Gita Series – 140: Bhagavad Gita Chapter XIV. Verse 14 – 18

When a man dies, while sattva guṇa is predominant, he attains the world of sages. When a man dies while rajo guṇa is predominant, he is reborn in the earth amongst those who are attached to actions. When a man dies, while tamo guṇa is predominant, he is reborn amongst plant and animal kingdoms. The fruit of sattva guṇa is happiness and joy; rajo guṇa is pain and sorrow; and tamo guṇa is ignorance. Knowledge arises from sattva guṇa, greed arises from rajo guṇa and stupefaction and ignorance arise from tamo guṇa. Those who abide in, sattva guṇa go upwards; rajo guṇa stay in the middle; and tamo guṇa sinks down.”

At the time of death, what one thinks, he becomes that. Kṛṣṇa had earlier said that at the time of death one should fix his consciousness between the two eyebrows and contemplate on Him, in order to reach His abode. The same concept is explained here. When a person dies while sattva guṇa is predominant, his soul moves up to the astral world, where souls of sages and saints sojourn. Their ascendance to the higher plane is not rebirth, as the soul takes a sojourn without ego. Karmic afflictions unfold only through gross forms. In the case of a person whose soul leaves his body when rajo guṇa is predominant, he is born again as a human being, among those who are greatly attached to actions with intent to reap the fruits of actions. His mind is always crowded with thoughts. When a person dies while tamo guṇa is predominant in him, he is born as senseless creatures like plants and animals. This is also confirmed in Chāndaogya Upaniṣad (V.10.7).

When a person is endowed with sattva guṇa, he always remains in the state of contentment, leading to blissful state of mind. He pursues the path of liberation with the help of knowledge he has gained, through perseverance and dedication. When a person has rajo guṇa predominant in him, he becomes attached to materialistic way of life and as a result of which, he undergoes the pains of mundane life. Life is full of pains and miseries, as long as one is attached to the fruits of his actions. He becomes greedy as he is never satisfied with his possessions. When tamo guṇa is predominant in someone, he becomes slothful and remains in the stage of ignorance and delusion, fully riddled with sensory desires and lust. It is very difficult for him even to move up to rajo guṇa. He continues to remain confused all the time, doing nothing except injuring others.

When a person has predominantly sattva guṇa, he seeks knowledge to realise the Brahman. He becomes wise by acquiring knowledge as a result of which he pursues the path enlightenment and consequent liberation. Those with rajo guṇa have unending desires, one leading to another. They never get satisfied and always long for more and more. Unsatiated desires result in greed and prompt them to do more hasty and rash actions. He has no time to pursue the spiritual path, in full earnestness. Majority of men fall under this category. This category can be classified under two sub-categories. The first category of men think just about their sustenance and lead a normal life. Though they are attached to material prosperity, they are not avaricious. The second category of men are avaricious and cross all the permissible limits to lead a life, full of pomp and vanity. Those with tamo guṇa always remain in inertia and darkness. They become the source of all negativities with no solution in sight. Those who are in the nearby vicinity also get affected by their negative energy.

Kṛṣṇa says that the consciousness of those firmly established in sattva guṇa moves up to the higher planes, meaning the purity of the consciousness. The consciousness of those with tamo guṇa gets totally corrupted with no possibility of spiritual liberation in the near vicinity. They can never have purified consciousness. Those with tamo guṇa continued to be deluded by worldly afflictions and bondage. This type of men can transform themselves by practicing sattvic qualities, which could liberate them in their future births. But there is a distinct possibility for them to fall into the ambits of tamo guṇa as well. Hence they are said to be in the middle. They are like cat on the wall.

Further Readings:

Bhagavad Gita Chapter XIV. 4 - 8

Bhagavad Gita Chapter XIV. 9 - 13

Bhagavad Gita Chapter XIV. 19 - 27