The Mechanics of the Matrix: Prakriti’s Three Gunas


The Indian scholar Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair says that one who has Knowledge and self-mastery need not live in fear of the senses. This universe is not merely suffering. The Supreme One created all the possible worlds and the beings that inhabit them for the purpose of enjoyment (bhogya). It is only in the Kali Yuga that suffering (duhkha) begins to outweigh its opposite (sukha). The belief systems that declare suffering and sin as the sole tenets of human existence emerged in the Kali Yuga after 3606 BC.



Book XIV - Knowledge of the Three Gunas


In Book XIV Krishna teaches Arjuna the Knowledge of the three gunas. This is the Knowledge that all who seek enlightenment must come to know in order to be liberated from the illusory holographic matrix and to pass beyond transmigration in this world on to the highest perfection (param siddhim).



Yet farther will I open unto thee

This wisdom of all wisdoms, uttermost,

The which possessing, all My saints have passed

To perfectness.

- Ganguli XIV.1


Those who take refuge in this Knowledge attain similitude (sadharmya) with the Creator, the Supreme Self (Paramatman), and are not born again even at the point that begins the creation of another set of time cycles, yugas, manvantaras, and kalpas. Nor do these who have ‘become identical’ (B.Marjanovic) with the One suffer at the time of a Dissolution.


On such high verities

Reliant, rising into fellowship

With Me, they are not born again at birth

Of Kalpas, nor at Pralyas suffer change!

- Ibid.XIV.2


The Sanskrit word Pralyas refers to the time of a Dissolution. The Naimittika Pralaya concerns ‘all living beings on earth’ and takes place at the end of a Manvantara. Each Manvantara is divided into 71 Maha-Yugas of 4,320,000 years each; each Maha-Yuga is made up of four Yugas. This Naimittika Pralaya occurs when the Creator can no longer find any remedy apart from the total destruction of the world to put an end to the disastrous and unplanned increase in the number of beings (A.Danielou).


इदं ज्ञानमुपाश्रित्य मम साधर्म्यमागताः . 
सर्गेऽपि नोपजायन्ते प्रलये व्यथन्ति .. १४-

idaṃ jñānam upāśritya mama sādharmyam āgatāḥ
sargepi nopajāyante pralaye na vyathanti ca 14.2


This destruction will begin with an underwater explosion called Vadava, the mare, which will take place in the southern ocean (ibid.). The increasing reports of underwater thermal vents deep on the ocean floor which appear to be causing movements in the earth’s plates always command my attention.



The ‘extraplanetary world’ Mahar


Survivors of a Naimittika Pralaya are said to take refuge in the Loka called Mahar, an ‘extraplanetary world’ when at the end of the Kali Yuga the entire species is destroyed by these catastrophic events (ibid.). The current Kali Yuga began in 3606 BC when Krishna left this earth after the great war described in the Mahabharata.


Alain Danielou gives the date 1939 as the beginning of the Twilight of this Kali Yuga. He says that the last traces of this present mankind will have disappeared by the year 2442 AD, the end of the Kali Yuga according to him.


There is another Pralaya called the Prakritika Pralaya which ‘concerns the whole universe’ and occurs when the ‘divine dream which is the world ends’ (ibid.).


‘All vestiges of creation are destroyed ... The earth, the atmosphere, the planetary and the extraplanetary worlds [all the Lokas wherein dwell the myriad beings] disappear. Everything that exists is united in one single liquid mass, an ocean of fire in which the world dissolves. It is in this immense cosmic ocean (ekarnava) that the organizing principle, Brahman, sleeps until at the end of night, he awakens and ... raises a new world out of the waves.’

- Linga Purana, as cited by Alain Danielou



Prakriti is the Matrix


Prakriti is the uncaused, unmanifest Nature, the Matrix as womb. She produces the entire fabric of creation which lies within her as the insentient unconscious Matrix and operates through the three gunas - rajas, sattva, and tamas. Prakriti is the uncaused cause of all entities and has no existence apart from the gunas.


This Universe the womb is where I plant

Seed of all lives! Thence, Prince of India, comes

Birth to all beings!

- Ganguli.XIV.3


The etymology of the word ‘matrix’ is womb. The Sanskrit for womb is yoni. The womb of this universe is described as maha brahma which the scholar Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair reads as the Great Nature. The Kashmir Saivite Abhinavagupta reads maha brahma as Shakti, the instrumental power to create the entire universe. This Shakti is the womb and is svatantrya-shakti, the Lord’s ‘Great Power of Freedom’ (B.Marjanovic). The Supreme Being places the seed (grabham) in the womb (yoni) as the origin (sambhavas) of all beings (sarva-bhutanam).


Whoso, Kunti's Son [Arjuna]!

Mothers each mortal form, Brahma conceives,

And I am He that fathers, sending seed!

- Ibid.XIV.4


The Supreme Lord is the father (pita) who sows the seed (bija-pradah) in all wombs (yonis) from which every form and image (murtayas) emerges (sambhavanti). It is the nature of Shakti to ‘manifest the universe’ (B.Marjanovic), therefore she is called the Mother.



The 3 gunas - sattva, rajas & tamas


Prakriti possesses the three gunas - sattva, rajas and tamas. The gunas are the basis of everything produced in the temporal illusory hologram. All that is perceivable by the five senses are her effects.


Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, so are named

The qualities of Nature, "Soothfastness,"

"Passion," and "Ignorance."

- Ibid.XIV.5


While you read this teaching of the gunas and their distinctions, bear in mind what the Abhinavagupta says - “No diversity is the Real Truth!” The One as Paramatman is Atman, the appearance of myriad Souls. The Atman is Purusha once it inhabits a form. The Oneness is Prakriti whose three gunas are activated by the presence of Purusha to produce the universe via the five senses operating on their objects. All are but aspects of the One.


During a Dissolution the gunas remain in balance. Their nascent imbalance ensues with the beginning of any creation in any of the first Cycles of Time. As the cycles proceed, the gunas move further into imbalance and it is this imbalance that causes the projection of an expression or manifestation out into the hologram.


These three bind down

The changeless Spirit in the changeful flesh.

- Ibid.


The gunas integrate the human body; adhering to the subtle form, they ‘conduct’ the body. (B.Bhattacharya). Our individual gunas may be described by the planetary placements in our birth chart. The Cardinal signs are rajas, the mutable are sattva, and the fixed are the guna tamas.


The gunas serve to limit us from the infinite. As our consciousness moves through the Cycles of Time, we become more and more limited by the increasing imbalances in the gunas which are governing our corporeal existence. Eventually the adventure is less than fun and we land in a Kali Yuga rut as the repeating downward cycles of the same-old same-old boring experiences hurl us into the proverbial brick wall and we are force to think. It is perhaps time to wake-up.



Oneness pervades ...


It is the presence of Purusha in proximity to Prakriti and her gunas that kindles, impels, and instigates the emergence of her effects in the hologram. Prakriti is the ‘final substratum of all empirical realities,’ however her unmanifest is not different from her effects. ‘What was subtle and undifferentiated is called effect when it becomes manifest and differentiated’ (Chakravarti). On the highest level of the Real even the cause, Consciousness as Purusha, is not separate from her or her effects. God is All - Vasudeva sarvam iti (Bh.G.VII.19).



The Sattva Guna


The archaic word ‘sooth’ means truth and the guna sattva relates to truth because of its luminous purity. The three gunas are ever in motion, one dominating over the others for a time and then another predominates. Your moods, thoughts and actions are the resulting effects of these migrating blends produced by the gunas.


Whereof sweet "Soothfastness," by purity

Living unsullied and enlightened, binds

The sinless Soul to happiness and truth;

- Ganguli XIV.6


Ganguli truly made the heroic effort to translate the Mahabharata into English as poetry in keeping with the original Sanskrit verses. However words such as ‘soothfastness’ are a bit of a mind-boggle and it is easy to understand why subsequent translators preferred meaning to rhyme.


The sattva guna is said to be in full strength when ‘every gate (meaning sense perception) of the body is illumined and receives Knowledge of the Absolute’ (B.Bhattacharya). The Gambhirananda translation tells us that sattva is illuminating, a ‘revealer’ of Consciousness (prakashakam) that is without sorrow (anamayam).



Even the sattva guna binds ...


All three gunas are the instruments of Prakriti’s guna-maya, the operative power which binds our consciousness into the webs of the temporal illusory hologram. Sattva’s binding power (guna-maya) takes the form of attachment to happiness and what is good (sukha-sangena). Sattva also binds by attachment to knowledge, even as wisdom (jnana-sangena).


It is not enough to become good, knowing and wise. When we identify our small ego-self as good or wise, we have attached our consciousness to a polarity. Granted sattva is the most pleasing guna and does bring temporal happiness (sukha). However the gunas are the unreal and our attachment to their effects, even if pleasant, will eventually lead us back into delusion.


This is akin to ‘Pride goes before a fall’ (Proverbs 16.18). The perils in pride of knowledge and wisdom, often called spiritual-pride, ever beset the seeker of the Real. Better than happiness (sukha) is the adamantine divine ‘contentment’ beyond any duality.



The Guna Rajas


The guna rajas is the sphere of action and ambition. Rajas is passion. One might observe here in the Kali Yuga, that when behavior-gurus tell you to live your passion - what they are actually saying is that you should remain perpetually in the guna rajas!


The current trendy obsession with being ‘busy’ from dawn to dusk is a reflection of the rajas guna. This obsession is robbing children of their natural inclination to explore their own creativity and imagination as even babies are being programmed and entrained by the latest get-ahead rubbish.


And Passion, being kin to appetite,

And breeding impulse and propensity,

Binds the embodied Soul, O Kunti's Son!

- Ganguli XIV.7


The passion of rajas is born of a thirst (trsna) that takes the form of desire. Desire walks hand-in-hand with attachment (sanga). Most of us cannot bear to let go of anything we had passionately desired. This thirst-desire passion drives us to actions which are performed in attachment and bind our consciousness in the temporal illusory hologram. We imagine falsely that we are the ‘Doer’ and we identify our self as our passion for what we desire.



The Guna Tamas


The guna tamas deludes all embodied beings (sarvadehinam)  and is born of ignorance (ajananjam). Tamas is the deluder (mohanam) that ‘produces erroneous notions’ because it has no capacity for discrimination (Gambhirananda).


By tie of works. But Ignorance, begot

Of Darkness, blinding mortal men, binds down

Their souls to stupor, sloth, and drowsiness.

- Ganguli XIV.8


Tamas produces laziness, sleep, distraction, and indolence. Tamas is the couch potato guna! Tamas binds by covering the light of wisdom with ignorance. It causes us to neglect our spiritual practices. Abhinavagupta says that the ‘sleep’ of tamas is not mere somnolence, but for the seeker this sleep is ‘spending too much time on the wrong path’ (B.Marjanovic).


Rajas does supply the energy that can overcome the inertia of tamas; and neither sattva nor tamas has the power to urge the creation of new forms (B.Bhattacharaya).



The gunas bind us in the webs of illusion ...


Sattva binds our consciousness in the temporal illusory hologram through attachment to happiness (sukha). Rajas binds through actions born of passion and emotion based in desire. Tamas obscures, veils and covers Knowledge with delusion which further binds us in attachment.


Yea, Prince of India! Soothfastness binds souls

In pleasant wise to flesh; and Passion binds

By toilsome strain; but Ignorance, which blots

The beams of wisdom, binds the soul to sloth.

- Ganguli XIV.9


These three qualities, the gunas, take turns overpowering our consciousness. Once you understand the mechanics involved, you can begin to observe which guna is prevailing over the other two by your mood. When you are feeling peaceful, happy and wise, sattva predominates. When you are driven to take actions by the desire to acquire, succeed, accomplish, create, control, and be busy-busy-busy, the rajas guna rules.


Passion and Ignorance, once overcome,

Leave Soothfastness, O Bharata! Where this

With Ignorance are absent, Passion rules;

And Ignorance in hearts not good nor quick.

- Ganguli XIV.10


Tamas is the ‘Why bother?’ mood that moves upon our consciousness like a dull obscuring fog. When tamas prevails we wonder why we should do anything or learn anything. Tamas is the ‘blahs’ frequency that leads to laziness and the death of wisdom. Tamas is the miasma of amnesia.


Those of you who are familiar with your correct astrological birth charts can observe the gunas operating through your planetary placements. You will be aware of a predominance of cardinal (rajas), mutable (sattva), and fixed (tamas) signs in your chart. This is no guarantee of enlightenment, merely another tool to assist in your perceiving the pure Witness within.



The Portals of Illumination


Our freedom from the binding power of guna-maya lies in shifting our consciousness from the gunas’ incessant gyrations, back into the God within us. When our Consciousness as Purusha identifies its Self as the inner Witness, we come to understand that we are never the Doer. This entire universe and all its myriad worlds are produced by Prakriti's gunas operating on their objects via the senses.


When at all gateways of the Body shines

The Lamp of Knowledge, then may one see well

Soothfastness settled in that city reigns;

Where longing is, and ardour, and unrest,

Impulse to strive and gain, and avarice,

Those spring from Passion - Prince!

- Ibid.XIV.11


The identification with the God-within, the Witness, takes place when the sattva guna predominates and the Light of Knowledge, which discriminates between the Real and the temporal, shines (prakashas) and illuminates the gates in the body (sarvadvarsu dehe). These gates or doors are the sense organs, our means of perception as sight, hearing, etc.


Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair says that when the senses have been controlled, meaning they have come to rest in the Wisdom of Discrimination of the sattva guna, they ‘will become portals through which light will pour in.’ The senses will then ‘cease to be ill-lit alleys through which the temptations of the world will steal in for rendezvous with low appetites.’


In other words, the five senses will no longer serve the demonic whose function is to bind us in the temporal illusory hologram. The senses will serve the God-within. What was utilized to entrap and drag our consciousness ever further down into Kali Yuga confusion and delusion, will now illuminate.


The senses will again ‘become portals through which light will pour in, the splendour of the world and its meaning, and this light will illuminate for the Self its own real nature’ (The Betrayal of Krishna). We will regain the consciousness that was natural to us in the Golden Age, the Satya Yuga.






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