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

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

Bondage, Continued, Bhagavad Gita, Ch 14, Vs 5

The Three Gunas with Men Ensnared
Personification of the Three Gunas with Men Ensnared

Previously:
O Long Armed One, the gunas of Prakriti (Nature) — sattva, rajas and tamas — bind the Imperishable Embodied One to the body.”

  • Nature – All things visible and invisible, including people, that exist in the created world and the cosmos — the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including humans and human creations, plants, animals, the landscape and other features and products of the earth.

The gunas of Prakriti are the ways Nature acts that keep the partnership of our Selves and our bodies intact. We live in bondage to these three gunas, but we wouldn’t be here without them. Later we are going to learn how to free ourselves from these gunas while continuing to be in life, but first we need to understand their place in life and in this world. 

Like a house that is made of bricks but when we look at it what we see is a house, in the same way, Nature is made up of gunas but when we look at it what we see is Nature. We think of Nature as having gunas, but like the house, Nature doesn’t just have gunas, it is gunas. It’s a package deal.

What Are Gunas?

Characteristics of the Three Gunas
Characteristics of the Three Gunas

There are three characteristics of Nature’s movements, three ways that Nature acts. The three gunas are the three ways Nature acts in varying degrees and 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 those who inhabit it.

You (purusha) experiencing Another (prakriti) and not seeing the Other as the same as yourSelf, but as different than you, create a dual situation. This moves you, a Divine Individual, from the Absolute to the Relative, and into being something other than what you really are. In this new situation in which you are being a Being, you can begin to find your way back to the Absolute situation, only now, with full consciousness.

Before, you realized your own existence, and now, after a journey through the relative realm of beings, you have the means to return with full consciousness: the Highest Knowledge of the Highest Yoga, and the Highest Action “by which all the sages have gone from here to param siddhi, the highest possible accomplishment.” You can go Home as your real Self, with full consciousness of everything.

  • parāṁ siddhi – the highest and ultimate perfection, the highest state

The Nature of Nature is to Move

All action occurs in Nature

I often say, “All action occurs in Nature,” but it might be more correct to say, “All action is intrinsic to Nature.” The gunas are three characteristics of actions, changes, or ways that occur in Nature. All action is, is gunas.

Nature with its gunas are Prakriti misperceived. If you take action out of the picture, the only thing remaining is Prakriti as She really is: God, You and Other Divine Individuals just like You. And now we have Brahman, the Absolute, all of Us. 

Action is intrinsic to Nature. The gunas are the different modes of Nature’s actions.

Transcending the Gunas

So now it is time to remember that, because you have power (you are a ‘god’, after all), you have the power to perceive, to know. This power has manifested as your senses. When your senses work without their organs your perception is direct and you perceive only the Real. This is something that becomes obvious through the correct practice of meditation.

Once you engage in ‘looking’, you have duality and action (looking is an action). When you have action, you have time (from a human perspective). So by transcending the gunas, you transcend all these modes of the mirage, and all that remains is Brahman, Absolute God, Prakriti, all of Us and your Real Self. Time continues but you have gone beyond it, and for this reason, you “do not experience dissolution, and are not born again at the time of creation” (verse 2). All these features of the mirage, these gunas, must be transcended to reach the Real.

When we (purusha) view prakriti (others), what we see is Nature with its gunas (modes of action). All action in Creation bears all three of these characteristic modes in varying degrees and combinations. Thus are sattva, rajas and tamas not only the modes of Nature, they’re a package deal, but they bind the Imperishable Embodied One (You) to the body. They were there for your embodiment in Nature, and now you’re stuck with them.

  • Transcend – to go beyond the range of something; to surpass.

This binding by the gunas is the only obstacle to liberation — one wants a body because of the influence of the gunas. Because we are still erroneously ‘looking’ for each other by means of the body and the senses, we keep this cycle going. It is our identity with these gunas of Nature that hooks us.

When you despair of ever being able to abandon desires (which is impossible), think instead of abandoning attachment to desired objects.

When you think you must somehow rid yourself of the gunas (which is impossible), think instead of ridding yourself of their influences, by abandoning your identity with them (casting yourself as the doer of actions).

In Nature there is always action. The fundamental characteristic of You however, is non-doing. And once again we are reminded, “What you really are does nothing.”

This realization is most effectively accomplished in meditation in which spontaneous action occurs and you realize that it happened without you — without will, for any purpose of your own, and therefore not creating any kind of karmic debt to hold you back. In that moment, you experience liberation. And even though you lose it later, you know what it’s like. And because you know what it’s like, it can continue to increase until you are truly free and united with Absolute God. You will have achieved Lord Krishna’s state, just as He said you would.

The bottom line is this: We find God and each other by not trying, by not using the will (choosing to choose). Using the will always stops things cold in the midst of the mirage. But we are looking for the Real, so we surrender our will to That (we choose not to choose), to Absolute God in meditation, in order to bring us to Absolute God, where we rediscover our Real Selves. 

Your Fundamental Inherent Power is to Choose or Not to Choose

To Be, or not to Be. That is the question.

  • Will – choosing to choose; to continue being the chooser.
  • Surrender to God – choosing not to choose; surrendering your will to God.

Thy will be done, O Lord, not mine.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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