As a child I had a deep belief that only what I can see around me is real. Only what I could see, exists. Only what comes into my sight needs to be taken into account.
I think of seeing Kathleen’s granddaughter, Amelia, all of two years old, staring at her Zoom class on the screen. “Oh!” Her boundaries of what’s real just got wider.
And, of course, she just accepts it all.
I’m willing to bet that, at that age, we’re unsocialized and just like little Gods, saying, “Yes! No! Yes! No! No!” As far as we know, all our commands are being obeyed. When they’re not, we cry … until they are.
Allow me, if you would, to extend this discussion now into what we’re doing when we as humans act.
We act by manipulating cosmic forces that the One provides us with to achieve our goals in everyday life and in our lifetime. Little Amelia’s yeses and no’s could be examples of that.
What I’m encouraging here is that we learn to use the three cosmic forces, which Hinduism calls rajas (creation), sattwa (preservation), and thamas (transformation), to manipulate our reality and take stock of our actions.
I have no experimental data to point to to bear out what I’m about to say here. It’s all hypothetical.
One day, as I’ve written about, I watched myself blanket my awareness with lethargy so that I forgot about a line of action I was contemplating.
Wow, is that how I do it?
I have to add here that, when we consider the gunas as personality traits or forces that we use, thamas becomes lethargy in Hinduism; rajas becomes busy-ness; and sattwa becomes passive purity.
I began to watch myself more closely to see of I could detect other incidents in which I used the gunas.
So far I was only able to distinguish out lethargy.
On the day I wrote my lethargy up, I watched myself blanket my awareness with it, such that I utterly forgot my original intention and moved on, seamlessly.
No protest. Ordinarily, no awareness of what just happened. This was me using thamas or lethargy to stop forward motion on a matter.
The descent of lethargy felt like a judge intoning “No!” from a high judgment seat. It was final, unquestioned. And I moved on, with no feelings about it.
If I forget my intentions easily and lapse into what others perceive as “doing nothing,” then we’re said to have a thamasic or lethargic nature.
I know that, when I feel rajasic, I’m craving busy-ness. When I’m busy, I reach a certain level of input and output, in the face of which I say to myself, “Hmmm… This was a good day. I feel well exercised, intellectually.”
Unless I feel like I’ve had a good trot, or even a good gallop (like here), I don’t believe I’ve gotten a lot done that day. Then I’m crabby. I believe that’s rajas protesting.
Sattwa, of course, is the experience of love and its divine qualities or flavors or variations, like peace, joy, compassion, etc. In the face of them, our busyness falls away and our attention becomes passive and open.
This is a different kind of “doing nothing” than thamas or lethargy. And it’s a different kind of “doing something” than rajas or busyness. You could think of rajas as the gas pedal and thamas as the brakes. According to this metaphor, in sattwa, we have it in neutral!
It’s only taken me sixty years since first reading the Bhagavad-Gita to be able to watch myself and see the operation of the gunas, provided what I say is correct.
If I’m not, then, in correcting me, you’ll establish what’s correct. That’s how our knowledge grows and evolves.
For now, I’m content to watch the rise of a new and good idea and observe myself get to work on it, all energized (rajas), reject certain other ideas and blanket them in lethargy so that they disappear from my attention (thamas), and sit back in satisfaction and the cessation of desire at the end of it, when the job is done (sattwa).
I seem to be using the gunas and they’re using me. I use the gunas to “do” (rajas) and “not do” (thamas), and appraise and enjoy (sattwa). On the cosmic level, the Mother uses the gunas to accomplish her aims and unfold her Plan: build worlds and ascend worlds.
Creation, preservation, and transformation – the Mother’s pattern for the material world – is here manifesting as the gunas or cosmic forces.