Tamas (Sanskrit: तमस् tamas, lit.'darkness') is one of the three guṇas (tendencies, qualities, attributes), a philosophical and psychological concept developed by the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy.[1] The other two qualities are rajas (passion and activity) and sattva (purity, goodness). Tamas is the quality of inertia, inactivity, dullness, or lethargy.


The Vedic word támas refers to "darkness." The Indo-European word *temH-es, means "dark", and the Lithuanian word tamsa, mean "darkness."[2]


In Samkhya philosophy, a guṇa is one of three "tendencies, qualities": sattva, rajas and tamas. This category of qualities have been widely adopted by various schools of Hinduism for categorizing behavior and natural phenomena. The three qualities are:

Action that is virtuous, thought through, free from attachment, and without craving for results is considered Sattvic. Action that is driven purely by craving for pleasure, selfishness and much effort is Rajasic. Action that is undertaken because of delusion, disregarding consequences, without considering loss or injury to others or self, is called Tamasic.

— Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, verses 23–25 [31]

In Indian philosophy, these qualities are not considered as present in either-or fashion. Rather, everyone and everything has all three, only in different proportions and in different contexts.[1] The living being or substance is viewed as the net result of the joint effect of these three qualities.[1][5]

According to the Samkya school, no one and nothing is either purely Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic.[5] One's nature and behavior is a complex interplay of all guṇas in varying degrees. In some, the conduct is Rajasic with significant influence of Sattvic guṇa; in some it is Rajasic with significant influence of Tamasic guṇa, and so on.[5]


The Sikh scripture refers to tamas in its verses:

See also


  1. ^ a b c James G. Lochtefeld, Guna, in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M, Vol. 1, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 9780823931798, p. 265.
  2. ^ Peter Schrijver (1995). Studies in British Celtic Historical Phonology. Rodopi. p. 221. ISBN 90-5183-820-4.
  3. ^ Alter, Joseph S., Yoga in modern India, 2004 Princeton University Press, p 55
  4. ^ a b Feuerstein, Georg The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga, Shambhala Publications, 1997
  5. ^ a b c d Alban Widgery (1930), The principles of Hindu Ethics, International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 40, No. 2, pages 234-237
  6. ^ Whicher, Ian The Integrity of the Yoga Darśana, 1998 SUNY Press, 110