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Guna gunesu vartanta (Gunas abid in gunas) PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

We discussed about the guna concept in our last column. Krishna says that gunas abid in the gunas itself. He does not say that karma abides in karma. According to Krishna the source of all karma is the gunas. So far Krishna has not expanded on the types of gunas and we shall also wait until the topic comes up.

This is an interesting concept. As discussed before gunas represent the laws of nature; in fact they are forces of nature and are represented by three different forces, satva, rajas and tamas. We will get into details later. But let us try to understand it from our prior example of rock and wood.

The rock sinks in water and the wood floats. The properties of these two different matterials depend upon their compositions. Ultimately they are both made up of different proportions of the three atomic components, the electron, proton and the neutron. These are the ultimate divisions upon which property of any matter depends. The electron (in my opinion) abides in electron. It does not depend upon any further subdivisions.

Now if you throw a rock, a wood, an apple and a paper down from an Eiffel Tower they both will fall down towards the earth. The speed they will fall depends upon their mass and on the pull of the gravity. The apple has been falling even before Newton who saw the effect of gravity as the cause of the fall. The pull depends upon the size of the planet. The earth has a greater pull than the moon. We do not feel the pull when we are on the earth because we have become used to it. But we know from the experience of the travelers in space that there is zero gravity once you go beyond the earth’s atmosphere and it reappears when you enter the atmosphere of the moon. We all have seen photographs of what happens to a space traveler when he or she is in the zero gravity situations. They can just float in the capsule.

I am bringing this point to develop the understanding here that when Neil Armstrong is on earth he feels the forces of nature that we call gravity. When he gets out of the earth’s atmosphere he feels the absence of any gravitational forces and we call it zero gravity for lack of any other good expression. He then puts his feet on the surface of the moon and feels the gravity on the surface which is much less when compared to the surface of earth. He then comes back home but is a transformed man. He knows the existence of all the components. He knows that he has been carrying the weight of gravity all his life and he also knows what it feels like to be liberated (from gravity). Neil Armstrong does not have a choice. When he is on earth, he has to live with earth’s gravity. The difference is that he knows (really knows) what freedom from gravity is.

Krishna says that we all have to do some karma. Some of our essential kriyas (involuntary acts) such as beating of the heart or the sleep/awake cycle is not entirely in our control. But most of our other acts depend upon different combinations of three natural forces. They act on us not very dissimilar to the forces of gravity. It sounds very discouraging. We all feel that we are the masters. We do not feel these forces and also we all want to be in control. Krishna will say that we also do not feel the gravity. The problem with that is that everyone knows about gravity. It has been proven and can be proven by scientific methods. Krishna like Neil Armstrong has experience these forces and therefore he does not need any proof. He can simply state the fact. But, we like to ask for proofs even before we want to take the journey. Neil Armstrong had to take the journey of his life to experience what he really experienced. Krishna has also been there. But, we are all so cheap. We do not want to start.

The journey as we will find out is not from one guna to another as many believe. Many believe that the journey is from tamas to sat, but as we shall find out later the journey that Krishna is talking about is from gunas to gunateet (absence of guna). It is similar to zero-ravity and we can call it zero-guna for lack of any other proper expression. Once someone has been to zero-guna, he has to be in the influence when he has to act as well. When Krishna sleeps, or when Krishna drives the chariot of Arjuna he is also working in the influence of the guna. The difference is that he knows the zero-guna as well. It is similar to the fact that when Neil Armstrong comes to earth he has to be affected by gravity. But he knows zero-gravity. We all need to know the gunateet (zero-guna) and then the quality of karma is totally different. Nishkam karma results from this knowing.

We also have to understand that Krishna is not saying that God or Krishna controls or is the cause of the gunas. This is very significant. The fatalists claim that there is a controller. Krishna does away with any idea of a controller. He simply says that gunas are just it. If Mr. Rock or Mr. Wood decides to jump from the Eiffel Tower, that decision is generated by a proportion of the three gunas. Mr. Rock and Mr. Wood may not know it, but the gunas are behind their decisions. There is no God to help him and there is no Satan that has polluted their minds. When and if they jump, they fall and they fall because of the forces of gravity. The God is not pulling them and Satan is not pushing him. The gunas abide in themselves. They are just laws of nature that influence our karmas. There is need to be liberated by knowing how they behave and by experiencing their effects. Let us start trying to figure out what forces of nature are working on us in our daily acts. It will not take any of our time because it can be done simply by becoming aware of these dimensions.

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