“That [knowledge], however, which is attached to one single effect as if it were all, and without reason, without a real purpose and small in significance, is declared to be tamasic” (Bhagavad Gita 18:22).
Definition of tamas from A Brief Sanskrit Glossary: Dullness, inertia, folly, and ignorance. One of the three gunas.
Since the world of humanity is in the death-grip of tamas, we need to analyze this, for we have become so used to it that we often miss the awful implications in such a view.
- Attached to one single effect as if it were all.
This is a constant in modern society. People are absolute idolators of their mentally lazy clichés–whether social, political, religious, scientific, or personal. There is only one right way to do a thing, or to think, worship, eat, behave, etc., etc. “My way is the only way” is the fundamental principle. “All the ills of the world will vanish if everyone thinks and acts like me,” is the doctrine.
Often a single thing is chosen and harped on constantly, as if there is no wider picture. Simplistic is the watchword. Simple, lazy, and stupid–that sums it all up. A refusal to learn anything new is necessary for the maintenance of this tamasic condition.
- Without reason.
“The says it and I believe it!” The same with prophets, teachers, parents, and whoever has put a thumbprint in their brain. No need to think: they have been TOLD.
Religion and science–including medicine–are the two major offenders, working untold harm. Put a label on it and that is what it is! Deny its existence and it ceases to be. No need for facts or intelligent consideration–they only confuse us and make trouble…. As a friend of mind used to say to me: “Don’t confuse me with the facts–my mind is made up!” Fortunately it was a joke, but it rarely is.
- Without a real purpose.
One of the first things I observed about people was their utter purposelessness. Even when only a few years old, I saw that the people around me were learning nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing. I realized that when they died it would be as though they had not even been born. And the whole society was set up to produce and perpetuate this state of pointlessness. I had no intention of being caught in the net. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew it would not be what “they” were doing.
This trait also implies living or thinking in a manner that simply leads nowhere. “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” is how Saint Paul described it (II Timothy 3:7). Most people are just running in the hamster wheel made for them, thinking that they are living and going somewhere.
- Small in significance.
Small-mindedness is a requisite for contemporary life. The absurd popularity of “trivia” books, games, and suchlike demonstrates this. People hardly read books, and when they do they are unbooks–books of trivia facts. The first of these was the bestseller The Book of Lists. It is considered a virtue if a book need not be read completely, but just picked up and grazed in at random.
As Dietrich von Hildebrand the great Catholic philosopher pointed out in his writings, modern people suffer from what he called “discontinuity,” the inability to sustain anything that requires more than minimal thought or will. So of course the previously-cited traits apply to them.
It is a though everyone has ADD. For this reason society is run by those whose greed and lust for power–and often simple dedication to evil–motivate them and enable them to sustain their intentions and endeavors. The loonies and racketeers really have taken over the asylum because the staff is sleepwalking through life.
For a more in-depth explanation of the gunas, read the article The Three Gunas.