Essays on the Gita

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Now Sri Aurobindo explains what is the psychology of Arjuna which 'typifies' similar human beings who can be in the world and the interest of Arjuna's character is that most of us fulfil that type of Arjuna. Most of the human beings in the world are in a sense similar to Arjuna. Therefore, the story of Arjuna fits into our life quite easily. Now what are the characteristics? In fact the whole chapter called "The Human Disciple" is written to describe the psychological nature of Arjuna. The 'Divine Teacher'  is already shown to be the 'internal Avatar', whereas Arjuna is a kind of a representative man with certain typical characteristics, and Sri Aurobindo now points out that this typical character is first of all sattwic in nature, but subject to all the three Gunas. It is the first statement about Arjuna. He is sattwic, not because he is totally sattwic, because human beings  normally are neither one or the other absolutely, there is a mixture of the three Gunas all the time. He is fundamentally a man of the mind, a mental being. But among mental beings there are three basic types. There is a rational mental being, there is  an ethical mental being and there is an aesthetic mental being. Anybody who reaches the stage of mind development, there are three types, the Sattwa is fundamentally the character of the mind, if somebody arbitrates very much that means his mind is not very much developed, one is either tamasic or rajasic.

When the mind begins to develop, the Sattwa also begins to develop. What is Sattwa? Sattwa has two fundamental characteristics: One is light and the other is delight. These two characteristics are very peculiar to Sattwa. Anybody who is Sattwic in temperament has a natural liking towards knowledge and there is always in that consciousness some kind of harmony some kind of delight – not the supreme delight – but some kind of delight, which constantly goes on vibrating in a sattwic consciousness. If you notice children for example, sattwic children are very often misjudged by their parents because they are not so­ called smart. The rajasic children are often smart, they are very dynamic, bubbling and moving about, courageous and doing this and that, they can never rest.

The sattwic boy or girl remains very quiet basically, because there is an inner harmony. This quietude may also sometimes be misunderstood as Tamasic because there is some kind of common likeness between inertia and lack of movement,  and in this harmony there is also a lack of movement of the ordinary kind. But whether that inertia is Tamasic or it is Sattwic will be determined by the fact that Sattwic consciousness is in search of knowledge – but not a Rajasic search of knowledge. In a Rajasic search of knowledge, one goes about breaking, opening gates etc., in a very great rush. But a Sattwic mind is quiet, considerate, looks at the things from many points of view and opens the doors of knowledge very quietly, very seriously, sincerely but his tendency is to discover knowledge, and there is an inner delight. This is how you can distinguish between the Sattwic child and the Rajasic child.

But as I said, in Sattwa or at the mental level, there are three kinds: the Sattwic has three kinds, the rational, ethical and aesthetic, predominantly. Now a rational Sattwic person is a thinker, is a philosopher, who is in search of truth as distinguished from appearance. The aesthetic mental man is in search of beauty, creativity, and experience. An aesthetic personality is a pursuer of experience as distinguished from the Sattwic rational personality, which is in search of thought, not experience but of thought, of knowledge in the form of thinking, of conception. The Sattwic moral personality is in search of doing good, as distinguished from doing evil. This is the fundamental drive of the Sattwic moral man. Now Arjuna is cast in this particular mould, he typifies a 'moral Sattwic' human being.        

Question: Is not there overlapping of all the three Gunas?

Answer: Oh yes, as I said in the very beginning. Predominance is the one that distinguishes one type from the other; but otherwise all the three are present. The human nature is actually a great mixture; there is nobody purely Sattwic without Rajas and Tamas, nobody purely Rajasic without Sattwa and Tamas, nobody purely Tamas without having some Rajas and some Sattwa. That is of course understood. And yet by virtue of predominance of one or the other, you can make a distinction.

Question: Is not there also overlapping of the ethical, moralist and aesthetic characteristics also?

Answer: Oh yes! Similarly there is mixture. Similarly, every mental being basically begins to think. The question is what kind of thinking? The purely mental Sattwic being who is rational has a special kind of temperament which is scientific, philosophic, and which pursues knowledge for the sake of knowledge, that is the special characteristic of a Sattwic rational being. The moralist may also seek knowledge but his question is: What is the use of that knowledge in practice of good? So he tries to equate knowledge immediately with action. A philosopher may not be so very eager to immediately implement his knowledge into action. Ultimately he may do because ultimately there is a personality which combines all the three together. At a higher level, the rational, ethical and aesthetic, all the three can meet together, although there are still complexities amongst these three personalities. In fact in science of personality it becomes complex because of the fact that at different levels different harmonies obtain, but not complete harmony. Some kind of harmony arises but there are gaps in the personality, there are conflicts of personalities which still remain to be resolved. Even in the developed aesthetic personality, which combines the powers of rationality and ethicality, some predominance of one or the other may remain for a long time, depending upon the line which he has pursued so far. And you will see that the aesthetic tends to give less importance to the questions of morality, tends to give less importance to the debates of appearance and reality. Very often the aesthetic man is tired of attending a philosophical debate, so is a moralist. A moralist also whenever he attends a philosophical debate very often will say what is all this trouble unnecessarily, you tell me  what is really… ultimately what is your conclusion and then let us put it into practice immediately. This is his fundamental drive, but the rational man says that to arrive at the truth you require long, long practice of understanding, gathering data, which requires a long time, and then in a hurry. So a philosopher thinks that the moralist or the aesthetic man they are unnecessarily in a hurry, they do not have the patience to find out the truth. They simply want to grab the truth and say now let us do immediately, how to apply it. This is the special characteristics of these three personalities.

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