Ancient India
Guna: The Three Qualities

Krishna

   Again I will declare to you the highest knowledge, the best of all kinds of knowledge, with which all sages have reached perfection beyond the bonds of this body. Those who, resorting to this knowledge, are united with my essence, are not born at the creation and are not afflicted at the destruction of the universe.

   The great Brahman is a womb for me, in which I cast the seed. From that, O descendant of Bharata, is the birth of all things. Of the bodies, O son of Kunti, which are born from all wombs, the main womb is the great Brahman, and I am the father, the giver of the seed. 1

   Lucidity, passion, dark inertia, these qualities born from nature bind down the inexhaustible soul in the body. 2

   Of these, lucidity, which, in consequence of being untainted, is enlightening and free from all misery and binds the soul with the bond of pleasure and the bond of knowledge. 3

   Know that passion consists in being enamored, and is produced from craving and attachment. Passion binds down the embodied self with the bond of action.

   Dark inertia is born of ignorance, it deludes all embodied selves. Dark inertia binds down the self with heedlessness, indolence, and sleep.

   Lucidity unites the self with pleasure; passion unites the self with action; and dark inertia unites the self with heedlessness, after shrouding up knowledge.

   Passion and dark inertia being repressed, lucidity stands.

   Passion and lucidity being repressed, dark inertia stands and likewise dark inertia and lucidity being repressed, passion stands.

   When knowledge prevails in this body at all its portals, then one should know lucidity has be developed. 4

   Avarice, activity, performance of actions, want of tranquillity, desire, these are produced when passion is developed.

   Want of light, want of activity , heedlessness, and delusion, these are produced when dark inertia is developed.

   When an embodied self encounters death, while lucidity is developed, then he reaches the untainted worlds of those who know the highest. 5

   Encountering death during the prevalence of passion, he is born among those attached to action. 6

   Likewise, dying during the prevalence of dark inertia, he is born in the wombs of the ignorant. 7

   The fruit of meritorious action is said to be good and untainted; while the fruit of passion is misery; and the fruit of dark inertia is ignorance.

   From lucidity is produced knowledge, from passion avarice, and from dark inertia heedlessness and delusion and ignorance.

   Those who adhere to the ways of lucidity go up; the passionate remain in the middle; while those of the qualities of dark inertia, adhering to the ways of the lowest quality, go down.

   When a right-seeing person sees none but the qualities to be the doers of all action, and knows what is above the qualities, he enters into my essence. The embodied self, who transcends these three qualities, from which bodies are produced, attains immortality, being freed from birth and death and old age and misery.


Arjuna

   What are the characteristics, O lord, of one who has transcended these three qualities? What is his conduct, and how does he transcend these three qualities?


Krishna

   He is said to have transcended the qualities, 8 O son of Pandu, who is not averse to light and activity and delusion when they prevail, and who does not desire them when they cease, 9 who sitting like one unconcerned is never perturbed by the qualities, who remains steady and moves not, thinking merely that the qualities exist; he is said to have transcended the qualities who is self-contained, to whom pain and pleasure are alike, to whom a clump of dirt and a stone and gold are alike, to whom what is agreeable and what is disagreeable are alike, who has discernment, to whom censure and praise of himself are alike, who sees no difference between honor and dishonor, who is does not take the side of friends or foes, and who abandons all action.

   And he who worships me with an unswerving devotion, transcends these qualities, and becomes fit for entrance into the essence of the Brahman. For I am the embodiment of the Brahman , of indestructible immortality, of eternal devotion, and of unbroken happiness.

Translated by Kashinath Trimbak Telano, 1882
Edited and annotated by Richard Hooker



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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 10-20-97