Sattva-Guna Binds You to Knowledge, Raja to Action & Tama to Mistakes (151)


Lesson 151 gives examples how 3 gunas bind us to doer-enjoyer role, and how they show up in various behaviors.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 7, 8, 9, 10


  • Māyā (comprising of 3 gunas) is power of Brahman. They are never separate.
  • Metaphor:
    • Fire (equated to Consciousness) has (1) Power to burn (2) Power to illumine (3) Power to radiate. The 3 powers are not away from fire.
    • Person has 3 talents. Talents are never away from the person. All 3 talents depend on the Conscious person. At same time, the Conscious person is NOT any of the 3 talents, because he-she is able to wield (start-stop) any of them. And where are the talents when Conscious person is not acting them out? They remain as potential in the Conscious person.
      • Furthermore, if any of the talents are unguided by morality (dharma), their good nature transforms into destructive one. Similarly, we must maintain dharma front-and-center through which the 3 gunas can operate.

TOPIC 2: How 3 Guṇas bind (Verse 6-9)

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 7:

rajaḥ rāga-ātmakam viddhi tṛṣṇā-saṅga-samudbhavam ।
tat nibadhnāti kaunteya karma-saṅgena dehinam ॥ 14-7 ॥

Understand Rajas to be of the nature of passion (and) to the cause of desire and attachment. It binds the self by causing attachment to activity, Oh Arjuna.

  • VERSE: Raja guna causes longing/desire. Binds in form of actions. “Raja” means “dust”, so it covers the mind with dust of desire. Initially, little dust is unnoticed and no bother, thus allowed to gradually accumulate.
    • Hallmark of Raja dominant ahamkara is (1) need to acquire & experience and (2) attachment to the acquired (claiming protective ownership).
    • Holds onto things. EG: Old things. In contrast, Sattva wants to minimize possessions.
  • How Raja binds? Attached to actions. Always moving/doing (IE: popularity of yoga asanas). Generates lots of puṇya/pāpa, assuring future birth.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 8:

tamaḥ tu ajñānajam viddhi mohanam sarva-dehinām ।
pramāda-ālasya-nidrābhiḥ tat nibadhnāti bhārata ॥ 14-8 ॥

Understand tamas to be born of ajñāna and to be the deluder of all beings. It binds by (causing) negligence, indolence, and sleep, Oh Arjuna.

  • VERSE: Tama guna is reinforced by absence of relative knowledge (ignorance) > cultivates additional delusions (IE: falsehoods and facts are mixed up) > sustains ignorance.
    • Person is indifferent to surroundings (insensitive) because buddhi is suppressed. Thus dharma suppressed.
      • EG: Alcohol encourages Tama guṇa, consequently inhibitions subside (sense of right/wrong blurs).
    • Advertises itself as laziness/sloppiness/lethargy and affection for sleep.
    • Causes mistakes in our work/speech/reports… without us noticing.
    • Doubtful, indecisive (because buddhi covered, hence can’t assess).
  • Required for sleep. (IE: Insomnia = excess raja guna)
  • Why Problematic:
    • Not because of sleep, but continuing to sleep. Potential/greatness/svadharma postponed.
    • Suppresses sattva/raja guna, hence veiling the capacity of finesse in thinking + execution.
      • EG: Doesn’t ask questions about self, relationship to God, purpose of life. Questions are survival based.
      • Subscribes to herd mentality (moving with masses), since independent-thought is stifled.
    • Causes carelessness with self/others. Laziness. Slowness. Lethargy.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 9:

sattvam sukhe sañjayati rajaḥ karmaṇi bhārata ।
jñānam āvṛtya tu tamaḥ pramāde sañjayati uta ॥ 14-9 ॥
Sattva binds (one) to pleasure, Rajas (binds one) to action; Whereas Tamas binds (one) to negligence by veiling the discriminative power, Oh Arjuna!

  • VERSE: Summary of how each guṇa binds the individual. Sattva: pleasure. Rajas: Action. Tamas: apathy (lack of concern, passivity, unwilling to take part).
  • REVISION so far:
    • Individual has higher/lower nature.
      • Higher: atma.
      • Lower: vyavaharika-mithya ahamkara (individuality) subject to 3 guṇas.
    • TOPIC 1: Definition of 3 guṇas. V5.
      1. Sattva guna: Mind oriented towards pursuit of KNOWLEDGE. Jnana-indiryani is used more then karma-indriyani.
      2. Raja guna: Mind oriented towards doing ACTIONS. Karma-indriyani used more then jnana-indriyani.
      3. Tama guna: Mind in delusion due to coverage of intellect’s discerning capacity. Both karma & jnana-indriyani are under-utilized.
        • If try to resolve their confusion > mostly fruitless > they’ll implant their doubt onto you.
    • TOPIC 2: How each guṇa V6-9.
      1. Sattva guna: In form of tranquillity + acquisition of information + subtle pleasures (spirituality).
      2. Raja guna: Rejects information, solitude & silence. Bound by need to ACT for sake of self, society, guru, rituals, Ishvara.
      3. Tama guna: Bound by negligence, carelessness, vagueness.

TOPIC 3: Signs which Guna is dominant (Verse 10-13)

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 10:

rajaḥ tamaḥ ca abhibhūya sattvam bhavati bhārata ।
rajaḥ sattvam tamaḥ ca eva tamaḥ sattvam rajaḥ tathā ॥ 14-10 ॥
SATTVA manifests by overpowering rajas and tamas. Rajas (manifests by over powering) sattva and tamas. Tamas (manifests by overpowering) sattva and rajas, Oh Arjuna!

  • VERSE: What is the effect of each guṇa overwhelming other two?
  • Every being/object made up of 3 gunas because everything is born of prakṛti. Although proportions are different. EG:
    • At time of dissolution of universe, 3 gunas are in equilibrium/proportional. Upon srishti… 3 gunas go out of balance and the whole universe animates.
      • EG: Snow accumulates on roof. Initially, all quiet. Roof gives way, and much activity happens at once.
    • Inert objects (periodic table): Gunas present but tama dominant.
    • Plant kingdom: Gunas present, but more sattva/rajas then in inert objects.
    • Animal kingdom: Gunas present, but more sattva/rajas then plants.
    • Human kindgom: Gunas present, but more sattva/rajas then animals. Humans further have different proportions of 3 gunas.
      1. Stone-beings: TRS Lethargic/heavy like stones.
      2. Plant-beings: TSR. Like plants (survival-of-fittest). Concerned with survival, lack emotions for others. Short-term ambitions.
      3. Animal-beings: RTS. Animals can distinguish between friend/foe (discrimination). Herd mentality. Desire ridden. Passionate. Self-centered. Majority fall under animal-beings.
      4. Spiritual-beings: SRT. Constant intellectual discrimination in light of scriptures.
  • QUESTION: Can guna proportions be changed? Yes. Degree depends on effort/commitment.
    • In fact, purpose of all Vedic sadhanas is to alter the proportion to SRT. Because according to śāstra, most beings are born dominantly tāmasik, since baby can only sleep/eat.
      • SOLUTION:
        • Vedas start with karma-yoga (to get out of tama guna).
        • Once person is selfishly active > change nature of his actions. Sakama > Nishkama karma.
        1. B.G. 5 stage sadhana (mentioned in CH 12):
          • Before sadhana: Either Raja/Tama is dominant.
          • KY L1 (only think of Ishvara when results come). Cultivate RST.
          • KY L2 (think of Ishvara while doing actions and receiving results). Cultivates RST.
          • Upasana. Cultivates SRT.
          • Jnana-Yoga. Cultivates SRT.
        2. 4x MODEL:
          • Inactivity > selfish > noble (holistic, community) > self-enquiry.
          • Brahmacarya > grihastha > vanaprastha > sannyasa.
          • Shudra (lazy) > Vaishya (selfishly active) > Kshatriya (nobly active) > Brahmana (contemplative).
          • Kama > Artha > Dharma > Moksha.
    • All models show that CONTRIBUTION/INVOLVEMENT in society comes FIRST. Otherwise if one withdraws (for sake of spirituality), there will be guilt in background (for skipping svadharma). That’s why BGita has logical sadhana order.
    • So Krishna reminds us to know where we stand, then approach the right sadhana > satvik mind > capable of comprehend one’s satyam-nature.

Keywords: rajasik, tamasik, rajasic, tamasic

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 24 Nov, 2021

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