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The original Sanskrit verses and
(word for word translated) of the
Mahābhārata, Bhīshma 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 Prithā, 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 Vibhāga Yoga  



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[Slokas 5 to 10, 16 to 20] "

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Verse 1.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
param bhūyah pravakshyāmi
jānānām jānam uttamam
yaj jātvā munayah sarve
parām siddhim ito gatāh

      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. - Jāna Vahini, p. 1

Verse 2.

idam jānam upāśritya`
mama sādharmyam āgatāh
sarge 'pi nopajāyante
pralaye na vyathanti ca

Verse 3.

mama yonir mahad brahma
tasmin garbham dadhāmy aham
sambhavah sarva-bhūtānām
tato bhavati bhārata

Verse 4.

sarva-yonishu kaunteya
mūrtayah sambhavanti yāh
tāsām brahma mahad yonir
aham bīja-pradah pitā

Verse 5.

sattvam rajas tama iti
gunāh prakriti-sambhavāh
nibadhnanti mahā-bāho
dehe dehinam avyayam

      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 nirmalatvāt
prakāśakam anāmayam
sukha-sangena badhnāti
jāna-sangena cānagha

      In fact, the best of the three gunas or qualities is the sattva and that itself promotes bhakti or devotion and is the best sādhana (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 rāgātmakam viddhi
tan nibadhnāti kaunteya
karma-sangena dehinam

      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 ajāna-jam viddhi
mohanam sarva-dehinām
tan nibadhnāti bhārata

      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 sajayati
rajah karmani bhārata
jānam āvritya tu tamah
pramāde sajayaty uta

      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. - Gītā Vahini, p. 193.

Verse 10.

rajas tamaś cābhibhūya
sattvam bhavati bhārata
rajah sattvam tamaś caiva
tamah sattvam rajas tathā

      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 ātmā 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. - Gītā Vahini, p. 195.

Verse 11.

sarva-dvāreshu dehe 'smin
prakāśa upajāyate
jānam yadā tadā vidyād
vivriddham sattvam ity uta

      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 ātmā. - Gītā Vahini, p. 195.

Verse 12.

lobhah pravrittir ārambhah
karmanām aśamah sprihā
rajasy etāni jāyante
vivriddhe bharatarshabha

      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. - Gītā Vahini, p. 195.

Verse 13.

aprakāśo 'pravrittiś ca
pramādo moha eva ca
tamasy etāni jāyante
vivriddhe kuru-nandana

      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. - Gītā Vahini, p. 195.

      Arjuna is addressed in the Bhagavad Gītā by śrī 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 ajāna, one is kuru-nandana; so, Krishna addressed Arjuna thus in order to entice him into the realm of bhakti and jāna, from the region of karma. - Sathya Sai Speaks V, p. 6.

Verse 14.

yadā sattve pravriddhe tu
pralayam yāti deha-bhrit
tadottama-vidām lokān
amalān pratipadyate

Verse 15.

rajasi pralayam gatvā
karma-sangishu jāyate
tathā pralīnas tamasi
mūdha-yonishu jāyate

Verse 16.

karmanah sukritasyāhuh
sāttvikam nirmalam phalam
rajasas tu phalam duhkham
ajānam tamasah phalam

      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.

sattvāt sajāyate jānam
rajaso lobha eva ca
pramāda-mohau tamaso
bhavato 'jānam eva ca

Verse 18.

ūrdhvam gacchanti sattva-sthā
madhye tishthhanti rājasāh
jaghanya-guna-vritti sthā
adho gacchanti tāmasāh

      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. - Gītā Vahini, p. 197.

Verse 19.

nānyam gunebhyah kartāram
yadā drashthānupaśyati
gunebhyaś ca param vetti
mad-bhāvam so 'dhigacchati

      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 īśvara who is not only transcendental but also immanent and ubiquitous (present, appearing, or found everywhere). - Summer Showers in Brindavan 1979, p. 69.

Verse 20.

gunān etān atītya trīn
dehī deha-samudbhavān
janma-mrityu jarā-duhkhair
vimukto 'mritam aśnute

      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 Gītā. - Summer Showers in Brindavan 1979, p. 65.

Verse 21.

arjuna uvāca
kair lingais trīn gunān etān
atīto bhavati prabho
kim ācārah katham caitāms
trīn gunān ativartate

Verse 22-25.

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
prakāśam ca pravrittim ca
moham eva ca pāndava
na dveshthi sampravrittāni
na nivrittāni kānkshati

      [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.

udāsīnavad āsīno
gunair yo na vicālyate
gunā vartanta ity evam
yo 'vatishthhati nengate

      [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." - Gītā Vahini, p. 193.

sama-duhkha-sukhah sva-sthah
tulya-priyāpriyo dhīras

mānāpamānayos tulyas
tulyo mitrāri-pakshayoh
gunātītah sa ucyate

      [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.

mām ca yo 'vyabhicārena
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa gunān samatītyaitān
brahma-bhūyāya kalpate

      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 jīvi 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 (māyā); 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 pratishthhāham
amritasyāvyayasya ca
śāśvatasya ca dharmasya
sukhasyaikāntikasya ca

      In the Gītā 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 Gītā 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 Gītā teaches Arjuna to develop certain qualities, which help the practise of the atmic dharma. - Dharma Vahini, p. 17







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