Guna is the principle that governs Sadhana

Guna is the principle that governs Sadhana.

It cannot be said that current explanations clearly understand this subject. Yet such is necessary, both as affording one of the chief keys to Indian philosophy and the principles governing Sadhana. The term guna is generally translated as “quality,” a word which is only accepted for default of a better. It must not be overlooked that the three gunas (Sattva, rajas, and tamas), which are of Prakriti, constitute Her very substance.

This being so, all Nature which issues from Her, the Maha-Karana-Svarupa., is called tri- gunatmaka and is composed of the same guna in different states of relation to one another. The functions of sattva, rajas, and tamas are to reveal, to make active, and to suppress, respectively. Rajas are dynamic, as sattva and tamas are static principles.

That is to say, sattva and tamas can neither reveal nor suppress without being first rendered active by rajas. These gunas work by mutual suppression.

The unrevealed Prakriti (avyakta-prakriti) or Devi is the state of stable equilibrium of these three gunas. When this state is disturbed, the manifested universe appears in every object of which one or other of the three gunas is in the ascendant. Thus in Devas, as in those who approach the Divya state, sattva predominates, and rajas and tamas are greatly reduced.

That is, their independent manifestation is reduced. In one sense, they are still there, for where rajas are not independently active, it is operating on sattva to suppress tamas, which appear or disappear to the extent to which it is or is not subject to suppression by the revealing principle. In the ordinary human jiva, considered as a class, tamas are less reduced than in the case of the Deva but very much reduced when the comparison is made with the animal jiva. Rajas have great independent activity, and sattva is also considered active. In animal creation, sattva has considerably less activity.

Rajas have less independent activity than in man but are much more active than in the vegetable world. Tamas is greatly less preponderant than in the latter. In the vegetable kingdom, tamas is more preponderant than in the case of animals, and both rajas and sattva are less so. In the inorganic creation, rajas activate tamas to suppress sattva and its independent activity. Thus, the “upward” or revealing movement from the predominance of tamas to that of sattva represents the spiritual progress of the jivatma.

Again, as between each member of these classes, one or other of the three gunas may be more or less
in the ascendant.

Thus, in one person compared to another, the sattva guna may predominate, in which case his temperament is sattvik, or, as the Tantra calls it, divyabhava. In another, the rajoguna may prevail, and in the third, the tamoguna, in which case the individual is described as rajasic, or tamasic, or, to use Tantrik phraseology, the individual is said to belong to virabhava or is a pashu respectively. Again the vegetable creation is obviously less tamasik and more rajasic and sattvik than the mineral, and even amongst these last. There may be some that are less tamasik than others.

Etymologically, sattva is derived from “sat,” that which is eternally existent. The eternally existent is also chit, pure Intelligence or Spirit, and ananda or Bliss. In a secondary sense, sat is also used to denote the “good.” And commonly (though such use obscures the original meaning), the word sattva guna is rendered as “good quality.” It is, however, “good” because it is productive of good and happiness.

In such cases, however, stress is laid rather on a necessary quality or effect (in the ethical sense) of “sat” than upon its original meaning. In the primary sense, sat is that which reveals. Nature is a revelation of spirit (sat). Where Nature is such a revelation of spirit, there it manifests as sattva guna. It is the shining forth from under the veil of the hidden spiritual substance (sat). And that equality in things that reveals this is sattva guna. So if a pregnant woman is told that she is antahsattva or instinct with sattva, she in whom sattva as jiva (whose characteristic guna is sattva) lives in a hidden state.

But Nature not only reveals but is also a dense covering or veil of spirit, at times so dense that the ignorant fail to discern the spirit which it veils. Where Nature is a veil of spirit, it appears in its quality of tamoguna.

In this case, the tamoguna is currently considered representative of inertia because that is the effect of nature that veils. This quality, again, when translated into the moral sphere, becomes ignorance, sloth, etc.

In a third sense, nature is a bridge between spirit, which reveals, and matter, which veils. Where Nature is a bridge of descent from spirit to matter or ascent from matter to spirit, it manifests itself as rajoguna. This is generally referred to as the quality of activity and then transferred to the sphere of feeling, it shows itself as passion.

Each thing in Nature then contains that in which spirit is manifested or reflected as in a mirror or sattva guna; that by which spirit is covered, as it were, by a veil of darkness or tamoguna, and that which is the vehicle for the descent into matter or the return to spirit or rajoguna. Thus sattva is the light of Nature, as tamas is its shade. Rajas is, as it were, a blended tint oscillating between each of the extremes constituted by the other guna.

The object of Tantrik sadhana is to bring out and make preponderant the sattva guna with the aid of rajas, which operates to make the former guna active. The subtle body (lingasharira) of the jivatma comprises in it buddhi, ahangkara, manas, and the ten senses. This subtle body creates for itself gross bodies suited to the spiritual state of the jivatma.

Under the influence of prarabdhda karma, Buddhi becomes tamasik, rajasic, or sattvik. In the first case, the jivatma assumes inanimate bodies; in the second, active, passionate bodies; and the third, sattvik bodies of varying degrees of spiritual excellence, ranging from man to the Deva. The gross body is also trigunatmaka. This body conveys impressions to the jivatma through the subtle body and the Buddhi in particular.

When sattva is made, active impressions of happiness result, and when rajas or tamas are active, the impressions are those of sorrow and delusion. These impressions are the result of the predominance of these respective gunas. The action of rajas on sattva produces happiness, as its own independent activity or operation on tamas produces sorrow and delusion, respectively.

Where sattva or happiness is predominant, their sorrow and delusion are suppressed. Where rajas or sorrow is predominant, their happiness and delusion are suppressed. And where tamas or delusion predominates there, as in the case of the inorganic world, both happiness and sorrow are suppressed.

All objects share these three states in different proportions. There is, however, always in the jivatma an admixture of sorrow with happiness due to the operation of rajas. For happiness, which is the fruit of righteous acts done to attain happiness, is, after all, only a vikara. The natural state of the jivatma – the state of its own true nature – is that bliss (ananda) that arises from the pure knowledge of the Self, in which both happiness and sorrow are equally objects of indifference.

The worldly enjoyment of a person involves pain to self or others. This results from pursuing happiness, whether by righteous or unrighteous acts. As spiritual progress is made, the gross body becomes more and more refined. In inanimate bodies, karma operates to the production of pure delusion. On the exhaustion of such karma, the jivatma assumes animate bodies for the operation of such forms of karma as lead to sorrow and happiness mixed with delusion.

In the vegetable world, sattva is but little active, with a corresponding lack of discrimination, for discrimination is the effect of sattva in buddhi, and from discrimination arises the recognition of pleasure and pain, conceptions of right and wrong, of the transitory and in transitory, and so forth, which are the fruit of a high degree of discrimination, or activity of sattva. In the lower animal, sattva in buddhi is not sufficiently active to lead to any degree of development of these conceptions.

In man, however, the sattva in Buddhi is considerably active; consequently, these conceptions are natural in him. For this reason, human birth is, for spiritual purposes, so important. All persons, however, are not capable of forming such conceptions in an equal degree. The degree of activity in an individual’s buddhi depends on his prarabdha karma.

However bad such karma may be in any particular case, the individual is yet gifted with that amount of discrimination which, if properly aroused and aided, will enable him to better his spiritual condition by inducing the rajoguna in him to give more and more activity to the sattva guna in his buddhi.

On this account, proper guidance and spiritual direction are necessary. Because of his or her nature, spiritual attainment, and disinterested wisdom, a good guru will both mark out for the sishya the proper path and aid to follow it by the infusion of the Tejas in Guru. Whilst sadhana is, as stated, a process for stimulating the sattva guna, it is evident that one form is unsuitable to all.

It must be adapted to the spiritual condition of the sishya. Otherwise, it will cause injury instead of good. Therefore the adoption of certain forms of sadhana by persons who are not competent (Adhikari) may not only be fruitless of any good result but may even lead to evils that sadhana as a general principle is designed to prevent. Therefore also, is it said that it is better to follow one’s own dharma than that, however exalted it be, of another!

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Mahavidya Temple
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