Wednesday, June 8, 2011




trigunathmikaa maayaa” said Adi Sankara.

Maya is contained  in the three gunas, namely Sathva, Rajas, and Thamas.

Maya is inherent and intrinsic  in all the life around us and is behind  every thing happening in and around us in the Universe or Prakrithi.

Maya is virtually the master of our mind-body complex – and controls it through the three gunas. We are helpless victims  before Maya and float and sink in its tides.

The whole of Bhagavad Gita contains references to the three Gunas, the Maya and the Prakrithi at several places in several chapters.

Human beings, do possess the unique capacity and chance within us, to transcend the three Gunas, and become their master and thereby, become our own masters – if we stick to a well disciplined life.

Chapter 14, Guna thraya vibhaga Yoga – is  a brief summary of the nature of the three Gunas. But many other chapters of Gita give valuable information on their nature, functioning, effects, uses and so on.

Lord Krishna says  in verse.1 of Ch.14 that – I am now going to give you that knowledge, which is the best of all knowledge. Knowing this – all sages are instantly freed from all Sorrow – even in the most  disastrous catastrophes (Like Paralaya).

This knowledge of the three Gunas and their daily application in life – is capable of removing all sorrow from our life and can infuse great happiness into us.

This knowledge is both an “applied science” and also a “theoretical science”. If we learn it and keep it in theoretical plane – we merely know why we are suffering but we are not applying the science to remove our suffering.

But, if we bring it into practical application in our own life – we can remove our sorrows effortlessly and create infinite happiness in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.

Purusha (the divine) is the source of Prakrithi or universe. The universe or prakruthi then becomes the mother of all further creation. Prakrithi is the source of the three Gunas of Sathva, Rajas and Thamas and their totality is Prakrithi itself.

These three Gunas become the instruments, which together enslave the man. The Guna-filled Prakrithi creates the three gunas in us.

Every human being has all the 3 Gunas in some proportion. No one can have just one Guna and avoid the others. All three will co-exist in every one.

But, which Guna predominates, to what extent for most of an Individual’s life – decides his (or her) Nature.

The inner self in us is capable of realizing this, when it keeps its attention on the divine (Purusha) or on the self (Lord Krishna, in v.19) on one side and stays as a witness to the guna filled Prakrithi on the other side.

All the 3 Gunas pertain to the Body-Mind complex and do not touch the Inner soul at all. One who realizes this and stays in control of them – can also stay in perpetual joy.This is the key to the control of the three Gunas.

He can become liberated / released from the three Gunas at his core level – though in his day to day dealings with the world, he plays with the three Gunas as their master.

How to identify the person who has transcended the 3 Gunas.

The man who has transcended the 3 Gunas is indifferent between losses and gains of any kind. His happiness is not reduced by losses of mundane things. His mind is always enlightened by a rare wisdom and the usual lust, greed etc do not touch him. He neither loves them nor hates any one or any thing.

He remains mere witness to the coming and going of everything. He will sleep when needed but tamoguna does not become his master. He might do different types of work – but Rajo guna does not become  master. Worldly comfort, joy and knowledge may come to him – but Sathva Guna also does not become his master.

He takes comforts, pleasures, sorrows, mud, metals and gold with equal value.

He does not entertain likes and dislikes and get swayed by them. Nor does he get swayed by others praise or abuse, respect and disrespect, fame and humiliation, friends and enemies.

 He does not go madly after work. But, he does the work well, that comes to him naturally.

He also goes beyond Fear, anger etc. In this respect, we can remember Socrates – who drank poison, but remained totally unperturbed till death.

We talk a lot about Vedas and their sanctity. But, Lord Krishna, even while not disputing this, says –in  v.45.Sankhya yoga, that Vedas tell us of matters pertaining to the three Gunas – and you must go beyond them also, and become equal between the dualities of life.

The one who remains master of his five senses – will always remain in control of his life and attain all joys.(v.62 sankhya)

First the sense instruments work – because they are all outgoing by nature. Let us say – we see with the eyes. Then happens some liking / disliking of what is seen .Then, some bondage with it occurs in the mind. Then a desire for it or hate for it comes. Then anger if we do not get what we like. From anger comes lust, from lust comes loss of mind-or, thoughtfulness; loss of thoughtfulness destroys intellectual / decisional capabilities and with loss of intellect, every thing is lost. So, actually our likes and dislikes are our real enemies.

No one in the world can keep without doing anything at all in this world (v.5.Karmayoga).This is because of our basic nature, which does not allow us to keep without doing any thing.

So, 2 things are needed. 1. Total control over senses. (2) doing appropriate karma keeping senses under control (v.7.Karma).

What is appropriate Karma?

V.9.(karma yoga) explains – If actions are done with the mindset of Yagna, which means and includes all selfless, beneficial acts, such karma becomes a yagna and such karma does not bind you at all. We must remember that karma arises out of the three gunas – and the mind-body complex cannot escape karma. But, such karma, if done for selfless, beneficial purposes, the three gunas cannot bind us with the karma any more. The yagnas are classified as five types.(i)Those beneficial to the powers of nature or the gods – are called Deva yagnas. (ii) those beneficial to the ancient and current sages and saints are called Rishi Yagnas. (iii) those beneficial to our ancestors (dead and living) are called pitru yagnas (iv) those beneficial to all human beings are called manushya yagnas and (v) those beneficial to all other living beings are  called bhootha yagnas.

We must take what remains after the Pancha maha yagnas only. This must be our daily routine (v.13.Karma). Lord Krishna says – I am also doing Karma, though I have nothing more to gain in this universe (v.22.Karma).

All actions happening in the nature are because of the three Gunas – and the same nature, with the same three gunas is functioning in us as well, propelling us into various actions. The fool thinks that he is the DOER. He does not realize that he is propelled into action by the nature’s three Gunas.

But, those wise men, who realize the nature of the three gunas in them, which are propelling them into action – become capable of mastering them without becoming their prisoners (v.28.Karma).

But, those who do not so realize – become always slaves of the three gunas. It is not wise to tell them directly about this eternal truth about the three Gunas controlling them - and confuse them. They need to be slowly made to realize the truth in a very gradual way. (v.29 Karma).

Arjuna asks in  v.36 of Karmayoga : Why do people commit crimes? What is it that forcibly makes me commit bad acts, crimes etc?

This is the question – that every Individual should ask himself / herself? Why people kill? Why people steal? Why people rape? Why?

Some people are always involved in doing good, helpful, compassionate, beneficial deeds. Why is that? But, some other are involved in bad deeds – almost as if they cannot live without them, as if some thing in them is inducing them to do them. What is that force? That force is part of the three gunas.

Lord Krishna names Kama or desire as the first culprit. Next comes anger – (vs.17.Karma).

Other things follow like desire(Kama), anger(Krodha), greed(lobha), lust(moha), pride(madha), jealousy /enmity(mathsarya), fear (Bhay) etc –which are the internal enemies which propel us into crimes, and also, take away all of our happiness.

Lord Krishna says – Your wisdom and intelligence are enveloped by the twin forces of desire and anger and do not allow you to see the reality. For the fire of desire which is burning in you, however much you give to it as its food (aajyam), it will not be enough.(v.39.Karma)

Now – all acts start in 3 places in the body. Body itself has no doership in it. Our Acts start in the sense instruments – then go the mind (manas) and from there to the Buddhi. But Buddhi is not enveloped by these – it can protect us – by giving proper advice. (v.40). If Sense Instruments are kept under control – rest of body and mind are usually taken care of. But, if we let them lose – they will get into all problems with desire and anger (kama and Krodha) and envelop the mind and Buddhi both.(V.41).The sense instruments are so powerful in making us and in destroying us (v.42).

Devotion or Sraddha is needed to transcend the Gunas – With it, comes wisdom(Jnanam), and with wisdom(Jnanam) comes peace (v.39)(jnana karma sannyasa yoga).

While we will see the characteristics of the three gunas, one by one later – let us first understand a few basics.

All gunas bind the man in some way or other. In the same man also – some times Sathva guna may predominate, some times rajas and some times thamas.

None of the gunas are to be totally avoided. They have a purpose for every man, in some proportion.

In Sraddhathraya vibhaga yoga of Gita, discussion is carried forward on Gunathraya by Lord Krishna. He says, those with sathva Guna will worship the God, while those with Rajas will worship Yakshas and Rakshasas, while those with thamas will worship prethas and Bhoothas. This is not to be taken literally – but with its deeper meaning that God stands for peace and calm; Yakshas and Rakshasas stand for selfish action; while prethas and bhoothas stand for cruelty, fear and laziness. These are the characteristics actually worshipped by the people with the three Gunas.

Food also is of sathva, rajas and Thamas types.

Yajna, tapas and daanam are also according to the 3 Gunas. So all life-acts are performed in accordance with the internal-dominance of the 3 Gunas on us.

Cntd…in next Post.

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