10 Pairs of Opposites: Dull & Sharp

10 Pairs of Opposites: Dull & Sharp

This is a 10-part series where I will be reviewing each of the 10 pairs of Opposites (AKA qualities or Gunas) in depth.

Everything in this Universe (man made and natural, physical and abstract) are based off the five elements; Ether (Space), Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. From these five elements, the Rishis (or Ayurvedic Seers) determined that there were 10 pairs of Opposites that are used to view the Universe and restore balance. Through observation, palpation, and questioning an Ayurvedist will see where you have excess or depleted gunas, and work to restore them to their proper ratio.

These gunas impact everything!!

Dull (Manda) and Sharp (Tīkshṇa)

Dull like a butter knife or sharp as a sword, funny how both gunas (qualities) can be used to describe stabby things.

As with all these gunas we are describing, having a balance between Dull and Share is a good way to live life. Think of dull sluggish breathing, this might indicate allergies, respiratory distress or even the last breaths of someone dying. A sharp intake though might indicate something stressful is happening, a gasp of pain, surprise, even happiness. In life we have both types of breath, but the ones in the middle of these two styles is typically the best.

Physiological / Body – Dull & Sharp

Alright, we already talked about breathing but what other physiological things can we explore?

Poop! Everyone loves to talk about poop! Slow metabolism, sluggish digestion and untimely transit times might indicate that there is some dullness in the GI tract. Sharpness in the tract would show up with good absorption and digestion, the nutrients would be able to penetrate effectively into the tissues as needed by the body.

We haven’t been talking a lot about physical attributes, but dull and sharp (as with most of the gunas) can be physically seen as well. A glazed over employee during a meeting or a teenager intently watching their phone. I’m guessing which is duller and which is sharper.

Psychological / Mind – Dull & Sharp

Slow gestures, speech or the last to laugh might indicate that someone is more on the dull side of the spectrum. That isn’t to say they are boring, just moving a little slower than their sharper counterparts.  

That slower approach to the mental thought process isn’t always a sign of a glazed over employee nor is it a lack of intelligence indicator. It could demonstrate that someone is truly taking the time to calmly assess the situation before giving an answer.

A sharp mind will have a good memory, fast understanding, and tends to be very probing. Ever been around a young child who wants to know EVERYHTHING! Or one that catches the teeniest little flaw in your argument, and you think… ugh of course that is what they remembered!? That’s a sharp mind.

A sharp mind might go the other way and become overly judgmental or intolerant. A sharp mind can easily become “my way or the highway”. Sharp minds can tend towards irritable, as they are intolerant of anything outside their expectations.

Emotional / Spiritual – Dull & Sharp 

Dull might display in depression or the inability to mind enough to focus. Dull as we talked about earlier might also be that the person is grounded and isn’t reactionary.

A spiritually dull person may not feel connected to anything higher, or just have a very “of the earth” approach to their spirituality.

Sharp emotions tend to be anger, frustration, and passion. This is a “hot” emotion that can very easily become so pointed on one area that they can sometimes become zealots. This personality will be able to debate from a theological perspective, but good luck getting them to change their mind.

External Environment – Dull & Sharp 

I’ve spent a lot of time having you think about the weather regarding these gunas. But the external environment can be so much more than that. Most of us are at “Stay at Home” status due to COVID-19 look at how you and housemates are feeling in terms of sharp. During the weekdays, my job hasn’t slowed down any, and my Mind feels sharp, while my body feels sedentary and dull. Now that it is Saturday afternoon and I have a second to not be worried about work and school, my mind feels sluggish, dull and my body is following suit.

My partner is also home, but he doesn’t have nearly as many work pressures that I seem to be having. So, his mind and body are fairly dull. He gets to spend his days hanging out with the dog, playing video games, and listening to music. My sharp mind is maybe… just maybe…. A little irritated at that!


Ayurveda looks at using opposite qualities to reduce the excess. Please keep in mind that the human body is a complex system. Talk to an Ayurvedist before trying to balance things on your own.

Heightening awareness is always the first step in Ayurveda, and you can do that safely in your own home.  Is your food dull or sharp in taste? What does it later do after you have eaten it? Do you feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the day (sharp) or are you feeling like you need a nap (dull)?