The Divine Truth Behind the Quality of Tamas

Somehow when we reflect on the three Gunas we tend to “rank” them in our minds in order of their value. We thus create a hierarchy with Sattwa at the top and Tamas at the bottom, and even the language we use to describe the action of Tamas in the manifested Nature shows how negatively we look upon it. The Gita however makes it clear that all action is the result of all three Gunas constantly involved in an interplay and they are inextricably tied to one another and present and able to come to the fore at any time, even for those individuals who have cultivated themselves consciously to accentuate, for instance, the quality of Sattwa as the gateway towards higher realisations. The negative attributes nevertheless must also have their supporting truth and true action free of the deformations that occur when these are translated into the lower nature.

Sri Aurobindo clarifies the issue: “This Tamas is an obscurity which mistranslates, we may say, into inaction of power and inaction of knowledge the Spirit’s eternal principle of calm and repose–the repose which the Divine never loses even while he acts, the eternal repose which supports his integral action of knowledge and the force of his creative will both there in its own infinites and here in an apparent limitation of its working and self-awareness. The peace of the Godhead is not a disintegration of energy or a vacant inertia; it would keep all that Infinity has known and done gathered up and concentratedly conscious in an omnipotent silence even if the Power everywhere ceased for a time actively to know and create.”

“The liberated soul enters into this calm and participates in the eternal repose of the spirit. This is known to every one who has had any taste at all of the joy of liberation, that it contains an eternal power of calm. And that profound tranquility can remain in the very heart of action, can persevere in the most violent motion of forces.”

“The calm of the liberated man is not an indolence, incapacity, insensibility, inertia; it is full of immortal power, capable of all action, attuned to deepest delight, open to profoundest love and compassion and to every manner of intensest Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 17, Deva and Asura, pp. 450-451

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