How 3 Gunas Govern You and the World – What is Sattva, Rajas, Tamas (150)


Lesson 150 shows general order of creation from 3 gunas to individual. How sattva binds. Reflected consciousness. Free will (1:02:09).

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 5, 6


  • Did you wonder why you are either:
    • Tamas: tired, blurry-minded, unmotivated, deflated, confused.
    • Raja: restless, unfocused, stressed, frustrated, disturbed, scattered.
    • Sattva: cheerful for no reason, still, focused, dynamic, creative.
    • Morning: clear, bubbly.
    • Afternoon/evening: duller, slower. And yet, environment is same.
  • What accounts for these states of experience? Gunas. They are forces that make us think what we think and feel what we feel without asking our permission.
  • Everything we do from waking to sleep is basically guna management, because they determine our state of mind.
    • Guna-knowledge is based on careful observation and analysis of experience. EG: Human emotions/thoughts exhibit traits, which are ALSO exhibited by external environment.
    • Samkhya (one of the six orthodox Vedic schools) first to mention the guna knowledge.
    • Also mentioned in Dharma Shastras, and further developed in Bhagavad Gita.


TOPIC 1: Definition of Guṇas (Verse 5)


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 5:

sattvam rajaḥ tamaḥ iti guṇāḥ prakṛti-sambhavāḥ ।
nibadhnanti mahā-bāho dehe dehinam avyayam ॥ 14-5॥
Arjuna, the mighty armed! Sattva, rajas, and tamas, the qualities existing in prakṛti, bind (as though) the changeless indweller (puruṣa) of the body, to the body.


  • SUMMARY OF VERSE: Sattva-Raja-Tama guna (nature that makes up prakriti) is:
    • (1) responsible for the association/bondage between atma-anatma and…
    • (2) their different mixture creates infinite variety of names-forms throughout the universe. Like 3 colors (RGB) mixed creates the whole color spectrum.
  • Macrocosm Order:
    • Brahman (Consciousness) > Māyā (Prakṛti / 3 guṇas) > tanmātras (5 subtle elements) > pañcīkaraṇa (conversion from 5 subtle to 5 gross) > jagat (time/space/objects).
  • Microcosm Order:
    • For Brahman to know Himself (from standpoint of jagat), māyā creates:
      1. Jñāna-Indriyāni (5 organs of perception, which can perceive the gross world).
      2. Manas (assimilates data of jnana-indriya)
      3. Buddhi (instructs manas what to do with the assimilated data)
      4. Saṃskāras/vāsanas (Instruct buddhi how to think about the assimilated data; approximates since no two situations are same).
  • Every individual’s experience is mixture of HIGHER and LOWER nature: puruṣa & prakṛti. For individual: ātmā & ahaṅkāra (I-sense; unique/distinct/separate identity).
    • Higher: Atma: original consciousness. Nirguṇa. Nirvikāra.
    • Lower: ahaṅkāra. Consists of:
      1. Body-mind complex. Also called: Reflecting medium (because it reflects original consciousness). To say “reflecting medium” implies it reflects something (original Consciousness).
      2. Reflected Consciousness: Means, original consciousness is pervading the body-mind complex. Or Original consciousness mixed with body-mind complex. In Sanskrit: Pratibimba caitanya / cidābhāsa.
        • How to understand reflected/borrowed?
          • EXAMPLE 1: Potato’s hotness > from hot water > from hot grill > from hot fire (whose hotness is intrinsic, whereas potato’s is borrowed).
          • EXAMPLE 2: Imagine a non-luminous mirror before dawn. Sun appears and shines on the mirror.
            • The ignorant mirror says “This light belongs to me (the mirror)”.
            • The wise mirror says “Whatever brightness this mirror (reflecting medium) enjoys, is not because of the mirror (mind), but because of me (the sun)”.
              • Thus wise mirror knows “I am other then (1) Mirror (2) reflection”. Similarly jīva is like a bright mirror… borrowing original consciousness.
CONCEPT: Imagine seeing mirror and reflected face. Both depend on the (directly unseen) subject, who is different from both (the reflecting medium and the reflection).
  • CONCLUSION: When person says “I”, that “I” consists of (1) atma (2) ahamkara.
  • Qualities of 3 gunas:
    1. Sattva dominant ahamkara:
      • Mind turned INWARDS towards it’s processes.
      • Sattva is dominant when experiencing connection, love or abiding by universal values (CH13).
      • Thirst for more knowledge. Intellectually active (Analysing. Thinking. Hypothesizing). Hence person values silence/quietude/peace.
        • Without knowledge input… feels limited. Thus strives all life to remove limitation by acquiring MORE knowledge. Whereas Raja dominant ahamkara doesn’t feel this limitation.
        • Suspectable to converting Vedana into an academic pursuit.
      • Jnana indriyani are highly active (ongoing absorbing of information).
    2. Raja dominant ahamkara:
      • Mind turned OUTWARDS towards world objects.
        • EG: At bootcamp, some socialize at every opportunity. Some prefer solitude, aloneness.
      • Suffers samsara (not by acquisition for more knowledge) but desire to DO more. Accomplish more. Workaholic.
      • Karma indriyani are highly active (ongoing output of actions). EG: Chit chat. Fills silence at home with games, activity, entertainment.
    3. Tama dominant ahamkara:
      • Neither sattvik nor rajasik Enjoys inactivity such as: TV shows (passivity), prolonged sleep, sleep throughout the day. Little movement. Forgetfulness.
  • CONCLUSION: Krishna says, 3 gunas bind you.


TOPIC 2: How 3 Guṇas bind (Verse 6-9)


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 6:

tatra sattvam nirmalatvāt prakāśakam anāmayam ।
sukha-saṅgena badhnāti jñāna-saṅgena ca anagha ॥ 14-6 ॥
Arjuna, sinless one! There (among these), sattva, because it is pure, is illuminating and is free from affliction. It binds (one) by connection to (subtle form of) pleasure and connection to knowledge.

  • VERSE: Sattva guna is pure. Free of pain. Binds via subtle form of pleasures and knowledge.
    • Clarity of thinking because sattvic-mind is a pure reflector of Awareness. See without confusion.
    • Whenever cheerful, sattva is dominant in mind.
    • Generally considered a “bright” character.
    • Values calmness and sensitive to environment.
    • Easily learns/absorbs/retains.
    • Finds contemplation natural.
    • Artistic. Innovative.
  • If Raja pollutes > unpleasant restlessness.
  • How Sattva binds?
    • Never satisfied with knowledge gained, because “I” identity is placed in sattva-guna-oriented ahamkara. IE: More knowledge = bigger “I”.
    • Hoards after subtle pleasures (meditations / spiritual sadhanas / innovation / philosophical discussions). IE: Subtle pleasure is reflected ānanda in ānandamaya kośa.
    • Seeks seclusion, but can’t control environmental noise.
      • Whereas, Jñāni doesn’t depend on quietude/seclusion for fulfillment.

Keywords: pancikarana, panchikarana, tanmatras, cidabhasa, pratibimba caitanya, reflected awareness, reflected consciousness

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 16 Nov, 2021



  1. Dear André, thank you so much for this huge chance to discover how everything works. So is it incidentally, that I love and „unsderstand“ this/your stuff? Just because of „my“ guna, which I didn‘t choose. And it couldn’t have been otherwise than walking the vedantic way? I‘ve thought, that I am here by my free will. 🤣 Am I correct in assuming that there is no way back? Or could/will tamas fall on me again? Greetings from Germany, Sabine

    1. Hi Sabine in Germany. Despite being dominant in one or the other, one’s buddhi still has capacity to make mini-choices that overtime culminate into sattva-guna.

      In short, involves ongoingly saying “no” to the easy and familiar. And saying “yes” to hard and unfamiliar. Until spontaneous.

      Will tamas befall upon your buddhi? Yes. Secret formula: Eat heavy, processed, non-fresh foods. Watch movies. Move little. Don’t study. Do same things as yesterday. Smoke pot. Associate with complainers. Fantasize. 🙂

      If unwilling to follow my secret formula, you’re relatively safe from Tamas.

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