“Lust is actually the product of the mode of passion, and in the absence of satisfaction of lust, the same desire transforms into anger on the platform of ignorance.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.31.29 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
Which path is better? Try to satisfy every desire that you have. Every time that you want to eat, go for it. Every time you feel a little sleepy, lay down. Or should you impose some restriction? Have days set aside for austerity. Build up your tolerance to difficult situations. When you get angry, instead of acting on it, wait for it to subside. The way to make the proper assessment is to see which path brings progress towards the higher modes of life.
Three modes of nature govern behavior in the material world. To be material means to have one or some combination of these three modes. Goodness, passion and ignorance. We can think of them like three primary colors, which are the basis for all other colors. All bodies in this world consist of the three modes. Based on the type of body we get, we are more prone to certain behavior.
As an example, we see that people with a specific body coming from a specific region are better suited to play basketball. Not that other body types can’t play the game, but the skills required are found in greater abundance in a specific race. The same goes for long-distance running, swimming, gymnastics and so forth. The modes of nature dictate the potential for how well a particular body will do in a specific activity.
There is behavior to consider as well. Though the body type makes a person more prone to specific behaviors, in the end everything is a choice. As a child, I don’t know any better. I will eat pizza and ice cream for every meal if I can. I will grab every candy bar near the magazine rack in the supermarket. Unless someone tells me differently, my behavior will be similar to the animal.
The desire to enjoy the senses is known as lust. The Sanskrit word is kama, and it also translates to “desire.” This lust is part of the mode of passion. Typically, every human being falls into this mode at some point. The educational system in industrialized nations is concerned solely with the mode of passion. That is the basis for the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They are really asking, “How do you want to satisfy your lust, which is rooted in the mode of passion, when you are mature enough to act on it independently?”
Kama is a dangerous game, however. When lust is not satisfied, it turns into anger. Anger is part of the mode of ignorance, the one that dominates the animal community. When we look back on someone’s life, we don’t necessarily praise them for how well they ate. We don’t say, “You know, they got to eat doughnuts for breakfast. They went out to a buffet restaurant every night. They had so many partners in sex, even in old age.”
If we do praise someone, it is based on how well they controlled their lust. Restriction on sense gratification is not only what makes a person praiseworthy, but it leads to happiness as well. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that the activity which seems like poison in the beginning and nectar in the end is in the mode of goodness.
yat tad agre viṣam iva
tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam
“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.37)
We see examples of this in our own life. Studying is poison. So is waking up every morning to go to work. But completing the degree with outstanding marks is nectar. So is the paycheck used to pay for the house, the car, food, and objects of enjoyment. Lust itself is the drive to take something that looks like nectar now, but turns into poison later on.
The mode of goodness is the way to happiness. It is restriction on the senses for the purpose of advancing in consciousness. Those who follow the mode of goodness enjoy in the heavenly planets after death. They get rewarded for their pious behavior. Everyone wants the way they live to pay dividends in the end. The best reward comes from controlling lust.
tatra sattvaṁ nirmalatvāt
“O sinless one, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating, and it frees one from all sinful reactions. Those situated in that mode develop knowledge, but they become conditioned by the concept of happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.6)
Though the mode of goodness brings happiness, a person can get conditioned by it; spoiled in a sense. The mode of goodness is the platform from which a person can reach the height of an existence: pure goodness. This is known by such terms as Krishna consciousness, the taste of devotion, devotional service, and full surrender to the Divine. Pure goodness is above the three modes. It is like charging your entire body with the spiritual energy. Amazing things can happen when the material nature loses its influence. The yogis in devotion are an example of this, showing that the beginning of the march towards transcendence is the control of lust.
In mode of goodness desire steady,
For pure devotion platform ready.
Like the yogis practicing bhakti,
Example of real happiness to see.
Animals always senses gratifying,
Humans meant not for satisfying.
Like poison at first and then nectar to turn,
Control kama, from God real happiness earn.