Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 (Part-5)

Saankhya Yogah : Yoga Of Knowledge

T.N.Sethumadhavan

Preamble

The Lord told Arjuna that when his mind would have crossed the mire of delusion and would develop indifference towards the enjoyment of this world and the next and when his mind would rest steady and undistracted in meditation on God, he would realize God or attain union with Him. With reference to this advice, Arjuna desires to know the marks and conduct of the perfect Yogi, possessed of a stable mind who is termed as a sthita prajna. He asks Krishna to describe the nature of such an enlightened Soul. Viz. How would he express himself in the world? What happens to him internally? How does he contact the external world?

Krishna answers, “Reveling in the bliss of the Self, the enlightened one stays free from all egocentric attachments and desires. In the state of absolute fulfillment, all worldly enjoyments fall into insignificance and fail to have any impact on him. He is like a river which has entered the ocean. Having reached that supreme state he has merged with eternity. He is liberated, attained Moksha, the ultimate Purushartha and the goal of life.

The last eighteen verses of this chapter give a brilliant exposition of a Self-realized soul, a perfect personification of a stress-free complete man. These verses can be easily taken as a dissertation on Stress Management Technique from a spiritual angle eliminating the necessity to use anti-depressant drugs without any side effects.

The Text

CHARACTERISTICS OF A PERSON WHO HAS ATTAINED WISDOM THROUGH SAMADHI.

arjuna uvaacha

sthitaprajnasya kaa bhaashaa samaadhisthasya keshava

sthitadheeh kim prabhaasheta kimaaseeta vrajeta kim // 2.54 //

Arjuna said

O Keshava, what is the description of him who has steady wisdom and is merged in the super conscious state (Samadhi)? How does one of steady wisdom speak?   How does he sit? How does he walk?

With the advice thus far given, Arjuna seems to have got a better understanding and a doubt appears to have crept in his mind as to whether a person after gaining the goal of life through Buddhi Yoga may yet have a vigorous life at all in the outside world.  This doubt is because of the common notion that a perfected individual is ill-suited to lead a normal day-to-day life.

‘The man of steady wisdom” means the one who, through direct realization, has the settled knowledge of his identification with Brahman, the Self. He is the one who realizes that he is Brahman.

The two questions asked by Arjuna are:

1. How is a man of steady wisdom described by others?

2. How does the influence of wisdom manifest itself in his actions in the outer world when he comes out of Samadhi?

The answers to these questions occupy the rest of this Chapter. They comprise of the characteristic attributes of a man of steady wisdom and also the means of attaining such wisdom. These attributes apply equally to Jnana Yogis and Karma Yogis.

Arjuna’s questions simply mean

– How does a wise person respond to the daily situations in life?

– What are the distinguishing marks or characteristics of a wise person?

The characteristics of a wise person are also the characteristics of one who wants to be wise. In the case of a wise person, such characteristics are natural to that person; but, in the case of one who is not yet wise – but wants to become one– such characteristics need to be cultivated by proper attitude, discipline and practice.

In the next 18 verses, Sri Krishna responds to the question of Arjuna. Sri Krishna does not say how a wise person talks, sits or walks. Appreciating the spirit of Arjuna’s question, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna – and indeed all humanity, the characteristics of a wise person, and also, what makes a person wise.

These verses are of extraordinary significance for two reasons – they tell precisely what wisdom means in practical every day life – with that knowledge, one can help oneself, to uplift oneself spiritually by understanding and appreciating these verses and by meditation and contemplation on the content of these verses. For these reasons these 18 verses are the best known and the most often recited verses in the entire Bhagavad Gita. Therefore, let us now try to understand these verses as well as we can.

sri bhagavaan uvaacha

prajahaati yadaa kaamaan sarvaan paartha manogataan

atmanyevaatmanaa tushtah sthitaprajnastadochyate // 2.55 //

Sri Bhagavan said

O Partha, when a man completely casts off all the desires of the mind, his Self finding satisfaction in itself alone, then he is called a man of steady wisdom.

An exhaustive exposition of the inner and outer life of the `man of steady wisdom’ or the `man of Self-realization’ follows now. This section of the Gita enumerates the guidelines one should follow as to what types of values and mental attitudes he should develop during his spiritual practice in order that he may come to realize the Divinity in himself.

The man of steady wisdom does not long for external possessions for he enjoys the Supreme Bliss of Self-Knowledge. Such a man of wisdom has renounced all cravings like progeny, wealth and attainment of heaven etc. and enjoys the bliss of communion with the Self. This is what is meant by the self finding satisfaction in itself alone.

Man is a bundle of desires. They may be strong or weak and have an origin and a seat in his mind for whatever cause it may be.  Therefore when the mind along with the intellect rests stable in God, all the desires will vanish. After the cessation of all the desires, when a seeker perceives the Supreme Self and rests in the perpetual calm, he is known as ‘satisfied in the self through the self’.

A spiritually ignorant or immature person hangs on to desires, because that person depends on the fulfillment of such desires for his happiness. When a person grows into maturity, and naturally and completely casts off one’s dependence on the fulfillment of one’s desires for one’s happiness, one then becomes a wise person.

Now, when does that happen? Bhagavan says that in the second line – When one discovers happiness in oneself by oneself – then one is called – a wise person.

When one recognizes that one’s very nature is “ananda”– one’s very nature is happiness, then there is no need for one to depend on the external objects for fulfillment of one’s happiness. When one recognizes that one’s very nature is sat-chit-ananda-svarupa-atma – one discovers that one has nothing to gain from outside to be happy – and  also, one realizes that one has already gained everlasting happiness in the form of Vision of oneself everywhere and in everything including oneself.

The happiness arising from such vision is called “one discovering Happiness in oneself, by one self in the wake of self knowledge”. When that knowledge takes place, there is no craving for any object or experience external to ones own self, to be happy. At that time all desires have no hold on oneself and they naturally fall from one’s mind and buddhi, which is same as telling that one naturally and completely grows out of one’s dependence on the fulfillment of one’s desires for one’s happiness. Discovering happiness as one’s own very self, one has no need to go after something else to be happy. Such discovery is indeed the mark of a wise person.

Negatively, this state is one of freedom from selfish desires and positively, it is one of concentration on the supreme. This verse answers the first part of Arjuna’s question.

duhkheshwanudwignamanaah sukheshu vigatasprihah

veetaraagabhayakrodhah sthitadheer munir uchyate // 2.56 //

He whose mind is not shaken by adversity, who does not hanker after pleasures and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.

Verses 56 – 58 answer the second part of Arjuna’s question as to the conduct of the man of steady wisdom.

Times of pain and sorrow hit everybody and a wise man is no exception; but his mind does not get bogged down by them. His pain is localized, and it stops there. Similarly, in times of pleasure, the one who has no craving has no thirst for more of that pleasure. Thus the one who does not feel depressed in times of pain and sorrow, and who in times of pleasure has no craving for more of that pleasure is a wise man.

The one whose mind and intellect are totally free from  intense longing or passion for anything outside of oneself, free from fear of any kind and devoid of anger or temporary madness about anything is called one whose is steady and well rooted in self knowledge. Such a person is also called one who is capable of reflection, analysis and proper judgment at all times being always immersed in God Consciousness. He is called the wise person.

In this world there is no end to sorrow and unfavorable situations. Here a man of steady wisdom is described as the one who maintains equanimity in pleasure and pain.  An individual who remains undisturbed in sorrow or in joy, unattached, fearless and without anger is described here as a muni – a sage, a man of steady wisdom.

It may be noted of all the emotions that must be absent in the perfected individual only three have been emphasized here viz., attachment -Raga, fear -Bhaya and anger -Krodha because attachment to things is the root cause for the fear of non-winning the desired object. If it is won then the fear of losing it and therefore anxiety to keep it safe and secure is equally strong. Attachment and fear lead to anger against those who create obstacles between the person infatuated with the object and the desired object. It is self-mastery, conquest of desire and passion that is insisted upon.

yah sarvatraanabhisnehas tattat praapya shubhaashubham

naabhinandati na dweshti tasya prajnaa pratishthitaa // 2.57 //

He who is not attached to anything, who neither rejoices nor is, vexed when he obtains good or evil – his wisdom is firmly fixed.

The ideas expressed in the previous verses are repeated:

  • The enlightened sage or the Perfected one has evenness of mind.

  • He does not rejoice in pleasure nor is he averse to any pain.

  • He has no attachment to any worldly object.

  • He does not get disturbed when praised or censured.

  • He is always identified with the Self.

A mere detachment from life and retiring to the jungles is not implied here.  Such aimless detachment cannot lead a man to any higher level of existence and it is merely an escapist view of life. The detachment from the outside world should be coupled with capacity to face all challenges in life – auspicious and inauspicious – with a balanced mind in both. Life by its very nature is a mixture of good and bad. The perfected one experiences both of them with equal detachment because he is ever established in the Self.

Since the perfect man of wisdom has neither aversion for the sorrows nor attraction for the pleasures of life he neither compliments nor condemns anything in the world.  For him everything is fine.  He looks at the world through the plain glass and not through colored glasses. Flowers bloom and they also whither away.  There is no need to praise the former and condemn the latter. We must accept whatever comes without excitement, pain or revolt.

This verse is in reply to Arjuna’s query about the speech of a perfect master. His speech has for its background the mental state as described above.

yadaa samharate chaayam koormo’ngaaneeva sarvashah

indriyaaneendriyaarthebhyas tasya prajnaa pratishthitaa // 2.58 //

When like the tortoise which withdraws its limbs on all sides, he withdraws his senses from the sense objects, then his wisdom becomes steady.

So far a man of steady wisdom has been described as the one who (a) is ever satisfied in the Self (b) lives in perfect equanimity in pleasure and pain and (c) in whom there is complete lack of attachment for feelings of joy or aversion. Now it is mentioned in this verse that a man of steady wisdom has the capacity to withdraw his sense organs from the field of their objects just like a tortoise can draw back its limbs from all sides within its shell when apprehending danger.

The sense organs receive the stimuli from the objects of the external world which are passed on to the mind. The mind has got a natural tendency to run after such worldly objects. The yogi withdraws the mind again and again from the objects of the senses and fixes it on the Self and makes himself free from the disturbances of life.

DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE SENSE-CONTROL BY AN ORDINARY PERSON AND A REALIZED SOUL

vishayaa vinivartante niraahaarasya dehinah

rasavarjam raso’pyasya param drishtwaa nivartate // 2.59 //

The objects of the senses fall away from the abstinent man but not the taste for them. But even the taste falls away when the Supreme is seen.

The sense objects reach out to only those who is badly in need of them and not to those who do not want them. Even then, the sense objects are capable of leaving their taste behind even in an abstinent seeker who may find it difficult to erase them completely from his mind. Sri Krishna says here that all such longings created even at the mental level because of ego will be made ineffective when the seeker transcends ego and comes to experience the Self – attains wisdom. But the reverse i.e. with the disappearance of the taste a striver attains steadfast wisdom is not true.

Sri Krishna is explaining the difference between outer abstention and inner renunciation. We may reject the object but the desire for it may remain. Even the desire is lost when the Supreme is seen. The control should be both at the body and mental levels. Liberation from the tyranny of the body is not enough; we must be liberated from the tyranny of desires also which presupposes realization of the Supreme.

Thus in the restraint of the senses evinced by a man of realization, not only the sense objects turn away from him  but also attachment itself with its roots vanish.

WHAT IS THE HARM IF ATTACHMENT DOES NOT DISAPPEAR?

yatato hyapi kaunteya purushasya vipashchitah

indriyaani pramaatheeni haranti prasabham manah // 2.60 //

The turbulent senses, O son of Kunti, do violently carry away the mind even of a wise man though he may be striving to control them.

Sri Krishna has so far emphasized that a perfect master is the one who has a complete control over his sense-cravings. Sense cravings are like turbulent horses. If these horses are kept under control destination can be reached with safety; otherwise the rider gets thrown out.

Even a man of discrimination falls prey to the temptations of the world. Therefore, the aspirant must not relax his effort for self-control. He should bring all the senses under his control; otherwise his mind will be dragged into the field of sense objects leading to a sorrowful experience. This is more likely to happen even to a highly evolved seeker whereby he will not be able to reach his spiritual destination of final liberation.  This is an advice of caution to the seeker.

SENSE CONTROL IS A MEANS OF GOD-REALIZATION FOR A PERSON OF STABLE MIND

taani sarvaani samyamya yukta aaseeta matparah

vashe hi yasyendriyaani tasya prajnaa pratishthitaa // 2.61 //

Having restrained all the senses he should sit steadfast, intent on Me; his wisdom is steady whose senses are under control.

Sri Krishna warns Arjuna here that as a seeker of Self-perfection he should control his mind by withdrawing all his sense organs from their wanderings and should concentrate his entire attention on `me’ i.e. The Lord, The Supreme. The idea is that the mind should be made completely calm to meditate on Him, the Supreme Lord.

Such a Yogi, having brought under control all his senses, is called a person of steady wisdom and established in the Self. Self-discipline is not a matter of intelligence. It is a matter of will of the mind and vision of the Highest. This is a technique of Self-Development.

THE VERY THOUGHT OF SENSE-OBJECTS CAUSES FUTURE MISFORTUNE

dhyaayato vishayaan pumsah sangas teshoopajaayate

sangaat sanjaayate kaamah kaamaat krodho’bhijaayate// 2.62 //

When a man thinks of objects, attachment for them arises; from attachment desire is born; from desire arises anger.

krodhaad bhavati sammohah sammohaat smriti vibhramah

smritibhramshaad buddhinaasho buddhinaashaat pranashyati // 2.63 //

From anger comes delusion, from delusion the loss of memory, from the loss of memory the destruction of intelligence; from the destruction of intelligence he perishes.

From here onwards Sri Krishna explains the theory of fall of man from God-hood to sense-entanglements. The source of all evils is wrong thinking and false perceptions. When a man constantly thinks upon the alluring features of the sense objects the consistency of such thought creates an attachment in him for the objects of his thought. When similar thoughts come to play on his mind continuously they become strong desire for possessing and enjoying the objects of attachment.

He tries his level best to obtain them. When this motive energy encounters with forces creating obstacles in the way of fulfillment of his desires it is called anger. He starts hating the people who come in the way of satisfying his wants, fights with them and develops hostility towards them. When a person is afflicted with anger, his mind gets confused casting a shadow on the lessons of wisdom learnt by him through past experience.  Thus deprived of the moral strength, he loses his power of discrimination between right and wrong which is called destruction of intelligence.

Failing in discrimination, he acts irrationally on the impulse of passions and emotions and thereby he is unable to attain the spiritual goal paving the way for self-destruction. Here Krishna traces moral degradation to those first breaths of thought that come softly and almost unconsciously to the mind.

Desires may prove to be as rebellious and challenging as the most powerful external forces. They may lift us into glory or hurl us into disgrace.  Kalidasa in Kumarasambhavam says that they are really brave whose minds are not disturbed when the sources of disturbance are face to face with them

What is called for is not a forced isolation from the world or destruction of sense life but an inward withdrawal. To hate the senses is as wrong as to love them. The horses of the senses are not to be unyoked from the chariot but controlled by the reins of the mind.

The movement from desire to destruction can be illustrated as under:

Brooding on the objects of senses ►attachment ►desire ►anger ►delusion ►loss of memory ►loss of reason ►utter ruin.

HOW A PERSON OF STABLE MIND MOVES AMONG SENSE OBJECTS AND WHAT IS HIS REWARD?

raagadwesha viyuktaistu vishayaanindriyaishcharan

aatmavashyair vidheyaatmaa prasaadamadhigacchati // 2.64 //

But  the self-controlled man, moving among objects with  his senses  under  restraint  and  free  from  both  attraction   and repulsion, attains peace.

The mind and the senses are endowed with the two natural currents of attraction and repulsion – liking some objects and disliking certain others. But a man with mental discipline approaches these sense objects with a mind free from attraction or repulsion thereby attaining the peace of the Eternal. The senses and the mind are his servants but not the masters; he is the Master of wisdom. Running away from the sense objects cannot ensure mental tranquility because mind’s agitations for getting the desired objects or to get rid of the undesired ones will continue.

When the  mind is trained in these two aspects viz., (a) to  live in  self-control  and (b) to move among the  sense  objects  with neither attachment nor hatred towards them, its agitations caused by  the  charm of such objects are brought  under  control.  This condition of the mind, which has the least sense disturbances because of the ineffectiveness of the sense objects upon it, is called tranquility or peace or `Prasada’.

This verse answers Arjuna’s question as to how does the man of steady wisdom move about?

WHAT DOES ONE ATTAIN THROUGH SERENITY?

prasaade sarvaduhkhaanaam haanirasyopajaayate

prasannachetaso hyaashu buddhih paryavatishthate// 2.65 //

In that serenity there is an end of all sorrow; for the intelligence of the man of serene mind soon becomes steady.

What happens when peace is attained is explained here.  Sri Krishna says that when mental peace is attained there is no hankering after sense-objects.  The Yogi has perfect mastery over his reason and sense of discrimination. The intellect abides in the Self. It is quite serene and steady. The miseries of the body and mind come to an end.

Peaceful mind is a condition- precedent for happiness. Peace is happiness; happiness is peace. The least agitated mind  is  the proof  of  absence of sorrows  and sorrows are the proof  of  the state  of  mental  disturbance. Destruction of sorrows or pain indicates the elimination of vasanas in as much as vasanas are the cause for delusion which creates all sorrows. Keeping the mind under tranquil atmosphere through a life of self-control is the secret for the elimination of vasanas.

PEACE OF MIND ALONE LEADS TO HAPPINESS

naasti buddhir ayuktasya na chaayuktasya bhaavanaa

na chaabhaavayatah shaantir ashaantasya kutah sukham // 2.66 //

The man whose mind is not under his control has no Self-Knowledge  and  to the  unsteady no meditation is possible and to  the  unmeditative  there  can  be no peace and to the man who has no peace  how  can there be any happiness ?

The necessity for the quietness of mind for practicing the technique of Self-perfection is explained here. The unsteady mind cannot practice meditation.  The mind which cannot be focused on meditation cannot acquire the knowledge of the Self.

Such a person will not have intense devotion and longing either to Self-knowledge or to liberation. A person with these negative qualities cannot have peace of mind.  How can a man who has no peace of mind enjoy happiness? Insatiable  thirst  for sense-objects is the enemy of  peace  and there  cannot  be  even an iota of happiness for a  man  with  no peace.  His mind is always restless and runs after worldly objects.  Only when this thirst dies down a man can enjoy a real and abiding peace when he will be able to meditate and rest in the Self.

True happiness is not in the thirst for objects but in the restraint of the senses from thirst for enjoyment. Thirst is misery indeed.

WHY IS THE UNSTEADY MAN INCAPABLE OF KNOWLEDGE?

indriyaanaam hi charataam yanmano’nuvidheeyate

tadasya harati prajnaam vaayur naavam ivaambhasi // 2.67 //

When the mind runs after the wandering senses, it carries away his discrimination as the wind carries away a boat on the waters.

The mind which constantly thinks about the sense objects and moves only in pursuit of such objects destroys altogether the discriminatory faculty in man.  Just as a gale carries away a rudderless ship from its charted course and drives her away from reaching its destination, so too the unsteady mind carries away the aspirant from his spiritual path and turns him towards the worldly objects by taking away his discrimination.

CONDITION OF THE SEEKER WHO CONTROLLED HIS SENSES

tasmaad yasya mahaabaaho nigriheetaani sarvashah

indriyaaneendriyaarthebhyas tasya prajnaa pratishthitaa // 2.68 //

Therefore, O Mighty Armed Arjuna, his wisdom is steady whose senses are completely restrained from their objects.

The man of steady wisdom can, at his will, withdraw the senses, from their objects and enter into communion with the Self.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WISE AND THE IGNORANT

yaanishaa sarvabhootaanaam tasyam jaagarti samyamee

yasyaam jaagrati bhootani saa nishaa pashyato muneh // 2.69 //

In that  which  is  night  to all beings, the  self-controlled  man  is awake and where all beings are awake,  that  is  the  night for the man who sees (has  vision).

To the ignorant the Supreme reality is like the night. They see in it confusion and darkness. But the man of steady wisdom is fully awake with regard to reality.

Again, the multiplicity of the world of time and space is as clear as a day to the ignorant. But the man of wisdom sees in it the confusion of a night.

Ignorance creates the idea of multiplicity and duty while the wise never deviates from the knowledge of the Self. Error stands in the same relation to truth as sleeping to waking.

IF THE WORLD IS DARK TO A SEER, THEN HOW DOES HE LIVE IN THE WORLD?

aapooryamaanam achalapratishtham

samudram aapah pravishanti yadwat

tadwat kaamaa yam pravishanti sarve

sa shaantim aapnoti na kaamakaami // 2.70 //

He attains peace into whom all desires enter as the waters enter the ocean, which is full to the brim and grounded in stillness, but not the man who is the desirer of desires.

Just  as the ocean is not at all affected by the  waters  flowing into  it from all sides an enlightened person , who rests in  his essential nature or Self is not in the least disturbed by desires produced  by  the objects of enjoyment which he happens  to  come across during  his  sojourn on earth. Such an individual who maintains true peace in spite of being a target for the stimuli conveyed through his sense organs by innumerable sense objects is called a man of perfection, a true saint. A man attains such a state through constant awareness of the unchangeable Reality that constitutes his innermost Self. He who looks outside for enjoyments never attains peace. The principle behind this phenomenon is that the insentient cannot satisfy the sentient; the sentient can be satisfied by the sentient alone.

vihaaya kaamaan yah sarvaan pumaamshcharati nihsprihah

nirmamo nirahankaarah sa shaantim adhigacchati // 2.71 //

That man attains peace who, abandoning all desires, moves about without longing, devoid of the sense of `I’-ness and `my’-ness.

This verse explains the mental condition of such a one who finds peace in himself. Such a sage renounces all desires and is without any longings or attachments. Affinity for the world exists only because of desires. If desires are given up, no affinity for the world remains. Such a person’s intellect is without any sense of `I’-ness or `my’-ness i.e. without any ego which is the cause for the sense of attachment.

All the sufferings in the world are caused by our egocentric misconception and consequent eruption of endless wants.   He is a genuine Sanyasin who leads a life of constant inspiration gained through an intelligent renunciation of his egocentric misconceptions.

The well-known Upanishadic saying is “The human mind is of two kinds, pure and impure. That which is intent on securing the desires is impure; that which is free from attachment to desires is pure”.

This verse answers Arjuna’s question ‘how a man of steadfast mind walks or what is his mode of conduct?

ULTIMATE STATE OF A PERSON OF STEADY WISDOM

eshaa braahmee sthitih paartha nainaam praapya vimuhyati

sthitwaasyaamantakaale’pi brahmanirvaanamricchati // 2.72 //

This is the Brahmi-state, O Son of Pritha. Attaining this, none is deluded.  Being established therein, even at the hour of death, one attains final liberation in Brahman.

Where ego ends and the individuality is completely wiped out, a state of Selfhood, the state of Brahman – Existence, Knowledge, Bliss Absolute – Sat Chit Ananda – dawns. Renouncing every thing and living in the Self is the Brahmi state or the state of God-realized soul. If the aspirant attains this state he never falls into delusion again; never again deluded by the world.  It is the highest state of happiness. This experience needs to take place at an early age. But if it is attained even at the time of death he attains liberation. Hence what doubt can there be about liberation of a man who practices the discipline of renunciation from an early age and dwells on Brahman throughout life?

“Wisdom is the supreme means of liberation, but this wisdom is not exclusive of devotion to God and desireless work. Even while alive, the sage rests in Brahman and is released from the unrest of the world. The sage of steady wisdom lives a life of disinterested service. The descriptions of the ideal man, the jnani, the sthitaprajna, the yogarudha, the gunatita or the bhakta agree in all essentials. (Ref. 6.4-32; 10.9-10; 12.13-20; 13.7-11; 14.21-35; 16.1-3; 18.50-60)”. – Dr. S.Radhakrishnan.

Working without attachment and desires, egoism and vanity, always equanimous with pairs of opposites is to control the ego and experience the Self. This technique of Karma Yoga is not different from the technique of meditation or knowledge or devotion. Such a sage of steady wisdom lives a life of disinterested action. But Arjuna remains confused and so The Lord explains Karma Yoga further in the next chapter.

om tat sat

iti srimad bhagavadgeetaasu upanishatsu brahma vidyaayaam yogashaastre

sri krishnaarjuna samvaade saankhya yogo naama dvitiyo’dhyaayah

Thus in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad Gita, the science of  the Eternal, the scripture of Yoga, the dialogue between  Sri Krishna and Arjuna ends the second discourse entitled The Yoga of Knowledge.

Concepts and Issues

This section of the Gita is the fulcrum around which all its teachings revolve. The basic issue is how to live a God-realized life by continuing to perform the duties with a disinterested attitude? What are the techniques available to get rid off egoism and a sense of mine? A comprehensive knowledge of life is given here by understanding which all human sufferings could be relieved by getting over duality and conflicts.

As this Chapter symbolizes all the teachings of the Gita it’s full summing up is given below for an easy recapitulation of the issues involved.

I ~ ARJUNA’S DESPONDENT CONDITION ~ VERSES 1-10

  • Arjuna continues in his state of dejection. His personality is destroyed by his overwhelming emotions erupting at the sight of his near and dear ones on the battlefront.

  • Assuming a false sense of renunciation, he argues that he would rather live on alms than slay noble elders like Bhishma and Drona and that even an undisputed sovereignty over all the worlds would not drive away his grief.

  • Arguing thus, he expresses his unwillingness to fight and completely spent he becomes silent.

II ~ INDESTRUCTIBILITY OF THE EMBODIED ~ VERSES 11 – 30

Krishna starts the sermon of the Gita by stating that

  • The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.

  • The Self within is eternal, indestructible.

  • The bodies enveloping the Self are ephemeral. They have a beginning and an end.

  • Death is certain for the born and birth for the dead.

  • Beings constantly pass through the repeated stages of unmanifest, manifest and again unmanifest. So why grieve over the inevitable?

  • The indwelling Self remains eternally the same.

III ~ YOUR DUTY TO ACT ~ 31 – 40

Krishna explains to Arjuna the importance of performing his duty.

  • A kshatriya (warrior) is fortunate to find an opportunity to fight a righteous battle.

  • Abandoning such an opportunity will only incur infamy and sin.

  • In victory a kshatriya enjoys sovereignty over the worlds. If slain in battle he will gain heaven.

  • Therefore, Krishna advises Arjuna to arise from his paralyzed state and fight the battle without concern for the results.

The knowledge imparted up to verse 38 in this chapter is Sankhya. Thereafter Krishna turns towards Karma Yoga, the practice of which will eradicate the deepest fear in Arjuna.

IV ~ DESIRE RIDDEN ACTIONS ~ VERSES 41 – 44

  • Those who fanatically adhere to mechanical rituals are the irresolute whose desires dissipate their minds. They eulogize the ritualistic portion of the Vedas and declare in flowery speech that there is nothing beyond these rituals.

  • Despite regular performance of the rituals their attention in life remains focused on enjoying the pleasures and power in the world.

  • Such people possess a vacillating mind unable to concentrate and meditate on the Suprem Self.

V ~ DESIRELESS ACTIONS LEAD TO SELF-REALIZATION ~ VERSES 45 – 53

  • The Vedas deal with three gunas – sattwa, rajas and tamas. They explain the process of evolution from tamas to rajas and from rajas to sattwa. Krishna advises Arjuna to free himself from the endless pairs of opposites that plague this world and rise to the state of sattwa. To free himself from the mania of acquiring and preserving and instead slowly merge with the Self.

  • An enlightened soul remains ever in supreme peace and bliss. In that state he will find even the Vedas as redundant to him as a pond would be in a flooded village.

Krishna induces Arjuna

  • To act steadfastly towards the goal of Realization without worldly attachments and remain balanced in success or failure. and to keep the mind calm and composed while the body acts dynamically towards the higher ideal.

  • The process of pursuing the supreme goal steadfastly with an equanimous mind is Yoga.   Continuing on the path of yoga one sheds vasanas / desires and the mind turns introvert. An introverted mind alone can meditate and realize the supreme Self.

VI ~ DESCRIPTION OF AN ENLIGHTENED SOUL ~ VERSES 54 – 72

Arjuna asks Krishna to describe the nature of enlightened Soul.

  • How would he express himself in the world?

  • What happens to him internally?

  • How does he contact the external world?

The last eighteen verses of this chapter give a brilliant exposition of a Self-realized soul. Reveling in the bliss of the Self the enlightened one stays free from all egocentric attachments and desires. In the state of absolute fulfillment all worldly enjoyments fall into insignificance. He is like a river which has entered the ocean. Having reached that supreme state he has merged with eternity.

Live as the Gita Teaches You to Live

Control of the senses and the mind is prescribed as a stepping stone to spiritual progress as these faculties have a natural propensity to engage with objects. This underscores the fact that the spiritual quest involves directing the mind within by withdrawing it from objects. When the mind engages in the world it is constantly subjected to attachment, likes and dislikes, and anger because the external factors are not under one’s control. To realize one’s true nature as the Self (Atman) within it is necessary to exercise control over the mind by restraining its tendency to do what it likes.

If the mind is given the freedom to do what it wants only constant restlessness would result as a result of desires that arise one after another. This prods the individual to action to fulfill his desires giving rise to frustration and anger when they are not fulfilled. Even when he is able to realize his desires the joy that he enjoys is fleeting and thus the quest for worldly joy only subjects the person to further bondage by his actions. To become free from this quagmire, which traps man, is the objective of spiritual quest. The basic requirement then is disentanglement from the world slowly by restraining the mind.

As long as an individual is subject to bondage—due to ignorance of his true spiritual nature—his identification will be with his body and his actions will be to preserve and pamper it, while a man of wisdom (Jnani) will identify with the Self and thus be free from attachment to his body.

The equanimity of mind that a Jnani has is a consequence of his constant abiding in the Self, which is tranquil and blissful. The afflictions of his body will not disturb his mind as he is aware of their transience. The relationship between the body and the mind is an illusion created due to superimposition (Adhyasa), which is primordial. Just as the Moon shines because of the Sun’s light, so also does the mind acquire the properties of the objects it engages with. When the mind attains union with the Self it reflects its serenity and bliss.

Krishna’s advice to Arjuna is to have equanimity of mind to achieve the ultimate objective. He says, “One who has control over the mind is tranquil in heat and cold, in pleasure and pain, in honor and dishonor and is ever steadfast with the Supreme Self”. This is in accordance with the saying in the Rig Veda “The mind is fickle like a fast galloping horse and the only way to control it is by involving it in good actions beneficial for the welfare of all”.

If a man can control his mind he can find the way to enlightenment and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him. The mind is like a white cloth. Dip it in red dye, it turns red, dip it in green, it turns green. Put it out in the sun for long, it loses its color. The mind is truly the Self itself with no color.

What we think determines what happens to us. So if we want to change our lives we need to stretch our minds. The world is as the mind perceives it. The world is as the mind thinks of it. (“mano matram jagat, mano kalpitam jagat”).

If the Bhagavad Gita is viewed as a spiritual metaphor the persons portrayed are ingenious depictions symbolizing the various stages in the transformation of spirit into matter. The battle proper represents the real struggle that ensues within a person who realizes that all along it was the mind and its deep-rooted tendencies that were playing a devious game of deception with him, leading to false perceptions of truth and happiness and so, under proper guidance, sets out to rectify all this.

Kurukshetra, the battlefield refers to our own bodily domain, where the action must take place. Pandu was the rightful monarch of Bharata, the bodily kingdom. Pand in Sanskrit means white or pure, referring to the faculty of discriminating between right and wrong, which humans inherently possess. If man lives as per this discriminating power he will live life in such a way that slowly but surely, the soul’s body-consciousness ascends to spirit-consciousness and thus one attains independence from false providers of happiness, namely, the five senses.

As the story goes, Pandu has five sons representing the power of dispassion and the power of persisting therein. The bodily kingdom comes to be ruled by the blind king Dhritarashtra who represents our own infatuated sense and hence “blind” mind.  The blind king’s eldest son Duryodhana represents vain, material desire, most difficult to fight off. His ninety nine other sons represent other sense-entrenched tendencies of the mind.

The victory of Pandavas represents self-purification. Similarly, in day-to-day working life too, if one starts taking right action, his efforts will eventually lead to total realization of the Self, the ultimate goal of life.

Points to Ponder

  • Man of steady wisdom.

  • How a person’s degradation takes place?

  • Control of mind.

  • Brahmi state.

Next time we shall take up Chapter 3

Harih Om

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