By Suma Varughese
The movement from tamas to rajas and satva is from doing nothing to doing to non-doership.
All my life I have been used to thinking of myself as lazy. My advent into spirituality allowed me to define my state of being more accurately. I was tamasic and quite deeply so. Having endured a depression that lasted close to 16 years, I had become indifferent to most things of life, had a very low energy level and actively resisted action of any kind. I only felt comfortable doing nothing. I yearned for that stasis and every time action was willy nilly thrust upon me, not only did I approach it reluctantly and with resistance, but all the while my mind was working on how to escape it and get back to doing nothing.
Not the most promising state of mind in which to move towards enlightenment, but unlikely as it was, I found myself a candidate for enlightenment when I was bestowed with a powerful awakening. For a good year, I was given the power to put myself into an ego less state of mind simply by wanting to be in that state. After that period, however, that power left me and I recognized that my task was to work my way inch by inch into that ego less state of mind.
Meanwhile, like a stretched rubber band returning to its original length, I bounced back to my original state of mind – lazy, indifferent and so on.
The problem with being in a tamasic state of mind is that it is so difficult to get out of it because the power of action is entirely denied to you. Freshly inspired and desperate to finally live now that I knew how, I nevertheless found myself completely helpless to do so. I seemed to be tied by fine knots that bound me, no matter how hard I strained.
I finally settled upon the only avenue open to me, which was awareness and acceptance of my state of mind. It took me years and years to work my way out of the coils of tamas.
I am still far from having escaped it completely but action is slowly seeping into my system, and it feels quite extraordinary.
So used am I to feeling that automatic recoil from activity and that terrible backward force repelling me from moving that it seems quite amazing to occasionally act as if it was the simplest and most natural thing in the world.
While in tamas, I felt I was moving a mountain every time I did the smallest thing, because the strain of effort was so high. Further, the paralysis often meant that work piled up, deadlines became imminent and stress mounted. No wonder I was so worked up, despite doing so little!
It is absolutely true that the tamasic mind has little choice available to it and very little control over circumstances. One succumbs to whatever situation one faces, because one cannot summon up the vigorous force of will required to overcome it.
Someone I interviewed once said that tamasic people were 75 per cent controlled by destiny, rajasic people 50 per cent and satvic people 25 per cent. I am inclined to agree with him. While in tamas, my life was almost completely on hold. It used to take me years to get around to having a haircut or have clothes tailored. Projects would suggest themselves busily to my imagination, but there they would fester, because I was unable to translate them into reality. T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Hollow Men, is, I think, a lasting anthem to tamasic people everywhere: ‘Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow.’
It took me several years of self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, and a constant reiteration of my commitment to growth and happiness to move somewhat out of the hold of tamas. And I am conscious that it was a considerable achievement. Moving from rajas to satva, if that is indeed my trajectory, will be much faster, because one will have the advantage of doing whatever it takes – meditation, yoga, whatever. One’s conscience will also be clearer and therefore lighter, because there will be no unwashed dishes, so to speak, to distract one.
What a journey, really, from not doing anything to doing to non-doership. What a difference between the three states of mind. While in the first, the mind is as intractable as a wall, holding you back from progress of any nature. In the second, the doing is easy but the doer takes all the credit. The ego is still in command and there is much drama about the doing. In the third, the mind is almost absent and the doing happens naturally, quietly, without much ado.
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