Satva Rajas and Tamas from the Bhagavad Gita

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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)