The Predominant Characteristic of Physical Consciousness: Tamas or Inertia

An understanding of the three gunas, or qualities of Nature, is extremely helpful in gaining an understanding of the responses to external stimuli, events, people and circumstances. The gunas are sattwa, with a predominant quality of light and harmony, rajas with a predominant quality of movement and action of desire, and tamas, with a predominant quality of inertia or darkness. In general, one of these qualities tend to predominate, even though they remain at all times in flux and adjustment. Different aspects of the Nature tend to take on the cast of the predominant guna. In the physical consciousness, tamas tends to be the most prevalent. This has consequences for the types of disturbances that tend to occur in the physical consciousness, as described briefly below:

Dr. Dalal notes: “The most prominent characteristic of physical consciousness is inertia or Tamas. Therefore an individual with a predominantly physical consciousness is slow in reacting to stimulation. It needs a violent stimulus to produce an emotional reaction in tamasic individuals. As the Mother remarks about such persons:”

“… they always need new excitements, dramas, murders, suicides, etc. to get the impression of something. … And there is nothing, nothing that makes one more wicked and cruel than tamas. For it is this need of excitement which shakes you up a little, makes you come out of yourself.”

Dr. Dalal continues: “Because of the inertia of physical consciousness, what is experienced as a pleasant intensity of a stimulus by the average person is too feeble or dull for the individual whose consciousness is chiefly that of the physical. In order to feel a pleasant stimulation, such a tamasic individual needs a violent stimulus, such that an average person would experience as unpleasant or even painful. Such a condition represents a psychological disturbance because it is a form of masochism — a state in which an individual finds pleasurable something that is experienced by most people as painful. Thus some forms of masochistic disorders are related to the physical consciousness.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Introduction, Disturbances Associated with the Physical, pp. xxv-xxvii


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