“Prism of Consciousness” was a lecture where the speaker, Nityananda Pran, talked about the three modes of material nature and how they impact everything we see around us, as well as everything we don’t see - like our consciousness and perception.
This material world is governed by the three modes of material nature: sattva (mode of goodness), rajas (mode of passion), and tamas (mode of ignorance). All the variety in nature, comprised of various species-and even variety within our own species, is due the combination of these modes in various ratios and proportions.
The mode of goodness is said to be the window to transcendence, and is characterized by morality, knowledge, dutiful work, and detachment from the fruits of one’s actions. The mode of passion is characterized by competitive spirit, attachment to the fruit of one’s work and selfishness. The mode of ignorance is characterized by sleep, laziness, procrastination and dulled senses. Together, the three modes act like color filters over a white light; they each affect and cover the natural consciousness of the soul with the unnatural traits characterized by the various modes of nature.
According to the Vedic classification, there are 8.4 million different species. Pran explained that this is due to the many combinations of the modes of nature which affect the consciousness. The life form and consciousness we are born with depends on the karma that we have accumulated over time. The karma that accumulates is based on what actions we perform under the influence of the modes; however, these modes don’t just influence the life we are born into; they influence us constantly and we accrue and expend karma with every action and activity throughout the course of the day. For example, we may feel happy about something in the morning, but end up feeling very different by early afternoon, depending on the mode that affects us. Our free will is always there, and the modes act upon us according to the way we choose to use that will.
Karmic cycle is perpetual – no one escapes it, except a person who makes a conscious choice for a spiritual alternative. It is a lifestyle of spiritualizing one’s existence while living in harmony with nature. Such persons gradually overcome the effects of the three modes of nature by eventually restoring their original loving relationship with the source of everything.
Nityananda Pran went on to describe how certain activities can appear when predominated by various modes. He described what charity under the various modes can look like: a person in the mode of goodness gives charity “out of duty, without expectation of return, at the proper time and place, and to a worthy person”. One who is in the mode of passion - on the other hand - gives charity “with the expectation of some return or with a desire for fruitive results, or in a grudging mood”. Think of somebody who donates money to an institution and asks that a building or tree be named after them. One who is in the mode of ignorance gives charity “at an impure place, at an improper time, to unworthy persons, or without proper attention and respect.”
Each of the activities is interconnected with the others; for instance, one cannot practice eating in the mode of ignorance and perform work in the mode of goodness. Nityananda Pran also explained that most of our actions are performed under a mixture of the three modes – they are not purely under the mode of goodness, passion or ignorance. When we are acting more under the mode of goodness, the effects of the other modes of nature become minimized, and it becomes easier for us to strive for God-consciousness, or that platform beyond the influence of the modes. By attaining this platform, we gain the ability to perceive things as they are, rather than being colored over by the filters.
Next week’s lecture will continue to cover this topic by explaining how we can practically begin to move beyond these modes of nature and the karmic cycle. All discussions are video-recorded and available on the facebook.com/vedicvis.