Introduction to the Three Gunas

Nature herself is the divine mother Shakti in manifestation, and the universe is her play of Consciousness. She provides not only for material growth and expansion that moves outward, but supports our spiritual growth and development, which moves within. Nature possesses a qualitative energy through which we can either expand into wisdom or contract into ignorance.

GunasNature consists of three primal qualities, which are the main powers of Cosmic Intelligence that determine our spiritual growth. These are called gunas in Sanskrit, meaning what binds, because wrongly understood they keep us in bondage to the external world (maya).

The three gunas are the most subtle qualities of Nature that underlie matter, life and mind. They are the energies through which not only the surface mind, but our deeper consciousness functions. They are the powers of the soul which hold the karmas and desires that propel us from birth to birth (samsara). The gunas adhere in Nature herself as her core potentials for diversification.

All objects in the universe consist of various combinations of the three gunas. Cosmic evolution consists of their mutual interaction and transformation. During the manifestation of this universe, these three gunas are in a state of imbalance—and they are constantly shifting, replacing each other as they compete to dominate our consciousness.

If you apply your own awareness—that intelligence (buddhi) that allows you to discriminate—and begin to watch how the gunas generate your compulsions, over time you will be able to observe their repetitive patterns and begin to detach your consciousness from their deluding powers. As long as we are at the mercy of the gunas, we are not free—for as long as we do not realize that we are not these habits, tendencies, and compulsions, they will bind us to our own self-created delusions.

The only way to find liberation and release from repeated births and deaths is the realization of the God within us all. Once we discern and recognize the mechanics of Maya and her gunas, we wake up and remember that we are not the doer of anything. We can sit back and understand that there is only one doer and that is the Pure Awareness, Shiva, our real identity.


Sattva guna may be understood as the state of purity, goodness, and peace. It creates harmony, balance and stability. When sattva dominates our consciousness, those are the moments we are open to the light of knowledge. It is light (not heavy) and luminous in nature. A tranquil state will draw wisdom to you. It possesses an inward and upward motion and brings about the awakening of the soul. Sattva provides happiness and contentment of a lasting nature. It is the principle of clarity, the force of love that unites all things together.

  • Selfless service
  • Worship: God
  • Food: mild – food that is nourishing and promotes health and longevity
  • Bound: attachment to happiness and wisdom
  • Fruit: purity and understanding
  • Rebirth: upwards to the worlds of the wise


Rajas is the quality of change, activity, and turbulence. It is characterized by passion, those activities driven by desire. It introduces a disequilibrium that upsets an existing balance. Restlessness, enterprise, ambition, and greed arise from the guna rajas. Rajas is motivated in its action, ever seeking a goal or an end that gives it power. It possesses outward motion and causes self seeking action that leads to feeling cut off from the Oneness, our Source. When we feel empty and from this feeling of lack and limitation we are driven to act. Deep insecurities drive us to seek material success, to acquire things as security and fill our emptiness. These actions bind us in the temporal hologram. While in the short term Rajas is stimulating and provides pleasure, owing to its unbalanced nature it quickly results in pain and suffering. It is the force of passion that causes distress and conflict.

  • Selfish service
  • Worship: power and wealth
  • Food: salty, bitter, hot, sour, or spicy – food that promotes pain, discomfort, and disease
  • Bound: compulsive action
  • Fruit: suffering and greed
  • Rebirth: same world driven by work


Tamas is the quality of dullness, darkness, and inertia and is heavy, veiling or obstructing in its action. It functions as the force of gravity that retards things and holds them in specific limited forms. It possesses a downward motion that causes depression as we feel we are useless, incapable, and hopeless. Tamas brings about ignorance and delusion in the mind and promotes insensitivity, sleep and loss of awareness. It is the principle of materiality or unconsciousness that causes consciousness to become veiled.

  • No service
  • Worship: spirits and ghosts
  • Food: overcooked, stale, impure – food that has lost all nutritional content
  • Bound: delusion
  • Fruit: ignorance and confusion
  • Rebirth: downward to a womb of the ignorant

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