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CHAPTER 14

DIVISION OF THE THREE PROPERTIES

Yogeshwar Krishn has elucidated the nature of knowledge in several foregoing chapters. In the nineteenth verse of Chapter 4 he said that the ordained action, commenced well by a worshipper, grows by gradual steps and becomes so subtle that all desires and will are destroyed, and what he knows then by intuitive perception is knowledge. In Chapter 13 knowledge was defined as apprehension of the Supreme Spirit who is the end of the quest for truth. Knowledge makes its advent only after the distinction between kshetr and kshetragya, matter and spirit, is comprehended. Knowledge is not logical arguments and neither is it just the memorizing of holy texts. That state of practice is knowledge in which there is awareness of truth. The experience that is had with direct perception of God is knowledge, and whatever is opposed to it is ignorance.

Even after having dwelt upon all this, however, Krishn tells Arjun in the present chapter that he will again explain that sublime knowledge to him. He is going to repeat what he has already said. This is so because, as it has been rightly said, we should time and again turn to even well-studied scriptures. Moreover, the further a worshipper proceeds on the path of spiritual quest the nearer he goes to the desired goal and has new experiences of God. This awareness is made possible by an accomplished teacher that is, a realized sage who has attained to the Supreme Spirit and who stands inseparably with the worshipper’s Self. It is for this reason that Krishn is resolved to enlighten Arjun again on the nature of true knowledge.

Memory is a film on which impressions and influences are constantly recorded. If the awareness that takes one to the supreme goal is blurred, nature which is the cause of grief begins to be imprinted on the slate of memory. So the worshipper should constantly revise the knowledge pertaining to realization of the final goal right till the moment of attainment. Memory is alive and strong today, but the same might not be the case with progress to further stages. It is for this reason that the revered Maharaj Ji used to say, "Tell your beads at least once everyday to refresh your awareness of God. But these beads are told in thought rather than externally by audible voice.’’

This is recommended for the seeker, but they who are accomplished teacher-preceptors are constantly after the seeker to acquaint him with novel situations by arising from his Soul as well as by the example of their own conduct. Yogeshwar Krishn was such a teacher-sage. Arjun who occupies the position of his pupil has beseeched him to support him. So Yogeshwar Krishn says that he will tell him again of the knowledge which is the most sublime of all knowledge.

1. "The Lord said to Arjun, ‘I shall tell you again that supreme knowledge which is the noblest of all knowledge and, having possessed which sages have escaped from worldly bondage to achieve the ultimate perfection.’’’

This is the knowledge after acquiring which nothing else remains to be sought for.

2. "They who have achieved my state by seeking shelter in this knowledge are neither born at the beginning of creation nor alarmed in the event of doom."

They who are close io this knowledge and have taken refuge in it by attaining to Krishn’s state through treading the path of action are neither born nor frightened by the prospect of death, because

the physical entity of the sage ceases to be at the very moment when he attains to the state of the Supreme Spirit. His body is henceforth a mere dwelling. Now which is that point up to which men are reborn? This is the question Krishn next takes up.

3. "Like the great Creator, O Bharat, is my eight-propertied primal nature, the womb of which I fertilize with the seed of consciousness by which all beings are shaped.’’

Krishn’s eight-part primal nature, is the womb in which he sows the seed of consciousness, and all beings are born from this union of the insensate and the conscious.

4. "The eightfold nature, O son of Kunti, is the mother that bears all the beings of different births and I am the father that casts the seed.’’

There is no other mother except this primal nature, and no other father except Krishn. No matter who the root is, there will be births so long as there is meeting of the insensate and the conscious. But why is the conscious Self bound to insensible nature?

5. "The three nature-born properties (sattwa, rajas, and tamas), O the mighty-armed, bind the imperishable Self to the body.’’

The following verse throws light upon how this is effected.

6. "Of the three properties, O the sinless, the purifying and enlightening sattwa binds one to the desire for joy and knowledge.’’

The virtuous property binds the Self to the body with attachment to joy and knowledge. So sattwa, too, is a bondage. As we have already seen, happiness lies in God, and the intuitive perception of that Supreme Spirit is knowledge. The man who is endowed with the property of sattwa is bound only so long as he does not apprehend God.

7. "Know, O son of Kunti, that the properly of rajas, born from desire and infatuation, binds the Self with attachment to action and its fruits. Rajas, an embodiment of passion, inclines one to action.’’

8. "And, O Bharat, know that the property of tamas, which deludes all beings, arises from ignorance and binds the Soul with carelessness, sloth, and slumber.’’

Tamas binds the Self with laziness, the tendency to put off a task to the next day, and with sleep. "Sleep" here does not mean that a man possessed of tamas sleeps too much. It is not a question of the body sleeping at all. As Krishn said in the sixty-ninth verse of Chapter 2, the world itself with its ephemeral pleasures is like night in which the man endowed with the property of tamas ever toils in a state of unconsciousness of the effulgent God. This is the slumber of tamas and one who is trapped in it sleeps. Krishn now discourses on the collective form of the three properties.

9. "Whereas the property of sattwa motivates one to joy, rajas prompts to action, and tamas veils knowledge and drives one to carelessness.’’

While sattwa leads one to ultimate bliss and rajas to action, tamas tempts the mind and heart to futile endeavours. However, when the properties are confined to one place and to one heart, how are they divided from each other? According to Krishn:

10. "And, O Bharat, (just as) sattwa grows by overcoming the properties of rajas and tamas, tamas grows by overpowering rajas and sattwa, and the property of rajas grows by suppressing tamas and sattwa."

But how should we know which property is dominant at a certain time?

11. ‘‘When the mind and senses are suffused with the light of knowledge and consciousness, it should be taken as a sign of the growing strength of sattwa.’’

And-

12. "When the property of rajas is ascendant, O the best of Bharat, greed, worldly inclination, the tendency to undertake action , restlessness, and desire for sensual pleasures arise.’’

What happens, however, when tamas grows dominant?

13. "When there is an upsurge of tamas, O Kurunandan, darkness, disinclination to duty which ought to be done, carelessness, and tendencies that engender infatuation arise.’’

As tamas multiplies, there ensue the haze of ignorance (light is a symbol of God), a natural reluctance to advance towards the divine radiance, disinclination to the special ordained action, futile efforts of the mind and heart, and propensities which tempt one to the world.

What, however, is the profit of knowing the properties?

14. "If the Soul departs when the property of sattwa is dominant, it attains to the pure worlds of the virtuous.’’

And-

15. "If he meets with death when rajas is presiding, he is born as (one of ) humans who are attached to action; and he is born in the form of unintelligent beings if he leaves the body when tamas is prevailing.’’

So of all properties man should be endowed with sattwa. The bank of nature refunds the earned merits even after death. Now let us see its consequence.

16. "While righteousness is said to be the pure outcome of action that is governed by sattwa, the outcome of rajas is sorrow, and the outcome of tamas is ignorance.’’

Absolute happiness, knowledge, renunciation, and such other qualities are said to be the outcome of action inspired by sattwa. On the other hand, sorrow is the outcome of action characterized by rajas, and ignorance of action dominated by tamas.

17. "Knowledge arises from the property of sattwa, greed beyond any doubt from rajas, and carelessness, delusion, and ignorance from tamas.’’

What mode of existence does the generation of these properties result into?

18. "Whereas they who dwell in sattwa ascend to higher worlds, they who sojourn in rajas remain in the middle (the world of men), and they who abide in the meanest of properties tamas are doomed to the lowest state.’’

The current of life that is founded on sattwa flows towards the transcendental, primal God and the man with such a life attains to purer worlds. Souls who are dominated by rajas end up as common mortals. Lacking in discernment and renunciation, although they do not transmigrate into lower forms of life, they have to undergo rebirth. Ignorant and immoral men who are ruled by the rightly maligned tamas are reborn in the lowest forms. Thus the consequence of all the three properties is some kind of birth or the other. Only they who go beyond these properties are freed from the shackle of rebirth and they alone realize Krishn’s sublime state.

19. "When the Soul (that is a mere witness) does not see anyone besides the three properties as doer and when he knows the essence of the Supreme Spirit who is beyond these properties, he attains to my state.’’

The assumption that the three properties only duplicate themselves is not based on true knowledge. The process of accomplishment at last leads to the state in which after the perception of God no other agent except the three properties is visible, and in such a state a man goes beyond them. What Krishn has to say about this next is a proof that this is not just a flight of fancy.

20. ‘Transcending the properties that are the germ of the gross, corporal body and liberated from the miseries of birth, death, and old age, the Soul achieves the ultimate bliss.’’

After a man is liberated from the three properties, his Soul tastes the nectar of immortality. Thereupon Arjun puts another question to Krishn.

21. "Arjun said, ‘(Tell me), O Lord, the attributes of the man who has risen above the three properties, his manner of life, and the way by which he transcends the three properties.’’’

The following verses contain Krishn’s reply to the three questions raised by Arjun.

22. ‘‘The Lord said, ‘The man, O Pandav, who neither abhors radiance, inclination to action, and attachment that are generated respectively by the operations of sattwa, rajas, and tamas when he is involved in them, nor aspires for them when he is liberated;...’"

23. "(And) who, like a dispassionate onlooker, is unmoved by the properties and is steady and unshaken by dint of his realization that these properties of nature but abide in themselves;...’’

24. "(And) who, ever dwelling in his Self, views joy, sorrow, earth, stone, and gold as equal, is patient, and evenly regards the pleasant and the unpleasant, slander and praise;...’’

25. "(And) who puts up with honour and dishonour, as (also) with friend and foe, with equanimity, and who gives up the undertaking of action is said to have transcended all the properties.’’

Verses twenty-second to twenty-fifth disclose the attributes of the man who has risen above the three properties so that he is unagitated, unswayed by the properties, and steady. What follows now is clarification of the means by which one is liberated from these properties.

26. "And the man who serves me with the yog of unswerving devotion overcomes the three properties and secures the state of oneness with God.’’

One who worships Krishn with unwavering dedication, that is, with only the adored goal in his mind and oblivious of all other worldly memories, constantly serves him by performing the ordained action, goes well across the three properties and is worthy of being one with the Supreme Spirit. This union with God is the true kalp or cure. No one can go beyond these properties without undertaking the prescribed task with perfect intentness. So the Yogeshwar at last gives his judgement.

27. "For I am the one in which the eternal God, immortal life, the imperishable dharm, and the ultimate bliss all (abide).’’

Krishn is the dwelling of immortal God (through a single-minded access to whom the seeker is cured of all worldly maladies), of everlasting life, of eternal Dharm, and of the unblemished pure joy of attaining to the Supreme goal. In other words, a God-oriented saint is the abode of all this bliss. Such a sage was Krishn-a yogi.

So if we are seeking for the ineffable, indestructible God, the eternal dharm, and the pure, ultimate bliss, we have to take refuge in some great Soul that dwells in the incommunicable essence. Only such a sage can enable a devotee to achieve what he is questing for.

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Yogeshwar Krishn has told Arjun at the beginning of this chapter that he will again acquaint him with that knowledge which is the most sublime of all knowledge and after knowing which sages achieve identity with him and do not have to undergo rebirth at the outset of creation. They are also not grieved over the inevitable demise of the body. They, in fact, discard the body on the very day on which they achieve Self-realization, Accomplishment is made in the course of physical life, but even the prospect of death does not affect them.

Dwelling upon the nature of that from which they are liberated, Krishn has pointed out that the eightfold primal nature is the mother who conceives, whereas he is the life-giving father; besides them there is no other mother or father. Although there may well appear some mother and father so long as the relationship of nature (prakriti) and Soul (purush), of passive matter and the active male principle, lasts, in truth nature is mother and Krishn is father.

The nature-borne properties of sattwa, rajas, and tamas bind the Soul to the body. One of these properties grows by suppressing the other two. These properties are changeable. Nature is without end and cannot be destroyed, but the consequences of its properties can be avoided. These properties influence the mind. When sattwa is plentiful, the consequence is divine effulgence and the power of perception. Rajas, characterized by passion, results in temptation to action and in infatuation. If tamas is active, sloth and carelessness predominate. If a man meets with death when sattwa is predominant, he is born in higher and purer worlds. The man who departs from this life when rajas is plentiful returns to be born again in the human form. When a man dies under the sway of tamas, he is condemned to lower births. So it is vital that men ought always to move in the direction of gradual advancement of the property of sattwa. The three properties are the real cause of some birth or the other. Since it is these properties which chain the Soul to the body, one should constantly endeavour to go beyond them.

At this Arjun asks three questions. What are the features of the man who has risen above the properties of nature? How does he conduct himself? And what is the way of transcending the three properties? Replying to the queries, after elaborating the attributes and mode of action of the man who has liberated himself from these properties, Yogeshwar Krishn at last points out the way by which one may free oneself from these propertiesThus revealing himself as the shelter of all, Yogeshwar Krishn concludes Chapter 14 with a detailed account of the three properties of nature.

Thus concludes the Fourteenth Chapter, in the Upanishad of the Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta, on the Knowledge of the Supreme Spirit, the Discipline of Yog, and the Dialogue between Krishn and Arjun, entitled:

"Guntraya Vibhag Yog," or ‘‘Division of the Three Properties’’

Thus concludes Swami Adgadanand’s exposition of the Fourteenth Chapter of the Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta in

"Yatharth Geeta.’’

HARI OM TAT SAT

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