To move towards Sattva, keep a mirror with you || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita (2020)

तत्र सत्त्वं निर्मलत्वात्प्रकाशकमनामयम् ।

सुखसङ्गेन बध्नाति ज्ञानसङ्गेन चानघ ॥ १४.६॥

tatra sattvaṁ nirmalatvāt prakāśhakam anāmayam

sukha-saṅgena badhnāti jñāna-saṅgena chānagha

Of these Sattva, because of its stainlessness, luminous and free from evil, binds, O sinless one, by attachment to happiness, and by attachment to knowledge.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 6

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रजो रागात्मकं विद्धि तृष्णासङ्गसमुद्भवम् ।

तन्निबध्नाति कौन्तेय कर्मसङ्गेन देहिनम् ॥ १४.७॥

rajo rāgātmakaṁ viddhi tṛiṣhṇā-saṅga-samudbhavam

tan nibadhnāti kaunteya karma-saṅgena dehinam

Know Rajas to be of the nature of passion, giving rise to thirst and attachment; it binds fast, O son of Kunti, the embodied one, by attachment to action.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 7

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तमस्त्वज्ञानजं विद्धि मोहनं सर्वदेहिनाम् ।

प्रमादालस्यनिद्राभिस्तन्निबध्नाति भारत ॥ १४.८॥

tamas tv ajñāna-jaṁ viddhi mohanaṁ sarva-dehinām

pramādālasya-nidrābhis tan nibadhnāti bhārata

And know Tamas to be born of ignorance, stupefying all embodied beings; it binds fast, O descendant of Bharata, by miscomprehension, indolence, and sleep.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 8

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Acharya Prashant (AP): Sattva-guṇa binds by attachment to happiness and knowledge. Raja-guṇa binds by attachment to action and achievement.

So how does Tamas bind fast? By miscomprehension. You’d be in a hazy state; witless, unable to comprehend what’s really going on.

Then, indolence. What is indolence? Laziness and sleep; sleep of both kinds: physical and mental. The mark of the tāmsika individual is that one: sleep dominates him a lot; secondly, sleep dominates him at all the wrong times; thirdly, even when he is physically awake, he is still inwardly in a stupor. So, that’s Tamas.

Questioner (Q): On reading the lines above, I see that I have Rajas and Tamas qualities in me, like ambition, ignorance, procrastination and laziness. If Sattva leads to wisdom, how does one move towards it?

To what degree does having a sāttvika diet and doing physical exercise and other material changes help in developing a sāttvika disposition?

AP: Alright. How does one move towards sāttvikta or sattva-guṇa, on knowing that one is predominantly rājasika or tāmsika or both?

The result of rajo-guṇa is dukha (suffering). That’s the defining outcome of rajo-guṇa. One runs, one runs hard, one has ambition, one acts, one wants to achieve, one feels a certain restlessness. And then there is defeat upon not achieving and despair upon achievement.

Similarly, the result of tamo-guṇa is a loss of consciousness. One keeps sinking deeper and deeper into an inner abyss of unconsciousness. All kinds of laziness, all kinds of inabilities overwhelm the individual. Even when he sees that there is a need for action, he finds himself incapable to act.

So the very presence of these two as the dominant traits in an individual is sufficient to make him rebel against these two, and move towards sattva-guṇa.

The questioner is saying, “I am dominated by Rajas and Tamas. How do I move towards Sattva?”

The answer is: Because you are dominated by Rajas and Tamas, therefore you’ll have to move towards Sattva. These two will not let you live or die in peace, these two will keep unsettling you. And since it is obvious that you have at least some kind of a desire to break free of these two, you are advised to be with people or be at places where your defeats and despairs will be exposed and called out ruthlessly. You should allow yourself to feel the utter pain and helplessness inherent in your situation. That will accelerate the process of your freedom.

I’m just suggesting what would assist you in your own intention. If your intention is to be free of Rajas and Tamas, then allow yourself to feel the pain of being dominated by these two very frequently, 40 times a day, so that you are continuously reminded that you cannot sleep peacefully. At least one of these two traits, Tamas, will want to keep you captive by just comforting you into a drunken sleep. Right when you would be about to energetically break away from your chains, you will find that you are under a pall of sleep. Here you were about to just explode away, and here you are snoring away on your bed. Gone are the hopes of any kind of liberation.

So, make sure that by your bedside is somebody who is not very happy seeing you asleep.

Make sure that you are kept a little uncomfortable all the while.

Make sure you are reminded frequently of your state.