Beyond Bondage, Bhagavad Gita, Ch 14, Vs 21-27

Yogini liberated from bondage of the gunas

Arjuna spoke:
What are the signs of those who have gone beyond the three gunas? How do they act? How do they get beyond these three gunas?

Alternate translation:
What are the characteristics of someone who has transcended the three gunas? How do they do it, and what does it look like?

22 – 23
The Blessed Lord spoke:
He neither likes nor dislikes the presence or absence of illumination, passion or ignorance. Situated in the neutrality of sameness, he knows that these are merely the gunas in motion, and unshaken, he stands firm.   

One who has transcended the three gunas has transcended the like or dislike of the enlightenment of sattva, the desire-driven activities of rajas, and the non-enlightenment of tamas. Knowing all this to be merely the gunas in action, one is not fooled by them, but remains firm in the practice of yoga (union). 

24 – 25
He is self-composed and the same in difficulty and ease, equally disposed toward the desirable and the undesirable, and looks upon a clod, a stone, and a piece of gold as the same. He remains the same in pleasant and unpleasant circumstances. He is intelligent, and accepts both praise and blame with equanimity. He remains the same in honor and dishonor, treats both friend and enemy alike, and avoids new undertakings. Thus he is said to have transcended the guṇas. 

Anandamayi Ma
Anandamayi Ma

I can see how people might stop their sadhana when reaching this point. This is not familiar territory. One feels like a failure and is self-critical for being useless and not getting anything done. One feels apathetic, and it seems as if one were steeped in tamas. However, this turns out to be the sameness, or indifference, mentioned in these verses, but it is so unfamiliar that it looks like tamas. So it can take a while to see it for what it really is: the onset of trigunatita (‘three-gunas-gone-beyond’).

Shirdi Sai Baba
Shirdi Sai Baba

Have you ever felt intimidated by God, imagining that seeing God, He would be stoic and immovable, and a little inaccessible? I know what you mean. I think about my lineage and see them this way. And yes, I feel … well, I don’t know whether to say ‘humble’ or ‘overawed’ or a little of both. But it turns out that what I am really seeing is a group of people who have transcended the three gunas. There is a striking difference between stoicism or aloofness and trigunatita — they have ‘gone beyond the gunas‘. Nothing rattles them. They fit the descriptions in these verses.

26 – 27
Serving Me with undeviated devotion and transcending the gunas, he becomes absorbed into Brahman (Absolute God). 
For I stand firmly in immortal imperishable Brahman, and the eternal dharma of unending Happiness.

  • Undeviated devotionbhakti (devotion) yoga (uniting) seva (service to guru, the teacher).
  • I – Lord Krishna
  • Eternal dharma – the way things are in the Absolute
Swami Kripalvananda (Kripalu)
Swami Kripalvanandaji (Kripalu)

These verses tell us how we can become absorbed into Brahman: By singular devotion to God to the extent that everything you do in your life is in service to God and Guru. You are fixed on That, so what other outcome could there possibly be?

You become what you worship.

In this way, you become absorbed into Absolute God, and the activities of the gunas no longer have any effect on you. Then, because Absolute God is beyond the gunas, your absorption into God is inevitable. 

To apply this to your own situation, just remember who Krishna really is: He is Arjuna’s guru, so by devotion and service to your guru you can overpower the influences of the gunas and become absorbed in Brahman (Absolute God). Without taking this road, there is no escaping the gunas for human beings. The best most of us can do is to aspire to become more sattvic overall, for sattva is the guna closest to what we are really like as Divine Individuals.

There is, however, this state of trigunatita (‘three-gunas-gone beyond’) in which one is not in a state produced by any of the gunas. Instead, one’s state is Real rather than phenomenal. This state can be experienced in yoga meditation done correctly: the surrender of oneself to Absolute God in meditation.

All actions are the interactions of the gunas of Nature. 

All action occurs in Nature, but the Real You is not Nature, and is therefore not involved in action. It is the predominance of a guna that causes certain actions, not You. What You really are is an eternal non-doer.

This chapter gives examples of what causes certain actions to take place, and how you can rise above these guna influences. The state that is beyond them all surfaces when the individual is not in a state of doership — when there is no sense of ‘doing’ going on. This takes place in small bites through meditation practiced correctly, and eventually becomes the full and complete state of trigunatita.

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

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