Goodness and ignorance may seem similar in action, but they are antipodal in disposition
The Bhagavad-gita outlines how everything in material existence can be analyzed in terms of the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance.
Those in goodness and those in ignorance may look similar when they are seated quietly on similar seats. On closer examination, however, we may notice small but telling differences. Those in goodness will be engaged in constructive thought, whereas those in ignorance will be slouching, with their thoughts wandering aimlessly.
The Bhagavad-gita (14.13) states that the mode of ignorance is characterized by neither contemplation nor action – just delusion. Extending that analytical framework to the other modes, we could say that goodness is characterized by contemplation before action and passion, by action before contemplation. Because those in goodness contemplate before acting, they may be inactive for substantial periods, thereby appearing similar to those in ignorance.
This similarity of appearance between goodness and ignorance can lead to misjudgment both ways: those in goodness may be misunderstood to be in ignorance and vice versa.
Passionate people often define activity in terms of physical activity alone and prefer to run around constantly. So, they may dismiss as unproductive those in goodness who are not similarly on the move.
Conversely, those who are just lazily inactive may be mistaken to be wisely contemplative. Many escapists exploit this misconception – they put on mendicants’ robes, portray a sage image and garner common people’s adulation and donation.
To understand where people actually stand, we need to go beyond surface appearances to substance. And people’s substance is not their externals, but their internals – their thought-process.
Gita wisdom provides penetrating insights about human thought-processes, equipping us to discern others’ level properly. And by providing guidance for contemplating the supreme positive reality, Krishna, it helps us all to change our thoughts most positively.
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