Tamasic Equality As an Entry Point to Spiritual Realisation

A reaction to the vicissitudes of life through the action of any one of the gunas can become a starting point for a spiritual seeking and realisation. Tamasic equality results in many cases as a reaction to the difficulty and suffering entailed in the life of action, for instance, as a recoil from a rebuffed rajasic action. Generally a tamasic equality will lead to some form of renunciation of the effort and the striving of life, including sannyasa, monastic, hermit or anchorite paths. The Bhagavad Gita, in its broad acceptance of any gateway to the spiritual life, accepts this form of opening, although it clearly does not address the wider and more embracing direction that the Gita eventually espouses.

When the tamasic recoil is tempered by a sattwic tendency, it can bring a perception of a higher truth to which the soul can aspire, and thus, be a means of jump-starting the seeking, but not a place to get “stuck’.

The famous story of the Buddha, who recognized the truths of suffering caused by the attachment to the forms and forces of the world through the binding action of desire, the onset of illness, old age and death as the inevitable consequence of this attachment, and who then obtained enlightenment through a spiritual seeking that transcended the recoil to find a positive solution and way out of the suffering, is such an instance.

What is important is not to get stuck in the weakness and avoidance of the pure tamasic response. Arjuna’s first reaction “I shall not fight” was quickly addressed by Sri Krishna as not being a suitable mode of action for him, and did not represent his spiritual destiny.

The tamasic reaction may help to temper the aggressive desire-soul provoked by rajas, and thus, allow a new direction to result. Sri Aurobindo explains: “But in souls that are fit this tamasic recoil may serve a useful spiritual purpose by slaying their rajasic attraction, their eager preoccupation with the lower life which prevents the sattwic awakening to a higher possibility. Seeking then for a refuge in the void they have created, they are able to hear the divine call, ‘O soul that findest thyself in this transient and unhappy world, turn and put thy delight in Me,’…”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 19, Equality, pp. 184-185