Bhagavadgita: 14. The Yoga of the Distinction of Triple Gunas

Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavadgita

Translated by Jayaram V

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Summary: This Chapter deals with the triple modes (Gunas) of Nature namely sattva, rajas and tamas, how they influence the nature, behavior and attitude of beings and try to predominate by competing with each other. The gunas are responsible for all desire-ridden actions and their consequent karma. To attain liberation one should transcend the gunas and become equal to all.


Guna Traya Vibhaga Yoga

1. Said Lord supreme, The Supreme knowledge I shall reveal to you again, knowledge that is superior to all knowledge, by knowing which the sages attain the Highest State.

2. By taking shelter in this knowledge and attaining My State, at the time of creation they do not take birth, nor are they troubled at the time of dissolution.

3. My Creative Self is the source of the great god, Brahma, in whom I plant the possibility of all creation. All living beings thus come into existence.

4. Of all the sources of creation which give birth to forms, Brahma is the supreme source and I am the seed giving father.

5. Sattva (purity), Rajas (passion) and Tamas (ignorance) are the qualities arising out of Prakriti. They bind the soul with the body, O mighty armed.

6. Of them Sattva is of the purest nature, illuminating and without any debility. Through attachment with happiness and knowledge it binds , O sinless one.

7. Know that Rajas is full of passion born out of attachment with thirst (insatiable desire). It binds the embodied, O son of Kunti, through attachment with works.

8. But know that Tamas is born out of ignorance, deludes all embodied beings. Through recklessness, laziness and sleep, it binds (the soul), O Bharata.

9. Sattvic nature binds one to happiness, Rajas to action, O Bharata , but by enveloping all knowledge, Tamas binds one to recklessness.

10. Sattva exists by suppressing Rajas and Tamas. Rajas exists by suppressing Sattva and Tamas. And Tamas by suppressing both Sattva and Rajas, O Bharata.

11. When all the openings of the body radiate illumination, it is said that Sattva is in predominance.

12. Greed, excitement in performing actions, uncontrollable desire, all these symptoms develop when Rajas is in predominance, O chief among the Bharatas.

13. Darkness, inactivity, recklessness, illusion are manifested when Tamas is predominating, O son of Kurus.

14. If Sattva is predominating at the time of death in a person, he attains the pure worlds of the highest sages.

15. With Rajas predominating at the time of death one is born among those attached to actions. In the same manner with the predominance of Tamas, he takes birth among ignorant people.

16. It is said that of actions the fruit of pious Sattva is purity, the fruit of Rajas is sorrow, while ignorance is the fruit of Tamas.

17. Sattva strengthens knowledge, Rajas greed, while Tamas develops recklessness, delusion and ignorance.

18. Upward go those who are established in Sattva. In the middle (regions) settle down those with Rajas. But those filled with the lowest quality of Tamas go downward only.

19. When a seer recognizes appropriately none other than these three qualities in the performance of actions, he knows the Supreme beyond the gunas and comes to My consciousness.

20. Going beyond these three gunas, the embodied is freed (from these ills) originating from the body - birth, death, old age and sorrow, and attains immortality.

21. Asked Arjuna,  What are the symptoms of transcendence of the three qualities, O Lord, what is the conduct and how also are these transcended?

22. The Supreme Lord replied, Illumination, activity and delusion, O Pandava, who neither abhors when prevailing nor desires when absent.

23. Seated unconcerned, unmoved by the gunas, aware that gunas are acting, he is stable and never shaken.

24. Alike in pleasure and pain toward a piece of earth, a stone, a piece of gold, alike and steady towards the desirable and the undesirable, equal in defamation and self-adulation.

25. Alike in honor and dishonor, equal to friends and foes, removing all egoistic effort in the performance of actions - he is said to have risen above the gunas.

26. He who serves Me with undistracted devotion, he transcends all the gunas and attains the state of Brahman.

27. Certainly, I am the resting place of Brahman, of the immortal, inexhaustible, everlasting, righteous, blissful and also the ultimate.

Thus ends the fourteenth chapter named  theYoga of Three Gunas in the Upanishad of the divine Bhagavad-Gita , the knowledge of the Absolute, the yogic scripture, and the debate between Arjuna and Lord Krishna.

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