Three Kinds of Intelligence – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 18, Vs 29-32

Intelligence - rajas, tamas, sattva

Intelligence (buddhi) – intellect, reason, differentiation, discernment, judgement; buddhi is the power of the mind that forms ideas, imaginations, conceptions, and knows how to figure things out.

Resolve (dhṛtes) – standing firm in the course of your practice; holding, resolute, courageous, determined and unwavering. You don’t quit when the going gets rough, or when you aren’t getting what you think you want.

29
Now hear the three kinds of intelligence and resolve, together and separately, according to the gunas, Conqueror of Wealth:

Intelligence

Buddhi – Reason, Discernment and Judgment

30 — Sattvic Intelligence (correctly discerning)
That intelligence which knows willful action from non-willful action, what is one’s duty and what is not, what is to be feared and what is not to be feared, and what is binding and what is liberating, is sattvic intelligence.

  • Willful action (pravṛitti) – acting to fulfill desires
  • Non-willful action (nivṛitti) – renunciation of action as one’s own doing
  • Duty (kārya) – required action
  • Not duty (ākārya) – action that is not required

Two Paths

Two Paths

There are two fundamental paths of spiritual advancement: pravritti marga and nivritti marga (marga means ‘path’).

The first of these, pravritti marga, the path of the will, is the first path you follow from childhood into adulthood, under the guidance of Guru (your parents are your first gurus, and later your teachers are your gurus). 

Ideally, during this time, your spiritual path, your career path and your life path work together. You learn and practice universal spiritual principles that act as the foundation for sustained success in all three — spiritual, career and life in general. During this time, you practice these principles in daily life, find and implement your career, have a family, and practice the teachings of Guru (a teacher that knows the way and can guide you in this). This prepares you for nivritti marga.

Nivritti marga, the path of non-willful action, is called the path of renunciation. What is being renounced is your sense of action as your own doing. This is not a path in which one remains involved with worldly duties and responsibilities. The only required action is the practice of a teaching lineage in which surrender (by any name) to Absolute God (by any name) is the main practice. This God-practice, which Lord Krishna has been teaching Arjuna, is your only ‘required’ action.

Old man meditatingThis new lifestyle begins around the age of 50, or when your first grandchild is born, which ever comes first. Because the main practice needs proper conditions, you seek out a proper place and go to that place to live. You are not necessarily estranged from your family, but your Guru and your practice are your first and most important priorities.

Once some headway is gained in your practice, you become experienced and Guru may ask you to teach others. When one will be ready for this path varies from person to person. The age of 50 is a rule of thumb based on what is natural for most people. Here I would cite the exception of Jesus, who began at a very early age. 

31 — Rajasic Intelligence (prone to flaw or confusion)
Intelligence that is incorrect in the distinction between righteousness and unrighteousness, what is right and what is wrong, is rajasic intelligence, Son of Prita.

  • Righteousness (dharma) – what is considered to be proper action; right or correct action (kārya).
  • Unrighteousness (adharma) – that which is considered to be improper action; wrong or incorrect action (ākārya).

32 — Tamasic Intelligence (incorrect, backwards)
Intelligence that is enveloped in darkness and imagines unrighteousness to be righteousness and has everything backwards, is tamasic intelligence.

When one understands righteousness and unrighteousness backwards and the opposite of Truth, one’s intelligence is tamasic.


You are probably wondering which of these three kinds of intelligence applies to you. But in truth, we all have a little bit of all three, though one will probably be more prominent than the others. Suffice it to say that we can all profit by aiming at complete sattvic intelligence until that time as we attain full enlightenment, which comes by means of the God-practice Lord Krishna is teaching. 

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

 

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Action – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 18, Vs 23-28

Action

Previously:
Knowledge, Action and Agent are of three kinds according to the three gunas. — Verse 19

Three Kinds of Action

23 — Sattvic Action (pleasant and illuminating)
Action that is in accordance with scripture and free of attachment and aversion, which is performed without motivation for the results, is said to be sattvic.Meditation is a sattvic action

When one discovers Truth contained in scriptural injunctions, one becomes free of attachment, for attachment is no longer relevant. Then, attachment no longer determines action, and like and dislike also become irrelevant. Then one naturally performs action without consideration of self, and is headed for Liberation.

24 — Rajasic Action (passionate and excited)
Rajas - ExcitementBut self-motivated action performed with effort of will for the purpose of fulfilling desires, is declared to be rajasic.

When action is performed for the purpose of personal gain, the will is automatically engaged. This is what ‘will’ is. Acting to fulfill a desire, no matter what it is, always engages the will. 

25 — Tamasic Action (dark, prone to error)Tamas, dark and prone to error
Action undertaken out of ignorance with no consideration of the consequences of loss or injury to others, is tamasic.

A tamasic person is not self-motivated. His actions do not include pursuing interest in God/Truth. He may like the idea of having a spiritual experience, but he will only credit it if someone else gives it to him. Even if he finds a teacher who inspires him, he may return to that teacher, not for more knowledge or guidance, but for more inspiration.


Using willpower always produces imbalance in the body, feelings and mind. Trying to recover it, we engage our willpower, increasing the imbalance, and causing us to force or resist. Forcing and resisting are two sides of the same coin, and both are either rajasic or tamasic

In Surrender Meditation we surrender the use of our will to God — “Thy will be done, O Lord, not mine.”  The use of willpower in meditation is not in our best interest, and affect others as well … even people we don’t know. So even though we may reclaim the use of our will outside of meditation, we know where to put it when we meditate: outside the meditation room.

Three Kinds of Agents

The following three kinds of Agents address people who see themselves as doers of action, which we now know is not real. Nevertheless, it seems like we are doers of action, so we are going to see how this looks with the gunas, the real cause of action, running the show. 

26 — Sattvic Agent (pleasant, kind, illuminating)
Sattva - pleasant & kindFree of attachments and self-praise, resolved and not affected by success or failure, such an agent is sattvic.

You are a sattvic Agent when, free of considerations of success or failure or self, you will quit all attachments and pride. Until this time, the gunas rule. But when you are in sync with the Real You (the eternal non-doer), you are no longer subject to the sirens of ignorance, and the gunas bow at your feet — they are still there, but they no longer control you.

27 — Rajasic Agent (recklessly excited, self-serving)
Rajas - Ambitious & AgressivePassionately desiring the results of their actions, greedy, violent-natured and impure, influenced by happiness and unhappiness, such an agent is rajasic.

You’ll do it if you like it, you won’t if you don’t. If this fits you, you are a rajasic agent, and your karmic bondage rules. Even though it is the gunas that cause all action in nature, you experience action as your own doing. You have made yourself a slave to the influences of the gunas, and are bond by your karma.  

28 — Tamasic Agent (dark, lazy, procrastinating)
Tamas - lazy & procrastatingUndisciplined, unrefined, inflexible, wicked, overbearing, slothful, noncommittal and procrastinating, such an agent is tamasic.

It goes without saying that you are not one of these people! But you probably know someone who is, or know of them. These are people who never change, and never in their lifetime will they ever change. And they’re proud of it. They may call it tradition, or they may say, “That’s what the Good Book says,” all the while remaining ignorant of its meaning out of pure laziness. Or they say, “Like father like son” and brag about it. They beat their wives and children because they were beaten. And on it goes. This is tamasic action.

Knowledge, action and agent are of three kinds because there are three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas

In this world, nature is always active in these three ways to greater and lesser of degrees and combinations. When we believe ourselves to be the doers of actions, we acquire karma of three kinds according to these three modes of nature. We are responsible people, and we hope we are good enough to acquire good karma.

But there is a trick here, for by identifying yourself as responsible, you identify yourself as the Agent of Action. This keeps you in bondage and compelled to return again and again, life after life, and always short on happiness. But what else is there? What are we to do?

There is only one escape from this continued cycling: You must become a serious seeker of Truth/God, and practice the ‘God-practice’ Lord Krishna is teaching Arjuna in this Gita. You must attain enlightenment, and you must create a regular meditation practice to put your knowledge into action and allow for the Real You to emerge.   

All action occurs in nature, and You are not nature. You are You. Period.

The Real You 

You are a god in a body made of God being human.

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

Knowledge – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 18, Vs 18-22

Knowledge

18
The knower, the knowing (of the thing to be known), and the knowledge of it, constitute the three factors that induce action. Action, the instrument and the doer are the three components of the action itself.

Knowledge

The knowledge, the knowing and the knower.

“The knower, the knowing (of the thing to be known), and knowledge of it.”

“Knowledge” – what is known.

“Knowing” – the process of getting the knowledge.

“Knower” – the one who receives the knowledge.

Knowledge, knowing, and the knower” is also translated as “Knowledge, the object of knowledge, and the knower.” What is the difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘the object of knowledge’?

“The object of knowledge” is a ‘sense object’ that is perceptible by any of the five senses.

“The knower” is the one who wants to know it.

“The knowledge” is what is received by the Knower — what the knower knows.

“The object of knowledge” is anything your physical senses perceive. Once you have perceived something, whether gross or subtle, you know it. It is now “knowledge” and you are the “knower” of that knowledge.

Once you ‘know’ something you may like it or not. If you like it you act in order to get it. If you don’t like it, you act to avoid it. In other words, the receiving of the perceptions of the physical senses compel action. Whether wanting to have or avoid it, both are ‘desires’.

Desires are considered to be obstacles to yoga, so many yogis try to get rid of them. This is not possible. But it is possible to rise above being attached to these desires by becoming their master (they don’t run you). This is achieved by abandoning attachments and becoming indifferent to their presence.

You are not aware of everything that you know. For instance, it is like looking at something with your eyes while your eyes are also seeing other things in your peripheral vision of which you are unaware but are receiving regardless. 

Also, anything perceived by any of the senses is called ‘knowledge’, but knowledge is not always correct knowledge. 

In this world of human existence, the way we know something requires that the senses reach out to their ‘objects’, perceive them, and bring back what they have perceived to the mind to be known and stored in memory.

KnowledgeIn the world of Yoga, one perceives things in sabija samadhi, but not with the physical senses, but with the sense faculties which have separated from the physical senses. In this situation, what is ‘known’ is Divine, rather than mundane. During this time there is no desire for anything because you are already fulfilled, and any action that takes place is spontaneous and incurs no karma (the bondage accrued by performing action for personal gain).  

In nirbija samadhi however, knowledge is Absolute, so there is no object of knowledge or any process of knowing going on, and the knower is merged into the Divine Absolute. Though he retains his individuality, he is not only beyond any sense of doing, but he is beyond having any sense-of-self. Here there is only all of Us, Divine Love, Perfect Bliss and complete Fulfillment. 

Action

The action, the instrument and the agent.

“Action, the instrument and the doer are the threefold components of action.”

“The instrument” – one or more of the senses and the mind.

“The action” – the act of utilizing the instrument.

“The agent” – the performer of the action.

Knowledge, Action & Agent

19
It is taught in Sankhya, that knowledge, action and agent are of three kinds according to the three gunas. Now here about these:

He is saying that knowledge, action and the doer of action are of three kinds generated by the three gunas. When it comes to action of any kind, including both learning (knowing) and doing (acting), it is always the gunas that are the cause, and it is their attributes of pleasant (sattva), passionate (rajas) or dull (tamas) that determine the nature of the learning and doing, as well as their performer.

Sankhya Yoga is one of the great schools of Indian philosophy that relies on intelligence, logic and reasoning. It takes the only reliable means of gaining proof of knowledge to be perception, inference, and the testimony of reliable sources (those who have proven it for themselves and can give authentic guidance). 

20 — Sattvic Knowledge (pleasant and illuminating)
Sattva - IlluminatingThe knowledge by which one sees one undivided Imperishable Reality in all diverse living beings — undivided in the divided — is sattvic knowledge.

While each of us is a different individual from other individuals in WHO it is that each of us really is, you are the one that you are, and I am the one that I am. As separate embodied beings we appear to be different. But because we are all the same in WHAT it is that each of us Really is — Divine Absolute Individuals — we are undivided in our sameness and our true Reality.

21 — Rajasic Knowledge (reckless, excited)
Rajas - excitingThe knowledge by which one sees numerous living entities in diverse bodies as different and separate, is rajasic knowledge.

Not seeing this undivided sameness in WHAT each of us really is, we see only bodies and personalities instead — we see others as different and separate from ourselves.

22 — Tamasic Knowledge (prone to error)
Tamas - mistake!
But that knowledge by which one irrationally clings to one little thing as if it were all that is, possesses no reason or familiarity with Truth, is tamasic.

Any knowledge that is not based on Truth, but is believed to be true and adamantly clung to for dear life, is tamasic knowledge. We see this kind of thinking all around us in those who ignore Truth, and irrationally adulate what they believe as if it were all that is. This belief — this ‘one little thing’ — is their god. 

Knowledge comes before action, so getting correct knowledge is important. This calls for sattva. This kind of knowledge can be sought in everyday life, or by means of direct experience through meditation.

If you can’t understand sattva or imagine yourself in a sattvic state, look at rajas and tamas and consider how you might manage to avoid them.

Shri Ramakrishna
Shri Ramakrishna in Spontaneous Samadhi

If you are seeking God/Truth (by any name), you will also need direct experience to validate or correct what you determine as Truth. Direct experience is known in scriptures as svarga, or heaven, and in Yoga as samadhi. So you will have to get it from the Source, and there is only one way to do this: you must take up meditation. You can take years learning techniques for meditating and hope to get there in this lifetime, or you can surrender yourself to God/Truth in meditation and get their quickly.

Direct experience is the personal experience of knowing Truth/God directly. ‘Directly’ means ‘without any means’. This includes the mind. You cannot achieve direct experience via the mind. The actual state of meditation, which is what you will need for this purpose, is preceded by six things that occur before it. In Surrender Meditation, these six things will occur in their early stages quickly, and continue to advance over time and practice. Direct experience can occur when these requisite precursors have all been achieved even minimally. 

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