Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda

Transcending the Gunas —
The Three Qualities of Cosmic Nature


O Mighty-armed (Arjuna)! the gunas inherent in Prakriti—sattva, rajas, and tamas*—imprison in the body the Imperishable Dweller.

* [ sattva - purity (wisdom); rajas - passion (greed); and tamas - inertia (ignorance) ]


O Sinless One (Arjuna)! of these three gunas, the stainless sattva gives enlightenment and health. Nevertheless, it binds man through attachment to happiness and attachment to knowledge.

O Son of Kunti (Arjuna), understand that the activating rajas is imbued with passion, giving birth to desire and attachment; it strongly binds the embodied soul by a clinging to works.

O Bharata (Arjuna)! know that tamas arises from ignorance, deluding all embodied beings. It binds them by misconception, idleness, and slumber.


When the seer perceives (in creation) no agent except the three modes, and cognizes That which is higher than the gunas, he enters My Being.

Having transcended the three modes of Nature—the cause of physical embodiment—a man is released from the sufferings of birth, old age, and death; he attains immortality. [—Commentary]


Arjuna said:

O Lord, what signs distinguish the man who has transcended the three modes? What is his behavior? How does he rise beyond the triple qualities?

The Blessed Lord said:

O Pandava (Arjuna), he who does not abhor the presence of the gunas—illumination, activity, and ignorance—nor deplore their absence;

Remaining like one unconcerned, undisturbed by the three modes—realizing that they alone are operating throughout creation; not oscillating in mind but ever Self-centered;

Unaffected by joy and sorrow, praise and blame—secure in his divine nature; regarding with an equal eye a clod of clay, a stone, and gold; the same in his attitude toward pleasant or unpleasant (men and experiences); firm-minded;

Uninfluenced by respect or insult; treating friend and enemy alike; abandoning all delusions of personal doership—he it is who has transcended the triple qualities!

He who serves Me with undeviating devotion transcends the gunas and is qualified to become Brahman. [—Commentary]

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