What are the three modes of material nature?

by Chaitanya CharanJune 14, 2020

From: pooja sharma

can u explain them with each example.

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Transcription :

Transcriber: Keshavgopal Das

Question: What are three modes of material nature? Explain with examples.

Answer: Three modes of material nature are three subtle forces that shape the interaction between consciousness and matter. Soul is spiritual and conscious, whereas matter is material and unconscious.

When we come to the material world, we are subjected to life in an alien atmosphere (i.e. spirit soul captured in material body). Soul is spiritual so it needs to take an appropriate material dress when it comes to the material world to interact with it. It is same as when humans go to outer space, they need to wear proper space suits to interact with the environment there. This material dress not only comprises of the gross body (made of earth, water, fire, air, ether) but also the subtle body (made of mind, intelligence and false ego).

Three modes are mode of goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas). The three modes are the ways in which the external world is perceived by us and then based on that perception we have certain emotions which leads to certain actions. Therefore, modes shape our (i) perception and (ii) response towards the world. Let us see an example of each one of these.

Modes affecting perceptions: Visualize three people sitting in a bus. First is in goodness (named Sattva), second in passion (named Rajas) and third in ignorance (named Tamas). Sattva is trying to read a book while traveling in the bus. When the bus bumps, he looks out of window and sees a serene forest with soothing greenery. Sattva thinks, “It would be so nice, if I can just sit under a tree and assimilate the wisdom of this book.” Tamas is watching a movie on his mobile. When the bus bumps, he also sees the same view but thinks, “It would be so nice, if I had one partner, I can frolic, dance, romanticize in this forest.” Tamas, who is trying to sleep, also looks out on bumping of bus. He thinks, “So peaceful. It would be so nice if I can just lie down here and sleep comfortably.” All three people are seeing the same forest, but their responses are entirely different. This is because their perception is shaped by particular modes.

Modes affecting response: Imagine Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are watching a movie in a theatre and a fire breaks out. Tamas suddenly becomes terrified and freezes. Rajas starts running to the exit door to save himself. Sattva looks for a fire extinguisher and attempts to extinguish the fire. The example shows that in ignorance there is neither action, nor reflection. There is just frozen panic. In passion, there is instinctive action, but without much reflection. In goodness, there is action and reflection both. Mode of goodness is the most beneficial for our wellbeing, not only spiritually but also materially.

These modes are to some extent determined by our karma from previous lives, but not entirely. Besides karma, these modes are also dependent on (i) kind of choices we make (ii) the association we keep (iii) culture we expose ourselves to (iv) kind of books we read (v) kind of food we eat (vi) thoughts we cultivate etc. Thus, we can shape the modes based on what we decide to choose again and again. Let us understand with the help of an example.

Imagine, one afternoon we have taken a heavy lunch. We then decide to go to a room for study, but in the room, everybody is sleeping. We now sit down for study on a cosy chair, recline back holding a book and try to read. Naturally, the posture and the environment will lead us to fall in ignorance and soon we will be sleeping. On the other hand, if we eat light, go to a library where everybody is studying seriously for exams, we will also be affected by the environment and will feel inspired to study. The example indicates that by choosing our circumstances, we choose to either succumb to ignorance or go towards goodness. The choices we will make on a regular basis will strengthen a particular mode. If we always choose to sleep in the afternoon, that will become an unbreakable habit in the long run. On the other hand, if we choose to avoid sleeping in the afternoon, we may not even miss it throughout our lives.
Cultivating mode of goodness becomes very easy by following spiritual practices of Krishna consciousness. Mode of goodness make us more effective even in our material life. Regularly choosing activities in mode of goodness will purify our hearts and will even take us beyond material existence.

End of transcription.

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan