Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita: the Song of the Transcendental Soul
IntroductionI read the Gita. Because it is the Eye of God. I sing the Gita. Because it is the Life of God. I live the Gita. Because it is the Soul of God.
The Gita is God's Vision immediate. The Gita is God's Reality direct.
They say that the Gita is a Hindu book, a most significant scripture. I say that it is the Light of Divinity in humanity. They say that the Gita needs an introduction. I say that God truly wants to be introduced by the Gita.
Arjuna is the ascending human soul. Krishna is the descending divine Soul. Finally they meet. The human soul says to the divine Soul: "I need you." The divine Soul says to the human soul: "I need you, too. I need you for my self-manifestation. You need me for your self-realisation." Arjuna says: "O, Krishna, you are mine, absolutely mine." Krishna says: "O, Arjuna, no mine, no thine. We are the Oneness complete, within, without."
The Gita is an episode in the sixth book of the Mahabharata. "Mahabharata" means "Great India", India the Sublime. This unparalleled epic is six times the size of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. Surprising in size and amazing in thought is the Mahabharata. The main story revolves around a giant rivalry between two parties of cousins. Their ancestral kingdom was the apple of discord. This rivalry came to its close at the end of a great battle called the Battle of Kurukshetra.
The family treeSantanu had two wives: Ganga and Satyavati. Bhishma was born from the union of Santanu and Ganga; Chitrangada and Vichitravirya from that of Santanu and Satyavati. Vichitraviya's two wives were Ambika and Ambalika. Dhritarashtra was the son of Ambika and Vichitravirya; Pandu, the son of Ambalika and Vichitravirya. Dhritarashtra's hundred sons were the Kauravas; Pandu's five sons, the Pandavas.
Yudhisthira was the legitimate heir to the kingdom. His father, Pandu, had reigned a number of years, offering the utmost satisfaction to his subjects. Finally Pandu retired.
He retired to the forest. To succeed him was his eldest son, Yudhisthira. And he did it devotedly and successfully. Dhritarashtra was Pandu's elder half brother. God had denied him sight. Strangely enough, his affection for his hundred sons blinded his heart as well. Being blind, naturally he was not qualified to inherit the throne. The eldest son of Dhritarashtra was Duryodhana. Ninety-nine brothers were to follow him. Yudhisthira, Pandu's eldest son, had only four others to follow him.
Truth's Pride was Yudhisthira. Falsehood's Pride was Duryodhana. Through the illumined hearts of Pandu's five sons, God smiled. Through the unlit minds of Dhritarashtra's hundred sons, the devil smiled. The devil often succeeded in embracing the blind father, too.
The eyeless father made repeated requests, strong and weak, to Duryodhana, his morally, psychically and spiritually eyeless son not to go to war. Vidura, the pure heart, Duryodhana's uncle, failed to throw light on Duryodhana's thick head. Sanjaya, his father's prudent charioteer, equally failed. Neither was Bhishma, the oldest and the wisest, successful. Duryodhana felt his own understanding to be superior. Finally Sri Krishna, the Lord of the universe, most fervently tried to avert the hurtful and heartless battle. But the ignorance-night in Duryodhana would by no means surrender to the knowledge-sun in Sri Krishna.
Seven hundred verses are there in the Gita. About six hundred are the soul-stirring utterances from the divine lips of the Lord Krishna, and the rest are from the crying, aspiring Arjuna, the clairvoyant and clairaudient Sanjaya, and the inquisitive Dhritarashtra.
The sage Vyasa enquired of Dhritarashtra if he desired to see the events and have a first-hand knowledge of the battle, from the battle's birth to the battle's death. The sage was more than willing to grant the blind man vision. But Dhritarashtra did not want his eyes — the eyes that had failed him all his life — to obey his command at this terribly fateful hour for his conscience and his kingdom's life, especially when his own sons were heading for destruction. He declined the sage's kind and bounteous offer. His heart was ruthlessly tortured by the imminent peril of his kinsmen. However, he requested the sage to grant the boon to someone else from whom he could get faultless reports of the battle. Vyasa consented. He conferred upon Sanjaya the miraculous psychic power of vision to see the incidents taking place at a strikingly great distance.
Is the Gita a mere word? No. A speech? No. A concept? No. A kind of concentration? No. A form of meditation? No. What is it, then? It is The Realisation. The Gita is God's Heart and man's breath, God's assurance and man's promise.
The inspiration of Hinduism is the Soul-Concern of the Gita. The aspiration of Hinduism is the Blessing-Dawn of the Gita. The emancipation of Hinduism is the Compassion-Light of the Gita. But to pronounce that the Gita is the sole monopoly of Hinduism is absurdity. The Gita is the common property of humanity.
The West says that she has something special to offer to the East: The New Testament. The East accepts the offer with deepest gratitude and offers her greatest pride, the Bhagavad Gita, in return.
The Gita is unique. It is the Scripture of scriptures. Why? Because it has taught the world that the emotion pure, the devotion genuine can easily run abreast with the philosophy solid, the detachment dynamic.
There are eighteen chapters in the Gita. Each chapter reveals a specific teaching of a particular form of Yoga. Yoga is the secret language of man and God. Yoga means Union, the union of the finite with the Infinite, the union of the form with the Formless. It is Yoga that reveals the supreme secret: man is tomorrow's God and God is today's man. Yoga is to be practised for the sake of Truth. If not, the seeker will be sadly disappointed. Likewise, man's God-Realisation is for the sake of God. Otherwise untold frustration will be man's inevitable reward.
The Gita was born in 600 B.C. its authorship goes to the sage Veda Vyasa. With a significant question from Dhritarashtra, the Gita commences its journey. The whole narrative of the Bhagavad Gita is Sanjaya's answer to Dhritarashtra's single question. Sri Krishna spoke. Much. All divinely soulful. Arjuna spoke. Little. All humanly heartful. Dhritarashtra was the listener. The Divinely and humanly clairvoyant and clairaudient reporter was Sanjaya. On very rare occasions Sanjaya contributed his own thoughtful remarks, too.
Sri Krishna was Arjuna's body's relation, heart's union, soul's liberation. As God, he illumined Arjuna with the Truth Absolute; as a humane human, he illumined his earthly friend with truths relative.
Philosophers enter into a deplorable controversy. Some enquire how such a philosophical discourse could take place at the commencement of a war. How was it possible? There are others who firmly hold that this momentous discourse was not only possible but inevitable at that hour, since it was the divinely appropriate occasion for the aspiring Hindu to discover the inner meaning of war and live in accordance with his soul's dictates, instead of following the poor, unlit knowledge of morality.
The Gita is the epitome of the Vedas. It is spontaneous. It is in a form at once divinised and humanised. It is also the purest milk drawn from the udders of the most illumining Upanishads to feed and nourish the human soul. The Gita demands man's acceptance of life, and reveals the way to achieve the victory of the higher self over the lower by the spiritual art of transformation: physical, vital, mental, psychic and spiritual.
The Gita embodies the soul-wisdom, the heart-love, the mind-knowledge, the vital-dynamism and the body-action.
Chapter I: The sorrow of ArjunaThe Gita begins with the words Dharmakshetre Kurakshetre. "On the hallowed field of Kurukshetra" — this is the literal translation. Kshetra means field. Dharma is a spiritual word, and it is extremely fertile in meanings. It means the inner code of life; moral, religious and spiritual law; living faith in God's existence and in one's own existence; soulful duty, especially enjoined by the scriptures; devoted observances of any caste or sect; willingness to abide by the dictates of one's soul.
The Sanskrit root of the word dharma is dhri, to hold. Who holds us? God. What holds us? Truth. Dharma prevails. If not always, ultimately it must, for in dharma is the very breath of God.
Duryodhana went to Gandhari, his mother, on the eve of the war, for her benediction. Like mother, like son. Here is a veritable exception. She blessed Duryodhana saying, "Victory will be there, where dharma is." It meant that Yudhisthira, the son of Dharma, would win the war. She was the possessor of such a selfless heart. Something more. The present world observes her unique dharma in her unparalleled acceptance of her husband's fate. God gave Dhritarashtra no sight. And Gandhari proved her absolute oneness with her blind husband by binding her own eyes. She embraced blindness — a sacrifice worthy to be remembered and admired by humanity. She saw not the world without. The choice blessings of the world within showered on Gandhari.
Our body's dharma is service, our mind's dharma is illumination, our heart's dharma is oneness, and our soul's dharma is liberation.
Again, people are apt to claim that dharma means religion. If so, how many religions are there? Just one. Certainly not two, not to speak of three. And what does religion signify? It signifies man-discovery and God-discovery, which are one and identical.
Now let us focus our attention on the word dharmakshetra (the field of dharma). Why is Kurukshetra called dharmakshetra? A battlefield can be anything but dharmakshetra. No. The battle took place on Kurukshetra where untold religious sacrifices were performed. And something more. Kurukshetra was situated between two sacred rivers: the Jumna and the Saraswati in the Northwestern part of India. A river is perpetually sacred. A river houses water. Water signifies consciousness in the domain of spirituality. And this consciousness is always pure, unalloyed, sanctifying and energising. So we now come to learn why Kurukshetra was called dharmakshetra and not otherwise.
To consider the first chapter as an introductory chapter and pay very little importance to it as some scholars, interpreters and readers do, need not be an act of wisdom. The first chapter has a special significance of its own. It deals with Arjuna's sorrow, his inner conflict. Poor Arjuna was torn with grief between two equally formidable ideas: he must go to war or he must not. Curiously enough, Arjuna's mother, Kunti Devi, prayed to the Lord Krishna to bless her with perpetual sorrow. Why? Kunti Devi realised that if sorrow deserted her and left her for good, surely there would be no necessity on her part to invoke Sri Krishna. Her world always wanted sorrow, suffering and tribulation, so that her heart could treasure constantly the Lord's all-compassionate Presence. To a degree, we can recall in the same vein, from Keats' Endymion, "…but cheerly, cheerly she (sorrow) loves me dearly; She is so constant to me, and so kind."
Actually, from the highest spiritual point of view, we cannot welcome Kunti Devi's wisdom. Nevertheless, it served her purpose most effectively. A spiritual person has not to embrace sorrow with the hope of achieving God's Bounty. He has to aspire. His aspiration has to reveal God's presence within him — God's Love, Peace, Bliss and Power. He takes sorrow as an experience in his life. He also knows that it is God who is having this experience in him and through him.
True, sorrow purifies our emotional heart. But the divine Light performs this task infinitely more successfully. Yet one has not to be afraid of sorrow's arrival in one's life. Far from it. Sorrow has to be transformed into joy everlasting. How? With our heart's mounting aspiration and God's ever-flowing Compassion combined. Why? Because God is all joy, and what we humans want is to see, feel, realise and finally become God, the Blissful.
The principal warriors were now seen on both sides. Some were eager to fight in order to display their mighty valour, while there were matchless warriors like Bhishma, Drona and Kripa who fought out of moral obligation. On the battlefield itself, just before the actual battle took place, Yudhisthira walked barefoot to the opposing army, precisely to Bhishma and Drona and other well-wishers, for their benedictions. Bhishma, while blessing Yudhisthira from the inmost recesses of his heart, said, "Son, my body will fight, while my heart will be with you and your brothers. Yours is the Victory destined." Drona, while blessing Yudhisthira, exclaimed, "I am a victim to obligation. I shall fight for the Kauravas, true. But yours will be the victory. This is the assurance from my Brahmin heart."
Blessings over, Yudhisthira returned. There blared forth countless trumpets, conches, wardrums and bugles. Elephants trumpeted, horses neighed. The wildest tempest broke loose.
Arrows flew like meteors in the air. Forgotten was the sweet, old affection. Broken were the ties of blood. Death was singing the song of death. Here we may recall Tennyson's The Charge of the Light Brigade:
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well
Into the jaws of Death.
The cannon had not been invented in days of yore, in the days of the Mahabharata, but the scene of death was the same, with arrows, swords, maces and missiles. Needless to say, we must identify ourselves with the arrows, maces and lion-roars of the Kurukshetra heroes and not with today's grandiose war-achievements. The joy of knowing the achievements of the hoary past is at once irresistible and unfathomable.
Arjuna exclaimed, "Pray, place my chariot, O Krishna, between the two battle formations so that I can see those who thirst for war." He surveyed the battle scene. Alas, he saw among the deadly opponents those very human souls whom he had always held dear and near. Overwhelmed with tenebrous grief, Arjuna, for the first time in his life of matchless heroism, gave unthinkable expression to faint-heartedness. "My body shivers, my mouth is parched, my limbs give way, fear tortures me all over, my hair stands on end, my bow slips from my hand and my mind is reeling. Hard is it even for me to stand. Krishna, victory over them, my present foes I seek not. They were my own. Still they are. Neither kingdom nor ease I seek. Let them attack, they want and they shall. But I shall not hurl my weapon upon them, not even for the supreme sovereignty of the three worlds, let alone the earth!"
With one moral weapon after another, Arjuna attacked Sri Krishna. He was determined to discard his war weapons for good. He started his philosophy with the correct anticipation of the slaughter of his kinsmen, the dire calamity of family destruction. He emphasised that virtue being lost, family would be caught tight in the grip of vice. This would all be due to lawlessness. When lawlessness predominates, the women of the family become corrupt; women corrupted, caste-confusion comes into existence.
A word about caste-confusion. India is still being mercilessly ridiculed for clinging to the caste system. In fact, caste is unity in diversity. Each caste is like a limb of the body. The four castes: Brahmin (the priest), Kshatriya (the warrior), Vaishya (the agriculturist) and Sudra (the labourer). The origin of the castes we observe in the Vedas. The Brahmin is the mouth of Purusha, the Supreme personified. Rajanya (Kshatriya) is Purusha's two arms; Vaishya, his two thighs; Sudra, his two feet.
In connection with the caste-destruction, Arjuna also tells the Lord Krishna that everything is leading towards perilous sin. In the Western world, unfortunately, the word "sin" seems to loom large in every walk of life. It is something more fatal than perdition. To them, I beg to be excused, sin is part and parcel of life. In the East, especially in India, the word sin offers a different meaning. It means imperfection, nothing more and nothing less. The human consciousness is proceeding from imperfection to perfection. The Seers of the Upanishads gave no importance to sin. They taught the world the serenity, sanctity, integrity and divinity of man.
To come back to poor Arjuna. Said he: "Let the sons of Dhritarashtra, armed with weapons, end my life, while I am unarmed, with no resistance. I prefer in all sincerity my death to our victory!"
Lo, Arjuna, the hero supreme! Discarding his bow and arrows, dolefully, throbbingly and soulfully he sinks into the hinder part of his chariot.
"Fighting is not for Arjuna. Krishna, I shall not fight."
Chapter II: KnowledgeThis chapter is entitled Sankhya-Yoga — "The Yoga of Knowledge". Arjuna's arguments against war were very plausible to our human understanding. Sri Krishna read Arjuna's heart. Confusion ran riot across Arjuna's mind. The unmanly sentiment in his Kshatriya blood he took as his love for mankind. But Arjuna was never wanting in sincerity. His mouth spoke what his heart felt. Unfortunately his sincerity unconsciously housed ignorance. Krishna wanted to illumine Arjuna. "O, Arjuna, in your speech you are a philosopher, in your action, you are not. A true philosopher mourns neither for the living nor for the dead. But Arjuna, you are sorrowing and grieving. Tell me, why do you mourn the prospective death of these men? You existed, I existed, they too. Never shall we cease to exist."
We have just mentioned Arjuna's philosophy. Truth to tell, we too would have fared the same at that juncture. Real philosophy is truly difficult to study, more difficult to learn, and most difficult to live.
The Sanskrit word for philosophy is Darshan, meaning "to see, to vision." Sri Ramakrishna's significant remark runs: "In the past, people used to have visions (darshan); now people study Darshan (philosophy)!"
Equally significant is the message of the Old Testament: "Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions."
Arjuna for the first time came to learn from Sri Krishna that his human belief concerning life and death was not founded on truth. He felt that he was distracted by illusions. He prayed to Sri Krishna for enlightenment. "I am your humble disciple. Teach me, tell me what is best for me." For the first time, the word disciple sprang from Arjuna's lips.
Until then, Sri Krishna had been his friend and comrade. The disciple learned: "The Reality that pervades the universe is the Life immortal. The body is perishable, the soul, the real in man, or the real man, is deathless, immortal. The soul neither kills nor is killed. Beyond birth and death, constant and eternal is the soul. The knower of this truth neither slays nor causes slaughter."
Arjuna had to fight the battle of life and not the so-called Battle of Kurukshetra. Strength he had. Wisdom he needed. The twilight consciousness of the physical mind he had. He needed the sun-bright consciousness of the soul's divinity.
Sri Krishna used the terms Birth, Life and Death.
BirthBirth is the passing of the soul from a lower to a higher body in the process of evolution, in the course of the soul's journey of reincarnation. The Sankhya system affirms the absolute identity of cause and effect. Cause is the effect silently and secretly involved and effect is the cause actively and openly evolved. Evolution, according to the Sankhya philosophy, can never come into existence from nothing, from zero. The appearance of "is" can be only from the existence of "was". Let us fill our minds with the immortal utterance of Wordsworth from Intimations of Immortality:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God who is our home:
Here the poet carries us into the mystery of the soul's eternal journey and reminds us of the perennial Source.
LifeWhat is life? It is the soul's only opportunity to manifest and fulfil the Divine here on earth. When life begins its journey, Infinity shakes hands with it. When the journey is half done, Eternity shakes hands with it. When life's journey is complete, Immortality shakes hands with it. Life lives the life of perfection when it lives in spirituality. When life lives in spirituality, the breath of God, it stands far above the commands of morality and the demands of duty.
God says to the human life, "Arise, awake, aspire! Yours is the goal." The human life says to God: "Wait, I am resting. I am sleeping. I am dreaming." Suddenly life feels ashamed of its conduct. Crying, it says, "Father, I am coming." Throbbing, it says, "Father, I am come." Smiling, it says, "Father, I have come."
Life, the problem, can be solved by the soul, the solution; but for that, one has first to be awakened from within.
DeathHe who lives the inner life knows that death is truly his resting-room. To him, death is anything but extinction. It is a meaningful departure. When our consciousness is divinely transformed, the necessity of death will not arise at all. To transform life, we need Peace, Light, Bliss and Power. We cry for these divine qualities. They cry for our aspiration. They are equally anxious to grant us everlasting life. But until our body, vital, mind, heart and soul aspire together, the divine Power, Light, Bliss and Peace cannot possess us.
The body has death, but not the soul. The body sleeps, the soul flies. The soul-stirring words on death and the soul in this chapter of the Gita, let us recollect. "Even as man discards old clothes for the new ones, so the dweller in the body, the soul, leaving aside the worn-out bodies, enters into new bodies. The soul migrates from body to body. Weapons cannot cleave it, nor fire consume it, nor water drench it, nor wind dry it." This is the soul and this is what is meant by the existence of the soul. Now we shall be well advised to observe the existence of death, if there is any, in the momentous words of Sri Aurobindo, the Founder of the integral Yoga. "Death," he exclaims, "has no separate existence by itself, it is only a result of the principle of decay in the body and that principle is there already — it is part of the physical nature. At the same time it is not inevitable; if one could have the necessary consciousness and force, decay and death is not inevitable."
What we call death is nothing short of ignorance. We can solve the problem of death only when we know what life is. Life is eternal. It existed before birth and it will exist after death. Life also exists between birth and death. It is beyond birth and death. Life is infinite. Life is immortal. A seeker of the Infinite Truth cannot subscribe to Schopenhauer's statement: "To desire immortality is to desire the eternal perpetuation of a great mistake." There is no shadow of doubt that it is the ceaseless seeker in man who is Immortality's life, for his very existence indicates the Supreme's Vision that illumines the universe, and the Supreme's Reality that fulfils creation.
Arjuna the disciple further learned: "Do your duty. Do not waver. Be not faint-hearted. You are a Kshatriya. There can be no greater invitation than that of a righteous war for a Kshatriya."
A Kshatriya's (warrior's) duty can never be the duty of an ascetic Neither should an ascetic perform the duty of a Kshatriya. Also a Kshatriya must not follow the path of a world-renouncer. Imitation is not for a seeker. "Imitation is suicide," so do we learn from Emerson.
A warrior's duty is to fight, fight for the establishment of truth. "In his victory, the entire earth becomes his, in his death, him welcome the gates of paradise."
Sri Krishna unveiled the path of Sankhya (knowledge) to Arjuna: "Arjuna, take them as one, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, gain and loss. Care not for them. Fight! Fighting thus no sin will you incur."
The teacher revealed the path of knowledge (Sankhya). Now he wanted to teach the student the path of action (Yoga). Arjuna surprisingly learned that this path, the path of action, the second path, is fruitful and also will bring him deliverance. The truth sublime is: "Action is your birthright, not the outcome, not the fruits thereof. Let not the fruits of action be your object, and be not attached to inaction. Be active and dynamic, seek not any reward." We can simultaneously kindle the flame of our consciousness with the lore of the Isha Upanishad: "Action cleaves not to a man."
We have already used the term Yoga. What is Yoga? "Equanimity," says Sri Krishna, "is Yoga." He also says: "Yoga is skilful wisdom in action."
Arjuna's inner progress is striking. He now feels the necessity to free himself from the desire-life. Sri Krishna teaches him how he can totally detach himself from the bondage-life of the senses as a tortoise successfully withdraws its limbs from all directions. Sense-withdrawal, or withdrawal from the sense objects, by no means indicates the end of man's journey. "Mere withdrawal cannot put an end to desire's birth. Desire disappears only when the Supreme appears. In His Presence the desire-life loses its existence. Not before."
This second chapter throws considerable light on Sankhya (knowledge) and Yoga (action). Sankhya and Yoga are never at daggers drawn. One is detached meditative knowledge, and the other is dedicated and selfless action. They have the self-same Goal. They just follow two different paths to arrive at the Goal.
To come back to the sense-life. Sense-life is not to be discontinued. Sense-life is to be lived in the Divine for the Divine. It is the inner withdrawal, and not the outer withdrawal, that is imperative. The animal in man has to surrender to the Divine in man for its total transformation. The life of animal pleasure must lose its living and burning breath in the all-fulfilling life of divine Bliss.
Katha Upanishad declares the rungs of the ever-climbing Ladder.
Higher than the senses are the objects of sense,
Higher than the objects of sense is the mind,
Higher than the mind is the intellect,
Higher than the intellect is the Self,
Higher than the Self is the Unmanifest,
Higher than the Unmanifest is the Supreme personified,
Highest is this Supreme, the Goal Ultimate.
We have seen what happens when we go up. Let us observe what happens when we muse on the sense-objects. The Gita tells: "Dwelling on sense-objects gives birth to attachment, attachment gives birth to desire. Desire (unfulfilled) brings into existence the life of anger. From anger delusion springs up, from delusion the confusion of memory. In the confusion of memory the reasoning wisdom is lost. When wisdom is nowhere, destruction within, without, below and above."
The dance of destruction is over. Let us pine for salvation. The disciplined, self-controlled aspirant alone will be blessed by the flood of peace. Finally, the aspirant will be embraced by Salvation, the inner Illumination.
Chapter III: ActionOn the strength of our identification with Arjuna's heart, we are apt to feel, at the beginning of the third chapter, that we are thrown into the world of ruthless confusion and immense doubt. Arjuna wants immediate relief from his mental tension; he wants to hear a decisive truth. His impatience prevent him from seeing the total truth in all its aspects. In the preceding chapter, his divine Teacher, Sri Krishna, expressed his deep appreciation for the Path of Knowledge, but at the same time told Arjuna of the great necessity of action. The Teacher, needless to say, had not the slightest intention of throwing the student into the sea of confusion. Far from it. What Arjuna required was a broader vision of truth and a deeper meaning of Reality. When we see through the eyes of Arjuna, we see that his world is a world of conflicting ideas. But when we see through the eyes o Sri Krishna, we see a world of complementary facets of the all-sustaining and all-pervading Truth.
Knowledge and Action, Arjuna believed, would lead him to the same Goal. Why then is he doomed or expected to wade through the bloodshed of war, enjoined by action?
True, Arjuna's mental sky was overcast with heavy clouds, but his psychic sky pined for true enlightenment. His mighty question is, "If you consider knowledge superior to action, why urge me to this dreadful action?"
Sri Krishna now says, "Two paths, Arjuna, are there. I have already told you that. The Path of Knowledge and the Path of Action. Through the divine art of contemplation, the aspirant follows the Path of Knowledge. Through the dynamic urge of selfless work, the seeker follows the Path of Action."
Knowledge feels that the world within is the real world. Action feels that the world without is the real world. The Path of Knowledge enters inside from outside, while the Path of Action enters outside from inside. This is the difference. But this apparent duality can never be the whole truth, the Truth Ultimate.
There is an Arabian proverb which says:
There are four sorts of men:
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not:
he is a fool — shun him;
He who knows not and knows that he knows not:
he is simple — teach him;
He who knows and knows not that he knows:
he is asleep — wake him;
He who knows and knows that he knows:
he is wise — follow him.
Arjuna, too, had to go through these four stages of evolution. At the end of the first chapter, he declared, "O Krishna, I shall not fight." He did not know what Truth was, yet he was ignorant of this fact. Krishna, being all Compassion, could not shun his dearest Arjuna. "I pray, tell me what is best for me." Here Arjuna's simple sincerity touches the depth of Sri Krishna's heart and the Teacher begins to instruct the aspirant.
Arjuna had known all his life that heroism was the very breath of a Kshatriya like himself, but his mind temporarily eclipsed this inner knowledge. He was in the world of deluding sleep. So Sri Krishna had to arouse him, saying, "Arjuna, fight! In victory, you will enjoy the sovereignty of the earth; in death, wide open are the gates of Paradise."
Finally Arjuna realised that Sri Krishna not only knew the truth but also was the Truth. So he wanted to follow Sri Krishna. He cried out, "Saranagata — You are my refuge. I am at your command."
He who follows the Path of Action is by nature simple, says Krishna. He is simple, his action is direct; the result is immediate. Arjuna however, wants freedom from action, which is nothing short of impossibility. Action is done not only by the body, but also in the body by mind. Action plays its role also in the conscious and sub-conscious levels of one's being. Action cannot die. It can never dream of an escape so long as the impulses of nature are alive. Action binds us only when we bind action with our likes and dislikes. The action-tree grows within us either with its venomous or with its ambrosial fruits.
According to Shankara, one may doubt the existence of God, but it is impossible for one to doubt one's own existence. A human being, if he houses common sense, believes in his present existence. If he cares to go a step ahead, he has to accept the undeniable existence of destiny. And what is destiny? Destiny is the evolving experience of one's consciousness. This experience is neither obscure nor uncertain. It is the necessary inevitability of a cosmic law striving for its outer manifestation in perfect Perfection.
Action and reaction are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. At times they may appear to be two dire foes. Nevertheless, their equal capacity is undeniable. The Son of God made the lofty statement: "They that take the sword shall perish by the sword."
Action itself does not have a binding power; neither does it need one. It is the desire in action that has the power to bind us and tell us that freedom is not for mortals. But if, in action, sacrifice looms large, or if action is done in a spirit of sacrifice, or if action is considered another name for sacrifice, then action is perfection, action is illumination, action is liberation.
For him who is embodied, action is a necessity, action is a must. Man is the result of a divine sacrifice. It is sacrifice that can vision the truth and fulfil man's existence. In sacrifice alone we see the connection and fulfilling link between one individual and another. No doubt the world is progressing and evolving. Yet, in the Western world sacrifice is often considered synonymous with stupidity and ignorance. To quote William Q. Judge, one of the early leading Theosophists, "Although Moses established sacrifices for the Jews, the Christian successors have abolished it both in spirit and letter, with a curious inconsistency which permits them to ignore the words of Jesus that 'not one jot or tittle of the law should pass until all these things were fulfilled'." To be sure, the East of today is no exception.
What is sacrifice? It is the discovery of universal oneness. In the Rig-Veda we observe the Supreme Sacrifice made by the sage Brihaspati:
Death he chose, for the sake of the gods, he chose not Immortality for the mortals' sake."
Sacrifice is the secret of self-dedicated service. It was fear or some other doubtful motive which compelled the primitive minds to embrace sacrifice. They thought that the eyes of the cosmic gods would emit fire if they did not sacrifice animals as an offering. At least they were clever enough not to sacrifice children, their nearest and dearest. The Supreme wanted and still wants and will always want sacrifice from both human beings and the gods for their reciprocal benefit. It is their mutual sacrifice that makes both the parties one and indivisible. Men will offer their aspiration; the gods will offer their illumination. A man of true satisfaction is a man of consecrated offering. Sin can stand nowhere near him. The existence of humanity as a whole demands attention first; the individual existence next. Work done in the spirit of purest offering leads an aspirant to the abode of perfect bliss.
Possession is no satisfaction, so long as ego breathes in us. The great King Janaka knew it. No wonder Janaka was loved by the Sage Yagnyavalka most. His Brahmin disciples felt that Janaka received preference just because he was king. It is obvious that God would not let the Sage Yagnyavalka suffer such foul criticism. So, what happened? Mithila, Janaka's capital, began to burn in mounting and devouring flames. The disciples ran, left their preceptor, hurried to their respective cottages. What for? Just to save their loin-cloths. All fled save Janaka. He ignored his riches and treasures burning in the city. Janaka stayed with his guru, Yagnvavalka, listening to the sage's ambrosial talk. "Mithilayam pradagdhayam namekincit pranasyati".. "Nothing do I lose even though Mithila may be consumed to ashes." Now the disciples came to learn why their Guru favoured Janaka most. This is the difference between a man of wisdom and a man of ignorance. An ignorant man knows that what he has is the body. A man of wisdom knows that what he has and what he is is the soul. Hence to him the soul's needs are of paramount importance.
Sri Krishna disclosed to Arjuna the secret of Janaka's attainment to Self-realisation and Salvation. Janaka acted with detachment. He acted for the sake of humanity, having been surcharged with the light and wisdom of divinity. Indeed, this is the path of the noble. Krishna wanted Arjuna to tread this path, so that the world would follow him. Perhaps Arjuna was not fully convinced. In order to convince Arjuna fully and unreservedly, Krishna brought himself into the picture. He gave the example of Himself: "Nothing have I to do in the three worlds, nor is there anything worth attaining, unattained by me; yet do I perpetually work, I ever have my existence in action. If I do not work, the worlds will perish."
Sri Krishna wanted Arjuna to be freed from the fetters of ignorance. The only way Arjuna could do it was to act without attachment. Sri Krishna told Arjuna the supreme secret: "Dedicate all action to Me, with your mind fix on Me, the Self in all…"
All beings must follow their nature. No escape there is, nor can there be. What can restraint do? Man's duty is Heaven's peerless blessing. One must know what one's duty is. Once duty is known, it is to be performed to the last.
I woke and found that life was Duty.
— Ellen S. Hooper, //Beauty and Duty//"
Life's duty, performed with a spontaneous flow of self-offering to humanity under the express guidance of the inner being, can alone transform life into Beauty, the heavenly Beauty of the world within, and earthly Beauty of the world without.
Arjuna's duty was to fight, for he was a Kshatriya, a warrior. This fighting was not for power, but for the establishment of truth over falsehood. Sri Krishna's most encouraging and inspiring words regarding one's individual duty demand all our admiration. "Better always one's own duty, be it ever so humble, than that of another, howsoever tempting. Even death brings in blessedness itself in the performance of one's own duty; doomed to peril will he be if he performs the duty enjoined on another."
Arjuna has now one more question, rather a pertinent one, and that is his last question in this chapter. "Impelled by what, O Krishna, does a man commit sin despite himself?" "Kama, Krodha," answers Krishna, "desire and anger — these are the hostile enemies of man."
Desire is insatiable. Once desire is born, it knows not how to die. Yayati's experience of desire can throw abundant light on us. Let us cite his sublime experience. King Yayati was one of the illustrious ancestors of the Pandavas. He was utterly unacquainted with defeat. He was well conversant with the Shastras (scriptures). Immense was his love for his subjects in his realm. Intense was his devotion towards God. Nevertheless, cruel was his fate. His father-in-law, Sukracharya, the preceptor of the asuras (demons), pronounced a fatal curse on him, and he was forced to marry Sharmistha in addition to the daughter Devayani. Sukracharya cursed Yayati with premature old age. Needless to say, the curse took an immediate effect. The inimitable pride of Yayati's manhood was ruthlessly stricken with age. In vain the king cried for forgiveness. However, Sukracharya calmed down a little. "King," he said, "I am lessening the strength of my curse. If any human being agrees to exchange the beauty and glory of his youth with you, with your body's deplorable state, then you will get back the prime of your own youth."
Yayati had five sons. He begged of his sons, tempted them with the throne of his kingdom, persuaded them in every possible way to agree to an exchange of life. His first four sons softly and prudently refused. The youngest, the most devoted, Puru, gladly accepted his father's old age. Lo, Yayati at once was transformed into the prime of his youth. In no time, desire entered into his body and commanded him to enjoy life to the last drop. He fell desperately in love with an Apsara (nymph) and spent many years with her. Alas, his insatiable desire could not be quenched by self-indulgence. Never. At long last he realised the truth. He fondly said to his dearest son Puru: "Son, oh son of mine, impossible to quench is sensual desire. It can never be quenched by indulgence any more than fire is extinguished by pouring ghee (clarified butter) into it. To you I return your youth. To you I give my kingdom as promised. Rule the kingdom devotedly and wisely." Yayati entered again into his old age. Puru regained his youth and ruled the kingdom. The rest of his life Yayati spent in the forest practising austerities. In due course Yayati breathed his last there. The soul-bird flew back to its abode of delight.
Bernard Shaw's apt remark on desire can be cited to add to the glory of this experience of Yayati. Shaw said, "There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it." — Man and Superman.
The role of desire is over. Now let us jump into the fury of Anger. Desire unfulfilled gives birth to anger. Anger is the mad elephant in man. To our wide surprise, most of the celebrated Indian sages of the hoary past found it almost impossible to conquer anger. They used to curse human beings in season and out of season, at times, even without rhyme or reason. The sage Durvasa of the Mahabharata topped the list of the sages successfully consumed with anger. He was at once austerity incarnate and ire incarnate.
Desire satisfied, life grows into a bed of thorns. Desire conquered, life grows into a bed of roses. Desire transformed into aspiration, life flies into the highest liberation, life dines with the Supreme salvation.
Chapter IV: Knowledge, action and sacrificeIn the second and third chapters of the Gita, Sri Krishna blessed Arjuna with a few glimpses of Yogic light. In the present chapter, he blesses Arjuna with a flood of spiritual light. He widely and openly reveals the secrets of Yoga. Hard is it for Arjuna to believe that Sri Krishna taught Vivaswan (the Sun-God) this eternal Yoga. Vivaswan offered it to his son Manu, and Manu imparted it to his son Ikshwaku; from him it was handed down to the royal Rishis. Long before Sri Krishna's birth, Vivaswan saw the light of day. Naturally Sri Krishna's declaration would throw Arjuna into the sea of confusion.
The eternal mystery of reincarnation is now being revealed. Says Krishna: "Arjuna, you and I have passed through countless births. I know them all, your memory fails you. Although I am birthless and deathless and the Supreme Lord of all beings, I manifest myself in the physical universe through my own Maya, keeping my Prakriti (Nature) under control."
MayaMaya means illusion. It also means the unreality of ephemeral things; the unreality is personified as a female, who is also called Maya. The words Dharma and Maya are the constant and spontaneous expression of the Indian soul. According to Shankara, the Vedantin of the Himalayan peak, there is only one Absolute Reality, the Brahman, without a second. Advaita or Monism, deriving from Vedanta, is his momentous philosophy. There is only the Brahman. Nothing outside the Brahman exists. The world as it stands before our mental eye is a cosmic illusion, a deceptive prison. It is only when true knowledge dawns on us that we will be in a position to free ourselves from the meshes of ignorance and from the snares of birth and death.
A thing that is, is real. A thing that appears is unreal. An eternal Life is real. Ignorance and death are unreal. Maya is a kind of power filled with mystery. We know that electricity is a power, but we do not actually know what electricity is. The same truth is applicable to Maya. God uses His Maya Power in order to enter into the field of manifestation. It is the process of the Becoming of the One into many and again the Return of the many into the original One.
PrakritiPrakriti means Nature. It is the material cause as well as the original cause of every thing in the manifested creation. Purusha is the silent Face. Prakriti is the activating Smile. Purusha is the pure, witnessing consciousness, while Prakriti is the evolving and transforming consciousness. In and through Prakriti is the fulfilment of the Cosmic Play.
Arjuna knew Sri Krishna as his dear cousin; he later knew him as his bosom friend; later still he knew him as his beloved Guru or spiritual Teacher. Here in this chapter he comes to know Sri Krishna as the Supreme Lord of the World. Krishna says, "Whenever unrighteousness is in the ascendent and righteousness is in the decline, I body myself forth. To protect and preserve the virtuous and put an end to the evil-doers, to establish Dharma, I manifest myself from age to age." From these soul-stirring utterances of Sri Krishna, we immediately come to learn that He is both the Ultimate Knowledge and the Power Supreme. Confidently and smilingly, he is charging Arjuna with a high-voltage spiritual current from his great Power-House.
Samvavami yuge yuge — I body Myself forth from age to ageSri Krishna now declares himself an Avatar. An Avatar is the direct descent of God. In the world of manifestation, he embodies the Infinite.
In India, there was a spiritual master who declared himself to be an Avatar. Unfortunately he became an object of merciless ridicule, both in the West and in the East. As he could not put up a brave fight against this biting sarcasm, he finally had to change his unsuccessful policy. His proud statement went one step further: "Not only I, but everybody is an Avatar." Since everybody is an Avatar, who is to criticise whom? Lo, the self-styled Avatar is now heaving a sigh of relief.
It may sound ridiculous, but it is a fact that in India practically every disciple claims his Guru to be an Avatar, the direct descent of God. A flood-tide of enthusiasm sweeps over them when they speak about their Guru. The spiritual giant Swami Vivekananda could not help saying that in East Bengal, India, the Avatars grow like mushrooms. On the other hand, to pronounce that there has been and can be only one Avatar, the Son of God, is equally ridiculous.
Each time an Avatar comes, he plays a different role in the march of evolution according to the necessity of the age. In essence, one Avatar is not different from another. A genuine Avatar, Sri Ramakrishna, has revealed the Truth: "He who was Rama, he who was Krishna is now in the form of Ramakrishna."
There are two eternal opposites: good and evil. According to Sri Krishna, when wickedness reaches the maximum height, God has to don the human cloak in the form of an Avatar. Sri Krishna's advent had to deal with the darkest evil force, Kamsa. Similarly Herod, the peerless tyrant, needed the advent of Jesus Christ. Christmas, the birth of Christ, demanded the extinction of the life of ignorance. Janmashtami, the birth of Krishna, is celebrated throughout the length and breadth of India, with a view to leaving the sea of ignorance and entering into the Ocean of Knowledge.
The easiest and most effective way to conceive of the idea of a personal God is to come into contact with an Avatar and remain under his guidance. To have an Avatar as one's guru is to find a safe harbour for one's life boat. In this connection, we can cite Vivekananda's bold statement: "No man can see God but through these human manifestations. Talk as you may, try as you may, you cannot think of God but as a man."
According to many, as the Buddha is the most perfect man, so is Krishna the greatest Avatar the world has ever seen.
There are also Anshavatars (Partial Avatars). But Sri Krishna is a Purnavatar (Complete Avatar) in whom and through whom the Supreme is manifested fully, unreservedly and integrally. When human aspiration ascends, the divine Compassion descends in the cloak of an Avatar.
"As men approach me, so do I accept them." There can be no greater solace than this to the bleeding heart of humanity. If we accept Krishna with faith, he illumines our doubting mind. If we accept Krishna with love, he purifies our tormenting vital. If we accept Krishna with devotion, he transforms the ignorance-night of our life into the Knowledge-Sun of His eternal Life.
Sri Krishna now wants our mind to be riveted on caste. He says that it was he who created the fourfold order of the caste system according to the aptitudes and deeds of each caste. There are people who give all importance to birth and heredity and deliberately ignore those who are abundantly blessed with capacities and accomplishments. The result is that society has to suffer the ruthless buffets of stark confusion. True, birth and heredity bring in importance, especially in the heart of society. But this so-called importance cannot offer us even an iota of light and truth. It is by virtue of action, serene and noble, that we grow into the Highest and manifest the Deepest here on earth.
Action, inaction and wrong actionFrom verse 16 to verse 22 we see Krishna throwing light on action, inaction and wrong action. Action — that is to say, true action — is not just to move our legs and heads. Action is self-giving. Action is to abandon attachment. Action is to bring the senses under control. Wrong action is to dance with desire. Wrong action is to disobey one's inner being. Wrong action is to swerve from the path of truth, esoteric and exoteric.
In common belief inaction is tantamount to inertia, sloth and so forth. But true inaction is to throw oneself into ceaseless activities while keeping the conscious mind in a state of sublime tranquillity or trance.
Faith and doubtFaith and Doubt close the fourth chapter. Faith is not a mere emotional feeling to stick to one's belief. It is a living inner breath to discover, realise and live in the truth. Faith is the exercise taken by a seeker of his own will to force himself to stay in the all-seeing and all-fulfilling Will of God. The Yajur Veda tells us that consecration blossoms in self-dedication, grace blossoms in consecration, faith blossoms in grace, and truth blossoms in faith. What else is faith? To quote Charles Hanson Towne,
I need not shout my faith. Thrice eloquent
Are quiet trees and the green listening sod;
Hushed are the stars, whose power is never spent;
The hills are mute: yet how they speak of God!
Doubt is naked stupidity. Doubt is absolute futility: Doubt is outer conflagration. Doubt is inner destruction.
Sanmshayatma Vinashyati — "The possessor of doubt perishes." He is lost, totally lost. To him the path of the Spirit is denied. Also denied is the secret of life's illumination.
Says Krishna: "For the doubting man, neither is this world of ours, nor is the world beyond, no, nor even happiness." The New Testament presents us with the same truth: "The man of doubtful mind enjoys neither this world nor the other, nor final beatitude."
In Nyaya (logic), one of the six systems of Indian Philosophy, we notice that doubt is nothing but a conflicting judgement regarding the character of an object. Doubt comes into existence from the very fact of its recognition of properties common to many objects, or of properties not at all common to any objects. Doubt is that very thing which is wanting in the regularity of perception. Also doubt, being non-existent, exists only with non-perception.
Doubt is an all-devouring tiger. Faith is a roaring lion that inspires an aspirant to grow into the all-illumining and all-fulfilling Supreme.
Poor, blind doubt, being quite oblivious of the true truth that faith is the most forceful and most convincing affirmation of life, wants to give a violent jolt to man's lifeboat.
The poet's haunting words of truth stir our hearts to their very depths.
Better a day of faith
Than a thousand years of doubt!
Better one mortal hour with Thee
Than an endless life without.
Chapter V: RenunciationComparison was the order of the day. So is it still. Perhaps forever it shall remain so, especially in the field of manifestation. Renunciation and selfless action are now being compared. This is Arjuna's request.
"Both you extol, O Krishna, renunciation and selfless action. Tell me decisively once and for all, which is the better of the two? "
Sri Krishna's immediate answer is: "Both lead to the Bliss Supreme, but action is easier, action is superior."
The Divine Teacher makes it clear, however, that renunciation cannot be achieved in the twinkling of an eye. And to achieve the fruit of renunciation without selfless action is next to impossible.
Yoga is action freed from separativity. The awareness of a separate feeling is the death of renunciation. Action done with a feeling of universal oneness is the glorious birth of renunciation.
Two schools. One school teaches the renunciation of any work whatsoever. The other school teaches the performance of action, right action. One school says: "Stop doing anything." The other school says: "Start doing everything." Alas! Since the message of the Gita has not been truly understood in India, that country abounds in both dry ascetics and unlit men of action.
From action, action springs. Action as such can never put an end to action. Action is continuous. Action is perpetual. No matter how hard we work, how long we work, mere action can never show us the Face of the Supreme. He is a true Karma-Yogi who works for the Supreme and for the Supreme alone. Indeed the Karma Yogi is also the greatest renouncer, for he seeks nothing, rejects nothing. Likes and dislikes to him have equal importance. At his high command are all pairs of opposites. They exist to affirm him, to fulfil him, to crown him with victory, inner and outer.
Krishna's teachings aim at one Goal, the Bliss Supreme. Human temperaments are bound to differ. Human beings have varying tendencies and leanings. Such being the case, it is difficult for Arjuna to assess the most immediate and most direct path.
Action and renunciation are identical. Action is the tree. Renunciation is the fruit thereof. One cannot be greater than the other. The tree and the fruit grow in the bosom of Infinity to be loved by Eternity and embraced by Immortality.
FreedomIs there any freedom? If so, where is it? There is freedom. It lives in our conscious surrender to the Supreme's Will. Our unreserved surrender is our infallible oneness with the Supreme. Since the Supreme is the Infinite Freedom, we, in essence, cannot be otherwise.
It was Marlowe who said:
For will in us is over-ruled by fate."
This is true only when our fate is determined by the ego's extremely limited dictates. This deplorable fate of ours undergoes a radical transformation — stark bondage is transformed into boundless freedom — when we, with our ever-mounting aspiration-flame, live in the soul's unlimited and all-powerful Will. What we have within and what we see without is the consciousness of the evolving, expanding and radiating freedom. No matter what kind of freedom it gives us, physical or spiritual, this freedom is not just to succeed bondage or even to replace bondage, but to transform the very breath of bondage into freedom's Immortality. And this is freedom, as a world-figure once remarked, without quotation marks.
ServiceService can do many things for us. First of all, we should know that service done in a divine spirit is the greatest opportunity that we have in our possession to kill our pride and vanity and to obliterate the stamp of ego. It is in dedicated service that we see the universal harmony, we grow into the universal consciousness.
Our will becomes God's Will. What we call service is nothing but the fulfilment of the Divine Will. Here on earth one has the capacity; another has the need. The capacity and the need must go together. Capacity offered, not only is the need fulfilled, but also the capacity is recognised, the capacity is valued. Capacity by itself receives only partial satisfaction. But when capacity and need run abreast, full satisfaction dawns.
"From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." In our daily life, this truth is significantly applicable.
God has to occupy one's mind; and in this state of divine concentration, one should serve humanity. At that very hour, service itself becomes the greatest reward. Although meditation and service constitute totally different approaches in the field of spirituality, work and dedicated service are nothing short of pure meditation.
Krishna now tells us about pleasure and pain. "Sense-pleasure ends in pain. Hence sense-pleasure is shunned by the wise. Constant self-control is the real and perpetual happiness.
Self-control continued, self-mastery dawns. The world-existence and the world-activity are at the command of self-mastery. The easiest way to achieve self-control is to take the path of self-consecration. Self-consecration is always blessed by the soul's illumination. The turbulent forces of our senses must needs bow down to the soul's illumination. He who has the inner illumination knows that his existence on earth is the embodiment of God and his actions are the expressions of God. He feels that he is never the doer; he is a mere instrument.
We now come to learn from the Gita what the body is. "The body is a city within nine gates."
To quote Wesley La Violette from "An Immortal Song" (The Bhagavad Gita):
The body is a city with many gates
in which the sovereign mind can
Within that city is the sacred Temple
of the Spirit, Mind, where there is
to act, nor any motivating cause,
yet always the glad willingness
to follow Duty when it calls.
It is true that the body has a sacred temple. Equally true is it that the body itself is hallowed. Whitman's powerful assertion is to be gratefully welcomed. "If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred."
Today the body is the insurmountable obstacle. Tomorrow this very body can be and will be the pride of Divinity, for in and through this body God shows the world what He looks like, what He does and what He is.
Towards the end of this chapter, Sri Krishna firmly says that sensuality has to be shunned totally in order for man to live in and possess Divinity fully. The tiger-passions have to be conquered. The aspirant has to concentrate constantly on his Liberator. Indeed, for him alone is the Goal, the Salvation unique.
Chapter VI: Self-controlNo more hesitation! No more fear! No more confusion! The first verse of the sixth chapter tells Arjuna that a Sannyasi and a Yogi are one. "He who does his duty with no expectation of the fruit of action is at once a Sannyasi (Sankhya-yogi) and a Yogi (Karma-yogi)." Abstention and selfless dynamism are one.
Needless to say, it is renunciation that unites Sannyasa and Yoga. This renunciation is the renunciation of desire and the renunciation of expectation. Action, right action, must be done. Action is no bondage. Action is aspiration. Action is realisation. The Gita demands our freedom from the stark bondage of action and not from action. The evil bondage that is our foe is within us and not without us. So also is our divine friend, freedom. It seems that we are at the mercy of our mind. Milton in his Paradise Lost speaks of the mind: "It (mind) can make a Hell of Heaven or Heaven of Hell." But a true devotee can easily transcend this deplorable fate. His aspiration and rejection make him one with God's Will. He soulfully sings:
If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there;
There too, Thou, if I make my bed in hell.
In this chapter Sri Krishna has used the words Yoga and Yogi at least 30 times. Here he tells Arjuna for whom the Yoga is meant. "Arjuna, this Yoga is neither for an epicure, nor for him who does not eat at all, neither for him who sleeps overmuch, nor for him who is endlessly awake."
Self-indulgence and self-mortification are equally undeserving. To a self-indulgent person, the Goal will always remain a far cry. He who follows the philosophy of Charvaka lives in the world of indulgence which is nothing other than frustration. And this frustration is the song of destruction. The philosopher Charvaka declares:
"The pain of hell lies in the troubles that arise from foes, weapons and diseases, while liberation (moksha) is death which is the cessation of life-breath."
On the contrary, liberation is the life-breath of the human soul. And this life-breath was before the birth of creation, is now in creation and is also beyond creation.
We have dealt with self-indulgence. Now let us focus our attention on self-mortification. The Buddha tried self-mortification. And what happened? He came to realise the true truth that self-mortification could never give him what he wanted — Illumination. So he gladly adopted the middle path, the golden mean. He accepted neither starvation nor indulgence. With this peerless wisdom the Buddha won his Goal.
Arjuna's sterling sincerity speaks not only for him but also for us. Yoga is equanimity. How can the restless mind of a human being be controlled? Unsteady is the mind. Unruly like the wind is the mind. Krishna identifies himself with poor Arjuna's state of development. Krishna's very consolation is another name for illumination.
"O Arjuna, the mind is unsteady, indeed! To curb the mind is not easy. But the mind can be controlled by constant practice and renunciation."
What is to be practised? Meditation. What is to be renounced? Ignorance.
Krishna's firm conviction, "Yoga can be attained through practice," transforms our golden dream into the all-fulfilling Reality.
Practice is patience There is no short cut. "Patience is the virtue of an ass," so do we hear from the wiseacres. The impatient horse in us or the hungry tiger in us will instantly jump to this grandiose discovery. But the revealing peace in the aspirant and the fulfilling power in the aspirant will clearly and convincingly make him feel that patience is the light of Truth. The light of Truth is indeed the Goal.
A great Indian spiritual figure, on being asked by her disciples as to how many years of strenuous practice had brought her full Realisation, burst into roaring laughter.
"Practice! my children, what you call practice is nothing other than your personal effort. Now, when I was like you at your stage, unrealised, I thought and felt that my personal effort was ninety-nine per cent and God's Grace was one per cent, no more than that. But my utter stupidity died the moment self-realisation took birth in me. I then, to my amazement, saw, felt and realised that the Grace of my merciful Lord was ninety-nine per cent and my feeble personal effort was one per cent. Here my story does not come to an end, my children. Finally I realised that that one per cent of mine also was my Supreme Father's unconditional and soulful concern for me. My children, you feel that God-realisation is a struggling race. It is not true. God-realisation is always a descending Grace."
What we truly need is patience. When impatience assails us we can, however, sing with the poet:
"Thou, so far, we grope to grasp Thee — "
But when our consciousness is surcharged with patience, we can sing in the same breath with the same poet:
"Thou, so near, we cannot clasp Thee — "
It is not unusual for us to see that sometimes even an earnest seeker fails in the spiritual path. In spite of the fact that he had faith and devotion in ample measure, he fails to complete his journey. This question haunts Arjuna's heart. He says to Krishna: "Though endowed with faith, a man who has failed to subdue his passion and whose mind is wandering away from Yoga (at the time of passing away) and who fails to attain to perfection, that is, God-realisation, what fate does he meet with? Does he not meet with destruction like a rent cloud? He is deprived of both God-realisation and world-pleasure. His fate has deluded him in the path of Yoga. He has nowhere to go. He has nothing to stand upon."
Alas, the inner world does not accept him, the outer world rejects him and condemns him. He is lost, totally lost. If he is successful, both the worlds will embrace him and adore him. If he fails, he becomes an object of ruthless ridicule.
Before Sri Krishna illumines Arjuna's mind, let us bring Einstein into the picture. The immortal scientist declares:
To come back to the Teacher and the student. The Teacher illumines his student's mind with the rays of consolation, hope, inspiration and aspiration.
"O Arjuna, no fall is there for him either in this world or in the world beyond. For the fatal evil destiny is not for him who does good and who strives for self-realisation."
The Teacher also says that he who falls from the path of Yoga in this life enters into a blessed and hallowed house in his next life to continue his spiritual journey.
Each human incarnation is but a brief span and it can never determine the end of the soul's eternal journey. None can achieve perfection in one life. Everyone must needs go through hundreds or thousands of incarnations until he attains Spiritual Perfection.
A devotee always remains in the breath of his sweet Lord. For him there is no true fall, no destruction, no death. How he has apparently failed, or why he has failed, can be only his surface story. His real story is to be found in his ever-cheerful persistence, in his ultimate victory over ignorance, in his absolute oneness with the Supreme. Let us recall the significant utterance made by Jesus:
Martha said to Jesus: "Yes, Lord, I do believe."
Similarly, with Arjuna, we can in all sincerity and devotion say to the Lord Krishna: "O Krishna, the eternal Pilot of our life-boat, we believe in you. We can go one step ahead. Krishna, you are our eternal journey. You are our Transcendental Goal."
Chapter VII: Knowledge illuminedOut of his infinite Bounty Sri Krishna tells his beloved disciple that he will give him all that he has and all that he is: Infinity and Eternity. He expects only two things from the disciple in return: Yoga and dependence. We may call this dependence devoted surrender, which is the indivisible oneness of the finite with the Infinite. To know Sri Krishna is to know the Knowledge Supreme. To realise Sri Krishna is to realise the life of everything in essence.
"Manushyanam sahasresu…." — "Among thousands of men scarcely one strives for spiritual perfection, and of those who strive and succeed scarcely one knows me in essence."
It seems that the third verse is throwing cold water on the seeker. But Krishna's intention is anything but that. Krishna is not only all-Wisdom, but also all-Compassion. He wants to tell Arjuna what actually takes place in the spiritual marathon race.
Not for him the Knowledge Supreme, to be sure, who owns childish curiosity, shallow enthusiasm, weak determination, flickering devotion and conditional surrender. Any of these undivine qualities will, without fail, fail the inner runner.
The sixth and seventh verses describe the relation that exists between Sri Krishna and the universe. "I am the beginning and the end of the universe. I am the Source of creation and I am the place of Dissolution. Beyond Me, there is nothing. All this is threaded upon Me as pearls on a string."
When we concentrate on "All this is woven unto Me like gems into a necklace," we immediately vision the peerless poet Krishna.
Three qualities of nature: Sattva, Rajas, Tamas — harmony, activity and inactivity. Sri Krishna says these three qualities are from Him and in Him, but He is not in them.
SattvaSattva is the chief of the qualities of nature. It embodies harmony. Let us know the existence of harmony in relation to the universe. To quote Dryden:
From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal Frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.
The possessor of the Sattvic quality has undoubtedly a heart of gold. He knows that his life has a significance of its own. His breath is pure. His patience is luminous. Unparalleled is his fortitude. Infallible is his certainty.
RajasRajas is the second quality. A man with the rajasic quality is always filled with dynamic passion. He wants to possess the world. He wants to rule the world. He has practically no time to enter into the world of inner Illumination. His life cherishes just two things: Fight and conquest. He has the possibility either to be a divine warrior or to be a warrior of stark Falsehood. He has the strength to build a temple of Truth. He has also the strength to break and destroy it. Unfortunately he often breaks and destroys the temple owing to his unlit vision and the mad elephant in him.
TamasTamas is the third quality. It is sloth, darkness, ignorance, sin and death. It is also the worldly delusion and the deluding illusion.
Sattva is the soul with clear vision.
Rajas is either the fruitful or fruitless life.
Tamas is the dance of death.
Sattva manifests itself through the aspiring light.
Rajas manifests itself through the desiring might.
Tamas manifests itself through the darkening night.
A man of virtue wants to live the truth.
A man of action wants to enjoy the world.
A man of inactivity enjoys nothing. On the contrary, he is enjoyed constantly by darkness, ignorance and death.
A man of virtue has a friend: aspiration.
A man of activity has a friend: inspiration.
A man of inactivity has a friend: delusion.
A man of virtue tries to live in the truth of the present, past and future.
A man of action wants to live in the glorious present. He does not care much for the future.
A man of inactivity does not live in the proper sense of the term. He sleeps. His days and nights are made of lightless sleep.
The first one wants to transcend himself soulfully.
The second one wants to expand himself forcefully.
The third one destroys himself unconsciously.
Those who follow the inner path have four distinct roles to play:
Arta, the depressed, the afflicted. Life is a bed of thorns. He has realised this truth and cries for life's transformation. He wants to possess a bed of roses. Pain is his painful possession. He can successfully sing with Francis Thomson:
Nothing begins and nothing ends,
That is not paid with moan;
For we are born in other's pain,
And perish in our own.
Jignasu, the seeker, the enquirer. What he wants is knowledge. Knowledge tells us why a man suffers. Further, since knowledge embodies power, it transforms the breath of suffering into the breath of seeing and kindling knowledge.
Artharthi, the seeker of true wealth, the Truth absolute. He has no sorrow. He has no earthly desire. He wants to live in perpetual freedom, liberation.
Jnani, the wise. He who is wise knows that the Supreme is everywhere and the Kingdom of Heaven is within him. He lives in the Supreme. His life is the life of oneness with the Supreme. His world is the world of true fulfilment. Thickest is the intimacy between him and the Supreme.
Sri Krishna continues: "Noble and good are they all, but I hold the wise, the enlightened as my chosen soul and my own Self; fully united, absolutely one we are. When his life has played its role, when the hour of silence knocks at his door, I place him in my Heart where the Breath of Eternal Life grows."
Chapter VIII: The imperishable InfiniteBrahman is the Imperishable Infinite. Another name for Brahman is AUM. AUM is the Creator. AUM is Creation. AUM is in Creation. Also AUM is beyond the Creation.
This chapter begins with a volley of most significant questions. Brahman, adhyatma, karma, adhibhuta, adhidaiva, adhiyajna — what are these? The Lord answers: "The Imperishable Absolute is Brahman. Adhyatma is the self-revealing Knowledge of Brahman's primaeval Nature. Karma is the birth of activity, natural and normal. Adhibhuta is the perishable material manifestation. Adhidaiva is the knowledge of the Shining Ones. Adhiyajna is the sacrifice made by Me in order to unite the manifestation of finite forms with My Infinite Life."
Krishna affirms that self-realisation or the realisation of Immortality must be achieved during life in the body and nowhere else. As each human being creates limitations, imperfections and bondages, so also is he capable of transcending them. He will finally enter into the planes of Fulness, Perfection and Freedom.
Our existence is the result of a previous existence. This earth of ours is the result of an earth that existed before. Everything is evolving. The essence of evolution is an inner and outer movement. This movement or change takes place even in the world of Brahma. Even after attaining Brahma's world, one cannot escape the snares of rebirth. To be sure, our earthly days and nights are nothing but an infinitesimal second in comparison to the Days and Nights of Brahma. A thousand ages breathe in Brahma's one single day, and a thousand ages breathe in Brahma's one single night.
No use in taking shelter in our earthly days and nights, for they are fleeting. No use in taking shelter in Brahma's days and nights either, for they are also not eternal. We can, we should and we must take shelter only in the Lord Krishna's Eternal Heart, which is our safest haven, where no day is required, no night is required since His heart is Infinity's Light and Eternity's Life.
Nothing else do we need save devotion. Our choice supreme is devotion. Our heart of devotion responds to His Heart of Love. Says He: "Only the devotion unswerving has the direct and free access to my Life Immortal, my Truth Absolute."
What is within will sooner or later be manifested without. The possessor of divine thoughts will also be the doer of divine deeds. It is possible only for a dedicated and aspiring man to think of God consciously while leaving the earth scene.
Krishna tells us how a Yogi enters into the Ultimate after leaving his mortal sheath. "His senses are under control. His mind is placed in the heart, He meditates on Me. AUM he soulfully chants. He gives up Prana, the life-breath, and enters into the Ultimate Realisation in Me."
AumIf you read my article, "The Significance of AUM"1 , you will know in detail about AUM. Madame H.P. Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, observed AUM in a very simple and significant way. She said, "AUM means good actions, not merely lip-sound. You must say it in deeds." In order to know what AUM is and what it stands for one is well advised to study the Upanishads that speak of AUM. The Mandukya Upanishad offers us the significance of AUM explicitly. The meaning of AUM can be known from books. But the knowledge of AUM can never be had by studying books. It must be achieved by living an inner life, a life of aspiration, that will transport the aspirant to the higher levels of consciousness. The easiest way and the most effective way to go up high, higher, highest is to surcharge oneself with pure love and genuine devotion. Doubt, fear, frustration, limitation and imperfection are bound to surrender to devoted love and surrendered devotion. Love and devotion have the power unparalleled to own the world and be owned by the world. Love God's Manifestation; you will find that the cosmic creation is yours. Devote yourself to the cause of the cosmic manifestation; you will see that it loves you and claims you as its very own.
It is true that knowledge can give you what love and devotion give, but very often knowledge is not cultivated for the sake of truth, but for the fulfilment of desires. Fruitless is the pursuit of knowledge when desire looms large in it. When the aspirant is all love and devotion, he soars.
During his journey's flight he sings:
No more my heart shall sob or grieve.
My days and nights dissolve in God's own Light.
Above the toil of life my soul
Is a Bird of Fire winging the Infinite.
At the end of his journey's flight he sings:
I have known the One and His secret Play;
And passed beyond the sea of Ignorance-Dream.
In tune with Him, I sport and sing.
I own the golden Eye of the Supreme.
He has now grown into his own Goal. Self-amorous he sings:
Drunk deep of Immortality,
I am the root and boughs of a teeming vast.
My Form I have known, and realised.
The Supreme and I are one — all we outlast.
— Sri Chinmoy, Revelation
CBG 24,1. Sri Chinmoy, Prayer-World, Mantra-World and Japa-World, Agni Press, New York, 1974↩
Chapter IX: The Secret supremeThe Secret supreme is the Knowledge supreme. It cannot be told. It has to be realised. This supreme Secret is written in letters of gold in the inmost recesses of each divinely human heart. It rejects none, no, not even the one who is dead in sin. He who has no faith in what Krishna says will have no escape from the fetters of ignorance. To have faith is to have a piece of singular good fortune. Like exemplary devotion, faith too needs a personal God, and it has one. Faith is not blind belief. Faith is not a blind, unquestioning surrender to the sacred books. Faith is the conscious awareness of one's limitless freedom. Krishna says: "O Arjuna, salvation is not for him who has no faith. Forever he is bound to the sorrows of life and to the pangs of death." He who walks along the road of faith will see for himself the Truth supreme here on earth. The determination of the seeker's aspiring heart is his mystic faith. The conviction of the seeker's revealing soul is his triumphant faith. An ordinary, unaspiring man is buoyed by the worlds of false hopes. But a man of faith always lives in the worlds of forceful affirmation. Cheerfully and unreservedly he heaps more and more fuel of sterling faith at the Altar of God. Needless to say, the flowering of his soul runs apace.
Krishna smilingly says: "The deluded slight Me, my human incarnations, knowing not that I am the Lord supreme of all beings."
To recognise an Avatar is not an easy thing. Either one has to be blessed by the Avatar himself or one has to possess the gift of inner vision. An aspirant has to prepare himself in order to recognise an Avatar. He has to shun sense-pleasure. He must not be controlled by passions. It is he who has to control his passions. He has to breathe in constantly the breath of purity. Fear he has to tear down. Doubt he has to smite. Peace he has to invoke. Joy he has to imbibe.
To perform abstruse rites and ceremonies is not necessary. Self-giving is the only thing required. He accepts everything with greatest joy. We can start our inner journey offering Him leaves, flowers and fruits. Even the smallest act of offering to God is the truest step on the path of self-discovery and God-discovery. We think. If we offer our "thinking" to God, this very act of offering our thought will ultimately make us one with God the Thought. An ordinary man feels that he thinks just because he lives. But Descartes holds altogether a different view: "I think, therefore I am." This "I am" is not only the fruit of creation, but also the breath of creation. Significant are the words of Bertrand Russell:
If we can discover a true, divine thought, then in no time God will ask or compel time to be on our side. Nothing save time can help us feel the breath of Truth and touch the feet of God. We can own Eternity's time if we truly want to. Sweet and meaningful are the words of Austin Dobson:
Time goes, you say? Ah no!
Alas, Time stays, we go.
We serve. If we serve Him, Him alone in humanity, we become one with His absolute Reality and His universal Oneness. We must not forget that our dedicated service must be rendered with a flood-tide of purest enthusiasm.
Verse 29 is a very familiar and popular one. "To Me all are alike, I know no favour. I know no disfavour. My loving devotees who worship me are in me. I am also in them." This is an experience that stands out in bold relief in a true seeker's life. There is no special privilege. Everybody is granted the same opportunity. It goes without saying that a true devotee has already gone through arduous spiritual disciplines. Now if he grows into a genuine devotee and becomes dear and intimate to Krishna, then it should be understood that he is having the result of his past iron disciplines and severe austerities. No pain, no gain. No sincerity, no success. Have aspiration. It will accelerate your progress, inner and outer.
The devotee aspires. Sri Krishna resides in his aspiration. The devotee realises. In his realisation he discovers that Krishna is his eternal breath. A devotee is never alone. He has discovered the true Truth that his sacrifice unites him with his Lord. The more he consciously offers himself to the Lord, the stronger becomes their divine bond of union nay, oneness.
Anityam (Not lasting, fleeting); Asukham (pleasureless, joyless). The outer world abides in our earth-bound consciousness. The earth-bound consciousness can be transformed into the Eternal Consciousness through aspiration, devotion and surrender. And the Eternal Consciousness houses perpetual joy. Liberation has to be achieved here in this world. Any man of promise will gladly subscribe to Emerson's dauntless declaration:
When we look at the world with our inner eye, the world is beautiful. This beauty is the reflection of one's own divinity. God the Beautiful has our aspiring heart as His eternal Throne. We, the seekers of the Supreme, can never see eye to eye with Nietzsche's proud philosophy. He utters: "The world is beautiful, but has a disease called Man." On the contrary, we can say in unmistakable terms that the world is beautiful because it has been illumined by a supernal beauty called Man.
Anityam and Asukham cannot blight the heart of a true seeker. His faith is married to his golden fate.
He sings and sings:
My eternal days are found in speeding time,
I play upon his Flute of rhapsody.
Impossible deeds no more impossible seem,
In birth-chains now shines Immortality.
Chapter X: The perfection divine and universalWhat is within us is perfection. What is without us is imperfection. The outer world can have perfection only when the inner world inspires, guides, moulds and shapes the outer world.
Yesterday dreamt of today as perfection. Today dreams of tomorrow as perfection. Perfection already achieved pales into insignificant imperfection before the birth of the fast approaching future.
Perfection grows. It has been doing so since the beginning of the creation's birth. Unlike us, God has one Dream: perfect Perfection. This perfect Perfection must shine in the aspiring hearts of individuality and universality so that the absolute Reality can be the total expression of the cosmic Vision.
Everybody is dear to God. But the sweetest and the most intimate relation exists only between a devotee and the Lord. A true devotee worships the Lord with no desire's brood. The Lord blesses him not only unreservedly but also unconditionally. What a devotee needs is the determined strength of his heart. Once he has achieved it, his self-realisation will no longer remain a far cry.
To understand the truth is one thing. To believe in it is another. Not to understand the truth is no crime, far from it. But to disbelieve the truth is nothing short of an unpardonable sin. A child does not understand his father's vast wisdom. Nevertheless, his faith in his father's wisdom is spontaneous and genuine.
Sri Krishna is the Wisdom Absolute. He is the Glory Supreme. His Glory nobody understands. No, not even the gods. Arjuna may not understand Krishna, but his implicit faith in Krishna speaks for him: "O Krishna, Thou art the Lord of the Lords. Supreme art Thou. This I believe. Neither the gods nor the demons comprehend thy mysterious manifestations. The source of all beings art Thou. Thou art known by Thee alone."
— St. Augustine."
Belief is the complete liberty of the mind. Belief is the full independence of the heart.
Krishna now makes it clear to Arjuna that His divine Glory can be elucidated and demonstrated but can never be exhausted. The universe in its entirety is but a tiny spark of His infinite Magnitude.
Pandavanam Dhananjaya, says Krishna. "Among the Pandavas I am Dhananjaya." Dhananjaya is an epithet of Arjuna. Each person has one body, one mind, one heart and one soul. How can one standing in front of another say that he is verily the other person? Does it not sound absurd? It does so only when we live in the physical, not when we live in the oneness of the Spirit. When we declare that all human beings are one and the same, we just state a bare fact that we inwardly believe or try to believe. It is the sense of identification that makes us one. Krishna says: "I am this, I am that, I am everything." Again He says that He is the best, highest and mightiest in everything. Does it mean that His Consciousness is tinged with preference? Does He discriminate? No, He has no preference, He has no discrimination. "Arjuna, I am the Self seated in the heart of all beings. I am the beginning and middle and also the end of all beings." He wants to illumine Arjuna's mind by saying that in the process of cosmic evolution He is unveiling and manifesting His own perfection. His divine manifestations are endless. He has mentioned only a few by way of example. From Him spring permanence, goodness and mightiness. He tells Arjuna that he has not to learn His divine manifestations in minute detail. It will simply confuse his mind. "I established the whole universe with a portion of Myself." Knowing this the seeker in Arjuna can easily satisfy his hunger.
"I am the seed of all things, animate or inanimate." Arjuna now realises that Krishna is not the mere body. He is the Self all-pervading. Arjuna wishes to know under what particular form the Self is to be worshipped. "Under all forms," is Krishna's immediate reply. Nothing there is without the Self. The Self is in all and all is in the Self. This is the wisdom that the seeker's knowledge must possess.
The Gita teaches us the purest oneness. This oneness is the inner oneness. This inner oneness is at once spontaneous and unique. This oneness can never be truncated or dwarfed by the mind. The realm of oneness is far beyond the approach of the physical mind.
Self-knowledge is the knowledge of the universal oneness. Divine perfection can be founded only on the fertile soil of universal oneness. Serve humanity precisely because Divinity looms large in humanity. Know Divinity and you will in no time realise God's Immortality in you and your Immortality in God. God in man and man in God can only announce the truest embodiments of perfect Perfection.
Chapter XI: The vision of the Universal Form and the Cosmic Manifestation of the LordOut of His infinite Bounty, boundless Love and deepest, soulful Concern, Sri Krishna has unveiled the Secret supreme that He is in everything and He embodies everything. Arjuna's stark delusion has been removed and dispersed. He now enjoys his soul's translucent peace.
Sri Krishna speaks out of the abundance of His love. Arjuna listens to Him with his heart's loftiest devotion, and believes in Him unreservedly and soulfully. Arjuna's singular belief cries for its transformation; his aspiration cries for an experience. His mind understands the truth. But his heart pines to vision the truth and to live the Truth. Hence he needs this experience, unavoidable and inevitable. Sri Krishna graciously and immediately grants it, the Experience Unparalleled.
"O Arjuna, Behold in My body the entire universe." Arjuna's physical eyes naturally fail to vision it. The Lord grants him the eye of supernal vision, the eye that sees the unseen — the Yogic eye.
The body that the Lord speaks of is a spiritual body. Hence to see the spiritual body, Arjuna must needs be endowed with a spiritual eye. The body signifies form. The formless abides in this form. The Vision Transcendental and the Reality Absolute play in unison in and through the cosmic form. The body of flesh and blood undergoes innumerable vicissitudes, but not the body of unlimited, divine form and deathless substance. This divine body is the embodiment and revelation of truth's Divinity, Infinity, Eternity and Immortality.
Sanjaya says to Dhritarashtra, "O Rajan, Krishna, the supreme Master of Yoga, the Almighty Lord, reveals to Arjuna His Form divine, supreme. Arjuna now sees Krishna as the Supreme Godhead, Parameshwara."
Arjuna sees the many in the One Supreme possessing myriad mouths, numberless eyes, limitless marvels, wielding divine weapons, wearing divine garments and jewels, bearing celestial garlands of supernal fragrance. The effulgence of a thousand suns bursting forth all at once in the skies will hardly equal the supreme splendour of the Lord. Arjuna, in the divine person of Krishna, beholds Infinity in multiplicity. Overwhelmed, ecstasy flooding his inmost being, with his hands folded, his head bowed, he exclaims, "O Lord, in Thee, in Thy Body, I behold all gods and all grades of beings, with distinctive marks. I see even Brahma seated resplendent on His Lotus-Throne and seers and sages all around, and symbolical serpents — all divine."
When we go up with all our hearts' snow-white flaming aspiration, we enter into the cosmic consciousness of the seers. This path is an upward path. It is the path of embodiment and realisation. There is another path known as the path of revelation and manifestation. This path is the downward path. Here our consciousness flows down through the cosmic energy, the symbolic serpents, circling and spiralling.
Verses 15-31 eloquently and psychically describe what Arjuna saw in Krishna with his newly acquired Yogic sight.
The fight is yet to start. The mighty warriors are ready and eager to fight. To his greatest surprise, Arjuna sees the utter extinction of the lives of the warriors in Krishna. Before the birth of the fight, he sees the death of the warriors. Destroyed they are. As he sees the fires of Krishna's flaming and all-devouring mouth, his very life-breath quivers. The disciple cries out, "Thy compassion, my Lord Supreme, I implore. I know Thee not. Who art Thou?"
"Time am I. Time, the mighty destroyer, am I. Doomed they are. Whether you fight or not, they are already dead. Even without you, your foes will escape no death. Arise, O Arjuna, arise. Victory's glory and renown you win, conquer your enemies, enjoy the vast kingdom, enjoy. By me is ordained their lives' surrendered hush. You be the outer cause. Just be my instrument, nothing more." "Nimittamatram bhava." "Be Thou the mere instrument."
There can be no greater pride, no better achievement, than to be God's own instrument, for to be an instrument of God is to be infallibly accepted as His very own. In and through the Instrument-Disciple, the Master-Guru sees and fulfils God's Divine Purpose.
Krishna is the all-devouring time. This vision, according to our outer eyes and understanding, is terrible. But according to our inner vision and inner comprehension it is natural and inevitable.
"Time," says Sri Aurobindo, "represents itself to human effort as an enemy or a friend, as a resistance, a medium or an instrument, But always it is really the instrument of the soul.
"Time is a field of circumstances and forces meeting and working out a resultant progression whose course it measures. To the ego it is a tyrant or a resistance, to the Divine an instrument. Therefore, while our effort is personal, Time appears as a resistance, for it presents to us all the obstruction of the forces that conflict with our own. When the divine working and the personal are combined in our consciousness, it appears as a medium and condition. When the two become one, it appears as a servant and instrument."
Krishnaprem, the great seeker, says, "It is impossible to state in words this wondrous insight. All things remain the same yet all are changed. Time flashes bodily into Eternity; the streaming Flux itself is the Eternal, which, though It moves unceasingly, moves not at all."
The Upanishadic lore echoes and re-echoes in our aspiring hearts: "That moves and yet That moves not, That is far distant and yet That is close and near…"
Time houses Truth. Sri Krishna tells the Truth, the Truth Eternal, about Himself. Here we can recollect the significant words of Virginia Woolf: "If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people." Conversely, if you know the spiritual truth about yourself, you must needs know the truth about others. Sri Krishna showed the Divine Truth that was Himself.
We can also cheerfully walk with Marcus Aurelius: "I cannot comprehend how any man can want anything but the Truth."
To doubt the spiritual master before one's own illumination dawns is not uncommon in the spiritual history of the world. Even some of the dearest disciples of great spiritual masters have done so. But for the seeker to leave the master precisely because doubt haunts him is an act of sheer stupidity. Stick, stick unto the last. The blighted doubts will disappear into thin air. The splendour of Infinity and Eternity will blossom in the bosom of Time. Your mounting aspiration will accomplish this task.
Arjuna's throbbing heart voices forth, "Thou art the primeval Soul…." He cries for Krishna's forgiveness. Owing to his past ignorance, he had not realised Krishna in His divine nature. His past was full of wrong deeds, what with ignorance and what with carelessness. He begs with a throbbing heart for forgiveness for his acts of omission and commission rendered to Sri Krishna.
"Bear with me as father with his son, as friend with his friend, as Lord with the beloved." Sri Krishna no doubt forgives Arjuna. He assumes his normal, natural and familiar form.
Arjuna comes to learn that it is only the Grace Divine that has endowed him with the Yogic eye to see the Unseen, the Glory Supreme of the Lord, the present, past and future.
He also learns from the Lord that "neither the study of the Vedas, nor sacrifice, nor alms, neither austerity nor study can win this cosmic vision…" Even the gods yearn for a glimpse of this Universal Form which He has just shown to Arjuna out of His boundless Compassion.
Faith, devotion, surrender. Lo! Krishna is won. No other way Him to realise, Him to possess.
Chapter XII: The path of devotionArjuna is exceedingly happy and extremely fortunate that he has had the most rare Vision of the cosmic Form. How is it possible for him to be burdened with further philosophical and spiritual questions? The reason is that his vision of the cosmic Form does not imply that he has reached the Goal of goals. The vision has to be transformed into the living, constant Reality in Arjuna's life, and then he has to live in the Reality itself. The experience of the vision is good. The realisation of the vision is better. The embodiment of the vision is best. Better than even the best is the revelation of the vision. Finally it is the manifestation of the vision which is divinely and supremely unparalleled.
The path of meditation and the path of devotion are now being compared. Arjuna wishes to learn from Sri Krishna about the two paths, the path of meditation that leads to the Unmanifest and the path of devotion that leads to the personal God — which is the better of the two? Krishna's answer is that each path, devotedly and faithfully followed, leads to the Goal. But the path of meditation is more difficult and more arduous. The physical body binds us to the material world. Hence it is difficult for us to meditate on the Unthinkable, the Unimaginable and the Transcendental. But if we approach the Lord who assumes the human form and who plays His divine game in the field of His manifestation, our success will undoubtedly be easier, quicker and more convincing, to a degree which our physical minds would not believe possible.
A genuine seeker must dissolve all that he has — ignorance and knowledge — and all that he is — ego and aspiration — in God. Indeed it is most difficult but not impossible. Lo! He is given the golden opportunity to accept the easiest and the most effective path. In this unique path, he has just to offer the fruits of action to the Lord and he has to dedicate himself — body, mind, heart and soul — to the Lord.
The path of meditation and the path of devotion will lead ultimately to the same Goal. Now what makes the aspirant feel that the path of meditation is extremely difficult to follow? The answer is very simple. The aspirant cannot focus his mind's attention on the Unmanifest Beyond; whereas if the aspirant is devoted to the Lord in His manifested creation, and if he wants to see and worship his Beloved in each being, his path becomes undoubtedly easier. Love the form first; then from the form, go to the Formless Beyond. The disciple at the beginning must approach the divinely physical aspect of the Guru and then he has to go beyond, far beyond the Guru's physical form and physical substance in order to commune with and stay in the Ineffable and the Ever-Receding Beyond.
The disciple wants the easiest path. Sri Krishna kindly consents. He says that the path of meditation is difficult, the path of selfless service is difficult and the path inspired by Love and Devotion is difficult. But still there is one more path which is extremely easy to follow. In this path, one has merely to renounce the fruit of action. If we cannot do our work as a dedicated service to God, we should not succumb to dark disappointment. We can just work, work for ourselves. We need only offer our fruits to the Lord. However we will do well if we do only that particular work which we feel from within to be right. Naturally we will do the work that is demanded of us by our soulful duty. If we do our soulful duty and offer the fruits to the Lord, in no time our Inner Pilot is won.
Chapter XIII: The Field and the Knower of the FieldDevotion is more than enough to realise the Lord Krishna, the Truth Eternal. However, in this chapter Sri Krishna wants to widen Arjuna's knowledge, philosophically and intellectually. Those who harbour philosophical and intellectual questions with regard to the Truth will now truly be satisfied.
We try to avoid and ignore that which creates problems in our life. According to Krishna, this so-called wisdom of ours is nothing short of ignorance. True, we shall not create problems on our own. But if the problems do appear, then we have to face them and enter into them and finally conquer them dauntlessly and totally.
Arjuna has already been blessed by the Lord with the inner heights. Now the Lord wants to illumine him with the knowledge of the Cosmos wherein he has to play a conscious role.
Matter and spirit. Prakriti and Purusha. The Field and the Knower of the Field. The body is the Field. The Soul is the Knower thereof. True wisdom lies in realising the Knower Supreme and the Cosmos, known and revealed.
There are twenty-four Tattvas, principles, that go to form the Field. The first group of great elements or bases is: earth, water, fire, air and ether. The field also houses the ego and the earth-bound mind, the intellect; the five organs of action — hands, feet, tongue and the two organs of elimination; also the sense organs such as nose, mouth, eyes, ears, and so on. The five spheres of the senses are: sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch.
Only one thing is to be known. To know that the Lord is within the Cosmos, without the Cosmos and beyond the Cosmos is to know everything.
Matter And SpiritMatter and Spirit are beginningless. Matter is the primordial substance. Matter is ever changing. Spirit is always static. Matter is the possessor of infinite qualities. Spirit sees and sanctions. Matter does, grows and becomes. Spirit is Consciousness. Spirit is the Witness. Matter is the Creativity Infinite. Spirit is the Reality in man. Spirit is the Perceiver of Matter. He who has realised Spirit's (Purusha's) eternal Silence and Matter's (Prakriti's) cosmic dance may live in any walk of life, whether as a doctor or a philosopher, a poet or a singer; he has achieved the perfection of supreme realisation. There are some who realise the Supreme Spirit in meditation; others by knowledge (the Sankhya philosophy). There are also others who realise the Supreme Spirit by the Yoga of Action and Selfless Service. In addition, there are those who are not aware of It, but who have heard of the Supreme Spirit from others and who have started worshipping It in devotion, and cling firmly to the Truth. They also pass on beyond mortality and cross beyond the snares of death.
Spirit is in Matter. It tastes the qualities born of matter. It does experience the physical existence. The qualities acquired determine its rebirth. Spirit is the Supreme Himself. Although Master of the body, it experiences mortal life.
The way to God is to see the Eternal Life in the fleeting life, to know that Prakriti, not Purusha, is to action attached. All activities, says the Gita, divine and undivine, arise in Prakriti. Purusha is actionless. No action is possible in Purusha, for Purusha transcends both time and space. Yet without Purusha, there can be no universe, no manifestation.
Spirit is self-existent and all-pervading, whether within the body or without the body; always unaffected the Spirit remains.
To know that Purusha and Prakriti are one and inseparable is to know the Truth, the Truth of Unity and Divinity in humanity, which will eventually be manifested as the Divinity of humanity.
The Gita does not house arid, logical metaphysics. Its teachings have no need for any support from intellectual argument. Human reason cannot knock at the door of Transcendental Reality. Never. What is the Gita, if not the Transcendental Reality supremely and divinely embodied?
Each human being has to learn five supreme secrets from the Gita: 1). See the Truth. 2). Feel the Truth. 3). Be the Truth. 4). Reveal the Truth. 5). Manifest the Truth.
In this chapter we observe that the Gita is at once the significance of life and the divine interpretation of life. Unfortunately, this particular chapter has become the victim of dire contradiction in spite of the very fact that the Gita, from its journey's start to its journey's close, sees not the face of contradiction. The Gita sees and reveals only the face of Truth's unity in multiplicity. Scholars and commentators are at war with each other over their theories. Nor have the philosophers the inclination to shun this battle. Each is inspired to impose his lofty theories on the others. But a genuine seeker of the Supreme Truth is truly wise. He prays to the Lord Krishna to have the Gita as his personal experience. Sri Krishna smiles. The devotee cries out:
Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.
Not thankful when it pleaseth me.
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
— G. Herbert
Lo, the devotee has won the race! The devotee needs a Guru, a Master. Sri Krishna is the Guru and Arjuna is the disciple. An eminent Indian scholar, Hari Prasad Shastri, writes:
Finally the Gita tells us that the Guru of all gurus, the real Guru, is God.
Chapter XIV: The three gunasSATTVA is purity. Sattva is light. Sattva is wisdom. Happiness and Sattva stay together. Harmony and Sattva breathe together. The senses in Sattva are surcharged with the light of knowledge. If one leaves the body when Sattva prevails, then to the pure abode of the Sages he goes.
RAJAS is passion. Rajas is desire. Rajas is unlit activity. Rajas binds the body to action. Rajas stays either with stark dynamism or with blind aggression. Restlessness and Rajas breathe together. To separate toil from Rajas is practically impossible. Rajas is another name for passionate movement. If one dies when Rajas prevails, then he is reborn among those attached to action.
TAMAS is slumber. Tamas is darkness. Tamas is ignorance. Stagnation and Tamas stay together. Futility and Tamas breathe together. Impossible for Tamas to be separated from naked pangs. Tamas is another name for slow death. Death in Tamas is followed by rebirth among the senseless fools.
Sattva-tree bears the fruit called harmony.
Rajas-tree bears the fruit called pain.
Tamas-tree bears the fruit called ignorance.
Sattva offers to the world at large luminous knowledge; Rajas, passionate greed; Tamas, rank delusion. He whose life is flooded with Sattva looks up into the skies. Hence he goes to higher spheres. He whose life is fired with Rajas looks haughtily around the world. Hence here he dwells. Blind is he whose life is covered with tenebrous Tamas. Stone blind is he. Hence down he sinks.
The Lord says that he who understands the origin of action in these three-fold qualities of Prakriti, and at the same time understands Purusha, who is beyond the qualities, comes to Him and enters into His Nature. And finally, when he goes beyond the length and breadth of these three qualities, Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, he drinks deep the Nectar of Immortality.
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
— John Wesley
This precisely is expected of a Sattvic man. Now you may ask, how is it that he too has to transcend his nature? Is he not unique in his service to mankind? He may be unique in his large human family, but perfect freedom he has yet to achieve. Silently, secretly and, alas, at times even unconsciously the poor Sattvic man is attached to the fruits of his generous service, to the effects of his sublime knowledge. So with a view to achieving absolute freedom and perfect perfection a Sattvic man has to transform and transcend his nature.
After having transcended the three Gunas one has to make a choice, whether one wants to remain in the Transcendent, far above the field of manifestation, or one wants to serve the Eternal Breath of the Infinite in humanity and inspire humanity to the Realisation of the Supreme Bliss, Peace and Power.
Not one, not two, but three significant questions Arjuna asks. What are the marks of him who has transcended the three qualities? How does he behave? How does he go beyond the three qualities?
Krishna's answers are:
The Yogi who has transcended the three qualities in his own life will neither hate nor crave for the fruits of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Within and without he is flooded with his soul's equanimity. He is absolutely independent. He has realised the absolute independence of his divinity within. Something more: he serves God with his sterling devotion. He does it soulfully. He serves mankind with all his love. He does it unconditionally. He sees God and God alone in all human souls. Such a Yogi ultimately becomes without fail the Self Supreme.
Chapter XV: The Supreme PurushaChapter XIII has taught us the truth that there is a Field and there is a Knower of that Field. Chapter XIV has thrown abundant light on the Field, the cosmic play of Prakriti. In this particular chapter we shall learn about the Knower, the Self Individual, the Self Universal and the Self Supreme.
This chapter begins with a Tree. This Tree is called the World-Tree. Unlike earthly or botanical trees, this Tree has its root above in the Supreme. The Supreme is its only Source. Downward are its branches spread. The Vedas are its leaves. He who has fathomed the depths of the ever-changing and ever-evolving world has all the Vedic Knowledge at his disposal.
Here on earth this Tree is not free. It is caught by its own action and reaction here in this world of ours. It is fondly nourished by the three qualities of Prakriti. If one wants to discover the beginning, the end and the very existence of this Tree, then one has to free himself totally from this Temptation-Tree.
Tree signifies aspiration. This aspiration ultimately rises up to the Highest. Countless are the Indian sadhus (monks) who sit under the trees and enter into the world of deeper meditation. The aspiration of the tree inspires them and arouses their dormant aspiration. Lord Buddha had his Enlightenment at the foot of the Bodhi-Tree. The world knows it.
The Gita is an ocean of spirituality. Spirituality's most affectionate daughter is poetry. The subtle breath of poetry is always fondled by the life-energising spirituality. Let us identify our consciousness with the consciousness of a poet when he speaks of a tree.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
— Joyce Kilmer
Since poetry is my forte, I gladly take the liberty of seeing eye to eye with the blessed poet.
To come back to our philosophical Tree. The wise cut down its root with the axe of detachment. This is the way to liberation. This is the way to the supreme good.
A wise man lives in perfect self-control. He is devoted to the Truth unreservedly and unconditionally. He wants God and God alone, Who is the Fount of the world within and the world without, and also of the world beyond. The happenings, encouraging or discouraging, pleasant or unpleasant, divine or undivine do not stir his mind, not to speak of his inner existence. He swims in the sea of fruitful Silence and Equanimity. Being the master of the senses, he lords it over them. He comes to Krishna, his only Haven. No sun, no moon, no fire in His Abode. Not necessary. This Abode is the Source of the entire universe. It is All Illumination. From His eternal Abode there is no return.
It is not for the deluded but for the seers who are endowed with the divine vision to recognise or understand Him, the Lord Supreme, who enters into the body, resides in the body and experiences the qualities of Nature and leaves the body at His chosen hour.
To be sure, all serious efforts of a man will be of no avail until he has achieved steadiness in his mind, until his outer nature is at his command, until his heart overflows with love and devotion to his spiritual Teacher (Guru), until he serves the living Breath of the Lord in humanity.
There are two aspects of creation: the perishable and the imperishable. Beyond these two is the Impersonal Supreme. This Impersonal Supreme is at once all-pervading and all-sustaining.
The Lord says: "I, the Purushottama, the Supreme Being, transcend both the perishable and the imperishable."
There are four Vedas. Strangely enough, all four Vedas significantly speak of this Supreme Being.
The Being Supreme, thousand-headed, thousand-eyed, thousand-footed;
He pervades the length and breadth of the earth.
He is beyond all ten corners.
Here "thousand" undoubtedly means infinite. Infinity is manifesting itself through the finite in the field of manifestation.
Purushottama is beyond formless and form, beyond impersonality and personality. In Him the mightiest dynamic urge and the profoundest Silence stay together. To Him, they are one. To Him are one, heavenly freedom and earthly necessity, the ever-changing form of the earth and the changeless Reality infinite.
Chapter XVI: Forces divine and forces undivineThe world, fear and bondage enjoy the deepest intimacy. He who thinks of God is ultimately loved by the world. He who loves God has no fear. Bondage he transcends.
He who feels that sense-pleasure and the supreme joy are one and the same is utterly mistaken. Self-indulgence and the Goal of life never can and never will meet.
To see God one has to be practical, absolutely practical, both in the world of realisation and in the world of manifestation. Nobody can be more practical than one who is endowed with spiritual qualities. His life is guided, protected and illumined by the forces divine.
Fear fears to stay with him who has perfect faith in God. His heart is purity. His mind is freedom. Duplicity? He knows not what it is. His love he uses to love mankind. He expects love in return only if so is the Will of God. His service he offers to the Supreme in humanity, having utterly destroyed the root of expectation-, nay, temptation-tree with the sharp axe of his wisdom-light.
Violence is too weak to enter into his fort of thought, word and deed.
Purest sincerity he has. Mightiest self-sacrifice he is.
He wears no man-made crown, but a God-made crown which God Himself cherishes. The name of this divine crown is humility."
He who is devoured by the undivine forces is not only unspiritual but impractical in the purest sense of the term. Never can he stay alone even if he wants to. Vanity, anger, ostentation and ego arouse him from his slumber and then they compel him to dance with them. Secretly but speedily ignorance comes in and joins them in their dance, and then cheerfully and triumphantly it teaches them the dance of destruction.
His ego he uses to buy the world. His anger he uses to weaken and punish the world. His vanity and ostentation he uses to win with the world. Consciously he offers himself to the glorification of sense-pleasure. Alas, he himself fails to count his imaginary projects, for they are countless, innumerable. What he has absolutely as his own is his self-praise. What he infallibly is is verily the same.
He says to charity and philanthropy: "Look, I am sending you two to the world. Remember, I am not giving you to the world. Bring back from the world for me name and fame. Come back, soon!"
Charity and philanthropy humbly listen to his command. They go running towards the world. They touch the world. They feed the world. They forget not to bring back name and fame from the world for their master. The master receives his coveted prize: name and fame. Alas, to his utter astonishment, futility follows his name and fame.
His life is the hyphen between sin and hell. What is sin? Sin is the taste of imperfect ignorance. What is hell? Hell is the ruthless torture of unsatisfied desires and the fond embrace of ignorance fulfilled.
At first the seeker has to take ignorance and knowledge separately. Later on he realises that in both ignorance and knowledge THAT exists. Let us kindle our aspiration-flame with the soulful lore of the Isha Upanishad. "Avidya a mrityum tirtha…." — "By ignorance he crosses beyond death, by Knowledge, Immortality he enjoys."
The chapter comes to its close with the word Shastra (scripture). Shastras are not to be ridiculed. Shastras are the outer attainments of the inner experiences and realisations of the Seers of the Truth. Not for those, the Goal supreme, who look down upon the spiritual experiences and realisations of the Seers of the hoary past. They are committing a Himalayan blunder if they feel, on the strength of their vital impulses, that they can practise meditation and learn the secrets of inner discipline unaided. Personal guidance is imperative.
Easy to say: "I follow my own path." Easier to deceive oneself. Easiest to starve one's inner divinity that wants to reveal and manifest itself.
The Teacher enjoins the student:
Chapter XVII: The threefold faithThe outer man is what his inner faith is. All our activities, physical, vital and mental, have a common fount. And the name of that fount is faith. With our faith we can create, control, conquer and transform our fate. To be sure, what unconsciously we call human faith is nothing short of the divine will in us and for us.
What does a Sattvic man do with his luminous faith? He uses his faith to invoke and worship the Supreme. What does a Rajasic man do with his passionate faith? He uses it to worship and satisfy the deities. What does a Tamasic man do with his tenebrous faith? He worships the unsatisfied, dissatisfied, hungry, obscure, impure and earth-bound spirits and ghosts.
They say that in the West, food has very little to do with faith. In India the link between food and faith is almost inseparable. Our Upanishadic Seers cried out: "Annam Brahma" — "Food is the Brahman."
A Sattvic man eats the foods that are fresh, pure and soothing so that he can acquire energy, health, cheerfulness and a long life.
Sour, salty and excessively hot foods are liked by a Rajasic man. Illness captures him. Pain tortures him.
A Tamasic man also has to eat after all. He avidly eats the foods that are stale, tasteless, impure and filthy. The result of his eating can be better felt than described.
AusterityAusterity does not mean physical torture, far from it. Mortification of the flesh only a devilish nature can enjoy. God the Merciful does not demand our physical torture. He wants us to have the soulful light of wisdom. Nothing more and nothing less.
Austerity means a dedicated body, a pure mind, a loving heart and an awakened soul.
The outer austerity grows on the fertile soil of simplicity, sincerity and purity. The inner austerity grows on the fecund soil of serenity, tranquillity and equanimity.
Sattvic austerity wishes no reward. Gain, honour and fame, rajasic austerity expects and demands. Self-immolation or the destruction of others, tamasic austerity wants and cherishes.
A seeker of the Transcendental Truth and sex-forces can never run abreast. The seeker walking along the path of self-discovery and God-discovery must know what true celibacy is.
To quote Krishnaprem: "A neurotic celibacy with the so-called unconscious mind full of thwarted sex, issuing in a welter of more or less disguised fantasy, is the very worst condition to be in for one who seeks the inner life. Such a condition may, like extreme bodily weakness, give rise to strange experiences and visions, but it will quite effectively prevent any real treading of the Path. Sex will be transcended; it cannot be suppressed … with impunity."
The chapter ends most soulfully with the Brahman. Brahman is divinely designated by the three soul-stirring words: AUM TAT SAT.
AUM is the mystical symbol supreme. AUM is the real name of God. In the cosmic manifestation is AUM. Beyond the manifestation, farthest beyond is AUM.
TAT means "That", the Nameless Eternal. Above all attributes, majestic "That" stands.
SAT means Reality, the Truth Infinite.
We have to chant AUM and then begin to perform our life's divine duties.
We have to chant TAT and then offer to humanity all our achievements, energising and fulfilling.
We have to chant SAT and then offer to God what we inwardly and outwardly are, our very existence.
Chapter XVIII: Abstention and renunciationSlowly, steadily and successfully we are now climbing up the last rung of the Gita-Ladder. Here we shall almost have the quintessence of the entire SONG.
Arjuna wishes to learn the nature of abstaining from action and the nature of renouncing the results of action and also the difference between these two.
The Lord tells him that sannyasa is abstention from the desire-prompted action. Tyaga is the renunciation of the fruits of action.
Sannyasa and sankhyayoga are identical, while tyaga and karmayoga are identical.
To our widest surprise, even now in India there is a blind belief that a realised soul does not work or cannot work or even is not supposed to work on the physical plane. Alas, the poor realised soul has to cut off his existence from the activities of the world! If such is the case, then I believe that self-realisation is nothing short of a severe punishment, an undesirable achievement, loaded with the heavy weight of futile frustration.
To be sure, a realised person is he who has liberated himself from the snares of stark bondage. If he does not work with his body, mind, heart and soul in the world, for the world, and if he does not help the seekers on the Path, then who else is competent to lead the struggling, crying and aspiring humanity to its destined Goal?
For liberation, renunciation is essential. Renunciation does not mean the extinction of the physical body, the senses, and the human consciousness. Renunciation does not mean that one has to be millions of miles away from world activities. Renunciation does not say that the world is the fools' paradise.
True renunciation not only breathes in this world, but divinely fulfils the life of the world.
The Upanishad has taught us: "Enjoy through renunciation". Let us try it. Unmistakably we shall succeed.
Right action is good. Desireless action is better. Dedication of the fruits to the Lord is verily the best. This dedication is called the true Tyaga.
Some spiritual teachers hold that action is an unnecessary evil. It leads man to perpetual bondage. So they violently and proudly assert that all action, with no exception, must be ruthlessly shunned. Sri Krishna graciously illumines their folly. He says that yagna (sacrifice), dana (self-giving), tapa (self-discipline) must not be shunned, for yagna, dana and tapa are the true purifiers. Needless to say, even these actions must be performed without the slightest attachment.
Renunciation of duty to humanity is never an act of spiritual realisation or even an act of spiritual awakening. The bliss of freedom is not for him who forsakes duty for fear of bodily displeasure and mental suffering. His false and absurd anticipation will undoubtedly lead him to the world of ignorance, where he will be compelled to dine with fear, anxiety and despair.
He is a man of true renunciation who neither hates a disagreeable action when duty demands it, nor is eager to perform only good and agreeable action.
The Lord says: "To renounce all action completely is not possible for an embodied soul. He who renounces the fruit of action is the true renouncer."
When desire is totally rejected and personal gain is sincerely not wanted by a seeker, then only perfect freedom shines within and without him.
The Gita is the revelation of spirituality. Sooner or later all must take to spirituality. There need not and cannot be any compulsion. To force others to accept the spiritual life is an act of stupendous ignorance. A real Guru knows that his is not the role of a Commander-in-Chief. He never orders even his dearest disciples. He just awakens and illumines their consciousness so that they can see the truth, feel the truth, follow the truth and finally become the truth.
In numerous ways Sri Krishna has imparted the most inspiring wisdom to Arjuna. At the end he says: "Arjuna, having reflected on wisdom fully, do as you like."
Something more Sri Krishna has to say: "Arjuna, My supreme word, My inmost secret of all, I tell you. To you I unfold My heart's secret, for dear to Me you always are. Offer your love to Me. Devote yourself to Me. Bow to Me. Give Me your heart. You will without fail come to Me. This I promise you. Arjuna, you are dear to Me. Surrender all earthly duties to Me. Seek your sole haven in Me. Fear not, grieve not, I shall liberate you from all sins."
Truth is to be offered only to the earnest seekers. Sri Krishna sweetly cautions Arjuna that the truth that Arjuna has learned from Him is not to be offered to a man with no faith, no devotion, and no self-discipline. No, not for him Sri Krishna's supreme Truth, whose life is tinged with mockery and blasphemy.
Now Sri Krishna wants to know if Arjuna has understood Him, His revelation. He also wants to know if Arjuna is freed from the grip of delusion and the snares of ignorance.
"Krishna, my sole Saviour, gone is my delusion. Destroyed is my illusion. Wisdom I have received. Thy Grace has done it, Thy Grace supreme. Firmly do I stand freed from doubts. My doubts are no more. I am at Thy command. Thy command I implore. I am ready. I shall act."
The human soul has gloriously succeeded in emptying all his ignorance-night into the Transcendental Soul of Eternal Light. The Transcendental Soul has triumphantly sung the Song of Infinity, Eternity and Immortality in the aspiring heart of the human consciousness.
Victory, victory to the crying and bleeding heart of the finite. Victory, victory to the Compassion-flood and the Illumination-sky of the Infinite.
Victory of the world within glows! Victory of the world without grows!
Victory achieved. Victory realised. Victory revealed. Victory manifested.
Part II: The King, the Prince, the Son
The KingGod is proud of His Divinity in Sri Krishna. Man is proud of his humanity in Sri Krishna.
Sri Krishna is the beloved Boatman who untiringly plies his Boat of consciousness between India's unparalleled history and her unrivalled spirituality.
Man's growing divinity cries for the human perfection in Sri Krishna the man. In Sri Krishna's humanity lies man's promise of becoming divine.
Sri Krishna stole the hearts of the Gopis unconditionally. The Gopis stole His Ecstasy unreservedly.
Sweetness and grace inexpressible, bond unbreakable, sacrifice unfathomable — this indeed is Radha, the Mother-Heart of Sri Krishna.
Radha carries the human soul into Sri Krishna's Heart. Sri Krishna transforms the human soul into the Divine Soul and commands it to play its role in the Divine Play.
The influence of the Mahabharata is a flowering of centuries. The influence of Sri Krishna is the Blessing for Eternity.
The Pandavas had love for Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna had not only love but also unstinting concern for the Pandavas.
Arjuna ultimately became the spiritual child of Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna ultimately became the loving slave of Arjuna's surrender.
The Gita is Sri Krishna's Heart, his Vision-in-Fulfilment. The Gita is humanity's Breath, its Journey towards Immortality.
Sri Krishna's Flute stirs the Universal Consciousness. Sri Krishna's Gita enchants the Transcendental Consciousness.
Sri Krishna plays on His flute. We hear. We do something more. We barter our body's dust with His Soul's plenitude.
If the Avatar Sri Krishna is the most complicated Door, then the Gita, His Song, is the most effective Key.
For an earth-bound soul, the Gita can fruitfully reconcile the dark problems of human life. For a Heaven-seeking soul, the Gita can awaken a new consciousness of ever-increasing Bliss.
I do. I refuse to accept the invitation of Desire. Sri Krishna does. He comes in to illuminate my consciousness.
My ideal is to mount higher and higher up the ladder of divine evolution. Sri Krishna's Ideal is to make of Himself the divine Sacrifice to strengthen the rungs of the ladder.
Sri Krishna is sweet when I realise Him in the perfection of my "I". Sri Krishna is sweeter when I realise Him as the Doer. Sri Krishna is sweetest when I realise Him as the Pilot of all my actions and myself as His dedicated instrument.
An aspirant's is the cry that compels Sri Krishna to seize him with the very madness of love.
A Vaishnava's life is love-intoxicated. He is a portion of Sri Krishna's individuality, perpetuating all the divine qualities of an everlasting Life.
When I live in Sri Krishna's Soul, I see the Truth from above. When I live in Sri Krishna's Heart, I see the Truth from within. When I live in Sri Krishna's Body, I see the Truth from without.
Sri Krishna is the shoreless ocean of Bliss. But as soon as I sincerely dedicate myself to Him, He presents me with His own Boat and takes me to the boundless Shore, the Golden All.
Sri Krishna walked the soil to annihilate the philosophies of world-shunning spirituality and of world-grasping materialism. He established on earth the "Dharmarajya," the Kingdom of the Inner Law. He restored the true spirit of Kshatriya heroism, motivated not by human ego, but by Divine Will, making man a devoted and active instrument of the Supreme. He brought down to the earth-consciousness the supreme Truth that earth and earthly life, being inherently divine, must be made outwardly divine, fully and totally, in every sphere, in every aspect.
When "I go to the Inner Law for refuge," He illumines me.
When "I go to the Order for refuge," He utilises me."
Siddhartha did. He flew from His household life into the state of homelessness. The Supreme did. He placed the Buddha in the adoring heart of humanity, in the lap of universal love.
Temptation He saw and shunned. Austerity He felt and lived. The Middle Path He realised and offered.
The Omnipotent did two things. Through Siddhartha Gautama, He revealed the ideal of perfection in a human being. Through the Buddha, He revealed His Enlightenment and Compassion in a Divine Being.
The Buddha cast aside caste. He taught. The fallen learned from Him the value of self-respect. The unbending learned from Him the necessity of humility.
Nirvana is a miraculous power. Negatively it pleases the souls who want "Extinction". Positively it pleases the souls who long for the Ultimate and Transcendental Bliss.
The Buddha stood not against the Hindu religion. He stood against the Hindu perversions and corruptions. He was never ashamed of the Hindu religion. But He was utterly ashamed of some of its ways and methods.
The Buddha had no God. But He had Divinity in its fullest measure.
With His Mind the Unknowable came to the Buddha.
With His Bliss the Transcendental came to the Buddha."
Hinduism is the Tree. Buddhism is its largest branch. The Son discovered that His Mother was not perfect. So He decided to live all alone.
Buddhism gave birth to two schools of thought: Hinayana and Mahayana. Hinayana or Theravada depends on self-reliance. Mahayana depends on Grace.
Hinayana longs for individual salvation. Mahayana longs for collective salvation.
Hinayana feels that the monks alone are entitled to pray for the Ultimate Truth. Mahayana feels that not only the monks but also the laymen are entitled to pray for the Ultimate Truth.
Meditation gives Enlightenment, feels a Hinayanist. Meditation, Prayer and Invocation, all these give Enlightenment, feels a Mahayanist.
A Hinayanist sits at the feet of Buddha's Teachings, following the advice that one must work out one's own salvation.
A Mahayanist sits at the feet of Buddha's earthly Personality, following the advice that one should not cross the Gate of Transcendental Bliss until each and every soul has been liberated.
True, Buddhism is no longer alive in the land of its birth. But Mother India is abundantly proud of her spiritual Prince and she ever cherishes her world-illumining Teacher. Her fondest feeling is: My Buddha is a rebel child. My Buddha is a great Contributor. My Buddha is a great Reformer.
The SonJesus came. The world heard. Jesus went. The world saw. Jesus smiles. The world becomes.
Jesus wanted. The world gave not. The world wanted. Jesus gave. In addition, He became.
Jesus had the chance to tell the world the matchless virtue of Forgiveness. Jesus did not have the chance to tell the world the unavoidable necessity of the Sword.
Jesus' human birth was the Question. His Divine Death was not only an Answer, but The Answer.
God was more than successful in sending down His Son to the earth. Humanity suffered worse than Defeat in not receiving the Son.
Jesus had. The world needed. The world had. Jesus accepted.
Jesus did. He unveiled Himself. The world did. It veiled Itself.
God smiled through Jesus' eyes. Humanity cried through Jesus' eyes.
Jesus was Mary's earthly creation. Mary was His spiritual creation. She protected the Plant. The tree sheltered her. And she within herself shelters His Father's entire creation.
Sensuality cannot live in Purity. But Purity can live in sensuality. Mary's Purity touches not only the ceaseless flow of human impurity, but also its fount: Ignorance.
Human impurity knows only how to cry out. Mary's divine Purity certainly listens to its cry. But her dynamic wand must wait for the Hour of God. Furthermore, the receptivity of every individual is of paramount importance.
Jesus' body showed the earth how to use. Jesus' soul showed the Heavens how to descend.
Earth's blunders are great. God's Compassion is greater. Jesus knew it. He prayed for this blessing: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
God is both Reason and Faith. Protestantism wants to see God through His immaculate Reason. Catholicism wants to see God through His implicit Faith.
Catholicism feels that Christ eternally Was. Protestantism feels that Christ gradually Became.
Who is our peerless friend? One who consciously or unconsciously helps us to fulfil God's Will within and without. Jesus knew it. "Friend," He addressed Judas. The significance of Judas' kiss Heaven knew, but the earth has yet to know.
Part III: Stories from the Gita
The SourceWe all know that the Gita comes from the Mahabharata, India's greatest epic. There was a great sage named Vyasa. His father's name was Parasara. Once, the sage Vyasa was deeply inspired to write an epic, but he found that it was impossible for him to write down the whole epic. So he prayed to Brahma, the Creator.
Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, our Trinity: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, Shiva the Transformer. Vyasa prayed to Brahma and Brahma descended in human form. The sage said to Brahma, "Please send me someone who can write down what I say." Brahma said, "Well, there is only one person on earth who can do that, and that is Ganapati. You invoke him, he can take down your dictation." So he invoked Ganapati, the son of Lord Shiva.
Ganapati came and agreed to write on one condition. The condition was that Vyasa could not pause; he had to dictate continuously, without interruption. If he hesitated or if he paused, then Ganapati would leave him. Vyasa consented and said, "Now, I also want to dictate to you on one condition, and that condition is, that unless and until you know the meaning of what I dictate you will not write. You have to wait and ask me if there is anything that you do not comprehend." Vyasa was very clever. He thought that he would use complex sentences and it would take time for Ganapati to understand them, and in the meantime he would be able to get more inspiration and get ready for dictation. Thus the Mahabharata was composed.
Krishna, I need only YouWhen Sri Krishna was having his siesta, both Duryodhana and Arjuna came to his place. Duryodhana came a few minutes earlier and, as he was full of pride, he stood beside Sri Krishna's head. Arjuna, as he was full of humility and modesty, stood beside Sri Krishna's feet.
After a while, Sri Krishna woke up and his eyes fell on Arjuna. When he turned around he saw Duryodhana. He wanted to know why they were there at that hour. Arjuna said, "Now you know that the battle will take place. I need you."
Duryodhana said, "I have also come here to take help from you, and I have come before him so you have to fulfil my desire first." So Sri Krishna said, "It is true that you came before Arjuna, but I saw him first, and he will be given the first chance. Besides, he is younger than you. So he will have the first choice.
Arjuna said to Krishna with great joy. "I want you!"
Duryodhana thought: What a stupid fellow Arjuna is. He wants Krishna alone.
Sri Krishna said, "You want me? But I will not fight. I will only be your charioteer. One of you will have me alone and the other will have my vast army."
Duryodhana felt, what could Krishna do alone and unarmed? The best thing for him was to have Krishna's army.
But Arjuna, being an illumined person, said to himself, "What shall I do with his army? The best thing is to have the Lord with me. The Lord will be able to protect me and the Lord will bring me the victory." Arjuna wanted Sri Krishna and Duryodhana wanted the entire army of Sri Krishna.
Now the promise was that Sri Krishna would never, never fight. Unfortunately, he had to break his promise; he could not keep it. Twice he ran out of the chariot. To kill whom? Bhishma. On the third and the ninth day Sri Krishna found that Arjuna was not fighting properly against his grandsire. Arjuna found it extremely difficult to use weapons against his grandsire.
Sri Krishna said, "Arjuna, you are not fighting. Why?" So he came out of the chariot with his discus. He wanted to kill Bhishma. And what was Bhishma's reaction? Bhishma's joy knew no bounds. He said, "Come, O my Lord, come! If I die in your hands then immediately I will go to heaven! I am the most blessed person because you are coming to kill me!"
But, both times, Arjuna followed Sri Krishna and said "No, you have to keep your promise. I won't let you fight, I shall fight. I won't allow you to eat your words. You come, you sit in the chariot and drive me on. I shall fight.
Here we learn that the Guru, the Master, can at any moment break his own promise in order to help, to save, in order to win a victory for the disciple. Sri Krishna was the Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and also the Just. But when the question concerns a most intimate disciple, the Guru goes against the ordinary light of morality. This was Sri Krishna's heart for Arjuna.
Victory is there, where Dharma isGandhari's eldest son, Duryodhana, came to her for benediction. She did not say, "I pray for your victory!" or "Yours will be the victory!" She said, "Where there is Dharma, victory will be there." She knew perfectly well that on the other side, in the other party, was Yudhishthira, the Son of Dharma, Dharma incarnate, who would win the victory. She could not bless her son saying, "Yours will be the victory." So she said, "Where there is Dharma, there will be the victory."
He read the Gita, but he did not follow the GitaThere are seven hundred verses in the Gita. I had the good fortune to see a man in India who recited the whole of the Gita in an hour and a half, from the beginning to the end. And he said to me that previously he could do it in an hour. However, reciting is one thing, repeating is one thing, but following the teachings of the Gita is something else. The man who recited the whole of the Gita by heart perhaps did not follow any of the teachings of the Gita. In the third chapter of the Gita we come to know that too much eating is not good. It is better to have fresh and not stale food. But this man was a voracious eater and he used to eat rotten, spoiled food. So, he read the Gita but he did not follow the Gita.
Krishna, the eternal mysterySri Krishna was a teacher from the very beginning of his life. Even before he entered into the physical world he acted as a teacher. Before he entered into his mother's womb, he came to his father who had been imprisoned by the king and said, "I am now going to enter into the physical world. As soon as I am born, you will take me out of this prison-cell and take me to Nanda" (one of his relatives). His father saw Sri Krishna vividly before he came into the world of manifestation, and to everybody's surprise, all of a sudden all the doors and gates of the prison were wide open, and his father took him to Nanda's place. Here he started his teaching.
Before he came into the world, a similar incident occurred to the mother of the Lord Buddha. Also Christianity practically says the same, that Jesus entered into his mother's womb consciously.
To come back to Sri Krishna, while he was just a child he opened his mouth and showed his mother the whole universe. He was teaching his mother that the universe is nowhere else but inside him.
Then, when he was eleven years old, one day he observed that his parents and his relatives and neighbours were all performing ceremonies in honour of the Lord Indra, Indra the rain God, King of the Gods. Sri Krishna said, "Why are you worshipping Indra? It is better to worship this hill. Why don't you worship this Giri Govardhan? Our cattle are being fed by this hill, and everyone is being helped in one way or another by this hill. We should worship the hill and not Indra. Indra is not helping us in any way. If you want to know the truth, then you worship this hill." They listened to him on that occasion. They worshipped not Indra but the hill, and Indra became furious. He inundated the whole place with water. There was a constant downpour which lasted seven days. But Sri Krishna was not to accept defeat. With one of his fingers he lifted the whole hill, and the hill served the purpose of an umbrella. The entire vicinity was under the protection of the hill, and it is still there. It is said that Sri Krishna held it for seven days and then Lord Indra felt that it was useless. Sri Krishna protected his whole race and all his relatives. Then Lord Indra accepted his defeat.
Krishna was a cowherd and he had many, many friends. He was a very great flutist. The boys and girls, especially the girls, used to come to listen to his music. But the love he had for them was always of the purest. He had many so-called girlfriends. We immediately associate this term with the wrong emotion, but in Sri Krishna's case, his relationship was absolutely pure. Among these girls, there was one called Radha. Radha finally became his consort and his shakti, and it was she who understood fully who Sri Krishna was. There Sri Krishna was expressing his Divine Love to human beings. It was delight that he wanted to express, pure delight, to this physical world. But criticism was existent in those days too. People started criticising Sri Krishna openly because of his fondness for Radha. Radha became very close to him. One day, Radha, in a sulking mood, said to him, "Look, you are so pure and so divine and I come here to listen to your music and you tell me eternal, divine truths. How is it that people create such gossip, especially my girlfriends? Just because you give special attention to me they criticise us." Sri Krishna gave her a broad smile and said, "All right." So one day Sri Krishna invited all his girlfriends and told them, "Today I wish to have a special game. I know all of you are pure and all of you are chaste. Most of you have husbands." Then Sri Krishna took a sieve and a bucket of water. He told them each to pour the water into the sieve, and if the water did not leak through, it meant that that particular girl was pure and chaste. They started, one by one, to pour water, and of course with the first one the water leaked through. They all were laughing and saying that she was not chaste or pure, and she buried her head in the fold of her arm. Then the next girl came and the same thing happened, and on and on with each girl.
Radha was observing the scene. Sri Krishna said to her, "Radha, why are you silent, why don't you try?" She said, "They are always criticising me, and if I try I will probably join them in their failure." Sri Krishna said, "Why don't you come and try, it is a game after all." So she came and poured the water, bucket after bucket, but the sieve did not leak. They were all astonished and Sri Krishna said, "Look here, now you can see who is chaste, who is pure. Now I am teaching you the eternal truth. I am the Lord of the Universe. Radha comes to Me for spiritual help and Eternal Truth, and My love for her and all of you is spiritual and divine. Some of you have husbands, but your minds still roam elsewhere. You care for other men and you give much attention to name, fame and duties. But in Radha's case, I am always in her mind. Radha is a married woman, Radha has her own husband, but no matter where she goes and with whom she speaks, her mind is always on Me. I am the Lord of the Universe, and whoever thinks of Me is the purest on earth. Those who think of other things are not pure."
When he grew up in the society very often he wished to give most illumining counsel. Everybody came to him for guidance and he was their chief counsellor. When the Pandavas became his most intimate friends, he used to advise them all the time in their difficulties; in all their sorrows and joys Sri Krishna was there to advise them. Then he came to the battlefield to help Arjuna. We already know from the Gita how he advised Arjuna to fight, and he taught Arjuna all about the inner life, the spiritual life, inner perfection and outer perfection, realisation and revelation. Sri Krishna said, "Whenever there is decline of righteousness, and unrighteousness is in the ascendent, then I body Myself forth to protect the virtuous and put an end to evil-doers; to establish Dharma, I am born from age to age." This is one of the most important verses in the Gita.
Arjuna and the asceticArjuna happened to be a rajasic warrior. He wished to fight and kill people. In the Mahabharata we saw how he fought against the enemy. Krishna wanted to smash Arjuna's rajasic pride because Arjuna was very dear among Krishna's friends and disciples. Once pride entered into Arjuna, and Sri Krishna said, "Let us go for a walk." Both of them went out for a walk, and on the way they saw an ascetic who was eating a tiny blade of dry grass. Green grass was all around and available to him, but he was picking up dry grass. At the same time, a naked sword was dangling at his side. Arjuna could not comprehend. On the one hand he was not eating even green grass that has life because he would not harm or injure any living thing. Such was his compassion for living things that he was ready to eat dry grass, but not green grass. Yet at the same time, there was his sword at his side. So Arjuna asked Sri Krishna, "Please tell me what is wrong with this fellow. Why is his life a life of contradiction with a blade of grass and at the same time a naked sword?" Sri Krishna said, "You go and ask him." So he went and asked the ascetic, "Please tell me. I do not understand why you act this way. " The man answered, "You are right that I want to lead a pious life, I do not want to injure. But at the same time, I want to kill four persons on earth and for that I have kept this sword. Four persons, the moment I see them, I will kill them." Arjuna said, "Please let me know who they are."
"The first is Narada."
"What has Narada done to you?"
"Oh Narada! All the time he sings the glories of my Lord Krishna. There is no time for my Lord to take his rest. All the time he has to sing, and I hear the songs — singing, singing, singing. He always disturbs my Lord's sleep. I want to kill this wretched Narada if I see him."
"Then who is the second person?"
"The second is Draupadi, Arjuna's wife. All of a sudden, she spoke, 'Lord, save me, save me!' My Lord had to go and apply his force in order to save her modesty. What kind of audacity she had!"
The story of Draupadi is that when Yudhishthira lost to Duhshasana, Duryodhana's younger brother, in a dice game, the last promise he gave was that Draupadi would be given to the winner. So, as he lost again, Draupadi, the wife, had to go to the other side and stay with the Kauravas. They wanted to undress Draupadi and do such an unthinkable thing in front of kings and potentates. Draupadi, in the beginning, tried to hold fast to her clothes, but finally she surrendered and said, "Oh Krishna, save me!" Immediately Krishna granted her an endless stretch of garments. They went on pulling her dress off, but it was endless, so it was useless for them to continue.
When the Pandava family was in the forest, it happened that the sage Durvasa came to their place with all of his followers and disciples. The enemies of the Pandavas had sent Durvasa to pronounce a curse on the Pandavas. Durvasa had once gone to the Kauravas and had been very nicely welcomed, given princely honour by the eldest of the Kauravas, Duryodhana. Since he was highly pleased with Duryodhana, Durvasa said, "Now ask me for any boon." At this time, Duryodhana asked him to go to the forest where the Pandavas were. Sri Krishna had given the Pandavas a pot out of which any number of people might be fed. However, they would be able to do so only before Draupadi had taken her last meal of the day. After Draupadi had eaten, the Pandavas would not be able to feed a single person on earth. Duryodhana asked Durvasa to go there one day after Draupadi had eaten, after she had finished her meal. Durvasa listened to Duryodhana's prayer. He came after Draupadi had finished her meal only to torture her. In those days, when a spiritual master came, the first thing was to feed him. If you did not feed Durvasa, he would curse you and turn you into ashes. When Durvasa and his followers came in, poor Draupadi had no food left. Durvasa came in and said, "I am very hungry."
She knew that if she did not feed him, he would curse her and her husband. So she invoked Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna was at that time seated on his throne. He was nowhere near the forest, but he immediately saw with his occult vision, and he came physically to save her. Sri Krishna said, "Please give me something to eat. I am very hungry." Draupadi answered, "You are so hungry, and here I am, embarrassed. I have invoked you to help me, and you come here to torture me. How am I to give you food?" He said, "No, you have to give me food. Examine your pot." She replied, "There is nothing left. I am not telling you a lie. I have washed it. I have eaten. We have all eaten. There is nothing left. I can show it to you." So she brought the pot, and he discovered that there was a grain of rice remaining. He ate it and said, "Now, I am satisfied. Now you ask me anything. I am pleased with you." She said, "Save me! The sage Durvasa has gone now, with his thousands of disciples, to bathe in the Ganges. When he comes back he will want food." So Krishna, with his spiritual power, immediately made ready food for thousands of people. Now Durvasa with his Yogic vision came to know that Sri Krishna had already arrived. He said, "It is useless for me to go there, because now they will be able to feed me. I don't want to go there. I am satisfied."
To come back to the story of Arjuna and the ascetic, the ascetic said, "I want to kill Draupadi. In season and out of season she asks for my sweet Lord's help. I will kill her. She should not invoke my Lord at any time.
"The third person is Prahlada. He was one of the greatest disciples of Sri Krishna. But his father used to hate Sri Krishna. The very name of Sri Krishna used to irritate him. His son was just the opposite, constantly following Krishna. So what did his father do? He threw Prahlada into a boiling tub of oil. Then he threw him on the ground and he placed him, his own son, under a mad elephant. He let the elephant crush the son because the son was not listening to his father. But the son was not crushed and the burning oil did not kill the boy. Sri Krishna was there. So, while the father wanted to kill the boy, Sri Krishna's presence saved him."
That is why the ascetic said, "Whenever there is any danger, immediately Prahlada speaks the name of my Lord Krishna, who goes to save him. Prahlada has no right to invoke my Lord. He has to be punished.
"The fourth one is the wretched Arjuna," the ascetic went on. "I want to kill him here and now."
Arjuna said, "Arjuna! What has he done?"
The ascetic replied, "Look at his audacity. He asked my Lord Krishna to be his charioteer on the battlefield. Sri Krishna is the Lord of the Universe, and Arjuna asked him to be his charioteer. Look at his audacity! I want to kill him."
Arjuna came to realise that the ascetic was really devoted to Sri Krishna, and that he was all love and concern for Him.
A great hero and the result of his one single lieI wish to tell you a sad story. Durvasa thought that he had conquered everything. He said: "I have conquered anger, I have conquered passion, I have conquered everything. There is nothing left for me to conquer.
Then one day, when he was meditating, a fly came and sat on his shoulder. Durvasa flew into a rage. He, who was so powerful, became very angry with the fly and said: "I have the power to destroy the world. How dare you sit on my shoulder!"
The fly flew away and took the help of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva came to him and said, "Durvasa, you have conquered everything, yet a fly can sit on your shoulder and you become angry!"
Durvasa was most powerful. He had spiritual power and occult power, but he had never conquered his anger. In the Mahabharata there are many authentic stories of his cursing people in season and out of season. His blessings, too, were very irrational. At times he used to bless people, but very often it was more of curse. His very blessing was a curse.
Now the mother of the great hero of the Gita, Arjuna, was Kunti. Kunti came of a royal family and when she was young and unmarried, a virgin, it happened that Durvasa came to her father's palace and she served him. Durvasa was so pleased with her that he immediately said: "I shall grant you a boon."
She said, "Thank you. I will be so happy."
"All right. The boon is that soon you will be the mother of a great hero." This was the blessing! Kunti was unmarried, and this was his boon!
She said, "Now I am unmarried, how can I become the mother of someone?"
But poor Kunti had a child. As it was illegitimate, she placed the child into a casket and threw it into a river. The river flowed by and took the baby into the hands of an ordinary, common person, a charioteer named Adhirat. Adhirat brought up the child, Karna. He grew up to be the great Karna, as powerful as Arjuna. Finally Arjuna and Karna had to fight against each other on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
Karna was one of the greatest heroes in those days but he did not know who his mother was. When the battle of Kurukshetra was taking place, Kunti came to him at the last moment crying: "My son, you are fighting against another of my sons. I want both you and Arjuna as well as my other sons to stay together."
Karna said, "Now it is too late. I cannot do that. You have five sons and, if you consider me as your sixth son, then I tell you that when the battle is over you will have your five sons."
"How?" she cried.
"Either Arjuna will kill me, or I shall kill Arjuna. I will not touch the rest of the brothers. The world knows that you have five sons and you will keep your five sons."
We know that in the Kurukshetra war Karna was killed by Arjuna. He was killed because he once told a lie about his caste. Adhirat, who brought him up, was not a Kshatriya (warrior), so Karna was not considered to be of Kshatriya origin. For this reason the great archers and others did not want to teach him. They said, "You do not come from a Kshatriya family. We cannot teach you. You come from a low caste."
Finally he went to Parashuram, one of India's greatest archers and, when Parashuram asked him his caste, he said: "I come from a Kshatriya family."
Parashuram believed him and taught him archery, so Karna became a great warrior. Then it happened that one afternoon, while Parashuram was taking a siesta with his head resting on Karna's lap, Karna was stung by a scorpion. Karna's whole thigh began to bleed profusely but he thought that, as his master was fast asleep, he would wake him if he made a noise. So he kept quiet and he didn't kill the scorpion. After a while his master awoke and saw the situation.
He said, "You didn't kill the scorpion. You have told me a lie! A Kshatriya cannot tolerate this kind of thing. Your thigh is bleeding profusely and, if you were a Kshatriya, you would have killed the scorpion immediately. But you are not a Kshatriya. You come of the Sudra caste. You are a man of service. You can never be a Kshatriya, you can never be a warrior. You have told me a lie. At the time of your need, your deepest need, you will forget the secret of applying your greatest weapon."
Now we see how this happened in the Battle of Kurukshetra when Karna was fighting against Arjuna. Karna had the most powerful weapon which nobody on earth could overcome. He thought that he would utilise it only against Arjuna in the battlefield and not against anybody else. He said: "I shall use this weapon only against Arjuna."
But in the battlefield, Ghatothkach, a son of Bhima, Arjuna's brother, was killing hundreds of warriors on Karna's side. He started coming closer to Karna and, when he was about to kill Karna, Karna said: "Now I have this powerful weapon given to me by Parashuram. With this I can kill anybody on earth. Why do I not use it?" So he used it and he killed Bhima's son. Then when he came to fight Arjuna he was powerless and was killed by Arjuna. You see how Parashuram's prophecy came true. You also see how Karna's prophecy came true. Five sons of Kunti remained alive.
The scholar came to his sensesOnce a Brahmin met a scholar walking in the street. The Brahmin was holding a copy of the Gita, and his eyes were swimming in a sea of tears. The scholar thought that the Brahmin was unable to understand some of the teachings of the Gita. He came to the Brahmin and said, "Don't cry, I have come here to help you. Tell me, where do you find it difficult, which particular sloka don't you understand? I shall explain it to you."
The Brahmin replied, "I am weeping because I see the Lord Krishna right in front of me. No matter what page I turn to, I see Arjuna's chariot. I see Arjuna's charioteer, Krishna. These are my psychic tears. I see my Lord in all the pages, I see Sri Krishna in his chariot. That is why I am shedding tears. It is not that I do not understand the teachings of the Gita."
The scholar came to his senses.
The power of concentration and the power of dedicationThere are some devotees who want to show off. For hours they meditate, for hours they chant, for hours they repeat the name of Lord Krishna. They look down upon others who do not spend so much time meditating and chanting. Arjuna happened to be one of these. If you remember, one of Arjuna's brothers, whose name was Bhima, was the strongest in the family. Bhima never, never prayed to any god. He used to eat and he used to fight. He was a voracious eater and at the same time a great fighter.
But Arjuna used to pray to this god and that god; he had to please all the gods on earth. The Lord Shiva had to be worshipped every day. For two hours daily Arjuna used to collect hundreds of flowers and offer them to Lord Shiva one by one. Each time while offering the flowers he used to utter the name of Lord Shiva. Then pride entered.
What Bhima did was very simple. He would put his fingers on his forehead and concentrate for a couple of minutes before each meal. Then he would eat voraciously. This was his meditation! Poor Arjuna would spend hours gathering flowers, but Arjuna's pride could not escape Sri Krishna.
Sri Krishna said to Arjuna, "Come, let us go for a walk." As they were walking, they saw a man drawing a cart. The cart was loaded with flowers. All kinds of flowers. Arjuna said to the man, "What are you doing with these flowers? And where are you going?" The man had no time to respond to Arjuna. Sri Krishna said, "Arjuna, let us follow him."
When the man reached his destination, there were many more carts of flowers. "What are you going to do with all these thousands and millions of flowers?" Arjuna inquired. "I have no time to speak to you. I am now in serious concentration. I can speak only to one person on earth, and that is Bhima, the second Pandava. He is the greatest spiritual seeker. When he meditates before his meals just for a minute or two, saying 'O mighty Lord Shiva', thousands of flowers are offered by him to Lord Shiva. His concentration is most intense. His meditation is most sincere. Arjuna only throws flowers at Lord Shiva. He just shows off."
Poor Arjuna went back with Lord Krishna and was extremely angry with him for subjecting him to this humiliation. Lord Krishna said to Arjuna, "I wanted to teach you that it is not the number of hours, it is not the number of flowers, but it is the power of concentration, it is the power of dedication that counts."
Krishna, the widow and her cowSometimes when we are in utter difficulty, the Grace of God acts in a very peculiar way. We feel that God becomes more cruel when we are in difficulties and sufferings. Let me illustrate this to you with a story. Sri Krishna and Arjuna once were guests of a widow. The widow had no children, nobody. She was all alone. But she had a cow. This cow was her only means of support. She used to sell milk, and by selling milk she used to maintain her life. She was a great devotee of Sri Krishna. When Sri Krishna and Arjuna went to visit her in disguise, incognito, she was so happy to see these two divine guests. She fed them with whatever she had in her house. Sri Krishna was extremely pleased with her surrendering attitude and her devotion. On their way back, Arjuna said to Krishna, "You were so pleased with her. Why didn't you grant her a boon? Why didn't you tell her that she would be prosperous soon, now that you are pleased with her? "
"I have already granted her the boon that her cow must die tomorrow."
"What? Her only means of support? She has only the cow, and nothing else. Without the cow how can she live on earth?"
Krishna answered, "You don't understand me. She always thinks of the cow. The cow has to be fed, has to milked, has to be bathed and so forth. I want her only to think of me, and when the cow is gone, she will think of me all the time, twenty-four hours. Then soon the time will be right for me to take her away from this world, and after a few years I will give her a better and more fulfilling incarnation. When she has nobody on earth, not even the cow, she will try and spend all her time, day and night, in devoting herself to me. Otherwise, this way she will linger on earth and constantly think of the cow and not of me." So Sri Krishna's ways are inscrutable.
Editor's preface"Arjuna, having reflected on wisdom fully, do as you like."
This charming admonition of Sri Krishna to his disciple is characteristic of the profundity and at the same time deceiving simplicity of the Gita. This monumental work of ancient India has come to us in all its unadulterated beauty. The Gita is complete by itself and apparently easy to understand, but for the reader to penetrate its great depths of wisdom and to fly to the exalted heights of spiritual aspiration partly veiled within its pages, a commentary is quite necessary, especially for the occidental reader. The commentary must be in the guise of emphasis and explanation, without adulterating or otherwise bringing elements of distortion into the pristine and eminently practical teachings of the original text.
Sri Chinmoy, a son of Bengal, has given us such a commentary. To the transcendental perception of the eternal truths presented in the Gita he has added the magnificently beautiful touch of the poet. The beauty of his expression is so fascinating that one is tempted to glide through the text enraptured by its poesy without trying to grasp its true depth. Again, its simplicity is deceiving, for Sri Chinmoy has the rare gift of expressing the most difficult concepts in very simple everyday words.
Undoubtedly aimed mainly at the occidental mind, this commentary is dotted here and there with quotations from our best known thinkers, philosophers and poets which add significantly to its readability and expand the different themes treated, analysed and explained.
This commentary, as well as the Bhagavad Gita itself, is a literary jewel that can be read over and over and enjoyed immensely just for its captivating theme, practical wisdom and unsurpassed rhetoric. But for the inquisitive mind, for the truth seeker and for the aspirant for the transcendental knowledge, this work is a much welcome help, coming as it does from a realized soul. In Indian parlance this means one who has discovered the truth about himself and who, having communed with his inmost soul, is also in touch with God, the soul and God being eternally inseparable.
Like a magnificent symphony the Gita opens with a major chord, the transcendental soul teaching, guiding, conducting the personal soul up and up the spiral of wisdom. All through its beautiful array of motifs, love, duty, sacrifice, faith and devotion play fascinating rhythms. On and on to higher and loftier melodies proceeds the ineffable music until the loftiest height is reached, the union and complete fusion of the personal soul with the transcendental soul. To make us fully appreciate all the meaning and artistically creative power of the Gita, a commentary has to flow from the consciousness of the one who has himself realized this union. No one is better qualified for this work than Sri Chinmoy, for, having trodden the path of wisdom himself, he speaks with the authority of a knowledgeable and reliable guide. His knowledge is not the knowledge gleaned from the study of books, but the first-hand experience of one who has been there and whose consciousness can soar to the sublime and then bring down the transcendental wisdom to the level of the everyday man.
To the scholar familiar with Indian Scripture as well as to the seeker who has set his foot on the path leading to the discovery of the transcendental truth, this commentary will be a much welcome help and a source of real joy.