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The original Sanskrit verses and
(word for word translated) of the
Mahâbhârata, Bhîshma Parva ch. 23-40.

with comments taken from the writings of





'Greater than the sacrifice of material things is the sacrifice of knowledge,
o chastiser of the enemy; all this karma in sum, o son of Prithâ, finds its end in knowledge'
B.G. 4:33

1 2a 2b 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18a 18b


Chapter 14
The Yoga of the Three Modes of Nature
'On the inherent qualities of material nature'
 Gunathraya Vibhâga Yoga  



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[Slokas 5 to 10, 16 to 20] "

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Verse 1.

s'rî-bhagavân uvâca
param bhûyah pravakshyâmi
jñânânâm jñânam uttamam
yaj jñâtvâ munayah sarve
parâm siddhim ito gatâh

s'rî-bhagavân uvâca -- the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; param -transcendental; bhûyah -- again; pravakshyâmi -- I shall speak; jñânânâm -- of all knowledge; jñânam -- knowledge; uttamam -- the supreme; yat -- which; jñâtvâ -- knowing; munayah -- the sages; sarve -- all; parâm -- transcendental; siddhim -- perfection; itah -- from this world; gatâh -- attained.

      As fog before the sun, ignorance melts away before knowledge. Knowledge is acquired by uninterrupted inquiry. One should constantly be engaged in the inquiry of the nature of Brahman; the reality of the I, the transformations that occur to the individual at birth and at death and such matters. As you remove the husk that covers up the rice, so too the ignorance that adheres to the mind has to be removed by the frequent application of the abrasive, atmic inquiry. It is only when full knowledge is won that one can get liberated, or, in other words attain moksha (liberation or mukti: the final liberation from material existence meaning that one restores one's eternal bond with Krishna in arriving at devotional service unto Him). After the attainment of the above said atmic knowledge, one has to follow the path of Brahman and act according to the new wisdom. - Jñâna Vahini, p. 1

Verse 2.

idam jñânam upâs'ritya`
mama sâdharmyam âgatâh
sarge 'pi nopajâyante
pralaye na vyathanti ca

idam -- this; jñânam -- knowledge; upâs'ritya -- taking shelter of; mama -- My; sâdharmyam -- same nature; âgatâh -- having attained; sarge api -- even in the creation; na -- never; upajâyante -- are born; pralaye -- in the annihilation; na -- nor; vyathanti -- are disturbed; ca -- also.

Verse 3.

mama yonir mahad brahma
tasmin garbham dadhâmy aham
sambhavah sarva-bhûtânâm
tato bhavati bhârata

mama -- My; yonih -- source of birth; mahat -- the total material existence; brahma -- supreme; tasmin -- in that; garbham -- pregnancy; dadhâmi -- create; aham -- I; sambhavah -- the possibility; sarva-bhûtânâm -- of all living entities; tatah -- thereafter; bhavati -- becomes; bhârata -- o son of Bharata.

Verse 4.

sarva-yonishu kaunteya
mûrtayah sambhavanti yâh
tâsâm brahma mahad yonir
aham bîja-pradah pitâ

sarva-yonishu -- in all species of life; kaunteya -- o son of Kuntî; mûrtayah -- forms; sambhavanti -- they appear; yâh -- which; tâsâm -- of all of them; brahma -- the supreme; mahat yonih -- source of birth in the material substance; aham -- I; bîja-pradah -- the seed-giving; pitâ -- father.

Verse 5.

sattvam rajas tama iti
gunâh prakriti-sambhavâh
nibadhnanti mahâ-bâho
dehe dehinam avyayam

sattvam -- the mode of goodness; rajah -- the mode of passion; tamah -- the mode of ignorance; iti -- thus; gunâh -- the qualities; prakriti -- material nature; sambhavâh -- produced of; nibadhnanti -- do condition; mahâ-bâho -- o mighty-armed one; dehe -- in this body; dehinam -- the living entity; avyayam -- eternal.

      Nature is composed of three basic gunas or qualities, sattvic (goodness), rajasic (passion), tamasic (ignorance), and their interplay determines the nature and moods of human beings at different intervals of times due to the predominance of one or the other. - Summer Showers in Brindavan 1973, p. 198.

Verse 6.

tatra sattvam nirmalatvât
prakâs'akam anâmayam
sukha-sangena badhnâti
jñâna-sangena cânagha

tatra -- there; sattvam -- the mode of goodness; nirmalatvât -- being purest in the material world; prakâs'akam -- illuminating; anâmayam -- without any sinful reaction; sukha -- with happiness; sangena -- by association; badhnâti -- conditions; jñâna -- with knowledge; sangena -- by association; ca -- also; anagha -- o sinless one.

      In fact, the best of the three gunas or qualities is the sattva and that itself promotes bhakti or devotion and is the best sâdhana (devotion, spiritual discipline). What I am telling you is the simple and elemental truth. - Summer Roses on the Blue Mountains 1976, p. 1.

Verse 7.

rajo râgâtmakam viddhi
tan nibadhnâti kaunteya
karma-sangena dehinam

rajah -- the mode of passion; râga-âtmakam -- born of desire or lust; viddhi -- know; trishnâ -- with hankering; sanga -- association; samudbhavam -- produced of; tat -- that; nibadhnâti -- binds; kaunteya -- o son of Kuntî; karma-sangena -- by association with fruitive activity; dehinam -- the embodied.

      Without getting rid of your rajoguna and of your temper, how are you going to take any interest in the spiritual aspects? - Summer Roses on the Blue Mountains 1976, p. 1.

Verse 8.

tamas tv ajñâna-jam viddhi
mohanam sarva-dehinâm
tan nibadhnâti bhârata

tamah -- the mode of ignorance; tu -- but; ajñâna-jam -- produced of ignorance; viddhi -- know; mohanam -- the delusion; sarva-dehinâm -- of all embodied beings; pramâda -- with madness; âlasya -- indolence; nidrâbhih -- and sleep; tat -- that; nibadhnâti -- binds; bhârata -- o son of Bharata.

      Without getting rid of your tamoguna and of your anger, how are you going to understand the spiritual background? - Summer Roses on the Blue Mountains 1976, p. 1.

Verse 9.

sattvam sukhe sañjayati
rajah karmani bhârata
jñânam âvritya tu tamah
pramâde sañjayaty uta

sattvam -- the mode of goodness; sukhe -- in happiness; sañjayati -- binds; rajah -- the mode of passion; karmani -- in fruitive activity; bhârata -- o son of Bharata; jñânam -- knowledge; âvritya -- covering; tu -- but; tamah -- the mode of ignorance; pramâde -- in madness; sañjayati -- binds; uta -- it is said.

      The three gunas represent the three aspects of human nature. Rajoguna is the attachment that brings about desires and creates eagerness to enjoy the objective world that is "seen"; it breeds desire for physical heavenly pleasure. Tamoguna cannot grasp the reality; so it misunderstands easily and takes the false to be the true. It lands persons into negligence and error. It binds, instead of releasing. Sattvaguna controls the cause of grief and sorrow; encourages people to follow the path of real joy and happiness. Therefore, being single-pointed and unaffected by either of these three is the basis for purity and steadfastness. - Gîtâ Vahini, p. 193.

Verse 10.

rajas tamas' câbhibhûya
sattvam bhavati bhârata
rajah sattvam tamas' caiva
tamah sattvam rajas tathâ

rajah -- the mode of passion; tamah -- the mode of ignorance; ca -- also; abhibhûya -- surpassing; sattvam -- the mode of goodness; bhavati -- becomes prominent; bhârata -- o son of Bharata; rajah -- the mode of passion; sattvam -- the mode of goodness; tamah -- the mode of ignorance; ca -- also; eva -- like that; tamah -- the mode of ignorance; sattvam -- the mode of goodness; rajah -- the mode of passion; tathâ -- thus.

      The three gunas, sattva, rajas, and tamas, undergo various permutations and combinations and modifications and become manifested as all this creation, this universe, this prakriti (the material nature with the living beings). Therefore, this prakriti is subject to changes, it is not fixed, true. But the âtmâ is chaitanya (consciousness, intelligence) which is tejorupam, sheer effulgence; so it is not subject to blemishes or modifications. The body is prakriti; buddhi (intellect) and manas ( feeling, mind) are also prakriti; for this reason, they too differ according to the degree or excess or deficiency of one or other of the gunas. - Gîtâ Vahini, p. 195.

Verse 11.

sarva-dvâreshu dehe 'smin
prakâs'a upajâyate
jñânam yadâ tadâ vidyâd
vivriddham sattvam ity uta

sarva-dvâreshu -- in all the gates; dehe asmin -- in this body; prakâs'ah -- the quality of illumination; upajâyate -- develops; jñânam -- knowledge; yadâ -- when; tadâ -- at that time; vidyât -- know; vivriddham -- increased; sattvam -- the mode of goodness; iti uta -- thus it is said.

      Sattvaguna is steady, pure, unselfish, light; so those who have this characteristic will have no wish or want; they will be fit for the knowledge of the âtmâ. - Gîtâ Vahini, p. 195.

Verse 12.

lobhah pravrittir ârambhah
karmanâm as'amah sprihâ
rajasy etâni jâyante
vivriddhe bharatarshabha

lobhah -- greed; pravrittih -- activity; ârambhah -- endeavor; karmanâm -- in activities; as'amah -- uncontrollable; sprihâ -- desire; rajasi -- of the mode of passion; etâni -- all these; jâyante -- develop; vivriddhe -- when there is an excess; bharata-rishabha -- o chief of the descendants of Bharata.

      Those with rajoguna will be engaged in acts tarnished with a tinge of ego. They may have the urge to do service to others, but that urge will drive them on to win fame and take pride in their achievements. They will yearn for their own good, along with the good of others. - Gîtâ Vahini, p. 195.

Verse 13.

aprakâs'o 'pravrittis' ca
pramâdo moha eva ca
tamasy etâni jâyante
vivriddhe kuru-nandana

aprakâs'ah -- darkness; apravrittih -- inactivity; ca -- and; pramâdah -- madness; mohah -- illusion; eva -- certainly; ca -- also; tamasi -- the mode of ignorance; etâni -- these; jâyante -- are manifested; vivriddhe -- when developed; kuru-nandana -- o son of Kuru.

      Those who are endowed with tamoguna are overcome by the darkness of ignorance, so they grope about, not knowing what is right and what is wrong. - Gîtâ Vahini, p. 195.

      Arjuna is addressed in the Bhagavad Gîtâ by S'rî Krishna as kuru-nandana (son of Kuru); kuru means karma; the expression means that one is the product of one's karma or activities, one is shaped inevitably by the words and deeds and thoughts that one indulges in. As long as one has a trace of ajñâna, one is kuru-nandana; so, Krishna addressed Arjuna thus in order to entice him into the realm of bhakti and jñâna, from the region of karma. - Sathya Sai Speaks V, p. 6.

Verse 14.

yadâ sattve pravriddhe tu
pralayam yâti deha-bhrit
tadottama-vidâm lokân
amalân pratipadyate

yadâ -- when; sattve -- the mode of goodness; pravriddhe -- developed; tu -- but; pralayam -- dissolution; yâti -- goes; deha-bhrit -- the embodied; tadâ -- at that time; uttama-vidâm -- of the great sages; lokân -- the planets; amalân -- pure; pratipadyate -- attains. 

Verse 15.

rajasi pralayam gatvâ
karma-sangishu jâyate
tathâ pralînas tamasi
mûdha-yonishu jâyate

rajasi -- in passion; pralayam -- dissolution; gatvâ -- attaining; karma-sangishu -- in the association of those engaged in fruitive activities; jâyate -- takes birth; tathâ -- similarly; pralînah -- being dissolved; tamasi -- in ignorance; mûdha-yonishu -- in animal species; jâyate -- takes birth.

Verse 16.

karmanah sukritasyâhuh
sâttvikam nirmalam phalam
rajasas tu phalam duhkham
ajñânam tamasah phalam

karmanah -- of work; su-kritasya -- pious; âhuh -- is said; sâttvikam -- in the mode of goodness; nirmalam -- purified; phalam -- the result; rajasah -- of the mode of passion; tu -- but; phalam -- the result; duhkham -- misery; ajñânam -- nonsense; tamasah -- of the mode of ignorance; phalam -- the result.

      Politeness, humility, and forbearance are sattvic qualities; shyness, fear and indolence are tamasic qualities; and aggressiveness, wilfullness and envy are rajasic qualities. - Summer Showers in Brindavan 1979, p. 146.

Verse 17.

sattvât sañjâyate jñânam
rajaso lobha eva ca
pramâda-mohau tamaso
bhavato 'jñânam eva ca

sattvât -- from the mode of goodness; sañjâyate -- develops; jñânam -- knowledge; rajasah -- from the mode of passion; lobhah -- greed; eva -- certainly; ca -- also; pramâda -- madness; mohau -- and illusion;tamasah -- from the mode of ignorance; bhavatah -- develop; ajñânam -- nonsense; eva -- certainly; ca -- also.

Verse 18.

ûrdhvam gacchanti sattva-sthâ
madhye tishthhanti râjasâh
jaghanya-guna-vritti sthâ
adho gacchanti tâmasâh

ûrdhvam -- upwards; gacchanti -- go; sattva-sthâh -- those situated in the mode of goodness; madhye -- in the middle; tishthhanti -- dwell; râjasâh -- those situated in the mode of passion; jaghanya -- of abominable; guna -- quality; vritti-sthâh -- whose occupation; adhah -- down; gacchanti -- go; tâmasâh -- persons in the mode of ignorance.

      The sattva guna is a golden rope, the rajoguna a copper rope and the tamoguna, an iron rope; all three bind effectively in spite of the difference in the cost of material. As bonds, all three are obstacles to freedom of movement. - Gîtâ Vahini, p. 197.

Verse 19.

nânyam gunebhyah kartâram
yadâ drashthânupas'yati
gunebhyas' ca param vetti
mad-bhâvam so 'dhigacchati

na -- no; anyam -- other; gunebhyah -- than the qualities; kartâram -- performer; yadâ -- when; drashthâ -- a seer; anupas'yati -- sees properly; gunebhyah -- to the modes of nature; ca -- and; param -- transcendental; vetti -- knows; mat-bhâvam -- to My spiritual nature; sah -- he; adhigacchati -- is promoted.

      The human mind is activated into a dynamic equilibrium by the three gunas of sattva, rajas and tamas (equanimity, energy and inertia). These gunas are the motivating forces whose source is Îs'vara who is not only transcendental but also immanent and ubiquitous (present, appearing, or found everywhere). - Summer Showers in Brindavan 1979, p. 69.

Verse 20.

gunân etân atîtya trîn
dehî deha-samudbhavân
janma-mrityu jarâ-duhkhair
vimukto 'mritam as'nute

gunân -- qualities; etân -- all these; atîtya -- transcending; trîn -- three; dehî -- the embodied; deha -- the body; samudbhavân -- produced of; janma -- of birth; mrityu -- death; jarâ -- and old age; duhkhaih -- the distresses; vimuktah -- being freed from; amritam -- nectar; as'nute -- he enjoys.

      The common man is enslaved by his gunas or attributes. He should transcend the gunas and transform himself into a divine being. He should undergo a spiritual metamorphosis, as it were. The spiritualization or divinization of man is the ultimate goal of the Gîtâ. - Summer Showers in Brindavan 1979, p. 65.

Verse 21.

arjuna uvâca
kair lingais trîn gunân etân
atîto bhavati prabho
kim âcârah katham caitâms
trîn gunân ativartate

arjunah uvâca -- Arjuna said; kaih -- by which; lingaih -- symptoms; trîn -- three; gunân -- qualities; etân -- all these; atîtah -- having transcended; bhavati -- is; prabho -- o my Lord; kim -- what; âcârah -- behavior; katham -- how; ca -- also; etân -- these; trîn -- three; gunân -- qualities; ativartate -- transcends.

Verse 22-25.

s'rî-bhagavân uvâca
prakâs'am ca pravrittim ca
moham eva ca pândava
na dveshthi sampravrittâni
na nivrittâni kânkshati

s'rî-bhagavân uvâca -- the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; prakâs'am -- illumination; ca -- and; pravrittim -- attachment; ca -- and; moham -- illusion; eva ca -- also; pândava -- o son of Pându; na dveshthi -- does not hate; sampravrittâni -- although developed; na nivrittâni -- nor stopping development; kânkshati -- desires; 

      [to verse 22]: Everyone should recognize the truth that pleasure is but an interval between two pains and face the trials and tribulations of the world in a calm and collected manner. The alternating experiences of pleasure and pain actually prod us along the path of righteousness. - Summer Showers in Brindavan 1979, p. 157.

udâsînavad âsîno
gunair yo na vicâlyate
gunâ vartanta ity evam
yo 'vatishthhati nengate

 udâsîna-vat -- as if neutral; âsînah -- situated; gunaih -- by the qualities; yah -- one who; na -- never; vicâlyate -- is agitated; gunâh -- the qualities; vartante -- are acting; iti evam -- knowing thus; yah -- one who; avatishthhati -- remains; na -- never; ingate -- flickers;

      [to verse 23]: Lord Krishna said: "Think of this one point; then the whole problem will become clear. Man is happy at one time, miserable at another; he is afraid one moment and courageous at another." Why? Because he is shaped by the gunas. Do you say no? Then how can you explain these changes? They alone can transform man from one phase to another like this. "If the three gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas, are equally balanced, then there will be no change in him." - Gîtâ Vahini, p. 193.

sama-duhkha-sukhah sva-sthah
tulya-priyâpriyo dhîras

sama -- equal; duhkha -- in distress; sukhah -- and happiness; sva-sthah -- being situated in himself; sama -- equally; loshtha -- a lump of earth; as'ma -- stone; kâñcanah -- gold; tulya -- equally disposed; priya -- to the dear; apriyah -- and the undesirable; dhîrah -- steady; tulya -- equal; nindâ -- in defamation; âtma-samstutih -- and praise of himself;  

mânâpamânayos tulyas
tulyo mitrâri-pakshayoh
gunâtîtah sa ucyate

mâna -- in honor; apamânayoh -- and dishonor; tulyah -- equal; tuiyah -- equal; mitra -- of friends; ari -- and enemies; pakshayoh -- to the parties; sarva -- of all; ârambha -- endeavors; parityâgî -- renouncer; guna-atîtah -- transcendental to the material modes of nature; sah -- he; ucyate -- is said to be.

      [to verse 25]: Samajika samatva, or the equanimity that man as an integral part of society should possess, comes next. Society too subjects man to the dual experiences of joy and sorrow. For instance, both praise and blame come to man from the society in which he lives. Praise and blame are like the two faces of the same coin and they always haunt each other. We should be perturbed by neither. We should regard both adulation and censure as stepping stones to progress. - Summer Showers in Brindavan 1979, p. 157.

Verse 26.

mâm ca yo 'vyabhicârena
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa gunân samatîtyaitân
brahma-bhûyâya kalpate

mâm -- unto Me; ca -- also; yah -- a person who; avyabhicârena -- without fail; bhakti-yogena -- by devotional service; sevate -- renders service; sah -- he; gunân -- the modes of material nature; samatîtya -- transcending; etân -- all these; brahma-bhûyâya -- elevated to the Brahman platform; kalpate -- becomes.

      On account of the primary impulse of delusion and ignorance, the gunas arose and got intermixed, and time manifested with the change, and all this multiplicity called the universe appeared. So, the jîvi must dedicate himself to the Master of this delusion, the director of this play, and manipulator of this time, the actor who sports the gunas (types of behaviors, groups of qualities, bundles of attributes), the mother of all the worlds (mâyâ); he must fill himself with understanding of the immeasureable power and glory of the Imperishable Absolute (akshara (syllable, letter) parabrahma (universal absolute)); he must immerse himself in the bliss derivable therefrom. - Bhagavatha Vahini, chapter 33.

Verse 27.

brahmano hi pratishthhâham
amritasyâvyayasya ca
s'âs'vatasya ca dharmasya
sukhasyaikântikasya ca

brahmanah -- of the impersonal brahmajyoti; hi -- certainly; pratishthhâ -- the rest; aham -- I am; amritasya -- of the immortal; avyayasya -- of the imperishable; ca -- also; s'as'vatasya -- of the eternal; ca -- and; dharmasya -- of the constitutional position; sukhasya -- of happiness; aikântikasya -- ultimate; ca -- also.

      In the Gîtâ it is declared "I am the basis of Brahman, of positive immortality, of timeless dharma, and eternal bliss." The sloka is in Chapter 14, the 27th sloka.

It is this amrita-dharma that is described in the Upanishads, the same is emphasized in the Gîtâ too. The dharmic way of life is the very breath; it is the road to self-realization. Those who walk along it are dear to the Lord; He dwells with all that are truthful, whose deeds spring from dharma. That is why the Gîtâ teaches Arjuna to develop certain qualities, which help the practise of the atmic dharma. - Dharma Vahini, p. 17







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