Brief Introduction to 3 Gunas


The creation comes into existence with the emergence of the 3 guṇas: Sattva, Tamas and Rajas.

Sattva is intelligence and knowledge.

Tamas is a heavy dense energy. It's matter, the substance of the creation.

Rajas is the dynamic active energy. It creates/sustains/destroys objects using Sattva (All knowledge) combined with Tamas (matter/material).

In fact, they all together Create, Sustain and Destroy. So we can't really compartmentalize them.

The word guṇa means rope. As the components that make up the dharma field… the guṇas govern the creation of everything.

This includes the vāsanās and the individuals svadharma, giving rise to ‘their’ conditioning.

The guṇas are always present and operating, because the Casual body (karaṇa ṣarīra) is there whether the jīva is present or not. The guṇas condition the jīva or Subtle body (sūkṣma ṣarīra) at all times, other than in deep sleep, nirvikalpa samādhi and of course… once the Self (Ātman) is actualized as ones TRUE nature.

The guṇas are called macrocosmic vasanas. Meaning they belong to Īśvara – or the TOTAL, the creation. They do NOT belong to the person (jīva).

In stage of taking oneself to be the apparent person-jīva (the Self under the spell of ignorance) – the gunas are actually the “drivers seat”. Yet the unsuspecting person (jīva) thinks or believes that he/she is the doer or chooser of their actions. Yes they are (due to Free will). But simultaneously this free will is conditioned by the permutation of the 3 guṇas operating at any one moment.

The guṇas belong to Īśvara and have nothing to do with TRUE YOU (Awareness/Brahman), nor with the apparent person (jīva).


Sattva, rajas and tamas correspond to the three main forces in creation:

  • Rajas: vikṣepa-śakti, which is the projecting energy.
  • Tamas: āvarana-śakti, which is concealing energy.
  • Sattva: the revealing energy.

When māyā operates, then sattva (intelligence) is the first guṇa to emerge. It is the nature of pure māyā and as such, the nature of the mind.

Tamas and rajas appear next.

Together the 3 guṇas bring into manifestation the apparent reality.

Rajas and tamas are the main cause of ignorance. They extrovert the mind, turning it towards objects.

When one is sāttvic (meaning rajas and tamas are managed and brought under control), then the mind has turned inwards toward itself.

With karma yoga and the contemplation of self-knowledge…. sattva can become the persons predominant guṇa. Purifying the mind is aiming for a sāttvic mind.

All 3 guṇas have an upside as well as a downside, as does everything in this apparent reality.

Rajas is the active, creative ‘force’. It is the mode of passion and desire. Not all desire or passion is bad however. You need a passion for self inquiry and a strong desire for mokṣa.

Tamas is the very substance of matter, a heavy and steady energy. Without Tamas, you would not be capable of endurance. You would not be ‘earthed’ and would never be able to sleep.

With too much sattva – one can get stuck in the golden cage of experiential bliss. It is purely experiential and therefore does not last as it's subject to time.

Sattva attachment is the last object to be released before mokṣa. Yet it is a valuable energy for inquiry and should be cultivated as it is the guna springboard for self-knowledge.

Guṇatraya-Vibhāga-Yogaḥ: Managing the three gunas

This yoga is about managing the guṇas. Identifying which guṇa is predominantly playing out is a practical method to assist with karma yoga and to purify the mind.

No-one makes themselves the way they are; Īśvara or the guṇas does that.

The ‘work’ involved in self inquiry is identifying the guṇas through self-knowledge and allowing the knowledge to help ‘you’ manage the gunas by dis-identifying with them as Awareness.

Note the guna and adjust to it in the light of what kind of mind you are trying to create. Make peace of mind your aim at all costs.

Through the application of self-knowledge the jīva will eventually realize that the ‘person’ walking around is no more than a notion in YOU (Awareness).

Once self-knowledge has been actualized, regardless of what guṇa conditions the subtle body (the ‘person’), they are rendered non-binding as the doer has been negated by self-knowledge.

The gunas have nothing to do with YOU (Awareness), because you know that you are not the subtle body, the person/doer.

YOU (Awareness) are triguna-atita, which means that you are beyond the gunas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *