In the 14th discourse of the Bhagavad Gita, we learn about the qualities of the Gunas, satva, rajas and tamas. The three gunas are influential on all of us and it is said in this discourse, that without knowledge of the gunas we live with sorrow forever.
It is the three gunas that bind our cosmic bodies to the physical body. The highest of the gunas is satva, which brings happiness, wisdom and illumination. Rajas is the second and brings passion manifested by greed and attachment. Ignorance brings about tamas and results in darkness, lethargy and delusion. Krishna explains that we should try to cast tamas from our nature entirely. rajas can be controlled and can be channeled into activities that are good in terms of helping the world. Satva should be cultivated with care.
Once a yogi reaches a point where they go beyond the three gunas, they are considered to be sages. It is through Satva that they get to the point of God realization, but even with this there are attachments. Once there are no attachments at all one becomes a realized sage. This is freedom from birth, death, old age and sorrow. When asked the signs of one who has risen above the gunas, Krishna replies that they are alike in pleasure and pain; behaves the same to friend and foe; they see no difference between gold and stone.
For me, this discourse is about abandoning hope and fear. It is through these two qualities that we find sorrow. Hope means wanting things to be different than they are. And although change is needed in many ways in our world, acceptance needs to come first. If we don’t accept, for example, that racism exists, we can’t get to a place where we change that. Once we accept the way things are without anger, frustration and fear, we move toward change. In this way our action are channeled toward something good. If we stay in the journey without getting caught up in the end result we can become less attached and do the work for the works sake.
The need to act is great in many of us. I don’t think there are many people that have achieved self-realization or enlightenment. It is truly up to us to act in the ways that will bring about good in the world. It can be very difficult to not become attached to outcomes, just as it’s difficult to detach from the people we love or our own bodies as we are asked to do in yoga. I think the bigger lesson is about which actions we take and being content with our lives regardless of circumstances. Often times when we begin to accept, that’s when the real change starts.
I was really broke for many years and constantly worried about money. It felt debilitating. I knew that I had “poverty mentality” long after I was so poor. It’s hard to shake. But once I accepted where I was financially and was okay with it, I started to give more. And it seemed like the more I gave the more I had. I’m comfortable now and I rarely think about money. I’m not rich by any stretch, but I live within my means and am happy with what I have. That’s what I mean about acceptance. Accept the way things are so they aren’t on the mind in such a stressful and unproductive way. and then act from that place.