According to Ayurveda, all organic and inorganic substances, as well as thoughts and actions, have twenty definitive attributes that are categorized into ten opposing pairs. The ten opposing pairs are the manifestation of male and female energies and give their qualities to the physical substance or thought or action. They are not all present at once, so when we can ascertain which qualities are present in a substance, action, or thought, then we can better understand what it is we are examining. For example, when you are happy, it might feel light, mobile, and clear. Meanwhile, anger might feel hot and rough.
The Ten Opposing Pairs / Gunas
The 20 Gunas are used to describe the 5 Elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether). The 5 Elements combine to form 3 Doshas. A balance of the Gunas is always at work in the mind and body, consciously and at an autonomic level, to maintain homeostasis and optimal health. The more you learn about your personal Dosha balance, the easier it becomes to use the Gunas in everyday life to affect your own well-being. The energetics (Gunas) in food, spices, the form of exercise you choose, colors, scents, weather, and physical conditions you expose yourself to all ultimately affect your internal mind/body/spirit equilibrium.
Purusha and Prakruti
Two major concepts behind the study of Ayurveda are Purusha and Prakruti.
Purusha is all that is unmanifest, all-pervading consciousness, passive awareness, masculine energy, unseen, formless, colorless, and the principle of sentience—spirit.
Prakruti is all that is manifest, has form and color, feminine energy, active consciousness, generator, action, seen, and touchable—matter.
The merging of Purusha and Prakruti is what produces all things. Although Purusha is Purusha and Prakruti is Prakruti, neither can exist without the other; they are opposites that must stay in balance. Purusha and Prakruti merge to form energy and universal intelligence. Our mind consists of many layers, some conscious, others not. “Manas” is the term used to describe the sensory, intelligent organ that processes and stores information. Manas is thought to be the “thinking mind” and the lord of the senses. Unlike the eternal soul, it perishes at death.
The Three Gunas of Prakruti:
1. Rajas: the principle of movement, energy, activity, emotion, and turbulence Tamas: the principle of inertia, darkness, dullness, and resistance
2. Tamas: the principal of inertia, darkness, dullness, and resistance
3. Sattva: the principal of light, perception, intelligence, harmony It is helpful to be familiar with the above Gunas.
They are used often to describe the functions of the mind, food, actions, music, colors – anything.
While each of these qualities is necessary, Sattva is the desired quality of the mind and body. A balance of Rajas and Tamas is needed to maintain life functions. If one becomes more dominant, our health and powers of perception become weakened.
Using these concepts of checks and balances is the fundamental force behind the science of Ayurveda. Harmony and unity between Gunas, body functions, and soul is healthy.