The three states of Human Nature and India’s development
The Bhagawad Gita speaks of the three basic states of human nature – Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. One can equate it to the three states of manifestation in the physical world – inertness, activity and equilibrium. Swami Vivekananda also has written about these states in his book on Karma Yoga. He says, “In every man there are three forces. Sometimes Tamas prevails. We become lazy, we cannot move, we are inactive, bound down by certain ideas or by mere dullness. At other times activity (rajas) prevails and at still other times that calm balancing of both. Again, in different men, one of these forces is generally predominant. The characteristic of one man is inactivity, dullness and laziness; that of another is activity, power, manifestation of energy; and in still another we find the sweetness, calmness and gentleness, which are due to the balancing of both action and inaction. So in all creation – in animals, plants, and men – we find the more or less typical manifestation of all these different forces.”
In the domain of leadership, one needs to understand what these forces or qualities are and how to employ them. A leader can lead better and manage better by knowing not only his own state of mind but also that of those around him. Vivekananda tried explaining these forces in a very pragmatic way. A Sattvika person will be heavily endowed with compassion, unselfishness, integrity, patience, forbearance, humility and other related virtues. Activeness, egoism, passion, ambition, materialism, power-mongering, and other similar qualities are abundant in a Rajasika. A person who appears dull, dishonest, pessimistic, jealous and possessive most of the time will be branded a Tamasika. Vivekananda not only handpicked people to lead in different situations but also guided and mentored them based on their own innate nature. He tried elevating those around him but gently urging them towards the state of Sattva.
He also analyzed the problems of India from the paradigm of these three forces of nature. He once told one of his followers during a conversation, “Going around the whole world, I find that people of this country (India) are immersed in great Tamas (inactivity), compared with people of other countries. On the outside, there is simulation of the Sattvika (calm and balanced) state, but inside, downright inertness like that of stocks and stones…How much of enterprise and devotion to work, how much enthusiasm and manifestation of Rajas are there in the lives of the Western people! While, in your own country, it is as if the blood has become congealed in the heart, so that it cannot circulate in the veins – as if paralysis has overtaken the body and it has become languid. So my idea is first to make the people active by developing their Rajas, and thus make them fit for the struggle of existence.” In another instance he said, “In India, the quality of Rajas is almost absent; the same is the case of Sattva in the West. It is certain, therefore, that the real life of the Western World depends upon the influx, from India, of the current of Sattva or transcendentalism; and it is also certain that unless we overpower and submerge our Tamas by the opposite tide of Rajas, we shall never gain any worldly good or welfare in this life.”
The India of today is not very different from what Swamiji described more than a century ago. We need to shake off the Tamas that seems to have gripped our Nation and manifest some Rajasik qualities in order to push our Nation’s development. Only when we have attained an acceptable quality of living for our masses, can we start moving towards the state of equilibrium that Vivekananda spoke about.