Chapter Four
The Three Modes Of Nature
February 28, 1972 (continued)
Bob: I have read that there are three gunas—passion, ignorance and goodness—in life. I was wishing that you would explain this somewhat, especially what is meant by the mode of ignorance and the mode of goodness.
Srila Prabhupada: In goodness you can understand things—knowledge. You can know that there is God, that this world was created by Him, and so many things, actual things—the sun is this, the moon is this—perfect knowledge. If one has some knowledge, even though it may not be perfect, that is goodness. And in passion one identifies with his material body and tries to gratify his senses. That is passion. And ignorance is animal life—in ignorance, one does not know what is God, how to become happy, why we are in this world. For example, if you take an animal to the slaughterhouse, it will go. This is ignorance. But a man will protest. If a goat is to be killed after five minutes but you give it a morsel of grass, it is happy because it is eating. Just like a child—even if you are planning to kill her or kill him, he is happy and laughs because he is innocent. That is ignorance.
Bob: Being in these modes determines your karma. Is that correct?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. According to the association of the modes of nature, your activities are being contaminated.
karanam guna-sango ’sya
sad-asad-yoni-janmasu
A man gets a higher birth or lower birth according to the association of the gunas, or the modes of nature.
Bob: So cheating and like that—what mode is that?
Srila Prabhupada: Cheating is mixed passion and ignorance. Suppose one man cheats another. That means he wants to obtain something; he is passionate. But if he commits murder, he does not know that he will have to suffer for it, so it is a mixture of passion and ignorance.
Bob: And what about when somebody helps another person?
Srila Prabhupada: That is goodness.
Bob: Why is that goodness? What intelligence is that? I mean—this represents knowledge of what? You said that goodness is when you have knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Bob: Intelligence.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Bob: So helping another person?
Srila Prabhupada: That means that he is ignorant and you are trying to enlighten him.
Bob: So giving intelligence...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is goodness.
Bob: And what about just giving assistance?
Srila Prabhupada: That is also goodness.
Bob: If a beggar has nothing and you give him alms...
Srila Prabhupada: So that may still be goodness. But in your Bowery Street, they give some charity, and immediately he purchases one bottle of wine and drinks and lies down flat. [All laugh.] So that is charity. But that is not goodness; that is ignorance.
Bob: Charity is ignorance?
Srila Prabhupada: There are three kinds of charities—good, passionate and ignorant. Goodness is giving charity where charity must be given. Just like this Krsna consciousness movement—if anyone gives charity to this movement, that is goodness because it is spreading God consciousness, Krsna consciousness. That is goodness. And if one gives charity for some return, that is passion. And if somebody gives in charity in an improper place and time, without respect and to an unworthy person, just like the Bowery man, that is ignorance. But Krsna says:
“All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” If Krsna takes, that is the perfection of charity. Or anyone who is a representative of Krsna—if he takes, that is perfection.
Bob: And what kind of charity is it when you give food to somebody who is hungry?
Srila Prabhupada: Well, that depends on the circumstances. For example, a doctor has forbidden his patient to take any solid food, and if the patient is asking, “Give me some solids,” and if you give him solid food in charity, then you are not doing good to him. That is ignorance.
Bob: Are the devotees beyond accumulating karma? These devotees—do they feel karma? Do they work in these modes? Are they in the mode of goodness?
Srila Prabhupada: They are above goodness! Suddha-sattva. The devotees are not in this material world. They are in the spiritual world. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita:
mam ca yo ’vyabhicarena
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa gunan samatityaitan
brahma-bhuyaya kalpate
[Bg. 14.26]
[“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.”] Devotees are neither in goodness, passion nor ignorance. They are transcendental to all these qualities.
Bob: A devotee who is very faithful reaches this stage?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Devotee... You can become a devotee as they have become. It is not difficult. Simply you have to engage yourself in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, that’s all.
Bob: I wish to gain more knowledge of God and be able to feel God’s presence more. The reason for this is because I feel life has little meaning without this.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes! If you miss this human form of life, then it is a great loss. That is a great chance given to the living entity to get out of the entanglement of material existence.
Bob: I feel thankful that I’ve been able to ask these questions...
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, you can learn more and more.
Bob: But I still have... my connections at home. Marriage is... I am engaged....
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. There are so many marriages. [He indicates Syamasundara.] He is married. Marriage is no barrier. I told you that there are four different orders of spiritual life—brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. So after brahmacari life, one can marry. That is not obligatory. One may remain naisthika-brahmacari for his whole life. But a brahmacari can marry. And after marriage, there is vanaprastha life. This means that one is a little aloof from family—the husband and wife live separately. At that time there is no sex life. Then when he is fully renounced, detached from family life, he takes sannyasa,
Bob: Does somebody forget his wife completely then?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. Forgetting is not very difficult, if you try to forget. Out of sight, out of mind. [All laugh.] Just as I have my wife, children, grandchildren—everything. But, out of sight, out of mind, that’s all. Therefore, vanaprastha, sannyasaeverything is nicely arranged by the Vedic system.

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