The Three Modes Of Material Nature

The three modes of material nature – There are three primary colors, namely, red, green, and blue (RGB), and various combinations of these three colors in different proportions give rise to unlimited varieties of colors. Similarly, the material nature also has three modes- sattva (mode of goodness), raja (mode of passion), and tama (mode of ignorance), i.e., SRT. As an artist uses RGB to generate the impression of any other color which he/she wants to portrait, similarly SRT produces 8.4 million different species in this world.

Characteristics of Three Modes

The following table enumerates the traits of different modes. By observing one’s behavior, and likes and dislikes, one can ascertain one’s mode.

Material nature meaning

How do we recognize a specific mode?

In Bhagavad Gita 14.6, Krishna says happiness, knowledge, and freedom from sin, are the characteristics of mode of goodness. So if one is in mode of goodness, he will be naturally happy. It’s not that one needs to get a beautiful wife or a wonderful house or a wonderful career, to become happy. If you’re in mode of goodness, you’ll be naturally happy and you’ll have proper knowledge. You’ll not perform any sin.

Whereas, if you’re in mode of passion, you’ll have unlimited desires. You’ll never do any action unless there is some profit.

And in the mode of ignorance, a person becomes absolutely crazy and destructive, and sleeps a lot.

In Bhagavad-Gita 14.11, Krishna says that in the mode of goodness, all the gates of the body are illuminated by knowledge. There are nine gates in our body – two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, anus and genital. These are called gates because when one dies, the soul leaves through one of these openings. So we live in this city of nine gates and these gates are illuminated in the mode of goodness. That means we do not want to see anything nonsense, we don’t lend our ears to nonsense things, and we don’t speak anything nonsense. In mode of goodness, we’ve no interest to indulge in these dirty things.

Similarly, when you’re in mode of passion, BG 14.12 says that you’ll have great attachment to your activity. You will endeavor a lot to fulfill your uncontrollable desires. This hard work has been compared to the hard work of a donkey in Srimad Bhagavatam.

And in mode of ignorance, there is only darkness.

Destination as per 3 modes

In Bhagavad Gita 14.14, Krishna describes the destination of people in different modes. If you’re in mode of goodness, you’ll attain higher planets after death i.e. the heavenly planets. After having one’s destined enjoyment there, one is forced to return to this earthly planet again. Sometimes, a soul by virtue of his piety may ascend to higher planets like janaloka, tapaloka, maharloka and satyaloka. There, one may live for trillions of years until the end of Brahma’s life before one can go back to spiritual world.

If you are in mode of passion, again you have to come back to this material world and take birth among fruitive workers. Again you’ve to struggle in this world.

And if you’re in mode of ignorance, you enter into animal kingdom after death (BG 14.15).

Effect of 3 modes

Characteristics of material nature

If you’re in mode of goodness, it’ll result in purity. If you’re in mode of passion, you will be always suffering from stress and tension. The mode of ignorance results in foolishness. In Bhagavad Gita 14.17, Krishna says that if you’re in mode of goodness, you develop knowledge and the perfection of knowledge is detachment. Attachment is the result of mode of passion that develops greed and makes us suffer.

Food as per 3 Modes

People in different modes take different types of food stuffs. People in mode of goodness take that kind of food that increase their age and purifies heart. These food stuffs, like boiled vegetables, grains, milk and food without much spices, give strength, happiness, satisfaction and keep you healthy.
Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome and pleasing to the heart. Whereas in mode of passion, people take food that’ll cause distress and disease. Such foods are normally bitter, too sour and spicy. In mode of ignorance, people take meat and drink alcohol. Normally these foods are decomposed and putrid.

Three modes of material nature

Actions as per 3 Modes

Similarly, there are always three categories of actions in this world. All the actions involving maintenance are in mode of goodness. Like a mother requires mode of goodness to maintain her child. Sustaining the family also requires the mode of goodness. Any creation is an act of passion whereas anything that is destruction is an act in mode of ignorance.

Similarly, there are four classes in the society. The intellectual class predominantly acts in mode of goodness. The administrative class is predominantly situated in mode of passion. The business class is situated in the mixed mode of passion and ignorance. The labor class is situated primarily in mode of ignorance; they earn money by hard labor and waste it in drinking and smoking.

Meaning of three modes of material nature

Three Modes and Different Species of Life

We have plant kingdom, aquatics kingdom, insects and reptile kingdom, bird kingdom, animal kingdom, and human kingdom. So, there is a hierarchy. From one body you go to another body and finally from the animal kingdom, soul gets transmigrated to human body.

Cow is primarily situated in the mode of goodness, so upon giving up its body, it gets a human body in the intellectual class. Lion is situated primarily in mode of passion, so upon giving up this body, it gets a human body among administrative class. An elephant is situated in mixed modes of passion and ignorance so upon giving up this body, it gets a human body among business class. A monkey is primarily situated in mode of ignorance, so it gets a human body among labour class.

We will discuss how to transcend the 3 modes in the upcoming blog

Bhagavad Gita