(E) Three Men Enter the Forest (the gunas)


The following story demonstrates how different people respond to situations according to their conditioning (in this case, by the three gunas – the three qualities of material nature). It also illustrates how people see the world differently, through their own mind-set.

The first man entered a forest and thought to himself, “What a great place! I could hang around here all day and no one will find me, nor ask me to do any work”. So he smoked a cigarette, drank a few pints of beer and, selecting a suitable tree for shade, slept very peacefully for the entire day (mind you, he was quite grumpy when he woke up and complained that no one had woken him up. Not that he wanted to wake up, of course, but he loved complaining!).

The second man wandered into the forest and said to himself, “Wow, what an extraordinary place. Look at all these nuts and that fresh fruit. And there is so much wood I could sell for fuel. Those gorgeous flowers could fetch me a pound or two!”
So he spent all day working hard, collecting wood, fruit and flowers, which he could take to the market. By the end of the day he was tired and his body ached. Nonetheless, he was encouraged by the thought of all the money he could make by selling these goods at the market.

The third gentleman walked into the forest and thought, “What a tranquil and beautiful place. One can see the hand of God here, in the song of the birds and the beauty of the flowers!” He reflected on the purpose of life and spent his time reading of spiritual matters and meditating on the Lord. That evening he returned home contented and rejuvenated.

Note: this story illustrates men in the modes of ignorance (tamas), passion (rajas) and goodness (sattva) respectively.