- In the SAMKHYA YOGA tradition, which originated around the fifth century B.C.E., the gunas were the strands or fabric of nature or PRAKRITI; they eter-nally evolved into new universes, which would be destroyed only to reemerge. Prakriti itself was seen to be eternal.There are three gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas. Sattva is that aspect of nature that is lucid, white, and placid. Rajas is that part of nature that is mud-died, reddish, and agitated. Tamas is that part of nature that is impure, dark, and inert. Everything in worldly reality is made of the three gunas in lesser or greater proportions. Sattva predominates in discriminative intellect (BUDDHI), while tamas predominates in earth.Samkhya yogic practice seeks to realize the self that is beyond and untouched by the three gunas of worldly existence. Samkhya became the philosophical basis for later yoga practice that focused on breath control and postures.Further reading: S. N. Dasgupta, The History of Indian Philosophy. Vol. 1 (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1975); Gerald Larson and Ram Shankar Bhattacharya, eds., Samkhya: A Dualist Tradition in Indian Philosophy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987); Ian Whicher, Patañjali’s Metaphysical Schematic: Purusa and Prakrti in the Yogasutra (Adyar: Adyar Library and Research Centre, 2001).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.