This Chapter explains why the same Spirit when expressed through matter manifests itself in different ways. Although the same water is poured in different bottles, it will look different not because of the water but because of the color of the glass out of which the bottles were made. Similarly, the one Eternal Principle expresses itself differently in various matter equipments as different individuals even though the elements constituting matter are the same. This is due to Gunas born of Prakriti.
Gunas indicate not the properties of a material but the attitude with which the mind functions. These attitudes are three in number viz. Sattva - Unactivity, Rajas - Activity and Tamas - Inactivity. These three qualities influence the mind and intellect of every individual in different proportions at different times. Although all these three Gunas are always present in everybody their proportions differ from individual to individual. It is these diversities that differentiate one person from the other in character, conduct and behavior etc.
The three Gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas – together constitute every human being. Sattva is stainless, pure and brilliant. When this predominates over the other two Gunas, a person’s wisdom shines in his expression. Rajas is of the nature of passion which creates a craving for what you do not have and attachment to what you possess. When this Guna dominates over the other two, the person develops greed, becomes involved in endless activity and suffers from mental unrest. Tamas arises out of ignorance which manifests as delusion, inertia and heedlessness. Sattva binds people through attachment to knowledge, and happiness. Rajas binds through attachment to action. Tamas binds through heedlessness, indolence and sleep.
This Chapter helps us to find out for ourselves the powerful tendencies that rule our minds (influences of Gunas) and take remedial measures wherever called for. A seeker who recognizes the influences under which he is forced to function at different times can take timely steps to arrest the wrong impulses, unethical urges and animal tendencies in order to keep himself fully under self-control and equanimous in all situations in life. The discussion is concluded with a description of the person who has risen above the Gunas and realized God. As this Chapter is entirely dealing with the nature and working of the Gunas as also the methods to give up all connections with them, it is entitled as “Yoga of the Division of the three Gunas”.
In the previous Chapter the Lord stated that the attachment to the three Gunas alone was responsible for one’s repeated birth in good and evil wombs (13.22). This statement will raise questions about diverse characteristics of the Gunas, how they bind the Jivatma to the body, the result of such attachment, the means of ridding oneself of the three Gunas and the marks and conduct of the soul who has given up such attachments. Krishna personifying Brahman elucidates all these points. The Chapter concludes with a detailed exposition on the most important philosophic concept of the embodied transcending the Gunas and becoming Brahman.
Bhagawan Sri Krishna assures that a seeker can reach that exalted state through unswerving yoga of devotion to Him, thereby crossing the Gunas and reaching the Abode of the immortal, immutable Brahman. This is the state of eternal righteousness, absolute bliss.