What three modes of Nature create the physical world? When you understand these, you will step through the matrix, says the Blue God, Krishna. These are called the three gunas, sometimes summarized as sacred, active, and passive. You could also boil them down to UP, Down, and Sideways but these are gross simplifications.
The Gita helps us understand the structure of the universe so we can find our place in it as a living soul. The goal is ascension into union with God, freedom from death and rebirth. In order to achieve that, we must simply see through the various layers of physics in a body, to differentiate between the three forces in Nature. We can ask: “Is this leading me UP? DOWN? or ROUND and ROUND? This is critical to understand, because the alternative is to live trapped in a material 3D worldview and suffer the same confusion lifetime after lifetime.
The Earth and the Cosmos are subject to the laws of Nature, Science, Universal Power, life, and death. These laws never change. The Bhagavad Gita is richly symbolic, so if we open our eyes and ears to this 5,000-year-old text in Sanskrit the sacred language of the Gods, we can directly relate it to our modern challenges. The verses describe ascension techniques from thousands of years before Christ, by which humans can move into higher dimensions, to attain freedom from the material world. With each chapter the Gita lessons become more specific and detailed. Just enjoy and listen with an open mind, as you would hear a story.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, Gods ruled the Earth, and all learning took place in the form of stories and sacred verses, that people memorized and chanted for countless generations.
The warrior prince Arjuna and his charioteer the God Krishna, stand before a vast battlefield, where thousands of warriors are assembled and Arjuna must kill half of his family lineage. He is horrified and refuses to fight. Krishna tells him the secrets to focus his mind in a higher state in which he will be most powerful, bring benefit to his family, resolve their differences, and incur no sin or Karma. Arjuna listens, and finally accepts his destiny to fight the battle. He and his brothers win and ultimately ascend to the heavenly realms.
In the fourteenth chapter, the blue God describes the three modes or gunas that give rise to physical life.
- Sattva is the principle of harmony or equilibrium. It is goodness, selfless love, divine generosity, bringing hope, expansion, and benefit to all beings,
- Rajas is the 2nd principle representing desire for movement, action, and experiences. It brings passion, greed, and accomplishment.
- Tamas is the 3rd principle representing lethargy or inertia. It can be a state of fear, contraction, and selfishness. It is not evil. It just relatively less good.
Everything in the universe is a combination and permutation of these three modes. This is the way the wisdom of physical energy, Prakriti, activates all of creation. Every difficulty, misunderstanding, and disease, sickness, or war is seen as an imbalance of one or more of these laws of physics.
To achieve ascension, we need to look at these three properties and understand how they interact to bind us in the matrix. Sattva, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is filled with light and frees one from all sinful reactions. Living in this state helps to develop knowledge, however we might become conditioned and bound by the desire for happiness. Rajas is the nature of passion. It arises from desires, longings, and binds the soul through attachment to physical actions and their fruits, such as status and accomplishments. Tamas, is the lowest guna, the cause of illusion for all embodied souls. It deludes living beings in negligence, hopelessness, laziness, and sleep, which combine to bind the soul to the material world. Our physical state is greatly influenced by the foods we eat, which can be summarized as either 1) simple – living – pure, 2) spicy-sweet-stimulating, or 3) not alive – meaty -greasy.
The way to ascension lies in overcoming Rajas and Tamas and developing more Sattvic qualities of peace, harmony, and tranquility. To do that, we can perform selfless actions as an offering to God, which reduces our attachment to passion and sensual experience. The higher quality of Sattva allows the Divine to shine through us. When we allow light to win, corruption or selfishness either dissolves or shows itself. Finally, we must transcend even Sattva and all desire for even happiness. One who has overcome these three gunas, cannot be disturbed or dragged around by their emotions and can be called free. We fear nothing, we hate nothing, we are balanced in goodness.
Krishna also explains clearly how to have a good death. If you die in the mode of goodness (Sattva) you attain the pure higher abodes of the wise. If you die in the mode of passion (Rajas), you are reborn among those driven by work, acquisition and accomplishment. If you die in the mode of ignorance (Tamas), you are reborn in the animal kingdom, he says.
This life is not a battle between Good and Evil, God and Satan. It is simply balancing the laws of physical Nature in ourselves, being established, sovereign and secure in equanimity and wisdom under all circumstances. Eventually this rising quality of Sattva can be visualized as a coiled snake ascending up the spine. Perhaps this was the gift of knowledge Adam and Eve found in the Garden of Eden. In Eastern philosophy, the rising energy of Kundalini represents the flowering of the spirit and rapid purification of the soul. In summary, the three gunas of Sattva, Tamas, and Rajas can loosely be boiled down to UP, DOWN, and SIDEWAYS. And the key to breaking the matrix is equanimity in the face of distraction.
As you listen to the verses of Chapter 14, I invite you to ponder these questions:
- What are the three aspects of physical nature? What is a word to describe each one?
- How can you balance an overabundance of the Rajas quality through diet and action?
- How can you balance an excess of Tamas through diet, lifestyle, or thoughts??
- Which guna is predominant in your life? What, if anything would you do to balance it?
- What are your favorite quotes from this chapter to remember for life lessons?
- What parallel events in the modern world illustrate these concepts?
Now let’s listen to the verses of Chapter 14.
Bhagavad Gita 14.1
The Divine Lord said: I shall once again explain to you the supreme wisdom, the best of all knowledge; by knowing which, all the great sages attained the highest perfection.
Bhagavad Gita 14.2
By becoming fixed in this wisdom will be united with me. Thus established, one is not born at the time of creation nor disturbed at the time of dissolution.
Bhagavad Gita 14.3
The total physical-material substance, Prakṛiti, is the womb. I impregnate it with the individual souls, and thus all living beings are born.
Bhagavad Gita 14.4
O son of Kunti, for all species of life that are produced, the material nature is the womb, and I impregnate it as the seed-giving Father.
Bhagavad Gita 14.5
O mighty-armed Arjun, the material energy consists of three guṇas—sattva (goodness), rajas (passion), and tamas (ignorance). When a living being enters material nature, he or she is necessarily conditioned by these three modes which bind the eternal soul to the perishable body.
Bhagavad Gita 14.6
O sinless one, the Sattva guṇa, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating and frees one from all sinful reactions. Those situated in this guna do develop knowledge, however they become conditioned and bound by the concept of happiness and knowledge.
Bhagavad Gita 14.7
O Arjun, the Rajas guṇa is of the nature of passion. It arises from unlimited desires and longings, and binds the soul through attachment to physical actions and their fruits.
Bhagavad Gita 14.8
O Arjun, the guṇa of ignorance, Tamas, is the cause of illusion for all embodied souls. It deludes living beings through negligence, laziness, and sleep, which bind the conditioned soul.
Bhagavad Gita 14.9
Sattva binds one to material happiness. Rajas conditions the soul toward action. Tamas clouds wisdom and binds the soul to ignorance and confusion.
Bhagavad Gita 14.10
Sometimes the mode of passion (Rajas) becomes prominent, defeating the mode of goodness (Sattva), O son of Bharata. And sometimes the mode of goodness (Sattva) defeats passion, and at other times the mode of ignorance (Tamas) defeats goodness and passion. In this way there is always competition for supremacy.
Bhagavad Gita 14.11
The manifestations of the mode of goodness (Sattva) can be experienced when all the gates of the body are illuminated by knowledge.
Bhagavad Gita 14.12
O chief of the Bharatas, when there is an increase in the mode of passion (Rajas), the symptoms of greed, great attachment, uncontrollable desire, craving, and intense effort develop.
Bhagavad Gita 14.13
O son of Kuru, when there is an increase in the mode of ignorance madness, illusion, inertia and darkness are manifested.
Bhagavad Gita 14.14
One who dies in the mode of goodness (Sattva) attains to the pure higher abodes of the wise.
Bhagavad Gita 14.15
One who dies in the mode of passion (Rajas), takes birth among those driven by work and fruitive activities. One who dies in the mode of ignorance (Tamas), he takes birth in the animal kingdom.
Bhagavad Gita 14.16
By acting in the mode of goodness (Sattva), one becomes purified. Works done in the mode of passion (Rajas) result in sorrow, suffering and pain. Actions performed in the mode of ignorance (Tamas) result in successive conditions of ignorance and illusion result.
Bhagavad Gita 14.17
From the mode of goodness (Sattva) real knowledge develops. From the mode of passion (Rajas) greed is borne. From the mode of ignorance (Tamas) arises negligence and delusion.
Bhagavad Gita 14.18
Those situated in the mode of goodness (Sattva) gradually go upward to the higher abodes. Those who in live in the mode of passion (Rajas) stay on the earthly planes. And those who live in the mode of ignorance (Tamas) are reborn into the lower hellish worlds.
Bhagavad Gita 14.19
When you see that there is nothing beyond these three modes of physics in nature, and you know me to be the Supreme Lord, transcendental to all these modes, then you can attain My divine nature.
Bhagavad Gita 14.20
By transcending the three modes of material nature associated with the body, one becomes free from birth, death, disease, old age, and misery, and attains immortality even in this life.
Bhagavad Gita 14.21
Arjuna asked: O my dear Lord, what are the characteristics of those who have transcended the three guṇas? How do they act? How do they go beyond the bondage of the guṇas?
Bhagavad Gita 14.22
The Blessed Lord said: When the three gunas are present as light, activity and delusion, one does not hate them, nor does one long for them when they disappear.
Bhagavad Gita 14.23
One who, seated unconcerned, is not moved by the three forces (gunas) of physical nature, and knowing that they are active, remains firm and moves not.
Bhagavad Gita 14.24
One who is the same in pleasure and pain, who dwells in the Self, seeing a lump of dirt and gold as the same. One who is wise and endures praise and blame equally, who treats friend and foe alike.
Bhagavad Gita 14.25
Someone who has abandoned all actions springing from personal desire. Such a person is said to have transcended the three physical modes of nature.
Bhagavad Gita 14.26
One who engages in unswerving devotion to me, who does not descend in any circumstance, such a person transcends the modes of physical nature and attains the level of Brahman.
Bhagavad Gita 14.27
For I am the abode of Brahman, the immortal and the unchangeable, of everlasting Law of Nature, the Dharma of absolute bliss, which is immortal, imperishable, and eternal.