Sattva (सत्त्वम्)

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The word Sattva (सत्त्वम्) is used in multiple context. Sattva is one of the trigunas or modes of material energy. It is also used as a synonym for Manas or mind according to Ayurveda. Commonly it is also used to denote pure essence of something. In Ayurveda, Sattva refers to the manas or mind. It is that quality of mind which is considered as virtue of mind and thus used as synonym for manas.

भगवद्गीतावर्णितः सत्वगुणः॥ Sattva according to Bhagvad gita

Bhagavad Gita (भगवद्गीता) is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, narrated in the Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata. In the 14th discourse of Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna narrates the role of Trigunas in one's life. At this place, Sattva guna has been described by lord Krishna.

तत्र सत्त्वं निर्मलत्वात्प्रकाशकमनामयम् । सुखसङ्गेन बध्नाति ज्ञानसङ्गेन चानघ ॥ (Bhagvad Gita 14.6)

tatra sattvaṁ nirmalatvātprakāśakamanāmayam । sukhasaṅgena badhnāti jñānasaṅgena cānagha ॥ (Bhagvad Gita 14.6)

Meaning: Amongst these, sattva guṇa, the mode of goodness, being of pure quality, is illuminating and full of well-being. It binds the soul by creating attachment for a sense of happiness and knowledge.

सर्वद्वारेषु देहेऽस्मिन्प्रकाश उपजायते । ज्ञानं यदा तदा विद्याद्विवृद्धं सत्त्वमित्युत ॥ (Bhagvad Gita 14.11)

sarvadvāreṣu dehe'sminprakāśa upajāyate । jñānaṁ yadā tadā vidyādvivr̥ddhaṁ sattvamityuta ॥ (Bhagvad Gita 14.11)

Meaning: Sattva guṇa leads to the development of virtues and the illumination of knowledge.

Sattva is that property of mind which is responsible for binding soul to its material existence with the purpose of obtaining knowledge and happiness. Sattva is believed to be of illuminating nature. By the means of this illuminating nature it enables the individual to gain the real knowledge of the situation. The real knowledge strengthens the person and inhibits from making decisions that could be detrimental to health of body, mind and senses. Thus in its true sense Sattva helps to keep individual diseases-free and healthy. Sattva makes person calm, satisfied, charitable, compassionate, helpful, serene, and tranquil. While the mode of goodness creates an effect of serenity and happiness, attachment to them itself binds the soul to material nature.

मनोगुणः सत्त्व॥ Sattva as virtue of manas

In Samskrit, guna indicate virtue while dosha is considered its antonym which means, 'a defect in something'. Among Trigunas, Ayurveda identifies Sattva as virtue or guna of manas. As sattva is illuminating by nature it helps person to obtain real knowledge. Once the clarity and real understanding of the situation is acquired by a person, there are very less chances of making pradnaparadha and creating karmas that trap the soul in material existence. Thus, Sattva is not just illuminating but also liberating and thus it is called as Guna or virtue of manas. Rajas and Tamas obstruct the pathway to get real knowledge make individual prone to create prajnaparadhas and therefore those are identified as doshas (defects) of Manas.

तत्र सत्त्वं मनस्तस्योपप्लवो रजस्तमश्च इत्येवम्भूतात्मकं देहमाहुः ॥ (Asht Samg 5.22)[1]

tatra sattvaṁ manastasyopaplavo rajastamaśca ityevambhūtātmakaṁ dehamāhuḥ ॥ (Asht Samg 5.22)

मनसि सत्वबाहुल्यलक्षणानि॥ Signs of Sattva dominance in manas

When Sattva overpowers tamas and rajas in manas, the person shows peculiar behavior. The mind, body, emotions and behavior of the person which hints towards Sattva predominance is described by Ayurveda acharyas as below.

शुद्धसत्त्वजानि शौचमास्तिकत्वं, कृतज्ञता, दाक्षिण्यं, व्यवसायः, शौर्य्यं, गाम्भिर्यं बुद्धिर्मेधा, स्मृतिः शुक्लवर्त्मरुचिर्भक्तिरभिषङ्गाभावस्तमोगुणो विपर्ययश्च॥ (Asht Samg 5.19)[2]

śuddhasattvajāni śaucamāstikatvaṁ, kr̥tajñatā, dākṣiṇyaṁ, vyavasāyaḥ, śauryyaṁ, gāmbhiryaṁ buddhirmedhā, smr̥tiḥ śuklavartmarucirbhaktirabhiṣaṅgābhāvastamoguṇo viparyayaśca॥ (Asht Samg 5.19)

Meaning: Pure Sattva predominance (in mind) leads to development of tendencies towards hygiene and cleanliness, faithfulness, gratitude, kindness, settled determination, bravery, depth of profundity of character, intelligence, wisdom, memory, choosing pure or right path, devotion, devoid of curse or imprecation and all that is opposite to Tamas properties.

त्रिगुणांशानुसारेण मनोबलम् ॥ Strength of mind based on Triguna dominance

Trigunas decide the strength or tolerance level of one's mind and body. Sattva predominance makes individual more tolerant, stable and strong to fight and sustain all pains, difficult situations and sufferings. Not just that but the person with sattva predominance in mind can come out of any type of emotional or psychological insults by himself which is by means of self realization owing to the illuminating, enlightening property of sattva. Thus such individuals do not need any external support to come out of distressful situations. They are self reliant and self sufficient. While when there is Rajas dominance one needs some external support or assurance to withstand and come out of troublesome situations in life. On the other hand, when there is Tamas predominance in mind are completely intolerant. They do not possess the strength to face and cope with any situation or incident or person that is distressing.

सत्त्वं तु व्यसनाभ्युदयक्रियादिस्थानेष्वविक्लवकरम् ॥ सत्त्ववान् सहते सर्वं संस्तभ्यात्मानमात्मना | राजसः स्तभ्यमानोऽन्यैः सहते नैव तामसः ॥ (Sush Samh 35.38)[3]

sattvaṁ tu vyasanābhyudayakriyādisthāneṣvaviklavakaram ॥ sattvavān sahate sarvaṁ saṁstabhyātmānamātmanā | rājasaḥ stabhyamāno'nyaiḥ sahate naiva tāmasaḥ ॥ (Sush Samh 35.38)

Meaning: Sattva predominance brings neither lassitude nor excitement towards the actions or objects that lead to development of addiction or transient happiness. (TBE) The one who has Sattva profoundness tolerates any situation and is capable of self control or self assurance. Rajas dominated person is comforted when others give assurance while Tamasa dominated person are totally intolerant.

सात्विकप्रकृतिपुरुषस्य लक्षणानि॥ Sattvika prakrti signs

Prakrti refers to the specific body type/ nature/ constitution of the individual. Guna prakrti is the type of Prakrti which is related to one's psychological status, emotions and instincts. It can be called as mind-type of an individual. On the basis of dominance of Sattva, rajas or tamas in manas of purusha, the person's Guna prakrti is considered as either Sattvik, rajas or tamas. When the Sattva overpowers rajas and/or tamas in manas of an individual right from birth that person's mind-type is called as Satvika prakrti. Acharya Sushruta has described the characteristics of such individual as below.

सात्त्विकास्तु- आनृशंस्यं संविभागरुचिता तितिक्षा सत्यं धर्म आस्तिक्यं ज्ञानं बुद्धिर्मेधा स्मृतिर्धृतिरनभिषङ्गश्च ॥ (Sush Samh 1.18)[4]

sāttvikāstu- ānr̥śaṁsyaṁ saṁvibhāgarucitā titikṣā satyaṁ dharma āstikyaṁ jñānaṁ buddhirmedhā smr̥tirdhr̥tiranabhiṣaṅgaśca ॥ (Sush Samh 1.18)

Meaning: Compassion, willingness to share, patience, truthfulness, dharma, piousness, knowledge, intelligence, wisdom, memory, courage, devoid of curse or imprecation are the distinguishing features of Sattvika persons.

सात्विक प्रकृतिभेदाः॥ Sub-types of Sattva dominant psychic constitution

Sattva dominant psychic constitution is further divided into 7 sub-types.

इत्येवं शुद्धस्य सत्त्वस्य सप्तविधं भेदांशं विद्यात् कल्याणांशत्वात्; तत्संयोगात्तु ब्राह्ममत्यन्तशुद्धं व्यवस्येत्॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

ityevaṁ śuddhasya sattvasya saptavidhaṁ bhedāṁśaṁ vidyāt kalyāṇāṁśatvāt; tatsaṁyogāttu brāhmamatyantaśuddhaṁ vyavasyet॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

It is stated that these types are due to the excellent or advantageous nature of sattva dominance in mind of an individual. They are as follows.

ब्राह्म काय ॥ Brahma type of mind-faculty

Brahma type of mind faculty refers to the personality or psyche of an individual which is similar to those of the purest ultimate divine Brahma. Among all the 7 sub-types of Sattva dominant mind faculties, Brahma type is believed to be the purest form.

शुचिं सत्याभिसन्धं जितात्मानं संविभागिनं ज्ञानविज्ञानवचनप्रतिवचनसम्पन्नं स्मृतिमन्तं कामक्रोधलोभमानमोहेर्ष्याहर्षामर्षापेतं समं सर्वभूतेषु ब्राह्मं विद्यात् ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

śuciṁ satyābhisandhaṁ jitātmānaṁ saṁvibhāginaṁ jñānavijñānavacanaprativacanasampannaṁ smr̥timantaṁ kāmakrodhalobhamānamoherṣyāharṣāmarṣāpetaṁ samaṁ sarvabhūteṣu brāhmaṁ vidyāt ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

Meaning: Clean, love for truth, having control over self, power of eliminating bias, capable of learning, perceptive, power of description, reply and memory. Freedom from overenthusiasm, anger, greediness, self-esteem, lack of knowledge, envy, misery and narrow-mindedness and favorable outlook equally for all the individuals. The individuals having such qualities should be known as Brahma in mind.

आर्ष काय ॥ Rshi type of mind faculty

Rshi or Rishi is the samskrit term to indicate enlightened, accomplished beings that are knowledgeable. The person that shaer traits similar to Rshis are said to be of Aarsh or Rshi type of mind-faculty.

इज्याध्ययनव्रतहोमब्रह्मचर्यपरमतिथिव्रतमुपशान्तमदमानरागद्वेषमोहलोभरोषं प्रतिभावचनविज्ञानोपधारणशक्तिसम्पन्नमार्षं विद्यात् ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

ijyādhyayanavratahomabrahmacaryaparamatithivratamupaśāntamadamānarāgadveṣamohalobharoṣaṁ pratibhāvacanavijñānopadhāraṇaśaktisampannamārṣaṁ vidyāt ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

Meaning: Dedication to holy rituals, study, sacred vows, oblations and celibacy, welcoming nature to the guest. Has freedom from self-importance, self-esteem, affection, detestation, lack of knowledge, greed and annoyance. The person is capable of intellectual excellence and eloquence, power of understanding and retention. The individuals having such qualities should be known as Arsha in mind.

ऐन्द्र काय ॥ Indra type of mind faculty

The persons showing traits similar to Indra are known to be Aindra/ Indra type of sattva predominant mind faculty. Such individuals possess supremacy and trustworthy words, involved in holy rituals, endowed with bravery, strength and splendor, involved in good acts, possess farsightedness, always engaged in achievement of virtue, wealth, devotion to virtuous acts, earning of wealth and pleasure.

ऐश्वर्यवन्तमादेयवाक्यं यज्वानं शूरमोजस्विनं तेजसोपेतमक्लिष्टकर्माणं दीर्घदर्शिनं धर्मार्थकामाभिरतमैन्द्रं विद्यात् ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

aiśvaryavantamādeyavākyaṁ yajvānaṁ śūramojasvinaṁ tejasopetamakliṣṭakarmāṇaṁ dīrghadarśinaṁ dharmārthakāmābhiratamaindraṁ vidyāt ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

याम्य काय ॥ Yama type of mind faculty

Yama also called as Dharmaraja is the much feared ruler of Kala and Dharma (righteousness). According to Sanatana Dharma principles, after death every deed done by a person when alive are taken into account and the elevation of soul is then decided. A Jiva's path of travel to higher realms namely Devayana and Pitruyana are dependent on the Karma (deeds) and the knowledge attained by a Jiva or soul, the records of which are maintained by Yama. When an individual shows characteristics similar to Yama, the mind type is known as Yamya.

लेखास्थवृत्तं प्राप्तकारिणमसम्प्रहार्यमुत्थानवन्तं स्मृतिमन्तमैश्वर्यलम्भिनं व्यपगतरागेर्ष्याद्वेषमोहं याम्यं विद्यात् ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

lekhāsthavr̥ttaṁ prāptakāriṇamasamprahāryamutthānavantaṁ smr̥timantamaiśvaryalambhinaṁ vyapagatarāgerṣyādveṣamohaṁ yāmyaṁ vidyāt ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

Meaning: Observance of the humility of actions, timely instigation of dealings, non- aggressive, accomplished with promptness and memory, attaining supremacy, free from affection, jealousy, detestation and ignorance. The individuals having such qualities should be known as Yama type in mind.

वारुण काय ॥ Varuna type of mind faculty

Varuna is the devata of water element. Water is supposed to be the cleansing element. It brings clarity and and purity. The persons showing traits similar to Varuna are called having Varuna type of mind-faculty. Such individuals are brave, courageous, clean and dislike uncleanliness, worshipers, take pleasure in being near water, unwearied in action, express anger or happiness at right place.

शूरं धीरं शुचिमशुचिद्वेषिणं यज्वानमम्भोविहाररतिमक्लिष्टकर्माणं स्थानकोपप्रसादं वारुणं विद्यात् ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

śūraṁ dhīraṁ śucimaśucidveṣiṇaṁ yajvānamambhovihāraratimakliṣṭakarmāṇaṁ sthānakopaprasādaṁ vāruṇaṁ vidyāt ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

कौबेर काय ॥ Kubera type of mind faculty

Kubera is revered as the devata for wealth and riches. He is the the ruler of semi-celestial beings such as Yakhsas, Gandharvas, Kinneras, Kimpurushas among others. The persons having traits similar to Kubera are known to possess Kubera type mind-faculty.

स्थानमानोपभोगपरिवारसम्पन्नं धर्मार्थकामनित्यं शुचिं सुखविहारं व्यक्तकोपप्रसादं कौबेरं विद्यात् ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

sthānamānopabhogaparivārasampannaṁ dharmārthakāmanityaṁ śuciṁ sukhavihāraṁ vyaktakopaprasādaṁ kauberaṁ vidyāt ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

Meaning: Capable of position, honor, luxuries and having family members (attendants), constantly involved in virtuous acts, wealth and satisfaction of desires, clean, comfortable movement, obvious annoyance and happiness. The individuals having such qualities should be known as Kaubera in mind. (TBE)

गान्धर्व काय ॥ Gandharva type of mind faculty

Gandharvas are believed to be the semi-celestial beings having interest in various forms of art like music, dance, grooming ets. The individuals showing qualities similar to Gandharvas are supposed to have Gandharva type of mind-faculty. Such persons fond of dancing, singing, music and praise, expert in poetry, stories, historical narrations and epics, constantly use scents, garlands, pastes, clothing, engaged with women and passion.

प्रियनृत्यगीतवादित्रोल्लापकश्लोकाख्यायिकेतिहासपुराणेषु कुशलं गन्धमाल्यानुलेपनवसनस्त्रीविहारकामनित्यमनसूयकं गान्धर्वं विद्यात् ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

priyanr̥tyagītavāditrollāpakaślokākhyāyiketihāsapurāṇeṣu kuśalaṁ gandhamālyānulepanavasanastrīvihārakāmanityamanasūyakaṁ gāndharvaṁ vidyāt ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)

सात्विक मद लक्षणानि॥ Signs when the person with Sattva dominance is intoxicated

Sattvika mada is an exclusive concept in Ayurveda. Ayurveda has described effects of intoxication due to excessively taken or inappropriately taken madyam (alcohol) or any other intoxicating drug. The state of such intoxication is considered abnormal and demands medical intervention. Ayurveda acharyas have also described the symptoms of such intoxication depending upon the dominance of sattva, rajas and tamas in manas of the intoxicated individual. This helps a vaidya to decide the line of treatment specific to that patient and helps to get that individual out of that state of misery quickly. The symptoms of intoxication in a person having sattva dominance are described by acharya Sushruta as below.

सात्त्विके शौचदाक्षिण्यहर्षमण्डनलालसः | गीताध्ययनसौभाग्यसुरतोत्साहकृन्मदः ॥ (Sush Samh 45.207)[5]

sāttvike śaucadākṣiṇyaharṣamaṇḍanalālasaḥ | gītādhyayanasaubhāgyasuratotsāhakr̥nmadaḥ ॥ (Sush Samh 45.207)[5]

Meaning: When a person with sattva predominant mind-faculty in intoxicated the person displays cleanliness, gratitude, joy, fondness for ornaments, shows interests in music, study, popularity and desire to engage in physical intimacy.

मोक्ष-सत्वगुणयोः संबंधः ॥ Role of Sattva in Moksha

Moksha is considered to be liberation of soul from mortal body and its union with the supreme consciousness. It is believed that purusha or soul is trapped in the mortal body and suffers from karmas. This bond of atma and sharira is because of trigunas as per Bhagvad Gita.

सत्त्वं रजस्तम इति गुणा: प्रकृतिसम्भवा: | निबध्नन्ति महाबाहो देहे देहिनमव्ययम् ॥ (Bhagvad Gita 14.5)

sattvaṁ rajastama iti guṇā: prakr̥tisambhavā: | nibadhnanti mahābāho dehe dehinamavyayam ॥ (Bhagvad Gita 14.5)

Thus, when Ayurveda discusses about Atma, Karma and Moksha; acharyas have described the process of Moksha at the level of mind and soul.

मोक्षो रजस्तमोऽभावात् बलवत्कर्मसङ्क्षयात् | वियोगः सर्वसंयोगैरपुनर्भव उच्यते ॥ (Char. Samh. 1.142)[6]

mokṣo rajastamo'bhāvāt balavatkarmasaṅkṣayāt | viyogaḥ sarvasaṁyogairapunarbhava ucyate ॥ (Char. Samh. 1.142)

Meaning: It is stated that Moksha is achieved only after annihilation of effects of potent past actions/deeds and when there is absence of rajas and tamas in the mind. At this stage there is detachment of sharira, manas, indriyas and atma. This is a state after which there is no more physical or mental contacts. Further there is no process of rebirth. Thus presence or absence of Tamas plays important role in the process of Moksha. The role of Sattva in the process of moksha has also been explicitly described by the acharya Charaka as below,

रजस्तमोभ्यां युक्तस्य संयोगोऽयमनन्तवान् | ताभ्यां निराकृताभ्यां तु सत्त्ववृद्ध्या निवर्तते ॥ (Char Samh 1.36)[7]

rajastamobhyāṁ yuktasya saṁyogo'yamanantavān | tābhyāṁ nirākr̥tābhyāṁ tu sattvavr̥ddhyā nivartate ॥ (Char Samh 1.36)

It is stated that along with annihilation of rajas and tamas, upsurge in Sattva is the key for liberation or salvation. Until and unless the rajas and tamas are present, they keep on generating attachment of soul to the material existence and inhibit the process of moksha.

References

  1. Ashtanga Samgraha (Sharirsthanam Adhyayam 5 Sutram 22)
  2. Ashtang Samgraha (Sharirsthanam Adhyayam 5 Sutram 19)
  3. Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 35 Sutram 38)
  4. Sushruta Samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyayam 1 Sutram 18)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sushruta Samhita (Sharirsthanam Adhyayam 45 Sutram 207)
  6. Charaka Samhita (Sharirsthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutram 142)
  7. Charaka Samhita (Sharirsthanam Adhyayam 1 sutram 36)