In this chapter, Śukadeva Gosvāmī describes Ananta, the source of Lord Śiva. Lord Ananta, whose body is completely spiritual, resides at the root of the planet Pātāla. He always lives in the core of Lord Śiva's heart, and He helps him destroy the universe. Ananta instructs Lord Śiva how to destroy the cosmos, and thus He is sometimes called tāmasī, or "one who is in the mode of darkness." He is the original Deity of material consciousness, and because He attracts all living entities, He is sometimes known as Saṅkarṣaṇa. The entire material world is situated on the hoods of Lord Saṅkarṣaṇa.
Mode of darkness
"darkness from the mode of ignorance" |"darkness of the mode of ignorance" |"mode of darkness" |"mode of ignorance or darkness" |"modes of darkness" |"we are in darkness, and a mode of life"
- 1 Bhagavad-gita As It Is
- 2 Srimad-Bhagavatam
- 3 Sri Caitanya-caritamrta
- 4 Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
- 5 Lectures
- 6 Correspondence
Bhagavad-gita As It Is
BG Chapters 13 - 18
O son of Bharata, know that the mode of darkness, born of ignorance, is the delusion of all embodied living entities. The results of this mode are madness, indolence and sleep, which bind the conditioned soul.
It should be understood that if one's heart is in the mode of goodness his faith is also in the mode of goodness. If his heart is in the mode of passion, his faith is also in the mode of passion. And if his heart is in the mode of darkness, illusion, his faith is also thus contaminated. Thus we find different types of faith in this world, and there are different types of religions due to different types of faith. The real principle of religious faith is situated in the mode of pure goodness, but because the heart is tainted we find different types of religious principles. Thus according to different types of faith, there are different kinds of worship.
Men in the mode of goodness worship the demigods; those in the mode of passion worship the demons; and those in the mode of ignorance worship ghosts and spirits.
In this verse the Supreme Personality of Godhead describes different kinds of worshipers according to their external activities. According to scriptural injunction, only the Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshipable, but those who are not very conversant with, or faithful to, the scriptural injunctions worship different objects, according to their specific situations in the modes of material nature. Those who are situated in goodness generally worship the demigods. The demigods include Brahmā, Śiva and others such as Indra, Candra and the sun-god. There are various demigods. Those in goodness worship a particular demigod for a particular purpose. Similarly, those who are in the mode of passion worship the demons. We recall that during the Second World War a man in Calcutta worshiped Hitler because thanks to that war he had amassed a large amount of wealth by dealing in the black market. Similarly, those in the modes of passion and ignorance generally select a powerful man to be God. They think that anyone can be worshiped as God and that the same results will be obtained.
Now, it is clearly described here that those who are in the mode of passion worship and create such gods, and those who are in the mode of ignorance, in darkness, worship dead spirits. Sometimes people worship at the tomb of some dead man. Sexual service is also considered to be in the mode of darkness. Similarly, in remote villages in India there are worshipers of ghosts. We have seen that in India the lower-class people sometimes go to the forest, and if they have knowledge that a ghost lives in a tree, they worship that tree and offer sacrifices. These different kinds of worship are not actually God worship. God worship is for persons who are transcendentally situated in pure goodness. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (4.3.23) it is said, sattvaṁ viśuddhaṁ vasudeva-śabditam: "When a man is situated in pure goodness, he worships Vāsudeva." The purport is that those who are completely purified of the material modes of nature and who are transcendentally situated can worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness.
The purpose of food is to increase the duration of life, purify the mind and aid bodily strength. This is its only purpose. In the past, great authorities selected those foods that best aid health and increase life's duration, such as milk products, sugar, rice, wheat, fruits and vegetables. These foods are very dear to those in the mode of goodness. Some other foods, such as baked corn and molasses, while not very palatable in themselves, can be made pleasant when mixed with milk or other foods. They are then in the mode of goodness. All these foods are pure by nature. They are quite distinct from untouchable things like meat and liquor. Fatty foods, as mentioned in the eighth verse, have no connection with animal fat obtained by slaughter. Animal fat is available in the form of milk, which is the most wonderful of all foods. Milk, butter, cheese and similar products give animal fat in a form which rules out any need for the killing of innocent creatures. It is only through brute mentality that this killing goes on. The civilized method of obtaining needed fat is by milk. Slaughter is the way of subhumans. Protein is amply available through split peas, dāl, whole wheat, etc.
Foods in the mode of passion, which are bitter, too salty, or too hot or overly mixed with red pepper, cause misery by reducing the mucus in the stomach, leading to disease. Foods in the mode of ignorance or darkness are essentially those that are not fresh. Any food cooked more than three hours before it is eaten (except prasādam, food offered to the Lord) is considered to be in the mode of darkness. Because they are decomposing, such foods give a bad odor, which often attracts people in this mode but repulses those in the mode of goodness.
Remnants of food may be eaten only when they are part of a meal that was first offered to the Supreme Lord or first eaten by saintly persons, especially the spiritual master. Otherwise the remnants of food are considered to be in the mode of darkness, and they increase infection or disease. Such foodstuffs, although very palatable to persons in the mode of darkness, are neither liked nor even touched by those in the mode of goodness. The best food is the remnants of what is offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Bhagavad-gītā the Supreme Lord says that He accepts preparations of vegetables, flour and milk when offered with devotion. Patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyam. Of course, devotion and love are the chief things which the Supreme Personality of Godhead accepts. But it is also mentioned that the prasādam should be prepared in a particular way. Any food prepared by the injunctions of the scripture and offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead can be taken even if prepared long, long ago, because such food is transcendental. Therefore to make food antiseptic, eatable and palatable for all persons, one should offer food to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Any sacrifice performed without regard for the directions of scripture, without distribution of prasādam (spiritual food), without chanting of Vedic hymns and remunerations to the priests, and without faith is considered to be in the mode of ignorance.
Faith in the mode of darkness or ignorance is actually faithlessness. Sometimes people worship some demigod just to make money and then spend the money for recreation, ignoring the scriptural injunctions. Such ceremonial shows of religiosity are not accepted as genuine. They are all in the mode of darkness; they produce a demoniac mentality and do not benefit human society.
And charity performed at an impure place, at an improper time, to unworthy persons, or without proper attention and respect is said to be in the mode of ignorance.
Contributions for indulgence in intoxication and gambling are not encouraged here. That sort of contribution is in the mode of ignorance. Such charity is not beneficial; rather, sinful persons are encouraged. Similarly, if a person gives charity to a suitable person but without respect and without attention, that sort of charity is also said to be in the mode of darkness.
Prescribed duties should never be renounced. If one gives up his prescribed duties because of illusion, such renunciation is said to be in the mode of ignorance.
Work for material satisfaction must be given up, but activities which promote one to spiritual activity, like cooking for the Supreme Lord and offering the food to the Lord and then accepting the food, are recommended. It is said that a person in the renounced order of life should not cook for himself. Cooking for oneself is prohibited, but cooking for the Supreme Lord is not prohibited. Similarly, a sannyāsī may perform a marriage ceremony to help his disciple in the advancement of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If one renounces such activities, it is to be understood that he is acting in the mode of darkness.
And that knowledge by which one is attached to one kind of work as the all in all, without knowledge of the truth, and which is very meager, is said to be in the mode of darkness.
The "knowledge" of the common man is always in the mode of darkness or ignorance because every living entity in conditional life is born into the mode of ignorance. One who does not develop knowledge through the authorities or scriptural injunctions has knowledge that is limited to the body. He is not concerned about acting in terms of the directions of scripture. For him God is money, and knowledge means the satisfaction of bodily demands. Such knowledge has no connection with the Absolute Truth. It is more or less like the knowledge of the ordinary animals: the knowledge of eating, sleeping, defending and mating. Such knowledge is described here as the product of the mode of darkness. In other words, knowledge concerning the spirit soul beyond this body is called knowledge in the mode of goodness, knowledge producing many theories and doctrines by dint of mundane logic and mental speculation is the product of the mode of passion, and knowledge concerned only with keeping the body comfortable is said to be in the mode of ignorance.
And that determination which cannot go beyond dreaming, fearfulness, lamentation, moroseness and illusion—such unintelligent determination, O son of Pṛthā, is in the mode of darkness.
It should not be concluded that a person in the mode of goodness does not dream. Here "dream" means too much sleep. Dreaming is always present; either in the mode of goodness, passion or ignorance, dreaming is a natural occurrence. But those who cannot avoid oversleeping, who cannot avoid the pride of enjoying material objects, who are always dreaming of lording it over the material world, and whose life, mind and senses are thus engaged, are considered to have determination in the mode of ignorance.
And that happiness which is blind to self-realization, which is delusion from beginning to end and which arises from sleep, laziness and illusion is said to be of the nature of ignorance.
One who takes pleasure in laziness and in sleep is certainly in the mode of darkness, ignorance, and one who has no idea how to act and how not to act is also in the mode of ignorance. For the person in the mode of ignorance, everything is illusion. There is no happiness either in the beginning or at the end. For the person in the mode of passion there might be some kind of ephemeral happiness in the beginning and at the end distress, but for the person in the mode of ignorance there is only distress both in the beginning and at the end.
SB Canto 1
There is a great difference between mundane stories, fiction, or history and the transcendental pastimes of the Lord. The histories of the whole universe contain references to the pastimes of the incarnations of the Lord. The Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata, and the Purāṇas are histories of bygone ages recorded in connection with the pastimes of the incarnations of the Lord and therefore remain fresh even after repeated readings. For example, anyone may read Bhagavad-gītā or the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam repeatedly throughout his whole life and yet find in them new light of information. Mundane news is static whereas transcendental news is dynamic, inasmuch as the spirit is dynamic and matter is static. Those who have developed a taste for understanding the transcendental subject matter are never tired of hearing such narrations. One is quickly satiated by mundane activities, but no one is satiated by transcendental or devotional activities. Uttama-śloka indicates that literature which is not meant for nescience. Mundane literature is in the mode of darkness or ignorance, whereas transcendental literature is quite different. Transcendental literature is above the mode of darkness, and its light becomes more luminous with progressive reading and realization of the transcendental subject matter. The so-called liberated persons are never satisfied by the repetition of the words ahaṁ brahmāsmi. Such artificial realization of Brahman becomes hackneyed, and so to relish real pleasure they turn to the narrations of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Those who are not so fortunate turn to altruism and worldly philanthropy. This means the Māyāvāda philosophy is mundane, whereas the philosophy of Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is transcendental.
The separated parts and parcels have different positions in the estimation of material powers, and some of them are like Kāla-bhairava, Śmaśāna-bhairava, Śani, Mahākālī and Caṇḍikā. These demigods are worshiped mostly by those who are in the lowest categories of the mode of darkness or ignorance. Other demigods, like Brahmā, Śiva, Sūrya, Gaṇeśa and many similar deities, are worshiped by men in the mode of passion, urged on by the desire for material enjoyment. But those who are actually situated in the mode of goodness (sattva-guṇa) of material nature worship only viṣṇu-tattvas. Viṣṇu-tattvas are represented by various names and forms, such as Nārāyaṇa, Dāmodara, Vāmana, Govinda and Adhokṣaja.
The puruṣa, after creating innumerable universes in the mahat-tattva, entered in each of them as the second puruṣa, Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. When He saw that within the universe there was only darkness and space, without a resting place, He filled half of the universe with water from His own perspiration and laid Himself down on the same water. This water is called Garbhodaka. Then from His navel the stem of the lotus flower sprouted, and on the flower petals the birth of Brahmā, or the master engineer of the universal plan, took place. Brahmā became the engineer of the universe, and the Lord Himself took charge of the maintenance of the universe as Viṣṇu. Brahmā was generated from rajo-guṇa of prakṛti, or the mode of passion in nature, and Viṣṇu became the Lord of the mode of goodness. Viṣṇu, being transcendental to all the modes, is always aloof from materialistic affection. This has already been explained. From Brahmā there is Rudra (Śiva), who is in charge of the mode of ignorance or darkness. He destroys the whole creation by the will of the Lord. Therefore all three, namely Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, are incarnations of the Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. From Brahmā the other demigods like Dakṣa, Marīci, Manu and many others become incarnated to generate living entities within the universe. This Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu is glorified in the Vedas in the hymns of Garbha-stuti, which begin with the description of the Lord as having thousands of heads, etc. The Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu is the Lord of the universe, and although He appears to be lying within the universe, He is always transcendental. This also has already been explained. The Viṣṇu who is the plenary portion of the Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu is the Supersoul of the universal life, and He is known as the maintainer of the universe or Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. So the three features of the original puruṣa are thus understood. And all the incarnations within the universe are emanations from this Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu.
SB Canto 2
Vaikārika is the neutral stage of creation, and tejas is the initiative of creation, while tamas is the full display of material creation under the spell of the darkness of ignorance. Manufacture of the "necessities of life" in factories and workshops, excessively prominent in the age of Kali, or in the age of the machine, is the summit stage of the quality of darkness. Such manufacturing enterprises by human society are in the mode of darkness because factually there is no necessity for the commodities manufactured. Human society primarily requires food for subsistence, shelter for sleeping, defense for protection, and commodities for satisfaction of the senses. The senses are the practical signs of life, as will be explained in the next verse. Human civilization is meant for purifying the senses, and objects of sense satisfaction should be supplied as much as absolutely required, but not for aggravating artificial sensory needs. Food, shelter, defense and sense gratification are all needs in material existence. Otherwise, in his pure, uncontaminated state of original life, the living entity has no such needs.
According to the different modes of material nature—the mode of goodness, the mode of passion and the mode of darkness—there are different living creatures, who are known as demigods, human beings and hellish living entities. O King, even a particular mode of nature, being mixed with the other two, is divided into three, and thus each kind of living creature is influenced by the other modes and acquires its habits also.
The living entities individually are being conducted by a particular mode of nature, but at the same time there is every chance of their being influenced by the other two. Generally, all conditioned souls in the material encagement are influenced by the mode of passion because every one of them is trying to lord it over the material nature to fulfill his individual desire. But in spite of the individual mode of passion, there is always the chance of being influenced by the other modes of nature by association. If one is in good association he can develop the mode of goodness, and if in bad association he may develop the mode of darkness or ignorance. Nothing is stereotyped. One can change his habit by good or bad association, and one has to become intelligent enough to discriminate between good and bad. The best association is the service of the devotees of the Lord, and by that association one can become the highest qualified man by the grace of the Lord's pure devotees.
SB Canto 3
The ingredients of matter are counted as twenty-three: the total material energy, false ego, sound, touch, form, taste, smell, earth, water, fire, air, sky, eye, ear, nose, tongue, skin, hand, leg, evacuating organ, genitals, speech and mind. All are combined together by the influence of time and are again dissolved in the course of time. Time, therefore, is the energy of the Lord and acts in her own way by the direction of the Lord. This energy is called Kālī and is represented by the dark destructive goddess generally worshiped by persons influenced by the mode of darkness or ignorance in material existence. In the Vedic hymn this process is described as mūla-prakṛtir avikṛtir mahadādyāḥ prakṛti-vikṛtayaḥ sapta ṣoḍaśakas tu vikāro na prakṛtir na vikṛtiḥ puruṣaḥ. The energy which acts as material nature in a combination of twenty-three ingredients is not the final source of creation. The Lord enters into the elements and applies His energy, called Kālī. In all other Vedic scriptures the same principle is accepted.
At the end of the day, under the insignificant portion of the mode of darkness, the powerful manifestation of the universe merges in the darkness of night. By the influence of eternal time, the innumerable living entities remain merged in that dissolution, and everything is silent.
Devotional service executed by a person who is envious, proud, violent and angry, and who is a separatist, is considered to be in the mode of darkness.
SB Canto 4
Those who do not regularly bathe are supposed to be in association with ghosts and crazy creatures. Lord Śiva appeared to be like that, but his name, Śiva, is actually fitting, for he is very kind to persons who are in the darkness of the mode of ignorance, such as unclean drunkards who do not regularly bathe. Lord Śiva is so kind that he gives shelter to such creatures and gradually elevates them to spiritual consciousness. Although it is very difficult to raise such creatures to spiritual understanding, Lord Śiva takes charge of them, and therefore, as stated in the Vedas, Lord Śiva is all-auspicious. Thus by his association even such fallen souls can be elevated. Sometimes it is seen that great personalities meet with fallen souls, not for any personal interest but for the benefit of those souls. In the creation of the Lord there are different kinds of living creatures. Some of them are in the mode of goodness, some are in the mode of passion, and some are in the mode of ignorance. Lord Viṣṇu takes charge of persons who are advanced Kṛṣṇa conscious Vaiṣṇavas, and Lord Brahmā takes charge of persons who are very much attached to material activities, but Lord Śiva is so kind that he takes charge of persons who are in gross ignorance and whose behavior is lower that that of the animals. Therefore Lord Śiva is especially called auspicious.
Those who are situated in the mode of goodness act piously according to Vedic injunctions. Thus they are elevated to the higher planetary systems where the demigods live. Those who are influenced by the mode of passion engage in various types of productive activities in the planetary systems where human beings live. Similarly, those influenced by the mode of darkness are subjected to various types of misery and live in the animal kingdom.
SB Canto 5
SB Canto 6
Śukadeva Gosvāmī, the son of Vedavyāsa, answered: My dear King, since acts meant to neutralize impious actions are also fruitive, they will not release one from the tendency to act fruitively. Persons who subject themselves to the rules and regulations of atonement are not at all intelligent. Indeed, they are in the mode of darkness. Unless one is freed from the mode of ignorance, trying to counteract one action through another is useless because this will not uproot one's desires. Thus even though one may superficially seem pious, he will undoubtedly be prone to act impiously. Therefore real atonement is enlightenment in perfect knowledge, Vedānta, by which one understands the Supreme Absolute Truth.
SB Canto 7
The Lord is situated transcendentally, in pure goodness. The material world is generally controlled by tamo-guṇa, the quality of ignorance, but the spiritual world, because of the presence of the Lord and His effulgence, is free from all contamination by darkness, passion or contaminated goodness. Although there is a tinge of goodness in this material world in terms of the brahminical qualifications, such qualifications sometimes become invisible because of the strong prevalence of the modes of passion and ignorance. But because the Lord is always transcendentally situated, the material modes of passion and ignorance cannot touch Him. Whenever the Lord is present, there cannot be any darkness from the mode of ignorance.
SB Canto 8
There are undoubtedly different planetary systems for different persons. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (14.18), ūrdhvaṁ gacchanti sattva-sthāḥ: persons in the mode of goodness can go to the upper planets. Those in the modes of darkness and passion, however, are not allowed to enter the higher planets. The word divam refers to the higher planetary system known as Svargaloka. Indra, King of the higher planetary system, has the power to push down any conditioned soul attempting to go from the lower to the higher planets without proper qualifications. The modern attempt to go to the moon is also an attempt by inferior men to go to Svargaloka by artificial, mechanical means. This attempt cannot be successful. From this statement of Indra it appears that anyone attempting to go to the higher planetary systems by mechanical means, which are here called māyā, is condemned to go the hellish planets in the lower portion of the universe. To go to the higher planetary system, one needs sufficient good qualities. A sinful person situated in the mode of ignorance and addicted to drinking, meat-eating and illicit sex will never enter the higher planets by mechanical means.
SB Canto 9
Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: Mahārāja Ambarīṣa, the most fortunate personality, achieved the rule of the entire world, consisting of seven islands, and achieved inexhaustible, unlimited opulence and prosperity on earth. Although such a position is rarely obtained, Mahārāja Ambarīṣa did not care for it at all, for he knew very well that all such opulence is material. Like that which is imagined in a dream, such opulence will ultimately be destroyed. The King knew that any nondevotee who attains such opulence merges increasingly into material nature's mode of darkness.
In the arena of the sacrifice performed by Viśvāmitra, Lord Rāmacandra, the King of Ayodhyā, killed many demons, Rākṣasas and uncivilized men who wandered at night in the mode of darkness. May Lord Rāmacandra, who killed these demons in the presence of Lakṣmaṇa, be kind enough to give us protection.
SB Cantos 10.14 to 12 (Translations Only)
In this world the mode of goodness is recognized as knowledge, the mode of passion as fruitive work, and the mode of darkness as ignorance. Time is perceived as the agitated interaction of the material modes, and the totality of functional propensity is embodied by the primeval sūtra, or mahat-tattva.
Although an incarnation of the material energy, Lord Brahmā is nonetheless the director of the material mode of passion. Similarly, Lord Śiva, although simultaneously one with and different from Lord Kṛṣṇa, is still the incarnation of the mode of darkness. However, Lord Viṣṇu is Kṛṣṇa's personal expansion; therefore He is the director of the mode of goodness and is always transcendentally situated, beyond the jurisdiction of the modes of material nature. Lord Viṣṇu is the original personal expansion of Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa is the original source of all incarnations. As far as power is concerned, Lord Viṣṇu is as powerful as Lord Kṛṣṇa because He possesses all the opulences.
Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead
The great sage Nārada thereafter thought that it was his duty to put those demigods into a condition where they could not be falsely proud of their material opulence and prestige. Nārada was compassionate and wanted to save them from their fallen life. They were in the mode of darkness, and being therefore unable to control their senses, they were addicted to sex life. It was the duty of a saintly person like Nārada to save them from their abominable condition. In animal life, the animal has no sense to understand that he is naked. But Kuvera was the treasurer of the demigods, a very responsible man, and Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva were two of his sons. And yet they became so animalistic and irresponsible that they could not understand, due to intoxication, that they were naked. To cover the lower part of the body is a principle of human civilization, and when men or women forget this principle, they become no better than animals. Nārada therefore thought that the best punishment for them was to make them immovable living entities, or trees. Trees are, by nature's laws, immovable. Although trees are covered by the mode of ignorance, they cannot do harm. The great sage Nārada thought it fitting that, although the brothers would be punished to become trees, by his mercy they would continue to keep their memory and be able to know why they were being punished. After changing the body, a living entity generally forgets his previous life, but in special cases, by the grace of the Lord, as with Nalakūvara and Maṇigrīva, one can remember.
Kṛṣṇa then spoke to His elder brother Balarāma as follows: “My dear brother, You are superior to all of us, and Your lotus feet are worshiped by the demigods. Just see how these trees, full with fruits and flowers, have bent down to worship Your lotus feet. It appears that they are trying to get out of the darkness that has obliged them to accept the form of trees. Actually, the trees born in the land of Vṛndāvana are not ordinary living entities. Having held the impersonal point of view in their past lives, they have been put into this stationary condition of life, but now they have the opportunity of seeing You in Vṛndāvana, and they are praying for further advancement in spiritual life through Your personal association. Generally, living entities in the mode of darkness obtain the bodies of trees. The impersonalist philosophers are in that darkness, but they eradicate it by taking full advantage of Your presence. I think the drones that are buzzing all around You must have been Your devotees in their past lives. They cannot leave Your company because no one can be a better, more affectionate master than You. You are the supreme and original Personality of Godhead, and the drones are just trying to spread Your glories by chanting at every moment. I think some of them must be great sages, devotees of Your Lordship, and they are disguising themselves in the form of drones because they are unable to give up Your company even for a moment. My dear brother, You are the supreme worshipable Godhead. Just see how the peacocks are dancing before You in great ecstasy. The deer, whose behavior is just like that of the gopīs, are welcoming You with the same affection. And the cuckoos who are residing in this forest are welcoming You with their joyful, sweet cries because they consider that Your appearance in their home is so auspicious. Even though they are trees and animals, these residents of Vṛndāvana are glorifying You. They are prepared to welcome You to the best of their ability, as is the practice of great souls in receiving another great soul at home. As for the land, it is so pious and fortunate because the footprints of Your lotus feet are marking its body.
Message of Godhead
The qualifications of the various orders of the caste system are enumerated in Bhagavad-gītā, and here we shall touch on them briefly. The brāhmaṇas are the highest social order, and they imbibe the modes of goodness and are engaged in the activities of equality, restraint, and forgiveness. The kṣatriyas are the second-highest social order, and they imbibe the qualities of creative passion and are engaged in the activities of public leadership as executive heads of different political and social bodies. The vaiśyas are the third social order. They imbibe mixed qualities, namely creative passion as well as the darkness of ignorance, and generally they are engaged as farmers and merchants. The śūdras are the lowest social order, inasmuch as they imbibe the modes of darkness, or ignorance, and generally take up the service of the other three social orders. As a class, the śūdras are servitors of the whole mundane social body. In the present age of darkness, which is known as the Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel, hypocrisy, and ignorance, virtually everyone is born a śūdra.
A learned and gentle brahmaṇa is the embodiment of nature's mode of goodness. Among the beasts, the cow is the embodiment of this same mode of goodness. The elephant and the lion are embodiments of the passionate mode of nature, while the dog and the caṇḍāla (dog-eater) are the embodiments of nature's mode of darkness, or ignorance. However, instead of focusing on the various external tabernacles of these living entities (their embodiments under various modes of nature), with his absolute vision the karma-yogī penetrates to the spirit which is embodied therein. And because this infinitesimal spirit emanates from the infinite Supreme Spirit, the karma-yogī in the highest state can observe everyone and everything with equanimity. Such a karma-yogī views everything in relation to the Absolute, and therefore he engages everything in the transcendental service of the Absolute. He observes all living entities as so many transcendental servitors of the absolute Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. His perfect spiritual vision cannot but penetrate the encagement of every material body, just as a red-hot iron cannot but burn everything that it contacts. Thus, the karma-yogī sets an example of transcendental character, by engaging everyone and everything in the transcendental service of the Personality of Godhead.
Bhagavad-gita As It Is Lectures
If you keep yourself in sattva-guṇa, or in the modes of goodness, you are promoted to the higher planetary system. Even to the topmost planetary system. That is called ūrdhvaṁ gacchanti sattva-sthāḥ. And if you keep yourself in the modes of passion, you shall remain within the middle planetary system. This is middle planetary system. This earthly planet, it is called Bhūrloka. Then, above this, there is Bhuvarloka. Then, above that, Svargaloka. That is heavenly planets. The heavenly planets begins from the moon planet. Jaghanya-guṇa-vṛtti-sthā adho gacchanti tāmasāḥ. And those who are in the modes of darkness, they go down, down, down. The animal life is also amongst the down, I mean to say, modes of life. So this human form of life is a chance to make our choice where we shall go next, in the higher or in the lower, or we shall remain here. So how to go to the higher planetary system, that is also mentioned. Yānti deva-vratā devān.
Now, one may question, "Then if You are particularly—You are Personality of Godhead, Supreme God—You are speaking that You are sound, You are this light, You are this praṇava, You are bīja, You are also kāma, so many things. So do You mean to say that You are simply in goodness? And what about the other things?" Because there are three qualities of the material world: the modes of goodness and the modes of passion and the modes of darkness. Now, so far Kṛṣṇa has described Himself, that any good thing... Just like sex life in marriage is a good. "That's all right. You are. What about other things?" Then Kṛṣṇa replies. He automatically says that ye caiva sāttvikā bhāvā rājasās tāmasāś ca ye.
Nowadays, because people are becoming more and more in the modes of darkness, they are eating so many abominable things. And prakṛti also, I mean to say, minimizing the supply of sāttvika food. Just like nowadays it has become scarcity of grains, of milk, of sugar. It is practical experience. Because people are becoming more and more in the modes of ignorance, therefore the foodstuffs... These foodstuffs are in the modes of goodness. Just like Kṛṣṇa wants, patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyā prayacchati (BG 9.26). Kṛṣṇa does not say, "Give me meat and drinking wine." Kṛṣṇa can eat everything. He is omnipotent. But He does not say that "You give me anything and everything." No. He specifically mentions, patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyā prayacchati. These things are the foodstuffs in goodness: rice, ḍāl, wheat, that means grains. Then sugar, fruits, vegetables, milk products. These foods are in the goodness. Similarly there are foods, very chili, very hot, these are in the passion. And similarly in ignorance also, there are many foods, stale food, meat, these are in the ignorance.
The material nature is working in three modes: goodness, passion and ignorance. Now, ignorance is hopeless life. Passion is too much materialistic. Passion means, one who is influenced by the modes of passion, he wants, he wants this false enjoyment. Although... Because he does not know, he wants to squeeze out the energy of the body to enjoy this matter. That is called modes of passion. And modes of ignorance, they have neither passion nor goodness in the modes of darkness of life. And mode of, modes of goodness is that in that position we can understand, at least theoretically, "What I am, what is this world, what is God, what is our interrelation?" This is the, I mean, stage of the modes of goodness. So by hearing kṛṣṇa-kathā, you will be freed from the two stages of ignorance and passion. You'll be situated in the modes of goodness. At least, you'll have the real knowledge, "What I am." Because in the ignorance... Just like animals... Animals, you see, the animal's life is full of suffering. But still, the animal does not know that he's suffering. Or take the case of a hog. Of course, here in your New York City, no hog is seen, but in village, in India, not only villages, sometimes in towns, we see the hog. Oh, how much miserable life they are, living in a filthy place, eating stools, and always unclean, and anyone sees hog and "Unhh! Nasty." But he, the hog, does not know that he's nasty condition. He's very jolly. (laughs) He's very jolly. The person who's in the upper status of life, he can see that "Oh, this is very nasty life!" The hog is very happy by eating stools and having sex intercourse with the she-hog constantly. Oh, it is getting fat, getting... The hog gets very... Too soon, they become very fatty. Because that spirit of enjoyment is there although the nasty enjoyment... (break)
The Śukadeva Gosvāmī said, "O son of Vedavyasa..." The Śukadeva Gosvāmī, the son of Vedavyasa... Śukadeva Gosvāmī is the son of Vyāsadeva. He answered, "My dear king, since acts meant to neutralize impious action are also fruitive, they will not relieve one from the tendency to act fruitively. Persons who subject themselves to the rules and regulation of atonement are not at all intelligent. Indeed, they are in the mode of darkness. Unless is freed from the mode of ignorance, trying to counteract one action through another is useless because this will not uproot one's desire. Thus, even though one may superficially seem pious, he will undoubtedly be prone to act impiously. Therefore real atonement is enlightenment in perfect knowledge, Vedānta, by which one understands the Supreme Absolute Truth." In this verse there is one particular word, vimarśanam. The meaning of this vimarśanam: "full knowledge of Vedānta."
So this is the age of Kali, and we are in darkness, and a mode of life just like animals. So this is our position. But the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, He is sympathetic. He comes, therefore. He comes... He came in the Dvāpara-yuga, by the end of Dvāpara-yuga, and He left behind Him this Bhagavad-gītā, being merciful upon these conditioned soul, that "You make your life perfect by reading this Bhagavad-gītā. I am leaving behind him. Arjuna is My friend." So in the way of questions or answers and in the way of Arjuna's falling in difficulty... Arjuna was not difficulty. He is personal friend of Kṛṣṇa. But in order to derive the instruction of Bhagavad-gītā, he showed himself as in ignorance. The benefit is our, that we have got this Bhagavad-gītā. But still, we are so fallen. Because Kṛṣṇa said that sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja, therefore people misunderstood. Again Kṛṣṇa came in this Kali-yuga as Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Kṛṣṇāya kṛṣṇa-caitanya nāmne. The Rūpa Gosvāmī, he prayed to Caitanya Mahāprabhu, namo mahā-vadānyāya. Kṛṣṇa came. That's all right. But He was not so liberal. He wanted first of all surrender.
If you keep yourself in sattva-guṇa, or in the modes of goodness, you are promoted to the higher planetary system, even to the topmost planetary system. That is called ūrdhvaṁ gacchanti sattva-sthā (BG 14.18). And if you keep yourself in the modes of passion, you shall remain within the middle planetary system. This is middle planetary system. This earthly planet, it is called Bhurloka. Then above this there is Bhuvarloka. Then above that, Svarloka. That is heavenly planet. The heavenly planets begins from the moon planet. And... So Jaghanya-guṇa-vṛtti-sthā adho gacchanti tāmasāḥ. And those who are in the modes of darkness, they go down, down, down. The animal life is also amongst the down, I mean to say, modes of life. So this human form of life is a chance to make our choice where we shall go next, in the higher or in the lower, or we shall remain here. So how to go to the higher planetary system, that is also mentioned. Yānti deva-vratā devān.
Your report on the progress of Srimad-Bhagavatam, first four cantos, is very much encouraging, so continue this work very seriously. I have again begun translating work and have so far sent Satsvarupa Prabhu three tapes from 4th Canto, 8th chapter, and will be sending many more.
So far your question, the synonyms are as follows:
sattvam—the mode of goodness
rajas—the mode of passion
tamas—the mode of darkness
narakah—those who are suffering the hellish condition of life
TRANSLATION: According to the different modes of material nature, the mode of goodness, the mode of passion and the mode of darkness, there are different living creatures known as the demigod, the human being, and the hellish living entity.
Very soon I am coming to N.Y. and if there are any other points, we can discuss them at that time.