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.

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


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



The Five Causes of Action – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 18, Vs 13-16

Cause (disciple) and Effect (guru)
Cause —> Effect

14 – 15
The seat of action, the agent, the instrument, the many different kinds of actions, and the fifth, the will. No matter what action one undertakes with body, speech or mind, whether usual or unusual, these are the five components of action.

Reincarnation“Whether usual or unusual.” Usual or unusual also means ‘proper’ or ‘improper’. He is saying that what He is teaching here applies to action, regardless of whether an act is right or wrong, proper or improper, or understood for what it is or not. In other words, this is solely about ACTION itself and its five constituents.

“With body, speech or mind” reminds us that action takes place with the mind, the body, and the emotions and speech.

The Five Components of Action

  • The seat of action (adhiṣhṭhāna, ‘standing at hand’) – the origin or starting point, i.e., where the action is coming from and what prompts it.
  • The agent of action – the performer of the action.
  • The instrument of action – is the means of action, i.e., the body, senses and mind.
  • The action – the action itself, which is of many and various kinds.
  • The willthe faculty by which an action is determined and initiatiated. 


Cause & EffectYou are constantly exercising your power every moment, because you are making choices every moment. This is precisely why you don’t see yourself as having power, and why you are constantly trying to get it. But this is a losing battle because you already have it, and you already use it.

By using your power of choice to make choices, you are “choosing to choose.” This is called ‘will’. Will leads to bondage and compulsory returns (rebirths) where you have another chance to get it right, but will have no control over where you’re going to land: “desirable, undesirable or mixed.


When you use your power of choice to “choose not to choose,” this is called ‘surrender’. When you surrender yourself to God (by any name) you are worshipping God/Truth. Surrender is also called ‘sacrifice’ — you are the offering, the human sacrifice.

You always get what you surrender to.

In Surrender Meditation, you choose not to choose, but to leave everything — body, mind and feelings — to Absolute God/Truth. Having made this choice, your meditation is then directed by God/Truth for your benefit, and the choosing is over for the duration of your meditation period.

When things happen in meditation, such as movements of the body, mind or feelings, at first you have to ‘stand on faith’ that this activity was not of your doing. You take it on faith because, at first, it will feel like it is you doing everything. If you persist with this meditation, it will ultimately lead you to the highest enlightenment: the realization that WHAT you truly are does nothing and never has.

This being the case, he who, due to small intellect, looks upon himself as the Agent does not truly see, and realizes nothing.

In this verse, Lord Krishna is saying that once you understand what action is, and what you really are, you will no longer see yourself as a doer (agent).

Karma, cause & effect
Karma – Cause and Effect

He is clarifying the apparent contradictions of non-doing, i.e., “How can I do the right thing without being a doer?” “How can I have a meditation practice and somehow manage not to experience myself as the one doing it?” Etc. But all action is, is the gunas of Nature interacting.

All action occurs in Nature. You are not Nature.

Keep in mind that the real Self is ‘Absolute’, and, as we learned earlier in the Gita, the Absolute is The Eternal Non-Doer. Beings see themselves as performing actions, but all action is performed by the gunas of Nature. The Real You never does anything, and never has. The real Agent then, is the gunas.

Even though you perform action, it is really the gunas that are the cause of it.

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

The Great Escape, Bhagavad Gita, Ch 16, Vs 20 – 24

A bat getting out of hell.

20 – 21
The demonic and ignorant, already deluded in the womb, do not attain Me in birth after birth, and go to the most abominable kinds of existences. There are three doors to hell for these self-destructive beings: lust, anger and greed. Therefore, one should abandon all three.

“Already deluded in the womb” refers to being born in ignorance with the unfortunate traits and circumstances mentioned in previous verses.

22 – 23
eleased from these doors of darkness, one should practice what is in their best interest and attain the Highest Goal. He who disregards scriptural injunctions and acts under the influence of desire, does not attain perfection, happiness or the Highest Goal.

“One should practice what is in their best interest”
The practice that would be in one’s best interest is the God-practice Lord Krishna is teaching Arjuna (and us) in this Gita.

“The Highest Goal” is your first Life Purpose — the emergence of the Real You, Divine Union and liberation.   

“Lust, anger and greed.” It is lust and greed that give rise to anger. Lust and greed are obvious, but what about anger? Anger is just an emotion, right? True, but a problem emerges when one’s feelings are acted on. There are some who consider restraint to be suppression, but not acting on anger, lust or greed is not suppression, it is self-control. Even in the everyday sense, self-control is prerequisite to having control over your life: Life Mastery.

  • Mastery means not being under the control of influences other than God/Truth. This includes people, circumstances, personal history and karmic debt. 

Anger does not exist for the Real You, which is where we are trying to get, but we are not going to get there if we continue to act on lust, greed and anger. 

It is one thing to feel angry and another thing altogether to act on that feeling. Acting on anger violates ahimsa (non-violence), the first and highest principle, which, when violated, nips your progress in the bud.

Not acting on anger is not suppression, it is self-control.

Therefore, accept the scriptures in determining what should be done and what should not be done. Understanding the scriptural injunction herein prescribed by Me, perform action here in the world accordingly.

There are two teachings in this verse: Resort to scripture to determine what is correct action and what is not. Then, by understanding what Lord Krishna has taught us, which is decreed by Lord Krishna in this scripture, we should perform action according to Him. Both are practices that are to be done here in this world, here in this life, on planet Earth. It’s why we’re here.

Lord Krishna’s teachings have revealed righteous action as Arjuna’s (and our) duty. He does not say that this action is permissible, but that it is required. It must be done. But how does this work? It begins with meditation. By ‘meditation’, what I mean is a period of time that you set aside to surrender yourself and your will — body, feelings and mind — to Absolute God, under the proper conditions.

“Thy will be done O Lord, not mine.” — Lord Jesus

Stay by Me and keep quiet. I will do the rest - Shirdi Sai Baba
“Stay by me and keep quiet. I will do the rest.” — Shirdi Sai Baba

In Surrender Meditation (shaktipat kundalini yoga), in the meditation room you are a renunciate, surrendered to Absolute God. Outside of this room, you “accept the scriptures as your standard for determining what should be done, and what should not be done,” e.g., you know right from wrong, what is appropriate and what is not appropriate, based on these teachings and the ten universal spiritual principles, yama and niyama.  

Renunciation and surrender to God are synonymous. Throughout the Gita we have been running into words like ‘worship, resort to, rely on, sacrifice to, and renounce’. These words are different ways of getting across the idea of surrender — specifically, surrender to Absolute God. This is the fundamental practice of Yoga (union) that is decreed in scripture and is being taught by Lord Krishna. 

‘Surrender’ is not about throwing down the towel in defeat, or throwing everything away and begging all your food. When you go into your meditation room, in your own way you say (and mean it), “Thy will be done, O Lord, not mine.” In this room, for this period of time, you are a renunciate and, to the degree that you are surrendered, you are truly free, liberated. As this experience grows you will ultimately go directly to liberation of the highest kind, thus saving you from the ‘hell’ of unfortunate and inauspicious existences in future lifetimes. This Surrender Meditation is where it begins.

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

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