We continued the lecture “Prism of Consciousness” by reviewing some of the key points. Speaker Nityananda Pran began by briefly covering the law of karma – for every action, there is a reaction. He also re-explained the idea of the three modes of material nature and how they influence us based on our karma. These three modes of nature give rise to the variety that we witness amongst all life.
The three modes are sattva (goodness), rajas (passion), and tamas (ignorance), as was discussed in the previous lecture. They affect the consciousness of the soul, which in its original form is otherwise pure. The speaker went on to explain that, due to the modes of nature, our sense of identity transforms into that of a particular species – and this effect is known as “conditioning”. For example, a soul in the body of a tiger acts and behaves like a tiger; but in the body of an insect, that same soul will act and behave like an insect; and so on.
Another example given is that of us as students at IIT. When we are on campus and somebody asks who we are, chances are we’d respond “I’m a student”, “I’m a junior Chem E”, etc. But once we step off campus, we may not be as likely to respond in that manner. Rather, we might say “I am the child of so and so”, “I’m a man”, “I’m a woman”, etc. When we are in certain circumstances, we begin to identify with those circumstances. But, as may be recalled from previous discussions, the true identity of self never changes. It is beyond time, place, and circumstance because it is spiritual.
The whole path of a spiritual journey is to regain our natural state beyond the influences of the three modes of nature and to understand that our true nature is that of an eternal, cognizant, and blissful soul. And if this is our true nature, then our activities should be on the basis of who we are rather than who we think we are.
Therefore, the whole idea of spirituality is to move from material activities to spiritual activities. Nityananda Pran explained that this process begins when we change our consciousness, because as consciousness changes, activities change. In all other categories of species, this is not possible because they have no volition (or free will). Humans, on the other hand, are the only species that can choose which activities they want or don’t want to do. Of course, there are certain activities that we have no control over – such as birth, death, old age, disease, going to the bathroom, etc. – however, our life is more than just that. There are other activities that we choose to perform; and this is where our choices make a difference in our lives.
The speaker elaborated by describing how actions are caused by desire; desire is influenced by consciousness (in terms of choice); consciousness is affected by the three modes of material nature; the modes of nature operate as a result of our karma; and karmic reaction is based on our action. This is known as “the cycle of life” – or, more specifically, the karmic cycle. The key to escaping this cycle is to act in such a way that there is no karmic reaction.
When one is beyond the three modes, one is said to be in a state of Transcendence. In the state of Transcendence, the soul still performs activities in this material realm, but the consciousness in its natural spiritual state, not affected by the modes and reactions of one’s karma. .
Nityananda Pran concluded the lecture by reviewing the characteristics of action performed under the modes of nature. In the mode of ignorance, actions are performed neither for others nor for the self – it is simply destructive; in the mode of passion, actions are performed only for the self; in the mode of goodness, actions are performed for others and for themselves. But it is only in the state of Transcendence that actions are performed as an offering to the Absolute Truth – every action is “God-centric”.
Next week the discussion will be dedicated to examining and understanding the law of karma. All discussions are video-recorded and available on facebook.com/vedicvis.