The Gunas: The Three Constituents of Prakriti


Brahma, Vishnu, & Shiva

Before going further into the Nakshatras and Jyotisha (Vedic Astrology), we need to become familiar with both the three Gunas and the four motivations of life. Let’s begin with the Gunas, which are the intrinsic qualities or tendencies of Prakriti, the universal energy of primary matter or Nature.

The three Gunas are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, and they are often associated with creation (Brahma), preservation (Vishnu), and destruction (Shiva) respectively. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva make up the Hindu Trinity or Trimurti, and with their association with the three Gunas we can see how they represent the three stages that matter, or Nature, goes through in her continuous cycle of life.

Sattva सत्त्व translates as essence. When someone or something is sattvic it has the qualities of purity, equilibrium, harmony, and goodness. Rajas रजस् translates as air or vapor. Being rajasic has the qualities of activity, movement, and passion. Tamas तमस् translates as darkness, ignorance, and illusion. It is also a term for the obstruction of the Sun and Moon during eclipses. Tamasic qualities indicate sluggishness, inertia, and lethargy.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna explains the Gunas to Arjuna in great detail:

It is the three gunas born of prakriti – sattva, rajas, and tamas – that bind the immortal Self to the body. Sattva – pure, luminous, and free from sorrow – binds us with attachment to happiness and wisdom. Rajas is passion, arising from selfish desire and attachment. These bind the Self with compulsive action. Tamas, born of ignorance, deludes all creatures through heedlessness, indolence, and sleep. Sattva binds us to happiness; rajas binds us to action. Tamas, distorting our understanding, binds us to delusion…

When sattva predominates, the light of wisdom shines through every gate in the body. When rajas predominates, a person runs about pursuing selfish and greedy ends, driven by restlessness and desire. When tamas is dominant a person lives in darkness – slothful, confused, and easily infatuated… 

Sattvic knowledge sees the one indestructible Being in all beings, the unity underlying the multiplicity of creation. Rajasic knowledge sees all things and creatures as separate and distinct. Tamasic knowledge, lacking any sense of perspective, sees one small part and mistakes it for the whole.

We all have sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic indications and aspects in our natal charts, and it is the balance, interactions, and influences of those qualities in different areas of our lives and personalities that show us where in our lives we need to focus more attention or where we have the most potential for learning and growth. Just because one’s Moon was in a tamasic Nakshatra at the time of birth, does not necessarily mean that he is doomed to a life of laziness and gloom. There are many, many, many other aspects and influences in a birth chart that could neutralize, remedy, or assist this. This is why it is important to look at someone’s chart as a whole, as individual pieces only give a small snippet of information.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Aristotle

All the Nakshatras, Vedic (Sidereal) Zodiac signs, and more can be found in my book, Shedding Light on JyotishaVedic Astrology For Beginners.

About Julianne Victoria

I am a Spiritual Counselor, Shamanic Healer, Writer, & Creator. I hope to help heal, teach, and inspire others on their souls' journeys and in this life. © Julianne Victoria and Through the Peacock's Eyes Press under the Common Law Copyright
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29 Responses to The Gunas: The Three Constituents of Prakriti

  1. Pingback: Dream Journaling & Finding Balance | Through the Peacock's Eyes

  2. aaremo says:

    I’ve been studying the Gita as part of my vedanta learning. It’s supremely awesome…it’s kinda funny that people are still writing spiritual books today when really it was all perfectly, sublimely done thousands of years ago! Understanding the gunas and observing their interplay in myself and others has been immensely helpful, a simple but v practical and insightful psychology

    • I agree. If I had to pick one spiritual text it’d be the Bhagavad Gita (with Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara a close second!).

      • aaremo says:

        I first read it when I was about 21 and I got bits of it but other bits I wasn’t so sure about (including what seemed like a pro-war stance). My vedanta teacher James Swartz did a web seminar last year studying the Gita and it really helped so much to have it properly taught. It’s amazing – everything we need is in there. I’m going over it again now!

      • Wonderful! I think I need to re-read it from start to finish again. Every time I go to it for reference I feel I become aware of something anew. 🙂

  3. Such a delicious read. (And reminder to work on ‘sloth’). I will reblog it during my ‘sabbatical’. Namaste. 🙂

  4. Namaste!! So profound!! So amazing the way you have explained. You are really spreading Sattva guna with your wonderful insights!! Thanks for visiting my blog!! I will be very happy to learn from you and become a better person!!

  5. Vedic astrology – is a beautiful and wonderful subject ,
    an expert can predict the life of another .
    A Guide to the future journey.
    your Introduction itself speaks about it’s very important in day to day life.
    Thanks for enlightening us in that life subject.
    with regards

  6. augusta says:

    I sure do enjoy your readable descriptions of Asian traditions. Thank you! –Aggie

  7. lybsta says:

    Thanks, I’ve touched on the gunas in my studies before, but never very in-depth. It’s interesting to learn their relation to Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Namaste!

  8. thanks for the Vedic lesson!


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