6. Who Are You, Human? Part 4.

 Gunas – Three Qualities of Material Nature


(Artwork copyright Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International – www.krishna.com. Used with permission)

 The mechanism of reincarnation implies that even in this life, we are modelling our future incarnation by our thoughts, desires and actions.

 In order to determine the likely direction of reincarnation, that is, if we go up, down, or stay on the same level, it is necessary to understand such a concept as the guna, or quality of material nature.

The Vedas say that matter which affects the consciousness is multi dimensional. According to the Vedas, matter can be present in a combination of three qualities – goodness, passion and ignorance.

 Literally, the word guna – means “a rope.” Ropes are usually used to tie up the rebels. So the soul, having abused his freedom, goes to the place of minimum freedom – imprisonment, where material nature ties him up with unseen forces or gunas – ropes.

 Also the modes could be compared to filters, which conceal the consciousness of the soul to varying degrees. In the same way, modes could be compared with the three primary colors – yellow, red and blue, which are mixed to form all other colors. The gunas themselves are not visible, but the effect of their influence can be seen in the consciousness.

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 7.08.49 AM

For example, when the mode of goodness affects the consciousness, being the most light and transparent, it hides very little the quality of the soul.


Therefore, people, influenced by the mode of goodness are interested in spirituality, trying to understand the universal laws of life, seeking purpose and meaning in life. They love to learn and explore the world. They are guided by high moral principles and exhibit qualities such as responsibility, discipline, cleanliness, honesty, gentleness and unselfishness. In their lives, they are moved by a sense of duty.


The mode of passion is a more dense coating of consciousness, and thus people under the influence of this mode are much less interested in spiritual reality, and their energy is more focused on matter.

Even if they turn to God, they ask Him for only material things such as health, prosperity and success. These people are energetic, ambitious, creative, and have lots of plans for the future.

They are movers of material progress. They are very happy if they are successful and very upset if fail. For the momentary benefit they are willing to compromise their conscience or the law. Their main driving factor is a selfish desire.


Under the influence of the mode of ignorance people manifest such qualities as laziness, passivity and apathy. These people often lead a sedentary lifestyle. They sleep more than 8 hours a day, barely awake, and hardly motivated. They are often late. It is difficult for them to start their own business, it is easier to follow someone else than take the initiative. They are addicted to intoxication such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and it is very difficult for them to give up these habits. They are always dissatisfied with something, like to criticize others and tend to shift responsibility to others’ shoulders. They are prone to idleness and a parasitic lifestyle.

A person in the mode of goodness is more interested in self improvement, the person in the mode of passion is more interested in external activity, and he is motivated by a desire to change the world.

A person under the influence of the mode of ignorance is not attracted by any activity, neither internal nor external. He prefers idleness and dalliance. He also tends to destroy everything, starting with his health, and ending with the environment. He gets pleasure from abusive, and other destructive activities.

Naturally, in its pure form, these gunas are found very rarely. In most cases, these modes are mixed in different proportions and provide a variety of human natures.

These modes are dynamic and that’s why a person can change, deliberately increasing an influence of different modes in his life.

Sometimes a person degrades, and sometimes, taking advantage of the knowledge, will-power and freedom of choice, he rises to a qualitatively higher level of life.

These three Gunas, or forces of nature, give rise to three main states of consciousness, which a living entity may remain in.

Under the influence of ignorance, consciousness manifests a condition called sleep without dreams. It means that a person is not aware of his existence. A human may remain only for a short period of time in such a state. Only the simplest living organisms can live in this state for a long time.

Under the influence of the mode of passion, a consciousness manifests a condition called “sleep with dreaming.” It means that we dream that we are someone else rather than whom we are in reality.

This state of consciousness corresponds to the position of most people. They are eternal souls, but under the influence of the mode of passion it seems to them that they are temporary bodies. Mistaking oneself with the body is the same as to confuse oneself with a suit one wears, or a car one drives.

Under the influence of the mode of goodness a consciousness is in a state of awakening. In this state, we begin to understand that we are something more than just a biological machine.

At this level, a person clearly sees the difference between a soul and a body, and begins to seek spiritual knowledge and the path of spiritual development.

However, even this state of awakening is not the highest, because if we wake up, but don’t get up, we can easily fall asleep again.

Thus the Vedas say that the purpose of human life is the elevation of consciousness over all three modes, including the mode of goodness.

To learn more about “Three modes of material nature” , go to http://mcknowledge.info/audio-2/lectures/

To be continued…


Comments are closed.