Rajas in Yoga Meditation


Rajas = the attribute or quality of being active, dynamism, energy, agitated, restless, anxious, lust, anger, avarice, arrogance, spite, egoism, envy, jealousy… associated with movement, desire, and action.
Rajas = this attribute is one of the three building blocks of manifestation or the three attributes of prakriti (subtlest matter), these three principles are combined in various ways to make up apparent reality. The other two are sattva and tamas. These qualities can be seen in all levels of manifestation, from the most subtlest to the grossest; everything is made of sattva, rajas and tamas.


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Observe Rajas
We want to become aware of the meaning of rajas, not merely by knowing its definition but by being able to observe it in our daily life. Thus choose for a day or a week to be aware of rajas as you go through activities, situations, and conversations. Observe how rajas is related to actions, thoughts, and speech. To start to observe rajas, you remember that rajas is a force that motivates you to perform actions; it is also the force that makes you feel agitated, hyperactive (monkey-mind) and all the others qualities mentioned above; it is the energy that leads to attachments and desires; this kind of energy is called rajasic. Learn to recognize it. You will discover that everything in the apparent manifestation can be rajasic or can lack being in a state of rajas. Thus it is useful to find your own examples of rajas which allows you to have direct knowledge of the concept of rajas. This expanded awareness about rajas then also brings the opportunity to play with the gunas and to regulate them.
Rajas can be seen in many aspects of existence
You can have a rajasic diet, rajasic body, mind and breath, a rajasic buddhi, rajasic determination, rajasic thoughts, rajasic intentions, even rajasic joy!
Moving out of a rajasic state
When you notice your mind, body, or breath is rajasic you would like to know of yourself what works for you to get you back into balance. What brings you out of a rajasic state and brings more sattva. For you it might be a walk, a moment of conscious diaphragmatic breathing, a little reading, some asanas followed by meditation, contemplation. You want to know what works well for you.
Rajas can be useful or not useful
If you read all the words that are used to try express rajas, you may think that to be in rajasic state of mind, is not desirable. Rajas put things into motion, and it is the intention behind this motion that determines if this is useful or not useful. When the motion or action is based on selfish desires, only for your own gratification, than it is easy to see that this is not useful, therefore could be labeled as negative. But when the motion or action is done with selfless intention, lovingly serving others, with no expectation for the desired fruits of the actions and knowing you are not the doer, then allowing rajas to do the work is useful, and can therefore be labeled as positive.
Rajas in service of sattva
When rajas is used for selfless ends, then you can say that it is working in the service of sattva. Sattva is most active or dominant and rajas supports sattva; in this way they work together.


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Eventually the concept of rajas will swim around in your awareness all the time, as it becomes a part of constant self-awareness. Also, becoming aware of rajas will have the effect that you will increase your use of this word in your daily vocabulary to express yourself and you will discover how rajas relates to other concepts, processes, or insights. For example, you may come to see that when you feel rajasic, you may also think of ahamkara, raga, dvesha, or you find a relationship between kshipta and rajas. Eventually you will discover how all these concepts dance together and coming to know this dance will guide you towards that which is beyond all the concepts. This is because as you increase your self-awareness, you will discover that everything you can observe is not who you truly are, you are not rajas, you are the One that is able to witness all these concepts. Therefore rajas itself have to be transcended, who you really are is beyond rajas. This will increase the non-attachment towards rajas itself, while you can be in awe of the beauty of the Divine dance of Consciousness that appears to play as the rajas. Therefore practicing self-awareness is actually practicing not-self-awareness by which the True Self will eventually reveal itself.
Look at the self-assessment PDF (assessment-yymmdd.pdf) and a PDF that includes daily internal dialogue and daily observation (sumseven-yymmdd.pdf) on the website of www.abhyasaashram.org (when you are on this page scroll all the way down to find the downloadable PDFs) These PDFs can be used as tools to explore and expand your understanding on rajas.


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Gunas are like volume-knobs of the stereo of prakriti
Swami Jnaneshvara once beautifully explained the gunas as three volume-knobs on a stereo. As a yogi, a sadhaka, we would like to have full control of the three knobs of rajas, tamas, and sattva. We want to know what every knob is, how it functions, and what kind of influence it has on the other two gunas. In this way we know and can judge what kind of combination is most useful in a particular situation.
For example when you go and sit still for meditation, you would like to be able to increase sattva even more, make tamas and rajas very quiet. And when meditation time is finish sattva can remain being active (knob is turned open) but rajas can be increased so that the daily duties can be performed.
Eventually all gunas have to be transcended
When you gain more and more understanding on how the gunas operate, you will come to see that being able to adjust them as needed is not the end. As the gunas are part of prakriti (the subtlest matter) we need to transcend them all. Our true nature is not sattvic, is it that which is beyond all three gunas, which is purusha, or pure Consciousness.


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1.16 Indifference to the subtlest elements, constituent principles, or qualities themselves (gunas: rajas, tamas, sattva), achieved through a knowledge of the nature of pure consciousness (purusha), is called supreme non-attachment (paravairagya).
tat param purusha khyateh guna vaitrshnyam
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2.15 A wise, discriminating person sees all worldly experiences as painful, because of reasoning that all these experiences lead to more consequences, anxiety, and deep habits (samskaras), as well as acting in opposition to the natural qualities.
parinama tapa samskara duhkhaih guna vrittih virodhat cha duhkham eva sarvam

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2.19 There are four states of the elements (gunas: rajas, tamas, sattva), and these are: 1) diversified, specialized, or particularized (vishesha), 2) undiversified, unspecialized, or unparticularized (avishesha), 3) indicator-only, undifferentiated phenomenal, or marked only (linga-matra), and 4) without indicator, noumenal, or without mark (alingani).
vishesha avishesha linga-matra alingani guna parvani
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4.13 Whether these ever-present characteristics or forms are manifest or subtle, they are composed of the primary elements called the three gunas.
te vyakta suksmah guna atmanah
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4.32 Also resulting from that dharma-meghah samadhi (4.29), the three primary elements or gunas (4.13-4.14) will have fulfilled their purpose, cease to transform into further transformations, and recede back into their essence.
tatah kritarthanam parinama krama samaptih gunanam
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4.34 When those primary elements involve, or resolve themselves back into that out of which they emerged, there comes liberation, wherein the power of pure consciousness becomes established in its true nature.
purusha artha sunyanam gunanam pratiprasavah kaivalyam svarupa pratistha va chiti shaktih iti
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“Prakriti: “That which makes forth.” In Sankya and Yoga philosophy it is the material en mental creation with which pure spirit (purusha) has falsely identified itself on account of ego, the “I-maker” (ahamkara). The goal of yoga is the isolation (kaivalya) of purusha from prakriti – the identification of pure spirit with itself. Prakriti is said it have three attributes (gunas) or tendencies; balance or purity (sattva), energy (rajas), and inertia (tamas). Everything in the material universe is said to be some combination of these three tendencies.”
~ The Royal Path pg. 130
“There are really three aspects to a human being: the animal in him – which is called evil – the human aspect, and the divine. These aspects are called, tamas, rajas, and sattva. The human being is like an angel that has fallen down, because he has become tamasic. He was distracted by the charms and temptations of the objects of the world, and thus forgot his essential nature. The goal of meditation is to know that essential nature.”
~ Path of Fire and Light II pg. 124
“It is true that a human being is a compound of three qualities – the animal aspect within him, the human in him, and the divine aspect in him. In the Bhagavad Gita, these three aspects are referred to as tamas, rajas, and sattva. When the aspirant learns to tame the animal within and expresses his creative, human potential through mind, action, and speech, then he becomes fully civilized and is prepared to attain divinity. The divine qualities in the human being remain latent as long as the human and animal qualities remain predominant.
The concepts of tamas, rajas, and sattva are also known as the three gunas, or the three principles that combine in various ways to make up apparent reality.
Rajas is the energizing quality associated with movement, desire and action. It is more dynamic quality than tamas, but it can also be considered to be agitated or restless. Its most useful aspect is the potential to direct energy in a specific manner. All human beings are related to this guna, especially all creative activities. This quality leads one to earn, to have, and to enjoy the things in the worlds. Those who are led by the predominance of this particular quality remain active in the external world. The most rajasic aspect of the human being is the mind.”
~ Wisdom of the Ancient Sages pg. 49
”Rajas creates raga (attraction or attachment) and dvesha (aversion or hatred) toward the objects of the world. One whose life is controlled by rajas remains continually active, for he constantly pursues the objects of pleasure. He is never satisfied and is always seeking new sources of pleasure. That way of being can lead to hypertension and many other diseases and does not allow the student to discipline and control himself. Often the student functions under the sway of unconscious habits of a rajasic nature and acts without knowing and understanding why he is doing so.”
~ The Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita pg. 384
“Karma is law. You cannot live without it, no matter how lazy you are. If you are tamasic, you will receive the fruits of tamasic; if you are rajasic, you will receive the fruits of rajas; and if you are sattvic, you receive the fruits of sattva.”
~ Sadhana pg.161


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Read the whole article “Witnessing” on www.swamij.com
If Rajas is dominant, then thoughts might be anxious or racing. However, if Sattvas is dominant, Rajas is the force that brings the useful thoughts into positive action, while Tamas has a stabilizing effect.


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Bhagavad Gita
From the Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, Swami Rama
3.37 This desire, this is anger, born of the guna called rajas, consumer of much, very evil; know it to be your enemy here in the world [this is the answer to the question of Arjuna; Now propelled by whom does this person commit sin even not wanting to, o Krishna, as though impelled by force?)]
14.5 Sattva, rajas, tamas—these attributes born of Prakriti bind the immutable body-bearer in the body, O Mighty-armed One.
14.7 Know rajas to have the nature of attraction and color, producing craving and attachment. O Son of Kunti, it binds the body-bearer through attachment to action.
14.9 Sattva causes attachment to happiness, rajas to action, O Descendant of Bharata. Tamas, however, veiling knowledge causes attachment to inattention.
14.10 Overcoming rajas and tamas, sattva prevails, O Descendant of Bharata; rajas prevails overcoming sattva and tamas; similarly tamas prevails overcoming sattva and rajas.
14.12 Greed, activity, the initiation of action, absence of peace, competitiveness—these are born when rajas has increased, O Bull among Bharatas.
14.15 Upon dying in rajas, one born among those who are drawn to action. Similarly, dying in tamas, one is born among stupefied species.
14.16 The fruit of a meritorious act is sattva and stainless, but the fruit of rajas is pain, and the fruit of tamas is ignorance.
14.17 Knowledge is born from sattva and greed from rajas; inattention and stupefaction as well as ignorance arise from tamas.
14.18 The sattva-dwellers rise upward; the rajasic remain in the middle; tamasic goes, remaining under the influence of base qualities, move downward.
18.21 When one knows the knowledge and all the separate kinds of aspects, each divided separately among all beings, know that to be the rajasic knowledge.
18.24 That act, however, which is performed by one desirous of fruit and possessed with ego with much exertion of many kinds, that is called rajasic.
18.27 Attached, desirous of the fruit of action, greedy, inclined to violence, impure, possessed by exhilaration and depression, such an actor is said to be rajasic.
18.31 That by which one knows incorrectly virtue and vice, what ought to be done or ought not to be done, O Son of Pritha, is rajasic.
18.34 That by which one sustains virtue, desire, and worldly success, desiring fruits incidentally in the context, that steadfastness (dhriti) is rajasic.
18.38 That which appears initially like elixir through the union of senses and their objects, but in effect is like poison, that happiness is considered rajasic.
Vivekachoodamini, Adi Shankaracharya
Translated by Swami Madhavananda, Published by Advaita Ashram, Kolkatta
110. Maya can be destroyed by the realization of the pure Brahman, the one without a second, just as the mistaken idea of a snake is removed by the discrimination of the rope. She has her Gunas as Rajas, Tamas and Sattva, named after their respective functions.
111. Rajas has its Vikshepa-Shakti or projecting power, which is of the nature of an activity, and from which this primeval flow of activity has emanated. From this also, mental modifications such as attachment and grief are continually produced.
112. Lust, anger, avarice, arrogance, spite, egoism, envy, jealousy, etc., — these are the dire attributes of Rajas, from which the worldly tendency of man is produced. Therefore Rajas is a cause of bondage.
117. Pure Sattva is (clear) like water, yet in conjunction with Rajas and Tamas it makes for transmigration. The reality of the Atman becomes reflected in Sattva and like the sun reveals the entire world of matter.
140. When his own Self, endowed with the purest splendor, is hidden from view, aman through ignorance falsely identifies himself with this body, which is the non-Self. And then the great power of rajas called the projecting power sorely afflicts him through the binding fetters of lust, anger, etc.,
174. Therefore the mind is the only cause that brings about man’s bondage or Liberation: when tainted by the effects of Rajas it leads to bondage, and when pure and divested of the Rajas and Tamas elements it conduces to Liberation.
179. Man’s transmigration is due to the evil of superimposition, and the bondage of superimposition is created by the mind alone. It is this that causes the misery of birth etc., for the man of non-discrimination who is tainted by Rajas and Tamas.
182. He who by means of one-pointed devotion to Liberation roots out the attachment to sense-objects, renounces all actions, and with faith in the Real Brahman regularly practices hearing, etc., succeeds in purging the Rajasika nature of the intellect.
278. Tamas is destroyed by both Sattva and Rajas, Rajas by Sattva, and Sattva dieswhen purified. Therefore do way with thy superimposition through the help of Sattva.
361. As gold purified by thorough heating on the fire gives up its impurities and attains to its own luster, so the mind, through meditation, gives up its impurities of Sattva, Rajas and tamas, and attains to the reality of Brahman.
Panchadasi, Sri Vidyaranya Swami
Translated by Swami Swahananda and Published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai (Translation under Fair Use, and believed to be in the public domain.)
1.15. Prakriti (i.e. primordial substance) is that in which there is the reflection of Brahman, that is pure consciousness and bliss and is composed of sattva, rajas and tamas (in a state of homogeneity). It is of two kinds.
1.16. When the element of sattva is pure, Prakriti is known as Maya; when impure (being mixed up with rajas and tamas) it is called Avidya. Brahman, reflected in Maya, is known as the omniscient Isvara, who controls Maya.
1.17. But the other (i.e. the Jiva, which is Brahman reflected in Avidya) is subjected to Avidya (impure sattva). The Jiva is of different grades due to (degrees of) admixture (of rajas and tamas with sattva). The Avidya (nescience) is the causal body. When the Jiva identifies himself with this causal body he is called Prajna.
1.21. From the rajas portion of the five elements arose in turn the organs of actions known as the organ of speech, the hands, the feet, and the organs of excretion and generation.
1.22. From a combination of them all (i.e. the rajas portions of the five subtle elements) arose the vital air (Prana). Again, due to difference of function it is divided into five. They are Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana.
1.34. The gross body which is the product of the quintuplicated elements is known as the food sheath. That portion of the subtle body which is composed of the five vital airs and the five organs of action, and which is the effect of the rajas aspect of Prakriti is called the vital sheath.
1.45. When the supreme Brahman superimposes on Itself Avidya, that is, sattva mixed with rajas and tamas, creating desires and activities in It, then it is referred to as ‘thou’.[thou from “thou art that”]
2.13. The mind enquires into the merits and defects of the objects which are perceived by the senses. Sattva, rajas and tamas are its three constituents, for through them the mind undergoes various modifications.
2.14. Non-attachment, forgiveness, generosity, etc., are products of sattva. Desire, anger, avarice, effort, etc., are produced by rajas.
2.15. Lethargy, confusion, drowsiness, etc., are produced by tamas. When sattva functions in the mind, merit is acquired; when rajas functions, demerit is produced.
6.99. Unconsciousness is the nature of Prakriti (the primordial substance) which is ever-changing and composed of three modes, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The Prakriti functions for experience and release of the Atman.
12.77. The odour, colour and other properties of a flower are not separate from one another in the flower. If it be said that the separation of these properties is brought about by the sense-organs, we rejoin that the seeming difference between consciousness and bliss is produced by (the predominance of Rajas or Sattva in) the Vrittis.
12.78. When there is a predominance of Sattva in the Vrittis, we realise, because of their purity, that bliss and consciousness are one and the same, but when Rajas predominates, because of its impurity, the bliss is obscured.
12.79. As the intensely sour taste of tamarind when mixed with salt is lessened and taste less sour, so with bliss (when it is obscured by Rajas).
15.3. The mental modifications are of three kinds: serene (Sattvika), agitated (Rajasika) and dull (Tamasika). The Sattvika modifications are detachment, fortitude, liberality and so forth.
15.4. The Rajasika modifications are thirst and love for objects, attachment (to them as if they were real), greed and so forth. The Tamasika modifications are said to be delusion, fear and so forth.
15.9. Because of the preponderance of impurities of the Rajasika and Tamasika Vrittis, the blissfulness of Brahman is obscured; but because of their slight purity the consciousness of Brahman is reflected.
15.10. Or as in pure water when heated there is the transmission of heat of the fire and not its light, similarly in the Vrittis (in which Rajas and Tamas predominate) there is the manifestation of consciousness only.
15.13. Neither in Rajasika nor in Tamasika Vrittis the experience of bliss is seen but in Sattvika Vrittis experience of happiness is seen to a greater or lesser degree.
15.14. When a man has desires for houses, lands and other objects then because of the agitated quality of this desire which is an effect of Rajas, there is no happiness for him.
15.21. Both existence and consciousness are manifest in the Rajasika and Tamasika Vrittis of the intellect and all the three [existence, consciousness, and bliss] are manifest in the Sattvika Vrittis. Brahman associated with the world including the Vrittis is thus described.
15.24. There is misery in the Rajasika and Tamasika Vrittis. Thus Maya is manifested. Because of His identification with the Vrittis of the intellect, which are Sattvika, Rajasika and Tamasika, Brahman is called ‘associated Brahman’ i.e., Brahman is associated with the world.
15.26. In stone etc., he should reject both name and form and meditate on existence; in Rajasika and Tamasika Vrittis he should reject the misery (which is associated with them) and meditate on existence and consciousness.
15.32. It is said that the adjuncts creating difference are the Sattvika, Rajasika and Tamasika Vrittis. Through either Yoga or discrimination these disturbing Vrittis are removed.


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