Everyday Bhagavad-Gita: The Three Modes.
Verse 2.45: The Vedas deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. O Arjuna, become transcendental to these three modes. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the self.
If you want to know how to get the most out of something, you need to understand how it works in depth.
Bhakti yoga offers us the rare opportunity to understand the underlying framework of the world in which we live. And not only is this information interesting in and of itself, but it also offers the rare insight as to how we function and what influences us. We have already discussed one of these topics: the concept of karma.
In addition to karma, another subtle force which affects us at all times is described herein as the three modes of material nature. One way to understand the three modes is to view them as influences which impact not only our behavior but our emotional, mental and physical state of being; they are categorized as goodness, passion and ignorance.
Imagine being covered by a blanket made up of three different yarn colors.
As long as you are under the blanket, these three pieces of yarn will always touch you and color how you see things. Similarly, we can consider this world like a blanket which is wove together by the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Depending on our inclination and propensities, we become influenced by the modes of nature in different ways. This is the reason why we act in particular ways, even sometimes against our better judgement.
But you may ask, “I still don’t get it. How am I being influenced?”
This is where the subtleties of bhakti yoga begin to be revealed. The followers of bhakti consider that everything we associate with influences us, whether we realize it or not. The modes impact us in every aspect of our lives from the people we choose to spend time with, the things we do, the things we read, and yes even the food we eat.
Bet you didn’t ever stop to think about your food in this way. But, the bhakti texts make it very clear that the foods we choose to eat have a direct and heavy influence on our experience of the world. Foodstuffs such as grains, fruits, and vegetables promote goodness nourishing a healthy life. Overly spicy, salty, and sour foods promote passion in our lives and distract us from the higher yogic principles. Stale and decomposing foods such as meat are classified in the mode of ignorance and prevent us realizing the nature of the world.
So, again, why is it important for us to understand this?
As we talked about in the beginning, in order to get the most out of something, we really need to understand how it works. This knowledge helps us understand why we choose the things we do, and why we have and maintain certain attitudes. Sure, we come to our daily lives with a certain nature and personality and we are in the process of receiving the results of our past actions. However, with this information at hand, we can begin to modify our choices in this life.
By realizing there are things that can influence us favorably and unfavorably, we are given the opportunity to make educated choices as to what our future will look like.
It’s easy to stay on the superficial and just pretend that everything is “just happening”. However, this incredible knowledge gives us the understanding to get a glimpse of the inner workings of the world and make the most of this body and this life.
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Editor: Thaddeus Haas