Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tamas in our time

Ancient texts often resonate with startling relevance. Teaching the Bhagavad-Gita for the first time in many years, I read the following passage with new eyes. The context: Krishna teaches that tamas is one of the three gunas, the movers of all action, "the bonds that bind / The undying dweller / Imprisoned in the body." Tamas binds with "bonds of delusion, / Sluggishness, torpor." When tamas prevails, one is "lost in delusion." Here I think of the folly that has given us a war in Iraq:

The act undertaken
In the hour of delusion
Without count of cost,
Squandering strength and treasure,
Heedless of harm to another,
By him who does not question
His power to perform it:
That act is of tamas.

[Translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood.]

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