Bhagavad Gita- Chapter 14 Gunatraya Vibhaaga Yogah- Yoga of the Division of the three Gunas


Sattvam  rajastama iti Gunaah prakritisambhavaah
    nibadhnanti  mahaabaaho dehe dehinamavyayam // 14.5 //

The three modes (Gunas) purity, passion and dullness  born of nature (Prakriti) bind fast in the body, O Mighty-Armed, the  imperishable dweller in the body (the embodied soul).

The main theme of the Chapter starts now wherein Sri  Krishna explains what the Gunas are and how they bind the Spirit within matter  to create individualized Ego sense in us.   Sattva has the characteristic of effulgence. It is harmony, goodness or  purity. Rajas is passion or activity. Tamas is inertia or dullness. These three  qualities indicate the triple mentality which produces attachment in the  individual Self, delude It and bind It down to the worldly life.

Just as childhood, youth and old age are found in the  same body these three Gunas are found in the same mind. The individual Self  gets identified with the body and the three qualities and thereby it feels the  changes in the body as Its own changes.   It becomes subject to sorrows and joys of the body till it realizes its  identity with the Supreme Self. This delusion is on account of the influence of  the Gunas. When the soul identifies itself with the modes of nature, it forgets  its own reality and uses the mind, life and body for the egoistic satisfaction.

Gunas are not merely qualities but they are the  primary constituents of nature. They are the base for all substances. They are  the three different influences under which every human mind expresses itself in  a variety of ways at different moments of changing environments.

If water in a vessel is stirred, the sun reflected in  that water also appears to be agitated. So too, the pure Supreme Self appears  to be bound by the three qualities of Nature through superimposition. In  reality the Self is ever free and untainted and beyond them.

The Gunas depend for their existence on the Knower of  the Field whom they bind very fast. The knowledge of Gunas is therefore  necessary to come out of their clutches. These three Gunas are always present  in all human beings and none is free from them. However, they are not always constant;  every time any one of them will be predominant.

One should analyze all phenomena in terms of these  three modes of nature and know their characteristics. One should stand as a  witness of these qualities but must not identify with them. Rising above these Gunas  one should become Gunatita and attain supreme peace, immortality and eternal  bliss.


tatra Sattvam  nirmalatwaat prakaashakam anaamayam
    sukhasangena  badhnaati jnaanasangena chaanagha // 14.6 //

Of these, Sattva, the luminous, free from evil and  because of its unblemishness, binds, O Sinless One, by attachment to happiness  and by attachment to knowledge.

Gunas cannot be defined directly without explaining  their symptoms and processes. In the following verses a description of the mind  under the influence of each of the three Gunas is given by describing the type  of emotions, thoughts and behavior that emanate from the mind-intellect  equipment.

Luminous, free from evil and unblemished:

Under the influence of Sattva, it being pure and hence  luminous and without any blemish, the mind is steady and will constantly  reflect on the Self. Though Sattva is thus the most Divine mental attitude,  still it binds us and limits our spiritual nature.

It binds us by attachment to happiness and knowledge:

When the mind is cleansed from all its agitations and  evil thoughts the seeker achieves greater inward peace, happiness, better  understanding and intellectual comprehension.

Sattva does not rid us of the ego-sense. It also  causes desire though for noble objects. The Self which is free from all  attachments is here attached to happiness and knowledge. Happiness and  knowledge are attributes of mind, which is form of matter. They belong to the  category of the object and pertain to the kshetra.  The Self which is of the nature of freedom and totally unattached, becomes  bound by identification with matter. This is how sattva binds a soul to the  world.

rajo raagaatmakam  viddhi trishnaasangasamudbhavam
    tannibadhnaati  kaunteya karmasangena dehinam  // 14.7 //

Know Rajas to be of the nature of passion, giving rise  to thirst and attachment; it binds fast, O Kaunteya, the embodied one by  attachment to action.

Now the characteristics of Rajas are described. When  the influences of Rajo Guna predominate, the mind gets full of passions.  Passion denotes urges, desires, emotions and feelings. These fall under two  categories viz. desires and attachments which are said to be the very sources  of passion.

Passion gives rise to thirst and attachment: Thirst  means insatiable desire. A human personality longs for the satisfaction of any  desire that grows in him. Satisfaction of one kind of desire leads to  attachment to the object desired. Desire is the mental relationship towards the  objects that have not been possessed and attachment is the mental dependence on  the objects so acquired.

Bind by attachment to action: When the Rajas predominates  innumerable desires originate for things not acquired and deepest attachment  sets in for things already possessed.

To fulfill the demands made by these two, one should  necessarily undertake endless actions earning, spending, saving, procuring, protecting  and thirsting for more all the time. Goaded by anxiety to possess more and to  prevent from losing what he already has he has to act in many spheres. Thus he  enters into a whirlpool of successes and failures arising out of his own  actions.

Actions emanate from passions and passions arise out  of desires and attachments all of which are the symptoms of the predominance of  Rajo Guna on the mind. If Sattva Guna binds one with anxieties for happiness  and peace, wisdom and knowledge, Rajo Guna binds him to inexhaustible actions.  Thus though the Self is not acting, Rajas makes him act with the idea that `I  am the doer'.

tamastwajnaanajam  viddhi mohanam sarvadehinaam
    pramaadaalasyanidraabhis  tannibadhnaati bhaarata // 14.8 //

And know Tamas to be born of ignorance, deluding all  embodied beings, it binds fast, O Bharata, by mis-comprehension, indolence and  sleep.

Now the discussion is about Tamas.               
  Born out of ignorance:  Under the influence of Tamo Guna a man's  discriminatory capacity gets blunted and he gets deluded. The Lord says that  Tamas in a human personality binds us to a lower nature with endless  mis-comprehensions about the goal of life. In such a stupefied state one lives  in indolence heedless of the higher purposes in life. Such a person practically  lives in sleep; he has neither any goal in life nor any nobility in action.

So far the symptoms observable in the mind when it is  influenced by these three Gunas have been described. They not only bring about  different degrees of responses in an individual but also bind the Eternal Self  to feel and act as if It were limited and conditioned by the matter  envelopments.

Sattvam  sukhe sanjayati rajah karmani bhaarata
    jnaanamaavritya tu tamah pramaade sanjayatyuta // 14.9 //

Sattva attaches to happiness and Rajas to action, O  Bharata, while Tamas, verily, shrouding knowledge attaches to  mis-comprehension.

The ideas of previous 3 verses are summarized and  repeated here. Sattva makes us attached to the inward happiness arising from  life fully lived. Rajas makes one passionate, thirsty of desires and deep  attachments in fulfilling of which one perforce has to undertake endless  actions. Tamas conceals right judgment and knowledge of the Self in us. It  results in indiscrimination and creates attachment to wrong comprehensions.

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