Three Ways To Understand The Effect Of Gunas

[Shri Krishna]“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)

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चातुर्-वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं
तस्य कर्तारम् अपि मां
विद्ध्य् अकर्तारम् अव्ययम्

cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam

“Shri Krishna explains that He is the origin of the system of varnashrama. This is what commonly goes by the term ‘caste system’ today, but I know there is a scientific basis to the genuine thing. The Supreme Lord, Bhagavan, reveals that there are two factors at play: guna and karma.

“I’m a little confused as to the guna part. It seems that finding the occupation matching your qualities would be a good thing. For instance, if I am known to be brave, courageous, strong and interested in protecting others, kshatriya would be the way to go.

“At the same time, I’ve heard guna referred to in a negative light. It is better to be nirguna, or without material qualities. What exactly is the effect of possessing material qualities, be they of goodness, passion, or ignorance?”

1. Anchoring a boat to the floor of the ocean when trying to set sail

You are all ready to go. Everyone is on board. Why someone would intentionally choose to leave the comfort and safety of land is beyond you. Nevertheless, you got convinced into this. Supposedly it is a lot of fun. Little connection with the outside world. Nature in its truest sense. Something like camping for the weekend, but here you are surrounded by water.

There is a major problem at the outset. The boat is anchored to the floor of the ocean. No matter how much anyone may try, there is just no moving. The trip cannot continue until this problem is addressed.

2. Tied down to a bed when trying to get up

This new job is killing you. How people show up to the office each and every day at the same time, five days a week, year after year is beyond your ability to comprehend. Nevertheless, this was what the higher forces called for.

Part of the many adjustments to the lifestyle is a strict adherence to a sleep schedule. Fortunately, you are waking up before the alarm goes off each morning. This means that you went to sleep at a satisfactory time the night before.

There is one issue this morning, though. You physically can’t get out of bed. You are tied down. You are ready to prepare for the day. The entire schedule is now thrown off. How to break free from the clutches?

3. Locked in a room when wanting to get out

This presents such an interesting challenge that an industry has emerged which allows people to mimic the situation. Known as an “escape room,” the objective of the game is to try to get out of a room where all the doors are locked. Different clues here and there, a countdown clock also lets you know how much time is left before failure.

[escape room]In real life, the situation would not be fun. You are ready to leave, to travel to a different space, but nothing can be done. There is only one way, through the door, and that is locked from the outside.

The Sanskrit word guna has a definition of “rope” for a reason. The meaning is actually identical to the other common use: material quality. The individual is spirit soul at the core. They are free in the truest sense. Nothing can be done to kill the soul.

न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतो ऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे

na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

Gunas placed on top of the soul have a binding effect. The side to which they are tied is known as the material world. The living condition in that existence is ever-changing; hence the term transmigration. The soul bound by gunas is known as conditioned, and from there they carry their conceptions from one situation to another.

शरीरं यद् अवाप्नोति
यच् चाप्य् उत्क्रामतीश्वरः
गृहीत्वैतानि संयाति
वायुर् गन्धान् इवाशयात्

śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti
yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ
gṛhītvaitāni saṁyāti
vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt

“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)

There is a way to gain escape. Connect with the person who has gunas of a different meaning. For Him the qualities are transcendental. Hence gunas can also mean “glories” when discussing the features that are identifiable and enumerable to a certain extent.

[Shri Krishna]Vedic literature is vast and continuously expanding for this very reason. There is no limit to the praise that can be showered upon the Supreme Lord, in the same way that a devotee never tires of chanting His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

To bed tied down,

Boat anchored to ground.

Trapped inside of room,

No help arriving soon.

For gunas the transcendental sound,

So to samsara no longer bound.

And then to transcendental transition,

Blissful life known best decision.

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