Bhagavad-Gita -- Recension by W. Q. Judge
The Three Qualities of Nature
"I will explain further the sublime spiritual knowledge superior to all others, by knowing which all the sages have attained to supreme perfection on the dissolution of this body. They take sanctuary in this wisdom, and having attained to my state they are not born again even at the new evolution, nor are they disturbed at the time of general destruction.
"The great Brahman is my womb in which I place the seed; from that, O son of Bharata, is the production of all existing things. (1) This great Brahman is the womb for all those various forms which are produced from any womb, and I am the Father who provideth the seed. The three great qualities called sattva, rajas, and tamas -- light, or truth, passion or desire, and indifference or darkness -- are born from nature, and bind the imperishable soul to the body, O thou of mighty arms. Of these the sattva quality by reason of its lucidity and peacefulness entwineth the soul to rebirth through attachment to knowledge and that which is pleasant. Know that rajas is of the nature of desire, producing thirst and propensity; it, O son of Kunti, imprisoneth the Ego through the consequences produced from action. The quality of tamas, the offspring of the indifference in nature, is the deluder of all creatures, O son of Bharata; it imprisoneth the Ego in a body through heedless folly, sleep, and idleness. The sattva quality attaches the soul through happiness and pleasure, the rajas through action, and tamas quality surrounding the power of judgment with indifference attaches the soul through heedlessness.
"When, O son of Bharata, the qualities of tamas and rajas are overcome, then that of sattva prevaileth;tamas is chiefly acting when sattva and rajas are hidden; and when the sattva and tamas diminish, then rajas prevaileth. When wisdom, the bright light, shall become evident at every gate of the body, then one may know that the sattva quality is prevalent within. The love of gain, activity in action, and the initiating of works, restlessness and inordinate desire are produced when the quality of rajas is prevalent, whilst the tokens of the predominance of the tamas quality are absence of illumination, the presence of idleness, heedlessness, and delusion, O son of Kunti.
"If the body is dissolved when the sattva quality prevails, the self within proceeds to the spotless spheres of those who are acquainted with the highest place. When the body is dissolved while the quality of rajas is predominant, the soul is born again in a body attached to action; and so also of one who dies while tamas quality is prevalent, the soul is born again in the wombs of those who are deluded.
"The fruit of righteous acts is called pure and holy, appertaining to sattva; from rajas is gathered fruit in pain, and the tamas produceth only senselessness, ignorance, and indifference. From sattva wisdom is produced, from rajas desire, from tamas ignorance, delusion and folly. Those in whom the sattva quality is established mount on high, those who are full of rajas remain in the middle sphere, the world of men, while those who are overborne by the gloomy quality, tamas, sink below. But when the wise man perceiveth that the only agents of action are these qualities, and comprehends that which is superior to the qualities, he attains to my state. And when the embodied self surpasseth these three qualities of goodness, action, and indifference -- which are coexistent with the body -- it is released from rebirth and death, old age and pain, and drinketh of the water of immortality."
"What are the characteristic marks by which the man may be known, O Master, who hath surpassed the three qualities? What is his course of life, and what are the means by which he overcometh the qualities?"
"He, O son of Pandu, who doth not hate these qualities -- illumination, action, and delusion -- when they appear, nor longeth for them when they disappear; who, like one who is of no party, sitteth as one unconcerned about the three qualities and undisturbed by them, who being persuaded that the qualities exist, is moved not by them; who is of equal mind in pain and pleasure, self-centered, to whom a lump of earth, a stone, or gold are as one; who is of equal mind with those who love or dislike, constant, the same whether blamed or praised; equally minded in honor and disgrace, and the same toward friendly or unfriendly side, engaging only in necessary actions, such an one hath surmounted the qualities. And he, my servant, who worships me with exclusive devotion, having completely overcome the qualities, is fitted to be absorbed in Brahman the Supreme. I am the embodiment of the Supreme Ruler, and of the incorruptible, of the unmodifying, and of the eternal law, and of endless bliss."
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Fourteenth Chapter, by name --
The Three Qualities of Nature
1. In this verse Brahman is to be taken as prakriti, or nature. (return to text)
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