What are sattva, rajas and tamas?
The entire creation/Prakriti/Maya is running on 3 gunas, but Purusha/Brahman is Nirguna and devoid of Gunas.
Here, Krishna in Geeta and in Samadhi with formless Brahman Purusha is explaining, how manifested unconscious material Prakriti, becomes movable with consciousness of Purusha.
Bhagavad Gita 14.3 – 14.4 The total material substance, prakṛiti, is the womb. I impregnate it with the individual souls, and thus all living beings are born. O son of Kunti, for all species of life that are produced, the material nature is the womb, and I am the seed-giving Father.
Bhagavad Gita 14.5 O mighty-armed Arjun, the material energy consists of three guṇas (modes)—sattva (goodness), rajas (passion), and tamas (ignorance). These modes bind the eternal soul to the perishable body.
Bhagavad Gita 14.6 Amongst these, sattva guṇa, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating and full of well-being. O sinless one, it binds the soul by creating attachment for a sense of happiness and knowledge.
Bhagavad Gita 14.7 O Arjun, rajo guṇa is of the nature of passion. It arises from worldly desires and affections, and binds the soul through attachment to fruitive actions.
Bhagavad Gita 14.8 O Arjun, tamo guṇa, which is born of ignorance, is the cause of illusion for the embodied souls. It deludes all living beings through negligence, laziness, and sleep.
Bhagavad Gita 14.9 Sattva binds one to material happiness; rajas conditions the soul toward actions; and tamas clouds wisdom and binds one to delusion.
Bhagavad Gita 14.10 Sometimes goodness (sattva) prevails over passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas), O scion of Bharat. Sometimes passion (rajas) dominates goodness (sattva) and ignorance (tamas), and at other times ignorance (tamas) overcomes goodness (sattva) and passion (rajas).
Bhagavad Gita 14.19 When wise persons see that in all works there are no agents of action other than the three guṇas, and they know me to be transcendental to these guṇas, they attain my divine nature.
Bhagavad Gita 14.20 By transcending the three modes of material nature associated with the body, one becomes free from birth, death, disease, old age, and misery, and attains immortality.
Nirguna Atma lies beyond Satva guna
“This world itself is the forest. The three robbers prowling here are sattva, rajas, and tamas. It is they that rob a man of the Knowledge of Truth. Tamas wants to destroy him. Rajas binds him to the world. But sattva rescues him from the clutches of rajas and tamas. Under the protection of sattva, man is rescued from anger, passion, and the other evil effects of tamas. Further, sattva loosens the bonds of the world. But sattva also is a robber. It cannot give him the ultimate Knowledge of Truth, though it shows him the road leading to the Supreme Abode of God. Setting him on the path, sattva tells him: ‘Look yonder. There is your home.’ Even sattva is far away from the Knowledge of Brahman.
"The three gunas — sattva, rajas, and tamas — have men under their control. They are like three brothers. As long as sattva exists, it calls on rajas for help; and rajas can get help from tamas. The three gunas are so many robbers. Tamas kills and rajas hinds. Sattva no doubt releases man from his bondage, but it cannot take him to God."
VIJAY (smiling): "It is because sattva, too, is a robber."
MASTER (smiling): "True. Sattva cannot take man to God, but it shows him the way."
Tamas Kaali, Rajas Laxmi and Satva Saraswati is the 3 guna Maya Prakriti and is also three phases of everyone's life. In childhood, Tamas dominates a person and he spends most of time in sleeping and playing around and thats why on Durga Puja, people worship a Kumari who represents Kaali. In adulthood, Rajas dominates a person and he spends most of time in earning wealth and sensual pleasure in women and gold, thats why a Married women is always compared as Laxmi entering home. In oldage, Satva dominates and a person is taught Dharma and to accept Sanyass and study Vedas or do Bhakti, thats why an old woman is always compared to wise Saraswati.
Since, every dynamic ego/mind/moon of every soul is considered feminine in nature separated from the consciousness/intellect/sun, so the Nirguna Purusha Brahman Shiva/Vishnu is the seer of all these 3 phases of life and is the Soul/Aatma of everyone.
बाल्यादिष्वपि जाग्रदादिषु तथा सर्वास्ववस्थास्वपि
व्यावृत्तास्वनुवर्तमानमहमित्यन्तः स्फुरन्तं सदा ।
स्वात्मानं प्रकटीकरोति भजतां यो मुद्रयाभद्रया
Salutations to Sri Dakshinamurthy Who Awakens the Glory of the Atman within us through His Profound Silence)
7.1: During all the stages of life (youth, adult and old age), during waking and other states (Dreaming, Deep Sleep, Turiya etc.,) and similarly in all conditions, the Atman always shines as the "I" within, free from all conditions but at the same time present in all conditions,
7.3: The Inner Guru awakens this Knowledge of one's own Atman to those who surrender to Him; this knowledge which is represented by auspicious Cin-Mudra,
7.4: Salutations to Him, the personification of our inner guru who awakens this knowledge through His profound silence; salutation to Sri Dakshinamurthy.
These 3 gunas also manifest as white Day, black Night and red dusk/dawn and also the three major religions of today's earth, who fight each other for the superiority.
Hinduism = 22%(including Buddhism)
Christianity = 33%
Islam = 24%
These 3 are nothing but the 3 gunas of Prakriti i.e. Satva, Rajas and Tamas. Hindus(sons of Aditi) are dominated by Satva i.e. simplicity and balance and spiritual knowledge, hence most of the spiritual Gurus of world are from India. Christians(sons of Danu) are dominated by Rajas, hence most of the material knowledge and Scienctific innovations for body luxuries and sensual pleasures come from Christian nations, Muslims/Islam(sons of Diti), are dominated by Tamas(hence they reject both Moksha/Salvation(of Satvik Hindus) and Kamna/Desires(of Rajsik Christians)) and are blamed for terrorism, anger and forceful conversions to Islam(like in Mughal's period)
Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient God is beyond these 3 Gunas and is Nirguna, Nirakaar, but can be understood only by developing Satva(simplicity, purity) first. Hence, its Vedas alone of Hindus that declare Shivoham(I am Shiva)/Aham Brahmsmi(I am God) and talk of eternal nature of soul, because in reality an individual soul is same as God/Supersoul, but cant be understood as long a man is a slave of his senses and Rajas, Tamas Gunas. Hence Saffron, the color of renunciation is revered in Hinduism. Vedas-Puranas were revealed by God to ancient Satvik sages of Hindus. On the other hand, it is sinful to call oneself Allah or Jesus in Abrahamic religions and they reject the existence of soul, therefore considering body to be the soul and preserving it in graves for the day of resurrection/judgement day.
Highest Tamas is present in animals, hence animals dont worship God nor undergo self-realization, their activities are controlled by Prakriti's senses and mind. God created man in his image and gave him intellect, which separates him from the animals and allows him to control his senses and realize his true self Atma(which means without Tamas, enlightened). Hence, both man and God are called Purusha in Vedas.
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