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Gunas: Story of Three Thieves

Date: Fri, 23 Nov 2012 20:21:32 -0000
From: Tiirthapati Deva
Subject: Gunas: Story of Three Thieves




When you feel inspired to do more sadhana and be more vigilant in 16 Points then in that phase you are more dominated by sattvagun'a; and if you feel lethargic to do asanas but eventually do them in a half-way sort of manner, then you are more dominated by a rajogun'a; and if feel a complete lack of interest in spiritual life and are instead attracted to mundane and sensual pleasures, then you are more dominated by tamogun'a.

If most of the time you are dominated by sattvaguńa then you are a sattvaguńii.

Here Baba illustrates how the various three gun'as affect a person's life choices.

Baba says, "A sattvaguńii person always finds sattvaguńa in everything. Similarly, a rajoguńii finds rajoguńah, and a tamoguńii finds tamoguńa. On visiting Káshi a righteous person [sattvaguńii] shall associate with the sages and saints on the bank of the Ganges and will find Káshi to be the most sacred place. A tourist [rajoguńii] will go round the city and find it a city like all others, while a cheat [tamoguńii] will find this city a proper place for his operations. The same city is visualised in three different ways by three persons according to their respective temperaments. " (Subhasita Samgraha - 1, Prakrti Tattva and Onmkára Tattva)

Thus, sattvaguńa will lead one along the path to the Divine; tamoguńa pushes one along the path of severe degradation; and rajoguńa is more of a neutral enterprise, neither high nor low.

Baba says, "With the help of prakrti’s sattvaguńa, the aspirant can gain access into the universal, imperishable consciousness. When his mind merges in universal mind, this state is called “savikalpa samádhi”. According to natural principles, if the aspirant takes something limited and perishable as the object of his attainment and adopts it as the goal of their life, they unconsciously proceed toward tamoguńa – toward crudeness, and eventually towards animality. Tamoguńa alone is crudeness, and rajoguńa can be called dynamism, and sattvaguńa the harmonious enlightenment." (Subhasita Samgraha - 1, Prakrti Tattva and Onmkára Tattva)

Finally we should also understand that all three gun'as are present within each and every human being - and every entity of this cosmos - but to varying degrees.

There are three gun'as, i.e. binding principles governed by prakrti, and they influence the mind of each and every sadhaka in various ways.

The preceding paragraphs and teachings provide a background about the nature of the three gunas and how they affect human thought and action.


As noted, everything in this universe is bound by all three gunas, yet one is usually more dominant than the other two. For instance, if a normal person one day wakes up with the ardent desire to learn meditation, then it can be said they are now dominated by sattvagun'a. And if after some months or years on the path, they get tempted by alcohol and plunge themselves into a drunken stupor, then they regressed and were dominated by tamogun'a.

Not all examples are quite so stark; there are a thousand shades of gray in between and you may recognise in your own life when you feel more dominated by the sentient principle (sattvagun'a), and when more dominated by the mutative principle (rajogun'a), and when more dominated by the static principle (tamogun'a).

Baba says, "All the three attributes operate together in everything, although in varying proportions. Those things where sattvaguńa predominates are called “sattvika”, those where rajoguńa dominates are called “rájasika”, and those where tamoguńa is dominant are called “támasika”." (Subhasita Samgraha - 1, Prakrti Tattva and Onmkára Tattva)

But whatever may be, ultimately these three gun'as are all binding principles operated by prakrti - the cosmic operative principle. They have their own limitations. These gunas themselves cannot liberate you from bondage. They cannot grant you mukti or moksa, not even sattvagun'a. And they can't bring you to the abode of Parama Purusa.

To best illustrate this in a clear manner, Baba has recounted the story of the three thieves in various discourses. Here below is a summary of Baba's story.


A sadhaka was once crossing a forested jungle in hopes of reaching to one great city. Along the way, the sadhaka was accosted by three thieves - Mr. Tamogun'a, Mr. Rajogun'a, and Mr. Sattvagun'a.

The thief named Mr. Tamogun'a wanted to kill the sadhaka and steal everything he had. And verily Tamogun'a was about to murder the sadhaka when the thief named Mr. Rajogun'a intervened. Mr. Rajogun'a was not in favour of killing the sadhaka; he merely wanted to tie him up and rob him. Mr. Sattvaguna remained quiet and watched.

Mr. Tamgoguna and Mr. Rajoguna then harassed and tied up the sadhaka, and then all three thieves went to go hunting in the jungle. While the other two thieves were still out hunting, the thief named Mr. Sattvagun'a returned to the scene of the crime.

With much remorse he looked at that sadhaka and said, "Oh dear, you are in terrible trouble. I am so sorry. I wanted to help you earlier, but with those other two guys around I could not intervene. So I had to keep quiet."

Then Mr. Sattvagun'a quickly untied the sadhaka and gave him back his belongings. He then led the sadhaka through the jungle and stood at the very edge and showed the sadhaka the path to the city of lights. But Mr. Sattavguna himself could not leave the darkness at the edge of the jungle, as he was, after all, a thief. So the sadhaka was saved from the dangers of the jungle by Mr. Sattvagun'a, but then still had to advance further to the city of lights.


(A) We can liken the thief named Mr. Tamogun'a to that aspect of maya that leads one to utter degeneration: drinking liquor, harming others, eating meat, torturing animals, etc. When one is dominated by tamoguna, their degradation is sure.

Many, many non-margiis fall in this category as they are quite satisfied with mundane allurements and lesser tendencies, and altogether oblivious about spiritual life. Within this camp, there are definite degrees. Some are just animals in human form gorged in primal instincts whereas others might be demons in human form as they wish to undermine the welfare of others.

That is why Baba paints such a gruesome picture of the thief tamogun'a in his above story. Because those dominated by tamogun'a get ruined, even destroyed. They are just like the living dead, killed by tamoguna.

(B) Mr. Rajogun'a is not quite as nasty or mean-minded as Mr. Tamogun'a, but we cannot think that Mr. Rajogun'a is very helpful either. Mr. Rajogun'a did not want to kill the sadhaka, rather he robbed the him and left him tied up to suffer in the dark.

In the practical sphere, we can think of human beings dominated by rajogun'a as those who run after name and fame, are bound largely by their ego, and are mostly living for their own self-indulgence.

They are neither service-oriented nor interested in higher ideals. Nor though are they plotting another's complete destruction. On occasion, those dominated by rajoguna may even do decent works in life, but those works will still keep one in bondage.

(C) Then we come to the thief Mr. Sattvagun'a. In the above story, Mr. Sattvagun'a is basically portrayed as the hero. He helps the sadhaka get out of the dark jungle and march towards the city. He helps people out of the shadows of avidya maya and with the help of samvit shakti brings one onto the path of self-knowledge.

However, one should not then think that sattvagun'a can then liberate any sadhaka from all bondages. It cannot. Sattvagun'a itself is a binding principle - it keeps jiivas in bondage.

As the story shows though, sattvagun'a will bring sadhakas onto the right path. Those dominated by this binding principle will find the Guru, get initiation, have an appreciation for spiritual life, and live a sentient, God-centered existence.


Even then a sadhaka who is 65% sentient, 20% mutative, and 15% tamasik may fall prey, on occasion, to the ways of tamogun'a.

So being dominated by sattva'guna is not liberation. Still one is bound and prone to downfall.

Only if one is fully immersed in the thought of Parama Purusa - day and night, i.e. 99% sattvaguna - are they not prone to degrading activities. Then they are still in bondage to some degree (i.e. food, death etc), but they have almost zero chance of falling into the mire of tamogun'a.


So the three binding principles - sattvagun'a, rajogun'a, and tamo'guna - each have their own agendas and function and keep the jiiva bound to the cycle of life and death. We must not forget that even good and noble actions are binding. Good actions reap good samskaras that then have to be exhausted.

Here Baba describes how maya can deliver one to the doorstep of the kingdom of Parama Purusa, but it cannot grant liberation. For that, one must cross one last hurdle, and to cross that devotion is needed.

Baba says, "Ma'ya' has three gun'as – operative principles through which it works – viz., sattvagun'a (sentient principle), rajogun'a (mutative principle) and tamogun'a (static principle). They work and lie in an ascending order on the road to the Absolute. The sentient principle (sattvagun'a) has the capacity to take the sa'dhaka very near Him (Nira'ka'ra Brahma) by making the mind more and more subtle. But there still lies a gap between this point and Nira'ka'ra Brahma. This gap is known as bha'va or bha'vasa'gar. This gap can only be bridged with the help of devotion. Thus we see that ma'ya', channelized properly (in its sentient operating principle) can take the sa'dhaka to a point very near Ishvara, from which point the domain of devotion begins." (Subhasita Samgraha - 19)

So there is only one way to free oneself from the three thieves or three binding principles. And that is to develop a link with the Supreme Entity, for only He is beyond the binding faculties. Only by ideating on Parama Purusa can one cross the ocean - bha'vasa'gar - and reach unto Him.


Baba says, "So one must remember that one may or may not attain salvation by dint of one’s own spiritual practices: one will have to depend on His Grace. And because He is one with each and every expressed entity through His ota and prota yoga, He is your nearest and dearest one. You may depend on Him completely, and your dependence on Him is called sharan'a'gati. This sharan'a'gati is the only reply to all spiritual questions. Thus He clearly says,

Api cet sudura'ca'ro bhajate ma'mananyabha'k
So'pi pa'pavinirmukto mucyate bhavabandhana't.

Daevii hyes'a' gun'amayii mama Ma'ya' duratyaya'
Ma'meva ye prapadyante Ma'ya'meta'm' taranti te.

“This ma'ya' is a dangerous force. The dexterous hands of ma'ya' create so many problems, and these problems are dangerous: Aghat'ana ghatana pat'iiyasii ma'ya'. It is very difficult for human beings to surmount the effect of ma'ya'. But I am there. Those who have resorted to sharan'a'gati, who have taken shelter in me, will easily surmount these waves of difficulties, of worries and anxieties in life. Even sinners should depend upon me – I am here to help them.” U'ta'mrtasyesha'no: He is not only the Lord of heaven, He is the Lord of hell also. U'ta' means hell. So even a sinner of hell should not become mentally disturbed because the Lord of hell is with him. Api cet sudura'ca'ro bhajate ma'mananyabha'k. “Even if the sinner of sinners resorts to sharan'a'gati, to complete surrender, then so'pi pa'pavinirmukta – they will be freed from all kinds of sins”: mucyate bhavabandhana't. “They must attain salvation, for I am the granter of salvation.” (Subhasita Samgraha - 11)

at His alter,

"Pradiip shala'ka' jvele cali eka', se priyo to mor elo na'..." ( P.S. 4794)


Alone, sitting in isolation I lit the lamp. I was waiting and wondering why my Dearmost has not come. I wanted to have a glance of Him, to lay my
eyes on Him. Neither did He come, nor did He look towards me.  

Sitting in dhyana, in my mind I prepared and decorated a seat for Him; I was waiting and waiting for Him. In dhyana, I was just asking Him for boons - to fulfill my worldly desires. I did not want to have Him. Rather, I wanted worldly things - boons etc. I did not ask for those things which are divine and eternal. Instead I asked for perishable, decaying, material things - which are under the bondage of time, space, and person. Instead of longing for Him, I asked Him for boon after boon. In my misguided dhyana, all these crude types of desires I had.

All that went in vain because my Dearmost did not come. In dhyana, when I was folding His seat and putting it away, I thought that without
pure devotion nothing is going to happen; I cannot get Him. What I did in dhyana was just a waste of time. Everything went in vain. I gave more
importance to worldly things in comparison to devotion and I went on asking for parabhakti from Him. That too went in vain.  

Sitting alone I lit the lamp and waited, but my Dearmost did not come...

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