The Hindu Tradition - The Bhagavad-Gita

Chapter 14: Three Gunas of Nature


The Supreme Lord said: I shall further explain to you that supreme knowledge, the best of all knowledge, knowing that all the sages have attained supreme perfection after this life. (14.01)

Those who have taken refuge in this knowledge attain unity with Me, and are neither born at the time of creation nor afflicted at the time of dissolution. (14.02)

O Arjuna, My Prakriti (or the material nature) is the womb wherein I place the seed (of spirit or Purusha) from which all beings are born. (See also 9.10) (14.03)

Whatever forms are produced in all different wombs, O Arjuna, the great Prakriti is their (body-giving) mother, and the Purusha is the (seed or life-giving) father. (14.04)

Sattva or goodness, Rajas or activity, and Tamas or inertia; these three Gunas (or states) of mind (or Prakriti) bind the imperishable soul to the body, O Arjuna. (14.05)

Of these, Sattva, being calm, is illuminating and ethical. It fetters the embodied being, the Jeevaatma or Purusha, by attachment to happiness and knowledge, O Arjuna. (14.06)

O Arjuna, know that Rajas is characterized by intense (selfish) activity and is born of desire and attachment. It binds the Jeeva by attachment to the fruits of work. (14.07)

Know, O Arjuna, that Tamas, the deluder of Jeeva, is born of inertia. It binds by ignorance, laziness, and (excessive) sleep. (14.08)

O Arjuna, Sattva attaches one to happiness, Rajas to action, and Tamas to ignorance by covering the knowledge. (14.09)

Sattva dominates by suppressing Rajas and Tamas; Rajas dominates by suppressing Sattva and Tamas; and Tamas dominates by suppressing Sattva and Rajas, O Arjuna. (14.10)

When the lamp of knowledge shines through all the (nine) gates of the body, then it should be known that Sattva is predominant. (14.11)

Greed, activity, restlessness, passion, and undertaking of (selfish) works arise when Rajas is predominant, O Arjuna. (14.12)

Ignorance, inactivity, carelessness, and delusion arise when Tamas is predominant, O Arjuna. (14.13)

One who dies during the dominance of Sattva goes to heaven, the pure world of the knowers of Supreme. (14.14)

When one dies during the dominance of Rajas, one is reborn as attached to action (or the utilitarian type); and dying in Tamas, one is reborn as ignorant (or lower creatures). (14.15)

The fruit of good action is said to be Saattvika and pure, the fruit of Raajasika action is pain, and the fruit of Taamasika action is ignorance. (14.16)

Knowledge arises from Sattva; desires arise from Rajas; and negligence, delusion, and ignorance arise from Tamas. (14.17)

Those who are established in Sattva go to heaven; Raajasika persons are reborn in the mortal world; and the Taamasika persons, abiding in the lowest Guna, go to hell (or born as lower creatures). (14.18)

When visionaries perceive no doer other than the Gunas (or the power of Brahman), and know That which is above and beyond the Gunas; then they attain nirvana. (See also 3.27, 5.09, and 13.29) (14.19)

When one transcends (or rises above) the three Gunas that originate in the mind; one is freed from birth, old age, disease, and death; and attains nirvana. (14.20) 

Arjuna said: What are the characteristics of those who have transcended the three Gunas, and what is their conduct? How does one transcend these three Gunas, O Lord Krishna? (14.21) 

The Supreme Lord said: One who neither hates the presence of enlightenment, activity, and delusion nor desires for them when they are absent; and (14.22)

The one who remains like a witness; who is not moved by the Gunas, thinking that the Gunas only are operating; who stands firm and does not waver; and (14.23)

The one who depends on the Lord and is indifferent to pain and pleasure; to whom a clod, a stone, and gold are alike; to whom the dear and the unfriendly are alike; who is of firm mind; who is calm in censure and in praise; and (14.24)

The one who is indifferent to honor and disgrace; who is the same to friend and foe; who has renounced the sense of doership; is said to have transcended the Gunas. (14.25)

The one who offers service to Me with love and unswerving devotion transcends Gunas, and becomes fit for realizing Brahman. (See also 7.14 and 15.19) (14.26)

Because, I am the abode of the immortal and eternal Brahman, of everlasting Dharma, and of the absolute bliss. (14.27) 

                               Chapter 14
         (The Book of Religion by Separation from the Qualities)



The Blessed Lord Said:

1. [And now] again I shall proclaim the highest wisdom, best of doctrines; on knowing this all sages, when they passed on hence, attained the highest prize.
2. With this wisdom as their bulwark they reached a rank [in the order of existence] equivalent to my own, and even when [the universe is once again] engendered, they are not born [again], and when [again] it is dissolved, they know no trepidation.

                         "GREAT BRAHMAN IS MY WOMB"
3. Great Brahman is to me a womb, in it I plant the seed: from this derives the origin of all contingent [conditioned or manifest] beings.
4. In whatever womb whatever form arises-and-grows-together, of [all] those [forms] Great Brahman is the womb, I the father, giver of the seed.

                 THE THREE CONSTITUENTS OF NATURE (The Trigunas)
5. Goodness (Sattva)--Passion (Rajas)--Darkness (Tamas): these are the [three] constituents (or qualities) (Trigunas) from (Material) Nature sprung that bind the embodied [self] in the body though [the self itself] is changeless.
6. Among these Goodness, being immaculate, knowing no sickness, dispenses light, [and yet] it binds by [causing the self] to cling to wisdom and to joy.
7. Passion is instinct with desire, [this] know. From craving and attachment it wells up. It binds the embodied [self] by [causing it] to cling to works.
8. But from ignorance is Darkness (inertia) born: mark [this] well. All embodied [selves] it leads astray. With fecklessness (irresponsibility, heedlessness) and sloth (laziness) and sleepiness it binds.
9. Goodness causes [a man] to cling to joy, Passion to works; but Darkness, stifling wisdom, attaches to fecklessness.
10. Once it dominates Passion and Darkness, Goodness waxes strong; so Passion and Darkness when they dominate the other two.
11. When at all the body's gates wisdom's light arises, then must you know that Goodness has increased.
12. When Passion is waxing strong, these [states] arise: greed, [purposeful] activity, committing oneself to works, disquiet, and ambition.
13. When Darkness is surging up, these [states] arise: unlighted [darkness], unwillingness to act, fecklessness, delusion.
14. But when an embodied [self] comes face to face with [the body's] dissolution and Goodness prevails, then will he reach the spotless worlds of those who know the highest.
15. [Another] goes to his demise when Passion [predominates]; he will be born among such men as cling to works: and as to him who dies when Darkness [has the upper hand], he will be born in the wombs of deluded fools.
16. Of works well done, they say, the fruits belong to Goodness, being without spot: but pain is the fruit of Passion, ignorancethe fruit of Darkness.
17. From Goodness wisdom springs, from Passion greed, from Darkness fecklessness, delusion and ignorance--how not?
18. Upward is the path of those who abide in Goodness, in the middle stand the men of passion. Stuck in the modes of the vilest constituent the men of Darkness go below.
19. When the watching [self] sees there is no agent other than [these] constituents and knows what is beyond them, then will he come to [share in] that mode of being which is mine.
20. Transcending these three constituents which give the body its existence, from the sufferings of birth, death, and old age delivered, the embodied [self] wins immortality.
Arjuna said:
21. What signs, Lord, mark him out,--[this man] who has transcended those three constituents? How does he behave? And how does he step out beyond these three constituents?


The Blessed Lord saud:
22. Radiance--activity--yes, delusion too,--when these arise he hates them not; and when [in turn] they cease he pines not after them.
23. As one indifferent he sits, by the constituebnts unruffled: 'So the constituents are busy': thus he thinks. Firm-based is he, unquavering.
24. The same in pleasure as in pain and self-assured, the same when faced with clods of earth or stones or gold; for him, wise man, are friend and foe of equal weight, equal the praise or blame [with which men cover him].
25. Equal [his mind] in honor and disgrace, equal to ally and to enemy, he renounces every [busy]enterprise: 'He has transcended the constituents': so must men say.
26. And as to those who do Me honor with spiritual exercise, in loyalty-and-love undeviating, passed [clean] beyond these constituents, top becoming Brahman they are conformed. For I am the base supporting Brahman,--immortal [Brahman] which knows no change,--[supporting] too the eternal law of righteousness and absolute beatitude.