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Actions and their definitions

Bhagavad Gita 17

Delusion starts from desire.

Krishna defines the factors for impulse and basis for actions that are performed in this world. Considering the impulse-factors (knowledge, action and actor) we saw the division of knowledge under sattwa, rajas and tamas.

Now for the definitions of action…

Sattwic action: That action that has been ordained. Obligatory (e.g., care of the family, parents, etc., which are simply obvious).Action done without desire for fruits. Actions done without love and hatred.

Rajasic action: Done with much gusto and passion, desiring results, done with much ego-sense and with a lot of effort.

This is very easily seen in today’s ambience. Vanity and hard work to attain positions and prosperity in materials are the trends today. These feelings are reflected in our social behaviour also. The media is a typical platform to see the truth of these statements. Success has its rewards and they are notch-marked by the material accomplishments and the gizmos that you possess.

One’s cultural identity and character nurturing become a fashionable aspect of one’s carriage. One of the cartoon strips of R K Laxman puts across this point rather amusingly…

The cartoon depicts a teenage son sitting on a couch in front of the TV and the father says, “Don’t you want to study well, get a job abroad, become an NRI and be proud of your country?” This in nutshell is what the system is feeling in general.

Tamasic action: That which is done without any regard to consequence, (injury, harm and loss, etc.). Also, actions that are done not considering one’s capabilities are also classified as tamas.

Let us see Krishna’s definitions of the agent or the actor…

Sattwic actor: Equivalent of a Karma Yogi or a stitapragna (free from attachment, non-egoistic, unaffected by success and failure, etc.).

Rajasic actor: Is one desiring results (fruits of action), passionate, greedy, impure, of harmful nature.

Tamasic actor: Is one who is not fit for yoga (unsteady), not of fully developed intellect (vulgar, shortage of buddhi), unyielding (unwilling to be humble), cheating, malicious, feeling despondent and delaying.

These short descriptions show us how one’s state of mind and, hence, the nature can be identified.

Sri Ramakrishna compares these three actors to fishes caught in a net. These three types could be ones which lie in the net without any movement, those fishes jumping and trying to jump into water and those which succeed in reaching the water. The tamasic fish do not make an attempt to free themselves, the rajasic fish are trying but not successful and the sattwic fish are those great seers and souls who are freed.

Now Krishna defines intellect and firmness also under the three categories of sattwa, rajas and tamas.

Sattwic intellect: That which is able to see what is to be done and what not, which is able to see the path of renunciation and work, fear and fearlessness, bondage, liberation, etc.

Rajasic intellect: The buddhi which wrongly comprehends right (dharma) action and wrong (adharma) action.

Tamasic intellect: That which sees what is adharma as dharma and of perverted nature, and also dark and dull.

In the same breath, Krishna differentiates drithi or firmness of the mind.

The firmness of mind which controls the mind, the sense organs and the praanaa is sattwic. Praaana control indicates not only the sense control but also the focus on meditation (the various practices described earlier). The firmness by which one holds on to actions, desire and wealth is rajasic. The firmness by which one holds to sleep, despair, grief and also conceit (extreme pride) is tamasic.

Krishna defines pleasure also.

Sattwic pleasure is like poison at the beginning but turns to be like nectar in the end. This kind of pleasure is realised by one’s self. It is a singularly self-realised feeling.

Rajasic pleasure comes from contact with objects and the sense organs. It is like nectar at first but then turns out to be poison at the end.

The attachment to objects of senses leads to misery because the longing and further actions with pain to achieve them, results in success or failure. If it is success, then the fear of losing it follows. If it is failure, then the frustration unsettles one’s mind.

Tamasic pleasure is one where from the start to end delusion prevails and this pleasure ties one to sleep, laziness and unsteadiness.

What gives us pleasure, we desire that. This desire is what causes the misery as expounded by Buddha. Freedom from want… It should come from one’s mind. Else one can become a victim of the senses.

Sri Ramakrishna’s brief story before we stop to contemplate…

In olden days, the priests of Govindji temple in Jayapuri were celibates and were of firm mind and with good strength of spirit. Once the king sent a word for them and they sent the message back requesting the king to visit the temple, rather.

As time rolled by, the tradition of celibacy was lost and the priests entered into matrimonies. Then it became such that the king felt no need to call them to the palace. They themselves would call on him and shower him with praise and respect.

“O Maharaj! May you be blessed! Here we bring you the flowers that adorned the Lord. Please accept.”

Why so? The bonds of matrimony brought in more needs… son’s schooling, daughter’s marriage and so on. This made them visit the king and seek his patronage. Most of us would recognise a similar disposition.

We can contemplate on that…

These Gita talks were earlier published as ‘Gita - A reassurance from Godhead’ in ‘Nandini Voice for the Deprived’.

May 02, 2010
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Rajoo Balaji

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