I was listening to a lecture by His Holiness Bhakti Vidyapurna Swami and he mentioned one very interesting concept. When we dwell in our past and lament all the things that have happened we take shelter of the mode of ignorance. When we dream about our future and imagine all the wonderful things that can happen we take shelter of the mode of passion, and only being in the present is governed by the mode of goodness.
It’s a very Buddhist approach to life, to live in the moment, but it has a solid foundation in shastra. Just look at descriptions of the modes of nature in Bhagavad Gita or elsewhere and it becomes very clear. Those who can’t let go of the past are unable to move on, they become lazy and inert. Their consciousness becomes filled with sorrow and regrets and their life becomes one long, uninterrupted suffering. I don’t know about people who dwell on happy memories, I guess their spell of ignorance is marginally better but because they still cannot move forward it would ultimately turn to suffering that even happy memories cannot diminish.
Those dreaming of their future are clearly guided by passion, there’s no need to explain it. It’s better than ignorance but because they put higher priority on things that don’t yet exist they tend to dismiss blessings they have in the present or offend somebody due to inattention. Like ignorance, passion blinds us to real life and so leads to suffering.
Now for the goodness – it implies having clear knowledge and awareness of the world around us, about mistakes of our past and about dangers of indulging our senses in dreams about future. People living in the present are not irresponsible towards their future, they know what they have to do to ensure their wellbeing but they are patient and they wait for the appropriate time to act. When that time comes they are not lazy either, they perform their duties and feel very good about it. People under passion or ignorance always do something either too early or too late, never what they actually have to be doing.
What about Krishna consciousness, can we do one better over Buddhists? We sure can. Under the influence of vishuddha sattva, transcendental goodness we are aware not only of our place and duties in this world, we are aware of our spiritual position and spiritual responsibilities, too. In fact we stop caring about the fate of our bodies here and fully absorb ourselves in devotional service.
We do not dwell in the past, we do not dream of the future, and we hardly care about present, too. We know that the Supersoul and the material nature will take care of everything, and we know that our material lives ultimately have no value whatsoever, whether they bring happiness or distress.
People in the mode of goodness are still concerned with being happy here, devotees, on the other hand are only aware of Krishna’s happiness. They outsource knowledge to those who have to act on it – the material nature and the Supersoul. Think of it – why should we be aware of everything around us, physically and on the time line? We can perfectly act on a need to know basis and rely on Krishna completely – that would be a sign of mature faith.
The practical application of this is self-evident – do not give in to urges to dream or to replay past events over and over. Even on a conditional platform we should always seek shelter of goodness, we can’t go wrong there. Eventually we might also learn to rely on Krishna to provide us with everything we need to know, we don’t have to make separate efforts. He, after all, has promised to supply us with intelligence already, we just have to learn to trust Him.
Then our human form of life would bring ultimate perfection.