Excerpt From Relationships That Work: The Power Of Conscious Living
– By David B. Wolf
According to the Vedas—the spiritual literature of ancient India—three gunas, or modes of material nature, permeate all facets of existence, from psychology to diet, from work to recreation. With reference to the three gunas, let’s explore the lack of innate correlation between the things list and the experience list.
Tamas is the mode of inertia, where our consciousness clings to a worldview that could be
called Have-Do-Be. In this worldview we think, “If I could just have $100,000 in the bank, a nicer car, a job with paid vacation…then I could do what I want to do, and then I will be happy, satisfied, appreciated, vibrant.” Or, “If I had a nicer boss, then I would be content and peaceful.” In this mindset our experience is dependent on having. The adage “What profits a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul?” indicates the difficulties this attitude may bring.
Rajas is the mode of activity where we adhere to the framework of Do-Have-Be. In this way of thinking I consider that if I could just do what I want to do, then I will have what I want, and then I will be free, strong, giving and vital. In this scenario our consciousness starts from the point of activity, and experience is contingent upon that. With reference to this paradigm, Bhaktivedanta Swami writes: “Out of ignorance only, less intelligent persons try to adjust to the situation by fruitive activities, thinking that resultant actions will make them happy.” This is the To Do list model of existence. “If I could just complete my To Do list, I would be peaceful, content and satisfied.” In reality, it rarely works out that way. We are not human doings. We are human beings.
Sattva guna corresponds with enlightenment. Sattvic consciousness is the natural state of the authentic self. Steady in sattva, we
live in the worldview of Be-Do-Have. Fixed in this way of being, experiencing strength, beauty, balance, security, intimacy, warmth and freedom is not dependent on doing or having. I don’t need to do or have anything to experience satisfaction, aliveness, courage and clarity—because these qualities are who I am. They are my essential nature. It is important to note that the Be-Do-Have worldview does not lack doing and having. In fact, our doing and having assume full potency, contrasted with tamasic or rajasicperspectives, because what we do and have flow naturally from our being. They are not separate endeavors. To experience joy, closeness, radiance and all other qualities of our self is not dependent on what we do or have. In Be-Do-Have, we naturally do things that bold, enlivened, successful people do, because our nature is bold, enlivened and successful. And of course we will have things that powerful, confident and trusting people have—such as abundance, rewarding activity and fulfilling relationships.
The well-known sacred text Bhagavad Gita, presenting the essence of Vedic teachings, delineates a Be-Do-Have approach to life. In this book Lord Krishna encourages his friend Arjuna to “Be transcendental… be free from dualities, be without anxiety, and be established in the self.” For many years I had been intrigued by the philosophical and psychological model described in the Gita. During my doctoral program I researched its systematic explanation of the gunas as a paradigm for understanding the incredible diversity we find in people and the world. This investigation resulted in the development of the Vedic Personality Inventory (VPI), a statistically validated personality assessment based on the paradigm of the three gunas. This research confirms the Vedic assertion that sattvic practices and attitudes correlate with greater fulfillment, balance and life satisfaction. The VPI is included in Appendix A, and I encourage you to complete it when you finish this section of the book to provide a baseline of your present relationship with the three modes of nature.
One of my coaching clients and I once focused specifically on him being patient and peaceful—qualities that were missing in his life, and which he wanted to cultivate. With earnest effort he connected with the patience and calm inherent to his being. During our following coaching session, he described with surprise that his supervisor had asked him to accept a position with increased responsibility, involving training others. The supervisor particularly mentioned that she offered the promotion because of his patience, and his ability to remain calm in stressful situations. Being patient and peaceful naturally resulted in acting in ways that patient and peaceful act (in this instance a more rewarding career
activity), and having things that patient and peaceful people have (in this example an increased income). That’s Be-Do-Have.
In the above example we refer to “qualities that were missing.” Actually patience and peacefulness were never missing. They were covered. A diamond is always brilliant, radiant and strong, though it can be covered by dust or mud. Similarly, we never lose our qualities, though we might allow them to be covered by the modes of rajas and tamas. Spiritual development is a process of uncovering our qualities and fully manifesting them in our lives.
For years Donna struggled with her weight. “I had approached weight loss from a place of need,” she said. She was constantly dissatisfied, distressed. To be satisfied she needed to have a thinner body. Then she could wear the clothes she wanted, and she’d feel happy. Donna shifted her paradigm and way of thinking. “I am a satisfied person, even if I never lose a pound.” Donna’s relationship with eating transformed, reflecting her change in consciousness. She became a conscious eater instead of an emotional eater, resulting in a different body shape. Donna continues, “There is no longer this battle going on, this huge war inside me. After I have my meal I’m not telling myself, ‘You can’t have more; you can’t have a snack.’ I’m saying, ‘I’m fine. I’m satisfied.’ From that platform I can choose. It feels a lot more peaceful.” Connecting with her satisfied and peaceful being, Donna’s doing and having with respect to eating, weight and health, were naturally transformed.
Certainly a fulfilled life includes having comforts and enjoyable things, and doing things that give us pleasure. Yet without being rooted in a life of meaning founded in and emanating from our spiritual being, possessions and activity are hollow, devoid of significance, like a string of zeros. Living from the inside outwards, from our spiritual core, is the “1” that gives value to the line of zeros.
To the degree that we are conditioned to identify ourselves materially, and to paradigms such as Have-Do-Be, it requires effort to live from our spiritual core. At first this effort may feel like going against our grain. Be-Do-Have is not pretension. It is authentic connection with our essential quality, a way of being requiring conscious cultivation. Read further and discover an approach to living and relating based on transformative communication that steadily brings us towards our being.