Teacher James Swartz on The Yoga of the Three Energies

Our lives are controlled by three energies, called gunas in Sanskrit, which bind us tightly to our material nature. All are necessary and useful – they completely define us as living beings – but they also create problems. When we are ignorant of our spiritual nature – ever- free consciousness – we are particularly susceptible to the downside of each energy. We cannot attain success in life without understanding these forces and mastering the techniques that transform them.

Success in any field, worldly or spiritual, depends on the relative proportion of each with reference to the energy dominating an individual’s mind and their environment at any moment. These energies are the immediate experience of everyone and part and parcel of everything. This book shows you how to identify, monitor and transform them so that you can achieve your goals.

The pursuit of material goals demands a different energy configuration from the pursuit of spiritual goals. Since it is written for people whose stated aim in life is freedom from dependence on objects— desires, fears, relationships, etc.—it touts the development of the qualities that make knowledge possible, since the only way to freedom in this daunting energy matrix is through Self-Knowledge.

This knowledge is also very useful if you are pursing worldly goals: pleasure, fame, power, etc. In fact, wherever you find a successful worldly person, that success is due to the confluence of an individual’s subjective energy make-up and the energy configuration of their environment. The success is usually fortuitous, however, not the result of a conscious application of knowledge, because worldly people are not aware of their unconscious motivations.

Enlightenment is not about getting a special experience that will solve all problems. It is shedding ignorance of our ever-free nature and its effects. And since ignorance and its effects – the belief that our beliefs, opinions, biases, etc. are actually knowledge – is hardwired, how likely is it that one fine day in the not too distant future you will wake up totally free and satisfied with who you are and the life dictated by your karma?

Whether you like it or not, your self-esteem will grow by leaps and bounds
if you assign your mind, which needs worthwhile work anyway, the task of gaining this most beneficial knowledge. The mind is capable of transcendence, not by zipping off into some yogic transcendental sky, but by preparing itself to receive the knowledge that sets you free.

Blaming yourself for failures and taking credit for successes is a problem because it makes everything that happens about ME. Yes, I do exist and I play a part in life, but anyone can see that I am only one small factor in a vast web of relationships that extends far beyond my immediate environment. So carrying the burdens of the world makes me a burden to myself and others. Guna knowledge, of the big picture, is the solution to existential guilt because it puts the responsibility for what happens to me – good and bad – where it belongs; moves me from the centre of my life to the periphery, where the view is much more realistic; and relieves performance anxiety, which allows me to relax in otherwise stressful situations. And it is equally good for the world because it improves my cranky, dissatisfied personality.

Understanding these forces not only optimizes chances of success in the world, it optimizes chances of a successful relationship with yourself. Since you play an important role in your success, it behoves you to get along nicely with yourself. Self-obsessed individuals are not generally happy people. Of course you care about yourself, but if you are too self-centred you will give the world short shrift, and since the world is the other half of the life equation, it will undoubtedly return the favour. So how does guna knowledge solve this problem? It depersonalizes your relationship to yourself and to life in general.

Once I have an objective view of myself I can clearly see where I stand with reference to the world and take the necessary steps to actualize my ever-free Self.

James Swartz, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Vedanta, the Science of Consciousness, and the subtle practices of Yoga. His website, ShiningWorld.com is perhaps the web’s most informative resource on the topic of non-duality. You can get his book The Yoga of the Three Energies from Cygnus Book. Article from the Spring 2018 Cygnus Review.