Various religious scriptures have analysed the phenomenon of life within the parameters of the imperishable embodied soul (jeevatman – the individual self) and three modes of material nature (gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas). Whole of the creation is a result of the mystical display of the modes on one side, and the consciousness on the other. When the soul, a part of the consciousness nature of the Supreme, comes in contact with the material nature of the Supreme, it gets bound by the three modes of the material nature. The modes, which constitute the creation, bind the soul to the body-mind complex. Hence the embodied soul, formless essence of the human being, forever remains enmeshed in the phenomenal world by the attachments generated by the modes. The myriad attachments create myriad sufferings.
One cannot be free from the worldly woes unless he rises above these modes. To attain the freedom of the soul, one has to transcend all the three modes. One has to transcend not only the modes of ignorance and passion, but also the mode of goodness ; because though for noble causes, it still creates bondage for the soul. The chains of gold bind no less tightly than the iron fetters. How to rise above these modes ?
Bhagavad Gita in various shlokas (2.45, from 3.27 to 3.30, from 7.13 to 7.14, from 13.20 to 13.22 and from 14.21 to 14.26) has elaborated upon the characteristics of the modes and has also explained as to how one can rise above them.
Stability, purity and equanimity of the mind enable one to transcend the modes. It has been stated that if one wants to rise above the modes, he should be firm in mind, be firmly fixed in purity, be free from anxieties for gain and safety ; and be established in his own self. He should free himself from dualities like pleasure and pain, honour and dishonour ; and pleasant and the unpleasant etc. The one who is serene in both success and failure, who remains unperturbed amidst blame and praise ; and who is impartial to both friends and foes – such a sage is said to have risen above the modes.
If one has to rise above the modes, he must learn to detach himself from all actions. In this regard, it has been explained that the self which is divine, self-aware and eternally free ; is not the doer of actions. All works are done by the senses, mind and intelligence which belong to the physical nature. The modes which constitute the physical nature perform all actions by their interplay with each other. The self is not the doer of works. But after coming into contact with the nature, it gets deluded and attributes the acts performed by nature to itself. It claims ownership of the works which are done by the modes. It attaches itself to the actions and their results. This attachment is the cause of human suffering. He who remains aware of the distinction between the self, the modes and works can break the shackles of attachment. Such a realised person overcomes the influence of the modes. He remains inwardly uninvolved, even while enthusiastically discharging all kinds of his duties.
The three modes, of which the universe is made, arise only from the Supreme Lord. But the Lord remains veiled behind his own creation. Deluded by the threefold nature of the creation, the whole world fails to recognise the Supreme Lord who is imperishable and above the modes. But those who take refuge in the Supreme can cross beyond the delusion created by the modes ; and know Ishvara as He is. Shree Krishna has further stated that the one who serves Him (the Supreme Lord) constantly with unwavering and exclusive devotion and love, also transcends the modes of material nature. He becomes eligible for being one with the Supreme.
The bondage is a human perception. One can, through right knowledge and constant practice, unshackle himself from various perceived bondages. When one gains knowledge about the self and also about the characteristics of the modes, he always remains aware that all activities are performed by the modes and the soul is not the doer. Since the soul was not involved in the actions, it was not subjected to the laws of physical nature. Armed with this wisdom, one is not shaken by the ups and downs of life. He does not loose sight of the Supreme, even while remaining fully engaged in all kinds of worldly affairs. Standing apart and seated as an indifferent witness above and beyond the unstable and destabilising forces of nature, he looks upon all the events in the physical world as an impartial observer. Knowing that it is only the modes that act, he does not waver under any circumstances.
To summarise, when one understands the distinction between the self and the non-self, is not attached to works and their results ; and has surrendered himself completely to the Divine, he rises above the three modes of material nature. He is in full control of life and attains freedom from suffering.