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No matter what I do, I feel peaceful some days and miserable on others. Why? Is there a way to get beyond this?


The Vedas describe three forces, or modes, whose influence pervades the universe: goodness, passion, and ignorance. “Mode” is a translation of the Sanskrit word guna, which literally means “rope,” implying that goodness, passion, and ignorance are the ropes that bind us souls to the material world. These three modes, or qualities, underlie everything we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Permutations of these qualities make up the world, mixing like the primary colors to produce countless variations.

The mode of goodness controls virtues and qualities such as joy, wisdom, and altruism; the mode of passion controls greed, anger, lust, ambition, and frustration; the mode of ignorance controls laziness, delusion, and apathy. Goodness clarifies and pacifies; passion confuses and impels; ignorance obscures and impedes.

Krishna, as the creator of the modes, is naturally above them. But the modes bind us finite souls to the body through conditioning. Once we understand how the modes work and discover what lies beyond them, we can become free of conditioning and devote our pure mind to the service of Krishna.

The fourteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita outlines the general characteristics of the modes, and the seventeenth chapter teaches how to perceive the modes in types of worship, food, sacrifice, austerities, and even charity. By analyzing how the modes affect people, the Bhagavad-gita helps us understand distinct personality types.

The Bhagavad-gita mainly discusses how the modes influence a person’s character, behavior, and approach to life. For example, if goodness predominates, one will aspire for (and generally achieve) long-term happiness, even if one must accept temporary inconveniences. The person overtaken by passion is usually satisfied by short-term happiness and doesn’t expect much more out of life. And the person dominated by ignorance rarely achieves happiness at all.

Krishna says that we can break free of the stranglehold of the three modes only by taking shelter of Him.