According to Ayurveda and the Bhagavad Gita, there are three modes of nature that we can live under – goodness (sattva), passion (raja), or ignorance (tama). Ultimately, a spiritual practitioner aims to transcend all three modes and live life acting as pure spirit, beyond the limitations of the body and mind, but until we reach that point, living in goodness is the road that can lead us best towards the ultimate spiritual destination.
Whether we live in goodness, passion, or ignorance (or any combination of these three modes) is determined by our day to day activities such as the foods we eat, the schedules we keep, and even by our thoughts and attitudes. Following, will be a description of one living in goodness. The more we choose activities in goodness, the more we will feel positive results such as a peaceful mind, better health and energy, a sense of happiness, knowledge, and more clarity of thought.
Foods in goodness are wholesome, fresh, and acquired by nonviolent means . They include whole grains, milk products (from well cared for cows), fresh fruits and vegetables (raw or cooked), nuts, seeds, legumes, and oils. Garlic and onions, as well as some spices like chili, although natural and fresh, are considered in the mode of passion, not goodness, because their strong flavor/spiciness bring agitation rather than tranquility to the mind. Leftovers, even if consisting of vegetables, whole grains, and beans for example, are considered to be in the mode of ignorance, as they are dull and lacking in energy. Freshly cooked food, on the other hand, gives life and energy to the body and mind, and helps keep one in a state of goodness.
The daily schedule and routines of one living in goodness are regulated. Those in goodness do not do whatever they want whenever they want, but in general, aim to wake and take rest at around the same time each day, and eat, work, and exercise at around the same times each day. Having a daily routine helps keep the body healthy and the mind peaceful. Regulation also helps one to be disciplined, and discipline is an essential ingredient of a spiritual practice.
A person in goodness performs work simply because it ought to be done, without being affected by outside conditions. For example, a person in passion or ignorance might want to stay in bed under the warm covers in the morning when it is cold outside, whereas a person in goodness will get up at their regulated time regardless of the weather, and carry on with daily activities. A person in goodness is determined and disciplined, and acts out of duty without attachment to the result.
The work and recreation of one in goodness are healthy, and help to maintain, rather than destroy the body and mind (as some activities in passion and ignorance actually bring harm to oneself such as drug use, overwork, lethargy, etc). A person in goodness maintains a healthy balance between work and recreation, working enough to honestly support oneself (in a profession that does not cause harm to others, and possibly in a profession that gives service to others), and takes time to exercise and socialize moderately. Recreation in goodness includes swimming, yoga, hiking, walking, reading and other intellectual pursuits, meditation, and pursuing a hobby or skill such as art or music. Any of these activities could be done in passion however, and become harmful to one self rather than helpful. A person could take an intense two hour yoga class every day for example, without taking time to let the body rest and recover. That would be in passion rather than goodness. Watching a wisdom-provoking movie could be done in goodness, whereas sitting in front of the TV all day could result in ignorance and lethargy. Overall, recreation in goodness is regulated, balanced, and brings life, energy, and health to the body and mind.
A person in goodness aims to live and speak in a manner that is beneficial to others, being honest, kind, compassionate, and generous. One in passion or ignorance might be greedy, selfish, angry, or hurtful to others.
Some activities in goodness may appear difficult at first, but they lead to long term and lasting happiness, whereas activities in passion are often highly pleasurable in the moment (sex, drugs, and rock and roll), but lead to future suffering and destruction of health over time. Modern society, for the most part, is highly passion driven, and focused on instant gratification of the senses in many ways. To counteract this passion, we have to strive extra conscientiously to work for goodness in our lives, putting aside immediate pleasure for longer term, inner satisfaction, peace, and happiness.
If your current lifestyle and habits are more passion or ignorance driven, fear not. You can gradually elevate yourself to goodness step by step. Start by incorporating a few activities in goodness into your daily routine – perhaps the foods you eat, or resisting the urge to get angry at the driver in the lane next to you, meditating, or going to sleep earlier and waking up at a regular time. You will start to feel the benefits of choosing such activities, and will naturally want to bring more goodness into your life. Once situated in goodness, due to the development of consequential qualifications (discipline, clear mind, focus, austerity, compassion, etc.), you will find transitioning to the spiritual plane very natural, which will elevate you to an even brighter future.
Put aside immediate gratification and choose the path in your best long term interest – choose goodness – you are worth it.