Shree Bhagavaan uvaacha:
prakaasham cha pravrittim cha mohameva cha paandava |
na dveshti sampravrittaani na nivrittaani kaankshati || 22 ||

Shree Bhagavaan said:
When light, activity and delusion are present, O Paandava, he does not hate them, nor does he yearn for them when they are absent.

prakaasham : light
cha : and
pravrittim : activity
cha : and
moham : delusion
eva : even
cha : and
paandava : O Paandava
na : not
dveshti : hate
sampravrittaani : present
na : not
nivrittaani : absent
kaankshati : yearn
Shri Krishna answers Arjuna’s question – what are the marks of one who has transcended the gunas – in this shloka. Light, activity and delusion refer to sattva, rajas and tamas respectively. One who is indifferent to the rise and fall of each guna, one who has a high degree of detachment and discrimination, one who lets the gunas come and go with ease, such a person has transcended the gunas. It is the difference between one who observes suitcases on an airport conveyor belt versus one who holds on to a suitcase and doesn’t let go. The one who insists on holding on gets pulled away.
When we are on vacation, our mind feels peaceful and relaxed. But when we come back from vacation, our mind becomes agitated since it has to get back to the nine to five routine of life. We want to hold on to that state of mind we had experienced when we were on vacation. In other words, we have an insistence, also known as aagraha, to hold on to a sattvic state when rajas comes in. Or when the alarm bell rings in the morning, we want to hold on to that sleepy tamasic state as long as possible, and not leave the bed. This aagraha, this insistence on holding on to one guna and not accepting the arrival of another guna, enables the gunas to control us. One who has transcended the gunas has given up this insistence through extreme vairagya or detachment.
Let’s look at it in another way. When we read comics, we can see what the characters are thinking through thought bubbles. For example, if Veronica insulted Archie, Archie would have a thought bubble that says “I feel so bad”. We temporarily feel sorry for Archie, and move on to the next frame in the comic. But if someone insults us in real life, we don’t usually move on that quickly. We hold on to that thought, as well as the tamasic or rajasic state of mind created by that thought, for weeks, months, or years to come. And that is not all. We bring up that mental state each time we meet the person who insulted us.
When we are able to treat our thoughts with the same detachment that we do when we are reading other people’s thoughts in comic books, we will know that we have gone beyond the gunas.