Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14 – The Gunas of Nature

 

The Gita has continually addressed the subject of Action. This chapter is an expansion on Action, revealing its subtler components, called gunas.

The nature of Nature is to move. There are three characteristics of Nature’s movements, three ways that Nature moves, called gunas.  

In Sanskrit literature one often finds things described in twos or threes. Twos tend to be used to present the extremes of opposites. Threes tend to be used to suggest a middle between opposites. An example of twos might be good and evil, like and dislike, or attraction and aversion. Threes might be beginning, middle and end; gross, subtle and subtlest; good, better and best; or slow, easy-moving and rapid. These last three are one way to describe the gunas, or modes, of Nature. 

Hurry-up Rajas
Hurry-up Rajas
  • Still – tamas, slow, dark, unenlightened
  • Easy-movingsattva, easy-going, sunny, pleasant
  • Rapid rajas, fast, passionate, intense

Nature seems like something separate from us, but this is not so. Nature is all of Us, as seen by all of Us. It is a manifestation of Divine Individuals seeing other Divine Individuals as different than themselves — not the same. But as Divine Individuals, we are all the same. This discrepancy is the root cause of Creation.

Look out your window. What do you see?

What you are looking at is Divine Individuals who do not see Others as the same as themselves. They do not see what others, or themselves, really are — absolute, perfect, happy, sovereign, imperishable, individual entities. Instead, they see others as different than themselves. Nature is that difference manifested. 

Now what if you became enlightened as to the Truth of this Creation that you behold with your eyes? Would the trees go away? the people? the roads? the houses? No, because everyone else is still in the dark. You will continue to experience life as a human being, while knowing what all this world really is.

Gloomy Tamas
Gloomy Tamas

The three gunas are the three ways Nature moves to varying degrees, and in different combinations. Like weather fronts that cause various kinds of actions in subtle and gross matter when they interact, the gunas cause various kinds of actions in the world and in people. All action occurs in Nature; the three ways Nature moves are called gunas. For instance, when a cold front meets a warm front there will be rain. In the same way, the interaction of the gunas produce certain effects in beings. This is the subject of this chapter. 

The gunas are all about action, but the Real You is not involved in action. It is the varying degrees of predominance of the gunas that cause all action, not You. This chapter gives examples of how the gunas keep us enslaved, influence us and our states of being, and how all this affects our life, death and afterlife.

Lastly, we are shown how to rise above the gunas. The state in which one surpasses the gunas can only arise when the individual is not in the role of doership — when there is no sense of action as one’s own doing. This takes place over time through complete surrender of oneself to Absolute God in meditation.

Sunny Sattva
Sunny Sattva

It is not possible to reach this state any way other than through this surrender, regardless of your path. If you have surrendered yourself to God, during that time, you are obviously not the one doing anything. 

Short of this surrender, there is no escaping the gunas for human beings. The best we can do is to aspire to become more sattvik overall, for sattva is the guna closest to what we really are as Divine Individuals, from a human point of view.

There is, however, a state called trigunatita (‘three-gunas-gone beyond’) in which one is not in a state characterized by any of the gunas; one’s state is Real rather than phenomenal. Attaining this state, we are freed from the bondage and influence of the gunas and can finally reach the Highest Goal of our journey: Home, freedom and the eternal happiness of Divine Union.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com

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“Every step you take pulls every one of us with you.”

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5 thoughts on “Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14 – The Gunas of Nature

  1. Thank you Durga Ma for such a clear and concise account of the gunas, what they are and how they manifest our world… David and I were out for a walk this weekend and discussing this very thing and the creation story.

    I do have a question about trigunatita, because I believe you do and I have witnessed you in this state. Is it something that you can enter into at will? Or would it surmise that at the point of being able to attain trigunatita you wouldn’t be inclined to exercise your will in that way? I’m just soooo curious?!?

    Love,
    Anandi

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Is the will not involved because the mind is absorbed into the Absolute? Then the gunas would have been gone beyond, right?

        I’m trying to gain clarity around the sequence of events… because I was understanding that as long as there is a body, there is a mind. Wouldn’t that be enough to still constitute having a will? Or is it a choice as a result of the extended years of being in true surrender.

        Does that make sense?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The mind may be there, but it can stop, or one can ignore it (once you learn to know what it’s up to).

          The will is choosing to choose. Surrender is choosing not to choose, which is where I like to spend my time.

          Liked by 1 person

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