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The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Book 4 - Illumination
13. The characteristics, whether latent or potent, partake of the nature of the three gunas (the three qualities of matter).

The characteristics are in reality the qualities, capacities and faculties which the man is manifesting or can manifest (given the right conditions). These are, as we have seen, the result or the effects of his entire past experience carried over the entire cycle of lives up to date. The product of the contacts, unfoldments and developments which have governed him from the earliest [400] dawn of his individuality until the present lifecycle, produce what he is and has, in the present. It must be borne in mind that all these factors which are summed up under the general title of "characteristics" are concerned with the form and its responsiveness to the indwelling spiritual life.

They are produced just as rapidly as the spiritual Indweller can set his impress upon the substance of those forms, bend them to his will, control and subject them. Form has certain vibratory activities of its own, inherent in its own nature. By identification with the form and utilization of it, the Indweller develops a dual set of characteristics. One set demonstrates in the form of the lower self and concerns the adaptability of the form to inner influence, and to outer environment. The other concerns tendencies, impulses and desires which tend to affect permanently the body of the higher, or causal Self. Hence these characteristics are in both cases concerned with the rhythm or gunas of matter.

It might be said that what we are is the product of the past and shows as the characteristics of the form of the personality. What we shall be in the next incarnation is decided by the ability of the true man to influence that personal self, bend it to the higher ends and raise its rate of vibration. Man is one thing when he enters into incarnation; he is another when he passes out of incarnation, for he is then the product of the past, plus the achievement of the present life, and that achievement under the great evolutionary urge inevitably has carried him forward towards [401] a sattvic or rhythmic, harmonious condition, and away from the tamasic condition of inertia, of immobility. This is achieved through the imposition of the characteristics of activity, the middle guna, and that which predominantly controls the outward-going activity and drives the man into sensuous experience.

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