The Vedas speak of oneness, unity and equality. Yet we experience diversity, differences and demarcations. Enlightened masters have merged with the Spirit which is the same in all. They see the one, unifying substratum of the universe. From the vantage point of Atman they enjoy the diversity. We see matter which differs in different beings. We feel threatened by the variations, are affected and get crushed by them.

Michelangelo said in every block of wood there is a beautiful statue. You only have to remove the excess material. The statue lying beneath is the Spirit. Matter is the excess material that impedes the vision of Divinity. The spiritual path helps us rise above matter to unfold the Spirit.

Matter consists of three gunas or qualities – sattva (purity), rajas (passion) and tamas (apathy). Just as the three primary colours combine to create the myriad colours in the world, the three gunas blend to form the variety of beings. Guna in Sanskrit means ‘rope’. Woven together they bind us to the world. All humans have all three gunas. It is the proportion that makes the difference.

Tamas is the state of ignorance, inertia and carelessness. In tamas people are oblivious of their potential, have no sense of purpose and take shelter in intoxication and a life of reckless abandon. Steeped in delusion, a tamasika person is not aware of the dignity of human life and finds pleasure in sloth, indifference and aberrant behaviour. All the talent and skill inherent in the person lies untapped and wasted. It is akin to trying to drive a powerful sports car with the engine turned off.

Rajas is restless activity fuelled by desire, selfishness and ego. Rajasika people are competitive and ambitious, driven by one-upmanship. But rajas carries a huge price. It causes struggle, strife and stress leading to costly mistakes in life. A rajasika person imagines an antagonistic world of scarcity and peril. S/he focuses on fighting imaginary battles to gain supremacy over the world. The more s/he grabs for exclusive enjoyment of all that the world has to offer, the more s/he loses. S/he is thus a lonely soul, alienated from family and friends. Rajas is like driving the sports car with the brakes on.

Sattva is the state of serenity and purity. Free from the stranglehold of obsession with self, a sattvika person has a clear vision of the transcendental and strives to get there. A sattvika person sees blessing and abundance and is grateful for all that s/he has received. S/he is motivated to serve the world in a spirit of thanksgiving. Resources then come in greater measure to one who is generous and inclusive. In sattva one breaks through the barrier of desire and ego and takes off into sublime realms like a Concorde that breaks the sound barrier.

Only a sattvika person excels, motivated by a higher ideal, the highest being Self-realisation. Rajasika people win some, lose some, remaining where they were. Tamasika ones are on a dangerous downward spiral to self-destruction.

The solution lies in understanding the three gunas and how they operate in you and others. Identify and cultivate the sattva in you. Refine rajas with a higher purpose, expanding the mind to accommodate the interests of others. Fight tamas on a war footing with strict deadlines and exercises to overcome inertia.

In the end aspire to transcend the gunas and become one with the Spirit. Then you will be undisturbed and enjoy the dance of the gunas in the world. You will realise the unity in the diversity of beings and be free from the trauma of birth, death, old age and disease. You will taste the nectarine bliss of Atman.