Diving into The Bhagavad Gita: The three modes of material Nature (Chapter 14)
by Jonas Nathan
The Bhagavad Gita for me is all about finding the connection with God. For many of us, God is still connected with religion and some of us can have some resistance towards God. But once we start to separate God from any religion, we can start to work with a God that works in our spiritual practice. A God of your understanding or you can call it your higher power. This can be anything as long as it’s bigger than you. It becomes quite difficult, even impossible, to crack the shell of our ego unless we surrender to something larger than ourselves. Books like the Bhagavad Gita give us a map on how to work with the ego and how to find our God within. For me personally, I need to read these books to remember God and to remember love again and again.
The story is about the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, where Lord Krishna represents God or the true self and Arjuna the ego or any person like you and me. Throughout the whole book Lord Krishna, in a very slow and gentle way, keeps peeling the layers of the ego. In such a way that the ego dances with the words of Lord Krishna to slowly, with every chapter, unveil the true self. Arjuna is challenged to let go of everything he has ever believed in and has given a new pair of eyes to see the world.
In chapter 14, Lord Krishna starts explaining the three qualities of nature to Arjuna. Everything we know in the physical world comes from Prakriti, the source of all matter. Prakriti exists of three qualities that describe nature outside, but also our nature inside. In Ayurveda, these are described as the Gunas, the three qualities of the mind. These qualities are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Simply translated; harmony, restless activity and inactivity. These qualities can be mixed in endless colours and forms, allowing the light of Purusha, our true self, to shine through. These qualities need each other to influence each other as one flows into another.
Sattva is the most appealing one of the three qualities, where you can find yourself in a space where things are nor good, nor bad, but just love. Where we are not attached to any outcome or working with any expectation. The world goes by, and we are enjoying life in a calm and easy way. High moments come by, we enjoy them, but we don’t attach to them. Low moments come by, we notice them, but we don’t feed them or dramatize them. We start to see the play of the universe and find harmony with it. When Sattva is most dominant, all the senses are clear and awake. The mind stops liking and disliking every moment and at a certain point gives the control to our higher self. We can see ourselves doing things, but it feels like it’s not really us that moves the body around. We are moving with grace and we are watching ourselves go by.
Rajas are the stimulating force that changes the harmony. It’s a quality of passion, movement and fluctuation. Even passion can take us away from our divine self at every moment. For me, this was an eye-opener. I always thought that passion equals love. But now I see that passion often takes me away from myself and deeper spiritual love. Even passion for yoga or spirituality can take me away from myself. Chasing for the knowledge outside of me can take me away from the wisdom inside of me. In the end, this can make me restless and discontent. I need to remember that everything I’m searching for is already here, inside of us. By connecting to this wisdom I start to trust things will come to me in the right order and at the right time.
Tamas is a state of being where we can be more passive, sluggish and dull. It’s an absence of all activity. It symbolizes the darker and more unknowing side of nature. We can find ourselves in a state where we don’t care, feeling heavy, dark or even depressed. We can be judgmental about ourselves and others. Tamas might sound like a negative quality we want to get rid of, but still, we can’t label the Gunas as positive and negative. We still need all three of them to appreciate the other.
We are living in a society that is mainly Rajas driven, reacting on our impulses and everything is in constant movement. Every day is an opportunity to step out of the Rajas mind and gently stir towards a more Sattvic attitude. Morning routines, yoga and sitting with ourselves help us to connect to a more Sattvic state of being. Sattvic doesn’t mean that we are not doing anything. We still have to do the work and show up every day to follow our Dharma. The routines and practices will help us to move into a more Sattvic space, but how much this will be granted to us is not always up to us. Life can be rocky, we might be dealing with some stuff that’s difficult to cope with and we can find ourselves in a more Rajas or Tamas state of being. Often we need to take a step back and stop listening to the judgmental mind and find our way back into the compassionate heart. We know that behind these qualities we are all love a.k.a. God and the rest is just play. Love yourself no matter what. And especially love this part of yourself that is never changing. To me, the Bhagavad Gita is a wonderful reminder of that wisdom.
CONTINUE READING: Diving into The Bhagavad Gita: The Yoga of The Supreme Being (Chapter 15) >
Jonas was born in Australia and was traveling in Asia until he was five years old. Living in countries like Nepal and living with the people, he found a spiritual connection early in his life. Being an open and playful kid, growing up his energy started to feel ungrounded..