Giving the politically charged stuff a rest for a bit (somehow getting a new issue of Hinduism Today, always leads me into the political stuff!)...
I wanted to do a quick post about gunas because that's a word I use frequently and it's something that I often can't find an English equivalent for.
To start of, I'm not honestly sure where this comes from. Wikipedia says the three guna system comes from Samkhya, one of the classic schools of Indian philosophy. For me, I was taught growing up that this was just how the world works.
The idea is that all things in creation are made up of different proportions of three subtle qualities. I say "subtle" because this is not on the physical level like atoms or molecules. There is a physical world and body and there is a subtle world and body.
The three gunas are:
Rajas: passion, energy, lust, excitement, agitation
Tamas: lethargy, sleepiness, dullness
Sattva: peace, calmness, serenity
Some believe that it is right for all three to exist in everything in their natural proportions. Others believe that we should always be raising the amount of sattva, especially in ourselves. I had a professor once who espoused the idea that sattva was not its own separate guna, but was made up of the proper balance of the other two (which is a rather strange and radical idea).
In some schools of philosophy one should not eat spicy food because it is rajasic and will inflame rajas in you.
I find these three descriptors very helpful in my day to day life to explain and understand things.
Some days I feel "blah." If I acknowledge to myself that I feel "tamasic," though, it is easier for me to see it as just a process going on in the world, and not part of who I am. Tamas exists and is interacting with me in some way, but the other two are there as well and will eventually make their own appearances.
So now if you hear me talk about the gunas, you'll know what I'm referring to.