The Three Gunas

As per the Vedic schools of philosophy, gunas are  qualities or attributes of everything in the manifest world including inanimate objects.  In an unmanifest stage, these gunas are held in perfect balance by the total potential of the universe called prakriti. In the manifest world, the gunas  are in different proportions in different things,  one of them being more dominant than others determining  the variety in nature of human beings and objects we see in the world. The three gunas are sattva, rajas and tamas. The first step in understanding ourselves is to identify the primary quality of our own being and immediate surroundings.

The quality of sattva is described as that which is pure, luminous and healthy, it creates attachment to happiness, contentment and knowledge. A sattva dominant person is serene, forgiving, charitable, driven to gaining knowledge, exhibiting restraint and integrity.  Dawn is characterised by sattva as there is hope for a new day, clarity and very little noise or activity. One experiences sattva when we are drawn to the beauty of nature or when we are absorbed listening to classical music. The action of painting of the ceiling of Sistine Chapel by the Renaissance artist Michelangelo would be classified as pure sattvic activity as there was no motive beyond expressing himself and his devotion to his work.

Rajas is the nature of passion, the source of all thirst and creates attachment to relationships and activity. A rajasic person propelled by endless thoughts and activities, newer undertakings, seeking adulation and exhibiting restlessness, irritability and greed. There is always a motive for every action meaning there is an expectation of a particular end result and most of our worldly activity is of this nature.  We can experience Rajas quality in a busy day in the office.

Tamas is born of ignorance, delusion and there is very less clarity and it binds us to heedlessness, indolence and sleep.  We experience tamas when are about to go to bed when we are feeling very tired or sleepy.  We also experience tamas when we feel negative emotions such as fear, anger and sadness. A tamas quality dominant person is characterised by inactivity, negative emotions, delusion and conflict.

These gunas are dynamic manifesting in different proportions in different beings.  Sattva guna dominant person are thinkers, philosophers, teachers, poets, advisors and other intellectual professions.  A good mix of rajas and sattva with a little of tamas can make a dynamic leader exhibiting charisma, courage and generosity . On the other had,  too much self interest – meaning a lot of rajas, tamas and with a little of sattva,  makes business men and traders. When there is too much tamas, one is just idle and simple jobs with a routine is good  to get them going.

Cultivating awareness of gunas is an important tool for leading an authentic and mindful life. The gunas are not a part of the real self called purusha,  they operate outside on the conscious self or our identity They influence our mind complex (made up of intellect, emotional mind, data bank and the identity or ownership we assume) and propel us to act in different directions. In this context actions also includes thoughts.  They create habitual patterns that results in actions that are not mindful and are purely reactionary. These have consequences as they add to existing karma balance.

We have to be able to constantly introspect and identify the actions that lift us higher in purpose and the ones that propels us downward. Here, motive is very important and motive or intention is often identified by the prevailing guna. For example, charitable actions done for gaining honour or recognition are not considered completely sattvic. Knowledge gained to be able to peddle it immediately in the future is rajasic. Likewise, A police man who protects the environment and punishes the offenders is not tamasic.

As gunas are dynamic,  one has to be coached appropriately to be able to identify the guna operating by being objective and subtle. This is not be judgemental or condemn oneself but to be aware of our state of being. The nature of gunas is such that it will manifest itself anyway even if we are not mindful, it will be visible to others. The more we are aware of the different voices and layers of our mind complex, there is more discernment regarding the guna. We have to be able to listen to our intellect a little bit more instead of pampering our emotional mind constantly. Gunas can be also be subtly varied by making changes in our surroundings and the food we consume.

What are the practical steps to moving  higher in vibration?

1) Make an affirmation to develop positive qualities of charity, well-being and contentment, seek Grace for evolving.

2) Keep the company of good people with positive emotions and avoid toxic company

3) Eat balanced and healthy food to help the mind develop positive qualities. Avoid food of tamasic type – Meat, alcohol, fried and stale food. Limit spicy and pungent foods which are classified as rajasic. Eating plenty of fresh vegetarian food helps stabilising moods and reduce compulsive behaviours

4) Be in constant introspection and substitution of negative thoughts with positive ones. Identify correctly the state of emotions and thoughts. Disgust, fear and anger lead one to sadness and should be replaced by wonder and courage.

5) Make a cognitive change – seek higher liberating knowledge , educate the mind about the consequences of negative action and change attitude instead of trying to change the situation

How to identify  the gunas using vedic astrology

Jupiter, Sun and Moon are classified having sattva guna, Venus and Mercury as rajasic and the four malefics – Mars, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu as tamasic. The dual signs are considered as sattvic as they are mixed in guna, the movable signs are rajasic – very active and the fixed signs are tamasic- rigid and unyielding. From the intrinsic nature of the planet that lords the sign and the outward manifested nature of the house- being dual, movable or fixed, one can arrive at the end result of each of the sign.

Gunas are visible by looking at the trines to the ascendant – the signs, planets involved and the aspects. The ninth house and the 9th lord is the most important as he has a record of your past actions and gunas.  For those who are interested in reading further about the nature of gunas from your horoscope,  please read my article on

The reading of gunas of every  client  is an important part of the “Life consult” reading and those that want a in depth understanding of these inherent qualities in nature and methods to alter them may also choose to get a “Specific Reading”. My understanding of gunas is from drawn from my study of the philosophy of vedanta.

Please read my article on