“Any person who is always desirous of fruitive results in religious or economic activities, whose only desire is sense gratification, and whose mind, life and senses are thus engaged, is in the mode of passion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 18.34 Purport)
Friend1: Goodness, passion and ignorance.
Friend2: The three modes of material nature.
Friend1: One of the more interesting aspects of Vedic philosophy, wouldn’t you say?
Friend2: For sure. It’s simple categorization. It’s not discriminatory. Much more scientific than “good versus bad” or “the saved versus the sinners.”
Friend1: But probably a little difficult to understand, no?
Friend2: That’s why you have the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna describes activities, people, charity, and even determination for the different modes.
Friend1: Charity? Really?
Friend2: Yeah. You probably thought charity automatically fell into the mode of goodness.
Friend1: Exactly. If you’re being charitable, it means that in some way you are not attached to your body. And I know that the goal of the mode of goodness is to eventually realize that you are spirit soul. You are not the maya that covers you.
Friend2: You’re correct in theory, but you’re forgetting one important thing.
Friend1: What’s that?
Friend1: Explain further, please.
Friend2: Just because you’re acting charitably, it doesn’t mean that you have the proper motives. One of the candidates for President of the United States right now is coming under criticism for having donated to politicians from both major parties.
Friend1: But that’s a campaign donation. That’s not really charity.
Friend2: Maybe not in your eyes, but the concept is the same. It’s giving money to someone and expecting something in return. That doesn’t have to be only in the political realm. A business can donate to a person’s charity in the hopes of getting favoritism later on, when they need it. This is charity in the mode of passion.
Friend1: Oh, okay. That makes sense. Can religion itself be in the mode of passion?
Friend2: What do you mean by religion?
Friend1: You know, like worship and such. Going to the house of worship, praying to God, being a good person – the general things that we associate with spiritual life.
Friend2: They most certainly can be in the mode of passion. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna describes that the determination in the mode of passion looks for sense gratification through religiosity and economic development.
yayā tu dharma-kāmārthān
dhṛtyā dhārayate ‘rjuna
dhṛtiḥ sā pārtha rājasī
“And that determination by which one holds fast to fruitive result in religion, economic development and sense gratification is of the nature of passion, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.34)
Friend1: By acting religiously, doesn’t that automatically imply a lack of motive?
Friend2: No. Think of going to church and praying for stuff. There is a humorous episode in the television show The King of Queens about this. The main characters pray for something one time and end up getting it. Becoming greedy, they start going to church regularly just to ask for stuff.
Friend1: That’s funny.
Friend2: In the Vedic tradition there are all sorts of rituals that help in sense gratification. When you’re asking for money, what do you really want? You want to use the money to please your senses. In this way you are in the mode of passion. If you stay determined in your vow to complete such rituals on a regular basis, you are certainly not in the mode of goodness.
Friend1: I see. Interesting stuff.
Friend2: Determination which controls the senses is in the mode of goodness. The unbreakable resolve occurs through yoga practice, which is linking the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. In this way your personal motive eventually vanishes, and you transcend even the mode of goodness.
Friend1: So there is a fourth mode?
Friend2: Not really. It’s above the three modes. It’s technically known as pure goodness. Krishna consciousness is not binding to the material world. It cannot fall into any of the three modes of nature since it belongs to the spiritual nature. That nature is always the highest goal, what the truly religious should strive for.
Friend1: How do you explain that to someone who thinks they are already religious?
Friend2: The description of the three modes of nature helps. You can always analyze the rewards. Think of what you are working towards. Assess whether or not it will benefit you in the end, if you will be left wanting something else after the fact. Determination can be a great thing. So can religious life. Combine the two together and you achieve something extraordinary. The key is knowing that passion and ignorance are like remaining stalled and going backwards respectively. Goodness is advancing, and pure goodness is the pinnacle.
With steadiness religiously behaving,
Hoping that for more money to be saving.
Though in determination not quitting,
Behavior in passion’s mode sitting.
When without concern on what to get,
Then into pure goodness activity set.
When everything to the Lord ready to give,
Then without material contamination to live.