Bhagavadgita -Radhakrishnan 223

The Bhagavadgita -S. Radhakrishnan

The Mystical Father oF All Beings

Goodness, Passion and Dullness
5. sattvayn rajas lama
iti gunah prakrtisambhavah
nibadhnanti mahabaho
dehe dehinam avyayam
(5) The three modes (gunas) goodness (sattva), passion (rajas), and dullness (tamas) born of nature (prakrti) bind down in the body, 0 Mighty-armed (Arjuna), the imperishable dweller in the body. What leads to the appearance of the immortal soul in the cycle of birth and death is the power of the gunas or modes They are "the primary constituents of nature and are the bases of all substances. They cannot therefore be said to be qualities inhering in these substances " Anandagiri. They are called gunas, because their emergence is ever dependent on the purusa of the Samkhya or the Ksetrajna of the GIta. The gunas are the three tendencies of prakrti or the three strands making up the twisted rope of nature. Sattva reflects the light of consciousness and is irradiated by it, and so has the quality of radiance (prakasa) . Rajas has an out-ward movement (pravrtti) and tamas is characterized by inertia (apravrtti) and heedless indifference (pramada).[1] It is difficult to have adequate English equivalents for the three words, sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva is perfect purity and luminosity while rajas is impurity which leads to activity and tamas is darkness and inertia. As the main application of the gunas in the Gita is ethical, we use goodness for sattva, passion for rajas and dullness for tamas. The cosmic trinity reflects the dominance of one of the three modes, sattva in Visnu, the preserver, rajas in Brahma, the creator and tamas in Siva, the destroyer Sattva contributes to the stability of the universe, rajas to its creative movement and tamas represents the tendency of things to decay and die. They are responsible for the maintenance, origin and dissolution of the world. The application of the gunas to the three aspects of the Personal Lord shows that the latter belongs to the objective or the manifested world. God is struggling in humanity to redeem it and the godlike souls co-operate with Him in this work of redemption.[2] When the soul identifies itself with the modes of nature, it forgets its own eternity and uses mind, life and body for egoistic satisfaction. To rise above bondage, we must rise above the modes of nature, become trigunatita; then we put on the free and incorruptible nature of spirit. Sattva is sublimated into the light of consciousness, jyotih, rajas into austerity, tapas and tamas into tranquillity or rest, Santi.

6. tatra sattvam nirmalatvdt
prakasakam anamayam
sukhasangena badhnati
planasangana ra 'nagha
(6) Of these, goodness (sattva) being pure, causes illumination and health. It binds, 0 blameless one, by attachment to happiness and by attachment to knowledge
Knowledge here means lower intellectual knowledge. Sattva does not rid us of the ego-sense. It also causes desire though for noble objects. The self which is free from all attachment is here attached to happiness and knowledge. Unless we cease to think and will with the ego-sense, we are not liberated. Jnana or knowledge relates to buddhi which is a product of prakrti and is to be distinguished from the pure consciousness which is the essence of atman.


References and Context

  1. 11 and 22, I2 and 22, 13.
  2. Cp. Isaiah who speaks of the Messiah in these words : "He hat)) borne our griefs and carned our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed" (hii, 45)