Tamas – darkness
We all of us have tamasik phases in our lives, but one notable time which can be generalised is our teenage years. Few escape it.
Rebellious to authority, indolent and entirely self-absorbed. Seeing the dark side of everything and struggling to see the positive. Seeking to live only through the senses and desires. Tamasik-dominant personalities contribute little to society. They are the vice-prone, easily-led characters who are looking for cheap thrills, to escape ‘real life’ and to work as little as possible to gain as much as they can. There is no caring and sharing in this personality trait. This is why it was said earlier that it is difficult to think of this as a ‘virtue’ as per the term ‘guna’. However, it is karma at play, and the jiiva is learning lessons, experiencing consequences and furthering itself along the greater course of karma, and this is a virtue for sure. The quality of tamas is, of itself, certainly not virtuous!
To have a ‘slob day’ every now and then is fine. Have a weekend without showering, cooking or even getting dressed. It can relieve tension… but consider instead having a sattvik weekend, where you seek to raise vibration for release from stresses by walking in nature, reading a good book, share good conversation, instead of sinking into self-pity and sloth. The danger of tamas is that it captures us and holds and is much more difficult to withdraw from. It is easy. Sattva, on the other hand, requires discipline and effort and unless we can see the value, it does not hold us. After a sattvik weekend though, we generally find ourselves refreshed and ready for another week of whatever the world throws at us. If we have sunk into tamas, we are rarely revived, often hung-over from one thing or another. We do not feel good about ourselves.
Tamas has a propensity for foul entertainments such as ‘slash movies’ and horror/terror in general, “reality” tv, and disturbing music. It will look for mind-altering substances and make inferior food choices.
Any food that is stale, which is overripe or not ripe enough, food that is fermented, tasteless or rotten, ‘fast’ foods, supermarket ready-meals…
- Bread (yeasted)
- Canned foods
- Frozen foods
Some of these look the same as for the rajo-guna. However, it is a matter of scale. In rajas, it is possible to take meat lightly, and less alcohol, for example. In tamas, these foods start to rule our lives. They are addictive, and we do not stop to assess the quantity we are consuming. We may not realise it, but a predominantly tamasik diet can make us angry and greedy, can even affect our decision-making process for the worse and compromise our judgments.
To raise ourselves from the tamas we need to incorporate more rajas. To lift ourselves from rajas we need to integrate more sattva. Sattva and tamas, to the casual eye, can look very similar. Both will not be particularly interactive with the world. However, the difference will be that sattva sits straight and alert, even in meditation, whilst tamas stoops and sleeps in meditation. Sattva misses nothing, tamas misses much. When something needs to be done, sattva will act accordingly, tamas won’t even see the need.
Tamas is represented by the colour black.