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Primary Forces of Creation or Lack Thereof

by O.M. Braida ©2011

It is written in classical Indian scriptures, namely The Bhagavad Gita a sacred Hindu scripture,, an explanation of the qualities of forces that make up nature and creation.  These forces are referred to in the Gita as the Three Gunas (pronounced gun-a).  The word Guna in Sanskrit means ‘string’, ‘thread’, ‘cord’, or ‘twine’.   The three gunas suggest the tendencies of nature and together create a tapestry of both material nature and human consciousness and relate to the different states of mind.  The whole of eastern philosophy suggests that there is something that lies beyond these forces and in the Gita it suggests that he who attempts to transcend the characteristics of the three gunas creates spiritual freedom and becomes a conscious co-worker of the divine plan.

The three gunas by name are referred to as Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.  There are levels within each guna but more simply stated the Sattvic mind is inclined for good things: compassion, love, truth, goodness, illumination, sympathy, intelligence, consciousness. The Rajsic mind is active, passionate, desirous, energetic, and expansive. The Tamsic mind is associated with inertia, heaviness, slothfulness, procrastination, dullness.

Sattva guna binds us by means of attachment to good deeds, to knowledge and the joy of knowledge, and the joy of intelligence, consciousness, and achievement in these regards.  We thus become ruled by the very light of acquired knowledge – alas still another attachment binding one in the physical plane, but Sattva is a stepping stone to enlightenment.  It can be a very supportive quality and when combined with Rajas great things can be accomplished of the highest order.

Rajas bind by passions stimulated and created by cravings and attachment to all things, persons, emotions, ideas.   Ruled by Rajas traits, we are driven to excess – always pushing, always doing, always promoting, always the strategist.  It becomes our ruling trait when these passions are heightened by greed, excessive projects, uncontrolled cravings and restlessness and a desire for results born of our actions.

The third guna, Tamas, binds us by our very lack of doing…by our obstructing knowledge, enlightenment, and truth.  Our ignorance in this regard fosters our lack of ascension and we are ruled by darkness, procrastination, confusion, inertia.

As an artist and instructor of art, I often see the role these states of mind play and the need to direct Sattvic tendencies and use both Rajsic guna behavior and Tamsic behavior to our best advantage.

In the case of Rajas guna, we want to use such strength of action without sacrificing quality through excessive pace.  Excessive behavior promotes untamed ideas and projects that although hit the mark for achievement, “I can’t believe I accomplished so much!” often miss the mark of finesse, insight, quality, and learning. Consciousness of this type of activity leaves little room for learning new and better ways – and assuages the continuum of the proverbial “tail chasing” that keeps us doing the same wrong thing the same way repeatedly.  In the case of the latter, the Tamsic state of mind puts off till tomorrow.  It actually creates a struggle that does not exist except by our own doing of not-doing.

It is thus important to note that, “Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20 percent of people are true procrastinators… Procrastination in large part reflects our difficulty in regulating emotions and to accurately predict how we will feel tomorrow, or the next day… Since procrastinators are made and not born, it’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort.”

Not exactly procrastination, but rather the slowing down to a stop process can be beneficial and it gives time for reflection.  I suppose it is not only the artist that faces the dilemma of when to slow down or pick up the pace.  The whole cycle of doing too much or putting things off is part of being human. Assessing our own propensities comes down to whom and what we affect by our habits. These two major attributes of our behavior are perhaps karmic but perhaps also motivated by our current feelings about the things we are doing or not doing.  These feelings control our response.  It is not just a case of organizing our lives or creating better time management skills.  Often it is a matter of required reflection as mentioned before.  Here is where the first guna can step in and become a useful tool.  Sattvic states of mind look upward and onward.  Taking a thoughtful approach to the whys and wherefore of our present states of mind are a boon to overcoming obstacles. We simply need to take the time to look closely at doing and not doing to unveil hidden reasons and influences.

When I am over compulsive and pushing to accomplish goals, my husband asks, “Who makes it so?”  It causes me to laugh at myself and think about where I can pull the plug to slow things down.  I am learning that the joy of the “flow” far surpasses the joy of “smartness.” It is the flow that generates ideas beyond “smartness.”

In the opposite, when I am putting things off I have learned that it too has a flow.  The idea has not yet jelled…the time is not yet ripe….the moment is yet to come. The distance between the idea and the action is often a time of creation.  Before writing down ideas, the idea of writing is blossoming.  With the job half done I can begin the act of writing.

Living in the flow can become such a natural event that neither excessiveness nor slothfulness has meaning and we thus become more Sattvic in our makeup. For me, the flow is the voice of God.  He guides me better than I could do for myself.  In the words of Carlos Santana (b.1947) Mexican American guitarist, “We only need to get out of our own way and defer.”

In the Bhagavad Gita, the Pandava Prince Arjuna struggles with confusion and moral dilemma about fighting his own cousins.  In the conversation, Lord Krishna philosophizes.  He gives examples to Prince Arjuna that help guide him and thereby explain the three moral tendencies of humanity. Arjuna asks Lord Krishna how he can recognize the man who has gone beyond the three gunas, and what has he done to achieve this.  Krishna replies by listing the characteristics of such a person and thereby reveals His true identity as a Master soul.  Their discourse is the central theme in the Gita which proclaims non-attachment to the fruits of one’s labor:

Whatever quality arises –

Light, activity, delusion –

He neither dislikes its presence

Nor desires it when it is not there.

He who is unattached,

who is not disturbed by the gunas,

who is firmly rooted and knows

that only the gunas are acting

who is equally self-contained

in pain or pleasure, in happiness

or sorrow, who is content

with whatever happens,

who sees dirt, rocks, and gold as equal,

who is unperturbed amid praise

or blame of himself, indifferent,

to honor and to disgrace,

serene in success and failure,

impartial to friend and foe,

unattached to action – that man

has gone beyond the three gunas.

He who faithfully serves me

with the yoga of devotion, going

beyond the three gunas, is ready

to attain the ultimate freedom.

Bhagavad Gita, A New Translation, 14.22 – 26 – Translation by Stephen Mitchell, 2000

And so it is with each of us – to become the best of who we can be – to go beyond ourselves and take flight.  Our aspirations often include being at peace with ourselves and with others and to accomplish this in a peaceful way.  This takes neither all passion nor all forgetfulness, but devotion to the ideal of becoming one – an acknowledgement of the force of the flow – a conscious co-worker of the divine plan. God bless. OM

9 Responses to “Primary Forces of Creation or Lack Thereof”

  1. Thanks! This clears things up a bit! I will most likely check this whole blog out again, thanks again, OM!

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