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GUAS . Gua is a Sanskrit word etymologically suggesting a "strand" or "thread," several of which when intertwined make up a rope. The term is defined and applied in numerous ways, depending on the governing systematic assumptions and/or philosophical contexts. Four of the most common usages are described below.

The gua s or "virtues" of an animate or inanimate object can be contrasted with its doa s, or "faults." This sense of the word is found in medical parlance but is not confined to that context. It is also found in Mimamsa exegesis of the merits of action, including mental and verbal activities.

Perhaps related to the foregoing, Sākhya metaphysics postulates three gua s as the constituents of pakrti, or material nature. These three qualities are known as sattva, rajas, and tamas, terms that are somewhat difficult to translate into simple English. Sattva connotes the bright, light, buoyant, wise, good, transparent aspects of nature and all creations. Tamas connotes their opposites, hence what is dark, heavy, dull, bad, opaque. Rajas is viewed in Sākhya as the catalytic or dynamic principle in things that accounts for all spiritual and material change and activity. According to Sākhya, all substance, whether mental or physical, consists of a mixture of these three gua s in certain proportions. During pralaya, the period when the material universe is reabsorbed into its unmanifest state, the three gua s are in equilibrium. At the time of creation, that is, at the onset of another cycle of manifestation of the universe, an imbalance among the gua s occurs, and thus differentiation takes place.

In the Vaiśeika system of classification, gua is the name of the second of seven categories of being. A gua in this system is a particular characteristic of an individual substance, for example, the specific patch of color that is displayed in a certain piece of cloth at a given instant. A gua for Vaisesika is a fleeting quality related for only a few moments to its possessor, which must be a substance (dravya ). Particular colors, tastes, sounds, smells, and textures are gua s; so too are numbers, contacts and disjunctions, desires and aversions, effort and awareness, as well as karmic and memory traces.

In Jainism, gua is one of three inherent qualities of every material thing (pudgala ). Each bit of matter is a dravya possessing certain kinds of features (gua s) that are presented in various modes (paryāya s). Thus a gua in Jainism is not substantial, as Sākhya gua s are, but neither is it adventitious or evanescent, as are Vaisesika gua s. A Jain gua is a generic feature of the kind of substance comprising an individual objectearthy, hot, and so forth. The quantitative and qualitative variations of these features are their modes.

See Also

Prakti; Sākhya; Vaiśeika.


Sākhya interpretations of gua s are reviewed in Gerald James Larson's Classical Sākhya: An Interpretation of Its History and Meaning, 2d ed. (Santa Barbara, Calif., 1979). For the views of the Vaiśeikas, see Indian Metaphysics and Epistemology: The Tradition of the Nyāya-Vaiśeka up to Gageśa, volume 2 of the Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, edited by Karl H. Potter (Princeton, N. J., 1977). Jain views are discussed in Padmanabh S. Jaini's The Jaina Path of Purification (Berkeley, Calif., 1979).

Karl H. Potter (1987)