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By Bijay J Anand

Kundalini Yoga teacher, Bijay J Anand, was a chain smoker who loved his alcohol, had a legendary temper and loved gambling till he embraced Sattva and expelled Tamas from his life 

According to the Hindu holy scripture, Bhagavad Gita, the three primary qualities of nature are the three Gunas. They are Sattva (goodness), Rajas (passion), and Tamas (darkness). All three gunas are present in everyone; only ratios differ from one individual to another. The key is to take a long, hard, look at ourselves and identify which guna rules us. It is only then that we can improve ourselves in order to suppress the undesirable gunas and work towards the desirable Sattva.

Those that are able to understand this simple, yet powerful and life-changing concept, are somewhat able to strike a balance between the three. Those that are unable to introspect or are not blessed with the realisation of the gunas, continue to live in oblivion, repeating the same habits and behaviours in never-ending cycles, all the while wondering why they are not arriving at happiness and contentment.

“During my tamasic spiral, depression was frequent; anger was rampant; and mood swings were the order of the day. As the bad habits became the norm, more vices kept piling up. Gambling was the last vice to be added to that long, dreadful list”

Therefore, to live a better life and make informed choices in all aspects that affect our health and happiness, we need to understand the dance of the two diametrically opposite gunas, Sattva and Tamas. Understanding this phenomenon gives us a mature perspective on which spiral we are on and what direction we need to choose in order to better that trajectory. This knowledge can be extremely joyful and liberating, especially for those that were previously ruled by spirit-crushing Tamas.

 

WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

Sattva Traits

  • Lives in harmony with the environment
  • Hardworking & Conscientious
  • Respectful of others
  •  Composed, with quiet confidence
  • Prefers simple, wholesome food
  • Not given to petty jealousies, envy & gossip
  • Not given to avarice
  • Content & at peace
  • Views the goings on in the world as a witness
  • Often rises & goes to bed early

Rajas Traits

  • Energetic, restless & aggressive
  • Industrious
  • Loves to co-ordinate & supervise people
  • Often looked upon as an achiever
  • Never content, always seeking new pleasures & experiences
  • Propensity to abuse substances

Tamas Traits

  • Ignorant & delusional
  • Give to gossiping, envy, lethargy & avarice
  • Selfish & self centred
  • Blames other people for all problems
  • Unhealthy indulgence in self pity
  • Vehemently averse to criticism
  • Overindulgence in heavy, fatty foods
  • Propensity to abuse substances
  • Often rises at dusk & sleeps at dawn

 

My Personal Struggle with Tamas

A major part of my life was spent in the Tamasic spiral. Smoking, drinking, consumption of non vegetarian food, incorrect sleeping habits, disastrous eating habits, and lack of exercise led to tamasic emotions and values in my life then. Depression was frequent; anger was rampant; and mood swings were the order of the day. As the bad habits became the norm, more vices kept piling up. Gambling was the last vice to be added to that long, dreadful list.

When your life is in the Tamas zone, you hang on to those vices like a leech. There is so much resistance to let go of the bad habits. Despite the knowledge that smoking kills, it becomes impossible to quit. We still continue to consume copious amounts of alcohol despite knowing very well what it is doing to our bodies. And this applies to all that are ruled by Tamas, notwithstanding standards of intelligence, logic and walks of life.

This is the downward spiral. It’s as if your life is sinking and you are sinking with it. You watch yourself regress, decline and deteriorate. Yet, you can do nothing about it. Something makes you not care. Something makes you blind to the consequences of your destructive actions. That something also makes you blind to resources available and alternative paths at hand. Therefore, the only path you can see and therefore, cling to, is the one that leads downhill. And rock bottom for some.

And so it was for me. I fell desperately sick and a top orthopaedic surgeon told me that I could not play sports or indulge in any physical activity for the rest of my life. He also told me my cholesterol had reached fatal limits. I was 36 at the time.

Repair and the Upward Spiral

After all this bad news, I started to meditate upon the state of disrepair my life had fallen into. As a baby step towards improvement, I started practising Kundalini Yoga. Time went on and the improvements in my behaviour, habits, opinions accumulated gradually. I reached a point

where I could see clearly the absurdity of my old lifestyle, and I consciously made way for the new ‘Me’ to surface.

From the depths of the downward spiral, the only force that can help you move in the opposite direction is strong intention and desire to change. And a single step—no matter how small or insignificant.

I started with waking up early and having a shower with chilled water. Then came the decision to do yoga every morning after the shower. And that was it. Most of my other bad habits remained. I kept drinking, smoking and eating without discipline till a day came when I started hating my smoking. It was surprisingly easy to stop after that. I could not believe how easily I shrugged the lethal habit off and wondered how I had perceived this insignificant paper stick as a powerful entity that I could never leave, nor live without. But of course, now I know, it was the blindess activated by tamas.

One day, I looked at meat and chicken at the buffet and didn’t feel like having it anymore. Even then I continued to eat fish. A couple of months later, even that did not appeal to me and I became a pure vegetarian. Next, I stopped enjoying my cherished single malts. I just did not feel like having liquour any more. With my new-found habit of sleeping and waking up early, my gambling also stopped. It had to, considering all poker games are held at night.

And on and on it went (the improvement). My food habits became more simplified and sattvik. I lived on simple khichri (savoury rice porridge) for weeks and then on plain salads for weeks after that. I noticed, the more I simplified my diet, the more beautiful my life became. This knowledge gave me further bliss and happiness.

The one thing that went down on my upward cycle was my anger. There was such a drastic difference in my temper that my face changed and people would not recognise me anymore! They’d tell me that I looked much calmer now. And that I glowed!

When you are on this beautiful upward spiral, life just keeps getting better and better. All those bad habits that you struggled to shrug off your entire life just keep falling off like dead leaves from a tree. A tree that is readying itself for a new season—a season of new hopes and joys.

The detoxification of your life, your body, your mind, your chakras (energy points in the body) and your soul is a beautiful and enriching experience that I wish to see happen to the entire world. Which is why I teach. Through my own example, I wish to guide others and lead them into the joyous experience of rising in an upward spiral. Of peace, happiness, health and divinity.

Sat Nam.

 

The author is CEO & Founder of Anahata Retreat, an organisation that offers a congregational platform to revered, respected and acclaimed teachers of yoga, ayurveda, wellness and spirituality from around the world. Certified by the Kundalini Research Institute, Los Angeles, he is also author of Mindlessness to Mindfulness, and has been practising yoga for 25 years


This article appeared in the April 2015 issue of Pure & Eco India

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