In Sanskrit tamas means dark, relating to darkness. Darkness is an absence of light. Light is knowledge; dark is ignorance; ignorance is mind. And tamas has a second literal meaning in Sanskrit: it means snake. Tamas is a dark snake, the longest snake in the game, one that inexorably draws the player back into illusion and out of the illumination of the plane of reality.
In the seventh chakra, tamas is the ignorance that comes from attaching importance to sense perceptions. This ignorance comes after one realizes happiness and thinks that it is the end of the performance of karmas. But the player cannot stop all karmas. From happiness, the highest karma is a six, the lowest a one. Action cannot stop entirely.
Tamas is complete surrender to illusion. The player has lost sight of the never-ending nature of play. He has forgotten that until liberation is attained the game is not over. Inaction is an attempt to avoid the law of karma. Karma is dharma in action. The player who lands in tamas has forgotten that play does not stop in the seventh row and that by attaining samadhi he has not attained liberation. When movement slows in the upward direction, it must still be expressed—and the only direction from the highest chakra is down. The longest snake in the game awaits the player who neglects his karmas.
Three factors are at work in any event. The first is dharma, the essence of action. The second is karma, the action itself. The third is inaction, inertia, resistance. Because of the nature of the game, inaction triggers a downward flow of energy. Karmas are unavoidable. Attempting to avoid them is a karma itself, an action. Attempting to avoid karma is a karma that draws the player back to the second space of the game, illusion.
Tamas is synonymous with the state of deep sleep. When the sensory organs are completely withdrawn and awareness dissolves in sleep, the player is no better than a corpse, even though he is still breathing. In meditation, when all activities of the mind completely stop and the sense perceptions are drawn inward, it becomes easy for the player to slide ever so gently from the sattvic actionless state into the hypnogogic state, ending in deep sleep. For this reason tamas falls in the seventh row of the game.
It is here that tamas becomes a snake. At other spaces where he has vibrated, tamas has been necessary for the player. But here, in the plane of meditation (a form of inaction), tamas is a snake that changes the entire course of energy flow, drawing the player back to illusion. An attribute of tamoguna, tamas is the manifestation of the guna in the microcosm. When the same force is discussed as an attribute of Prakriti, the phenomenal plane, it is known as tamoguna.