Three Ways to Be : Inspo From Ancient Vedic Scriptures

embodiment emotions mindset Dec 28, 2022

The following idea, “three ways to be” is about three thousand years old, proving that the most helpful psychology might not always be the newest. 

Ancient Vedic scriptures were something I studied deeply as part of my training with the Dharma Coaching institute, and the three ways to be  remains one of the clearest and most helpful self help tools I have come across. 

Ancient Vedic scriptures describe three states of mind and their sanskrit (ancient indian) names are Tamasic, Rajasic and Sattvic.

A simple appropriate translation might be:

Tamasic - chaotic
Rajasic - driven


We have the capacity and potential to experience ourselves in all states, and in simply noticing and bringing awareness to what state you are in, you are instantly gifted with an opportunity to activate choice. 


Which state of being might be best for you?


What Tamasic Means

We are all likely to have someone in our world that is kind of chaotic. 


They seem to be constantly disorganised and maybe their car or their house reflects this - usually quite messy. They are kind of disconnected, apathetic, lethargic and theres a likelihood we are all like this at times. We see this in the way we might mindlessly scroll on social media, or eat beyond the point of being full, ignore the pile of laundry waiting to be folded. 


It can be a state that is the “norm” for you or one that is activated in a time of deep overthinking or worry. 


When it happens, it can feel like doing anything is like moving through mud, hard and slow.

Its easy to be quickly judgemental of a person who is Tamasic, but having experienced this state deeply myself, what Ive observed in myself and others is that it often manifests when we are experiencing anxiety and overwhelm. 


Just because a person appears to be uninterested, unmotivated, or lazy - dont assume laziness is an indication of apathy. As Steve Biddulph shares in his work “laziness is rarely a natural state in humans, we are naturally creative and active creatures, so it is often a sign of some kind of deep discouragement or anxiety that imobilizes action” 


Our Tamasic state can often be a reflection that we are in an adaptive response to feeling like the world is just too much to face and have shut ourselves off, or down in a kind of protective state. Any time we are procrastinating is a dead give away that we are in a tamasic state.  

The Rajasic State of Mind

Rajasic is the complete opposite of Tamasic and its the state we are in when we are hyper focused, driven, obsessed and unrelenting. This state of mind usually sees us being one track minded and completely goal oriented. In a rajasic state of mind we are usually energised, purpose driven, intense and highly organised. 


This way of being is often highlighted as admirable and successful in our Western culture because the “go getter” is seen as the gold standard human. 


However, we are now collectively bringing awareness to the imbalance that can be perpetuated by constantly living in the energy that this state of mind cultivates. Usually, there can be other aspects of their lives that are neglected in their desire to achieve a specific goal. History shows us more and more than people that live perpetually in a rajasic state of mind run into all sorts of problems down the road, from failed relationships, health complications or a deep experience of dissatisfaction. 


How do we move towards Sattvic?

In the vedic system, the highest state of mind and conscious creation of life experience is called Sattvic. To be clear - we want to be spending as much time as possible in a state of sattvic. The aspiration is to embody sattvic being. 


In a sattvic state you are actually still focused and purposeful, but your actions are no longer forceful or driven. Instead your actions are harmonized, balanced and bring forth intention for the greater good of all beings. You are aware of others, not single minded and in a sattvic state there is a paradoxical feeling of contentment with the process. You understand all of the analogy around the journey being more meaningful than the destination. There is commitment to that you are devoted to, and there is fulfilment simply in the daily devotion to that. Think Martin Luther King, or Mother Theresa - there is an awareness that there is mighty work to be done, but there is a peacefulness cultivated as they go about that work. 


Many people move from Rajasic onto to Sattvic as they allow life to bring them wisdom. In Hermann Hesse’s classic Siddhartha, the young man works tirelessly to make alot of money and get the attention and affection of a beautiful woman. He succeeds but in reality, it feels empty to him. He leaves it all behind to find a better path. 


My own lived experience solidifies the power of moving to sattvic. A full decade spent with singular focus in accumulating a certain financial status, being seen in a certain way, and meeting the standards set by society ultimately brought me to the very uncomfortable truth within me that such an individualistic approach to my time on earth feels kind of pointless - even in achievement.

Having relieved myself of the pressure a rajasic way of being, I found space within me to feel into how called I felt to take my skill set and refine it to be of greater service to the world, rather than my own gain. My overall sense of self, intrinsic motivation, and capacity to be satisfied moment to moment has soared. 


Sattvic ways of being can often look like not alot is happening. A lot of sattvic being is generated in the way we learn to perfect the pause before we respond. What goes on in a sattvic way of being can actually be radically transformational. 


Most recently, Ive seen it benefit my marriage as we back away from a confrontation and forgive each other for our reactions and find a way to soften to hear each others responses. 


Most of us move between these three states over the course of our lives, and sometimes, even within one day. Our awareness and understanding of these states simply helps us to activate our capacity to utilise our agency to make choice. 


We would be a better world if we all learned how to cultivate and maintain a sattvic way of being within ourselves. For now, our awareness and choice is a powerful offering. 


Scientists use EEG machines to measure brain waves and neuroscientists share with us that there are three main types of brain wave activity - theta, beta and alpha. These correspond rather well to this ancient offering describing three ways of being.

Connecting with how you feel in any given moment usually gives instant insight into which of the 3 ways of being you are experiencing yourself and the world through.



Which way of being do you consider to be your most “default way of being” at the moment?

What does this mean for the way you experience yourself and the world?

What might your awareness invite you to consider from this point? 


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