Sattwa (or Sattwa Guna)

सत्त्व - suht-vuh

The elevating quality of nature. That which lifts the soul toward divinity. (1)

Sattwa is a calming force that ultimately stills vibratory creation and causes it to merge into eternal spirit. The quality is one of three gunas that constitute the universe. Ultimately, sattwa causes the three gunas to cease. (2) In existence, sattwa occurs alongside rajas, the activating or energizing quality of nature, and tamas, the darkening or inertial quality. Sattwa corresponds to the causal universe, closest to divinity in its manifestation of pure consciousness. (3)

In human souls, the pure quality of sattwa bestows health and understanding. Sattwa uplifts consciousness and attaches the soul to happiness.  It manifests in the spiritual inclinations of people such as saints. (4) These souls desire inner peace as a positive blessing instead of as a passive relief for worldly sufferings. Sattwic nature arises from the gradual expansion of self-understanding. (5)

When sattwa is present, the soul exhibits discrimination. The sattwic person perceives goodness, purity, and divinity in all sense objects; he projects the nature of goodness to the world around him. After death, the sattwic person may rise to higher realms of the universe. (4) But the sattwic person may also exhibit tamasic qualities, for example when sleeping, and rajasic qualities, for example through actions such as serving others and laughing. Since sattwa guna does not dissolve a person’s ego or feeling of “I,” the person may still feel pulled toward outward creation. (3)

Sattwa guna, dominant in some souls, may also be dominant in certain regions of the planet or the universe. While the Earth has a predominantly rajasic quality, certain places are characterized by an enlightened quality. (6) Similarly, although we live in the predominantly rajasic Milky Way galaxy, other galaxies in the physical universe support people who live in peace and harmony, closely in touch with the astral world, grouped together in spiritual communities. (7)

  1. The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, explained by Paramhansa Yogananda. Glossary.
  2. The Hindu Way of Awakening, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 8, “The Hindu Revelation – Part 1. The Eternal Religion”
  3. a b The Art and Science of Raja Yoga, by Swami Kriyananda. Step 14, “I. Philosophy – The Yogic Scheme of Life.”
  4. a b The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, explained by Paramhansa Yogananda. Chapter 27, “Transcending the Three Gunas.”
  5. God Is for Everyone, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 8, “The Refinement of Awareness.”
  6. The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, explained by Paramhansa Yogananda. Chapter 15, “Freedom Through Action.”
  7. Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 26, “His Later Years.”