There is a beautiful story from the Mahabharata.
There was a pond, full of clean, sweet water. It was replete with healthy fish that lived in the groups of three. One group was lead by a fish named Dirghasutri (literally meaning – long term oriented), the second by Pratyuttpanmati (Spot-thinking sense), and the third by Dirghadrishti (Far-sight).
Once, this pond caught the fancy of some fisherman. Seeing so numerous a catch, the fishermen were of course tempted. However, the pond was too deep to catch the fish. So they thought of a plan to reduce the water level of the pond. They dug up a drain from the pond to a small stream, a little distance away. The water from the pond now started flowing into the stream and water levels of the pond began receding fast.
This was a matter of grave concern for the fish which were aware that the situation meant sure death for them. The worried school was hard-pressed to come up with ways to meet the crisis. Pratyuttpanmati was not worried much. She was of the view that the situation required no immediate attention and they would look into it if it really turned critical. Dirghasutri also did not appear to be worried. Her argument was that they had been living in the pond for generations, and as no calamity had been witnessed in so many years, there was no cause to worry. She also believed that receding water level was a temporary phase which would be over soon.
However, Dirghadrishti was worried. She did not agree with the other two group leaders. She was of the view that the fish should immediately move to a safer place before the fishermen succeeded in their nefarious designs.
The three group leaders proceeded according to their views.
Dirghadrishti found out the drain and moved her group to the stream, through the drain dug by the fishermen.
Dirghasutri decided to stay in the pond along with her group.
Pratyuttpanmati stayed back, prepared for any eventuality.
In a few days the water level fell dangerously low. Finding an opportunity, the fishermen threw in their net. Due to low water level, shoals of fish got trapped. The fishermen were happy with the success of their strategy. They were doing brisk business. The fish were being caught in abundance, cleaned and stuffed into baskets, for sale in the market.
Dirghasutri was not prepared at all. She got trapped easily. So did many of her group mates.
Dirghadrishti had already shifted to the stream. So she and her group was completely safe and happy.
Pratyuttpanmati was also trapped, but she had an escape plan in her mind. As she was taken with other fish for cleaning, she held back her breath and pretended to be dead. Thinking she was dead, the fisherman held her loosely while washing. Taking advantage, she slipped out of his hand and regained her freedom, escaping into the stream.
Like the three groups of fish in that pond, human beings too can be divided into three groups. However, a disappointing fact is that most of the beings belong to the group of Dirghasutri, or perhaps, even worse. Despite repeatedly going through the miserable cycle of birth and death, they continue to try a way out, while besmearing themselves with the mud of agyana (ignorance) and moha (attachment to worldly possessions or persons). The people of this level continue to suffer in misery, all the time cursing their luck. Some clever ones of this category attempt to succeed only in the nick of time and do not hesitate in adopting illegitimate means or even harming others to achieve their aim. Such people find nothing inappropriate in cheating in exams, dishonesty in business, lying or even hooliganism in politics etc. They even consider it a skill to attempt to allure Sages and even God with the bait of money and fame. They believe that by constructing huge temples etc, with their ill-earned money, they have earned the blessings of God, though actually their acts are nothing but some deceptive self-gratifying measures.
Such acts of Dirghasutrata stem from Tamoguna. Characteristics of Tamoguna are :
– Not doing the right thing at the right time
– Doing the wrong thing at the right time.
– Making a half hearted attempt to do the right thing, but at the wrong time
All such actions invariably result into sorrow and misery.
Some beings like Pratyuttpanmati, have in them Tamoguna with traces of Rajogunic activity. Though they do not initiate the right action at the right time, yet they have the ability of assessing and availing an opportunity as it comes. In such people, Satoguna is most likely to develop if they do the right thing at the right time. However if they initiate a wrong action at the right opportunity, then the Rajoguni activity will succumb to the domination of Tamoguna.
Some beings like Dirghadrishti have the capability of doing the right thing at the right time. In such beings, rajoguni activity of constantly doing the right thing keeps evolving under the auspices of the satoguni wisdom along with the discerning wisdom to determine the right time. Such beings achieve excellence in their respective fields.
The aim of every being is to develop discerning insight for maintaining the rajoguni activity under the auspices of satoguni power of wisdom by freeing himself/herself from the tamoguni indolence. Satsang and reading of virtuous books are the best ways of developing the power of wisdom.