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Friday, July 31, 2015

String Theory

A subtle web of strands

String Theory

Bhagavad-Gita chapter 14

String theory model

  1. In physics, string theory is a theoretical framework in which the point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings. String theory describes how these strings propagate through space and interact with each other. According to Bhagavad-Gītā, the whole of material existence is tied together by a subtle web of strands, strings called gunas. 

The “modes” or “qualities” of material nature are defined further:

BG 14.6-9
तत्र सत्त्वं निर्मलत्वात् प्रकाशकम् अनामयम्
सुखसण्गेन बद्नाति ज्ञानसण्गेन चानघ
tatra sattvaṃ nirmalatvāt prakāśakam anāmayam
sukhasaṇgena badnāti jñānasaṇgena cānagha
रजो रागात्मकं विद्धि तृष्ण सण्ग समुध्बवम्
तद् निबध्नाति कौन्तेय कर्म सण्गेन देहिनम्
rajo rāgātmakaṃ viddhitṛṣṇa saṇga samudhbavam
tad nibadhnāti kaunteyakarma saṇgena dehinam
तमस् त्व् अज्ञानजं विद्धि मोहनं सर्वदेहिनाम्
प्रमादालस्यनिद्राभीस् तन् निबद्नाति भारत
tamas tv ajñānajaṃ viddhi mohanaṃ sarvadehinām
pramādālasyanidrābhīs tan nibadnāti bhārata

In terms of translations, both S. Radhakrishnan and Bhaktivedanta Swami define sattva, rajas, and tamas as “goodness,” “passion,” and “ignorance.” It's easy to frame "goodness" and "ignorance" in terms of "Good and Evil."  But it's not so black and white. Before jumping into "goodness" vs. "ignorance," with a bit of passion on the side, let's look at sattva, rajas and tamas from different points of view. 

It is important to understand the modes of nature properly, since we are told that these qualities bind us to this world. The Vedic analysis of the impulses or modes that govern our sojourn in this material world do not parallel exactly the Manichean version of a battle between good and evil. Rather they are like the psychic DNA from which the universe evolves.

The DNA double helix

It is the tendency of Western readers who are under the influence of Christianity to view Eastern philosophy through the lenses provided by the Catholic Church. Since the Church divides everything into sin and piety, the Western tendency is to jam the subtleties of Vedic  through into the same Procustean bed.

But it is worth taking a closer look at the definitions of these terms. The problem with defining sattva as goodness, is that goodness  in English means something very different from what is considered “sattvik” in the Vedic culture. In English we can speak of a “good” cigar, or a “good” steak. These things can hardly be called sattvika.


Kṛṣṇa says, “The quality of sattva is pure, (nirmala), it causes illumination and health.”

The word  Sattva  derives from sat,  existence, or reality. It refers to the aspect of material nature or prakṛti  associated with purity, virtue, cleanliness, wholesomeness, harmony. Kṛṣṇa here says that sattva-guna  is nirmala, spotless, uncontaminated, pure. The brahminical code which defines particular food as sattvika  follows Ayur-Vedic tradition; it is something like the Judaic tradition of what is considered “kosher.”  

While saints usually live their lives within the boundaries of what is sattvika,  Kṛṣṇa here warns us not to think of sattva-guna  as “liberating” in and of itself. A life of piety may condition us to happiness.

In a sense the world of birth and death “imprisons” the living entity. The goal of life, then, should not be to make a comfortable situation within the “prison” of this material world.
While a saint may live within the parameters of sattva-guna, following a so-called sattvik life does not make one a saint. Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna, “sattva binds one to this world through attachment to happiness and knowledge.”

Oddly the same piety which brings happiness facilitates our attachment to the world of exploitation.  Sattva-guna is not a liberating quality. Living in piety in sattva-guna  does not free one from ego. In fact, one may develop the ego of believing oneself superior to others. One living in sattva-guna may become attached to sattvik living: an aesthetically pleasing life with organic food, peaceful surroundings, noble discussions, and a life of knowledge. 

One who lives a sattvika life feels he knows more than others. He thinks himself better than others. He becomes conditioned to believe that he is more spiritually advanced. And yet this is rejected by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who says, kiba vipra kiba nyāsī śudra kene noi… “whether one is a saint or scholar, a swami or a brahmana, or even a śudra, a lower caste, has nothing to do with self-realization. One who is deep in the science of Kṛṣṇa is fit to be guru.” C.C.M.L. 8.128

Another version of the three modes is "harmony, mobility, and inertia."  In his purport, Bhaktivedanta Swami says, The living entities conditioned by material nature are of various types. One is happy, another is very active, and another is helpless. If we read harmonic for happy, mobile for active, and helpless for inertia  we get a greater sense of these terms.


For the same reasons that “goodness” while effective shorthand for sattva  doesn’t really convey a true meaning, “passion” for rajas,  is also ineffective. For within raja,  we also find the concepts of “motion,” “energy,” and “preservation.”

Kṛṣṇa explains that rajas has to do with rāga, attraction, craving, attraction. It binds the soul by attachment to “action.” So while sattva  binds the intellectual to this world of exploitation through curiosity, intelligent inquiry and fascination for satisfying questions, the impulse to action is  the binding factor of rajas.

It is important to mention that Kṛṣṇa is not advocating for “goodness” over “passion” as being ethically or morally superior. He is simply giving a description of the different psychological factors that bind us to the world of exploitation. Sattva refers more to intelligence, raja  to mind, and tama  to the purely physical. It is not that “intelligence” is morally superior to “mind” or that “mind” is morally superior to “body.” 

These are three factors that must be considered in an analysis of our conditioned experience in this world. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that throughout his instructions to Arjuna, Kṛṣṇa keeps telling him that the best solution is dedication, devotion, bhakti,  divine love.

Obviously the desire for “self-preservation,” coupled with “attachment,” rāga,  has another implication: sexual attachment or what Freud calls libido.

 You could think of Gandhi as being in the mode of goodness, and Tarzan in the mode of passion.

If sattva implies living in harmony with the universe, raja is the impulse not only towards action but towards sex and reproduction. Bhaktivedanta Swami comments, “The mode of passion is characterized by the attraction between man and woman. Woman has attraction for man, and man has attraction for woman.” Here, sex is not demonized as sin, but categorized as falling within the realm of raja-guna. Insofar as sexual impulse may blind one to an understanding of the self as nonmaterial, it binds the embodied soul fast to the illusory world of karma. And by this rajarshic impulse to action in the karmic  world one continues to suffer reactions in repeated birth and death.


Tamas is “darkness,” “inertia,” or “ignorance.” The influence of tamas is seen in negligence, indolence, sleep and delusion. It is important to remember here that the so-called “modes of nature,” are not active in and of themselves. 

The living entity falls under the sway of these modes according to its conditioning, but the modes of nature are not responsible for our actions. It is not accurate to believe that one is somehow forced to act by the influences of material nature. We alone are responsible for our actions. 

But just as we sometimes associate with friends who are “bad influences,” the gunas  influence our psychology in subtle ways. It is inaccurate to attribute a causal relationship between the modes of nature and our particular karmic situation, and yet by attachment to these “friends” the living entity gradually becomes enslaved by mundane sentiments based on knowledge and happiness,  sexual attachment and love, and even inertia and inaction.  Madness, psychosis, intoxication, addiction, and dementia are some of the psychological aspects of tamas.

Madness characterizes the mode called "tamas"
Any given life is normally an unusual mixture of these three elements. While it is unusual to find someone fully dedicated to intellectual pursuits and higher knowledge, it is rarer still to find any individual who is absolutely free from the sexual impulse, and impossible to find someone who never sleeps. As humans our lives our colored by different levels of sattva, rajas, and tamas.  The idea is to find a guiding light that can deliver us from these material influences. Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that this guiding light will be found in bhakti, or dedication, through which the baffling effect of the “modes of nature” may be transcended.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Una Bendicion

Se Concede una Bendición: La Ley del Karma
नारायणं नमस्कृत्य नरं चैव नरोत्तमम्
 देवीं सरस्वतीं चैव ततो जयम् उदीरयेत्

Una versión de
Michael Dolan, B.V. Mahāyogi
traducida en español por Teresa Loret de Mola, Tapanandini DD

Encantado ante el prospecto de que su sacrificio alcanzara su meta, el gran Janamejaya se sintió victorioso y dijo, “¡Oh muchacho brahmán!” Permite que te otorgue ahora un favor. Ya que eres un culto erudito encantador y con sabiduría superior a la de tu edad. Pide y tendrás tu deseo. Haré realidad tus sueños. Dime. ¿Qué quieres? ¿Una vaca? Dime. Le he ganado la batalla a Takshaka y te daré cualquier cosa que quieras para la buena fortuna.”


En ese momento, el niño brahmán Astika, el encantador sobrino de Vasuki, Astika el hijo de Jaratkaru, vio que Takshaka estaba a punto de car al fuego del sacrificio y dijo: “Oh Rey, tengo un deseo.”
“De qué se trata hijo mío. Dilo” dijo el Rey
Y Astika dijo, “Detén ahora este sacrificio.” Clamó tres veces hacia los cielos. “¡Alto! ¡Alto! ¡Alto!”

Ante esta orden, Takshaka quedó suspendido en el cielo, se detuvo su caída con el mantra místico y la bendición concedida a Astika por Janamejaya.  Ahí quedó flotando en el cielo justo encima del fuego del sacrificio.
Después Astika dijo, “¡Oh gran rey! Si quieres otorgarme una bendición acaba con este sacrificio y salva las vidas de las serpientes que aún quedan y las de sus familias.”

Ante esta solicitud, Janamejaya se sorprendió. Dijo: “¡Oh mi querido muchacho brahmán! No has entendido. Takshaka es mi enemigo. Este sacrificio se ha celebrado con el fin de destruirlo a él y a toda su especie. Él asesinó a mi padre. Pide otra cosa. Pídeme oro, plata, vacas, pero por favor no me pidas que detenga este sacrificio. He dado mi palabra de otorgarte cualquier bendición que desees. No desees esto. ¿Cómo puedes detener este sacrificio?”
Y el humilde brahmán Astika contestó, “No deseo ninguna de esas cosas. Yo soy un brahmán soy el hijo del gran sabio Jaratkaru, pero mi madre también es llamada Jaratkaru. Y ella ha nacido de los Nagas.”
Todos los presentes quedaron asombrados al saber que un miembro de la familia de las serpientes se había convertido en brahmán y que ahora estaba en la posición de tomar la bendición del rey de detener el gran Sacrificio de las Serpientes. La multitud calló y los brahmanes cesaron de entonar sus mantras.
“Por el bienestar de la familia de mi madre, quiero que termine este sacrificio.”
Y mientras la gran serpiente Takshaka flotaba suspendida sobre las flamas del fuego del sacrificio el gran rey Janamejaya le suplicó al niño que cambiara de opinión, pero Astika no se inmutó.

“Entiendo que estés preocupado por el bienestar de tu familia,” dijo el rey, “pero un rey ha de considerar leyes superiores, la ley del karma y el dharma. Ya que eres un brahmán,  haz de explicarme cómo detener este sacrificio sirve a las leyes del karma y el dharma. Si no puedes, entonces, ordenaré de inmediato al sacerdote que continúe con estos mantras y Takshaka será arrojado a las llamas.”

Ante esto, Astika dijo, “O justo, noble Janamejaya, hijo del gran Rey Parikṣit. Has hablado correctamente y de acuerdo con las escrituras. Deja que explique mi propósito íntimo. Tú eres descendiente del gran guerrero Arjuna. Su hijo Abhīmanyu engendró a Parikṣit tu padre con Uttara. Tu reino está destinado a establecer la paz en este mundo. Pero no puedes mantener la paz mientras continúas con las reacciones kármicas del pasado. Es verdad que Takshaka mató a tu padre, pero él únicamente vengaba un mal antiguo, cometido por tu familia, oh Rey.


“Hace mucho tiempo en los días anteriores a la guerra de Kurukṣetra, tu bisabuelo Arjuna y sus hermanos los Pāṇḍavas, encabezados por el Rey Yudhiṣthira se aproximaron al rey ciego de Hastinapura, Dhritarasthra  por su parte del reino. En ese entonces había una gran rivalidad entre los Hijos de Paṇḍu y los Hijos de Dhritarasthra. El envidioso Duryodhana y sus hermanos hicieron todo lo posible por matar a los Pāṇḍavas, usaron veneno, fuego y el exilio en vano. Por último los Kurus utilizaron la astucia y la intriga política. Otorgaron tierra a los Pāṇḍavas en el desierto y un bosque para construir ahí su propia ciudad y para que vivieran. El bosque era llamado Khandava. Como la mejor tierra estaba en el bosque, los Pāṇḍavas pensaron en limpiarlo. Y así, con la ayuda de Kṛṣṇa lo limpiaron quemándolo completamente.

El bosque no estaba deshabitado, sino que estaba habitado por muchas serpientes y animales, incluyendo nuestros antepasados, los abuelos Naga de la gente serpiente. Pero nadie sobrevivió al holocausto. Es bien sabido que Arjuna, el arquero poderoso, usó su funda inagotable para construir una jaula de flechas alrededor del bosque, Con la ayuda de Kṛṣṇa le prendieron fuego al bosque.

“En la gran conflagración todas las almas que habitaban el bosque se quemaron hasta la muerte. Arjuna y su fuego mataron ahí a toda criatura viviente. Nada escapó a estas llamas. Todos los habitantes del bosque rakshasas, yakshas, nagas, tigres, ososo, lobos, leones y serpientes que trataron de escapar del bosque encendido perecieron en el holocausto. Algunos miembros de mi familia, los nagas, lograron sobrevivir escondiéndose bajo tierra, pero al final se vieron obligados a abandonar el bosque Khandava y  a hallar refugio en otro sitio.

“En el terreno carbonizado que fuera hogar de mis antepasados Arjuna, junto con su hermano Yudhiṣthira y los otros Pāṇḍavas construyeron Indraprastha, la ciudad de leyenda sin paralelo. La magnífica Indraprastha era la envidia de príncipes y reyes. El salón de reuniones de Yudhiṣthira fue visitado por los dioses. Superaba hasta al propio palacio de Indra en belleza y gracia.

“Oh rey, esta ceremonia es inspirada en el odio y la venganza. Una ceremonia tal no podrá nunca satisfacer las leyes del dharma que están destinadas a restablecer la paz y la armonía. Pero si la venganza es un principio religioso, haz de saber que tu gran enemigo Takshaka está cosechando los frutos de las semilla de venganza que fue sembrada en Khandava-prastha, El gran Arjuna, tu abuelo, causó un terrible daño a todas las serpientes y a sus familias al quemarlas en el holocausto de Khandava-prastha. En ese entones fuimos quemados por tu familia. De nuevo la familia de los Pāṇḍavas se ocupa en quemar a los Nagas para vengar la muerte de tu padre.”

Toda acción tiene una reacción igual y opuesta. Esta es la ley del karma. Si continúas con el sacrificio sólo crearás más reacciones terribles para el futuro. ¿Dónde terminará? Pero si concluyes ahora el sacrificio, serás conocido como el hombre de misericordia quien respeta el clamor de un humilde e indefenso brahmán. 

Si concluyes el sacrificio ahora, se te conocerá como quien puso fin a una plaga de serpientes venenosas que aterrorizaban a la tierra, pero que salvó la vida a las familias Naga cuyos antepasados incluyen al gran Vasuki quien ayudó a los dioses y demonios a batir el océano de néctar y otorgar inmortalidad a los dioses. Redime a Takshaka y él y su familia serán tus aliados, ahora y en las futuras generaciones. Redime a Vasuki y estará endeudado, como yo ahora, porque yo también soy miembro de los nagas. Pon un alto a este sacrificio brutal en nombre de la paz y tu nombre siempre se vinculará con la paz.”

Mass Hypnosis

Chapter 14

The Laws of Material Nature
BG 14.5

सत्त्वं रजस् तम इति
गुनः प्रकृति-सम्भवाः
निबध्नन्ति महाबाहो
देहे देहिनम् अव्ययम्

sattvaṃ rajas tama iti
gunaḥ prakṛti-sambhavāḥ
nibadhnanti mahābāho
dehe dehinam avyayam

Sattva, rajas, and tama are the “modes” or “qualities” (guṇas) that characterize prakṛti or material nature: the embodied soul becomes conditioned by these qualities when he becomes involved in the world of exploitation.”

The guṇas are the primary constituents of material nature and the basis of all substances and situations in the perceived world of exploitation. The “qualities” of material nature are dependent on the perceptive cognizance of the conditioned soul and cannot exist without consciousness. And yet, once the soul has been somewhat conditioned by the exploiting tendency, the constituent qualities of material nature afford the opportunity to dwell within the hypnotic illusion with much greater detail.

Consider the metaphor of a holographic projection.

How is “imaginary” reality constructed? The material world has often been compared to a dream.  When we dream, we are asleep to the “real world.” Thanks to modern anaesthesia, we may dream very pleasantly while a doctor performs heart surgery. Unconscious to objective reality, we live in the subjective world of imagination.

But a dream is personal. My dreams and yours are very different.
How could we all possibly have the same dream? 

It is something like “mass hypnosis,” where everyone buys into the same illusion.

It’s hard to believe. But we are constantly involved in the suspension of disbelief. When we wish to escape from mundane routines, we might read a book. As we read, we try to imagine the author’s world. Reading is highly subjective. In reading, everyone has his own idea of what a hero might look like, for example.

People are often unsatisfied when the see the movie version of a book, because the movie actor is not exactly the hero as they imagined him. In fact, we are disappointed because we identify ourselves as the hero.

A more visual medium involves an artist’s conception. A graphic novel or comic book is a step removed from pure text.  As we project ourselves into a world of fantasy and adventure and read a comic book, we sacrifice some imagination to share the artist’s idea of the hero. We know what Spiderman or the Hulk looks like, because we have seen the artist’s idea. 

We can still identify ourself with the hero, but we have a more specific idea of how he looks. We can imagine ourselves flying through the sky like Superman, but can see more clearly the “S” on his blue uniform. 

There is less connotation involved; we don’t have to use our imagination so much. But the denotation is clearly laid out; we can see the details, so we don’t have to create our own subjective version. The so-called "Objective Reality" created subjectively in collusion with the three modes wants our complete suspension of disbelief. We are not supposed to reflect on anything, but simply accept the perceived world as absolute truth.

Marshall Mcluhan, writing in the 20th Century, describes the different “Media” in terms of “hot” and “cold.”  He considers both “media” and “technology” to be extensions of the physical, social, psychological functions of human beings. For example, the wheel extends our feet, the phone extends our voice, television extends our eyes and ears, the computer extends our brain and electronic media our central nervous system. He is particularly interested in the electronic extension of consciousness. Writing in the 1960s Mcluhan predicts the advent of the internet.

Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extension of man—the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and nerves by the various media.”

His argument vis-à-vis “hot” vs. “cold” media is interesting in terms of the metaphor of the holographic universe.  Mcluhan defines as “hot,” media that heats the brain: that is media that itself being less denotative, leaves something to the imagination. Radio “heats up” the brain, since the listener, must supply the heat to decode the message.

A “hot” media then will be print, a book, or radio, where the listener, apparently passive supplies all the imagery within his brain. Topographical brain scans have demonstrated that certain areas of the brain, for example, “light up” when we read a story or imagine a melody. Media is “hot” when it lights up the brain. A good example is the story of Alice in Wonderland or “Through the Looking Glass,” where we need to wrap our head around riddles, enigmas, puzzles, mathematical paradoxes, chess problems, word-games and puns, all of which heat the brain. The mental effort required to solve the puzzle is rewarded by the "montessorian explosion" of discovery which accompanies real learning.

A “cool” medium on the other hand provides no such discovery. Nothing is learned and no effort is required. It leaves nothing  to the imagination. All the imagery is supplied to us. An example would be the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, where we are seduced by colorful images, cartoons, and songs based on the book’s ideas, but with no room for real contemplation of its meaning.

Returning to the idea of the mass hypnosis influenced by the  “modes of nature,” and how these 3 qualities or dimensions color our world and influence us, we can consider the metaphor of a holographic 3D projection, created simultaneously by the subject and the supersubject.  It seems unquestionably real. But consciousness has passed through "hazy consciousness" to produce a kind of "mass hypnosis."

Consider a “rave” party where thousands of people high on LSD or MDMA are subjected to a 3D holographic light show. Little imagination or thinking is involved. The subjective capacity of each audience member is diminished by drugs and powerful media displays until the experience becomes total.  The more powerful and “cool” the medium, the more each individual becomes trapped in an organic mass experience, a “tribal” event. 

Perhaps this is an extreme example of “mass hypnosis,” but I think it works. 

"Propaganda" has a similar effect on our view of reality. When a false premise is repeated long enough and loud enough on a number of “media” our worldview becomes influenced to the point where we are ready to act. This problem is widely explored in Orwell’s 1984. As Jacques Ellul points out in his seminal work, “Propaganda, the Formation of Men’s Attitudes,” we subscribe to the propaganda we think defines us, while the propagandist’s job is to tailor the message to suit our attitudes. The modes of nature affect us in a similar way: we are drawn to exploit in a particular way and the modes suit the object to the subject according to our attitudes.

सत्त्वं रजस् तम इति
गुनः प्रकृति-सम्भवाः
निबध्नन्ति महाबाहो
देहे देहिनम् अव्ययम्

sattvaṃ rajas tama iti
gunaḥ prakṛti-sambhavāḥ
nibadhnanti mahābāho
dehe dehinam avyayam

Sattva, rajas, and tama are the “modes” or “qualities” (guṇas) that characterize prakṛti or material nature: the embodied soul becomes conditioned by these qualities when he becomes involved in the world of exploitation.”

The point is that the “modes of nature” are not objective forces that shape us; rather they are products of our own subjective projection of exploitative reality. They have to do with a kind of “suspension of disbelief.” We know that we are not God; we know we are not the creators of the universe. We know that death is an imminent force. We know that we aren’t going to be here forever. We know that we aren’t all powerful. Still, it’s fun to pretend. This material world is effectively a kind of fantasy-land where we try to play at being gods.


When we read, we construct a kind of literary fantasy world. I’ve always been addicted to reading. Sometimes my parents would say “he lives in his own little world.” Readers of the Lord of the Rings create their own versions of “Smaug the Dragon” or Frodo or Gandalf. 

Harry Potter addicts create their own Hogwarts. But as readers our intimate imagination of a particular literary world is subjective. Once it becomes a film, the experience of a particular “world” becomes more and more objective as millions of viewers participate in the creation of an imaginary event.


The “Star Wars” phenomenon is well-known. George Lucas has created an imaginary world with its own languages, laws, politics, and mythology. “Star Wars” has been seen by millions who know exactly how Han Solo and Darth Vader look. I attended a 3D high-tech simulator ride at Universal Studios in California that made me feel I was really flying through other planets at top speed.
Star Wars

Where it’s easy to look up from a book and have a conversation or answer the door, leaving behind the special world of literary fantasy, a movie allows us to suspend our disbelief more forcefully and enter into the trance of mass hypnosis.

Ordinary movies pale when we step into a 3 dimensional holographic experience. Still we know that it’s all in fun. Anyone who cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality is a candidate for the psychiatric ward.

Still fantasy dies hard. And as we suspend our disbelief in materialistic pleasures, we are easy prey to mythology and propaganda of advertisements that convince us that sense gratification equals happiness.  Our penchant for fantasy and entertainment drives a multi-billion dollar industry that strives for a total “virtual reality” experience. 

Probably the most powerful “virtual reality” trip is internet porn, which provides perverted and imaginary sexual experiences for millions of men worldwide on a daily basis. And the propaganda which flows from all these different forms of virtual experience serve to hold us in sway, serve to adapt our  individual consciousness to a society in self-denial. As we submit our imagination to these “modes” or “media” we fall into a kind mass hypnosis designed to hold us to a certain living standard, designed to make us believe in a product, a country, or a political figure.

Karl Rove, the famous political operative who guided George Bush to the presidency of the United States once famously commented “Perception is Reality.” George Bush was no war hero, in fact he disappeared from his national guard unit during the war. On the other hand, John Kerry his opponent was demonstrably a “war hero,” having served under fire on a swift boat on the Mekong River in Vietnam. Nonetheless, thanks to propaganda people were convinced that Kerry was a coward and Bush a hero.  Berkeley originated the expression, and Samuel Butler, kicking a stone said, “I refute Berkeley thus.”

Well, Samuel Butler is no longer with us and the stone he kicked is nowhere to be found. And while it is easy to quibble with Berkeleyan idealism, the meme that “Perception is Reality” is very much alive.

According to Jacques Ellul, propaganda is a kind of mass hypnosis that aims to  involve us in a social activity aiming to make the individual serve and conform.  The propaganda of virtual reality aims at a kind of inner control to maintain conformity to the social or national force.

All of these forms of “entertainment” or “virtual reality” however, are useless without our willful suspension of disbelief.  We need to stop believing in divine nature and invest faith in material nature in order to enjoy the sensory world of sex and death.

As long as we pretend to believe in “virtual reality” it has meaning. The particular media of “virtual reality’ may vary according to our own inclinations. The genre of propaganda or "mode" that attracts us has to do with our own psychological makeup, affected in turn by our spiritual level of consciousness.

The Modes of Nature: Artist's Conception

According to our own particular investment in the perceived world, or the “world of exploitation,” certain realities are unfolded to us, colored by our own clouded consciousness. All “reality” is “virtual” in the sense that it is perceived and interpreted differently according to our circumstances, our  capacity for sensory perception, our motives and biological framework.

A dog sees color differently than a human being; so does a bee. A realized soul sees God in everything; an economist sees only money. The glass is half-full for an optimist, half-empty to the pessimist, poison to the cynic, H2O to the scientist, and the flavor of purity to the devotee of Kṛṣṇa. Which is true?

It is difficult to explain how the subjective world becomes objective. Do the rods and cones in the vegetable eyeball produce vision? Or is it a product of the neurons and synapses in the brain. Or is vision itself a mental condition dependent on consciousness?  Constructing an explanation for the origin of the subjective world is just as difficult; in fact it is impossible for  a materialist to explain the origin of vision. The best one can do is to try to get at the mechanics of seeing: how does it work?

So, here in the 14th Chapter of Bhagavad-Gītā, Kṛṣṇa is explaining the quantum mechanics of consciousness.  

सत्त्वं रजस् तम इति
गुनः प्रकृति-सम्भवाः
निबध्नन्ति महाबाहो
देहे देहिनम् अव्ययम्

sattvaṃ rajas tama iti
gunaḥ prakṛti-sambhavāḥ
nibadhnanti mahābāho
dehe dehinam avyayam

Sattva, rajas, and tama are the “modes” or “qualities” (guṇas) that characterize prakṛti or material nature: the embodied soul becomes conditioned by these qualities when he becomes involved in the world of exploitation.”

The trimodal influences or guṇas facilitate the subjective evolution of mental processes as the metaphysical world congeals into the physical world through a kind of suspension of disbelief.

We want to believe in the eternal reality of material nature; we want to believe that we can go on living in the material world forever, exploiting and enjoying. We want to continue as the subjects, the center of the universe. And because we cling to this psychosis, we are willing to do anything to perpetuate it, even to deny the very existence of the self.

Self-denial is the core of our  illusion; our determination to exploit the world flourishes at the expense of our self-awareness.  The “modes of nature,” are subtle effects of conscious states that harden into experience according to our talent for self-denial.

The “modes of nature: are threefold: Absolute denial of the self is ignorance, darkness, “tama.” Partial awareness of the self is called raja.  A less hazy consciousness is called sattva.  Another way to see this is that  sattva  is sunlight, raja  is light refracted across the color spectrum in various shades and hues, where twilight, tama is twilight, shadow, darkness and the relative absence of light. 

This is a much subtler approach to the problem of good and evil than that given in the Judea-Christian-Islamic world. Ordinarily we tend to think of ethical problems in dualities of sin and piety, good and evil, black and white. But the Bhagavad-Gītā is not reading morality in terms of black and white, but in full color.

Our thoughts, words, and deeds are not to be classified as exclusively good or bad. Kṛṣṇa does not preach “hell hot and sin black.” He tells Arjuna that our thoughts, words and deeds evade easy classification. Thoughts, words and actions done in the light, with a higher cognizance of spiritual awareness are more sattvik; actions colored with a lack of light are darker and rajarshik. While actions done in darkness are tamasik.  The same applies to the variety of species: the higher species are closer to illumination, the lower species live in darkness.

At the same time, it is difficult to be “sattvik” and “live in the mode of goodness,” while still laboring under the illusion of being the center of the universe. Denial of the self is the root of our sojourn in the material world; sattva-guna  itself is a covered form of consciousness. Mere materialistic piety is not enough to break the chains binding us to the wheel of birth and death.

Equally important is the idea that our normal existence involves a complex combination of these  three elements. Just as all the color known to the human eye may be broken down into three primary colors, cyan, magenta, and yellow, so in the same way the elements of our experience within this world may be decoded with reference to these three different influences on consciousness.

सत्त्वं रजस् तम इति
गुनः प्रकृति-सम्भवाः
निबध्नन्ति महाबाहो
देहे देहिनम् अव्ययम्

sattvaṃ rajas tama iti
gunaḥ prakṛti-sambhavāḥ
nibadhnanti mahābāho
dehe dehinam avyayam

Sattva, rajas, and tama are the “modes” or “qualities” (guṇas) that characterize prakṛti or material nature: the embodied soul becomes conditioned by these qualities when he becomes involved in the world of exploitation.”

DNA: the double helix

The modes of material nature comprise in a certain sense the DNA of the universe, according to this 14th Chapter of the Bhagavad-Gītā.  Just as the linear sequence of DNA whose double helix determines genetic characteristics may be broken down into A,C,G, and T nucleotides, in a similar manner the hazy consciousness that creates the holographic universe of exploitation  may be defined by the threefold absence or presence of spiritual “light.”

This absence or presence of illumination conditions our attachment to this material world in such a way that we are bound to material existence.  Our “karma” leaves an impression, a trace, on the mental body. It is something like the “black box” of an airplane. When an airplane falls from the sky and crashes it leaves behind a “black box” which explains the conditions of the plane at the time of its destruction. In the same way, the soul carries with it a karmic impression, coded in terms of sattva, rajas, and tamas, that determines its placement in the next life.

In this way the “trimodal qualities” encode an exact karmic DNA for the next birth experience on the wheel of birth and death according to the level of consciousness inherent in the prakṛti -conjoined being. The jiva  soul, conditioned by this “karmic DNA” is bound to a particular body as evolved through time from primordial prakṛti  itself.

Technically speaking, then, the soul itself is never bound by the “modes of material nature.” But by giving tacit approval to involvement in the exploitation world, by “suspending disbelief” much in the way that we do when we see a 3 dimensional holographic show, we agree to allow the modes to influence our perception of virtual reality. And so it is that the individual living being becomes bound within the restrictions of corporeal existence.

Bhaktivedānta Swāmī comments, “The living entity, because he is transcendental, has nothing to do with this material nature. Still, because he has become conditioned by the material world, he is acting under the spell of the three modes of material nature. Because living entities have different kinds of bodies, in terms of the different aspects of nature, they are induced to act according to that nature. This is the cause of the varieties of happiness and distress.”