'Be' with Swami Venkatesananda

Sattva, Rajas and Tamas

The introspective spiritual aspirant is amazed, shocked and terrified when he discovers that in spite of himself his moods continuously change. Now he is happy; now he is restless; now he is lazy. Now he is wise; now he is passionate; now he is idle. ‘How is it,’ he wonders, ‘that in spite of being one whole, I am sometimes holy, sometimes human and at other times beastly?’

When he is advanced enough in meditation and when he has developed the witness-consciousness, he will realise that these passing moods need not necessarily affect him, that they do not ‘belong’ to him, but that they are the triple streams of sattva, rajas and tamas – part of the divine nature – which merely cast their shadows on him as they march past.

What is a personality if the wisdom, the dynamism and the stupidity it has are all removed? All of us, the greatest of saints and the worst of sinners, are subject to these three qualities, though the proportion may vary, because we are part of nature. However, in ignorance we superimpose their effects upon ourselves.

Even though these qualities may obstruct the vision of the true self, they do not affect or alter it. The soul is ever pure, unaffected by any of the three qualities of nature. This is the fountain-source of the sage’s strength. If a colored object is placed near a crystal, the crystal appears to undergo a complete change. In fact, it remains unchanged in its essential nature – it merely reflects the color of the object in front of it. A clear understanding of this truth frees man from fear, grief and delusion, and throws open the path to redemption.