Satva Rajas and Tamas from the Bhagavad Gita Insights from Chapter 14,17,18

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The 14, 17 and 18th chapters of the Bhagavad Gita have practical insights on the Triguna: Satva, Rajas and Tamas.

Here is a table to make the insights simple.


Satva  Rajas Tamas
Nature Pure, illuminating, free from sinful reactions or diseases, healthy Passion, thirst, attachment Ignorance, delusion, inertia, sleep, laziness, carelessness
Characteristic signs of the guna predominating Light of knowledge, clear understanding and perception shines through the body Restlessness, greed, great attachment, uncontrollable desire, hankering, and intense endeavor Ignorance or absence of knowledge/darkness, inertness, negligence, delusion
Develops attachment to Knowledge and happiness Material actions and their fruits Carelessness, sleep, laziness/inaction
Fruit of actions Sattvika and Pure Pain/sorrow Ignorance
Gati/ progress Go upwards Dwell in the middle Go downwards
Next birth as per the guna predominant while death Spotless worlds of knowers of the highest principles Born among those attached to actions Born among beings involved in ignorance
Worship Sattvika ones worship Gods and divinity Rajasic ones worship Asuras/rakshas and yakshas (keepers of wealth)  Towards ghosts, elemental and grosser spirits



Satva  Rajas Tamas
Yajna (Sacrifice) Accordance with scriptures, with firm conviction and selfless For show and with material benefit in mind Not in alignment with the scriptures, Devoid of faith or anna dana or sacred chants and done in ignorance
Dana (Giving) Selfless, with a sense of duty,  and to worthy person at right time and place Done with a grudging attitude, aimed at getting something in return or expecting a reward Without grace, done at wrong place, time to an undeserving person
Gnana (Knowledge) When we see the undivided atman to be equally present in everything manifold living entities in diverse bodies and unconnected neither grounded in reason nor based on the truth and trivial
Karma (Action) Free from raga, dwesha and based on the scriptures and seeks no return done wit strain, pride and full of ego and for pleasure Ignorant, without considering loss to oneself or others and  injuring others
Karta (Doer)  Free from ahamkara and does with involvement and enthusiasm craves the fruits of the work, is covetous, violent-natured, impure, and moved by joy and sorrow. undisciplined, vulgar, stubborn, deceitful, slothful, despondent, and a procrastinator.
Buddhi (Intellect) Dharma -adharma viveka confused between righteousness and unrighteousness perceiving untruth to be the truth
Driti (Determination) Driti developed through Yoga and holds the mind and senses Holding duty, pleasures, and wealth out of attachment and desire for rewards one does not give up dreaming, fearing, grieving, despair, and conceit.


Satva  Rajas Tamas
Tapas (Austerity) of body, mind, speech  Selfless and done to please God; done with sattvika shraddha and without any material or personal benefit for oneself in mind To gain respect, honor and reverence; such practices are neither permanent nor stable foolishly by means of obstinant self-torture, or to destroy or injure others
Renunciation/ (tyaga) Performing one’s duty because it is to be done; gives up attachment to action or its fruits; neither aversion towards unpleasant work nor attached to pleasant work, have no doubts about work  Giving up prescribed duties because they bring sorrow or fear or cause trouble to the body; do not obtain the fruit of renunciation with such kind Giving up one’s prescribed duties by illusion
Karma phala (Fruits of action)* Desirable Sometimes desirable, sometimes undesirable Undesirable
Sukha (Happiness) which in the beginning may be like poison but like nectar in the end; born of satisfaction of higher mind and spirit  derived from contact of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at the end blind to self-realization, which is delusion from beginning to end and which arises from sleep, laziness and illusion
Food as liked by persons of temperament: increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such nourishing foods are sweet, juicy, fattening and palatable too bitter, too sour, salty, pungent, dry and hot, are liked by people in the modes of passion. Such foods cause pain, distress, and disease cold, impure, stale/rotten, tasteless, remains of food half-eaten by others


*for those who’ve not given up attachment to karma phala)