The darkening quality of nature. That which obscures the underlying unity of life. (1)
Tamas is the lowest of three qualities, known as gunas, that form the entire universe. The gunas represent progressive stages of outward manifestation from the eternal spirit. In contrast to sattwa guna, the elevating or spiritual quality of nature, and rajoguna, the activating or energizing quality, tamoguna represents the darkening, stultifying, and inertial aspects of creation. (2) Tamas may also be translated as “mental dullness” or “ignorance.” (3) All creation is a mixture of the three gunas, but some human beings may be predominantly tamasic or tamasic-rajasic by nature. (4)
Since tamoguna is the part of the wave of manifestation that projects furthest from the central reality, a soul darkened by tamas and blinded by egotism believes in its separation from reality. (5) Such a soul does not consider itself responsible for its experiences and submits passively to the circumstances. Human beings of tamasic nature feel little creative urge and act within narrow limits of understanding. (3)
Tamas attracts misery. By insulating the ego with interests that separate it from other souls, tamas dulls the human being’s perception of right and wrong. Drunkenness and drug addiction, as well as wrong food and exercise habits, are tamasic activities. Dullness, stupidity, passivity, and unwillingness are considered tamasic qualities. Tamas is experienced as the pull of matter-attachments, or the downward flow of energy in the spine. (6) Tamasic souls most often suffer physically. (3)
Along with the lightness of sattwa guna, tamoguna constitutes one of two abiding realities. (7) Nevertheless, the gunas represent not only stages of universal creation but also directions of thought and energy by the soul. Even in the depths of tamas, sattvic and rajasic aspects of tamoguna may uplift the soul toward spirituality. (8)
In his Psychological Chart,(9) Paramhansa Yogananda listed the following obstructing qualities for the general nature of tamas:
- Attachment to objects of senses.
- Hypocritical sympathy.
- Moral reason—undeveloped sense of “ought.”
- Want of self-respect.
- Quiet (inactive).
- Dull and shy.
- Impervious to reason.
- Dependent through want to capacity.
- Getting strong feelings of obstinacy and anger when chastised for faults, but careless when not chastised and simply asked to mend faults.
- Crooked—finding out undesirable meaning in things.
- Showing duplicity.
- Intellectual bent but heartless.
- Having stealing propensity.
- Having begging nature.
- Shrinking attitude (lack of self-confidence)
- ↩ The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, explained by Paramhansa Yogananda. Glossary.
- ↩ The New Path, by Swami Kriyananda. p.370.
- a b c God Is for Everyone, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 8, “The Refinement of Awareness.”
- ↩ Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda. Chapter 41, “An Idyl in South India.”
- ↩ The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, explained by Paramhansa Yogananda. Chapter 12, “The Nature of Reality.”
- ↩ The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 27, “Transcending the Three Gunas.”
- ↩ “Right Action for Achieving Success and Happiness,” by Swami Kriyananda. Class 3, “Non-Attachment.”
- ↩ The Art and Science of Raja Yoga, by Swami Kriyananda. Step 14, “I. Philosophy – The Yogic Scheme of Life.”
- ↩ Psychological Chart, by Swami Yogananda, 1925, “General Nature: Tama (Obstructing Qualities)”