The paradox that surrounds the Gunas

“Even though the sattvic state is harmonized, compassionate, selfless, and joyful, and it might seem that the “goal” of the practice of yoga is to make you purely sattvic, paradoxically this is not so. For a state to be truly sattvic, it must have at least in its background the elements of tamas and rajas, and it must occur spontaneously. If you become attached to the idea that being in a constant sattvic state is most desirable, and you then try to become sattvic, either you will wind up rajasic in your pursuit of sattva or you will become upset at the inevitable decay of your happy sattvic state into a sleepy, dull, fixed tamasic state. In either case you will suffer deeply. You may not recognize yourself as being in a constant state of attempting to sculpt all situations as you strive to be sattvic, but if you do not fully cherish and look upon with equanimity the other states of being, you will never be truly sattvic, completely fulfilled. It is common for beginning yoga students to become so attached to the idea of a sattvic state that they become stuck pushing or pulling on the tamasic state of mind that is at the edges of sattva. The apparent paradox in this situation arises because if you are not a little attracted to a sattvic state when you practice yoga or sit down to meditate, then you have no motivation to practice at all. If you are not on some level yearning to have a good practice, then there will be no practice at all and no chance to observe how silly the mind is when making goals for practicing. Practice exposes how the mind works through both useful and hurtful ego games. When the mind creates an ideal of the sattvic practice, then instead of truly being present with experience as it spontaneously arises and transforms, you compare everything to the ideal, making it impossible to observe any uncomfortable tamasic state. You find yourself in a rajasic state; your practice is filled with grasping, frustration, and a need to achieve the ideal. It is ironic that we can understand the cyclical nature of the gunas within all experience, but that we so often grasp onto the desire for a sattvic state. An overestimation of our own purity makes us reject and condemn any useful rajas in us, so that we do not even notice it when we become stuck in a tamasic state of being. Herein lies the paradox that surrounds the gunas.”

The Mirror of Yoga, Richard Freeman

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