Satva, Rajas, Tamas as per Ayurveda

By Dr Raghuram Y. S. MD  (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B. A. M. S
Satva, Rajas and Tamas are the three attributes of the mind. Satva is the prime quality of the mind. More Satva is good for the mind. But Rajas and Tamas are considered Doshas. This means, when they are in balance and harmony, they support mental health but when they are aggravated, they cause mental disorders.


Sattva, Rajas and Tama are three cosmic qualities (Maha gunas). Entire creation, including human being has been created by involvement of these three qualities. These qualities also form our mental facets. Among three rajas and tama are considered as contaminants of mind i. e. manasika doshas, just like 3 doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha are physical contaminants.
Read – Mind – Qualities And Functions As Per Ayurveda

Triguna – Dosha relation

Vata, pitta and kapha are three doshas. They form basic functional and physical composition of an individual. Vata, pitta and kapha are said to be representatives of natural forces existing outside us i.e. air, fire and water elements respectively. They also represent air, sun and fire respectively.
Read – Dosha Types, Imbalance Symptoms – Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana 12

Triguna-Tridosha Relationship

Three doshas are made up of 5 elements of nature.

  • Vata is a combination of air and ether elements.
  • Pitta is a combination of fire and water elements.
  • Kapha is a combination of water and earth elements.

Three doshas are further nourished and maintained by food substances which are also made up of elements of nature. Each food substance is made up of predominance of one or more of elements of nature, which will accordingly nurture related dosha following law of similarity.
Read – Diet And Lifestyle Advice For Vata Dosha Body Type

Vata dosha is nurtured by substances which are predominantly made up of air and ether elements. Pitta dosha is formed and nurtured by food substances which are fiery and watery. Kapha dosha is formed and nurtured by food substances which are watery and earthy.

Nature is made up of three super qualities i. e., sattva, raja and tama. Therefore everything which is created by nature and everything in nature has inherited these three qualities.
Read – Ayurvedic Pitta Diet – food suitable for Pitta body type

  • Sattva quality – reflects knowledge of an individual
  • Rajas quality – represents all actions, movements and activities which happen in body
  • Tamas quality – balances and controls above mentioned qualities from their over-expression

Read – Activities And Diet For Kapha Balance

Since all movable and immovable things of creation are derived from nature, they also inherit sattva, rajas and tamas qualities from nature.

These great qualities also influence five basic elements of nature, since these elements are also a part of creation. Thus, these three elements are also made up of these three qualities.
Read – Panchamahabhuta: Application, Areas of Utility in Ayurveda treatment

Five basic elements

Make up of five basic element of nature by three great cosmic qualities

  • Ether element is predominantly made up of satva quality
  • Air element is predominantly made up of rajas quality
  • Fire element is predominantly made up of sathva and rajas qualities
  • Water element is made up of sattva and tamas qualities
  • Earth element is made up of tamas quality

Read – Relationship Between Doshas And Basic Elements (Pancha Mahabhuta)

Make up of three doshas by three qualities
Vata is made up of air and ether elements, with predominance of air element. Since air element has more of rajas quality, vata has more of rajas quality in it.

Pitta is made up of fire and water elements, with predominance of fire element. Since fire element has more of satva and rajas qualities, pitta has more of satva and rajas qualities in it.

Kapha is made up of water and earth elements, with predominance of water element. Since water element has more of satva and tamas qualities and earth element made up predominantly tamas quality, combination of these elements leads to expression of more of tamas quality. Thus, kapha has more of tamas quality in it.

Manasika Doshas – Contaminants Of Mind

Sattva, Raja and Tama make up qualities of mind. Thus, these three greater qualities are embedded in each and every thing in this creation.

Among these three cosmic qualities present in our mind, rajas and tamas are said to be manasika doshas i.e. contaminants of mind. When they are aggravated, they can vitiate the mind, just like three physical doshas i.e. vata, pitta and kapha contaminate and damage body when they get vitiated.

Sattva, good quality

Sattva, a quality which is always enlightening and a cause for positive vibes is not considered as a mind dosha.

Sattva quality reflects knowledge. Everything known and learnt depends on sattva. This quality enables one to acquire true knowledge of all objects and subjects. This quality is unperturbed. But it may be masked by increased raja or tama qualities. When sattva quality is masked by other qualities which are also doshas, person becomes or appears ignorant.


Properties and pathological manifestations of mind doshas

Rajas / Rajo Guna

Rajas quality represents all movements and activities which occur in body. This quality has to be in balance. If rajas aggravates and dominates mind, it leads to hyperactivity of mind (and body). This may lead to outrageous thoughts and high-end emotions like anger, elation, over anxiety, aggressiveness etc.

Mind may also become restless. Mind always keeps functioning even during sleep. Thought process is active and keeps rolling in mind just like advertisements keep rolling at bottom of television. In extreme conditions, person may become indecisive or take erroneous decisions which are not beneficial for self or others in the community. Destructive thoughts may also dominate leading one to commit many crimes and offences.

Below mentioned qualities are imbibed due to predominance of rajo guna –

Excessive indulgence in physical and mental activities
Expression of desires, hatred, grief, happiness, greed, egoism, stubbornness, anger, pride, jealousy, anxiety, loss of discrimination power and fluctuation of mind
When these qualities are excessively expressed, they harm mind. In due course of time, body doshas i.e. vata, pitta and kapha too will be involved and disturbed. These doshas lead to manifestation of physical diseases.

Tamas, Tamo Guna

Tamas quality balances and controls qualities of rajas from their over-expression. It is considered to be antagonistic to functions and expressions of rajo guna. If rajas represent activeness, tamas represents slowness. If raja quality is responsible for aggressiveness, tama quality is responsible for calmness. If rajas cause hyperactivity, tamas causes deficit functions.

If tamas over-expresses, it will mask expression of raja. Thus activities will slow down. Increased tama quality will also mask basic intelligence and wisdom caused by sattva quality. Person will thus lose reasoning power and behave like a stupid. Coordination between thoughts and actions will be broken.

Below mentioned qualities are imbibed due to predominance of tamo guna
Causes nourishment, brings calmness, unifies things and binds them
Controls and induces liquidity and unctuousness in body
Over-expression causes ignorance, laziness, sleep, stupor, idiocy and depression

Mind – Physical relation

Mind contaminants also contribute towards physical ailments
As already discussed, physical doshas i.e. vata, pitta and kapha first produce diseases pertaining to body and later affect mind. Similarly, mind doshas i.e. raja and tama first produces mental disorders and later afflict body.

Why does this happen?
This is because everything which is created in world is made up of these three superior qualities i.e. sattva, raja and tama, including five elements of nature. Earth element is predominantly made up of tamas quality, air element of rajas, water element by satva and tamas, fire element by sattva and rajas and space element by sattva quality predominance.

These five elements of nature, made up of permutations and combinations of these three greater qualities create the human body too.

Bodily doshas i.e. vata, pitta and kapha are also made up of five elements. It means that three doshas are also made up of tirgunas.

Vata is made up of air element predominantly and ether element. Due to predominance of air element, vata is made up of rajas quality.

Pitta is made up more of fire element and less of water element. Due to predominance of fire element, pitta too has more proportion of sattva and raja qualities.

Kapha is made up of water and earth elements, with predominance of water element. Due to predominance of water element, kapha too is made up of tamas quality.

By mix and match, body doshas, mind doshas and five elements are interrelated. Thus, body and mind doshas impact each other.

Classical evidence –

Raja and Tama are mind doshas. They, when out of balance cause many disorders like excessive possessiveness, lust, anger, greed, jealousy, egoism, intoxication, grief, worry, fear, ecstasy etc.

Similarly, vata, pitta and kapha are body doshas. When they go out of balance, they cause disease of likes of diarrhea, fever, depletion of tissues, phthisis, tuberculosis, dyspnea, diabetes, urinary disorders, skin diseases etc.

These diseases when existing for long duration and get chronic, get associated with each other i.e. mind disorders get associated with physical disorders or physical disorders get associated with mind disorders. This means to tell that, physical disorders may cause mental disorders and vice versa over a period of time. This happens due to affliction of rajas and tamas by vata, pitta and kapha or the other way around.

How to decrease Rajas and Tamas?

We have the 3 doshas and all of them tend to aggravate in the body. Similarly, we have Rajas and Tamas in the mind and they too are likely to aggravate. Nowadays, it is common to see people suffering from anxiety and insomnia, that may come as aggravated Vata in the body, but also as a result as too much Rajas in the mind. Also, it is clear that too much screen time (computer, smartphones, tv etc.) aggravates the tamas, leading people to be apathetic, depressed and unmotivated. Could you, please, clarify possible ways to treat aggravated rajas and aggravated tamas in the mind? 
Dr JV Hebbar 
Namaste 🙂 
I request you to read an article here to know foods and activities that increase Satva, Rajas and Tamas 

There are certain foods and activities that increase rajas and tamas, as explained in the above article. 
First step is to avoid doing that.

We should make an effort to increase Sattva. 
Increase of Sattva means decrease in Rajas and Tamas.

Having said that, there are specific ways to decrease rajas 
By controlling anger, by controlling the mind through Yoga, Pranayama, Dhyana, by being generous and not greedy, by avoiding excessive salty, sour and spicy diet.

Ways to decrease Tamas 
By restricting sleep to only 7 – 8 hours 
By exercise, mind challenging games such as chess, sudoku 
By reading motivating books and biographies, willfully being mentally and physically active 
By gaining knowledge, by avoiding preconceived opinions and negative attitude 
By taking less sweet foods in the diet and by including a bit more of spicy, sour and salty diet.  

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