Influence of the Modes

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.13.07 - Influence of the Modes (download mp3)
by Mukunda Mala Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty

SB 11.13.7
venu-sangharsa-jo vahnir
 dagdhva samyati tad-vanam
evam guna-vyatyaya-jo
 dehah samyati tat-kriyah

In a bamboo forest the wind sometimes rubs the bamboo stalks together, and such friction generates a blazing fire that consumes the very source of its birth, the bamboo forest. Thus, the fire is automatically calmed by its own action. Similarly, by the competition and interaction of the material modes of nature, the subtle and gross material bodies are generated. If one uses his mind and body to cultivate knowledge, then such enlightenment destroys the influence of the modes of nature that generated one’s body. Thus, like the fire, the body and mind are pacified by their own actions in destroying the source of their birth.

The word guna-vyatyaya-jah is significant in this verse. Vyatyaya indicates change or inversion in the normal order of things. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura has described the concept of vyatyaya by giving the Sanskrit synonym vaisamya, which indicates inequality or disproportionate diversity. Thus, it is understood by the term guna-vyatyaya-jah that the body is generated by the unstable relationships of the three modes of material nature, which exist everywhere in constantly changing proportions. There is constant strife among the modes of nature. A good person is sometimes torn by passion, and a passionate person sometimes wants to give up everything and rest. An ignorant person may sometimes become disgusted with his depraved life, and a passionate person may sometimes indulge in bad habits in the mode of ignorance. Due to the interactive conflict of the modes of nature, one wanders throughout material nature creating one body after another by one’s own work, karma. As it is said, variety is the mother of enjoyment, and the variety of material modes gives hope to the conditioned souls that by changing their material situation their unhappiness and frustration can be turned into happiness and satisfaction. But even if one acquires relative material happiness, that will soon be disturbed by the inevitable flux of the material modes.

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