Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda

Song Of God (Bhagavad Gita) — Chapter 14: 17-18

October 9, 2019

™sattvāt saṁjāyate jñānaṁ rajaso lobha eva ca  
pramādamohau tamaso bhavato ’jñānam eva ca (XIV-17)
™ūrdhvaṁ gacchanti sattvasthā madhye tiṣṭhanti rājasāḥ
jaghanyaguṇavṛttisthā adho gacchanti tāmasāḥ (XIV-18)

™XIV/17. From sattva arises knowledge, and greed from rajas;
heedlessness and delusion arise from tamas, and also ignorance.

™XIV/18. Those who are seated in sattva go upwards;
the rājasᾱ dwell in the middle and the tāmasā,
abiding in the function of the lowest guṇa, go downwards.

Swamiji's Commentary

      Krishna gradually unfolds the secret doctrine. When you carefully look at all your activities, you discover to your astonishment that they fall into one or the other of these three categories. They are part of the divine nature. Though the soul itself is independent of them, it vainly clings to them, identifies itself with them, and thereby appears to be colored by them. An example may he given of a man living in a house with wet paint of different colors on the walls and doors. If he keeps away from the walls and the doors, he can still live in the house without being tainted by the colored paint. But, he admires some color, touches it, and is tainted. He dislikes some color, wants to rub it off, and is also tainted. In the dark, ignorantly, he leans against a wall or a door to rest, and becomes tainted.

      In the same way it is the ignorant soul, the slumbering soul living in darkness, that vainly imagines it is the doer of actions and the sufferer of consequences.

      It is the characteristic of these three qualities to go up (sattva), to go on (rajas) or to go down (tamas). The elevator in a building goes up and down. You will not, unless you sit in it! However, in spiritual life it is preferable to go up rather than down; hence it is said ‘cultivate sattva and remain established in it at the time of death’, so that you can have a better life next time from which to realize God.

     Even in the case of ‘going down’ it is not the soul that is thus condemned; on account of its false identification it only believes it has descended the ladder of evolution.

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