The Three Gunas


Chapter 14 of the Bhagavad Gita continues to delve into yoga metaphysics and the workings of the universe – highlighting the three gunas – “From Prakrti the gunas come forth, sattva, rajas, and tamas…let the wise man know these gunas alone as the doers of every action.”

I view the gunas as the “animators” or “energies” of consciousness and being. Our practice of yoga is to identify sattva, rajas, and tamas in our life and practice and being and then ultimately find balance between tamas and rajas so that sattva rises to the surface.

It is important, however, as we read and learn about them to not begin to have judgement of these “energies of nature”. They exist as tools within Nature/Prakrti to bring knowledge of our self just as all of existence, but ultimately we must move beyond them – “When the dweller in the body has overcome the gunas that cause this body, then he is made free…A man is said to have transcended the gunas when he does not hate the light of sattva, or the activity of rajas, or even the delusion of tamas, while these prevail; and yet does not long for them after they have ceased.”

“RAJAS the passionate” – makes you “thirsty for pleasure and possession…binds you to hunger for action.” In its positive form it is the energy that makes us to act as Krishna might suggest, but out of balance it can create anxiety, stress, overexertion.

“TAMAS the ignorant” – “bewilders, binds to delusion, sluggishness, stupor.” In a more positive light, tamas might give us rest and/or time for reflection if used properly. In its negative it will stop you completely in your tracks of progress.

“SATTVA the shining” – “shows the atman by pure light”, however still is a gun that binds us to Prakrti, “binding you to the search for happiness, longing for knowledge.”

Knowing that these energies run through all of us and all of nature, can you begin to identify what carries “rajas nature”, “tamasic nature”, or “sattvic nature”? Can you connect on a conscious level to how those energies stand out in certain situations, or maybe one in particular is a good description of your normal energetic/conscious state?

In my opinion, if we have stuck to the practice of yoga for an amount of time, all of us have experience a sattvic state of clarity within that practice at some point. It is the experience that drives us toward the search for freedom. The biggest question is, can we ultimately let go of that sattvic quality of our Nature (the Field in the previous blog) and dwell in our inner truth (the Knower in the previous blog) – beyond the gunas without being touched or disturbed by them?

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