Monthly Archives: October 2012

Matrix of the 3 Gunas and Qualities

In my article ‘Managing the 3Gs’, I had touched upon the 3 Gunas – Satwa, Rajas and Tamas.

According to the Vedanta, like the 3 primary colors Red, Blue and Green that come together to create a magnificent array of colors, the fabric of creation is held together by the 3 gunas. All of us are some combination of the 3 Gunas – Satwa, Rajas and Tamas. What we are, is based on the dominating guna within us. Vedanta says we have been bestowed with two powerful gifts – CHOICE and INTELLECT.

Vedanta says, real happiness comes in the garb of pain (abstinence). Real sorrow comes in the garb of pleasure. Mind thrives on instant pleasure. It functions on likes and dislikes. Intellect on the other hand thrives on delayed gratification.  The key is to recognize the intellect, cultivate the intellect and always scan our choices with intellect. It is intellect  over senses,  intellect over mind, and when intellect is held supreme we will display fine and divine emotions.

The Bhagavad Gita, breaks it down in great detail the qualities associated with Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas traits. It provides us with a framework to assess where we stand today.

It is only the human being that has access to choices and the choices we make are determined by how deeply the intellect is anchored within us. We have the ability to move from left to right on this grid by using the two powerful gifts – Choice and Intellect.

Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita explains this in detail, and I have summarized it in the form of a table for quick reference.

The key is to eradicate Tamas, refine Rajas and promote / cultivate Sattwa.

Qualities and the Gunas



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Vedanta  helps us in gaining an understanding of the self and the different constituents of Body, Mind, Intellect and Spirit.  The Spirit in us is the ‘atman’ within, that is the observer, untainted by manifestations that take place at the body, mind and intellect levels. We are largely ‘atman’ but  we are so absorbed in the physical body layers that we don’t recognize or understand ‘atman’. (The Body constitutes 1%, the Mind constitutes about 3%, the Intellect constitutes about 6%, and the Spirit constitutes the remaining, a phenomenal 90%.)

What is the ramification? The ramification is what we see all around. When we operate with all our energies focused on the body, we see maximum difference (we see someone as tall, someone as short, someone as black, someone as white, someone as male, some as female, some as handsome, some as beautiful, some as ugly,…the list is endless). This strong identification with the physical body leads to false sense of individuality,  where the ‘I’  in us is  associated with the body.

Vedanta says, identification with the body, is the fundamental issue that we need to realize, recognize and correct. When we shift focus from the body to the mind, we find some dilution in this identification with the self (body).  Hence the love between mother and child where the mother sees the child as one, is able to expand the ring of oneness.  Shift focus further to the intellect and you see further uniformity (the love spreads beyond the nucleus family. Gandhiji, for example, who saw the nation as one) AND finally shift focus to the spirit and beyond spirit, and you see maximum union / commonality (for example, Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Christ, Mother Teresa, Buddha, etc.)


Today, we are able to comprehend to some extent, the intellect but when it comes to the dimension of the spirit, we don’t understand. Vedanta says, we are not able to recognize our spirit because it is covered by our ignorance. Ignorance driven out of greed, jealousy, association with the body and the associated mental conflicts that prevent us from connecting with our true inner SELF.

Looking Good, Feeling Good and Being Good,  is in reference to the dimension that we give most importance to. When operating at a body level, it is about looking good, when operating at a mind/emotional level it is about feeling good, and when operating at an intellect and spiritual level it is about being good.

In Vedanta it is said a space in the pot feels limited by the pot and feels other than the outer space. But in reality the pot exists in the space. The space in the pot is the same as the space outside the pot. Similarly, the nature of consciousness in the body, is same outside the body also. It is a matter of one’s focus that requires change. (focus on the pot you see difference of inner space and outer space. Focus on the space, you see oneness of the conscious, focus on the body/pot you see differences.

In the excerpt from Adi Shankaracharya’s Bhaja Govindam below, Swami Sukhabodhananda explains this very well. Excerpt from the book ‘Bhaja Govindam’ by Swami Sukhabodhananda:

An enlightened person having gained Divine wisdom drops his individuality. The ignorant is considered more of a social being. He is a part of society. He is either controlled consciously or unconsciously by society. Thus many are caught up in ‘looking good’. Many sacrifice ‘feeling good‘ and ‘being good’ for the sake of ‘looking good’. Why do we do this? It is because one is a social being and controlled by social expectations.

If one is on the path of spiritual journey, one is more focused on ‘being good’ and does not unwisely dance to people’s expectations. Such a person lives innocently like a child. People cannot understand that such a state of one’s being is of that where one experiences ONENESS.

A wise man is like a King of the inner world. He may be a beggar outwardly but feels like a King inwardly. True Kingdom is the kingdom of the soul. A wise man has no image, thus is inwardly free. Such an inner freedom is unheard of by the ignorant. The ignorant are guided, controlled and bound by their image.

A wise man is in perfect yoga as he is not a slave to anything, he is inwardly free. He does not wear masks to impress others. He is one who has won over the unconsciousness in him.

The wise man is beyond merit and demerit.

Even the desire to gain merit is a subtle bondage. The fear of avoiding demerit is also a subtle bondage. The greed to be somebody and the fear of being nobody is a great bondage. Greed and fear happens because one is afraid to die, afraid to face death. A yogi has no fear and has no greed.

Whose mind is joined in perfect yoga with its goal?

A mind without ego reveals in yoga. Ego divides and thus one feels it is other than oneself. Once you feel that the other is different, you are in conflict with the other. Such a life leads to inner pain and stress. A wise man knows that he is not different essentially than the other. Only ego has merit and demerit.

Key message – When your focus is on ‘being good’, you naturally and effortlessly ‘feel good’ and look good’.  When the focus is on ‘looking good’ then you are caught in the trappings of the world.


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Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (10 December 1878 – 25 December 1972), informally called Rajaji or C.R., was an Indian lawyer, independence activist, politician, writer and statesman. Rajagopalachari was the last Governor-General of India.

Rajaji once said,

‘The ray of DEVOTION (Bhakti) is not different from the ray of KNOWLEDGE (Gnana).

When intelligence matures and lodges SECURELY in the mind, it becomes WISDOM.

WISDOM, when it is INTEGRATED with LIFE, and issues out in ACTION it becomes Bhakti.

Knowledge (Gnana) when it becomes fully mature is Devotion (Bhakti).

To believe that Knowledge and Devotion are different is IGNORANCE.”

The Bhagavad Gita, says the road to spiritual development is multifold. It recognizes that there are people of different temperaments and offers an approach for each. Gita offers the path of knowledge (gnana yoga) or the path of devotion (bhakti yoga) or the path of service (karma yoga).

In today’s world, pursuit of knowledge has become the highest priority, and what Rajaji is trying to convey in the above lines, is that pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge is of no value. When one pursues knowledge with deep passion and love, then he/she approaches it in a worshipful manner with utmost respect (sadhana)

Sincerely, following any of these 3 paths, eventually, leads one to rise above the 3 plains of consciousness, that of body, mind and intellect; to the 4th plan of spirituality, and then we can get beyond the 4th plain, to the  state of self realization (Dharana – concentration of mind. Dhyana – meditation. and Samadhi – Uninterrupted contemplation  of reality).

You rise above petty issues, you see the Oneness and not the individual self. You recognize the vicissitudes of life as part of life’s journey. You recognize nothing is permanent and therefore you renounce attachments. This in my view, is what Rajaji means, when he says ‘Knowledge when it becomes fully mature is devotion.’

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There is a difference between attachment and caring.

I think, caring comes from a sense of service in general, be it family members or outsiders. The act of caring is performed as an obligatory duty.  The moment you care, you will contribute; the moment you care, you will connect wisely.  When you have clarity, you will demonstrate caring energy and when you operate with caring energy you  are detached.  Note that detachment is synonymous to love.

On the other hand, with attachment there is an underlying layer of selfishness.  The moment you are attached, you lose objectivity. You start imposing. Attachment speaks of your qualities that you nourish. If you look closely, our attachments are giving attention to something. We are attached means we are giving attention to that thing more than what is required.

When you are detached you are operating at the intellectual and spiritual level and when you are attached you are operating more at a physical and emotional level.

Caring that comes from Detachment leads to Liberation. Attachment leads to bondage and suffering. (Interestingly, Ramana Maharishi, when asked about Bondage and Liberation, retorts – Bondage to what? Liberation from what? He says the fact that we wish for liberation shows that freedom from all bondage is our real nature. It is not to be freshly acquired. He says we are free spirits already. Not recognizing that, out of ignorance, we pursue for liberation, as if there is something external to be acquired, when it is actually within).  To stress on the need to unveil this ignorance, Adi Shankaracharya, keeps calling us ‘Mudha’mate’ (oh, fool).

Swami Sukhabodhananda says, be like a river; when the river flows through beautiful settings and sceneries, the river does not say ‘let me stop here and enjoy for some time’ and get attached. The river just goes about its journey towards its destination, doing good deeds throughout its journey. Once you have this clarity, as parents you will shower love and caring energy on your children, and genuinely contribute towards your family.


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In Sanskrit, himsa is doing harm or causing injury. A-himsa, as most of us understand stands for non-violence. Sage Vyasa defines ahimsa as “the absence of injuriousness (anabhi’droha) toward all living beings (sarva’bhuta) in all respects (sarv’atha) and for all times (sar’vada).”

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi promoted the principle of ahimsa very successfully by applying it to all spheres of life, particularly to politics. His non-violent resistance movement, satyagraha, had an immense impact on India, impressed public opinion in Western countries and influenced the leaders of various civil and political rights movements.

Bhagavad Gita, underscores that ahimsa, not only applies to physical non-violence, but also non-violence at the emotional level and at mental level. We very often hear today from people across all age groups ‘I hate you’, ‘I hate her’, ‘I will kill you’, ‘I don’t like her’, ‘I can’t stand him’, etc..According to Gita, even such thoughts are considered to be against the principle of ahimsa.

“The test of ahimsa is the absence of jealousy. The man whose heart never cherishes even the thought of injury to anyone, who rejoices at the prosperity of even his greatest enemy, that man is the bhakta, he is the yogi, he is the guru of all.” –Swami Vivekananda.

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Taking things for GRANTED

We are always seeking out into the world, in want of something and this comes from a sense of incompleteness, insufficiency. The Bhagavad Gita cautions that the sense of incompleteness is a false notion, created by the mind that drives us in the wrong direction.

Most of us are bestowed with a lot of things, be it the love of our family members – parents, brothers, sisters, spouse, children, grand-children, uncles, aunts, etc., be it the ability to experience the beauty of the nature around us – the  flora and fauna, the warmth of the sun, the shade of a tree,  be it good health or be it the  senses – ability to see, touch, feel, smell and hear. Gita appeals to us to recognize the abundancy first, and be thankful and humble for all that you already possess. It cautions us from  taking any of these for granted, and from thinking these to be your rights.

When we recognize this, appreciate what we all have already and remain always Thankful while reaching out to the world to make newer acquisitions, we will approach the world in a humble and worshipful manner.

The Sun, without fail, rises every morning and gives us good day light but but how many times do we look at it in a worshipful manner?  Same with the rivers and waters, how often do we think of the value of water when using it, and be thankful.  The Gita again stresses upon this and says what we have in abundance, we tend to not value it (part of taking for granted) and what we do not have (and perhaps most of the time we don’t need), we attach a  false value, and are in constant pursuit of it. This is the confusion and mess that we are in throughout our lives.

In summary, be Thankful first for what you have,  do not take things for granted & do not assume it is your right. This will enable you to be humble and appreciative of newer acquisitions, and at be at peace with self if the new acquisition does not materialize for whatever reason.

Be in a spirit of THANKSGIVING, 365 days of the year.

In the movie, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel‘, at one point in the film Tom Wilkinson, playing a retired high court judge is asked why he loves India and he responds “The way the people see life as a gift, a privilege — and not a right.”

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Thousands of DESIRES

Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, the last great poet of the Mughal Era, in one of his ghazal writes, “Hazaaron khwahishen aisi ke, har khwahish pe dam nikle; Bohat niklay mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikle”. 

The literal translation in English is (though I don’t think Ghalib’s ghazal’s can ever be truly translated) – “Thousands of desires, each worth dying for… many of them I have realized…yet I yearn for more…”. 

In another ghazal, he writes, “gam-e hastii kaa asad kis se ho juz marg ilaaj; shamma har rang mein jaltii hai sahar hone tak”. 

The literal translation in English is – “The suffering that is life, knows no cure but death; All through the night must the candle burn, no matter what its pain.”

I think, Mirza Ghalib, through these two ghazal’s has very beautifully conveyed some of the key messages of the Vedanta.  The Bhagavad Gita says, there are three forms of desires – SELFISH desires, UNSELFISH desires, and SELFLESS desires.

As human being we are bound to have desires and desires are bound to propel action, and on realizing a desire, Vedanta says, we move on to the next desire, and then the next.

Vedanta considers even thought, also as an action. In other words, action need not necessary means physical movement.

Vedanta says, desire is the root cause of all problems. At the same time, Vedanta does not suggest that we drop desires but offers the following counsel on the pursuit of desires:

  1. Direct the desire to a higher goal, which will then automatically free us up from pursuing lower desires
  2. Renounce attachment to the fruits of the desire, as attachment, leads to mental agitation and bondage
  3. Anger stems from attachment
  4. Loss and Pain stems from attachment

This is precisely what Ghalib is referring to the second ghazal, when we talking about ‘The suffering that is life…’ If we transact with the world with our body and emotions/the mind, it will always lead to suffering, and hence it is critical to cultivate intellect and create an environment for the intellect to thrive.

See also ‘Renunciation’ : –

‘Reflect Within’ :-

If you like to listen to:

Hazaaron khwahishen aisi ke, har khwahish..’ ghazal, sung by Late. Shri Jagjit Singh –


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Mind Dieting

The other day I was hearing a conversation on dieting. The two individuals exchanged notes on the types of food – greens, organic, wheat, white.., the places they shop for food, how many times they eat, and how they prepared their food, overcooked, steamed, grilled, little oil, no oil…The predominant driver was of-course, concern for maintaining good health, fitness and the desire to appear sharp.

This got me thinking, ‘What if we take a similar approach or paid similar attention  when it comes to dealing with our minds? How about putting the mind on ‘thought diet’? If we can subject ourselves to diet control through a well-defined diet plan, why can’t we not gain thought control through a ‘thought diet plan’ for the mind?

So, let’s examine what a ‘Thought Diet Plan (TDP)’ framework and approach could be:

1. Like the regular diet control, TDP could also start slow and gradual.

2. Like the types of food, we also look at the types of thought that we want to entertain and not entertain. Decide on the positive thoughts that we would like to constantly engage, and keep them in focus.

3. Like the places we shop for good/organic good, we decide on the kind of places we want to visit (places of worship).

4. Like the frequency and quality of intake is important in a good diet plan to ensure there is no overload or under-load on the system, likewise, we set a frequency (every 3 hours or 4 hours) to reflect on the thoughts and reset the thoughts, decide what to keep, and decide what to block or purge.

5. Like it is important in the way the food is prepared, we decide on the kind of thoughts that we want to entertain or focus our minds upon, and how deep do we want to invest in those thoughts.

6. Like the books we read on dieting or watch the videos/ DVDs, similarly, we could plan some time to watch or listen to content that is soothing to the mind and uplifting – may be good music, may be reading a good story or listening to a spiritual discourse.

7. Like in the case of diet control, you would check your weight and other parameters every month or quarter, likewise, maintain a mind log and review every month, how the TDP is working.  Reflect on the performance to see if you notice a relative calmness within yourself. Reflect on the areas where you still experience unrest. Continue on the plan. Like in the case of a diet control, where the results are gradual and slow, so will be Mind Dieting, perhaps harder.

8. Like in a diet, you would give up sweets, other fattening items, so also in the Thought Diet Plan, look at what you can renounce – renounce desires, renounce attachments and renounce selfishness. Seek desires that are more pure.

9.  If you were at a buffet party, even when you see some enticing sweets or ice-creams you decide not to indulge in them, likewise, when it comes to mind diet, get your intellect in place and cultivate the habit of sense control. Don’t entertain thoughts that pull you down. Stop them right off the bat.

10.  Like in diet control, you supplement your health with multivitamin tablets, etc.; likewise supplement your mind dieting with spiritual reading or in service of others.

11. Like a diet plan, the path  may appear daunting in the beginning, but once you get used to it, the results at the end are very fulfilling. So is the case with Thought on Diet. It will appear impossible in the beginning, but stay at it and it will yield positive results. Don’t look for instant gratification.

Dieting as we know, makes us feel good about ourselves, we feel healthy,  and we feel we are in control.  We feel happy. When we complement / supplement this with Mind dieting we move from a state of happiness to a state of joy, a joy that is ever lasting. There is a spring in the step.

To the mind that is calm, the world must surrender.

see also –

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Fulfill your POTENTIAL

In his last interview with Barbara Walters’ Christopher Reeve said. “You know what’s interesting to me is that being physically paralyzed for eight years, I get pretty impatient when people are able-bodied but are somehow paralyzed for other reasons, and I’m going, ‘Come on, come on, go for it.’ … It took being in a chair to realize that. And so my recommendation is don’t break your neck to find out that you need to fulfill your potential.” 

Vedanta says, human being is a composition of matter and spirit (Chapter 13 of Bhagavad Gita, dwells in detail, what it terms has Kshetra (field/body) and Kshetragya (knower of the field/body, i.e. spirit/perceiver).

When we identify ourselves with the body at a physical level, at an emotional level and at an intellectual level (all three of which are part of the matter), the body implicitly has limitations. The physical body is bound by its limitations (it cannot fly like a bird), the mind is caught up in emotions, highs and lows; and the intellect is busy discriminating – right versus wrong, good versus bad, etc. We are so entangled within the confines of the body, mind and intellect paradigm that we have very little time to think beyond. Most often, we are ignorant of the beyond.

Vedanta appeals to us to shift focus to the beyond and that beyond is the 4th plane of Spirit. We are completely ignorant of the spirit or the spirit is low in priority that it never surfaces, because the senses are so active and constantly feeding the body / matter and we busy reacting to each of the sense stimuli. Vedanta says the spirit is the one that gives you the real happiness, helps you realize your full potential, but ignorant that we are, we are looking for happiness within the matter, where the happiness is transitory, temporary, illusive, impermanent. We know what we want, we spend our whole life looking in the wrong place, and lead a life that is paralyzed by the limitations of the matter.

This is what Christopher Reeve is also saying through his experience. He was physically paralyzed but he had connected with the spirit within him and he recognized his true potential. He did not see his body as a limitation in any way. And he is able to see the paralysis in all of us, though we appear normal outwardly, we are completely paralyzed inwardly.

Hence he appealing to all of us, wake up before it is too late ‘… don’t break your neck to find out that you need to fulfill your potential.’

Swami Vivekananda said ‘Uthishtatha Jagratha Prapya vara nibhothita’ (Sanskrit) – Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached. Why does he say ‘Awake’? Does he mean we are all sleeping? Is he saying that we don’t recognize our true potential? The message is the same, the appeal is the same – ‘Come on, come on, go for it.’

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Smt, Jaya Row (,  offers the example of a ladder to help us understand attachments and detachments.

When we climb a ladder, we let go of the foot from the lower rung, when we have the other foot firmly locked in the higher rung.  So is attachment and detachment.  Only when we are attached to a higher goal, we detach from the lower.   She says ‘Attach you lose. Detach you gain.’

Attachment creates bondage, that then springs fear of losing, anxiety, mental agitation, selfishness and greed. We need to constantly examine ourselves and let go of attachments.

The Gita asks us to be be in the present, be in the moment, be in the zone. Our past creates attachments and our future creates desires. Most of the time we are caught struggling with the past and the future and are never thinking of the present. This is the biggest miss in our mode of functioning.   Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s quote is apt “There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. Only a present that builds and creates itself as the past withdraws..”

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