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The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Book 2 - The Steps to Union
15. To the illuminated man all existence (in the three worlds) is considered pain owing to the activities of the gunas. These activities are threefold, producing consequences, anxieties and subliminal impressions.

The three "gunas" are the three qualities of matter itself, sattva, raja and tamas, or rhythm, activity and inertia, and are inherent in all forms. The student needs to remember that every form on every plane is thus characterized, and this is true of the highest form as of the lowest, the manifestation of these qualifies only differing in degree.

To the man who is achieving perfection it becomes increasingly apparent how every form through which he, the divine spiritual man is manifesting, causes limitation and difficulty. The physical vehicle of the adept, though constructed of substance predominatingly sattvic in nature, equilibrized and rhythmic, yet serves to confine him to the world of physical endeavor and limits the powers of the true man. Speaking generally it might be said that: [148]

  1. The attribute of inertia (or tamas) characterizes the lower personal self, the sheaths of the threefold lower man.
  2. The attribute of activity is the prime characteristic of the soul, and it is this quality which causes the intense activity and constant labor of the man as he seeks experience and later, as he seeks to serve.
  3. The attribute of rhythm, or balance, is the quality of the spirit or monad and it is this tendency to perfection which is the cause of man's evolution in time and space and the factor which carries all life through all forms to the consummation. Let us bear in mind here, however, that these three qualities are the qualities of the substance through which the triple spirit is manifesting in this solar system. The nature of spirit itself we know not as yet, for we cannot think except in terms of form, however, transcendental those forms may be. Only those souls who have attained the highest initiation and can pass beyond our solar ring-pass-not know somewhat of the essential nature of that which we call spirit.

Coming to the practical manifestation of the gunas in the three worlds (in relation to man) it can be noted that:

  1. The attribute of balance or rhythm distinguishes the mental vehicle. When the mental body is organized and man is being directed by his mind, his life becomes stabilized and organized also and the direction of his affairs proceeds in a balanced manner.
  2. The quality of activity or mobility is the [149] characteristic of the emotional or astral nature and, when this is dominant the life is chaotic, violent, emotional and subjected to every mood and feeling. It is primarily the quality of the desire life.
  3. Inertia is the quality dominating the physical body and the whole objective of the ego is to break down that inertia and drive its lowest vehicle into an activity which will bring about the desired ends. Hence the use and necessity for the guna of mobility and the full play of the emotional or desire nature in the earlier stages of endeavor.

Pain is the product of these form activities, for pain is the result of the inherent difference between the pairs of opposites, spirit and matter. Both the factors are "at peace" essentially until brought into conjunction and both resist each other and produce friction and suffering when united in time and space.

Patanjali points out that this pain is comprehensive, covering past, present and future.

  1. Consequences. Pain is brought about through the activity of the past and the working out of karma as it is expressed in the adjusting of mistakes, the paying of the price of error. The settling of past obligations and debts is ever a sorrowful process. Certain past eventualities necessitate present conditions both of heredity, environment and type of body, and the form, both of vehicle and group relations, is painful to the soul, who is confined thereby.
  2. Anxieties. This concerns the present and [150] is sometimes translated - apprehensions. If the student will study this term he will note that it covers not only the fear of evil in suffering, but also the fear of failure in the spiritual body in service. These equally cause pain and distress and parallel the awakening of the real man to a realization of his heritage.
  3. Subliminal impressions, has relation to the future and concerns those forebodings as to death, suffering and need which dominate so many of the sons of men. It is the unknown and its possibilities that we fear both for ourselves and others, and this in its turn produces pain.
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