The Hindu

Sim­i­lar­ity to Brah­man


The ji­vatma is not the doer of ac­tions; it is the three gu­nas that cause us to act, says Lord Kr­ishna, in the Bha­gavad Gita. The atma does not in­her­ently know grief or anger. Th­ese arise be­cause of qual­i­ties like ra­jas and tamas. And his con­tact with prakrti is what brings him into con­tact with the gu­nas, be­cause they are in­her­ent in prakrti, said Valayapet Ra­machariar, in a dis­course. This is sim­i­lar to a good man trans­form­ing into a bad one, when he falls into bad com­pany. Even sattva guna is bind­ing, be­cause it makes us de­sire hap­pi­ness and knowl­edge all the time. It thereby binds us to sam­sara. We have to, there­fore, move be­yond the three gu­nas. How­ever, through sattva guna, we are born into fam­i­lies that have atma jnana, and grad­u­ally we too progress to a state where we can at­tain lib­er­a­tion.

The Lord says that the per­son who knows that the three gu­nas are the karta, that is the do­ers of ac­tions, will at­tain His state. This is not to be taken as the ji­vatma merg­ing with the Brah­man. It means that the ji­vatma at­tains qual­i­ties like Ananda. Like Him, we too will not know hunger, or thirst. Like Him we too will not ex­pe­ri­ence age­ing. Our thoughts will be pure. Our ac­tions will be pure. What we will have will be His sv­ab­hAva, His qual­i­ties. But we do not merge with Him. Sim­i­lar­ity to the Brah­man, but not iden­tity with the Brah­man is what is to be un­der­stood here. Be­fore one can at­tain lib­er­a­tion, one must first tran­scend the three gu­nas. Ar­juna then wants to know what a per­son is like when he has tran­scended the gu­nas. And he also wants to know how the gu­nas can be tran­scended. The Lord replies that to ob­tain knowl­edge of atma svarUpa, we should nei­ther like nor dis­like the il­lu­mi­na­tion caused by sattva, or ac­tions caused by ra­jas or wrong knowl­edge caused by tamas.

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