Three states of Mind

The Man, the Mind and the world  

The senses together with mind, intellect, ego and consciousness makes the world of man. The eyes, ears etc. connect with the external object, send in the details of it to the mind which then connects with intellect and ego or personal experiences to produce the conscious knowledge about the object of visualization, hearing etc. Thus the real world is in the action, reaction of mind to the external objective world. Thus the world is not what is outside but what is in our perception, our decoding of it and our reaction to it. The real sense of self is beyond all that. This makes the mind as the most important instrument in the hands of the man. If the man is willing to stand up with and work the mind, then he becomes intelligent. If he is not able to control it then it falls apart and bound to lead him to destruction.

The Hinduism and Yoga philosophy understands this and is particular about the various tendencies, characteristics, attitudes of mind and how mind can be cultivated for more informed life and happiness. This commentary is an effort to understand the various characteristics of mind, its effect, its modification and ultimate selection of attributes that one needs for the appropriate stage of life.

Mind and its tendencies per Vedanta

The mind is said to be in three states or gunas  namely, Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. Gunas in Sanskrit means quality, attribute, virtue, or characteristic. These thress gunas operate in man in his mind/thought/action in various proportions. In fact, these three characteristics make up the world. Everything that is manifested such as space, time, knowledge, action, result, material goods, the situation is a composition of these three attributes. The interaction between these qualities leads to the evolution of man. All the three gunas are important and cannot operate in isolation and yet they have been graded as per the benefits that accrue to the man because of these traits.

Three states of Mind

Now what are the qualities of each of these states. Each of them has some inherent attributes associated with it, acts on person in certain way and there are ways to overcome it.

Tamo Guna: It is a state of ignorance.  Tamo guna represents a state of darkness, inertness, a state where ones memory is weak and who is indifferent. Inertia, coarseness, heaviness, obstruction and sloth are some of the qualities of people with dominance of tamo guna. Tamas is the state of ignorance, darkness, laziness, indulgence and brute force.  It is lowest of the three forces/gunas. It promotes darkness, dissolution, death, destruction, sloth and resistance. It is also a guna or quality that is needed to counter evil. It is the lowest, heaviest, slowest and most dull like an earthen pot. It is devoid of the energy of rajas and brightness of sattva.

Tamas is due to ignorance, poverty, backwardness, illiteracy, disease, malnutrition, poor health, bad habits and resultant weak mind. It results in ignorance and heaviness as it opposes knowledge and lightness and produces the nature of sorrow and sadness that leads to a state of being bound by the circumstances.

Tamas can not be countered by sattva but has to be changed by engaging in action which is a rajasic quality.

Rajo Guna :

It is a state where is mind is full of passion and motion. The leading attribute of rajo guna are  quality of energy and activity. Dynamism, activity, excitement and pain and pleasure are the leading characteristics of the people dominated by this quality. Rajasik people are action oriented, who have strong belief in their doership, individualistic, and blinded and attached to the results of their action. Ideal example for rajo guna dominated person are business men, soldier and politicians. They are driven by their sense organs and mind and like to enjoy life in its fullest possibility. They love food that is pungent, sour and gives pleasure to senses.  In terms of color red depicts them well.

Rajas is the state of activity whose chief motives are power and enjoyment. When one is in this state, the mind makes him restless, a workholoic, seeker of new sensations and variety. He has a passion for new places, person, objects, activity, music, books, travel, food and enjoyment in general. They are extraverts. They tend to be judgemental and seeing both good and bad and hence are affected by pain and pleasure to a great extent.  It is worldly, achievement oriented mind always in search of something and hence in continuous state of activity and agitation arising out of it. Rajo guna is needed whenever any action is to be carried out. The down side of this need for uncontrolled activity is unfixity of mind affected by distractions that prevents a person from being focused in an activity for a long time there by creating obstacles in reaching desired results.

Rajo guna when combined with tamo guna results in actions that is detrimental but still needed to wake up people from their state of apathy and darkness.  And when rajo and sattva guna is combined the result is beneficial to everyone. Rajo guna in its own tends to be activity for selfish gain and when combined with sattvik tendencies would result in collective goodness. The activity driven state when finds an outlet that is uplifting, purposeful, pure and beneficial goal the outcome is bound to be liberating. If on the other hand one tries to control the restlessness by artificial means it is likely to find outlet in some other means that could be detrimental. So well directed and controlled activity is essential for peace and happiness.

Intensely active mind is known to take a satvic turn and history is repeat with such examples

Sattva Guna:

Sattva is the quality of purity and light. It is a state where one is not attached to the result despite performing, where one has faith in self and poise, fineness, lightness, illumination and joy are the qualities. Knowledge is the prime mover here and saint, sage are the people in whom Sattva is said to be dominant. Sattva people are said to like food that is wholesome, pure and easily available and their color is white.

Sattva is the state of serenity, calmness. It is not the apparent state of calmness and laziness of tamas. It is rather an active state and like the calmness on the top of lake where in ripples have stopped post the creation of ripple when a stone is thrown in.   It is a state where mind is controlled and unaffected by the thoughts emanating from and the actions of external world. It is where the mind is not affected by the dualities of pain and pleasure. It is a state where patience and desires are under control. It is a state where mind is steady unaffected by the turbulence created by the external world and internal deliberations on it. It is a state of awareness where in one knows that the world is in mind and ultimate peace is in mind. There is no dualities in the world and that there is only one creator and everything else is the different manifestation of the same. It is ultimate state where and which leads to liberation.  It leads to a state of great knowledge, of pure and determined will and a state of being-consciousness-bliss. Sattvic virtues are patience, generosity and Sattva guna is developed by prayer, thinking, good company, meditation, light food, discrimination and self-learning.

The result of such state of mind is that because of its steadiness one is able to get rid of ignorance and gains knowledge. He gains freedom from the pain and pleasure syndrome comes from the activities. The mind is able to enquire into various aspects of the world and is able to take impartial and superior decisions, though it is not the ultimate aim of it. The mind that delights in itself ultimately and becomes capable of engaging in focused activities for a longer duration is the character of mind in Sattva dominated persons. It is the mind that is capable of turning out outstanding work whatever may the field in which one is engaged.

Sattva to be effective has to manifest on its own accord and should not be forced.

The result of tamo is carelessness and laziness, rajo is anger and sense of balance or equilibrium is from the result of sattva state dominating.  Rajas is akin to life force in one and Tamas is the physical body and Sattva is the natural state of mind a state where the externalities have no effect and the state where mind is calm, conscious and happy.

-by Karparation


Knowledge acquisition as in Upanishads

“Knowledge is Infinite. What we know is very little.”


Knowledge as pure consciousness is infinite. What we know collectively and individually is limited and unknown is humongous. And knowledge has various names, forms, levels and types in all variety of subjects. World over trillions is being spent in the name of education. Corporations are spending in billion for training and knowledge management. Multiplicity of mediums, tools, technology and techniques are in vogue.  How effective are we in it? Are we learning right and learning the right subjects? Is there an order and process to acquire knowledge?

India has a rich tradition by way of Vedas and Upanishads.  Vedas and Upanishads are the fountain of knowledge both secular and spiritual. For they are prior to the times when philosophy and science and arts with is various sub divisions became a separate subject of study on their own.  The “Chandogya Upanishads” seventh chapter which goes by the title “Bhumaiva Sukham” meaning “completeness is happiness”, has a beautiful exposition on learning and knowledge acquisition.

It starts as dialogue between Sage Narada and Sage Sanatkumara where in Narada requests Sanatkumara to teach him for which Sanatkumara asks him to tell what he knows and beyond that he will teach.  Narada replies saying that he is well versed in phenomenal knowledge or secular knowledge of maths, science, astronomy, arts and art forms, architecture, politics, economics and so on. He understands that while these knowledge helps him to make a livelihood, acquire name and fame, wealth, and power it is not capable of giving him lasting happiness and peace of mind. What is the knowledge that by which one can go beyond, sorrow, ignorance and delusions?  Sage Sanatkumara replies that what he has learnt is only the theoretical knowledge in the forms of words, objects and thoughts pertaining to the physical world. However, one has to have self-knowledge to gross over the worldly problems. But then prior to acquiring self-knowledge there are different stages of knowledge that one has to acquire before self knowledge could be acquired. Thus begins his instruction for acquiring secular knowledge.

Meditation or worship as a technique of acquiring knowledge

Meditation or worship is an intellectual and internalized concept, as in this context is, different from the earlier notion of, as a form of physical worship, actual sacrifice and offerings to god. It is a state of heightened concentration where whatever is meditated upon is completely identified, absorbed with self and unified with as one identifies self-consciousness with one’s body.

To consciously superimpose or invoke a superior, or extraordinary thought or ideal in an ordinary object and venerating it as higher is called worship. Worshipping lord Shiva in the form of an idol, Jesus in the form of cross, or god in the form of fire, space, direction, nation in the form of flag are some of the examples. Such conscious impositions of higher in the lower and meditating on its attributes makes it easier for the mind to concentrate, focus, devoid of distractions and conflicts such that mind is able to imbibe the qualities of the idols in us.  As it depends on the person who is invoking it, the success of meditation is purely personal depending upon the strength of worship, time frame, period and sincerity. Depending upon what one is idealizing and practicing, the meditation can give him the worldly accomplishments of success, prosperity, fame, comforts and also other capabilities.

Knowledge starts as Names and forms

Every form or object has a name.  The names are much wider in scope than the object or its form. For example, when we see a particular ‘rose’, all the attributes of rose and the experiences in general of rose comes to our mind. And the name and form are generally not separable.  Thus when a name is mentioned the form associated with it manifests. Thus when the words and meanings are acquired and one who meditates on it, all the worldly power thereof can be obtained. However, mind being what it is it seeks to learn something beyond name and forms once it is known. If we recollect, when a child first learns to talk, he gets immense pleasure in identifying the objects around him and calling them by name. or when one learns any subject or language one starts with learning the words and terms specific to the field of study and starts identifying and associating it with objects around him.

Power of Speech

The first knowledge is that of names and forms, and is available as words. However, since speech proceeds words, and being the cause of words, it is superior to words.  All the knowledge originated in the form of sound/speech.  Speech is a powerful form to communicate thoughts. By the power of speech business is won or lost, relationships thrive or wither away, knowledge is acquired and communicated. There are infinite possibilities.

By meditating on that speech one gains mastery over it. The power of speech is improved by truthfulness in it, silence, speaking only when needed, avoiding unnecessary speech, sweetness and gentleness of the words uttered and speaking for the benefit of all.

Mind Power

Mind is superior to speech.  Speech is a process. There are four stages before speech is manifested. It first starts as un-manifest potential, beyond words and thought outside of us.  In the second stage idea takes into to shape in the mind.  In the third stage express is formed in the mind just before speaking.  And in the final stage speech is out of us by the coordination of various organs of the body through vocal cord and mouth. As mind is the cause of speech and proceeds speech, and speech is the effect of mind, mind is superior to speech.

Mind is the cause behind thinking and desire. Mind is the notion behind the self. All the world is created and experience in the mind. Mind is the cause of all names, speech and action. So mediate on the mind. By meditating on mind, one achieves all powers possible by mind.

Mental powers thus gained can be enhanced by living a righteous life, practicing self-contentment and other spiritual powers.

Supremacy of Will (Sankalpa) power

Sankalpa is defined as – power of conception, ideation, intent, desire, volition, resolution, and one pointed determination to achieve something. A vedic sankalpa generally comprises of time, location, constituents, lineage, purpose, wish, desire, target, action to be performed and nature of action. (So who says we thought of the concept of project plan, manifesto and so forth!!!!) it is about setting a positive intention to achieve something.

Man’s discriminating ability, the desire and will to do something is the basis for functioning of the mind. And hence superior to mind power. The will as sacred formulae, the mantra, when intoned with earnestness, appropriateness and correctness will result in action. The entire cycle of creation happens by will. By God’s will are the five elements created and sustained. The heat of the sun causes rain, which produces crops and food and from that sustenance, prana or the vital air, is obtained and by breath action is carried out and from that world is created. The willing creates the whole world and hence worship will.

One who meditates on will gains all the power related there off and is capable of gaining and experiencing wealth, power, fame and all that one intends.  He also acquired the bodily wealth of health body, robust mind, good sense organs, capacity to enjoy without outside obstacles. These though are of temporary nature by virtue of action being limited in its nature and that anything limited can created only things with limitedness.

Cultivation of Intelligence

Intelligence is superior to will, for only when one understands, he will, then he intends in mind which results in speech and name and form. Intelligence is that presence of mind, discriminating capacity, contextual understanding and decision making skill. Hence its greatness. An intelligent man is well respected in the society.

Capacity for Contemplation

Contemplation is greater than intelligence. The whole universe as in earth, heaven, water, mountains, divine beings, man, women, animate and inanimate contemplate and share the results there off. He who contemplates obtains multitude of knowledge. He then becomes free to act. The result of contentment is tranquility, stillness, steadfastness and contentment. Once mind is healthy, it further leads to health body, keen mind both of which enables one to perform well and achieve in the external world. Internally it leads one to a state of ultimate absorption, thoughtlessness resulting in peace and mastery over one’s subject of study.

Capability to Right Understanding

Understanding is superior than contemplation for contemplation is only effective when one understands the subject better for without understanding it is likely to lead to disastrous results. Only by understanding the world all that is in the world the sciences, the scriptures, and the knowable, various aspects of nature, plants, of animals etc, can be studies and research undertaken such that the laws governing them could be known.

The understanding of any knowledge, scriptures etc is gained by listening to the teachers, by self-study and reflection, by discussions with colleagues, and through the passage of time, experience and practice. One who meditates and understands all the scriptures and secular knowledge attains all the powers possible by understanding.

Thus are the various forms of intelligence one being superior to the other. By succeeding in gaining these knowledge one elevates himself to acquire the material wealth and becomes ready for the next stage of gaining self knowledge.

Based on “Bhumaiva Sukham”

Ref: “Bhumaiva Sukham” – Notes on Chandogya Upanishad, Chapter 7, by Swamini Vimalananda, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust Publications, 2003

“Sanatsujatiyam” – The story of US

“Sanatsujatiyam” is a chapter from udyoga parva in Bhagavatam, a well known Indian epic, of the same time period as that of Bhagavat Gita. While Gita is about the dialogue between  Lord Krishna and Arjuna in the battle field, Sanatsujatiyam is the teaching of Sage Sanatsujata  to Dhrutarashtra, the blind King and the father of Kauravas who are one of the main protagonist of Mahabharata war.

The Questions

Sanatsujatiyam answers some fundamental  philosophical questions that has been in our mind from time immemorial and raised by Dhrutarashtra in this case.

What do we do to go beyond all sorrow and will we be able to look with equanimity upon gain and loss, desire and hate, old age and death, joy and sorrow, hunger and thirst, fear and fearlessness, merit and sin, decline and rise the essential dhwandhas or the duality that are the conflicts of life.

Which are the cause of transmigration and how to attain liberation from these.

Is there death are there is no death.

Who are we. What is “Brahman”? How do we know Brahman which is our essential nature. What do we do to regain our essential self.

The man thinks himself to be body, mind and senses.we are active, doing things constantly trying to avoid pain and enjoy pleasures and result is facing miseries and failure to attain freedom which is the goal of life. We are born and we die again and again continuing this life cycle only each time under different body, name and circumstances. But then question arises. Is there death. Or what is death. Who is the real person behind these names and forms.

what is the knowledge that would make man immortal free from the duality of the world. Can enlightenment be reached and death be conquered by performance of Vedic rituals. Could it be done through combination of ritual and knowledge. Seers are of the view that there is death and no death. How can these contradictory views can be realised.

Who are we and when do we die are some of the questions asked of  Sage Sanatsujata and he replies to them as follows.

Who are we

The scriptures say ones real nature is liberation. We are divine beings. We are on vacation in this world.  The death happens when we forget that and fall from that state to this life. This forgetting of the natural state is the cause of all our problems in this life and the start of Karmic activities of production, attainment, modification and purification.

Ignorance is the cause of bondage and knowledge is the cause of liberation and we are all deluded because of this sheath of ignorance

The Atma or the soul residing in a person is beyond body and mind and beyond and continues in three states of waking, dream and deep sleep of a person. Since one is Atma there is no birth and death.

Body identification and doership is the cause for miseries of life. The man who is created from water, five elements, has gross body that embodies soul in his heart which is purely consciousness, and wrongly identifies himself with gross body. This body identification creates  self-not self concept and that leads to all sorrows, joy, misery and worry again based on his karma. Body identification leads to samsara in other words this circle of life of desire fulfillment, old age, decay and death. The five sense organs, the five organs of action, mind and intellect twelve in all are the cause of externalities and by withdrawing them internally the cause of transmigration is avoided and bliss is attained.

When any activity has to be carried out it has to be done with total detachment, without the feeling of ” I ” am doing it and expectation of result. Thus when mind is pure and free from desire and emotions of anger, greed, jealousy etc self knowledge and realisation happens. If one thinks the body is real and there are these unfulfilled desires at the time of death then the soul carries them along with it and comes back again and again. Hence no liberation from this cycle of life or samsara. When sense objects and desire arising from sense organs are understood to be transient and ephemeral leading to more karma and sorrow and overcome liberation is achieved. Raising above the body level and keeping the mind content and calm which happens when there is no thinking or no mind, or when activities of the mind ceases then path to liberation opens.

The  Brahman

The Brahman is that which is beyond cause and effect, all pervasive, beyond the reach of speech and mind that which is present in every being and object in the is experienced as pure consciousness. The Brahman has no form. It is infinite and not confined into any space and not made up of five elements. It can not be negated and is beyond ignorance. It is subtler than the subtlest and bigger than anything imaginable. It is that from which all in the universe emerges and  and at the end time of universe everything merges with it.  The entire universe shines because of the light of the Brahman. All the universe is established in it.

The person who is born in this world, the self, is the manifestation of Brahman and the self is a non-dual, infinite consciousness and bliss. The knower of self knows it as Brahman and who knows it becomes immortal.

Know Brahman

It is the creator, the supreme being who creates the entire universe out of five elements – fire, air, Earth, water, and ether- in everything and everyone and transmigrates. Who makes him do that and for what purpose and what happens when that action ceases is the play of creation. It is Brahman the being, pure consciousness and bliss.

The Brahman can be attained by truth, rectitude, humility, control of the senses, purity of mind and knowledge and keeping out pride and delusion.

Avoid these

As to the question if one can escape the consequences of sinful acts if he has learnt the scriptures the answer is no and that the fruits of good and bad activities have to be experienced separately and that one does not negates the other. The Brahman can be obtained by tapas which is rigour, penance and austerity. As it is affected the qualities of desire, anger, lust, greed, ignorance, pleasure from sense objects, cruelty, casting aspersions delusion, complaining, worry, covetousness malice, envy and hatred aspirant should avoid these qualities. Also one should avoid sense gratification, prosperity at the cost of others (note the qualifier here), lamenting giving away of gift after it is done, willing to face humiliation for gain, lack of discrimination, boasting and  ill treating one’s spouse.

Pride and the qualities that amplify it are also to be avoided by one.

Cultivate these qualities

One who knows Brahman is a brahmana. (Note – it is by qualities and not be birth). And the twelve great qualities of brahmana are speaking truth, speaking what is good for others, controlling ones mind, studying scriptures, caring for well being of others, proprietary, not talking about faults of others in public, self control under all circumstrances and control of senses. Thus those who have achieved these qualities would be in a position to attain great knowledge and success and position in this world.

Control of senses is effective when along with above qualities one is not quarrelsome, respects all, not lamenting about past or worrying about future, equanimous in all circumstances, Knowledgeable, not causing injury to others, detached and spiritualistic.

Practising the above leads one to happiness.

Know thy self

An object is identified by words only if it has some quality as name, form, action, and relationship with some other objects. As the self does not have any of these qualities it cannot be described but only perceived as pointed by Vedas. Self can be realised by giving up sense objects, which is done by withdrawing senses, being quite, away from all actions and by contemplation and meditation. Brahman is the source of all names and forms and self is Brahman. So knower of the self knows the source of everything in the universe. Attaining Brahman, the ultimate reality, pure consciousness, bliss (sat, chit, ananda) that is happiness, and that is the goal of life. And those who attain the knowledge of self are liberated.

Thus one who knows himself to be Brahman had no death. It is unborn and is the self of all moving and unmoving. By meditating on this he is fulfilled. Brahman is immortal and all beings are born from it and merge into it. Brahman is the self, not self and all that exist and exist not.



-“Sanatsujatiyam” translated by S N Sastri

  • Discourse by Shri Swami Anubhavananda Saraswati on Sanatsujatiyam – available on YouTube