The Bhagavad Gira II:45
Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda
The Vedas are concerned with the three universal qualities or gunas. O Arjuna, free thyself from the triple qualities and from the pairs of opposites! Ever calm, harboring no thoughts of receiving and keeping, become thou settled in the Self.
— The Bhagavad Gita II:45
This stanza points out the spiritual inefficacy of the practice, however perfect and austere, of the merely external rites mentioned in the scriptures. Nothing but the cleansing of man's inward being has the power to free him from the trifold reincarnation-making qualities of human nature—the sattvic (elevating), the rajasic (activating), and the tamasic (degrading).
The word Veda signifies knowledge. The Vedas, the "divinely revealed," most highly revered Hindu scriptures, are books of wisdom both material and spiritual. A scripture is meant primarily for the liberation of the soul from the bondage of rebirth and secondarily for teaching the art of success in material life. Certain classes of people blindly worship the Vedas and consider all of their injunctions—to be observed literally—as divine prescriptions essential to liberation. The authors of these ancient treatises were wise enough to stimulate interest in the scriptures by showing the general populace ways of material success, and then to try to lead them on to follow those self-disciplinary rules that end in spiritual liberation.
The Gita, the quintessence of the path to liberation, advises the devotee to free himself from any activities that rouse the reincarnation-making threefold human qualities, and to develop, instead, the desireless intuitive state by right meditation. He who receives the freely given all-sufficient blessings and guidance of God in divine inner communion need not propitiate the lesser "gods" of natural forces, who extract a karmic fee for favors.
By remaining ever calm, a natural sequel to deep meditation, the sincere devotee frees himself from the sway of the pairs of opposite qualities coexistent with the triad of gunas: good and bad, virtue and vice, happiness and sorrow, heat and cold, like and dislike, and so forth. When man develops one quality, he is automatically required to experience its opposite. One who has pain looks for happiness, and one who has happiness is afraid of losing it!
The gain of temporary happiness is followed by its loss, thus increasing one's misery. Therefore the devotee is advised to liberate himself from all exciting qualities and to concentrate on the bliss nature of the soul.
Further, the soul's superconsciousness should become anchored on the immutable rock of cosmic consciousness where no waves of change make any impression. The devotee should remove all forms of conditioned existence that stimulate desires and attachments—the frantic consciousness of getting and holding on to objects; his goal should be unconditioned Existence in God.
Of the four Vedas, the Rig Veda is the oldest, or original text. Its philosophy and prescriptions show an evolution from worship of the forces of Nature to the recognition of one Supreme Spirit—Brahman—and, correspondingly, evolution from dependence on the favors of the "gods" to Self-mastery. The Yajur Veda and Sama Veda are considered generally to be derived from the Rig Veda. The Yajur is a special arrangement of rituals—a handbook for priests who conduct the ceremonial rites. The Sama Veda contains selected chants and defines their proper melodic intonation as applicable to the Vedic rituals. The Atharva Veda is of later origin, and is primarily incantations and magical formulas designed to appease negative forces and gain mundane favors. Among its practical prescriptions are those that have been called the beginning of Indian medical science.
Sages who are able with divine intuition to read not the surface meanings, but the true essence of Vedic thought, declare these scriptures a timeless source of knowledge touching on all secular as well as religious arts and sciences.