The mode of goodness stands above the modes of passion and ignorance. Under the influence of this mode, we deal with things in clean, truthful, disciplined and kind ways. This article offers nine ways to rise above even goodness by connecting such principles to the Absolute Truth.The mode of goodness stands above the modes of passion and ignorance. Under the influence of this mode, we deal with things in clean, truthful, disciplined and kind ways. This article offers nine ways to rise above even goodness by connecting such principles to the Absolute Truth.
If It Ain’t Broke, Why Fix It?
Goodness is like healthiness. Once you’re healthy, you can do countless personally fulfilling things, help others, et cetera. But just as health is not everything, neither is the mode of goodness complete by itself. In Bhagavad-gita 14.6, happiness in goodness is described: O Arjuna, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating, and it frees one from illness. Those situated in that mode become conditioned by a sense of happiness and knowledge. In his commentary to this verse, Srila Prabhupada identifies a few challenges posed by this mode. Here’s an excerpt:
“The difficulty here is that when a living entity is situated in the mode of goodness he becomes conditioned to feel that he is advanced in knowledge and is better than others. In this way he becomes conditioned. … as long as they have an attraction for working in [the mode of goodness], they have to take some type of body in the modes of nature… But, due to the illusion of the material energy, one thinks that that sort of life is pleasant.”
As long as we’re under the influence of any mode of nature, be it goodness, passion or ignorance, our activities produce reactions, or karma. This results in reincarnation. The soul is eternal, and can only be truly happy when liberated at last from temporary bodies. Happiness is the goal of life, but complete happiness comes in relationship with our common source, the Absolute Truth, God. The ancient paths of yoga aim at reviving that relationship. Bhakti-yoga, or approaching God through devotion involves a nine-fold method for success:
sravanam kirtanam vishnoh smaranam pada-sevanam archanam vandanam dasyam sakhyam atma-nivedanam
The following nine ways to rise above the mode of goodness all work by helping us reconnect with the Absolute Truth, referred to in this verse by the name Vishnu:
1. Sravanam — Hearing
The Vedas are full of descriptions of the Absolute Truth, presented in three primary ways.
- The impersonal feature
- The form of the Supersoul in the heart, and
- The personal form of God, which is the origin of all.
Hearing about each of these levels of the Absolute Truth liberates us personally.
2. Kirtanam — Spreading the Fame
After hearing about the Absolute Truth from the Vedas, we can glorify the names, appearances, qualities and adventures of God. This glorification can be in the form of speech, quiet recitation or even musical performance, called kirtan. These efforts of mercy can liberate the masses.
3. Smaranam — Remembering
The Absolute Truth is known as Brahman which means the most expansive. Because it is everywhere, all we experience is related to it. Reflecting on and remembering how the world around us relates to God gives our creativity and intelligence unlimited scope for divine engagement.
4. Pada-sevanam — Serving the Feet
The feet are literally the lowest part of the body. While “serving the feet” can indicate service to the actual feet of God, it also means offering the simplest and least prestigious of services. In a mood receptive to grace, this practice helps free our minds from arrogant interior monologues.
5. Archanam — Formally Worshiping
Formal worship of a picture or Deity form of the Lord engages the full array of beauty at our disposal in celebration of the Absolute Truth. Colors, flavors, perfumes, music and more combine, choreographed in a daily schedule, to provide spiritual structure for our lives. After all, the best way to learn is by repetition.
6. Vandanam — Praying and Praising
Prayers are unique to each individual soul; however, there is also a common structure to many famous prayers. First there is honest praise, followed by a request for the most exalted of aspirations. No matter the content, prayer is an instant link with God: any place, any time.
7. Dasyam — Offering Service
Volunteering our abilities in service to the Absolute Truth is worth more than all the wealth ever created. Money can’t buy time. By assisting the servants of God in enhancing their own offerings, we are effectively augmenting their personal time, and this service is often more precious than any offering we might make to the Lord on our own. As the saying goes, “Love me, love my dog.” Such servants can be compared to loyal, faithful dogs of God.
8. Sakhyam — Befriending
God is the best friend of every living entity. Befriending the Absolute Truth involves acknowledging that kindness, and giving back in gratitude. Friends are there for one another no matter what. It’s up to us to see how we can be there for the Absolute Truth, rain or shine.
9. Atma-nivedanam — Giving Oneself
Self-giving (body, mind and words) involves sacrificing everything we have, no matter the difficulty. Although on the surface, each of these processes look different, as we look deeper, it’s clear that they are all equally spiritual. No one process is better than any of the others.
Something For Everyone
Approaching the Absolute Truth in devotion, as expressed through one or more of these nine processes is the path of bhakti-yoga. No matter our background, we all have devotion to offer. That’s why devotional yoga is the most universal process to rise above the mode of goodness:
yat karoshi yad asnasi yaj juhoshi dadasi yat yat tapasyasi kaunteya tat kurushva mad-arpanam
Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that, O Kaunteya, as an offering to Me. (Bhagavad-gita 9.27)