The Signs of the Liberated Man

Liberation in the Gita’s view is an inward state of awareness that is above the action of the Gunas, not bound by them, although the individual still participates in their action in the world. Arjuna therefore wants to know how one can recognize such an individual. What is the distinguishing set of characteristics that signify someone who is “above the Gunas” as opposed to someone who remains bound by their action.

As could be expected, Sri Krishna does not provide outward signs, but inward indications, as Sri Aurobindo recounts: “The sign, says Krishna, is that equality of which I have so constantly spoken; the sign is that inwardly he regards happiness and suffering alike, gold and mud and stone as of equal value and that to him the pleasant and the unpleasant, praise and blame, honour and insult, the faction of his friends and the faction of his enemies are equal things. He is steadfast in a wise imperturbable and immutable inner calm and quietude. He initiates no action, but leaves all works to be done by the Gunas of Nature. Sattwa, Rajas or Tamas may rise or cease in his outer mentality and his physical movements with their results of enlightenment, of impulsion to works or of inaction and the clouding over of the mental and nervous being, but he does not rejoice when this comes or that ceases, nor on the other hand does he abhor or shrink from the operation or the cessation of these things. He has seated himself in the conscious light of another principle than the nature of the Gunas and that greater consciousness remains steadfast in him, above these powers and unshaken by their motions like the sun above clouds to one who has risen into a higher atmosphere. He from that height sees that it is the Gunas that are in process of action and that their storm and calm are not himself but only a movement of Prakriti; his self is immovable above and his spirit does not participate in that shifting mutability of things unstable. This is the impersonality of the Brahmic status; for that higher principle, that greater wide high-seated consciousness…, is the immutable Brahman.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 14, Above the Gunas, pp. 418-419