We see that the Gita repeatedly cautions that one must be free of the action of the Gunas, and move the standpoint of consciousness to one which is calm, equal and not affected by the play of the Gunas or the action of desire that runs after the objects of the senses. It is easy to conceptualize, but hard to accomplish! In the Mahabharata there is a famous story about the education of the Pandava and Kaurava princes by their preceptor Drona. The lesson of the day was “not to become angry” and every day Drona inquired of the 100 or more princes whether they understood the lesson. Everyone said “yes, not to become angry”. Until he got to Arjuna’s eldest brother Yudhisthira, who repeatedly indicated he did not understand the lesson. After this went on for some days, Drona became upset with the royal prince and struck him across the cheek. This was a mortal affront to the future king and emperor. But at that moment, Yudhisthira replied that he now understood the lesson. He was able to experience the provocation that could lead to anger, and recognize how to manage and control it!
We are all subject to the force of desire and the running of the mind and the senses after the objects of the senses that results therefrom. Sri Aurobindo takes us through the sequence and steps necessary to address this issue: “…we have to live inwardly and be able to hold back the natural running of the senses after their external objects.”
“…it is desire, the principle of all our superficial life, which satisfies itself with the life of the senses and finds its whole account in the play of the passions.”
…since we have still to live and act in the world and our nature in works is to seek for the fruits of our works, we must change that nature and do works without attachment to their fruits…”
The method: “…by dissociating works from ego and personality, by seeing through the reason that all this is only the play of the Gunas of Nature, and by dissociating our soul from the play, by making it first the observer of the workings of Nature and leaving those works to the Power that is really behind them, the something in Nature which is greater than ourselves, not our personality, but the Master of the universe.”
The problem and solution: “But the mind will not permit all this; its nature is to run out after the senses and carry the reason and will with it. Then we must learn to still the mind. We must attain that that absolute peace and stillness in which we become aware of the calm, motionless, blissful Self within us which is eternally untroubled and unaffected by the touches of things, is sufficient to itself and finds there alone its eternal satisfaction.”
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 24, The Gist of the Karmayoga, pp. 243-244