One cannot aspire for a degree in calculus without having basic skills in arithmetic. In addition, if you do not get straight “A’s” in the skills of math lower than calculus, you will not get straight “A’s” in calculus; in fact, you may only get a lower grade than an “A”. Advancement in Krishna consciousness requires us to get straight “A’s” in all regards. Hence, because knowledge of the three modes of material nature is so vital to our progress, it is called 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,
“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.”
The point is that by such clear knowledge one can choose how he wants to live. One can live his spiritual life deliberately. Rather than living in a reactive mode of life, one can be pro-active and live as a victor. By knowing what his choices are at every moment, and by accepting squarely the responsibility for making the optimum choice, one lives life deliberately, purposefully, from moment to moment. Such a person is sure to progress towards perfection.
The key word here is responsibility. Conditioned souls are lazy. They have an inborn tendency not to accept responsibility. Specifically, there is a tendency in the conditioned soul not to accept responsibility for his spiritual growth, for improving himself. A person may be busy, busy,
busy, doing so many tasks, putting in a 70-hour week, but if by doing so he avoids the work of improving himself, of refining his character, he is lazy.One symptom of such a person is that when he succeeds at something he thinks,
“I did it.”
However, when he fails, he thinks,
“Someone did it to me. I am a victim.”
This mindset will not make anyone successful on the path of perfection. One way to determine whether you have taken responsibility for your life or not is to take inventory. If you find that you blame someone else for your failings or setbacks, you are not yet a responsible person. You are not a responsible person until you can say to yourself,
“I am cent-percent responsible for who I am and all I have done in my life up to today and it is my choice what I will make of my life from this day on.”
And mean it.
Once you have accepted responsibility like this, you are ready to move away from being a victim. You are ready to be a success in life, even if by all other counts you fail.
This kind of thinking is not an artificial imposition. It is not a psychological trip. It is reality. You alone are responsible for all you are and where you are in life. What you have made of your life, and your karma, is entirely you’re doing, and what you make of your future, is also a matter of your choice. In the end, you cannot blame your parents, your kids, your spouse, your teachers, your guru, your Temple president, the GBC, or anyone else for the outcome of your life. You will stand or fall solely on your merits or lack of them. No one will take the stand and be judged in your place. Either you took advantage of the human form of life or you blew it. In that case better luck next life.
Moreover, in the next life you can get caught up in the same useless “I-am-a-victim” trip again under the spell of the modes of nature. It can be tricky. How many lifetimes are you prepared to go on like this? Until you accept full responsibility for what you make of your life and take a stand you can take birth over and over and do the same useless program of laying blame elsewhere for lifetimes. What is the use?