The Gunas

The three gunas are found in every aspect and dimension of the universe – from the elements to the different forms of life, to the foods we eat and the nature of the gods of the Hindu Trinity, the trimurthi of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The gunas also extend to the planets of Vedic Astrology.

gun Hin. guna San. m. ‘strand’ – an attribute, quality, property, constituent, aspect; a good quality, virtue; merit; excellence; talent.

According to Hindū philosophy, at the dawn of creation, the primordial nature (prakriti) differentiates itself into the three fundamental states or qualities of energy. The gunas are responsible for all differentiation and specialisation in nature (prakriti); everything in the manifested world is a combination or recombination of these three gunas.

Rajoguna (rajas, rajasic) is the activating aspect of the manifestation that allows the other constituents to manifest their inherent qualities; it is expressed as desire, ambition, attachment, pride and envy.

Tamoguna (tamas, tamasic) is of the nature of inertia; it manifests as ignorance, darkness, lack of ambition and interest, restraint and concealement.

Sattvoguna (sattwas, sattvic) is the equilibrium of the two, the illuminating quality of light – love, faith, purity and goodness. Inertia (tamas) and restlessness (rajas) inhibit the expression of clarity and harmony (sattva).

rajas, rajoguna San. m. the activating quality (guna) of nature that allows the other two constituents to manifest themselves, and therefore this quality is associated with the creator, Brahmā. It covers desire and ambition, attachment, passion, righteous indignation, pride, anger and envy. Something that is filled with rajas, rajoguna, is called rajasic.

Brahma – the creator (in charge of raja-guna – the quality of passion).

Brahma, the creator, is said to be in charge of raja-guna as the action of creation is rajasic: it is filled with action multiplying action, it is activity filled with fire (which is rajasic) and human life multiplies though passionate activity. Direct worship of Brahma is rare, and in India there is only one major temple dedicated to him in Pushkar, Rajasthan. Some consider him to be worshipped indirectly through the chanting of the Gayatri mantra, since Gayatri is one of his consorts.

sattva Hin. m. sattva San. n. sattvoguna (sattva+guna) San. m. one of the three constituents (guna) of nature (prakriti) – the quality of light, the illuminating aspect that reveals all manifestation. It is expressed as harmony, equilibrium, purity, goodness, virtue, honesty, nobility, forgiveness, compassion, charity, wisdom, happiness. This quality is associated with Vishnu.

Vishnu – the maintainer (in charge of sattva-guna – the quality of goodness).

Vishnu – also known as Mahavishnu – is the second deity of the Hindu Trinity. He represents sattva-guna and is the centripetal force as it were, responsible for sustenance, protection and maintenance of the created universe. Etymologically speaking, the word ‘Vishnu” means ‘one who pervades, one who has entered into everything’, so he is the transcendent as well as the immanent reality of the universe. The sattva-guna makes for light and lightness, goodness and purity, knowledge and wisdom. It can be likened to the centripetal force.

tamas, tamoguna Hin., San. m. the quality of darkness, gloom and inertia – sleep, passivity, idleness, dullness, stubbornness, confusion, delusion, lack of discrimination, the inability to distinguish between right and wrong or falsehood and truth, having little interest or ambition; lust, fear, greed. Tamas is born of ignorance, yet darkness is not necessarily ignorance – it may yet be the darkness that exposes the light. This quality is associated with Shiva.

Shiva – the destroyer (in charge of tama-guna – the quality of ignorance).

Tamoguna – which is the antithesis of sattva-guna, is responsible for all that is dark and heavy, evil and impure, ignorant and deluded.

Shiva is the last deity of the Hindu Trinity. He is responsible for the dissolution of the universe. He is the embodiment of tamas, the centrifugal inertia, the tendency towards dispersion and annihilation. Literally, Shiva is the one in whom the universe ‘sleeps’ after destruction and before the next cycle of creation.


In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells,

“Arjuna, all of nature consists of three characteristics called gunas. The first is goodness (sattva), the second is passionate activity (rajas), the third is darkness, indolence, inertia (tamas). All these come from nature, which is My lower nature. I put on the appearance of this natural world but am separate from it. These three qualities of nature are contained within Me, Divinity, but I am not in them in the sense that I need to rely on them in any way. I do not rely on nature, it relies on Me. (BG 7:12)

So we understand from Lord Krishna that all of nature – all of creation, all that exists – is a mixture of these three characteristics called gunas. This includes the planets. Among the planets,

  • The Sun is Sattvic
  • The Moon is Sattvic
  • Jupiter is Sattvic
  • Venus is Rajasic
  • Mercury is Rajasic (Mercury, however, may have any of the three gunas as Mercury takes the nature of the planet it is conjunct)
  • Mars is Tamasic
  • Saturn is Tamasic
  • Rahu is Tamasic
  • Ketu is Tamasic

The outer planets are not full luminaries (not visible to the eye) and hence, do not feature in the guna classification. There are those wise authorities that say the outer planets are known by their effects. We understand that certain effects can be assigned to Uranus, Neptune and Pluto – standard attributions – Uranus as creative and potentially chaotic, Neptune as inspirational but potentially delusional, and Pluto as darkly transformative ring true. Vedic Astrology assigns deities to planets, and according to the ancient palm leaf called Vasistha Nadi, the names of the grahas or planets (yet to be discovered) would be Prajapati (Uranus), Varuna (Neptune), and Yama (Pluto). There are no known guna classifications for these planets.


while gunas are allocated to some planets, the outer planets are not known to give any guna effects





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