Indian Triguna Personality An Indian Lens on Personality

PsychologyPersonality Psychology

You must have heard the word personality very often. As explained by modern psychology, the concept of personality is based on western principles. There are various other explanations of the construct, and many psychologists now focus on understanding the concept from a different lens. Have you ever wondered if the ancient Indian text could provide insight into personality? This article aims to elaborate upon the Indian perspective of personality using the 'Triguna' principle.

Indian Perspective on Personality

Indian perspective on personality is heavily drawn from the Samkhya philosophy. It is a dualistic school of Indian philosophy that views Purusha (also known as "consciousness" or "spirit") and Prakriti (meaning cognition, mind, and emotions) as the two independent ultimate elements that make up reality and human experience. Indian thought also considers personality as a relatively stable construct that individuals have. It states that each individual has unique and distinct characteristics, called 'Svabhava.' This is what distinguishes people from one another. Further, it states that everything in this universe, whether physiological or psychological, arises from the Prakriti and the Purusha, or consciousness is the inner core of the personality.

Prakriti is formed by three components of 'Gunas,' namely Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. These three components work together and mutually interact. Sattva signifies light and enlightenment, and Rajas denote energy and movement, while Tamas stands for darkness and inertia.

The degree of predominance of one Guna determines the individual's personality type. Based on the above understanding, personalities are categorized into three types: sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. Here is a detailed explanation of the three Gunas.

  • Sattva guna − This element has characteristics of joy, light, exuberance, liveliness, or illumination. When this Guna is in operation, we experience pleasure in its various forms, such as contentment, bliss, joy, happiness, etc. It is a spiritual quality and leads to a steady and calm mind, a caring tendency, and a desire to be good. It promotes a non-egoistic and unaffected by success or failure state of mind. This Guna makes one free from attachment.
  • Rajas guna − This is an element of movement. Always in motion, it also causes other things to move. It has an activity quality, is mobile, and is exciting. It facilitates the action and mobility of the sattva and tamas components, which are passive and immobile. It leads to greed for material elements and attachment and binds individuals to material interests. It leads to joy in success and sorrow in failure, which leads to goal-oriented behavior and a bold and authoritative mindset.
  • Tamas guna − This is material quality. The tamas principle governs objects' lethargy and negativity. It causes sleep, laziness, and sloth by impeding the principle of action in us. Additionally, it results in apathy or disinterest. Thus, sattva, rajas, and tamas have been compared to whiteness, redness, and darkness. This leads to a narrow and limited worldview and vision. Leads to no self-control. Creates disputes and conflicts.
  • R-T
  • SRT
  • S-T
  • R-S

What is the Relationship Between Triguna and Personality?

These three Gunas are mentioned in Bhagwatgeeta (An ancient spiritual text) and Atharvaveda. The dominance of these Gunas at any point determines the attitude with which the human mind functions. Additionally, they determine the intellectual and mental potential of every individual. These Gunas work together in cooperation and are in conflict at times which are inseparable from one another and constantly go together. No one can produce anything without the assistance of the other two. The dominant Guna determines the nature of things, with the other Gunas in a supporting role. The existence of good, bad, or neutral/indifference or pure, impure, etc., is all determined by the predominant Guna. The personality and the characteristics associated with a particular Guna or combination of Gunas are undoubtedly influenced by the proportion of each Guna, which may rise or fall at any time. Here is a table to understand how the manifestations of these guns at any point may reflect in personalities.

Sattava Guna Rajas Guna Tamas Guna
  • Desire to be good and caring
  • Individual is wise
  • Indifferent to desires, success, failures.
  • Belief in duty and work
  • Action is performed with a calm mind
  • Mind is motivated to be in spiritual state.
  • A desire for material things driven by passion
  • This makes a person attached to earthly things such as wealth.
  • Some qualities of a rajas dominated personality includes enthusiasm, strength, greed, etc
  • This Guna leads to a personality that is full of hopes and illusions.
  • It can make people revengeful.
  • When this guna predominates, individual may become selfish, and disillusioned. However, it also helps people to work hard to achieve their goals.

In Ayurveda, it is believed that these three Gunas are vital energies of the mind. At any point, the dominance of any combination of these gunas determines the personality. Various foods can help in balancing these gunas as per the Ayurveda.


Many studies are taking place to view the concept of personality from an Indian lens. There are various similarities and differences between the modern psychological thought process and the Indian philosophical viewpoint of personality. Indian school of thought talks about concepts like consciousness (Purusha) and the nature of matter (Prakriti). It further builds the concept of personality on Prakriti's existence and dominance of strands or components (Gunas). These guns offer a detailed description of various attributes of human personality. At any point, the dominance of these three Gunas or their combination determines human personality.

Updated on 13-Oct-2022 11:19:47