Sattva in Yoga Meditation


Sattva = the attribute or quality of equilibrium, balance, serenity, purity, tranquility, equanimity, or peace. It is the illuminating force or uplifting energy.
Sattva = 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 rajas 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 Sattva
We want to become aware of the meaning of sattva, 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 sattva as you go through activities, situations, and conversations. Observe how sattva is related to actions, thoughts, and speech. You will notice that sattva is predominant when are feeling serene, peace, and in balance, when the day flows nicely and your mood or emotions are stable and calm. You will discover that everything in the apparent manifestation can be sattvic or can lack being in a state of sattva. Thus it is useful to find your own examples of sattva which allows you to have direct knowledge of this concept of sattva. This expanded awareness about sattva then also brings the opportunity to play with the gunas and to regulate them.
Sattva can be seen in all aspects of existence
You can have a sattvic diet, sattvic body, mind and breath, a sattvic buddhi, sattvic determination, sattvic thoughts, sattvic intentions, even sattvic joy!
Sattva preferably predominant
Of all the three gunas is sattva the one that we would like to cultivate. Is it the quality that makes buddhi sharp enough to penetrate all the levels of our being, until it becomes aware of itself and even sattvic buddhi need to be let go of. But until then one needs to purify all the levels of one’s being so that sattva predominates. But do not think that the other two gunas are bad, both rajas and tamas can be off service for sattva. Tamas brings stability and rajas can be used wisely when you need the energy to do something.


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Eventually the concept of sattva will swim around in your awareness all the time, as it becomes a part of constant self-awareness. Also, becoming aware of sattva 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 sattva relates to other concepts, processes, or insights. For example, you may come to see that when you feel sattvic, you think of ekagra, or you find a relationship between buddhi and sattva. 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 the gunas, you are the One that is able to witness all these concepts. Therefore sattva itself have to be transcended, who you really are is beyond sattva. This will increase the non-attachment towards sattva itself, while you can be in awe of the beauty of the Divine dance of Consciousness that appears to play as sattva. 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 (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 sattva.


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Sattva also has aspects that are not desirable
Just as rajas and tamas have aspects in them that makes them both useful and not useful, so has sattva a part that is not useful. When sattva is standing alone it could be that someone gets too spacey, too much illuminated so that is turns into disappearing from reality or too much disconnected to be able to do something. That is why all three gunas need to work together; a little grounding and a little stability of tamas makes sattva firm and stable, and a little rajas makes sattva dynamic.
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.
Sattvic joy
“When first encountered the highest joy seems like poison or at least a bitter medicine to those who are used to the gross worldly pleasure. But when one become familiar with its subtle qualities, that joy becomes a nectar, a joy so subtle that it cannot even be imagined by one who has tasted only worldly pleasures. It is said “A bitter pill has a blessed effect”, and such is the case with sattvic joy.”
~ Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita pg. 446
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
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

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
2.41 Also through cleanliness and purity of body and mind (shaucha) comes a purification of the subtle mental essence (sattva), a pleasantness, goodness and gladness of feeling, a one-pointedness with intentness, the conquest or mastery over the senses, and a fitness, qualification, or capability for self-realization.
sattva shuddhi saumanasya ekagra indriya-jaya atma darshana yogyatvani cha
3.36 The having of experiences comes from a presented idea only when there is a commingling of the subtlest aspect of mind (sattva) and pure consciousness (purusha), which are really quite different. Samyama on the pure consciousness, which is distinct from the subtlest aspect of mind, reveals knowledge of that pure consciousness.
sattva purusayoh atyanta asankirnayoh pratyaya avishesah bhogah pararthatvat svartha samyamat purusha-jnanam
3.50 To one well established in the knowledge of the distinction between the purest aspect of mind and consciousness itself, there comes supremacy over all forms or states of existence, as well as over all forms of knowing.
sattva purusha anyata khyati matrasya sarva-bhava adhisthatrittvam sarvajnatritvam cha
3.56 With the attainment of equality between the purest aspect of sattvic buddhi and the pure consciousness of purusha, there comes absolute liberation, and that is the end.
sattva purusayoh suddhi samye kaivalyam iti
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
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
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.
Sattva is the quality associated with energy that is balanced, serene, harmonious and highly evolved. It is associated with clarity, brightness, and wisdom. The sattvic aspect of the human being is atman, or the spirit within.”
~ Wisdom of the Ancient Sages pg. 49
“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
Cultivate sattvic mind: We want to cultivate the Sattvicor Illuminated state of mind, rather than a mind filled with Inertia or Negative Activity. The three gunas are said to be the building blocks of the universe, and at the same time are qualities of grosser levels of reality. For example, one might eat more Sattvic food as an aid to meditation, or create a Sattvic environment. Here, we are talking about cultivating Sattvic thought patterns.


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Bhagavad Gita
From the Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, Swami Rama
14.5 Sattva, rajas, tamas—these attributes born of Prakriti bind the immutable body-bearer in the body, O Mighty-armed One.
14.6 Of these, sattva, illuminator and healthy because of its immaculateness, binds through the attraction of pleasure as well as the attraction of knowledge, O sinless One.
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.
14.11 When the light of knowledge waxes in all the doors of the body, then one should know sattva to have increased.
14.14 When a body-bearer comes to death during an increase of sattva, then he attains the immaculate worlds of those of high knowledge.
14.16 The fruit of a meritorious act is sattvic 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.
18.20 That whereby one sees a single, immutable aspect in all beings, undivided in the divided, know that to be the sattvic knowledge.
18.23 An act performed devoid of attachment and without attraction and aversion, by one desiring no fruit, is called sattvic.
18.26 Liberated from attachment, not uttering ‘I’, endowed with the power to sustain and enthuse, unaffected in fulfillment or failure, such an actor is said to be sattvic.
18.30 Ordinance and prohibition, what ought to be done or not to be done, dangerous and nondangerous, bondage and liberation—the intelligence that knows theses, O Son of Pritha, is the sattvic one.
18.33 That undeviating steadfastness (dhriti) which sustains activities of mind, prana, and senses through yoga, is, O Pritha, a sattvic one.
18.37 that which initially is like poison but is in effect like elixir, that happiness is called sattvic born of the pleasantness of one’s intelligence.
Vivekachoodamini, Adi Shankaracharya
Translated by Swami Madhavananda, Published by Advaita Ashram, Kolkatta
104. Know that it is egoism which, identifying itself with the body, becomes the doer or experiencer, and in conjunction with the Gunas such as the Sattva, assumes the three different states.
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.
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.
118. The traits of mixed Sattva are an utter absence of pride etc., and Niyama, Yama, etc., as well as faith, devotion, yearning for Liberation, the divine tendencies and turning away from the unreal.
119. The traits of pure Sattva are cheerfulness, the realization of one’s own Self, supreme peace, contentment, bliss, and steady devotion to the Atman, by which the aspirant enjoys bliss everlasting.
132. In this very body, in the mind full of Sattva, in the secret chamber of the intellect, in the Akasha known as the Unmanifested, the Atman, of charming splendor, shines like the sun aloft, manifesting this universe through Its own effulgence.
278. Tamas is destroyed by both Sattva and Rajas, Rajas by Sattva, and Sattva dies when 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.
1.19. From the sattva part of the five subtle elements of Prakriti arose in turn the five subtle sensory organs of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell.
1.20. From a combination of them all (i.e. sattva portions of the five subtle elements) arose the organ of inner conception called antahkarana. Due to difference of function it is divided into two. Manas (mind) is that aspect whose function is doubting and buddhi (intellect) is that whose functions are discrimination and determination.
1.35. The doubting mind and the five sensory organs, which are the effect of Sattva, make up the mind sheath. The determining intellect and the sensory organs make up the intellect sheath.
1.36. The impure Sattva which is in the causal body, along with joy and other Vrittis (mental modifications), is called the bliss sheath. Due to identification with the different sheaths, the Self assumes their respective natures.
1.44. Brahman becomes the material and efficient cause of the world when associated with those aspects of Maya in which there is a predominance of tamas and sattva respectively. This Brahman is referred to as ‘That ‘ in the text ‘That thou art’.
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.
12.21-22. (Doubt): What type of love is it that the scriptures say is felt towards the Self? Is it the passionate attachment which is felt towards wife and other objects, the faith which is experienced in sacrifices and other rituals, the devotion which a man cherishes towards God and his teacher or is it the desire one feels for something one does not possess? (Reply): The real love of the Self is that which, in the absence of these emotions, manifests itself owing to the preponderance of Sattvika quality in the intellect. This love of the Self is different from desire, for it exists even when desire is present or destroyed.
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.
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.
15.5. The consciousness aspect of Brahman is reflected in all these modifications, but in the Sattvika modifications alone joy also is reflected.
15.11. But as in (a piece of burning) wood both heat and light are manifested, similarly in the Sattvika Vrittis both consciousness and bliss are manifested.
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.
15.21. 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.
12.24. 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.
12.27. And in the Sattvika Vrittis he should contemplate on all the three – existence, consciousness and bliss. These three kinds of contemplation are successively called inferior, middling and superior contemplations.
12.32. 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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