The Three Modes
In Ayurveda,we learn about three modes of nature, also taught in the Bhagavad-gita. These three modes are sattva (goodness), raja (passion), and tama (ignorance). Although each individual may be born with a leaning towards living under one mode of nature, our daily lifestyle practices can greatly influence the modes we acquire, and we can gradually raise ourselves to a state of goodness, or degrade ourselves to a state of ignorance.
Examples of living in tama guna (ignorance) include oversleeping, laziness, dull mind, intoxication, inactivity, hatred, and violence. Foods in ignorance include meat, canned foods, leftovers, and old, stale foods. Tama guna is not a state of happiness except for the feeling one may experience at times that ignorance is bliss. A person in ignorance is literally in ignorance of one’s spiritual nature, and performs activities that are often harmful to one-self and others.
Raja guna, or passion, characterizes a majority of our modern day fast-paced city life. People in passion rush about, in a hurry to accomplish more and more, to earn more money, acquire more material possessions, and achieve material success. Foods in passion include spicy and fried foods, and sexual attraction is also usually in the mode of passion. In passion there is a feeling of happiness from chasing after material success, but also some misery accompanying the journey and hard struggle to get there, as well as disappointment when the pleasure ends, as material pleasure cannot last forever.
In goodness, one experiences a mental state like a calm lake. In passion there are many ripples in the lake of the mind, and in ignorance there is mud in the mind like at the bottom of the lake, but in sattva (goodness) the mind is peaceful and unagitated. Foods in goodness include milk, grains, wheat, rice, oats, nuts, fruits and vegetables. A vegetarian diet is in goodness. Activities in goodness are regulated and duty bound, without attachment to the result, and are done with attention, care, and consciousness of their effects on oneself, the environment, and other living beings. One in goodness can keep better health and experiences a state of inner peace. One in goodness is not striving for a more and more material gain, but rather lives a life of peaceful regulation, accepting what is necessary without being greedy for more.
Ultimately we want to transcend all three modes of nature and achieve spiritual bliss. Cultivating a genuine spiritual practice while working to keep good health can help one gradually achieve this state of being.