Practical Magic Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 3

The Gunas

10 min - Talk


Trust yourself and your own experience. Kelly unpacks the qualities and energies of the Gunas: Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva, and how they relate to us in our daily lives.
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Feb 02, 2016
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Hi, thanks for being here. This is a video about the Gunas, but really it's a practice in trusting yourself and trusting your own experience, your own practice. The Gunas, maybe you've heard this word before, this is a structure, the Gunas are a structure for understanding the self and they come up over and over again in all of the texts. And there are two ways, probably many ways of looking at the Gunas and what I think I'll do in this talk is first of all talk about conventional Guna wisdom and then talk about my own experience of the Gunas and how all of that sort of weaves in to what we're doing here in season two of Practical Magic because it is one of the lenses that we are working with this season. So conventionally there's this sort of hierarchy of the Gunas and the Gunas are the materials that all life is made from, sort of emerges from the primordial into matter and the Gunas constitute everything in various proportions and ratios at different times. And they're often presented, you know, sort of listed one through three okay better best sometimes and the first that's usually listed is Tamas. Tamas is often depicted as darkness, laziness, inertia, the sloth is often associated with Tamas. Then we have Rajas and Rajas is fiery, action, energy, heat, passion, attachment, the bull. And third is Satva and Satva is depicted as light, harmony, intelligence, the peacock. And this structure, this sort of hierarchy and these descriptions of the Gunas are sometimes used to enforce or reinforce power structures that already exist. For example, I've heard people talk about the different castes in India with respect to the Gunas and this didn't make sense to me ever because this all sounds very much like stories that the ego makes up about itself, makes up to create hierarchies and create separation. Oh I am Satvic but you're Tamasic or that situation is bad, what I have going on is good. And all of that ego identification like doesn't sound very clear thinking, doesn't sound very clear seeing. And if we think back to the purpose of our practice, what is the purpose of your practice? Is it to create connection or is it to increase separation? So all of this is sort of a way of setting up the background. My own sort of experience with the Gunas was, wow, I'm not exactly sure how that fits with my experience of yoga. And then I think it was Ravi or somewhere I heard Tamas referred to as being aligned with Shiva and that changed everything, everything. So I started to think about the Gunas in terms of our triumvirate of male archetypes, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. And so if you think about it like that like Tamas, darkness, potential, transformation, Shiva, the new moon sort of popped into my head as well. This area, this time, this space where it appears as though nothing is happening but there is space for infinite possibility there in the time of the new moon. And so then if we look at Rajas as creation, as Brahma, as this moon waxing towards full in all of that energy, all of that passion driving towards full, like that made sense. And then Satva, the mediation, the sweetness, the day after the full moon, Vishnu, mediator. So I guess like this is what started to make sense for me was thinking about the Gunas in terms of first the moon and second in terms of sort of like how projects tend to go. How, for me, I'm also a visual artist and how there's this period before the work begins that could be described as tamasic. You know, it looks like nothing's happening. And then when the work begins, there is this frenetic energy to sort of find the rhythm, to get going, to do the work. And, you know, sometimes I can feel a little like manic and scary. And then after the arc of that, there's settling in. Whether that's, you know, the work comes to fruition, or we've just sort of gotten over the hump of the mania of starting the work. And so behind all of this, so we use the moon as our example here, as our lens for viewing the Gunas, is these phases are changing. They're always changing. We're always at a different phase of the moon. We're always in a different phase of the project, but it's all the same moon. All that's changing is our perspective. Your essence is unchanging, just like that. And so when we can see, we can work with what is, when we can work with whatever phase of the project or whatever phase of the moon that we're in, then the Gunas, the work of the Gunas has fulfilled, their purpose is fulfilled, and they start to fade away. The things that used to trigger us no longer do. And it fades away.

So at the bottom of all of that, sort of the bowl that holds all of that talk that may or may not make sense in this moment, is trusting your own experience. I had been hearing and reading about the Gunas for, you know, probably 15 years before something clicked. And that is the message here, that as you're practicing all along, as soon as it clicks, it clicks, and it'll make sense to you in whatever way that it does. And in that moment, like, everything fades. Oh, you're alive in the overflow of what is liberation. My prayer is that you will trust the wisdom that is embedded in your form, and trust those moments where you know truth in your body. Thanks so much for listening. I hope this was helpful. Jai Ma.


3 people like this.
Oh my goodness, Kelly you've done it again!

You've made the Gunas real to me in my life, here, with kids, and study, and life.

I loved this talk, and will listen a few times to really soak up your wisdom.

Thank you!
Kelly Sunrose
Sweet Sara! Thank you so much. So happy to be practicing together here and that this video resonated!!
Shangkari B
Dear Kelly! How wonderful an explanation!! I have been looking, seeking for a way to comprehend what the gunas are ever since I first came across them more than a decade ago. And every description given about them i have found were steeped in egoic undertones, until I finally gave up my search. But I was thinking about Shiva today and after a short meditation, i found your video! Thank you for finding the essence of the gunas. it resonates so well that it feels more like truth to me than any other descriptions i have come across. Thanks for bringing light to a decade-long search!
Shangkari B
I had to come back to write again, I wrote my earlier comment half-way through the video, not knowing, you also had a similar experience to mine, 'the click' that's what this feels like. I'm so happy I stumbled on this page today! Blessings to you always!
Kelly Sunrose
Dear Shangkari, Thank you so much for watching this video and so very much for sharing your insights. I am positively delighted that this resonated! The CLICK-- it's huge, isn't it? That moment where *information* transits from knowledge to full, embodied wisdom! I am so happy you came back to share. Happy to be here in practice together. Blessings to you!
All goodness, Kelly
Wenlin Tan
1 person likes this.
What you're describing and these changing phases comes as a timely reminder for me  (while I am in this the mad frantic to find the pace, rhythm, having just started to study a new field)... thanks for your beautiful words :) 
Kelly Sunrose
Wenlin, Thank you for being here and for sharing your experience. That scramble to adapt is such a familiar feeling. So happy this talk resonated. 
Kindly, Kelly

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