The Sanskrit word has the basic meaning of "string" or "a single thread or strand of a cord or twine". In more abstract uses, it may mean "a subdivision, species, kind", and generally "quality".
In Samkhya philosophy there are three (based upon the three "tendencies"), , , and .
In classical literature
In classical literature (e.g. Mahabharata
, Bhagavata Purana
and Bhagavad Gita
), a is an attribute of the five elements
, five senses
, and five associated body parts:
- ether, associated with the śábda ("sound") and with the ear.
- air, associated with the sparśa ("feeling") and with the skin.
- fire, associated with the rūpa ("appearance", and thus color and tangibility) and with the eye.
- water, associated with the rasa ("taste", and thus also flavor and tangibility, as well as shape) and with the tongue.
- earth, associated with all the preceding as well as the gandha ("smell") and with the nose.
In Samkhya philosophy
philosophy a is one of three "tendencies": tamas
, and rajas
These categories have become a common means of categorizing behavior and natural phenomena in Hindu philosophy
, and also in Ayurvedic medicine
, as a system to assess conditions and diets
. is the tendency of the mind and not the state of mind or action itself. For instance, is that force which tends to bring the mind to purity but is not purity itself. Similarly is that force which tends to bring the mind to perform some action but is not action itself.
- Sattva (originally "being, existence, entity") has been translated to mean balance, order, or purity. This typically implies that a person with more of Sattva has a positive or even orderly state of mind. Such a person is psychologically kind, calm, alert, and thoughtful. Compare also the bodhisattvas in Buddhism. Indologist Georg Feuerstein translates sattva as "lucidity".
- Rajas (originally "atmosphere, air, firmament") leads one to activity. This type of activity is explained by the term Yogakshem. Yogakshem is composed of two words: Yoga and Kshem. Yoga in the present context is acquiring something that one does not have. Kshem means losing something that one already has. Rajas is the force that creates desires for acquiring new things and fears for losing something that one has. These desires and fears lead one to activity. (Rajas is etymologically unrelated to the word raja.) Feuerstein translates rajas as "dynamism".
- Tamas (originally "darkness", "obscurity") has been translated to mean "too inactive", negative, lethargic, dull, or slow. Usually it is associated with darkness, delusion, or ignorance. A tamas quality also can imply that a person has a self-destructive or entropic state of mind. That person is constantly pursuing destructive activities. Feuerstein translates tamas as "inertia".
In Nyaya philosophy
philosophy, 24 are enumerated as properties or characteristics of all created things, including śábda, sparśa, rūpa, rasa, and gandha.
- rūpa: appearance (shape and color).
- rasa: taste.
- gandha: smell.
- sparśa: feeling (touch).
- : amount.
- : dimension.
- : distinctness.
- : conjunction.
- vibhāga: disjunction.
- paratva: remoteness.
- aparatva: proximity.
- gurutva: weight.
- dravatva: fluidity.
- sneha: viscidity.
- śábda: sound.
- buddhi/jñāna: enlightenment/knowing.
- sukha: pleasure.
- : pain.
- icchā: desire.
- : aversion.
- prayatna: effort.
- dharma: merit or virtue.
- adharma: demerit.
- : the self-reproductive quality;
In Sanskrit grammatical tradition
), is a technical term referring to the vowels a, e, o
,(i.e., the full grade ablaut
stages; see Ashtadhyayi