The Rich Man and Three Thieves

Animals, Ape, Baboon, Three Monkeys, Animal Portrait
The Three Gunas

"Once a rich man was passing through a forest, when three robbers surrounded him and robbed him of everything he had. Then one of the robbers said: 'What's the good of keeping this man alive? Kill him.' He was about to strike their victim with his sword, when the second robber intervened and said: 'There's no use in killing him. Let us bind him fast and leave him here. Then he won't be able to tell the police.' Accordingly, the robbers tied him with a rope and went away."

A Story by Sri Ramakrishna

"After a while the third robber returned to the rich man and said: 'Ah! You're badly hurt, aren't you? Come, I'm going to release you.' The robber set the man free and led him to the edge of the forest. When they came near the highway, the robber said, 'Follow this road and you will reach home easily.' 'But you must come with me too,' said the rich man. 'You have done so much for me. All my people will be happy to see you.' 'No,' said the robber, 'it is not possible for me to go there. The police will arrest me.' So saying, he left the rich man after pointing the way."

"Now," explains Ramakrishna, "the first robber, who said: What's the good of keeping the man alive? Kill him,' is tamas. It destroys. The second robber is rajas, which binds a man to the world and entangles him in a variety of activities. Rajas makes him forget God. Sattva alone shows the way to God. It produces virtues like compassion, righteousness and devotion. Again, sattva is like the last step of the stairs. Next to it the roof. The Supreme Brahman is man's own abode. One cannot attain the Knowledge of Brahman unless one transcends the three gunas."