Life and Death and Neither, Bhagavad Gita, Ch 14, Vs 14-20

Leaving the Body at Death

How the Gunas of Nature Influence What Happens at Death

What we do in this life not only determines our state of being while living, but also the prevalent guna at death, as well as where we will go after death, and what circumstances we will encounter in the next life.

Death and Rebirth

14 – 15 
When sattva prevails at death, the embodied one (You) reaches the shining world of the Highest Knowers. Meeting death in rajas one is born among those attached to action. Those who die with tamas prevailing are born adrift. 

At Death

16 – 18
It is said that the result of righteous action is sattvic and without sin, but the result of rajasic action is misfortune, and the result of tamasic action is ignorance. From sattva knowledge arises, from rajas, desire, and from tamas, ignorance. Those situated in sattva at death attain the higher realms, those abiding in rajas stay in the middle, and those abiding in tamas go to the lower planes.

Sattva.  Action that is sattvic is righteous action and without error. Such action produces correct knowledge. Sattvic action is meritorious action, so those situated in sattva at death attain the higher realms and are born among the Highest Knowers.

Rajas.  Action that is rajasic results in misery and produces desires, thereby promoting more rajasic action and more misery. Those situated in rajas at death stay in the middle and are born among those attached to fruit-bearing action.

Tamas:  Action that is tamasic is heavy and dark and provides no motivation to overcome ignorance, thus keeping one weighted down by illusion and delusion. Those situated in tamas at death go to the lower planes and are reborn adrift (off course).

Life After DeathYour predominant guna state while living has everything to do with how things will turn out when you die, and will also influence your next life. The guna state predominant while living is likely to be the guna state at death. One’s next life then, is linked to the guṇa that predominated the personality and actions of a person in his life.

The Great Escape

19
When one sees that all actions are nothing more than the gunas, and knows Me as beyond these gunas, he attains My state. 

In the state called trigunatita (‘beyond the three gunas’), which is arrived at by the realization that all actions are really just the gunas interacting, one transends the gunas and attains the same state as Lord Krishna.

Nature is always active, moving and changing due to the interactions of the gunas. They are the cause of all action. No ’embodied one’, no Divine Individual, ever does anything. Realizing this is the highest enlightenment. This is what the Highest Knowers know with complete certainty. It is Lord Krishna’s state, which we seek to attain.  

Immortality

20
When the embodied one transcends the three gunas of the body, he attains immortality and is released from birth, death, old age and misery.

Note that the gunas are “of the body,” reminding us once again that the journey to our natural state of eternal happiness is not some etheric notion, but includes the body.

Life After Death

Alternate translation:
Getting beyond the influence of the three gunas of the body, amrita, the nectar of immortality, is ingested by the body, and one becomes immortal and free of birth, death, old age and misery. 

There has been speculation on when exactly the transition from a mortal body to an immortal form takes place: before, during, or after the death of the physical body. Appearing where it does among verses on what happens at death, this transition appears to take place at or after the death of the body.

It is not that once one gets to the point of ‘tasting the nectar of immortality (amrita)’ that old age and misery go away. But once the embodied one leaves the body at death, this transition will take place and he will never again experience death, old age or misery … because he is freed from rebirth. He is liberated, free, no longer in bondage.

I have encountered people who have known yogis to have made this transition in the middle of the road, so to speak, and from this, they have come to the conclusion that this transition is made while living. However, these appearances, sometimes called ascensions, were made by individuals who had already achieved Divine Form, and the observers were unaware of this. This state is sometimes referred to as “Divine Body”.

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

Surrender Meditation

Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga
Spontaneous Experiential Meditation

Slip into a natural state of meditation with ease. Experience the relief of effortlessly reaching a true meditative state without using your will.

Receive shaktipat and become initiated into the original meditation of ancient masters from which meditation techniques were derived.

Increase your knowledge base and begin Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga: Surrender Meditation. Though correct knowledge you will increase your progress by a thousand times, and bring about even deeper meditation and amazing experiences.

Shaktipat Intensives with Durga Ma are held in Phoenix, Arizona


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

The Whole World Is One Family

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Influences, Bhagavad Gita, Ch 14, Vs 10-13

Rajas, intense. Sattva, peaceful. Tamas, deluded.
From left to right: Rajas, avid. Sattva, peaceful. Tamas, confused.

10
Sometimes sattva prevails over rajas and tamas. Sometimes rajas prevails over sattva and tamas, and sometimes tamas prevails over sattva and rajas.

  • sattva – pleasant (easy and happy)
  • rajas – stimulating (desire and passion)
  • tamas – ignorant (not enlightened)

This verse is demonstrating the influence of one guna predominating over the others. Even though the other gunas are present, their influence is overshadowed by the predominant guna.

11
When through all the gates of the body illuminating knowledge becomes evident, know for certain that sattva is predominant.

The gates of the body refers to the five senses. The sense organs are considered to be gates, or doors, of the physical body. Their job is to perceive things so that you can be conscious of them.

The Five SenssThe Attention goes out through the sense organs (gates, doors) to perceive things in the environment, and the Life Energy (prana) follows as it goes. The Attention then brings back to the mind, what has been perceived.

Your senses can bring in anything from soup to nuts, but when it brings you illuminating knowledge, this is because your state is one in which sattva is predominant over the other gunas. 

“Illuminating knowledge becomes evident (manifest).” This suggests that it is possible to know things that are not illuminating or correct. In fact, this is most common. But when knowledge is true and correct, it is because your state is predominantly sattva 

Why is this so important? 

You, a Divine Individual dwelling in a body, are attempting to get yourself as a Being into sync with your True Self, but all kinds of things are constantly coming and going via the senses and making this difficult. Earlier we learned that the quality of sattva is closest to what you really are, so this state is ideal for matching yourself as a human being to the Real You. This is achieved by mastering universal spiritual principles, yama niyama.

The good news is that mastering these principles will powerfully advance you as a human being, and guarantee both spiritual and material success. To master them requires studying them in depth, and practicing them in daily life. Each principle is stated in one word loaded with meaning.

By aligning what you do with the Real You, you will have a happier and more satisfying life.

12
When greed, desire, cravings, and undertaking willful actions for the purpose of getting desired results, one is under the influence of predominant rajas, Bull of the Bharatas.

Greed, desire, cravings, and undertaking willful actions for the purpose of getting desired results” is often the way we deal with anxiety, fear, anger, despair, etc. It feels lousy, so we take action and try to get something we want, thinking that this will make us feel better. Sometimes this works for a little while, but it is only a temporary fix. You are going to have to discover what is behind the these things, and work your way to the other side of them. This is done by separating yourself from the state you wish to conquer.

You can’t be what you’re looking at.

You can't be what you can see.By noticing and watching your state, you automatically separate yourself from it. Once separated, you can put your Attention on it and see what’s going on. Once you know, you can use your innate power of choice to decide to either ignore it, experience it, or drum it out of the house (your body and brain).

This process can also be applied to tamas:

13
Ignorance, inertia, carelessness and confusion prevail when tamas is dominant, Descendent of Kuru. 

It is interesting to note that in these three verses on the predominance of sattva, rajas and tamas, only in the verses on rajas and tamas does Lord Krishna address Arjuna with an epitaph. With rajas, the epitaph is Bull of the Bharatas. With tamas the epitaph is Descendent of Kuru.

Rajas:  Bull of the Bharatas suggests someone (Arjuna) who is going to go forward like a bull to get more knowledge from Lord Krishna, put it into practice, and succeed. This is how this chapter started. Arjuna wants the Highest Knowledge, and to be enlightened and liberated. Bharata, the name of India, means ‘always seeking enlightenment’.

Tamas:  Descendent of Kuru suggests someone who has come from ego, the unenlightened state of taking the role of the doer of action. Kuru means ‘doer’. This tells us that seeing ourselves as doers is the unenlightened state in which tamas is prominent. At first, Arjuna was not enlightened (kuru), but now he is. He is an ordinary guy like the rest of us. If he made it past ignorance to enlightenment, so can we. Once this is accomplished, the real journey begins. 

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

Surrender Meditation

Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga
Spontaneous Experiential Meditation

Slip into a natural state of meditation with ease. Experience the relief of effortlessly reaching a true meditative state without using your will.

Receive shaktipat and become initiated into the original meditation of ancient masters from which meditation techniques were derived.

Increase your knowledge base and begin Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga: Surrender Meditation. Though correct knowledge you will increase your progress by a thousand times, and bring about even deeper meditation and amazing experiences.

Shaktipat Intensives with Durga Ma are held in Phoenix, Arizona


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

The Whole World Is One Family

States, Bhagavad Gita, Ch 14, Vs 6 – 9

States of Mind

In the next verses we learn how we get stuck in ignorance (non-enlightenment) based on the effect each guna has on us. In the last post we found that it is the gunas that bind us to our bodies and the physical-material world. In these next verses, we will look more closely at the gunas to better understand the states we get into — states of mind, emotional states, states of being in general — and the role the gunas play in these states, and how they bind us to continuing cycles of death and rebirth. 

6
Among these, sattva is pleasant, pure and illuminating. It binds by attachment to happiness and knowledge.

Sattva - cartoon

“Among these” refers to the three gunas (modes of action) of Nature.

The guna called sattva is easy-going and pleasant, and satisfies our desire to feel good. It is illuminating, meaning that it is enlightening, intellectually or spiritually. Sattva is the guna closest to the characteristics of our True Selves.

In several places throughout the Gita, I have commented on seekers who require that their spirituality make them feel good. Now we know why this is inappropriate — their attachment to this guna keeps them in bondage, and there’s nothing pleasant about bondage (except for its familiarity).

There is nothing wrong with feeling good. Feeling good is not the enemy. The enemy is the attachment to feeling good.

The nature of bondage is that it keeps you in the Relative Realm where everything, including feeling good, is temporary. A siddha guru will lead you to the Real, where Goodness is Absolute and unending, and will bring you to liberation from bondage.  

Under the influence of sattva, the illusion of happiness and the safety of living from the ‘mind’, fool the seeker into believing that the mind is the key to enlightenment. But enlightenment happens when the mind has switched off!  

7
Know that rajas is passion, which arises from desire and binds the embodied one through attachment to actions that bear fruit.Rajas

  • Passion: Intensity. Think of it as very compelling. 
  • Desire: The Sanskrit word for ‘desire’ also means ‘thirst’. This suggests desires that feel more like needs (but aren’t). 

Under the influence of rajas, actions that bear fruit are passionately pursued in order to fulfill desires. This keeps one’s sense of doing (ego) in tact, thus stifling enlightenment, Divine Union and liberation.

8
Know that tamas is responsible for ignorance in all embodied beings. It binds them through lack of knowledge, illusion and lassitude.Tamas

The guna called tamas makes it impossible to grasp Truth because of the state of being identified with the body. This identification is normal. It is how all humans, with very few exceptions, go through their entire lives and remain in bondage lifetime after lifetime. When there is no interest or willingness to rise above this, one is under the control of tamas.  

Tamas is usually translated as ‘ignorance’ or ‘darkness’ because it causes mental delusion, illusion and error due to apathy and laziness, especially where Knowledge is concerned — one doesn’t see well in the dark. This state of ignorance stifles Divine Union and nips liberation in the bud.

9
Sattva binds one to happiness, rajas binds one to fruit-bearing action, and tamas binds one to ignorance through lack of knowledge.

In all three cases, the word ‘binds’ also means ‘captured, ensnared, and overpowered’. As an unconscious response to being completely controlled by the gunas, one to tries to control everything else, including other people. This demonstrates how and why our entire world seems be out of control and under the control of something else: it is. What it is, is the gunas.

Sattva binds one to happiness. Happiness is a state, a state we all like. We either want it or, if we already have it, we want to keep it. In other words, happiness ensnares us. The trap is Attachment.

The Sanskrit word for happiness actually means ‘a well-oiled axel wheel’. In other words, we get snared by the comfort of everything going smoothly. This word for ‘happy’ also means: ‘pleasant, comfortable, prosperous and virtuous’. All these things we see as being good things, can be a trap … if we let them. Remember that the key to getting out from under this, is to not be attached to them, or to the states they produce within us.

It is not happiness that binds, but our attachment to having or keeping it. 

Rajas binds us to fruit-bearing action, actions we do in order to get something we want. When the action is successful, we keep doing it. We’re captivated by doing things and getting the results we want. So we remain in bondage and lose our opportunity for freedom, liberation. 

Tamas binds one to ignorance, the absence of correct Knowledge and enlightenment. This suggests an attachment to the status quo and the reluctance to do the work of changing this situation. But we get complacent and remain captured, ensnared and overpowered by our own lack of enthusiasm for the Knowledge that would set us free.

The implication is that we have the power to obtain the Highest Knowledge mentioned in verses 1 and 2, and that there is a way out of this trap. We can either go for the gold, or remain trapped in an illusory world of phenomena and wait it out while everyone else does all the work. Then we can cash in at the end — that point at which enough of us have moved forward and achieved liberation that everyone else is also freed.

The question is, are you the former or the latter? Are you satisfied to just cruise along, do nothing about advancing yourself and letting everyone else do all the dirty work? Or are you interested enough in getting to the bottom of this God business to get off your duff, do the work, and be a part of the trend toward self-improvement and conscious evolution? If this is you, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

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

Surrender Meditation

Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga
Spontaneous Experiential Meditation

Slip into a natural state of meditation with ease. Experience the relief of effortlessly reaching a true meditative state without using your will.

Receive shaktipat and become initiated into the original meditation of ancient masters from which meditation techniques were derived.

Increase your knowledge base and begin Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga: Surrender Meditation. Though correct knowledge you will increase your progress by a thousand times, and bring about even deeper meditation and amazing experiences.

Shaktipat Intensives with Durga Ma are held in Phoenix, Arizona


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

The Whole World Is One Family