SB 11.13: The Haṁsa-avatāra Answers the Questions of the Sons of Brahmā
In this chapter, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa explains to Uddhava how human beings, overwhelmed by sense gratification, become bound by the three modes of nature, and how to renounce these modes. The Lord then describes how He appeared in His form of Haṁsa before Brahmā and the four sages headed by Sanaka and revealed to them various confidential truths.
The three modes — goodness, passion and ignorance — are related to material intelligence, not to the soul. One should conquer the lower modes of passion and ignorance by the mode of goodness, and then one must surpass the mode of goodness by acting in the transcendental mode of pure goodness. By associating with things in the mode of goodness, one becomes more fully situated in that mode. The three modes increase their different influences through various types of scripture, water, place, time, beneficiaries of activity, natures of activity, birth, meditation, mantras, purificatory rituals, and so on.
Lacking discrimination, one identifies with the material body, and consequently the mode of passion, which produces misery, takes over the mind, which is normally in the mode of goodness. As the mind evolves its function of decision and doubt, it creates intolerable hankerings for sense gratification. Unfortunate persons who are bewildered by the urges of the mode of passion become the slaves of their senses. Even though they know that the eventual result of their work will be suffering, they cannot avoid engaging in such fruitive work. A discriminating person, on the other hand, keeps himself detached from the objects of the senses and, by utilizing appropriate renunciation, takes shelter of unalloyed devotional service.
Lord Brahmā himself has no material cause. He is the cause of the creation of all living beings and is the greatest among all the demigods. Yet even Brahmā is always suffering agitation of the mind on account of the duties he has to perform; therefore, when he was questioned by his sons headed by Sanaka, who were born from his mind, about the means for driving away desires for sense gratification, he was incapable of giving them an answer. In order to receive some insight into this matter, he took shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whereupon the Supreme Lord appeared before him in the form of the swan incarnation, Lord Haṁsa. Lord Haṁsa proceeded to give instructions about the categorical identity of the self, the different states of consciousness (wakeful awareness, sleep and deep sleep) and the means for conquering over material existence. The sages headed by Sanaka became freed from all their doubts by hearing the words of the Lord and worshiped Him with pure devotion in mature love of God.