Sattva-Guna Binds You to Knowledge, Raja to Action & Tama to Mistakes (151)


Lesson 151 gives examples how 3 gunas bind us to doer-enjoyer role, and how they show up in various behaviors.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 7, 8, 9, 10


  • Māyā (comprising of 3 gunas) is power of Brahman. They are never separate.
  • Metaphor:
    • Fire (equated to Consciousness) has (1) Power to burn (2) Power to illumine (3) Power to radiate. The 3 powers are not away from fire.
    • Person has 3 talents. Talents are never away from the person. All 3 talents depend on the Conscious person. At same time, the Conscious person is NOT any of the 3 talents, because he-she is able to wield (start-stop) any of them. And where are the talents when Conscious person is not acting them out? They remain as potential in the Conscious person.
      • Furthermore, if any of the talents are unguided by morality (dharma), their good nature transforms into destructive one. Similarly, we must maintain dharma front-and-center through which the 3 gunas can operate.


TOPIC 2: How 3 Guṇas bind (Verse 6-9)

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 7:

rajaḥ rāga-ātmakam viddhi tṛṣṇā-saṅga-samudbhavam ।
tat nibadhnāti kaunteya karma-saṅgena dehinam ॥

Kaunteya (Arjuna)! Rajas, may you know, is in the form of a colouring (of the mind), causing longing (desire) and attachment. It binds the indweller (kṣetrajña) of the body by connection with action.

  • VERSE: Raja guna causes longing/desire. Binds in form of actions. “Raja” means “dust”, so it covers/colors the mind with dust of longing. Initially, little dust is unnoticed and no bother, thus gradually and unnoticeably accumulates.
    • Hallmark of Raja dominant ahamkara is (1) need to acquire & experience and (2) attachment to the acquired (claiming protective ownership).
    • Holds onto things. EG: Old things. In contrast, Sattva wants to minimize possessions.
  • How Raja binds? Attached to actions. Always moving/doing (IE: popularity of yoga asanas). Generates much puṇya/pāpa.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 8:

tamaḥ tu ajñānajam viddhi mohanam sarva-dehinām ।
pramāda-ālasya-nidrābhiḥ tat nibadhnāti bhārata ॥ 14-8 ॥

Bhārata (Arjuna)! Tamas, may you know, is born of ignorance and causes delusion for all those who have bodies. It binds (the person) completely by indifference, slothfulness and sleep.

  • VERSE: Tama guna is reinforced by absence of relative knowledge (ignorance) > cultivates additional delusions (IE: falsehoods and facts are mixed up) > sustains ignorance.
    • Person is indifferent to surroundings (insensitive) because buddhi is suppressed. Thus dharma suppressed.
      • EG: Alcohol encourages Tama guṇa, consequently inhibitions subside (sense of right/wrong blurs).
    • Advertises itself as laziness/sloppiness/lethargy and affection for sleep.
    • Causes mistakes in our work/speech/reports… without us noticing.
    • Doubtful, indecisive (because buddhi covered, hence can’t assess).
  • Required for sleep. (IE: Insomnia = excess raja guna)
  • Why Problematic:
    • Not because of sleep, but continuing to sleep. Potential/greatness/svadharma postponed.
    • Suppresses sattva/raja guna, hence veiling the capacity of finesse in thinking + execution.
      • EG: Doesn’t ask questions about self, relationship to God, purpose of life. Questions are survival based.
      • Subscribes to herd mentality (moving with masses), since independent-thought is stifled.
    • Causes carelessness with self/others. Laziness. Slowness. Lethargy.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 9:

sattvam sukhe sañjayati rajaḥ karmaṇi bhārata ।
jñānam āvṛtya tu tamaḥ pramāde sañjayati uta ॥ 14-9 ॥
Sattva binds (one) to pleasure, Rajas (binds one) to action; Whereas Tamas binds (one) to negligence by veiling the discriminative power, Oh Arjuna!

  • VERSE: Summary of how each guṇa binds the individual. Sattva: pleasure. Rajas: Action. Tamas: apathy (lack of concern, passivity, unwilling to take part).
  • REVISION so far:
    • Individual has higher/lower nature.
      • Higher: atma.
      • Lower: vyavaharika-mithya ahamkara (individuality) subject to 3 guṇas.
    • TOPIC 1: Definition of 3 guṇas. V5.
      1. Sattva guna: Mind oriented towards pursuit of KNOWLEDGE. Jnana-indiryani is used more then karma-indriyani.
      2. Raja guna: Mind oriented towards doing ACTIONS. Karma-indriyani used more then jnana-indriyani.
      3. Tama guna: Mind in delusion due to coverage of intellect’s discerning capacity. Both karma & jnana-indriyani are under-utilized.
        • If try to resolve their confusion > mostly fruitless > they’ll implant their doubt onto you.
    • TOPIC 2: How each guṇa binds. V6-9.
      1. Sattva guna: In form of tranquillity + acquisition of information + subtle pleasures (spirituality).
      2. Raja guna: Rejects information, solitude & silence. Bound by need to ACT for sake of self, society, guru, rituals, Ishvara.
      3. Tama guna: Bound by negligence, carelessness, vagueness.

TOPIC 3: Signs which Guna is dominant (Verse 10-13)

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 10:

rajaḥ tamaḥ ca abhibhūya sattvam bhavati bhārata ।
rajaḥ sattvam tamaḥ ca eva tamaḥ sattvam rajaḥ tathā ॥ 14-10 ॥
Sattva manifests by overpowering rajas and tamas. Rajas (manifests by over powering) sattva and tamas. Tamas (manifests by overpowering) sattva and rajas, Oh Arjuna!

  • VERSE: What is the effect of each guṇa overwhelming other two?
  • Every being/object made up of 3 gunas because everything is born of prakṛti. Although proportions are different.
    • EG:
      • At time of dissolution of universe, 3 gunas are in equilibrium/proportional. Upon srishti… 3 gunas go out of balance and the whole universe animates.
        • EG: Snow accumulates on roof. Initially, all quiet. Roof gives way, and much activity happens at once.
    • Inert objects (periodic table): Gunas present but tama dominant.
    • Plant kingdom: Gunas present, but more sattva/rajas then in inert objects.
    • Animal kingdom: Gunas present, but more sattva/rajas then plants.
    • Human kingdom: Gunas present, but more sattva/rajas then animals. Humans further have different proportions of 3 gunas.
      1. Stone-beings: TRS Lethargic/heavy like stones.
      2. Plant-beings: TSR. Like plants (survival-of-fittest). Concerned with survival, lack emotions for others. Short-term ambitions.
      3. Animal-beings: RTS. Animals can distinguish between friend/foe (discrimination). Herd mentality. Desire ridden. Passionate. Self-centered. Majority fall under animal-beings.
      4. Spiritual-beings: SRT. Constant intellectual discrimination in light of scriptures.
  • QUESTION: Can guna proportions be changed? Yes. Degree depends on effort/commitment.
    • In fact, purpose of all Vedic sadhanas is to alter the proportion to SRT. Because according to śāstra, most beings are born dominantly tāmasik, since baby can only sleep/eat.
      • SOLUTION:
        • Vedas start with karma-yoga (to get out of tama guna).
        • Once person is selfishly active > change nature of his actions. Sakama > Nishkama karma.
        1. B.G. 5 stage sadhana (mentioned in CH 12):
          • Before sadhana: Either Raja/Tama is dominant.
          • KY L1 (only think of Ishvara when results come). Cultivate RST.
          • KY L2 (think of Ishvara while doing actions and receiving results). Cultivates RST.
          • Upasana. Cultivates SRT.
          • Jnana-Yoga. Cultivates SRT.
        2. 4x MODEL:
          • Inactivity > selfish > noble (holistic, community) > self-enquiry.
          • Brahmacarya > grihastha > vanaprastha > sannyasa.
          • Shudra (lazy) > Vaishya (selfishly active) > Kshatriya (nobly active) > Brahmana (contemplative).
          • Kama > Artha > Dharma > Moksha.
    • All models show that CONTRIBUTION/INVOLVEMENT in society comes FIRST. Otherwise if one withdraws (for sake of spirituality), there will be guilt in background (for skipping svadharma). That’s why BGita has logical sadhana order.
    • So Krishna reminds us to know where we stand, then approach the right sadhana > sattvic mind > capable of comprehend one’s satyam-nature.

Keywords: rajasik, tamasik, rajasic, tamasic

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

Recorded 24 Nov, 2021



  1. Just had a rather profound thought popping up, some time after this session.
    The only thing real is the timeless, formless and ever-present ‘I AM’ shining on all this matter, on all this content and lending it its sentiency.
    Because as soon as you try to grasp this moment, it already has passed. Any pleasure or pain simply can’t be grasped and has this sense of emptiness and fleetingness about it, if one investigates his/her experience. It arises and passes, yet I remain, ever available.
    So how can the world be more real than a more solid dream? Yet we’re all so invested in our little games here, giving so much credit to the ahamkara, until we finally discover Vedanta.

  2. What a gift, a blessing as I like to say, to be able to participate; though, asynchronously, in these recorded video gatherings.

    “If you name me, you negate me. By giving me a name, a label, you negate all the other things I could possibly be” wrote Soren Kierkegaard.

    As paradoxical as it may seem, to be able to consciously entertain the Whole; I must peek and freeze a part of it; yet if I let go, I can seize the timeless.

    Forever grateful.

  3. Hello Andre.

    Which particular aspect of Satyam Jnanam Anantanam is hidden to project Sattva Guna, Raja Guna or Tamas Guna

    How did Satyam Jnanam Anantanam Brahman become Sattvic, Rajasic Tamasic Maya ? What was hidden and what was projected.

    Thank You

    1. Hi Joseph,

      When you are in Deep sleep, you remain undifferentiated, meaning there’s no subject (person) nor object (things which person perceives). Then dream world comes. Dream is made out of subject (the person perceiving the objects), and objects. Entire dream is made out of the same undifferentiated you (that was true in deep sleep). However from standpoint of dream, seems like you are the subject, and objects (mountain, people, objects, time and space).

      The undifferentiated you, we can compare to “Satyam Jnanam Anantam”, in short Brahman.

      Just like in undifferentiated you resided a power of your mind to project a dream world of multiplicity… in that same way, in Brahman resides a power to project the universe which is being experienced this very moment while reading these words.

      This one power can be understood from 3 aspects (sattva: blueprint of how universe is to work, tamas: Material for universe, and Rajas: The power or energy that sculpts the material according to the blueprint).

      Just like when building a house, we need: a) Materials like wires, wood, gravel, (b) Blueprint of the house, and (c) Energy to put together #a according to #b.

      Now, your question is “What was hidden?”. This question ONLY becomes valid from standpoint of manifest world.

      Just like in deep sleep, there’s no question of “what is hidden/projected”.

      The question only becomes valid when the Sattva-Rajas-Tamas POWER is activated and universe comes.

      What is hidden? Whatever is hidden. All hiding means is creating different shapes/sizes/forms. EG: To show a clean circle, a square must be hidden. In fact, multiplicity is nothing but hiding one form to reveal another form.

      What is projected? Whatever is projected..

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