Transitioning Beyond the Action of the Gunas

We start out from the human standpoint with all our actions being the revolving of the three Gunas, according to the Gita. Our times of ignorance or sloth are governed primarily by Tamas; the moments of passion, desire, action, ambition are governed by Rajas; and our times of light, joy and intelligence are governed by Sattwa. These three are continually modified and as they interact with each other, our action is determined. The Gita points out that this is something like a mechanism “mounted on a wheel”, as the image of the working of the Gunas in Nature. The Gita also holds that there is a higher Nature that directly expresses the intention and action of the Divine, and that this higher Nature is beyond the gunas, trigunatita. The question naturally arises, how can we move from the one standpoint within which we are bound, and which governs all our actions, to the other which is liberated and free of bondage to the action of the Gunas?

The leverage needed to begin this transition is found by the Gita “…in the full development of the sattwic Guna till that in its potent expansion reaches a point at which it can go beyond itself and disappear into its source….The other two Gunas cannot get this transformation…without the intervention of the sattwic power in Nature….The sattwic quality is a first mediator between the higher and the lower nature. It must indeed at a certain point transform or escape from itself and break up and dissolve into its source; its conditioned derivative seeking light and carefully constructed action must change into the free direct dynamics and spontaneous light of the spirit. But meanwhile a high increase of sattwic power delivers us largely from the tamasic and the rajasic disqualification; and its own disqualification, once we are not pulled too much downward by Rajas and Tamas, can be surmounted with a greater ease. To develop Sattwa till it becomes full of spiritual light and calm and happiness is the first condition of this preparatory discipline of the nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 17, Deva and Asura, pp. 452-454