Chapter XIV: The three gunas

SATTVA is purity. Sattva is light. Sattva is wisdom. Happiness and Sattva stay together. Harmony and Sattva breathe together. The senses in Sattva are surcharged with the light of knowledge. If one leaves the body when Sattva prevails, then to the pure abode of the Sages he goes.

RAJAS is passion. Rajas is desire. Rajas is unlit activity. Rajas binds the body to action. Rajas stays either with stark dynamism or with blind aggression. Restlessness and Rajas breathe together. To separate toil from Rajas is practically impossible. Rajas is another name for passionate movement. If one dies when Rajas prevails, then he is reborn among those attached to action.

TAMAS is slumber. Tamas is darkness. Tamas is ignorance. Stagnation and Tamas stay together. Futility and Tamas breathe together. Impossible for Tamas to be separated from naked pangs. Tamas is another name for slow death. Death in Tamas is followed by rebirth among the senseless fools.

Sattva-tree bears the fruit called harmony.
Rajas-tree bears the fruit called pain.
Tamas-tree bears the fruit called ignorance.

Sattva offers to the world at large luminous knowledge; Rajas, passionate greed; Tamas, rank delusion. He whose life is flooded with Sattva looks up into the skies. Hence he goes to higher spheres. He whose life is fired with Rajas looks haughtily around the world. Hence here he dwells. Blind is he whose life is covered with tenebrous Tamas. Stone blind is he. Hence down he sinks.

The Lord says that he who understands the origin of action in these three-fold qualities of Prakriti, and at the same time understands Purusha, who is beyond the qualities, comes to Him and enters into His Nature. And finally, when he goes beyond the length and breadth of these three qualities, Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, he drinks deep the Nectar of Immortality.

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.

— John Wesley

This precisely is expected of a Sattvic man. Now you may ask, how is it that he too has to transcend his nature? Is he not unique in his service to mankind? He may be unique in his large human family, but perfect freedom he has yet to achieve. Silently, secretly and, alas, at times even unconsciously the poor Sattvic man is attached to the fruits of his generous service, to the effects of his sublime knowledge. So with a view to achieving absolute freedom and perfect perfection a Sattvic man has to transform and transcend his nature.

After having transcended the three Gunas one has to make a choice, whether one wants to remain in the Transcendent, far above the field of manifestation, or one wants to serve the Eternal Breath of the Infinite in humanity and inspire humanity to the Realisation of the Supreme Bliss, Peace and Power.

Not one, not two, but three significant questions Arjuna asks. What are the marks of him who has transcended the three qualities? How does he behave? How does he go beyond the three qualities?

Krishna’s answers are:

The Yogi who has transcended the three qualities in his own life will neither hate nor crave for the fruits of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Within and without he is flooded with his soul’s equanimity. He is absolutely independent. He has realised the absolute independence of his divinity within. Something more: he serves God with his sterling devotion. He does it soulfully. He serves mankind with all his love. He does it unconditionally. He sees God and God alone in all human souls. Such a Yogi ultimately becomes without fail the Self Supreme.