Three modes of material nature

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By Chirag Dangarwala

In Bhagavad-Gita 14th Chapter, Lord Krishna explains the three modes of natures that are controlling the activities of all the living entities in the material world. Lord Krishna says,

sattvaḿ rajas tama iti
guṇāḥ prakṛti-sambhavāḥ
nibadhnanti mahā-bāho
dehe dehinam avyayam [ B.g 14.5]

“Material nature consists of three modes — goodness, passion and ignorance. When the eternal living entity comes in contact with nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, he becomes conditioned by these modes.”

These three modes control the activities of the pure living entity in this world based on their desires and permitted by their karma. It is very important to understand these three modes of nature and how they act upon a living entity; In the Bhagavad-Gita for our understanding Lord Krishna gives the symptoms by which one can recognize these three modes in a person.

“The manifestations of the mode of goodness can be experienced when all the gates of the body are illuminated by knowledge. [ B.g. 14.11]”
“O chief of the Bhāratas, when there is an increase in the mode of passion the symptoms of great attachment, fruitive activity, intense endeavor, and uncontrollable desire and hankering develop.[ B.g 14.12]”
“When there is an increase in the mode of ignorance, O son of Kuru, darkness, inertia, madness and illusion are manifested.” [B.g.14.13]

Moreover he also explains that mode of goodness is purer than the other two modes of nature viz passion and ignorance, since in mode of goodness one develops knowledge.

tatra sattvaḿ nirmalatvāt
prakāśakam anāmayam
sukha-sańgena badhnāti
jshāna-sańgena cānagha [ B.g 14.6]

“O sinless one, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating, and it frees one from all sinful reactions. Those situated in that mode become conditioned by a sense of happiness and knowledge.”

Srila Prabhupada says in his purport that mode of goodness is better than the others because in this mode one is able to see all the things in their right perspective and hence it gives chance to develop devotional service to Godhead. So if one wants to develop this Love for Godhead and become eternally blissful he has to work in order to maintain this mode of goodness and eventually transcend this. Modes of passion and ignorance are not conducive qualities for developing devotional service and hence they should be completely avoided.

Just like in order to become a Masters of Science one has to at least have a Bachelor’s degree, similarly in order to develop the transcendental love for Godhead one has to be situated in the mode of goodness at least, that is a pre-requisite. It is for this reason as Srila Prabhupada explains that the four regulative principles viz no meat eating, no intoxication, no gambling and no illicit sex have to be followed strictly for whoever is interested in spiritual progress. Since these four activities are considered to be the four pillars of sinful life and prominently are in the mode of passion and ignorance, avoiding them will help in cultivating the mode of goodness.

As explained by Lord Sri Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita, these three modes are constantly competing to gain supremacy

rajas tamaś cābhibhūya
sattvaḿ bhavati bhārata
rajaḥ sattvaḿ tamaś caiva
tamaḥ sattvaḿ rajas tathā [ B.G. 14.10]

“Sometimes the mode of goodness becomes prominent, defeating the modes of passion and ignorance, O son of Bharata. Sometimes the mode of passion defeats goodness and ignorance and at other times ignorance defeats goodness and passion. In this way there is always competition for supremacy.”

In this case one has to very firmly practice the four regulative principles and at the same time Chant the holy names of the Lord Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare to cleanse the dirt from the heart or in other words to cleanse the affects of mode of passion and mode of ignorance to remain constantly situated in the mode of goodness. In age of Kali yuga chanting the holy names of the Lord is the recommended process as mentioned in the scriptures.

harer nama harer nama
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha [ C.c adi 17.21]

“‘In this Age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name, chanting the holy name of Lord Hari.”

Mode of goodness though conducive to attain devotional service is not the target, since even in the mode of goodness; the living entity is not liberated. So the ultimate aim is to transcend all these three modes of material nature and be situated in transcendence as confirmed by Bhagavad-Gita

guṇān etān atītya trīn
dehī deha-samudbhavān
vimukto ‘mṛtam aśnute [Bg. 14.20]

“When the embodied being is able to transcend these three modes associated with the material body, he can become free from birth, death, old age and their distresses and can enjoy nectar even in this life.”

From all these evidences it is very clear that in order to be happy in this life and to make a permanent solution to all the problems, one has to transcend these three modes of nature viz goodness, passion and ignorance. But as we see around us, we only see these modes to be in prominence in every part of the globe, practically more than 95% of the human society is being conditioned by modes of passion and ignorance. An employee in a company is continuously motivated to develop the mode of passion in order to be promoted or for that matter to keep the job itself, the media is constantly bombarding peoples mind with images of sex, violence, cheating etc, schools and colleges are only imparting technical knowledge which will fetch them good jobs only without teaching the value of life. If we consider our current situation, and compare the teachings of Bhagavad-Gita, we can understand that no wonder people are unhappy. Be it the richest nation of the world America or a poor country like India. There is no science in any university which teaches how to transcend these three modes of material nature and become happy as recommended by Lord Sri Krsna. The mode of goodness which is the first step towards understanding God has become very scarce. Hence it is a very precarious condition that we are in and it needs to be addressed with great concern, but unfortunately there is not many people interested in this and only the devotees of the Lord all over the world are trying to make menial efforts to make this science understandable. The statement of Sukadeva Goswami in Srimad Bhagavatam when he was speaking to Maharaja Parikshit, which was documented about 5000 years ago appear to be coming true.

kaler dosha-nidhe rajann
asti hy eko mahan gunah
kirtanad eva krishnasya
mukta-sangah param vrajet [ S.B. 12.3.51]

“My dear King, although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom.”

Chant and be happy

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

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