The English word “mode” best conveys the sense of the Sanskrit word “guna” (material quality). “Mode” comes from the Latin word “modus”, and it has a special application in European philosophy. Modus means “measure”. It is used to distinguish between two aspects of material nature: That which is immeasurable (called natura naturans, the creative nature) and that which is measurable (called natura naturata, the created nature). Creative nature is a single divine substance that manifests, through modes, the created nature, the material world of physical and mental variety. Being immeasurable (without modes), creative nature cannot be humanly perceived. Created nature (with modes) is measurable, hence we do perceive it. Modus also means “a manner of activity”. When creative nature acts, it assumes modes of behaviour that are measurable and thus perceivable.
The 14th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita (verses 3-5) presents a similar two-fold description of material nature as mahat yoni, the source of birth, and as guna prakrti, that which acts wonderfully through modes. Material nature as the source of birth is also termed mahad brahman, the great or immeasurable Brahman. Mahad brahman is nature as the divine creative substance, which is the material cause of everything. “Material cause” is a term common to both European philosophy (as causa materialis) and Vedanta philosophy (as upadana karana). It means the source of ingredients that comprise creation. We get an example of a material cause from the Sanskrit word yoni, which literally means womb. The mother’s womb provides the ingredients for the formation of the embryo. Similarly, the immeasurable creative nature provides the ingredients for the formation of the material world in which we live, the measurable created nature.
The clarity of this example forces a question: What about the father, who must impregnate the womb first before it can act as the material cause? This question is answered by Krishna, the speaker of the Bhagavad Gita, in verse 4: “Aham bija pradah pita (I am the seed-giving father).” In Vedanta philosophy, this factor of causation is termed nimitta-matram (the remote cause). It is important to note that by presenting creation as the result of the union of two causes (the material and the remote), the Bhagavad Gita rejects the philosophy of Deus sive natura, “the identity of God and nature”. In short, though creative nature may be accepted as the direct cause of creation, it is not the self-sufficient cause of creation. The seed with which Krishna impregnates the womb of creative nature is comprised of sarva-bhutanam, all living entities (verse 3).
Bhagavad-gita 14.5 explains that when Krishna puts the souls into the womb of material nature, their consciousness is conditioned by three modes, or tri-guna. The modes are three measures of interaction between conscious spirit and unconscious matter. The modes may be compared to the three primary colours, yellow, red and blue, and consciousness may be compared to clear light. The “conditioning” (nibhadnanti) of consciousness upon its entry into the womb of material nature is comparable to the coloration of light upon its passing through a prism. The colour yellow symbolises sattva-guna, the mode of goodness. This mode is pure, illuminating, and sinless. Goodness conditions the soul with the sense of happiness and knowledge. The colour red symbolises the rajo-guna, the mode of passion, full of longings and desires. By the influence of passion, the soul engages in works of material accomplishment. The colour blue symbolises tamo-guna, the mode of ignorance, which binds the soul to madness, indolence and sleep.
As the three primary colours combine to produce a vast spectrum of hues, so the three modes combine to produce the vast spectrum of states of conditioned consciousness that encompasses all living entities within the universe. The term triloka is often found in Vedic scriptures. Triloka means “three worlds”. The universe is divided by the three modes into three worlds, or realms of consciousness—bhur, bhuvah and svar (the gross region, the subtle region and the celestial region). As explained in Bhagavad Gita 3.27, the souls within these regions of material consciousness wrongly identify themselves as the doers of physical and mental activities that are actually carried out by three modes of material nature. This wrong identification is called ahankara, or false ego. False ego is the basis of our entanglement in material existence.
A detailed description of the three-fold false ego is given by Krishna to Uddhava. This is recorded in the eleventh canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. By false ego in goodness (technically called vaikaraka), the living entity identifies with the mind. What is the mind? The mind is the living entity’s subtle medium of reflection, comparable to a mirror. By its own nature of goodness, the mind is a suitable medium for reflecting the eternal absolute truth. But it can also reflect the objects of the senses and thus become absorbed in the temporary appearances of the material world. The Amrta-bindu Upanisad therefore declares, “For man, mind is the cause of bondage and mind is the cause of liberation. Mind absorbed in sense objects is the cause of bondage, and mind detached from the sense objects is the cause of liberation.” By false ego in passion (aindriya or taijasa), the soul identifies with the physical senses and the creative intellect by which the senses are skilfully employed in work. By false ego in ignorance (tamasa), the soul identifies with the objects perceived by the physical senses, i.e. what is heard, what is felt, what is seen, what is tasted and what is smelt.
The cultivation of the innate goodness of the mind is the essence of the Vedic method of yoga, summarised by Krishna as follows. “The mind can be controlled when it is fixed on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Having achieved a stable situation, the mind becomes free from polluted desires to execute material activities; thus as the mode of goodness increases in strength, one can completely give up the modes of passion and ignorance, and gradually one transcends even the material mode of goodness. When the mind is freed from the fuel of the modes of nature, the fire of material existence is extinguished. Then one achieves the transcendental platform of direct relationship with the object of his meditation, the Supreme Lord.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.9.12)
The transcendental platform of the soul’s direct relationship with the Supreme Soul is the state of absolute being. How the yogi perceives this state is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.14.45. “He sees the individual souls united with the Supreme Soul, just as one sees the sun’s rays completely united with the sun.” The sun is jyotisi, the source of light. Similarly, Krishna, the Supreme Soul, is the source of the light of consciousness of all living entities. Sunlight is composed of photons, which are tiny units of light. Similarly, each individual soul (technically called the jiva-atma) is a tiny unit of consciousness. The Sanskrit word yoga means “connection;” through bhakti-yoga (the yoga of pure devotion), the consciousness of the individual soul connects with its source, Krishna. This is called Krishna consciousness. By Krishna consciousness, the soul rids itself of the coloration of the three modes and returns back home, Back to Godhead.
Gauranga Sundar Das is Iskcon Inc Communication Director and social media in-charge.
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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY
When we see the external form of religion that people practice, such as rituals, prayer, reading scriptures and going on pilgrimage, we often comment that ‘this person is very religious.’ This usually means that we consider them to be humble, polite and kind. But religion without spirituality is like the skin of a fruit, with nothing inside — it lacks power.
Spirituality is that which enriches and strengthens the soul, makes it virtuous. Religion and rules governing its practice can make one fearful — people are afraid of committing sin by doing this or that, or they worry about divine retribution for something they have done in the past. Understanding spiritual principles, on the other hand, makes one wise, strong, and fearless.
But people take more easily to religious rather than spiritual practices. The former, with their ceremony, colour, and — in some religions — song and dance, seem more appealing. Moreover, spiritual knowledge has not been propagated as widely as religion.
Religious figures preach compassion, ethics, and charity, but it is all regarded as part of recommended behaviour, and little thought is given to the spiritual truths that lend them value. Even reading the Gita, a book that contains deep spiritual truths, has become a ritual. Reading a chapter of the book every day is considered a virtuous act. People are content to just read the book, and give no thought to living by its teachings.
Religious teachings benefit us and add value to our life only when we live by them. Once we recognise the fact that we are souls, children of the Supreme Soul, and relate to God with that awareness, we no longer feel the need to seek solace in religious rituals. The fulfilment the soul experiences through a direct and heartfelt connection with God ends the search for truth.
But the plurality of faiths in the world confuses many people as to which one to follow. The proof of the right path is that it is simple, purifies and strengthens the soul, and makes life easy and happy. It puts a stop to all our doubts.
B.K. Surya is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HOLY?
What does it mean to be holy? Do vestments, ochre robes, or ash smeared over the body make one holy? What are the qualities of a holy person?
Being holy means to be pure, which in turn means to have elevated thoughts – always and for everyone. Someone with a pure mind has clarity, due to which they can tell the difference between good and bad. A clean and clear intellect enables them to discern the intentions of others and act accordingly. Yet they are not cynical or apathetic, and instead have benevolent feelings.
When we know other people’s intentions, we are not influenced by their nature or behaviour, because we know where it is coming from. Moreover, when we have a pure attitude, we see others compassionately, through the prism of their good qualities. Even when we see a not very impressive side of someone, with our benevolence we are able to show the other person a better way to be. This is purity in action. It is not just a quality to be cherished; it is of greatest value when it serves others.
There are many ways in which purity is manifested and it touches and inspires others. We have a kind vision — no matter what the other person is like, we accept and respect them, and have good wishes for them. Purity in speech means to speak gently, politely, and to the point — no gossip or idle talk. When these qualities are visible in someone, they appear special — they stand out with their friendly and reassuring vibrations and demeanour.
But to be like that we need to watch our thoughts, words and behaviour, to avoid what is ordinary or wasteful. When the intellect is pure, we hold ourselves to the highest standards and do not reason that it is alright to be a little slack as many others are so.
Our time and thoughts are wasted when we do not recognise whether something is right or wrong. We consider unnecessary or wrong activity to be right, and deceive the self by thinking that we are intelligent or strong and our judgement is correct.
A clean intellect, which is the basis of holiness, saves us from these pitfalls. Another sign of such an intellect is that it does not condemn people for their flaws. One who is truly holy, when they see a defect in someone, does not think, “This one is like that anyway”. Instead, they inspire the other person to overcome their shortcomings.
B.K. Usha is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.
HOW TO EMPOWER THE CAPACITY FOR SELF-HEALING
When a young child grows up in unsafe circumstances and is not fully welcome, then insecurity is normal and a child gets used to it. A young child always attaches to (a) parent(s), even when circumstances are unsafe. Then ‘unsafety’ is the comfort zone and normal for a child. An impactful event during childhood has a direct relationship with chronic diseases at a later age.
Rejection gives the greatest pain. As a result, the child is unable to access real feelings. When pain is too big to handle in an unsafe situation; when a child is unseen, unheard, not supported in their needs, this impactful situation is transferred to the subconscious mind and survival mechanisms are needed. There is a big difference between survival and living a healthy life. Human beings have three survival mechanisms: fight, flight or freeze. To prevent being rejected, the child often rejects others, becomes angry, bossy, and anxious, is fearful and feels powerless.
Chronic diseases are psychosomatic, which means that the body asks for attention to a deeper cause in the self. The body has a 24-hour relationship and communication with the soul (thinking, memory and emotions). Body and soul are the best friends when in balance, or the worst enemies when there is chronic stress or unresolved pain.
The body grows and exists in relationship with the environment: circumstances, culture, parents, teachers, friends, physical, mental and emotional food have an impact on physical health. Impactful situations break the connection and awareness of the body with the inner soul. Because of feeling rejected, the basic subconscious assumption of a child, based on what they have learned, is: ‘nobody loves me, or, I am not worthy, something is wrong with me’.
In holistic medical treatment, coming home to yourself has a central role. Recognition of the journey of survival up until now and making contact with the desire of the heart (to feel loved and safe) are the golden keys. The adult or child learns how to say ‘yes’ to the present, even if the present is painful and unpleasant. The second step is to take a risk and dare to not know certain things and learn something new. We use deep breathing and meditation to rebuild contact with old emotional pain that is stored in the body. Healing means feeling all the pain, loss, sadness and loneliness that had been stored in childhood because all that was needed so much as a child was not available.
When contact between body and soul is restored, the body begins to increase the self-healing capacity. When we heal ourselves of the old inner wounds, scars remain, which is much easier to live with than open wounds and chronic diseases.
The body possesses tremendous power and wisdom. It gives us messages through physical complaints and chronic diseases as to what is needed in our life. Learning to listen to those messages brings miracles for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. We can heal ourselves. Healing creates a healthy relationship with ourselves and with each other.
Dr Judith M. Kocken MD, PhD, is a paediatrician and a paediatric gastroenterologist. A pioneer in holistic healthcare, she studies and practises Rajyoga with the Brahma Kumaris in The Netherlands.
SPIRITUAL DETACHMENT SAVES US FROM NEGATIVE INFLUENCES
Let me be humble and let me harmonise and work well with all others but let me not become like them. Others may be influenced by their own arrogance, or by their own negativities, or by ordinariness in the mind, but this does not mean that I have to be.
There should be so much truth in me that others become truthful. My inner state should be such that not only am I not influenced by the negativity of others, but my very presence is a positive influence on all negativities. This is true, spiritual detachment.
It is so exhilarating to experience yourself as a spiritual being. You should never hide that sparkle on the face that comes from having come to God. Everything we used to do on the basis of ego can now be done out of love.
The silent mind
They say that if you can conquer the mind, you can conquer the world. In other words, we can become masters of the self. So, it is worth taking time each day to see what the state of my mind is. It has been said that the difference between prayer and meditation is that prayer is when I talk to God, and meditation is when God talks to me. But for me to be able to listen to what God is saying, I need to have a silent mind, a quiet mind. Do I allow God to talk to me or is my mind so busy and chattering all the time about this and that, that I do not give God the chance to speak to me?
Silence of the mind is not stopping thinking or suppressing thoughts or making the mind blank. A silent mind is full, not empty – an empty vessel makes the most noise! A silent mind is not judging, commenting, criticising; there are no thoughts of attraction, desires or attachments. The image that comes to mind when I think of silence is a calm lake that has not even one ripple on the surface and yet is deep and powerful. To achieve this state of mind I need to go into the essence of being – just ‘I am’.
I am a being of peace. I, the soul, am silent. My religion is peace. I am the child of the ocean of peace and a resident of the land of peace. This consciousness of being a soul cools the sense organs. When I am in soul consciousness, the mind is calm, and the body is cool.
A silent mind does not need to overthink. Overthinking is a sickness of the mind. A silent mind will know what is the right thing to do, and when it is done there will be no further thinking.
A silent mind will be light, and that silence and light will automatically connect me to God, who is also full of light and power. I can then detach from situations and simply observe in peace and love and all actions that spring from that state of being will be powerful and successful.
I need to practise this return to the essence daily, in fact many times during the day. I need to contemplate and experience this peace and silence for many moments each day. This nourishes my mind, fills it with power, connects me to God.
B.K. Meera is director of the Brahma Kumaris’ services in Malaysia.
HOW TO REMAIN CALM AT WORK
At work, the anger we feel not only upsets us emotionally but has a deleterious effect on our physical body. It causes stress, which in turn contributes to stress-related ailments. This can affect us by increasing our risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, and other diseases.
It takes a great amount of strength to withstand the temptations to overcome anger. We may think the angry person is strong, but actually, they are succumbing out of weakness to their own temper. It takes one who is brave of heart to say no to anger.
If someone at work has hurt us, we can choose to forgive and forget or we can choose to retaliate. The choice is ours to make.
There is physical harm we do to ourselves when we are caught up in the opposite of forgiveness: anger, hatred, and vengeance. These feelings cause damage to the physical body.
Doctors and medical researchers are realizing that anger and hatred have detrimental effects on our bodies. Let us analyse the reason.
First, there are certain responses in the physical body designed to help protect itself to preserve the species. When a living creature senses danger, certain hormonal and chemical reactions within the body help it respond to danger. These hormones cause one to fight or take flight. They are useful for giving the body strength and quick physical responses, such as running or protecting one’s self. But if one interprets it as life-threatening problems of daily life that are not a threat to survival, then one is responding with the fight or flight hormones for no reason.
The result is that we do not see a need to flee or fight but feel threatened. This converts into anger or rage. Thus, we become angry over situations that don’t threaten our life. This causes the body to circulate hormones needed to run or protect one’s self over minor situations that are part of daily life. Because these hormones, such as cortisol, are circulating through us when we do not need them to, they end up causing damage to the physical body.
We know for example that real cortisone has side effects on the body, so doctors recommend them cautiously. However, the body’s natural cortisol when we are angry or under stress ends up circulating through us causing stress-related ailments. If one is continually in that state of fear, anger, or stress, those hormones cause a breakdown of other body tissues. This is what causes stress-related ailments such as digestive problems, headaches, heart problems, skin problems, and breathing problems.
The solution for protecting the body against the hormones released by hatred, anger, and vengeance is simple: forgiveness. It is only through forgiveness that we can calm ourselves down and avoid the reactions of hatred and violence. A majority of the time at our jobs we are responding to minor problems with the same intensity as if our lives were threatened. Think about all the things that make us angry. How many of them threaten our lives? How many are just minor annoyances?
We can learn how to stay calm at work by practising forgiveness when someone hurts us. In this way, we can protect our bodies from the damage of hormones released because of anger. We will see a reduction in stress-related ailments.
One of the keys is to let go. When we forgive and forget we are letting go of the past and what has happened. We are saying, “I forgive the person for what has happened. Then I am going to forget about it.” In this way, we are letting it go.
One technique to develop forgiveness so we can stay calm at work is meditation. The problems of life will not end. However, through meditation, we can focus our attention on the peace within so we can rise above life’s difficulties.
Through meditation, we are in touch with a place of calm within us that gives us the strength to forgive others, overcome anger, and stay calm at work. We cannot control others at our job, but we can control ourselves. At work, we can choose peace and calm which will help improve our physical and mental health and make for a happier life.
The author is the head of the Sawan Kirpal Ruhani Mission.
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