The eight gunas or qualities are : daya, ksanti, anasuya, sauca, anayasa, mangala, akarpanya, asprha.
"Daya" implies love for all creatures, such love being the very fulfilment of life. There is indeed no greater happiness than that derived by loving others. Daya is the backbone of all qualities.
"Ksanti" is patience. One kind of ksanti is patiently suffering disease, poverty, misfortune and so on. The second is forgiveness and it implies loving a a person even if he causes us pain and trouble.
"Anasuya" you know is the name of the sage Atri's wife. She was utterly free from jealousy : that is how she got the name which means non-jealousy. Heart-burning caused by another man's prosperity or status is jealousy. We ought to have love and compassion for all and ought to be patient and forgiving even towards those who do us wrong. We must not envy people their higher status even if they be less deserving of it than we are and, at the same time, must be mature enough to regard their better position as the reward they earned by doing good in their previous life.
"Sauca" is derived from "suci", meaning cleanliness. Purity is to be maintained in all matters such as bathing, dress, food. There is a saying often quoted even by the unlettered: "Cleanliness makes you happy and it even appeases your hunger". To see a clean person is to feel ourselves clean.
In Manu's listing of dharmas that are applicable to all, ahimsa or non-violence comes first, followed by satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-covetousness; non-stealing is the direct meaning), sauca (cleanliness) and indriya-nigraha (subduing the senses or even obliterating them).
The fifth Atmaguna is "anayasa". It is the opposite of "ayasa" which denotes effort, exertion, etc. Anayasa means to have a feeling of lightness, to take things easy. One must not keep a long face, wear a scowl or keep lamenting one's hardships. If you lose your cool you will be a burden to yourself as well as to others. Anayasa is a great virtue. In many of our rituals there is much bodily exertion. When we perform a sraddha we have to remain without food until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. There is no end to the physical effort we have to put in to conduct a sacrifice. Here anayasa means not to feel any mental strain. Obstacles, inevitable to any work or enterprise, must not cause you any mental strain. You must not feel any duty to be a burden and must develop the attitude that everything happens according to the will of the Lord. What do we mean when we remark that the musician we listened to yesterday touched the "tara-sthayi" so effortlessly? Does it mean that he performed a difficult musical exercise with ease? Similarly, we must learn to make light of all the hardships that we encounter in life.
What is "mangala", the sixth guna? Well, "mangala" is mangala. There is mangala or an auspicious air about happiness that is characterised by dignity and purity. One must be cheerful all the time and not keep growling at people on the slightest pretext. This itself is extremely helpful, to radiate happiness wherever we go and exude auspiciousness. It is better than making lavish gifts and throwing money about.
To do a job with a feeling of lightness is anayasa. To be light ourselves, creating joy wherever we go, is mangala. We must be like a lamp spreading light and should never give cause for people to say, "Oh! he has come to find fault with everything". Wherever we go we must create a sense of happiness. We must live auspiciously and make sure that there is happiness brimming over everywhere.
"Akarpanya" is the next guna. Miserliness is the quality of krpana or miser. "Akarpanya" is the opposite of miserliness. We must give generously and whole-heartedly. At Kuruksetra Arjuna felt dejected and refused to wage war with his own kin. In doing so, according to the Gita, he was the guilty of "karpanya dosa". It means, contextually, that he abased himself to a woeful state, he became "miserly" about himself. Akarpanya is the quality of a courageous and zestful person who can face problems determinedly.
"Asprha" is the last of the eight qualities. "Sprha" means desire; a grasping nature. "Asprha" is the opposite, being without desire. Desire is at the root of all trouble, all evil and, all through the ages, it has been the cause if misfortunes. But to eradicate it from the mind of men seems an almost impossible task. By performing rites again and again and by constantly endeavouring to acquire the Atmic qualities one will eventually become desireless. Says Valluvar:
Parruga parrarran parrinai apparrai
parruga parru vidarku
Tirumular goes a step further. "It is not enough, " he says, "to be attached to Isvara who is without attachment and be free from other attachments. You must be able to sever yourself from the attachment to Isvara himself".
Asai arumingal, asai arumingal
Isanodayinum asai arumingal
The Buddha calls desire thirst. Intense desire for an object is "trsna". ( The Buddha calls it "tanha" in Prakrt). His chief teaching is the conquest of desire.
Desirelessness is the last of the eight qualities. The first one, daya, is the life-breath of Christianity. Each religion lays emphasis on a particular quality, though all qualities are included in the teachings of Buddha, Jesus Christ, the Prophet Mohammed, Guru Nanak, Zoroaster, Confucius and the founders of all other religions. Even if these qualities may not have been pointedly mentioned in their teachings, it is certain that none of them would regard people lacking them with approval.