Modes of Nature

The three modes of nature in action

In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna talks at length about the "three modes of material nature." These are subtle forces that influence our behavior as well as every aspect of our physical, mental, and emotional world. The Sanskrit term for these forces is guna, "rope," and the Gita explains how they pull us to act in various ways, even against our better judgment.

The effects of sattva-guna, the mode of goodness, are seen when an atmosphere of peace, serenity, and harmony prevails in our environment and ourselves. Rajo-guna, the mode of passion, is felt as insatiable desire for temporary things, striving for more and more of them, and perpetual dissatisfaction. Tamo-guna, the mode of ignorance, is indicated when there's laziness, depression, intoxication, and insanity.

The fourteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita contains elaborate descriptions of the modes, their symptoms, how they affect us, and ultimately how to become free from their influence through the practice of bhakti-yoga, or Krishna consciousness.

The painting depicts the three modes of nature as puppeteers controlling our actions.

QT Modes of Nature

More on this topic

We like to quote our sources. This page is based on the following:

  • Bhagavad-gita, Chapter 14: The Three Modes of Material Nature

    - an entire chapter of the Gita dedicated to explaining the three modes and the impact they have on our character, development, and behavior

  • Bhagavad-gita, 14.5:

    "Material nature consists of three modes – goodness, passion and ignorance. When the eternal living entity comes in contact with nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, he becomes conditioned by these modes."

  • Bhagavad-gita, 14.17:

    "From the mode of goodness, real knowledge develops; from the mode of passion, greed develops; and from the mode of ignorance develop foolishness, madness and illusion."

  • Bhagavad-gita, 14.20:

    "When the embodied being is able to transcend these three modes associated with the material body, he can become free from birth, death, old age and their distresses and can enjoy nectar even in this life."

  • Bhagavad-gita, 7.14:

    "This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it. "

  • Bhagavad-gita, 14.26:

    "One who is engaged in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman (spiritual existence).”

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