Chapter 14 – The Three Modes of Material Nature

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Lord Krishna said, Now I will describe the supreme wisdom, the highest of all knowledge. The sages who know this achieve the ultimate perfection.

By taking shelter of this knowledge, the soul attains the spiritual nature. Having achieved this, one is not born in the material creation nor dies in the material dissolution.

All forms of life are born from the womb of material nature and I am the seed-giving father. Material nature consists of three modes — the mode of goodness, the mode of passion and the mode of ignorance. Contact with these modes of nature binds the eternal soul within the temporary body.

The mode of goodness, due to its purity is enlightening. Living within the mode of goodness binds the soul to happiness and knowledge. The mode of passion breeds unlimited desires and hungers, and binds the soul by the tie of material activities.

The mode of ignorance, which arises from darkness, causes the delusion of all living beings. The influence of ignorance binds the soul to stupor, laziness and sleep.

The mode of goodness conditions the soul to happiness, passion binds the soul to the fruits of action, and ignorance covers the knowledge of the soul and binds them to illusion.

Sometimes the mode of passion overcomes goodness and ignorance. Sometimes goodness defeats passion and sometimes ignorance defeats goodness and passion. In this way, each mode defeats the others in an endless battle for dominance.

When knowledge illuminates all the gates of the body, this is a symptom of the mode of goodness being manifest. When the mode of passion is prominent, the symptoms of greed, unrest, desire and the impulse for exertion and profit develop. When the mode of ignorance is prominent, the symptoms of stupor, inertia, illusion and darkness are present.

When one dies within the mode of goodness, they attain to the pure celestial planets where living beings with higher knowledge reside. When one dies within the mode of passion, they are born among those attached to profitable material activities. When one dies in the mode of ignorance, they take birth in an animal species.

Good actions result in purity. Passionate actions produce pain and sorrow, and ignorant actions produce foolishness. Knowledge develops from the mode of goodness; greed develops from the mode of passion; and from ignorance; confusion, foolishness and illusion grow.

Those situated in the mode of goodness ascend to the celestial planets of the demigods; those in the mode of passion live on the earthly planets; and those in the mode of ignorance descend to the lower planes of suffering.

When you see that these three modes of material nature are the only impetus for action in this world, and the Supreme Lord is beyond these modes, then you can know my spiritual nature. Transcending these three modes, the soul becomes free from birth, old age and death and enjoys the nectar of immortality.

Arjuna said, Krishna, what are the symptoms of someone who is beyond these modes? How do they behave and how do they transcend the modes of nature?

Lord Krishna said, Those who have transcended the modes of material nature do not hate illumination, attachment and delusion when they appear, nor desire them when they disappear.

They are not distracted or concerned by the modes of nature, knowing the modes alone are active.

They look upon dirt, rocks or gold with the vision of equality; they see joy and sorrow as alike; they are wise; equal in honour and dishonour and they consider blame and praise to be the same.

They behave fairly with both friends and enemies and they have abandoned all mundane endeavours. Such people have transcended the modes of nature.

Those who do not deviate in any circumstance from serving me with devotion transcend the modes of material nature and come to know their internal spiritual identity.

I am the foundation of that spiritual nature, which is eternal, imperishable, immortal and the constitutional position of supreme bliss.

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