Bhagavad Gitta Essay by Moira Hunt, 200hr graduate
Students on our 200hr Hatha Teacher training are asked to read and review some key Yoga texts, including the Bhagavad Gita. Moira’s creative and entertaining take on the three Gunas made us all smile and she has kindly agreed to us sharing it with you. We love the array of approaches and opinions that different students take and look forward to sharing more essays with you in the coming months.
You can follow Moira on Twitter @HelloMoiraHunt and her website www.moirahunt.com
Our next Hatha teacher training course starts this March
On the day of the Brahma (2007, Easwaran, 8:17) there was a period of explosion and expansion. At this moment creation was thrown into imbalance and differentiated itself into three states or qualities of primordial energy. Consequently, every state of mind or matter is made up of these three states of energy – tamas, rajas and sattva. These three states of energy could be described as solid or inertia (tamas) liquid or activity (rajas) and gas or harmony (sattva). All prakriti or matter is composed of these three states in varying proportions, these proportions can shift and one state can be transformed into another. These three states are known as the Gunas or threads that make up the ‘fabric of existence’ (2007, Easwaran, pp43 – 44)
Once upon a time. . . there were three little pigunas, who left their mummy and daddy to see the world. Tamas was the youngest and he did not want to leave, it was easy at home and he was lazy. Rajas was two years older than Tamas and couldn’t wait to leave, he wanted to show the world how fabulous he was, it was boring at home as there was nothing to do and he liked to be busy. Sattva was the oldest and he understood that it was time to leave, that if he sought wisdom he would have to find his own path, he felt calm and accepting of what was to be.
All summer long, they roamed through the woods and over the plains, playing games and having fun. None were happier than the three little pigunas, although their happiness took very different forms. Tamas found pleasure in lying around in the shade, drinking so much that all he could do was sleep. Rajas delighted in what he saw and heard and smelt. There were many new foods and he enjoyed the spicy and the salty tastes and gloried in the tactile contact with the new people they met. Sattva felt quietly at peace and this brought him real joy. This joy was very different from his brothers; it was by ‘sustained effort that he had come to the end of sorrow.’ Whereas, his brothers’ happiness came from the senses, was temporary and ‘born of delusion’. (2007, Easwaran 18:36 – 38)
Wherever they went, they were given a warm welcome, but as summer drew to a close, they realized that folk were drifting back to their usual jobs, and preparing for winter. Autumn came and it began to rain. Tamas wanted to go back to mummy and daddy as it was too difficult to be alone, Rajas wanted to keep moving and find temporary shelter so that they could keep having fun. Sattva knew what they needed was a real home, he understood that the fun was over now and they must set to work like the others, or they’d be left in the cold and rain, with no roof over their heads. They talked about what to do, but each decided for himself. The laziest little piguna, Tamas, said he would build a straw hut. “It will only take a day,’ he said. The others disagreed. “It’s too fragile,” they said, but being stubborn, he refused to listen. Not quite so lazy, and looking for something that would keep him busy and appear grand and impressive, the second little piguna, Rajas, went in search of planks of seasoned wood. “Clunk! Clunk! Clunk!” It took him two days to nail them together. But the third little piguna, Sattva, understood that a house must have solid foundations and be built to last so that he could live in a peaceful and calm way. His shraddha (2007, Easwaran, p243) or faith told him that if he took the time to build his house carefully, it would always protect him and he would not be blown around in weather or vulnerable to intruders upon his peace.
So he said to his brothers, “It takes time, patience and hard work to build a house that is strong enough to stand up to wind, rain, and snow, and most of all, protect us from the wolf!” The days went by, and the wisest little piguna’s house took shape, brick by brick. He was not ‘intimidated by unpleasant work.’ (2007, Easwaran, 18:10) From time to time, his brothers visited him, saying with a chuckle: “Why are you working so hard? Why don’t you come and play?” But the bricklayer piguna just said “no”. “I shall finish my house first. It must be solid and sturdy and then I’ll be free.” he said. He knew that he must be consistent and patient to achieve lasting peace, ‘In the still mind, in the depths of meditation, the self reveals itself. Beholding the self by means of the self, an aspirant knows the joy of peace and complete fulfillment.’ (2007, Easwaran, 6:20)
It was Sattva, the wisest little piguna that found the tracks of a big wolf in the neighbourhood. He knew the wolf was a slave to his basest instincts of greed and violence which led him to ‘perform evil deeds’ (2007, Easwaran, 7:15) and was therefore very dangerous. He told his brothers and invited them to shelter in his house, encouraging them to understand the danger, they refused, but Sattva said they could always change their minds if they chose and come to his house after all. He knew that it was possible to, ‘Reshape yourself through the power of your will… The will is the only friend of the self and the only enemy of the self.’ (2007, Easwaran, 6:5)
Tamas sat in his house of straw and pulled a blanket over his head, praying that the ghosts of his ancestors would protect him. Rajas rushed around his home, boarding up the windows and nailing up the door, calling on the Yakshas and Rakshasas to protect him. Sattva sat quietly in his sturdy house, aware of the light that filled his house and his heart and had shraddha (2007, Easwaran, 17:10) that the god of light would protect him. (2007, Easwaran, p45)
Along came the wolf, scowling fiercely at the laziest piguna’s straw hut. “Come out!” ordered the wolf, his mouth watering. I want to speak to you!” “I’d rather stay where I am!” replied the little piguna in a tiny voice. “I’ll make you come out!” growled the wolf angrily, and puffing out his chest, he took a very deep breath. Then he blew with all his might, right onto the house. All the straw the silly piguna had heaped against some thin poles, fell down in the great blast. Excited by his own cleverness, the wolf did not notice that the little piguna had slithered out from underneath the heap of straw, and was moving towards his brother’s wooden house.
Rajas greeted his brother, proud that his house was so strong, he boasted, “My house is the strongest, I told you that straw wasn’t strong enough but you’ll be safe here.” Outside, the wolf could hear the little pigunas’ words. Starving as he was, at the idea of a two-course meal, he rained blows on the door. “Open up! Open up! I only want to speak to you!” Inside, Tamas wept in fear and Rajas rushed around piling furniture in front of the door. Then the furious wolf braced himself a new effort: he drew in a really enormous breath and went … WHOOOOO! The wooden house collapsed like a pack of cards.
Luckily, Sattva, the wisest little piguna had seen everything from the window of his own brick house and acting quickly and selflessly, he left his house to meet his brothers and help them inside. And not a moment too soon, for the wolf was already hammering furiously on the door. This time, the wolf had grave doubts. This house had a much more solid air than the others. He blew once, he blew again and then for a third time. But all was in vain. For the house did not budge an inch. The wolf scrambled up a nearby ladder, to the chimney. However, the wisest little piguna saw this and knew that it wasn’t enough to hide, that he must fight the evil threatening his family, ‘if you do not participate in this battle against evil, you will incur sin, violating your dharma and your honor.’ (2007, Easwaran, 2:31) so he quickly said: “Quick! Light the fire!” With his long legs thrust down the chimney, the wolf let himself drop. He landed in the fire, stunned by his fall. The flames licked his hairy coat and his tail became a flaring torch. “Never again! Never again will I go down a chimney” Then he ran away as fast as he could.
Tamas sat down and burying his face in his hands, cried that they never should have left home. Rajas danced round and round the yard, and began to sing:”Tra-la-la! Tra-la-la! The wicked black wolf will never come back…!” But Sattva put out the fire and tidied up the mess made by the battle with the wolf. He brewed tea with herbs from his garden and encouraged Tamas to come and join him and asked Rajas to calm down so that they could sit and talk together. Sattva talked to them about the importance of work and faith. He asked them to build houses for themselves that were safe and sturdy. He promised to help them, he knew that they could change if they focused their energies. From that terrible day on, the wisest little pigunas’s brothers set to work with a will. It took time and patient effort but finally, there were two new brick houses.
The wolf did return once to roam in the neighbourhood, but when he caught sight of three chimneys, he remembered the terrible pain of a burnt tail, and he left for good. Now safe and happy, the wisest little piguna felt content, because ‘the fruit of good deeds is pure and sattvic.’ (2007, Easwaran, 18:16) He called to his brothers: “Now we can work and play in safety and harmony!” Sattva hoped to show his brothers that through love and devotion, they would be able transcend their gunas in order to know Brahman.’ (2007, Easwaran, 17:10)