Bhagavad Gita – The Three Natures

Vol 2 Chapter XVIII Verse 37-39

(37) That which is born of the clear perceptive discrimination of Self-realization- that happiness is called static. It seems like poison at first, but like nectar afterwards.

(38) That happiness which springs from the conjunction of the senses and matter is termed rajasic. It seems like nectar in the beginning and like poison in the end.

(39) That elusive happiness which originates and ends in self delusion, stemming from over-sleep, slothful ness, and miss comprehension, is called tamasic.

I’ve always been curious about these three gunas of nature. I marvelled at how external factors, thoughts and diet can affect these three modes of operations. Before we go into these verses I think it is important to understand what is the three gunas. The three gunas, meaning Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are the three modes of operations  in the basic nature of intelligence by which the universe exist and functions.

Sattva- encompasses qualities of goodness, light, and harmony. Foods that increase Sattvic qualities are vegetables that are grown above ground, non processed fresh fruits.

Rajas – associates with concepts of energy, activity, ambition, and passion;. Foods that is salty, dry, sour, spicy and bitter.

Tamas-commonly associates with inertia, darkness, insensitivity. Foods include meat, processed food, chemically refined or processed food.

While the three gunas are present in every human being, we are also given the techniques to reduce or increase any one of them and our nature tendencies will sway towards the one that is increased.

From verse 38, it is clear that happiness tat stems from Rajasic nature is sweet like nectar in the beginning and poison in the end. This can be understood further with the tendencies/ nature of Rajas.

Rajas are associated with passion, energy, action, change and movement and it creates attachment to the end result. To begin with, if we are attached to the end result, we would have done everything conditionally. The joy that is derived is also short term as our actions are bind to our material mind and the material mind consist of greed which is never contented. As we grew less contented with the sensory joy that we derived from our passion, activity, ambition, we would strive to keep going and achieve that endless satisfaction. This causes misery which is poison in the end.

From verse 39, Tamasic form of happiness are elusive. To me, this means there is no form of happiness at all. As this “happiness” that is deemed to be is hard to grasp, might be an illusion of the tamas due to their ignorance. When the intelligence of man is deluded by innate bad karma or bad company, the choice of evil happiness occurs. This is a detrimental state. The Tamas world is dark, grey and with his constant oversleeping, idleness and aimlessness,  he/she has neither sensitivity to the surroundings nor the capability to change as there is no capability to differentiate. This is like as if the intelligence has been totally made gone and the individual is entrapped in a world of their own. The happiness or satisfaction they derived is that of their degraded state.


This brings me to recall the acquaintances I had during my teenage years. Replaying the scene of my classmate who stray to the bad company and what she has become today was a living proof of transition and this quality. With the ending of her first relationship, she dwelt in self pity and degrading. The bad company of friends whom she turned to didn’t help as they encouraged drinking, smoking, drug abuse and many other habits that followed. Her daily activity then was sleeping all day, awaken only to find more drugs, borrowing money to satisfy her cravings so she could hallucinate and sleep yet even more. Eventually she got caught. When she was released after a good 8 years, she braced herself to find a job and start life anew. But it seems this tamasic tendencies never did left her as she got into gambling and drugs. Yet she felt nothing wrong. When I observed her, I feel that she is in this state because she has driven herself to utmost inferiority and in this form of degrading, she was able to feel that she belonged somewhere.

Sattvic, is henceforth the path that we should all head to. Sattvic nature deals with harmony and peace and seeks spiritual truth then dwelling on the earthly measures. It is like poison in the beginning because the initial step of releasing our attachment to material mind and ego is the toughest. But this form of joy is unending. The Yoga practitioner and aspirant with constant practice and observing the eight limbs of yoga promote more Sattvic qualities while reducing Rajasic and tamasic.

However, Sattvic qualities are pursued so that eventually the aspirant should transcend from the three modes of operation of universe into liberation.