections of ourselves and everything else.

The Tamasic lake is darkness. It is completely dark, because we are poisoning it. Imagine a truck that we are driving, backing up to the lake’s shore and dropping it’s sludge into the water constantly. Often those who are tamasic will be in such ignorance that they have convinced themselves that they are right in their being, and need not change. So dark is their lake they forget that Rajas and Sattwa even exist. No light can penetrate it’s blackness.

Most of us exist in the Rajasic state. We want to do better by ourselves, but struggle. We make some choices that move us towards Tamas, and other choices that move us towards Sattwa. It’s not easy. The closer we get to Tamas, the more we are a slave to our senses and the doshas. The more we move towards Sattwa, the greater our ability to utilize the doshas and to move beyond the senses.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to go and reinvent the wheel on enlightenment. The struggle you will face in moving towards Sattwa will be difficult enough. Even if you know the path, which I am about to detail for you, you will still struggle. Maybe you will struggle even more! But understanding how the doshas interact with the gunas can help you to cultivate your highest forms of healing. From an Ayurvedic perspective, this is the primordial cause of all disease, and addresses the root of our suffering.

Vata and the Mahagunas
A Vata’s greatest challenge in this life is to overcome their fear. Cultivation of faith (that everything is exactly how it is supposed to be), is their highest healing.

Sattvic Vata – inspired, enthusiastic, healer.
Rajasic Vata – fearful, anxious, worrisome, over-reactive, ungrounded
Tamasic Vata – paranoid, pyschosis, addictions, self-harms

Pitta and the Mahagunas
A Pitta’s greatest challenge in this life is to overcome their judgmental attitude. Cultivation of non-judgment (acceptance that nothing is separate), is their highest healing.

Sattvic Pitta – clear perception, spiritual teacher
Rajasic Pitta – judgmental, critical, intense, envious, willful, aggressive
Tamasic Pitta – violent, hateful, vindictive, extremist views

Kapha and the Magagunas
A Kapha’s greatest challenge in this life is to overcome their attachments. Cultivation of non-attachment (not about letting go, but about not attaching in the first place) is their highest healing.

Sattvic Kapha – unconditionally loves, nurturing, compassionate
Rajasic Kapha – overly attached, desirous, controlling, stubborn, overly emotional
Tamasic Kapha – melancholic, apathetic, dull, severely under-reactive, lethargic

It all sounds so simple yet obviously it is more complicated in practice. Amongst all of this, one can generally live a more Sattvic lifestyle by starting here:

– Spend time in nature
– Have a meditation practice
– Do Raja Yoga (a topic I may touch on one day)
– Avoid excessive or intense media
– Take a sattvic diet (Consult a CAS!)
– Take sattvic imppressions through ALL the senses

So that’s the ideal, but most of us are probably Rajasic: we are too busy, travel or move a lot, over-expose ourselves to media, use too many stimulants (sugar and coffee!), eat too many hot, greasy, salty, spicy foods, and in general have too much sensory stimulation.

If you’re reading this blog at all, you are probably thankfully not Tamasic. But it helps to know the signs, as you may have been or will be in this stage at some point. A Tamasic person will be dirty or messy, use drugs to dull the mind, spend all their time indoors, consume lifeless and old and stale foods, and have too little sensory stimulation.

We are all on a ladder, either moving towards or away from Sattwa. This is really the secret to all of existence, the meaning of life, or why we are here. Yes, that may be debatable, but you will note there is no discrimination. You don’t need to be a theist, a specific race or gender, have a certain upbringing, are a specific dosha, or any other such limitation to be Sattwic.
All you need to do is act in accordance with the highest, most virtuous version of yourself:

That which is without fear, judgment, or attachment.

Remember, “There’s love and forgetting about love and that’s it!” – Marisa Laursen

With gratitude,



5 thoughts on “Ayurveda Day 40: The Path to Enlightenment pt.1 – The Mahagunas

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