Knowledge, Discrimination and The Gunas

Two similar quotes from the Gita are inspiring me at the moment.  The first is:

“The yogin who is satisfied with knowledge and discrimination, who is unchanging, with conquered senses, to whom a cold, a stone and gold are the same is said to have attained Samadhi. 6.8

What does it mean to be satisfied with knowledge and discrimination? For me, this speaks to the idea of understanding the difference between the ego, the Ahamkara, and the Truth of the Self.  Our ego needs things to be satisfied. It needs to be validated by what is happening within us and outside of us to be satiated.  We can spend our lives trying to satisfy this sense of self, this ego. Running from this thing to that thing and creating a small world where everything fits and we only participate in those things that keep our ego fed and validated.  When anything arises that does not validate this Ahamkara, we can become upset, angry, anxious or sad. There are any number of ways to create an emotional experience that feeds our thought, body and behavior patterns to bring us back to a comfortable window of tolerance to who we think we are.

The idea of conquering the senses can be about seeing these patterned responses to stimuli and beginning to see through the responses to a place of Truth, of Being, of Self underneath.   We begin to notice how we run towards those things that validate this small sense of self and run away from those things that threaten that sense of self.  We can begin to see how we create emotional experiences, thought patterns, body patterns and behavioral experiences in response to our world.  This practice teaches us to sit back, observe, watch, and notice what arises and instead of feeding the ego- to be in the place of knowledge and discrimination to see everything in the light of the Truth. Rather than feeding the need of the ego to be satiated in every moment, we sit in discrimination which allows us to act in the world from a different place.


The second quote is this:

Later Arjuna asks what is he like who has transcended the three qualities, the gunas for which Krishna says “To whom pain and pleasure are equal, who dwells in the Self, to whom a clod, a stone and gold are the same…” 14.24

When we have transcended the qualities, the gunas, we can be in the place of discrimination, be in the space of Truth and see all as equal.  The energies of the gunas (activation- rajas, stability or inertia- tamas and clarity- sattva) create our world of experience which can fulfil our ego needs of validation or lead us to greater truth.  For the gunas to lead me to truth, I need to cultivate the capacity to sit back in knowledge and discrimination and watch the gunas move. I can see how energy arises and instead of these energies feeding my ego and creating a world of disturbance guided by rajas, tamas or even sattva- I can see all as the same. I can see the connection between all that arises and into the truth underneath.

When I consider what creates pain, suffering and separation I think about how the gunas move within us created by our internal and external experience. Information arises from outside of us and within us and our ego wants to figure it all out. It wants to understand, to be seen, to be understood, to be validated.  My ego knows how it has worked with these energies and emotions in the past and wants to restore a sense of identity and order. The ego is unsure of what would happen, who I would be, if I interacted with this energy and emotion differently.  As a yogi we have the choice to go with the ego, to create more of the same story, to harden those boundaries of who we are- or we can choose differently. Yoga gives us the capacity and the tools to sit back in discrimination- to see the ego clammering for validation,  the separation and suffering that is created by that ego structure,  and to choose differently.

When I come from the place of truth, seeing the truth in me as well as the truth in others, from knowledge and discrimination- I can make a choice about my emotional, mental, physical and spiritual experience in the moment. I can choose to create more separation or to see the Self in all, to be a friend to all, to act in the greatest good and to alleviate suffering. Through our yoga practice we are cultivating this capacity to have more choices in what we see and understand in the moment and to create action that comes from a place of kindness, compassion, honesty, and authenticity.  Through this kind of action we have the potential to create healing and connection within us and in our relationships with others.

1 reply
  1. Shelly Prosko
    Shelly Prosko says:

    Marlysa, this is just beautifully expressed! I will read it many times and share it. Your insight is inspiring. I really like how you used the gunas to illustrate discrimination and leading to truth. Thank you for your clarity and taking the time to share this with us all! Namaste dear friend.


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