The Bhagavad Gita

The three component forms or “threads” that comprise all material things: sattva, rajas, and tamas. The physical world and the bodies that a soul inhabits over time are composed of the three gunas in various balances. The soul’s attachment to these gunas leads it to reincarnation in the material world, and transcending the body to join Krishna requires the soul to abandon all attachment to the gunas through the cycle of samsara, or the cycle of birth and death.

Gunas Quotes in The Bhagavad Gita

The The Bhagavad Gita quotes below are all either spoken by Gunas or refer to Gunas. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Bhagavad Gita published in 2008.
Discourse 5 Quotes

This master
creates neither agent
nor action
in this world,
nor the linking
of action with its fruit.
But his own nature
keeps on evolving.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 64-5
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Discourse 14 Quotes

Blameless One,
there sattva is
stainless
and brings light;
it binds by connection
to joy,
and by connection
to wisdom.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
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Gunas Term Timeline in The Bhagavad Gita

The timeline below shows where the term Gunas appears in The Bhagavad Gita. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Discourse 2
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Krishna explains that Arjuna must free himself from the three gunas, to which the Vedas belong, as well as becoming “free from opposites” and fully “self-possessed.”... (full context)
Discourse 3
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
...acting, nor can one find fulfillment through renunciation alone; everyone is constantly acting because the gunas in their nature compel them to. Some choose to sit and relinquish the senses, all... (full context)
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
...to action’s fruits. Wisdom leads people to delight in all actions, which follow from the gunas of nature and not the Self that appears to be “the doer.” By recognizing that... (full context)
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Arjuna asks why people can be compelled to do harm, and Krishna blames rajas, the guna of passion. Rajas conceals wisdom like smoke conceals fire or dust conceals a mirror. Like... (full context)
Discourse 4
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
...who first dedicate themselves to him through sacrifice.  He created the castes, meting out the gunas through his act of creation, although he is nevertheless “the Imperishable One / who does... (full context)
Discourse 7
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
...of all beings,” and beings’ desire to follow dharma. While Krishna is not in the gunas of sattva, rajas, and tamas, they are all in him, and they confuse those in... (full context)
Discourse 13
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
...everything, even though it is immaterial; it “bears all” without clinging and partakes of the gunas despite having none. It is inside and outside, far and near, too subtle for most... (full context)
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
...one with him. He tells Arjuna that matter and spirit have no beginning, and that gunas and transformation come from matter, as do cause and effect, whereas pleasure and pain are... (full context)
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
...a multiplicity of ways of being everywhere can move beyond death. The imperishable self lacks gunas, a beginning, or action; it is like space, everywhere yet unmarked by anything that occupies... (full context)
Discourse 14
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
The three gunas—sattva, rajas, and tamas—inhere in matter and bind the imperishable self to the body. Sattva brings... (full context)
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Each guna can prevail above the others, but sattva is clearly prevailing when one finds light and... (full context)
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
Arjuna asks what marks one who has transcended the gunas and how one goes about doing so. Krishna responds that one must relinquish hatred and... (full context)
Discourse 15
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
...branches burrow underground; its leaves are the Vedas’ sacred knowledge. The branches grow through the gunas, creating sensory objects, and from the roots grow human action. But the tree’s true form... (full context)
Discourse 17
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
...perform sacrifices with a trust in the gods. Krishna says that trust follows the three gunas, for “humans are made / of trust; / they grow to become / whatever they... (full context)
Discourse 18
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
...are also three factors: an agent, an act, and a means. These all follow the gunas: in sattvic action, one sees all beings as eternal and multiplicities as a whole; in... (full context)
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
There are also three varieties of insight and courage, corresponding to the gunas: sattvic insight understands what is and is not to be done and feared, rajasic action... (full context)
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
No being is free from the three gunas, regardless of caste, which reflects people’s inner nature—brahmins act from an inner purity, discipline, wisdom,... (full context)