Why do we need to be in the mode of goodness to practice bhakti?

by Chaitanya Charan dasAugust 8, 2014

From Sushant Kulkarni

Why is it necessary to come to the mode of goodness to practise bhakti? If bhakti is transcendental and does not depend on any material condition can’t it be practiced being in the modes of passion or ignorance?

Answer Podcast

Transcribed by: Argha Maji

Question: Why do we need to be in the mode of goodness to practice bhakti?

Answer: The mode of goodness is not necessary to initiate bhakti but it is necessary to sustain bhakti. What does that mean? That means that a person can even be a drunkard and that person can chant and dance and sing and in that way practice bhakti. So a person can be in low mode and even in the lowest of modes and eat prasadam. So a person can practice bhakti in terms of starting bhakti from any mode but over a period of time one needs to not just do bhakti occasionally, but if it’s to be transformational then it has to be done regularly. And regularity and discipline are characteristics of mode of goodness. Now in modes of passion and ignorance one is basically driven by one’s attachments and one may be very regular and discipline, one may say in terms of drinking alcohol considering one is alcoholic. But that is not exercise of will power that is an exercise of abandoning one’s will power and succumbing to one’s attachments. In goodness, one discriminates, this is good, this is bad and this is what I should do. Even if it doesn’t feel good right now, I will continue doing it. So goodness is what will enable us to sustain the practice of bhakti. Because in goodness we can subordinate our emotion to our reason. In passion and ignorance we can’t do that much, so in bhakti we may get taste occasionally. So even a person who is alcoholic may find taste in dancing but that’s not what the person will find always. And when the person is in ignorance, if dancing in kirtan feels boring, then he will give it up. But a person in goodness will understand by purification I will get higher taste even if there doesn’t seem any taste right now. And in that way a person in goodness can sustain the practice of bhakti using reason. So material emotions can be subordinated to reason and one can sustain one’s actions.

sarva-dvaresu dehe ‘smin

prakasa upajayate (BG 14.11)

Krishna says in 14.11 in Bhagavad Gita the characteristic of mode of goodness is illumination. Illumination means one has knowledge by which one can understand what is desirable and what is undesirable. Not just in terms of what our desires tell us but in terms of what are the consequences in the long run. So anybody can start bhakti in any mode but to sustain bhakti requires discipline which in turn requires subordinating our feelings to our intelligence which is a characteristic of mode of goodness. So that’s why the mode of goodness is important in practice of bhakti. Now when we say mode of goodness, we shouldn’t think necessarily that it means changing our entire nature, its not that if a person has a vaisya propensity that person has to become a brahmana to practice bhakti. No, even the vaisya activities can be done in a passionate way, can be done in an ignorant way or can be done in a goodness way. So when a person is vaisya and is motivated primarily by greed and is even ready to hurt others for the sake of getting money that sort of activity is characterised by lower modes, passion and ignorance. But when a person may be a vaisya and its not that the person can by the practice of bhakti become a brahmana, not necessary. That person may continue business and that’s what the person’s liking will be, talent will be but that person will conduct business in a goodness way that means with regulation by scripture, with moderation, with concern for others also. So, basically the way the mode of goodness will be expressed in different people will vary. So a vaisya when we say is in mode of passion that is talking about nature of vaisya but that person if agrees too follow scripture, then there is level of goodness even in that. And if he starts practicing bhakti then that goodness can take one towards transcendence. So we shouldn’t think of that coming to goodness necessarily means that we have to all abandon our innate nature and we have to just artificially act in a goodness sort of way. No, we can act according to our nature in fact that’s what the Bhagavad Gita tells us

sva-karmana tam abhyarcya siddhim vindati manavah (BG 18.46)

So here we see that Bhagavad Gita tells that sva-karmana, do your work but worship that Supreme Lord by the work that we are doing. So what Krishna tells here is that we don’t have to change our occupational duty from ignorance to goodness or from sudra to brahmana to practice bhakti. But then Krishna also says that

raga-dvesa-vimuktais tu

visayan indriyais caran

atma-vasyair vidheyatma

prasadam adhigacchati ( BG 2.64)

In 2.64 he says that we put aside our attachments and aversions and follow scripture, vidheyatma, so coming to mode of goodness essentially means doing our duties but in accordance with scripture. So acting according to our nature but not letting that nature completely dominate all our actions. We harmonize the actions in that nature according to scripture and in accordance with devotion. And that way we can be in mode of goodness while being faithful to our material nature and also being faithful to the path that will awaken our spiritual nature and help us to find eternal happiness and love for Krishna . Thank you. Hare Krishna.

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Chaitanya Charan das
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