4.12 – The nature of past and future existence is due to the diverse pathways those desires and imprints form.

अतीतानागतं स्वरूपतोऽस्तिअध्वभेदाद् धर्माणाम् ॥१२॥

atita anagatam svarupatah asti adhva bhedat dharmanam

  • atita – past
  • anagatam – future; not yet arrived
  • svarupatah – nature; quality; essence; appearance; original form
  • asti – to be; to exist
  • adhva – path; road; way
  • bhedat – separating; removing; division; diverse
  • dharmanam – of the nature; attributes; essential qualities

4.13 – The primary forces of nature flow through those pathways in consciousness into subtle or fully manifest form.

ते व्यक्तसूक्ष्माः गुणात्मानः ॥१३॥

te vyakta suksmah guna atmanah

  • te – these; they
  • vyakta – manifest; visible; apparent
  • suksmah – subtle; minute; fine
  • guna – fundamental forces of nature; primal qualities
  • atmanah – by oneself; one’s nature; one’s mind; one’s consciousness

Commentary on Sutras 4.12 and 4.13:

Unless fully awakened, all souls are subject to the continuous shifting of the three gunas. The energy of the gunas travels through the grooves in our consciousness, etched by our past actions. Snaking their way through the intricate patterning of our memories and samskaras, they form our various personality traits and behaviors.

The unceasing fluctuation of the gunas influences our thoughts, feelings, moods, and states of consciousness. These most primal forces affect every aspect of our being, from the physical body (annamaya kosha) through our finest layer, referred to as the bliss body (anandamaya kosha).

By studying the qualities and natures of the three gunas (tamas, rajas, and sattva), we can gain insight into which one is currently dominant in our consciousness. We can then take actions to either lessen or strengthen their impact. (Note: You can find some basic information on the gunas in the commentary on Sutras 2.19—2.22.)

The energies of the gunas sculpted the experiences of our past. And their flow through our dominant psychic pathways will continue to shape our future. By closely examining our current habits and actions, we can get a feel for what our forgotten history was like—even previous incarnations—and what our future might hold.

The good news is that destiny is malleable. If we don’t like what we see, we can alter the patterning of our psyche by working to remove problematic samskaras and cultivating positive ones. In that way, we can create a more desirable pathway through which the gunas can flow and express.