“Those situated in the mode of goodness gradually go upward to the higher planets; those in the mode of passion live on the earthly planets; and those in the mode of ignorance go down to the hellish worlds.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.18)
Endowed with choice, the human birth sets itself apart from others. The Vedas cap the number of species off at 8,400,000. Some are able to move. Others don’t move at all, like the trees. There are creatures with two legs, while some might have eight. There is the tiny ant and there is also the large elephant.
In every one of the species the guiding principle is sense gratification. These senses cover up the spotless spirit soul. Like the clouds that block the sunshine, the body has no influence on the soul itself. That is to say the soul cannot be sullied. It cannot be destroyed, killed, or made inactive.
The precious human birth is a noteworthy achievement, but in the beginning there is only potential. Something like working so hard to make it to the major leagues in baseball, the work is not finished. Now the potential must be converted to reality. In this respect there are four directions the human being can travel.
1. Going backwards
The corresponding way of living is known as tamo-guna. This is the mode of darkness or ignorance. Imagine having spent so much money on purchasing a new tennis racket. It is state of the art, the exact model used by the number one player in the world.
Due to frustration one day while playing, the racket gets tossed. The impact is enough to render the object ineffective moving forward. The racket is an inanimate object; it did nothing wrong. The breaking of the racket not only served no purpose, but it brought the individual backwards.
The mode of ignorance eventually leads to birth in an animal body in the next life. Excessive sleep, intoxication, and generally doing things that serve no tangible purpose are indications of life in this mode.
2. Staying the same
The corresponding term is rajo-guna. This is the mode of passion. Here there is the illusion of progress, but really there is no difference to the hamster running on the wheel in the cage. Passion is the default way of living. That is to say as the human being matures they gravitate to this mode without any outside intervention required.
It is actually staying the same since only time was passed. As an example, a player works hard at achieving the top ranking in their field. Eventually time will change things. The player will one day have to retire. They are back at where they started, though they have many stories and experiences to share with others.
The mode of passion is a neutral state; the human being takes birth as a human being again in the next life. They again become susceptible to the illusion of progress through satisfying the senses.
3. Elevating to heaven
This is sattva-guna, the mode of goodness. Do things the right way. Follow authority. Respect dharma and shun adharma. Worship at the proper times, both in terms of the day and the entire life cycle. Try to purify yourself while understanding the difference between matter and spirit.
The mode of goodness is moving forward, and the reward is birth in the heavenly realm. There the same material life exists, but in an enhanced state. More enjoyment. Longer duration of life. Less disturbances. Trees that grant whatever desire comes to mind.
4. Enjoying bliss that only increases
The catch with any of the three modes of nature is that there is a time limit. The expiration date is set, though the individual might not know it. The person in heaven eventually has to leave. This is because their pious credits expire. Either go back down to earth and repeat the same life in goodness or elevate to a higher realm.
That higher realm is the spiritual world, which is notable due to the lack of distinction between body and spirit. There is no birth and death. Time exists, but it lacks a negative influence. The way to reach the spiritual world is devotional service, bhakti-yoga. Another way to describe it is shudda-sattva, or pure goodness.
The reward here is not limited to place of residence. There is bliss felt throughout, from beginning to end. Changing the consciousness is not easy, especially when surrounded by so many distractions. There is a safety feature with bhakti, in that if progress gets halted the previous effort does not go to waste. It cannot be destroyed, as even in a subsequent life the individual gets to continue from where they left off.
The bliss in bhakti can arrive immediately; there is no need to wait until after death. The progress is not in illusion, and the mind automatically gets controlled. The easiest and simplest way to be in pure goodness in the modern day is to chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Avoid the four pillars of sinful life, maintain good association, be passionate about serving the Supreme Lord, and soon the outlook on life will change dramatically.
Even if failing not a waste,
Throughout time to taste.
Something higher, not elsewhere found,
To where birth and death’s cycle bound.
Like mode of ignorance backward going,
To heaven from spiritual nature knowing.
Or in passion remaining the same,
Devotion for human the highest gain.
Categories: the four