Doshas and their Gunas (Qualities) and Functions

Learning the inherent Qualities (Gunas) and Characteristics (Lakshana) of each Vata, Pitta and Kapha provides a good framework to grasp an understanding of the nature of these doshas, or bio-energies.

Learning or perhaps memorising those the classical texts (sastras) mentioned provides more expertise as these are authoritative and pure teachings.

Some of these translations don't do the sanskrit words justice. It is wise to learn the sanskrit since sanskrit is the sound that nature makes when intending form, function or phenomena. These "sounds" are expressing the quality or function of the dosha. These words are onomatopoetic, not symbolic.

GUNAS (Qualities)

Vata: Akasha (Space) and Vayu (Air) Elements

Vata Gunas

Tatra rukso laghuh sitah kharaha suksmascalo ‘nilaha (A.H. ch 1. 11)

  1. Ruksha - dry.
  2. Laghu - light.
  3. Shita - cold (and dry).
  4. Kara - rough. With dryness.
  5. Suksma - subtle.
  6. Chala - (constant) movement. Like a snake or ant.
  7. Sara - lubricated movement (Caraka).
  8. Vishada - dry slippery like the touch of a reptile. (Caraka). e.g. Kapikachu (Mucuna prurita) before touching it is vishada.

Pitta: Tejas (Fire) and Apa (Water) Elements

Pitta Gunas

Pittam Sasneha tiktsnosnam laghu visram saram dravam (A.H. ch 1. 12)

 

  1. Sasneha - little less unctuousness. Hot due to paka (digestion) in transformation process. Feels like the wick of a ghee lamp.
  2. Tiksha - sharp.
  3. Usna - hot. e.g. aggressive and angry voice and chilli on tongue is sharp and hot (Tiksnonam).
  4. Laghu - light. 
  5. Visram - foul, fermented, strong. (not part of 20 gunas).
  6. Sara - slippery, like banana peel. 
  7. Drava - liquid.
  8. Amla - sour (Caraka)
  9. Katu - pungent (Caraka) 

Kapha: Prthvi (Earth) and Apa (Water) Elements

Kapha Gunas

Snigdha Shito Gsurur Mandaha Ślaksno mrtsnaha sthiraha Kaphaha (A.H. ch 1. 12) 

  1. Snigdha - unctuousness.
  2. Shita - cold.
  3. Guru - heavy - stable movement, solid.
  4. Manda - dull, slow.
  5. Slakshna - smooth (like ice-cream).
  6. Mrtsnah - greasy. Magnetic attraction. Binding. (not in 20 gunas, not even 41 gunas).
  7. Sthira - stable.
  8. Hema - very cold. With water quality (Susruta).
  9. Madhura - Sweet. (caraka) Pleasantness. Ojas.
  10. Mrdhu - soft. (Caraka).

Characteristics of Healthy Doshas

Vata Lakshana (Characteristics of Normal Vata)

  1. Utsaha - Enthusiasm
  2. Ucchvasa - Inhalation.
  3. Nivsvasa - Exhalation.
  4. Cesta - Action of all bodily functions. Peristalsis, circulation.
  5. Dhatu gatih sama - Proper development of dhatus.
  6. Samo mokso gatimatam - Proper elimination of malas.
  7. Vega Pravatana (Completing) (Vaghbata, Sutrastana. Ch. 11 (1))

Pitta Lakshana (Characteristics of Normal Pitta)

  1. Darshana (vision).
  2. Pakti (digestion)
  3. Usman - body warmth
  4. Trsna and krsut - thirst and hunger
  5. Deha (body) Mardava (soft) - eg. heat old bread to become softer.
  6. Prabha - glow. Radiant.
  7. Prasada - pleasant.
  8. Medha - intellect. Digesting information. Also if you have a digestive problem your intellect cannot function properly.

According to Vaghbata:

  1. Meda - fat
  2. Dhi - acquisition of information.
  3. Shaudya - bravery.
  4. Tanu mardave - soft body.
  5. Ruchi - taste in everything. Enjoying mentally and physically

Kapha Lakshana (Characteristics of Normal Kapha)

  1. Sneha - friendly, oily.
  2. Bandha - binding.
  3. Sthira - stability.
  4. Gaurava - heaviness.
  5. Vrsata - virility and endurance.
  6. Bala - power.
  7. Ksama - tolerance.
  8. Dhrti - patience and bring knowledge into action
  9. Alobha - not greedy.
Vagbhata:
  • Sthiratva - stability.
  • Snigdhava - oily.
  • Sandhi bandha - binding joints.

Dosha Lakshana as per Caraka Samhita, Ch. 18,(49-51).

Vrdhini Lakshana (Characteristics of Increased Doshas)

Vata Vrdhini Lakshana (Characteristics of Increased Vata)

  1. Kasha - emaciation.
  2. Karsnya - darkness.
  3. Usnakamatva - Liking the hot.
  4. Kampa - tremors.
  5. Ānāha - distention and disturbing in intestines.
  6. Śakrt (fecal matter) grahān (catch) - a type of constipation.
  7. Bala bhramsha - energy. Bhramsha = moves out of its place.
  8. Nidra bhramsha.
  9. Indriya brahmsha.
  10. Pralapa - excessive talking. Whatever comes you will say. Unnecessary.
  11. Brahma - delusions/illusions.
  12. Dinata - Timid. Lowliness (low in status). Begging/contrast. Like a king who has to beg.

Credits:

Slohkas chanted by Vaidya A.V. Raju

Pitta Vrdhini Lakshana (Characteristics of Increased Pitta)

Peeta vinmutra netra tvak.

  1. Peeta - yellow.
  2. Vit - (yellow) fecal matter.
  3. Mutra - (yellow) urine.
  4. Netra - (yellow) eyes.
  5. Tvak - (yellow) skin.
  6. Kshut - hunger.
  7. Trt - thirst.
  8. Daha - burning sensation.
  9. AlpaNidraha - Less sleep, insomnia - easy to get to sleep but wake up early, sleep disturbed with emotions.

Kapha Vrdhini Lakshana (Characteristics of Increased Kapha)

  1. Slesma Agni sadanam - displace of agni.
  2. Praseka - excess saliva.
  3. Alasya - lazy.
  4. Gauravam - heaviness.
  5. Shvaitya - pale skin, white.
  6. Shaitya - coldness.
  7. Shlathangatva - unstable like jelly. Like a baby walking.
  8. Swasa - dyspnoea.
  9. Kasa - cough.
  10. Atinidrata - excess sleeping.

Credits:

  • Slohkas chanted by Vaidya A.V. Raju. Slohkas from Astanga Hrdayam.
  • Dosha Lakshana - Caraka Samhita, Ch. 18,(49-51) and Astanga Hrdaya.
  • Dosha Vrdhi - Astanga Hrdaya, S.S. Ch. 11,(6-15) / Astanga Samgraha Ch. 19: Knowledge of Dosas.
  • Watercolour paintings (copyright) by Dylan Smith.

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