Classification Of Qualities (Gunas) As per Ayruveda


By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

Gunas means qualities of a substance. Any substance has a given set of qualities which are embedded within it and are related to the substance with an inseparable relationship.
Read – Dravya: Meaning, Ayurvedic Explanation

Introduction

Broadly these qualities mentioned in Ayurveda are classified into two categories

  1. Adibhoutika gunas
  2. Adhyatmika gunas

Adibhautika

1. Aadibhoutika Qualities
Adibhoutika qualities are further classified into –

a. Samanya Gunas –
These are set of general qualities.|
These qualities are further classified into –

b. Vishishta Gunas –
These are set of special qualities.
These are five in number i.e.

Adhyatmika

2. Adhyatmika qualities / Qualities of Atma
Adhyatmika means ‘pertaining to the soul’. Therefore these qualities are related to the soul, i.e. life element. These qualities are six in number.

Adhibhoutika Gunas
Adhibhautika means pertaining to living beings. Therefore the qualities explained in this context are related to the living beings.

Sub-classification of adhibhautika


1. Samanya Gunas – general qualities
The general qualities are once again classified into –

Guruvadi

a. Gurvadi qualities
Gurvadi qualities are 20 in number. Since these qualities are related to the tissues and substances of the body, they are also called as Shareerika Gunas. Shareerika means ‘pertaining to the body’.

When we see through the enumeration of these qualities we learn that they are actually 10 qualities + 10 opposite qualities of those 10 qualities. Totally they are 20 in number.
Read – Incorporating Atma Jnana (Self Awareness) In Treatment – Case Study

Sl No Quality Opposite Quality Sl No
1 Guru – heaviness
(read about guru guna)
Laghu – lightness 11
2 Sheeta – cold Ushna – heat 12
3 Snigdha – unctuousness Ruksha – Non-unctuousness 13
4 Manda – dullness Teekshna – sharpness 14
5 Sthira – immobility Sara – mobility (read sara guna) 15
6 Mrudu – softness Kathina – hardness 16
7 Vishada – clearness Pichchila – sliminess, stickiness 17
8 Shlakshna – smoothness Khara – roughness 18
9 Sukshma – fineness Sthula – bulkiness 19
10 Sandra – solidity Drava – fluidity 20

Read – Hardness Quality – Kathina Meaning, Action On Doshas, Therapeutic Uses

Paradi

b. Paradi qualities

Paradi qualities are 10 in number.

  • Paratva – the most important one
  • Aparatva – the least important one
  • Yukti – situational understanding
  • Samkhya – the numbers
  • Samyoga – combination
  • Vibhaga – separation
  • Pruthaktva – differentiation
  • Parimaana – measurement
  • Samskara – transformation
  • Abhyasa – practice / homologation

Since the above mentioned gurvadi qualities and paradi qualities are generally present in the five elements of nature, they are called samanya gunas (general qualities). These qualities are thus present in the five element of nature i.e. earth, wind, water, fire and ether and all substances made out of these elements. Since they are generally present in all these substances, they are called general qualities.
Read – Panchamahabhuta: Application, Areas of Utility in Ayurveda treatment

Shloka Samanya, Vishishta

Vishishta Guna

2. Vishishta / Vaisheshika Gunas – special qualities
Vishishta Gunas are the special qualities of the earth etc five elements of nature. Since these qualities are ‘specially’ present in the five elements of nature, one in each of the elements, these five qualities are called as Vishishta qualities. They are also called as vaisheshika qualities.

Special quality Element in which the special quality is present
Shabda (sound) Space element
Sparsha (touch) Air element
Rupa (sight) Fire element
Rasa (taste) Water element
Gandha (smell) Earth element

While the samanya qualities are present in all substances made up of five elements and also in all five elements, the special qualities are present in only those elements related to them.
Read – Extra Qualities (Gunas) Enumerated By Master Sushruta

Example, gandha (smell) quality is present predominantly in earth element; rasa (taste) quality is predominantly present in water element etc. Smell is the special quality of earth element and taste is the special quality of water element etc. The relationship between the other special qualities and their respective elements should be understood in the same way.

Since both samanya qualities comprising of gurvadi qualities and parade qualities and also the vishishta qualities are related to the outer world i.e. related to the elements of nature, they are called adhibhoutika gunas.
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