Gita Series – 137: Bhagavad Gita Chapter XIV. Verse 1 – 3
The fourteenth chapter of Bhagavad Gita is named as “guṇatrayavibhāgayoaḥ” or “the yoga of division of guṇas. The three guṇas are the essential constituents of Prakṛuti about which, preliminary discussion was made in the previous chapters. Guṇa can be explained as quality that determines the quality of a being. This chapter consists of 27 verses.
Kṛṣṇa said: “I will again discuss about that supreme knowledge, the knowing of which, sages have attained the final perfection. The one who follows this knowledge merge into Me, are not born at the commencement of a new cosmic cycle, nor disturbed at the time of annihilation. My primordial nature, known as the Brahman (Brahma, Lord) is the womb of all beings, where I placed seed of all life. The creation follows from the union of Matter and Spirit.”
Though, guṇas have been touched upon in the earlier bhagavad gita chapters, Kṛṣṇa says that He is going to explain in detail about the guṇas, again in this chapter. Guṇas determine the nature of a person. There are three types of guṇas, sattva, rajas and tamas. When sattva guṇa is predominant in a person, he follows the path of goodness and remains virtuous. In whom, rajo guṇa is predominant, he becomes passionate. Tamo guṇa means ignorance and the one with tamo guṇa is sluggish and remains in darkness. The guṇas are further elucidated in subsequent verses.
A thorough understanding of guṇas is essential to pursue the path of liberation, as one has to transcend the guṇas. For transcending anything, one needs to have the knowledge of the object that is to be transcended. Unless the force of the water current is understood properly, one cannot reach the other side of the bank safely. If the whirlpool is too powerful, he has no option, except to get sunk. Therefore, unless the nature of guṇas are thoroughly understood, it is not possible for an aspirant to move beyond guṇas. If guṇas are not important while pursuing spiritual path, Kṛṣṇa would not have chosen to explain about the guṇas again. The Lord further says that saints and sages have perfected their knowledge for final liberation, only by thoroughly understanding the three guṇas. A spiritual aspirant can move to the status of a saint, only if he thoroughly understands the implications of the three guṇas inherent in Prakṛuti. The one who thoroughly understands the intricacies of guṇa-s are eternally liberated and he is not disturbed even at the time of creation and dissolution of yuga-s (the long mundane period of years).
The primordial nature of the Brahman is called mūlaprakṛuti. Prakṛuti at best can be explained as Nature. It can also be called as māyā. Prakṛuti in combination with the individual soul, mind, intellect and ego form the creation. In fact, soul has to depend on prakṛuti to manifest. Prakṛuti holds the three guṇas or qualities, sattva, rajas, and tamas and three types of creative actions icchā, jñāna, and kriya (desire, wisdom and action). At the time of manifestation of origin of life, the prakṛuti beholds the individual soul by its sheer enticing powers of the guṇas and creative actions (the powers of māyā or illusion), makes the soul to manifest. The soul on its own is passive in nature and has to purely depend upon the prakṛuti to get the karma-s embedded in it to unfold.
Prakṛuti is said to be the kinetic form of energy. This is also known as māyā or the Brahman with attributes. Apart from playing a significant role in creation, the prakṛuti plays a vital role in sustaining the creation. At the time of origin of the universe, the Supreme Self alone prevailed. When the origin manifests into creation, it first becomes space then air, fire, water and earth. From earth plants, animals, man etc unfolded. Prakṛuti in its un-manifested form is called avyakta. This is the state of prakṛuti where all the three guṇas are found in equilibrium. Any change in this equilibrium of guṇas in prakṛuti leads to desire, wisdom and action. This in combination with ego and intellect give rise to further creation. Therefore, prakṛuti is the root of all creations. This is also known as the Brahman with attributes or saguṇa Brahman. The Brahman is the root of all creations as there in nothing beyond that.
The prakṛuti is potentially a powerful tool that binds the soul to manifest in the form of bodies discussed above, just to manifest and unfold the karmas embedded in the soul. When the soul is under the lustful embrace of prakṛuti, the soul that was part of the Supreme Brahman forgets its own nature, and identifies itself with ego. The deceptive and illusionary nature of prakṛuti engulfs the soul with all sorts of addictions, afflictions and confusions and makes the soul totally discombobulated. The subtle body consisting of the five vital forces, the mind, the intellect and the ten organs is produced from the five basic elements. This paves the way for the soul to experience the result of actions or in other words it causes karma-s. The subtle body is of two kinds, superior and inferior. The superior one is the subtle body of hiraṇyagarbha and the inferior is the subtle body of living beings. The subtle body of hiraṇyagarbha is called as mahat or the cosmic intellect and the subtle body of living beings is called ego.