Lord Krishna advises Arjuna to transcend the three gunas of satva, rajas and tamas with the words निस्त्रैगुण्यो भवार्जुन, be free from the triad of three gunas, in verse 2-45 of Gita. Such a person who has transcended the three gunas is called Gunatheetha. These three gunas together make up Maya Sakthi, that has two constituents, one called avarana sakthi, the veiling power, and the other called vikshepa sakthi, the projecting power. The veiling power throws a veil over the real nature of one’s Self and in the state of ignorance of one’s real nature of one’s self as Brahman, one takes the body-mind-complex as the real nature of one’s self. The projecting power projects the external world as real. These two beliefs, one about one’s self as body/mind/intellect and the other regarding the reality of the external world, create the cycle of pleasure and pain, which is called samsara. One who transcends the three gunas,viz. Gunatheetha, overcomes the influence of the two powers with the result he realizes his true Self correctly as Brahman, and sees the real nature of the external world as transactional reality only and not as absolute reality and thereby becomes free from the clutches of samsara, in short a Jeevanmuktha. This Lord Krishna points out to Arjuna, in verse 20 of Chapter14,when he states that Gunatheetha as Athma, has no birth or death, sorrow or old age (though the body that is made up of the three gunas may suffer these till the end of prarabhdha), and is in a state of peace and bliss always.
Here also as in the case of Sthithaprajna, Arjuna is curious to know the hallmarks of Gunatheetha (14-21). In four verses (14-22 to14-25), Lord Krishna adds a few more strokes to the picture of Jeevanmuktha as Sthithaprajna, through his present explanation of the characteristics of Gunatheetha. As Gunatheetha is only another name for Jeevanmuktha, let me use Lord Krishna’s term itself in rest of the blog. In verse 14-22, Lord Krishna states that Gunatheetha hates not the effects of the three gunas, satva, rajas and tamas, namely प्रकाशं prakasam, light, प्रवृति pravritti, activity and मोहं moham,delusion, when present in his body-mind-complex, nor does he long for them in their absence. Gunas and their effects will still be present for him even though he has transcended them, for two reasons. One he has transcended the gunas through intellect by Athmajnanam that his true self is only Athma which is beyond the three gunas. So there is only change of cognition and no physical change involved. Second his body-mind-complex remains physically the same as the product of gunas; mind, intellect and organs of knowledge, of satva of subtle pancha bhutas, prana and organs of action, of rajas of subtle pancha bhuthas and gross physical body, of tamas of grossified pancha bhuthas, the pancha bhuthas being the five elements, space, air, fire, water and earth. So Gunatheetha watches the play of gunas in the body-mind-complex, as one watches a play without identifying with the characters.
Lord Krishna, describes his attitude as one of total unconcern to the impact of events and relationships in verse 14-23. This is made possible by his awareness that what is happening is only a play of gunas on gunas as even the physical world is also a product of tamas of grossified pancha bhuthas. So pleasure, creation of satva, and pain, creation of rajas, arising out of interaction with the world, also does not disturb his stoic indifference as he remains unshaken in his knowledge that he, as Athma, is like the space in the pot, uncontaminated by the contents of the pot. This Lord Krishna, makes more clear in 14-24, where he calls Gunatheetha among other things as समदुःखसुखः samadukhasukhaha, one who treats alike pleasure and pain. Few other characteristics he describes in this sloka and next (14-25) are:
1) स्वस्थः swasthaha - He is steadfastly established in his true Self, Athma, unruffled by drafts of pleasure or pain. As he knows this Athma is the same as the one undivided Brahman, which pervades all, living and inert, he has a vision of oneness of all and from this vision flows 2,3,4,5 and 6.
2) समलोष्टाश्मकाञ्चनः samaloshtasmakanchanah - He has no hunger for possessions. He treats alike, with the same indifference, a lump of gold as with a piece of stone or with a clod of earth. He knows the value of gold, but he also knows it cannot give security like the mud and the stone.
3) तुल्यप्रियाप्रियः tulyapriyapriyaha - Through this and next three descriptions, Lord Krishna explains the equanimity of a Gunatheetha. Here it is stated he is equal minded whether pleasant or unpleasant things happen to him. Any categorisation here or hereafter as pleasant/unpleasant, praise/abuse, honour/dishonour and friend/foe is only as per our judgement and not from his standpoint.
4) तुल्यनिन्दात्मसंस्तुतिः tulyanindatmaamsthuthihi - He treats equally praise and abuse, not flattered by one or provoked by the other.
5) मानपमानयोः तुल्यः maanapamaanayoh tulyaha- Honour and dishonour is the same in his vision.
6) तुल्यो मित्रारिपक्षयोः tulyo mitrari pakshayoho - He is the same with all, whether they regard him as friend or foe.
The concluding quality, Lord Krishna states is सर्वारम्भपरित्यागी sarvarambaparityagi, one who has relinquished all undertakings for profit, fame or self-promotion. Any undertaking that he starts due to the force of residual prarabhdha, that keeps him alive in the body, will be for universal good and social welfare and not out of ego-centric desires as we can see in the case of Swami Vivekananda, who founded the Ramakrishna mission.