Our mental make-up, the intricate web of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that define who we are, mirrors the dual nature of simplicity and complexity. Much like life itself, which is fundamentally shaped by DNA’s four nucleotide bases, our mental landscape is rooted in a few basic principles. DNA serves as the blueprint of life, determining the structure and function of all living organisms and highlighting the complexity that emerges from these fundamental elements. By delving into these foundational aspects, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

The Simplicity of Universal Principles

Nature is complex yet simple, and this simplicity is evident in its fundamental principles that govern the universe. For example:

  • Gravitational Forces: The same gravitational force that keeps us grounded applies universally, governing the motion of planets, stars, and galaxies. This simple principle of attraction shapes the vast structure of the cosmos.
  • Primary Colors (RYB): The world, with all its vivid colors, can be reduced to three primary colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue (RYB). These three colors combine in various ways to create the full spectrum of colors we see, whether in nature or on digital screens.

These examples of simplicity underlying complexity provide a framework for understanding our mental and emotional world.

The DNA Paradox: Complexity from Simplicity

Our DNA, the blueprint of life, is composed of four simple nucleotide bases:

  • Adenine (A) pairs with Thymine (T)
  • Cytosine (C) pairs with Guanine (G)

These four bases, through their unique sequences and combinations, create the diversity of life. Despite the complexity of organisms, the underlying genetic code is built from these simple elements. This principle of simplicity underlying complexity is mirrored in our mental and emotional world.

The Foundations of Our Mental Make-Up

Modern psychology, tracing back to William James, has explored the depths of the human mind. James’s pioneering work laid the groundwork for understanding our mental processes, and additional figures like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung expanded on these ideas, delving into the unconscious mind and its influence on behavior. Freud introduced the concept of the unconscious mind, emphasizing its role in shaping our thoughts and actions. Jung further developed these ideas, introducing archetypes and the collective unconscious, which offer profound insights into the shared aspects of human experience.

American psychologist Gordon Allport advanced the study of personality by focusing on personality traits. Allport’s work emphasized the uniqueness of the individual and the importance of personal traits in shaping behavior. He identified and categorized a wide range of traits that contribute to the complexity of human personality, highlighting how these traits interact to form the unique mosaic of each individual’s character.

These foundational contributions from James, Freud, Jung, Allport and others help provide an understanding of the myriad of factors that contribute to our mental make-up. They illustrate the intricate interplay between our conscious thoughts, unconscious influences, and distinct personality traits, offering a dynamic view of the human psyche.

Ancient Wisdom: The Three Gunas

Long before modern psychology, ancient Eastern literature provided profound insights into human nature. The Bhagavad Gita, a cornerstone of Hindu philosophy, describes our mental make-up in terms of three fundamental attributes or “gunas”:

  1. Sattva (Purity): Associated with wisdom, calmness, and harmony. Individuals dominated by Sattva are tend to be serene, compassionate, and inclined towards knowledge and truth.
  2. Rajas (Activity): Linked to passion, energy, and movement. Those with a predominance of Rajas are dynamic, ambitious, and driven by desires and achievements.
  3. Tamas (Inertia): Connected with darkness, and laziness. A person with a strong Tamas influence may be lethargic, resistant to change, and prone to ignorance.

These gunas provide a framework for understanding our mental and emotional states. Everyone possesses all three gunas in varying proportions, and this combination creates our unique mental make-up.

As stated in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 5:

सत्त्वं रजस्तम इति गुणाः प्रकृति सम्भवाः। निबध्नन्ति महाबाहो देहे देहिनमव्ययम्।।

Translation: “O mighty-armed Arjuna, the material modes of goodness, passion, and ignorance—Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas—are born of nature and bind the imperishable soul to the body.”

This shloka (verse) explains that the three gunas—Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas—arise from Prakriti (nature) and bind the eternal soul to the physical body. Each person possesses these attributes in different measures, shaping their unique mental make-up.

Manifestations in Daily Life

Understanding these principles can help us recognize patterns in our thoughts and behaviors. Here are some examples of how they manifest in daily life:

  • A Predominantly Sattvic Person: May prioritize meditation, study, and acts of kindness. They seek harmony and often inspire others with their calm and balanced demeanor. Sattvic individuals tend to gravitate towards roles such as gurus, teachers, professors, or coaches, where they can guide and nurture others.
  • A Predominantly Rajasic Person: Might be highly active, taking on multiple projects, striving for success, and frequently experiencing highs and lows in their emotional state. They are the go-getters, often leading initiatives and driving change. Historically, individuals with Rajasic predominance might excel as kings, politicians, or soldiers, thriving in dynamic and leadership roles.
  • A Predominantly Tamasic Person: Could prefer routines, avoid risks, and may struggle with procrastination or negative thinking. They value stability and may resist new ideas or changes in their environment. While Tamas can lead to a propensity for negative behaviors, such as alcoholism or homelessness, it’s crucial to understand that even those with a Tamasic predominance can rise above these tendencies by cultivating Rajasic or Sattvic qualities.

No one is purely Sattvic, Rajasic, or Tamasic. We all possess a unique combination of these attributes in different proportions, making each of us distinct. Furthermore, we are not bound by the characteristics we are born with. By understanding our predominant guna, we can work towards incorporating more of the qualities we wish to develop. For instance, someone with a preponderance of Tamasic qualities can strive to adopt more Sattvic traits through practices like mindfulness, healthy living, and engaging in positive activities. This self-awareness and intentional effort allow us to evolve and achieve a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Bridging Ancient Wisdom and Modern Psychology

The interplay between ancient wisdom and modern psychology helps provide an understanding of our mental make-up. Just as DNA’s four bases create the diversity of life, the three gunas help shape our mental and emotional diversity. Recognizing this can empower us to better manage our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Practical Applications

  1. Self-Awareness: By identifying which guna or personality type predominates in us, we can become more aware of our strengths and areas for growth.
  2. Stress Management: Understanding our mental make-up can help us develop personalized strategies to manage stress and improve well-being. For instance, a Rajasic person might benefit from mindfulness practices to balance their high energy, while a Tamasic person might need more stimulating activities to overcome inertia.
  3. Interpersonal Relationships: Recognizing the different gunas and personality types in others can enhance empathy and communication, leading to more harmonious relationships.


Our mental make-up, though complex, is grounded in simple, universal principles. Whether viewed through the lens of modern psychology or ancient Eastern wisdom, these principles offer valuable insights into our behavior and interactions. The gunas, originating from ancient India, exemplify this universal applicability, much like the primary colors or the DNA structure in their influence across the universe. By embracing the elegance of simplicity that underlies our mental and emotional existence, we can cultivate a deeper understanding of ourselves and lead more balanced and fulfilling lives.


  • Krishna Bhatta


    Relax Inc.

    Krishna Bhatta, MD, FRCS is an author, surgeon and an inventor, currently working as a Urologist ( former chief of urology) at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine.  Dr. Bhatta began his life in a small Indian village, attended Patna Medical College in India, continued his education in the UK, and then completed his research & medical training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School.

    Dr. Bhatta is equal parts practical and spiritual. His lectures, writings, podcasts, songs, and video talks on Gita, Krishna, and other spiritual topics are based on his personal journey and experiences, as well as a lifetime of exploring spiritual texts, giving him a unique understanding and perspective.

    He is founder CEO of a wellness and meditation app - Relax Infinity (formerly Relaxx) which strives to be the wellness destination of the world. It connects Patanjali's science of consciousness with Einstein's art of swimming in silence.  Wellness is an infinite journey and a life long pursuit.