Aspects of Vaisnava Theory & Practice
The Three Modes of Material Nature
Chapter 01
Why Study the Three Modes of Material Nature?
Segment 03
Unwanted Creepers
Part 2

Only at the stage of pure devotional service, is one able to absolutely distinguish between the two types of creepers.  After you contemplate this situation, it would be wise if you understood, that as one is cultivating devotional service, one’s ability to do this kind of discrimination, increases and becomes more refined.  Since one is doing a nice job of removing unwanted creepers, one will advance towards pure devotional service nicely.  Therefore, it appears that a devotee comes to the point where there is only one unwanted creeper to pull out, and this is the last one that is pulled out.  The removal of this last mundane creeper, causes the bhakti-lata creeper to grow without any obstruction; one might say in warp speed. 

Eventually the devotee crosses the line between an advanced devotee, and a pure devotee.  At that stage, the devotee surely knows what all the unwanted creepers are, and his bhakti-lata creeper is always free of unwanted creepers, because he or she can immediately pluck out any unwanted creeper that may appear. 

Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes in his “Dasa-mula Tattva” Chapter Eleven – Prema Prayojana—The Ultimate Goal:

“Elaborating on the paradigm of Krishna-prema, Lord Caitanya said to Srila Rüpa Gosvamis as recorded in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 19.151-164):

According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout this universe.

 Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona-fide guru by Krishna’s grace.

Then, by the mercy of both, guru and Krishna, such a fortunate person receives the seed of the creeper of pure devotional service. On receiving this seed, he should take care of it by becoming a gardener, and sowing the seed in his heart.

If he diligently waters the seed, by the gradual process of hearing and chanting the seed will begin to sprout.

By proper devotional care, the bhakti lata bija sprouts. The creeper then begins to grow till it penetrates the coverings of the universe and goes beyond the Viraja River, flowing between the material and spiritual worlds.

The creeper first penetrates Brahma-loka. Then, through the Brahman effulgence, it reaches the spiritual sky known as paravyoma, the Vaikuntha planets. It grows further until it rests at the shade of Sri Krishna’s lotus-feet, which are like a wish-fulfilling desire tree situated in the topmost spiritual planet, Goloka Vrindavan.

In Goloka Vrindavan, the creeper greatly expands and produces the fruit of love of Godhead (prema). Although the gardener remains in the material world, he regularly waters the creeper with hearing and chanting.”

“However, if the gardener devotee commits vaisnava-aparadha, (blasphemes a devotee) while tending the devotional creeper in the material world, his offence is compared to a mad elephant that uproots the creeper and breaks it. The leaves all dry up and fall. The gardener attentively defends his creeper by fencing it so that the mad elephant of offences may not enter from any side. Sometimes unwanted weeds, like material desires for sense enjoyment, liberation and other unlimited varieties, also grow along with the devotional creeper. These weeds are immoral, illicit activities, diplomacy and duplicity, animal slaughter, mundane profiteering, yearning for recognition, distinction, position, and so on.

Therefore, indiscriminate watering will not only nourish the weeds and make them sturdy, but finally they will certainly curtail the growth of the bhakti-lata”. “Hence, the intelligent devotee, recognizing the growing weeds immediately uproots them, allowing the bhakti creeper to grow unimpeded all the way up to Goloka Vrindavana. When the fruit of bhakti ripens and falls down the gardener relishes it and thus taking advantage of the creeper, he climbs it until he reaches the lotus-feet of Krishna, the desire tree, in Goloka Vrindavan.

There he incessantly serves the desire tree, the lotus feet of Krishna and joyfully relishes the ambrosial juice of the fruit of love to Godhead (prema) experiencing eternal bliss.  To taste the sublime fruit of prema in Goloka Vrindavan is the highest perfection, in comparison to which the other Vedic perfections (sense gratification, material opulence, religiosity and liberation) are insignificant.”

This wonderful analogy, from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has been presented to succinctly delineate the salient truth. It exhibits Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja’s erudition. If the human beings can comprehend the full import of these verses, and translate them into action, they can surely attain the highest perfection of human life. What is unattainable by wading through mountains of scriptures, is easily accomplished by understanding these twenty-eight lines.

The modes of nature, mix with the nine processes of devotional service, to give us unlimited varieties of mixed devotional service.  Actually, in spite of what you may have heard to the contrary, the mode of goodness plays an integral part in attaining perfection in Krishna consciousness.  This point is sprinkled all over Prabhupada’s books, and lectures, (see Appendix A, for some examples.) However, due to reading in the wrong mode, this nugget of the philosophy, eludes many of us.  We all know it, in some remote way, but it is far more important than we realize.  It means that despite years of practicing transcendental life, the modes have been active among us.  Up to now, we have largely been their victims.  This Treatise is about how to turn this situation around, how to STOP being a VICTIM and become a VICTOR.

The goal of this Treatise is to inspire you to use knowledge of the three modes, to achieve the very thing we all joined the Krishna consciousness movement for, which is to attain the state of transcendental goodness, (pure goodness), and love of God.

I do not believe that Srila Prabhupada is overstating the case when he says,

“This knowledge is far, far, superior to all other processes of knowledge thus far explained…  Thus, it is expected that one who understands this Fourteenth Chapter will attain perfection.” 

Since there is no other reason to pursue Krishna consciousness, than to gain perfection, it behooves us to sit up, and play close attention to this supreme wisdom of Krishna’s teachings. Just see what Srila Prabhupada just said, “Thus, it is expected, that one who understands this Fourteenth Chapter WILL ATTAIN PERFECTION.”

But the question comes,

“How could this knowledge be far, far superior to other processes of knowledge? 

What about the Ninth Chapter, The Most Confidential Knowledge?  Alternatively, the Tenth, where Krishna explains knowledge of the Absolute.  Or the Twelfth in, which He explains devotional service, which is the whole point of the Gita?  How is knowledge of the three modes of nature considered superior to all that went before?”

The answer is that without proper understanding, and application, of this knowledge; these other stages of spiritual realization, although admittedly higher, will not be attained.  One cannot aspire for a degree in calculus, without having basic skills in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.  Hence, because knowledge of the three modes of material nature is so vital to our progress, it is called jnananam uttamam, the supreme wisdom.  It is not the end, but it is the essential means to the end.

For example, if you are in a flood, you need to get to high ground.  You decide to climb to the roof of your house, and the ladder is the only means to get there.  The role of the ladder becomes vital.  It is the gateway to liberation, the rooftop.  The ladder is not an end in itself.  The roof is your goal—but without the ladder your hopes are sunk.

Similarly, while prema-bhakti is our goal, knowledge of the three modes of nature is vital, just like the ladder.  That is why Krishna says jnananam jnanam uttamam—this knowledge is the supreme wisdom.

Hence, a thorough understanding of all four topics, with particular emphasis on how the modes give liberation, is favorable in one’s discharge of spiritual life.  Again, Krishna says,

“All the sages attained perfection by this method.” 

This is no exaggeration.  That is why Prabhupada writes,

“Thus, it is expected that one who understands this Fourteenth Chapter will attain perfection.”

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