Once more, both a’s are short and pronounced like the u in cut. The first syllable is mildly accented. Thus, TA-mas.
Sattva is the force of nature that fosters purity and luminescence. Other descriptions of sattva include clarity, peacefulness, lightness, goodness, happiness, and tranquility. Sattvic influences promote intelligence, wisdom, and understanding. Whenever nature displays the dominance of sattva, it proves conducive to spiritual practice. A person under the influence of sattva might think, “I am happy,” “I know,” or “I am aware.”
Although rajas can be a source of positive change, it is most often described in yogic scriptures as an embodiment of passion and attachment to action. Rajas is the source of hankering for sense experiences of all kinds. Rajasic influences are competitive and demanding, unaccepting and critical. They desire what has yet to be possessed and hold tightly to what is currently owned. Rajas fosters change and a sense of painful dissatisfaction with life as it is now. Falsely thinking of itself as the agent of change, it is, according to Krishna, the fundamental enemy of spiritual peace and stability. A person under the influence of rajas might falsely think, “I will do this,” “My happiness lies in that,” or simply, “I want that.” It is the influence of rajas that prompts the desire for the fruits of action, rather than action itself. It is largely rajas, unfulfilled desire, that turns the wheel of karma.
Despite the role it may play as a stabilizing influence, tamas, the third of the gunas, is the antithesis of sattva and rajas. It is the embodiment of dullness, ignorance, and sloth. With respect to one’s state of consciousness it is sleep. Tamasic influences are delusive, heavy, concealing, dependent, and marked by lethargy, darkness, and inertia. Tamas fosters illness and a tendency to passivity. Identified with inactivity, tamas nurtures the couch potato in all of us. A person under the influence of tamas might think, “I am most happy doing nothing,” or “My actions make no difference.”