It is obvious that during the course of our daily life we swing into various moods in response to stimuli from sense objects. We also react to people, places, and situations resulting in a constant change in our behavior pattern. Hindu scriptures attribute these changes to inborn qualities called gunas, which are classified as satva (purity), rajas (passion), and tamas (dullness). Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavatham enlighten us on these gunas.
Our various activities always exhibit these gunas that constantly overlap forcing us to swing into various moods and behavior. When we pray, meditate, or listen to music we are satvik (pure). When we attend to our household or office work, we are rajasik (active). When we are lazy and lie down quietly we are tamasik (dull).
Bhagavad Gita explains: “Satva prevails overlapping rajas and tamas; rajas prevails overlapping satva and tamas; tamas manifests itself overlapping satva and rajas.”
In the Bhagavatam, Krishna tells his friend Uddhava: “There is predominance of one or the other gunas in things, objects and persons. Our deeds and thoughts always express one guna or the other. Indeed, every object in this manifold universe and even celestial beings are influenced by these gunas.”
Bhagavad Gita: Mokshe Sanyasa Yoga confirms this: “There is no being, animate or inanimate, on earth or in the middle region or even among gods and devas or anywhere else, which is free from these three gunas born of nature.”
Gunas influence everything in creation. Let us see a few examples:
Sky: Puffy clouds are satvik; thunder and lightning are rajasik; and a clear sky is tamasik.
Wind: A mild breeze is satvik, a cyclone is rajasik, and still weather is tamasik.
Water: A fountain in the park is satvik; waterfall is rajasik; and a lake is tamasik.
Fire: Candlelight is satvik; a raging fire is rajasik, and smouldering fire is tamasik.
Animal: A lion playing with cubs is satvik; chasing its prey is rajasik; and resting under the shade is tamasik.
Bird: A nesting bird is satvik; flying around to pick worms is rajasik; and resting on a branch is tamasik.
Insect: A busy caterpillar is rajasik; the cocoon is tamasik; and the butterfly is satvik.
The BhagavadGita explains how these gunas manifest in us:
Satva: Being immaculate is illuminating and flawless and leads to joy and wisdom.
Rajas: Passion results in longing and attachment, motivating the individual to action and to face the consequences.
Tamas: Ignorance deludes through negligence, inactivity, laziness, and sleep.
In the Bhagavatam, Krishna tells Uddhava, “When satva, which is pure and tranquil and has the power to illumine overcomes rajas and tamas the person is endowed with happiness, virtue and knowledge.
“When rajas, which leads the person to action and results in attachment ensuing the vision of multiplicity, overcomes satva and tamas, the person is active, finds wealth, fame, and suffers misery.
“When tamas, which is characterized by inertia and casts a veil of ignorance on one’s mind and makes the person lose the power of discrimination, overcomes satva and rajas the person is stricken with grief and delusion. He lives in a dream of hope and, to fulfill the same, he even becomes cruel. Laziness and inertia sets in.”
The Bhagavad Gita confirms this: “Those who are settled in satva go upward,rajasiks dwell in the middle, and tamasiks remaining under the influence of the lowest qualities go downward.”
Krishna tells Uddhava: “These three gunas belong to the mind and not to yourself. Rise above the gunas and realize the self. First overcome rajas and tamas by developing satva and then rise above satva by satva itself.”
Become a satvik to realize you are the higher self caged in the lower self comprising of the body-mind-intellect complex. To be a satvik you need not be docile, obedient, lose interest in life or give up your choice food, recreation, and hobbies and sit in meditation for long hours! What you have to do is to spend some time every day in solitude, silence and contemplation. The best time to do this is just before retiring at night. Sit in contemplation for 15 minutes identifying yourself one with your ishta deivam (favorite god) ever present in your heart.
As these gunas constantly overlap your daily life, get into a satvik mood as often as possible. The mind manifests these gunas based on the stimuli received from sense objects, situations and circumstances. Be a satvik by controlling your mind and relinquish all actions to your lower self.
Look within yourself to be a satvik and you will radiate peace, tranquility, joy and happiness for ever.
Ramki Durai has pursued Vedanta topics since 2001 and shares his knowledge through talks he gives at Sunnyvale Hindu Temple and also at Sri Lakshmi Ganapathy Temple in San Jose.