Three Modes Of Material Nature | Sattva, Rajas, Tamas In The Gita

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Lord Sri Krishna and Three Modes of Material Nature

Lord Sri Krishna in the Gita, gives the entire synopsis of how life is influenced by the three modes of material nature namely Sattva, Rajas and Tamas which are known as the mode of goodness, mode of passion and the mode of ignorance respectively. Unless these three modes of material nature are grasped, one shall not be able to get the right perspective of life happening on our material planet, earth. This becomes an area of primary study if one is eager enough to understand one’s own as well as the other’s responses to life’s many situations. The Lord guarantees that if one is able to grasp the knowledge relating to the three modes of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, one shall be rendered to the qualities of the Lord in the end. This is the Lord’s direct statement (Chapter 14, verse 2).

Differentiated Aspects of Brahman

The Brahman, the sum totality of all beings, the source of all that is, is the primary cause for the material world. The differentiated aspect of Brahman also called as Maya whose unmanifest form is Mahat Tattva, is Brahman in action. Thus Brahman has two expressions. One is the stationery aspect, the unsullied pure form, which is the utter source of all that can be. The other moving aspect is the sullied, moving aspect of Brahman also known as Nature which represents Maya, also known as material nature. The individual soul is a separated part and parcel of Brahman that comes in contact with Maya and takes the position of a Jeeva or a living entity. The Jeeva is thus the atomic aspect of Brahman that is trapped in Maya or the sullied aspect of Brahman and hence Jeeva becomes marginal due to its subordination to Maya although the inner soul, the driver of the Jeeva, is superior in disposition as compared to Maya.

Sattva Mode in the Jeeva

On coming in contact with material nature, the Jeeva develops within itself three modes of disposition which are three broad categories of “acquired nature”. These, then become the positions of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Sattva represents the disposition of Jeeva which is not hassled by worry. The Jeeva predominated by Sattva takes pleasure in acquiring knowledge whether spiritual or material. The pursuit and sustenance of happiness becomes natural to such a Jeeva. Such a Jeeva revels on being aloof and remains internally content and joyful under ordinary unmotivated conditions. The types of food consumed by this type of a Jeeva is usually pleasant foodstuff which is not very spicy, not putrid, not too sweet, bitter or sour. The food is light and easily digestible. Such Jeevas are balanced on all grounds. They work neither too less nor too much. They are not consumed by actions and goals. They live with minimum expectations and find pleasure and contentment through small things in life. They are not easily disturbed by situations. They are also not revengeful and are easily forgiving.

Jeeva in the mode of Rajas

In a Jeeva where Rajas is predominant, the Jeeva is attached to actions and their results. They can get extremely passionate and ambitious. When they are obsessed with ideas they go on an overdrive. They usually like hot and spicy food. They usually like too much sweet and salty foods. They are highly engaged and driven by deep-rooted motive and ambitions towards material gain and prosperity. Some of these Jeevas may also take to enjoying bodily pleasures. They also tend to enjoy life more than others. They are more concerned with transactions revolving around profit and loss thus making them opportunistic in their approach towards life conditions. They are less emotional and use their mind and head as a calculative medium. They try to measure everything in whatever possible manner. They are likely to be less empathetic as compared to living entities dominated by Sattva. They may be kind on certain occasions but their greed and self-interest can turn them into self-centered activists that can divert them away from being humane.

Jeeva in the Tamas mode

A Jeeva who is harassed by the Mode of Ignorance or Tamas, is in the mode of darkness or utter negativity. Such Jeevas are indolent and driven by sleep and procrastination. They are also given to a cheating mentality. Jeevas dominated by Tamas can cause harm to others and driven to all unfair means. They like foods that are essentially putrid. They have a special liking for meat and animal food. The aspects of violence and causing harm for self-gain is predominant in such Jeevas. The Jeevas also have a tendency to indulge in taking unfair and short-cut means towards success. Some of them may also like to gamble and maybe committed to immoral acts. There may be certain Jeevas in this mode who may be driven to waste time and also given to a criminal mentality. Sleep and ignorance dominate such individuals whose character may have many dark shades. 

Lord Krishna summarizes the Three modes


Lord Krishna summarizes the Jeevas in these three modes thus. He says that the Jeeva in the mode of Sattva is bound to happiness. The one in the mode of passion is bound to fruitive activities while the one who is in the mode of Tamas is bound to inner madness and sickness (Chapter 14, verse 9). In the common man, all the three modes are present generally with a predominance of one mode over the other two. The three modes may be also dominant in individuals in varying degrees as the day progresses. During the morning, normally Sattva is predominant. During the noon towards the evening, Rajas is predominant while Tamas is predominant in man as nightfall approaches. When a Jeeva dies when the mode of Sattva is predominant, he attains the higher world of the sages. A Jeeva dying in the mode of Rajas, is born on a planet infested with other beings in the same mode especially the earthly platform and the ones who die in the mode of ignorance, Tamas, are born in the lower planetary systems where lower beings and nasty living conditions exist (Chapter 14, verses 14, 15)

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