1.16 Transcending the Trinity
Updated: Jul 30, 2021
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI | CHAPTER 1 - SAMADHI PADA | VERSE 16 | COMMENTARY
तत्परं पुरुषख्यातेर्गुणवैतृष्ण्यम् ॥१.१६॥
Tatparaṁ puruṣakhya̅terguṇavaitr̥ṣṇyam. ||1.16||
Highest Vairagya is achieved when one gets in touch with the Purusha (the highest consciousness), which happens when the Trigunas lose their influence.
The state of Vairagya previously described can be attained by regular practice of the mind. Such a person can keep his focus, and does not deviate from his path. But even in this state, the trigunas influence each emotion, thought and action.
The Samkhya philosophy (one of the six Indian philosophies) gives the concept of Prakriti that interacts with Purusha (the supreme consciousness). Prakriti is made of 3 aspects – Inertness/Rest (Tamas), Dynamism/Action (Rajas), and Stability/Focus (Sattva) which are called the Trigunas. Each and every aspect of the Nature (prakriti) is affected by the Trigunas. The human mind is also driven by these three qualities. It is no mere co-incidence we refer to a person’s temperament as their “nature”. Each individual has a certain attitude towards life they are born with – some are lazy, some are restless, and some are stable in their directions and are balanced. People are a combination of these qualities and a particular quality dominates at different times of the day, month and year. Food and environment also play a major role in which quality dominates in an individual. A person high in Sattva would have clarity in his mind, and would be emotionally healthy and stable, and energetic. A person high in Rajas would be dynamic, unable to rest, his mind shooting in multiple directions at a time causing confusion. Tamas brings laziness and too much of it causes dullness. Beware, do not think that one quality is better than the other. Each quality is necessary for balance. Without Tamas, one would not be able to sleep, too much of Rajas causes conflict and too little of it causes inaction. Too much of Sattva is beneficial only when one is doing some higher practice – otherwise it can affect the mind in undesirable ways if not handled properly. The knowledge of the Trigunas is important to understand that we are who we are: we are not in a state to overcome the influence of the Trigunas and yet we have the tools to overcome their influence to a great extent. If one understands this, one starts observing what is causing distress, moodiness, and passion. We can get out of blaming ourselves and others.
There are rare people who can transcend even the basic impulses of the human life. With Abhyasa, Vairagya, and grace of the Guru, such people realize the Self, their true nature which is infinite. The sutra uses the word Purusha. In the Samkhya philosophy, Purusha is the cosmic consciousness or the Supreme Consciousness pervading each and every particle of the universe which does not change. Realizing and experiencing oneself as the Purusha is the higher Vairagya. Here the “I” vanishes and then only each and every particle is recognized as a part of the Self. In the higher form of Vairagya, there are no desires left in the individual. Hunger, thirst, fear, lust is eradicated and no latent impressions guide the decisions. The three gunas – Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas do not have any influence on the individual. They dissolve as they have fulfilled their purpose of becoming one with the Purusha. The individual truly achieves freedom in every aspect in this world and beyond.