In Ayurvedic philosophy, all of creation was developed based on 3 core principles being the laws of: creation, maintenance or organisation and destruction.
In other words, everything in life is born, lives and dies. This is the cycle of life for all humans, animals, our planet, the stars, galaxies, the universe and beyond.
These 3 principles or laws are also called the 3 Gunas (tendencies):
Satva: purity, essence, space - this is the source of illumination, Divine intelligence, creativity and compassion.
Rajas: activity, motion - this has the power to activate, motivate and inspire us to eat, work and play.
Tamas: inertia, motionless - this is the source of resistance, obstructions and obstacles which are equally as important as Rajas.
These are common terms amongst yogis today but their roots are firmly planted in Ayurveda.
Why do you need to know this? The answer lies in the fundamental nature of these 3 Gunas. The 3 qualities or Gunas have a direct effect on our physical health, our mental state and our emotional well being.
How does this apply in the West to our modern society and living? To give a general example:
~ a person who is a vegetarian, practices yoga daily, meditates daily, is emotionally stable and has a good work life balance could be described as Sattvic
~ a person working in the corporate field who is highly committed and driven, spends most of their waking hours at work, works hard and plays hard, is a competitive sportsperson, eats meat every day and often twice or more a day could be described as Rajasic
~ a person who sits at home all day every day watching TV, eating microwaved food, never exercising could be described as Tamasic
Now before you dive into categorising yourself and then judging that which you categorise, know that each of these qualities are important in the grand scheme of things. We need Sattva to be in stillness and connected to ourselves in a way that doing and non doing will simply not get us there. Rajas is important to enable us to get things done! Tamas is a quality needed for us to stop and take that much needed time out, to reflect, consolidate and re-focus. The problems arise when we fall into the rut of just one of these qualities.
To maintain Sattva on a daily basis would limit our ability to be and do in the world. We would have to live in a cave on top of a mountain. For most of us this is not our life purpose.
To maintain Rajas all of the time leads to stress on the physical and mental bodies and ultimately burn out.
To maintain Tamas constantly leads to dullness, no sense of purpose or direction and ultimately depression and low self esteem.
So as you can see, we each need a healthy dose of all 3 of these qualities at the right times in our lives to work, rest and play.