Episode 11: What are the three attributes of Nature (trigunas)?

We have discussed that the trigunas viz., traits of goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas) are the Lord’s power of illusion (māya shakti). The Supreme Lord who is over and above this power of illusion, who is non-dual and complete, combines with these three traits and for the purposes of creation, sustenance and absorption of this creation transforms into Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra. They can be called the symbolic forms He takes on. Amongst them, through Mahavishnu, who is a personification of sattva (goodness), ultimate benefit can be obtained by mankind!

Smoke emerges from firewood which is nothing but transformation of earth. From smoke fire, which is the root for all Vedic activities, is born. However firewood is superior to earth; smoke is superior to firewood and fire is superior to smoke. We are speaking of 4 elements here- earth, firewood, smoke and fire. We have said that wood is born from earth but is superior to earth; smoke come from firewood but is superior to firewood and fire is superior to smoke.

Likewise, rajo guṇa (passion) is superior to tamo guṇa (inertia, dullness, laziness). Traits of purity and goodness (sattva guṇa) are superior to traits of passion. Why is this so? This is because traits of goodness illumine Parabrahma. Through sattva guṇa the person can realize Absolute Truth.

Previously great sages sought shelter in complete pure traits (shuddha sattva) and rendered services to Lord Mahavishnu who is viśuddha sattva (over and above the trigunas). Those humans who offer services to such revered sages and who abide by their dictates also attain auspiciousness. 

Those who are predominantly of pure traits should not worship or render services to the ferocious forms of the Gods (Ugra Devatas). Those whose thinking is pure and unblemished are known as pure persons. Such persons should worship Vishnu, who is of pure traits. By worshipping the ferocious forms of the Lord, they may acquire traits of passion or inertia (rajas, tamas). This is not right.

You acquire traits based on your actions. Based on the food you eat, its traits are imbibed by you. This is why food plays a very, very critical role. If you eat pure sattvik food, you will develop pure traits. Those who eat rajasic and tamasic foods remain in that state of passion and ignorance. They cannot acquire traits of purity.

Those spiritual aspirants who seek to imbibe pure traits should not worship the ferocious forms of the Lord such as Bhairava, even though they do not find any faults in them. They should instead focus on and worship the peaceful, auspicious forms of Lord Mahavishnu or His partial incarnations and render services to them.

Did we not state that not all people are of pure traits? Did we not state just now that based on the characteristics of the food eaten, our nature is acquired? We become what we eat. Similarly when we worship a God who has pure peaceful tendencies, we also imbibe those qualities that are pure and peaceful.  

Those who are predominantly filled with passion and ignorance worship forefathers, demigods, Prajapati etc. seeking wealth, prosperity, power, children or other materialistic comforts. Such persons are deeply stuck to this world. They are glued to desire, anger, greed and other evil passions. They believe that these passions lead to the welfare and prosperity of their family. They also believe that safeguarding family wealth or the positions of power is the essence of life. To a certain degree they do have faith in God. That’s all. But what kind of devotion do they have? It is a ‘trading relationship’ with God. ‘I will offer you money if in return I am blessed with something.’ ‘My name should be put up on the board. Please mention that I have contributed for annadanam.’

But what special benefit do such persons obtain from these deeds? It will bless them with a good name and fame in this birth. They will be blessed with good children or good prosperity in this materialistic world. If at all they seek to move towards pure light/ illumination, they have to give up worshipping these intermediary Gods or the ferocious Gods. How can a person move towards purity while simultaneously continuing these activities?

There are many devotees who approach Swamiji. They read out an enormous list of their desires and wants that seek that Swamiji should bless them. Finally they conclude by asking to be blessed with ‘peace of mind’ and ‘liberation.’ Is this liberation some yantra or mantra that can be given? Is it something that can be bought in a shop? What am I supposed to say to such persons? Can I say ‘give up all your wealth; give up your large home; give up your children?’ Will they listen to me if I were to make such statements? They will leave me and go away but they will never give up their material connections. Now at least occasionally they come for Guru darshan; I will be spoiling even this little goodness in them by making such statements.

Therefore such persons should be gradually reformed. ‘Not now. Tomorrow we have Bhagawatam chanting. Please come and attend that function. Listening to Bhagawatam will lead to your welfare.’ At times it is even essential to utter small lies in order to get these people on to the right track. ‘By listening you will get back your lost items. Your power will remain as is’. Then putting the entire load on Lord Krishna I say to Him, “Krishna, using your name I have had to lie to these people. My only goal is to ensure that they tread the right path. I have no personal benefit in this”. It is also possible that they could really recover the lost items. If at all they do not then it will amount as if my words were wrong. At such times consider the amount spent on this as a charitable deed and let go.

It is extremely complicated to teach about traits of goodness and about liberation to those who are brimming with traits of passion and ignorance (rajas, tamas). Teaching or explaining to them about liberation is like a huge penance. It is a Yogam.

Om Namo Narayana.

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