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The war has been declared. Arjuna is affected deeply by the possibility of impending death of his loved ones and narrates to Krishna why he does not want to fight. He talks with command and confidence. Krishna, on the other hand, has a very affectionate yet very blunt reply to all what Arjuna had to say. As we noted already, Krishna’s reply was short and precise. Krishna pointed out that Arjuna’s timing was wrong; he further says that this line of thinking and action does not befit him, will not take him to heaven and may be downright disgraceful for Arjuna. He asks Arjuna to give up coward like thinking and arise for the occasion and fight.
To understand the current shlokas and the Gita as a whole we have to not only understand what Arjuna is saying but also experience Arjuna’s pain. We have to immerse ourselves so deeply that we can feel Arjuna’s pain, his anguish, his despondency and his despair. The feeling has gone to the deepest core of Arjuna. He can no longer hold on to his Gandiva (his bow), his eyes are full of tears and Krishna simply says that his timing is off. Arjuna is stunned by Krishna’s reply. It has certainly made him think again. The momentum of his thought process is definitely stalling. But, still Arjuna’s intellect has been hurt; his pride, however subtle, has been touched. His mind in the background is wondering if there is truth in what Krishna is saying. After all he had great respect for his long time friend Krishna and Krishna had never said anything in the past that has not been true. In this state of two minds Arjuna tries to put forward his own points.
We examined developing of ego in the last column, “Is Ego really bad.” Let us examine it a little further to understand image building and developing value system. We are given a name when we are born. Arjuna got a name and so did Duryodhana. They went to schooling and training. While learning they also interacted together. While one person’s ego was building there were other individuals whose ego was developing as well. Everyone is getting identified with his or her achievements and failures. A net image of an individual is thus created. The society develops an image about such a person and the individual develops somewhat similar image about himself as well. While Arjuna is developing his image Karna is also developing his own image. Arjuna is son of Indra and Karna is son of Sun. They are both awesome warriors. Karna is famous for giving; Arjuna is famous for his righteousness.
Who can better understand anything about image building more than the people of today? Image building is a big industry today. There are professionals who will train you how to look authentic on a television appearance. These image-building professionals advise all the presidential election in the USA or the parliamentary elections in India. Image in some ways is collective ego added to individual’s identity over time. There is also the development of collective images. India has its own image and Australia its own. Pandavas had one image while Kauravas had another.
While several people are developing the ego of their own and creating different images, conflicts are bound to happen. To deal with this every society down the ages has developed value system. Dharma is one such value system. When there is conflict there are ways and means for resolution. If there is no agreement on resolution then there is war.
We all have an image of ourselves of who and what we are. Arjuna also had an image of himself; he must have been right to think that he was a nice man, a man who respected the elders, Gurus and the Shastras; he was intelligent and an awesome warrior. Arjuna always operated within the framework of Dharma. Arjuna would never have thought himself to be anywhere close to being a coward; instead he was the brave heart of his times. If we can see that Arjuna, then we can understand how shocked he must have been with the reply of Krishna. I am not implying that Krishna was wrong; on the contrary, I think Krishna must have done it with full knowledge and on purpose.
Krishna is a different story. He does not have any ego or any image about himself. Others have an image about him; many believed he was Parmatma himself. But, even Krishna operates within the framework of that image. He goes to Duryodhana with a peace proposal knowing fully well that Duryodhana will not accept his proposal. Krishna mentions the reason for this to Draupadi in a conversation. Krishna said to her that he has to do it for others will accuse Krishna of not having tried for peace.
Krishna is very straightforward, to the point and quite blunt. He definitely is talking at Arjuna’s level. Arjuna must have been stunned with this reply. As we all know Arjuna was at his peak; he was not only an invincible warrior but also a great intellectual who had read the Vedas and other contemporary shashtras (scriptures). He was expecting Krishna to agree with him in not going for the fight; instead Krishna was calling him to be behaving like a coward. This must have hurt Arjuna.
Arjuna has his own value system, which goes with the image he has about himself. Krishna had mentioned that the timing of Arjjuna’s thinking pattern was wrong. Now Arjuna may concede to that but he brings out a point, which to him is not related to time. A Guru in his times and even today is revered, respected and killing a Guru is unthinkable. There is no right and wrong timing for this thinking pattern. What Arjuna is trying to point out is that certain principles are outside of the relativity of right and wrong. They are always right. You do not kill a respectable Guru. Arjuna is saying that it won’t be worth living after he kills respectable grandfather Bhisma and Guru Dronacharya. Arjuna then also raises a new point as to the uncertainty of the outcome of the war; who is going to win and for what avail? How Krishna deals with this will be discussed in future columns. Let me say here that the plane of discussion will change. So far Krishna has been on Arjuna’s level, he will and will have to talk from Krishna’s level to answer such questions.
Then Arjuna picks up the point of coward like action (2:7). He is definitely hurt by that statement. Who will not be? How can anyone even imagine Arjuna to be a coward? He had won Draupadi in a competition. He had single handedly defeated the Kauravas in battle at the end of guptavas, he had fought valiantly with the gandharvas to protect the Kauravas and had even fought bravely with Shiva himself. Arjuna considered himself beyond even the shadow of a coward like action and hence takes a special note to mention that he is not thinking like a coward or acting like one; he is just confused about what his Dharma should be.
In the same shloka he appears to be surrendering to Krishna calling upon Krishna to guide him to do the right thing. Krishna has already asked Arjuna to arise for the occasion and fight (2:3), but it appears that Arjuna did not hear that part. I am not questioning the sincerity of Arjuna in this shloka, but at the same time it is obvious that Arjuna is not surrendered as yet to Krishna. If he were, then this would have been the end of Gita. There is no need to go any further.
We have examined the difference between curiosity and inquiry in our earlier column,” To kill or not to kill (1:28-1:39).” Surrendering is another entity that needs to be appreciated. Surrendering is quality of the heart, when surrendering happens no questions arise. Arjuna still has many questions. He is looking for answers. This shloka is symbolizing the deep inquiry of Arjuna; he wants clarity and knows that Krishna is the only one who can take him to the place of clarity. Arjuna knows that only Krishna can quench his thirst of knowledge that will bring him to a state of being that will have no doubts as to what he needs to do.
The next shloka is so beautiful. It deals with the basic question and that is, “Can desires be fulfilled.” Arjuna is saying that even if he is the ruler of the entire earth and heaven, his sense of despair will not be satisfied. Arjuna is unaware of the fact that desires can never be satisfied. No sooner than one desire is satisfied, another one arises. You want to own a blue Mercedes. As long as you do not have it, it has great value and meaning. You call your Mercedes garage every day as to when it is being delivered. The first day it comes on your door, you are so happy. After a few days, it is business as usual. For motorboats there is a saying and that is you are happy twice, “once when you buy it and the second time when you sell it.” Desires can never be fulfilled. And that is the problem. We go on believing that happiness comes from fulfilling desires and desires can never be fulfilled. So, what is the way? We will get into the whole topic in later columns.
We also need to understand here that we are actually slaves of our desires as expressed by the indriyas (senses) and the sad part is that most of us do not know it. We feel that we are the source of what we do. When I am sad or depressed, we always give a reason and are satisfied. We do not acknowledge that grief, sadness and depression have their own existence and there is very little we can do to change that. Let us examine that a little further. Someone is going through a divorce. The wife is unhappy or found out that she married the wrong man. In the beginning you go through a phase of denial. You think you will patch up. But then the patch up does not work. A sense of grief and despair follows and you get depressed. The divorce goes through and in time you find a new wife and are happy ever after. The question I have is could you have changed your feelings at any stage of this progression. We accept all these responses to be normal, but at the same time when the depression comes, you are actually enslaved by that. You cannot simply come out of it. And that is what Arjuna is saying to Krishna. He is admitting the state of being where he is stuck at present. He is recognizing that unless he comes out of this dark place, he wont be able to act appropriately and until then he wont be able to fight. In the ninth shloka he makes it very clear that he is not going to fight. Arjuna knows that as long he is enslaved by his indriyas (senses) regarding this despair, he is in no state to be able to fight and hence he declares to Krishna that he has decided not to fight.
Arjuna has raised some questions and is asking Krishna to guide him like a Guru and then admits that he is enslaved by his indriyas (senses) and cannot fight as he is. Although, Arjuna seems to have decided not to fight, he has prepared himself for further guidance from Krishna.
Maya = network of Ego (2:10)
tam uvaca hrsikesah
prahasann iva bharata
senayor ubhayor madhye
visidantam, idam vacah
O descendant of Bharata, at that time Krsna, smiling, in the midst of both the armies, spoke the following words to the grief-stricken Arjuna.||2:10||
Pandavas and Kauravas are facing each other in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Both sides have declared the war by blowing of their respective concshells. And, at this stage Arjuna comes to a definite decision that he is not going to fight. Situation is pretty grim for the Pandavas. Krishna is on their side and he simply smiles.
Why did Krishna smile will always remain a mystery? There can be many speculations, but why did he really smile, to my understanding, will remain a question. Therefore, instead of pretending that I know why Krishna smiled I am going to propose more than one reason he could have smiled. There may be many more reasons that I do not know, but one thing is sure that now Krishna is about to take the conversation on a different plane. A friend of ours, Padmakant Khambati, who has aired the Gita on a Houston radio station more than once, believes that the real Bhagavadgita starts after this smile. His view is base not only on what he feelas and thinks but is also substantiated by Adi Guru Shankaracharya’s and Swami Ramanujacharya’s interpretations.
But before we get into our speculations about the smile, let us examine if a smile or even laughter in the situation of crisis, can help. May be it will lighten the whole conversation. May be it will allow little time to think by giving a break in the intensity of the gravity of the situation. A break in the momentum of the thought process is sometimes very important. May be during that break the answer is going to be revealed. My feeling is that a smile in a desperate situation can be very healthy and also very helpful. The only way to find that out is to practice it. Try to smile when all your chips are down. Take a break, however momentary it may be, and see if that works for you. I must say it works for me. The only problem I have faced is that other people around sometimes do not like it. They seem to say, “It is not funny, and you should not be laughing.” I usually smile again and say to them showing my sincerity and seriousness that I am not laughing because it is funny.
Was Krishna being sarcastic to Arjuna? A better question is, Could Krishna be sarcastic? I do not believe so. He loved Arjuna as a long time friend. Krishna knew Arjuna very well. If it were a conversation with anyone else, I would believe that sarcasm might be a factor. But, Krishna being sarcastic goes against his own teaching. I think that Krishna can only be a realist. It should be really understood very well. When Krishna says to Arjuna that:
Sarva Dharman Parityjya mamekam sharanam vraja
Leave all other paths and come to me.
He is not being egoistic. If his smile and the following shloka are interpreted as sarcastic then the above shloka can be interpreted as egoistic. No, Krishna is beyond sarcasm and is certainly beyond ego, and that is what he is trying to teach. But he has to be a realist. When Krishna smiles, he just smiles. When Krishna says that he is the ultimate, he is the ultimate. There is no need to impose our values on Krishna.
Did Krishna smile because he could see what is happening to Arjuna? Let us see what really is happening to Arjuna. His mind is wavering. At one time he mentions that he is surrendered to Krishna and wants Krishna to guide him as a Guru and two shlokas later he declares that he definitely is not going to fight. That was his final decision. Arjuna does not have the clarity. Krishna can see that much clearer than what I can describe here and this definitely is worth the smile.
Krishna perhaps could see a little deeper as to what was happening to Arjuna. Arjuna’s love for his friends and relatives got very intense. As if Arjuna’s whole being has been abducted by this desire. Duryodhan’s being has been abducted by his desire for the kingdom; Arjuna’s being has been hijacked by the desire of saving the lives of his dear ones. This again is worth the smile.
Krishna also knows not only what is going on with Arjuna but also what is going on overall. If I have to speculate the reason of Krishna’s smile, I would like to think that his smile had nothing to do with Arjuna’s statement. We have used an interesting adjective to Krishna’s life. There is no autobiography of Krishna. There is no life story of Krishna. Actually, we call his life story Krishna Leela. It was just a drama on a stage. Krishna was just acting out.
And who else could understand the theory of Maya more than Krishna? Krishna smiles at this whole Maya that was going on at the time. To Krishna every thing was a drama on a stage. And, Krishna definitely took his role very seriously. For others it was a question of life and death. For Krishna, what is life and what is death. He knows what is life and what is death, and that explanation follows his smile.
There are differences in view points as to where did Gita really start, 2:11 or 2:12. I can say it started from 2:10 but does it matter. The real issue is when does Gita start in our lives? When do we start practicing the techniques outlined by Krishna? When does Gita start flowing for us?
So, what is Maya? We examined development and dropping of ego in our column, ‘Is Ego really bad.’ We also looked briefly into image building and value system. Here we will try to understand what is Maya. To understand Tyag (renunciation) we have to understand the dropping of ego, to understand Maya we need to understand the accumulation and holding on to the ego. When we say Sansar (the world) is Maya (illusion), whose Sansar are we talking about? We are not talking about the trees and the rivers and the Oceans of the world. We are talking about the network of ego that an individual has developed and calls it his own, that is his Sansar, and that is Maya.
When you are born, you get a name. This name becomes you and you start accumulating a range of ego around this name. You leave your home and go to school. You drop your school and go to college. And then you go to start work in a corporation. Perhaps you leave yur country to go to another country to work. You have dropped your house, your shchool, your college and your country to get to where you are. But, you still call it your home, your school and so forth. The attachment is still there. The feeling that it is your hometown is still there. You have created a network around you and so has every one else. The trees grow, the rivers flow, the sun shines and the birds chirp. They are all natural. They are unaware of what ego is, leave alone the network of ego. A man is a different story. He builds this network of the ego system. When he dies, the network is suddenly gone from him. The dead man is gone but we still keep our network with him going. My father is dead. His sansar is gone but we cling on to him with our network of ego system. Man is born again and starts building another fresh network and life continues. The nature has this mechanism whereby; the memory of the network of one life is not carried at conscious level to the other life.
The network is not only individual but also social. I used to live in my small village Balbandh in Bihar. The ego system of my village, now looking from outside, was amazing. The village has small sections called tolas. And people from these different tolas were and to some extent still are willing to kill each other for some trivial matter. They are not rich economically but are very rich in collection of their ego. Let me make it clear that I am not saying that ego system and value system are bad or good. I am examining as they are. This has to be understood. Once you can stand outside, you can see the network. Once you can see the network, you can still live within the framework of the network, but a certain clarity will be there. We shall be examining that clarity further as we go deeper in the Gita.
You go on the cyberspace. You use it and then switch the computer off. The space is still there. Millions of people are accessing it and using it. But, you can still be outside of it. Network of ego that we call Maya can be taken similarly for understanding purposes. The question is, “Can you stand outside of this network?” The answers including the techniques are there in Gita and we shall explore it as we go along. But surely, when I go to my village now and see those tolas talking about their what I feel as petty matters, I can smile too. That is in no way sarcasm or an insult to them. My horizons have widened, I have seen more of the world and I can see them from outside. I am not as involved as they are. If you are in it, you cannot see it. You have to be standing outside of it to be able to see it.
Krishna is always standing outside of the network of Ego. He can see the whole picture. If you are inside a house and look from a window on the east side you can see the sun rising while if you look from a window in the west you can see shadows. Krishna is standing outside on the peak of the mountain. And he can smile on what he sees. Krishna is going to take Arjuna out from the house and bring him on this peak. We shall try to follow the happenings in our future columns.
Fear of Death (2:11)
The glory of death
The reality of death
The secrets of death
The mystery of death
Taking the bull by the horn
What you do if you fear something swimming etc
Adventure is coming close to death
Importance of mayaspace
Upholding of dharma
Bluntness rude vs sarcasm
Death vs life
Worth not thinking
asocyan anvasocas tvam
prajna-vadams ca bhasase
gatasun agatasums ca
The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.||2:11||
Fear of Death
In our last column, “The turning point,” we examined the verse and mentioned the fact that the origin of Arjuna’s despair was the fear of death. Krishna in the first two mentions of the verse clarifies that Arjuna is on the wrong thinking tract. In the next two he clarifies what the wrong track is. The ones who are gone (gatasum) or the ones who are still here (agatasum) do not need to be worried for (nanusochanti panditah). Krishna can see what the root cause of Arjuna’s thinking is; Arjuna believes like many of us that Bhishma, Drona and others can be killed; he believes that the war he is going to fight is going to be won by killing of the enemy. To Krishna killing does not happen, not body can be killed; even if the body dies, the essence lives on. We shall explore that further in later columns. Let us examine this fear of death in this column.
Centuries ago this question did not arise in every one’s mind, it happened to Arjuna and Arjuna alone. Today, this question is real only to a few. Why is that? Because we do not like to talk about death. The reason commonly given is that it is a negative talk or let us deal with life now and we will deal with death later. We live and we die. I met a doctor friend of mine recently and we were talking about what might happen after life or better expressed after death. We talked a little, we speculated a little and then she said, “I am a pragmatic person, I will deal with my life and not worry about what happens after death.” And the conversation ended. Why bother about finding out?
There is a deep-seated fear in all of us about dying. Death is so real. It happens all around us all the time. And we like to close our eyes to it. The fear is so deep rooted that we do not even want to think about it. Death is the only certainty in life. Some will like to include death and taxes but I would include death, crisis and taxes as the certainties of life. Every one has in his or her life some sort of crisis, minor or major. They have a divorce or a car accident or they get fired from a job; the crisis is part of life. We do talk about crisis management but often turn the other side when we start talking about death management. Death does not happen in one moment, it is happening every day. We are all slowly heading towards death and it does make sense to talk about death management.
Yes, it is a very courageous step for us to talk about the issue of Death Management (DM). Because to me DM is the ultimate challenge we will ever face, it is the ultimate adventure man can undertake. Let us explore it a little. For a child who does not know how to ride a bike or how to swim, it is an adventure to learn that. The first time he goes under water in a swimming pool, he panics, but once he learns how to float, he becomes comfortable with it and water never intimidates him. I learned swimming late in my life. And I can tell you that water still intimidates me. It took me a long time before I could gather courage to go for white water rafting, all because I was afraid of “what if.” And having done it, I feel so happy I did it. This fear of “what if” is actually deep down a fear of death. It should be deeply understood. This point that all fear has its origin in the fear of death is significant. Once you master swimming you are not afraid of it. Knowing swimming or skiing or any such adventurous sport, familiarity with the situation gives you a comfort zone. It allays your fear. And that is the point, let us know death, let us talk about death management. This will help us understand death and will at the same time take the fear out of it. We are afraid of the unknown; once it becomes known, it becomes a friend. We always talk about conquering death. Death is not an enemy. There is no reason to fight it. But, we can definitely know it better.
And how do we know it better. The only way to know death better is to know it through our day-to-day life. Awareness is the key. We were talking about adventure and we also talked about crisis. Crisis is a term we give to untoward things that happens to us in a natural course of life. Basically it is just a situation that we interpret as adverse to us. Adventure is a crisis that we bring upon ourselves. We plan it, go to great pains and bring it upon ourselves. The mountaineering team going to the Mt. Everest has to go through rigorous training for months. Even then it is not certain that it will make the peak. All because Mt. Everest is there and it provides a challenge. . So, what is common in crisis and adventure? It is the awareness. The awareness is heightened in all sorts of crisis. Suddenly you become aware of yourself. Most of the times your energy is going outside of you. You are thinking about campaigning or you are busy thinking about what your secretary said to a client today. You and I do not have time to be with ourselves. An adventure or crisis suddenly raises the level of awareness. And in this heightened awareness, you have a different feeling.
There is another important point to note as well. The most thrilling adventures are the ones that bring you closest to death. Whether it is the feeling of drowning in the water (the panic we talked above) or the chill of the peak of Mt. Everest, death is only round the corner. You come back feeling thrilled and overjoyed; you just had a close encounter with Death. If you can bring the same awareness in your day to day life, you can experience life in its fullest. And then it will be easier to face death; it will be easier for you and I to talk about death management.
Death is a difficult topic to talk about. It is believed by some that just before death (maybe five minutes or maybe 30 minutes) all diseases leave the body. The reason being the fact that life wants you to go unto death with a full awareness. This allows you to know death in its full glory. Now, not every one has to believe in that. But the fact remains that if you live your life with full awareness, if you have taken risks in life with full awareness, if you have participated in crisis (be it natural or planned adventure), you will die with full awareness too. Most of us become unconscious before dying because of the fear we talked about and not experience the ultimate adventure at all. There is a beautiful story about Socrates. We all know he was poisoned. His friends were crying and mourning. Socrates was telling them not to cry. He asked them to take it as an opportunity to know what was happening to Socrates in that process of dying. Socrates kept describing to his disciples detailed events until he could no longer speak.
Yes, the process of dying ultimately is an opportunity to know what death is all about. But awareness is the key. You have to be aware throughout your life to be able to be aware in the last moment. But, there are other techniques to know about death during life. And these techniques have something to do with using awareness as the light to travel into your unconscious levels. We all know the power of hypnosis. You may have heard about people who were fully conscious during a general anesthesia (having some sort of surgery). There are also techniques available to be aware during sleep. The deepest level of sleep takes you to the same level as death. You touch death every night when you fall asleep, you simply do not know in your conscious level about it.
I am not going in detail about these techniques nor am I going to get into any discussion whether these techniques or concepts are correct or not. But the point is that it is time we do talk and think about death. Death after all is the ultimate surgery. The surgeon is the nature or to many, Parmatma. Life energy is removed from the physical body during this final surgery. What happens to it after is a different issue. People will differ about the next step. Whether it is a surgery like appendix or like a heart transplant will remain to be known. To me, being a scientist, energy cannot be destroyed, and hence it probably is more like a transplant. This forms the basis of life after life where the life energy is transplanted to another physical body.
Om Shantih Shantih shantih
Some things never change (2:12 - 2:13)
na tv evaham jatu nasam
na tvam neme janadhipah
na caiva na bhavisyamah
sarve vayam atah param
Never was there a time when I did not exist, or you, or all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. ||2:12||
dehino 'smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change. ||2:13||
Arjuna is distressed because of his attachments to the relatives, friends and Gurus who he might have to kill during the course of the war. To kill or not to kill is his question. He puts his bow Gandiva down and says to Krishna that he is not going to fight.
How Krishna handles it is amazing; he is so pragmatic, so methodical and yet so concise. First he remarks to Arjuna about his being on the wrong track. This must have hurt Arjuna but at the same time must he be wondering what Krishna means by that. Then Krishna virtually takes Arjuna out of the house and shows him what he can see from the boundless space of the outside. Arjuna was seeing through a window of the house;
First Krishna points out to Arjuna that there is something in every one that is eternal and never changes and then he points out to Arjuna that which is changing all the time. Before we get into what Krishna is saying, we should also examine what Krishna is not saying or most of us would have said in a similar situation. Remember, this is not a conversation between Satyakam Jabal and Rishi Gopal as happens in the Upanishad. The stakes are much higher here. If Arjuna does not fight, the outcome is clear; Pandavas will loose. But, for Krishna it is more than that. He is not attached to Pandava or Kaurava loosing. He is more interested in the prevailing of Dharma. If Duryodhana won, now he will have a free reign and he would not hesitate in doing whatever he wants to do. One thing is sure and that is Duryodhana is not going to care for Dharma.
The response of most of us would have been to tell Arjuna to drop his attachments however subtle they were. We might have told him some quotations from Shastras to support that. But, this is not what Krishna is saying to start with. He may imply that, but he is not saying that. Krishna knows that no body ever drops attachment because he is told to do so. Attachments do not drop even if you say to yourself to drop it one hundred times a day. It may become subtle but it does not drop. Attachments only drop by understanding, by knowing something higher. And that is what Krishna starts trying to do. He is trying to show Arjuna something higher.
Attachments are also of two kinds, material attachments and value attachments. Value attachments are difficult to comprehend. Arjuna has dropped his material attachments. He says it clearly that he would be willing to forego the kingdom and all the riches. He is even willing to die, but he would not kill his loved and respected ones. Now this is the ultimate of value attachment that can be present in any one, leave aside Arjuna. Krishna is trying to take him beyond this and he starts with by showing Arjuna the global view.
Arjuna’s thinking is like searching in a dark forest with a flashlight. Krishna shows him the whole forest by the light of a lightning. Lightning is momentary but it does illuminate the whole area.
The other approach Krishna is not taking is the approach of a regular teacher or even of many approaches seen in the Upanishad. He is not saying to Arjuna, “Now I shall describe to you four kinds of yoga, because once you will understand this you will achieve the Brahman.” No, that is not his style and it will not work. The usual style of scriptures will not work here; Arjuna knows scriptures too well for that to work. I do understand that Gita is also an Upanishad in the sense that Arjuna learns by sitting beside Krishna, but its approach is entirely different. In two words, Gita is simple and it is practical. It deals with issues that we encounter in our real life, yet it is so profound.
Coming back to the shlokas (2:12-2:13), Krishna starts with statements regarding a wider perspective of life. Arjuna is disturbed because he sees the possibility of death; Krishna says that there is no death. Krishna speaks with so much confidence, so much clarity and so much conviction, “Never was there a time when you and me were not there and never will be such a time in future when we shall not be there.” The essence in Krishna, Arjuna and us all lives on, the form may change but it does continue. Behind this simple statement lies the whole science of life after life. We will explore the details as we go along with Krishna and Arjuna.
Krishna sees that Arjuna’s despair was because of the fear of death and therefore he starts with the statement of the permanence of life. He is telling Arjuna that here is your mistake. Rather than looking at few frames of life, look at the whole collection. Krishna wants Arjuna to look at the whole gallery of life. This has often been explained by giving an example of the vast ocean and its waves. Arjuna is just looking at the waves, which appear and disappear, while Krishna is pointing to the whole ocean. This does explain the vastness of life and the insignificance of death but it does not touch the attachment so much. Let me try to explain it differently. Let us say that a lady has a gold bangle and wants to change it to a gold chain. It is so simple. She goes to the jeweler and asks him to change the shape and he does it. If she does not trust the jeweler, she sits through the entire process while the form is changed from the bangle to the chain. Now here the lady has no attachment to the form of gold, she does not start crying as the shape of the gold changes. The gold bangle had become dirty and misshaped, the chain is shiny, new and bright, and it is spotless. She is happy. But she is attached to the gold and that is why she is willing to sit through the whole process to make sure that the gold does not disappear. She is definitely attached to her gold. The attachment is always relative; if she loves her daughter (another attachment), she will be willing to give the bangle or chain to the daughter.
In case of our gold story above it is apparent and obvious that the gold does not disappear and only the form changes; in our real life once the body disappears, we do not see what happens to the essence. Krishna is saying that this essence never disappears. It simply changes the form. Once Arjuna comprehends this he will not be mourning over the death of any one.
Once Krishna makes this statement he comes to the form, the physical body. His approach is from global to the microcosm. If you watch a movies the director first gives you the panoramic view and then shows Harrison Ford clinging on to a rock or a rope underneath which are the multitude of dangers. Similarly, Krishna zooms out first and then slowly zooms in. His initial statement about the physical body is that it is always changing. The physical body is never static; just because it is there does not mean it is not changing. The journey from birth to death has always been a flow of changes. We grow from a baby to a young man. We mature and then transition to middle age, and then get on to the golden age of being old. Krishna is saying that the essence then moves on to another body as simply as it moves from childhood onwards. The problem is that this part is not in our grasp. It is not a matter of belief or faith. It is so. Krishna can see it, we cannot. It is so simple. I grew up in a village of India. We had cows and we used to milk the cow and drink the milk. We simply knew where the milk came from. If you ask a child in New York or Boston where and how milk comes from, there is a good possibility that he does not know. If he knows, he knows so because he has read about it or his parents have told him. It is not his experience. Krishna is telling Arjuna that it is so; Arjuna does not know it and we do not know it, really.
Krishna has started from a panoramic view. He first talks about the continuum of flow of the essence, the atma. He then focuses on the ever-changing nature of the physical body and then talks about the feelings of the physical body. We shall cover that in our next column. But in two simple verses, he has pointed out to Arjuna that he ought to switch his thinking mode to a global perspective. There are some things that do not change and there are some, which do.
Sum-bhava and applied adwaita (2:14-2:15)
How many times you have heard some one ask you which side of the bed you woke up today. You go to your office or wherever you work and are grouchy on one day. And you face this question of what mood are you in today. The point I am trying to make is that what you do or how you act depends to a large extent on your state of being (your bhavana). We all know that most of us have good days and also share the bad days. Tulsidas, the famous poet who wrote the epic Ramayana also acknowledges this truth by saying:
Ja ki rahi bhaavana jaisi
Prabhu muurat dekhi tin aisi
That is one reason Krishna refrains from telling Arjuna what to do and tells him the importance of bhavana. He knows that the state of being (bhavana) of Arjuna has to be right for Arjuna to be able to fight with full vigor. He wants Arjuna to act out of Sum-bhava.
Krishna is talking of what is there beyond life, how the essence inside of Krishna, Arjuna and the whole lot has always been around and will continue to be there in future and eternity. He then talks about the ever-changing nature of the physical body of Arjuna and all, which one-day is bound to disappear. Krishna then descends to the practical aspect of feelings and bhavana. He tries to touch the principle of adwaita, heat and cold are not two, sorrow and happiness is not two. They are not one and they are not the same. Adwaita simply means they are not two.
So what? And this is where comes in the applied part. So far is the theory. Knowing of this, experiencing of this is necessary, but how do we really apply it in our day-to-day life? Krishna says have a sum-bhava to the duality. Know it but when you go to act out, have a sum-bhava. And this I call a revolutionary technique. Many people have known it, and they have given different formulas for application. I will try to explain that here. It is not fair to compare great people, but we have to try that to understand sum-bhava and other bhavas. I by no means have any criticism for any one I mention here. I am simply putting it as I see it.
It is easy to understand an average person. He is angry some days and is a loving being other days. He is not bothered in finding out what guides his life and what forces are working behind the scenes. He sometimes may go to the temple and think that he has paid his dues. Life goes on and he is content. There is a standard deviation of this normal person but within a range these are happy or unhappy category of people.
Then there are the good people. Their limitation is their goodness. They choose goodness over evil. They usually have high moral standards and expect such standards from all others. Gandhi was a great person who was in this category. He lived a high moral standard. He followed and preached Ahimsa (non-violence). His Ahimsa was different when compared to Mahavir’s Ahimsa and that of Krishna’s sum-bhava. We will come to that later. Jesus is another example of the extreme of such a good person. Jesus favored holy indifference. But, in spite of this indifference, he held on to the good, so much so that he created a whole separate and parallel existence of Satan who is responsible for all the bad things that happen around us. It is not only the Christians who are God centric, there are others too, which include the Islam as well. The bhavana here is that of service, service to God and service to others. Things are black and white. There is no gray and there is no thought process of duality.
Buddha and Mahavira are different. They do realize the non-duality (adwaita) and are indifferent to both good and bad. There is difference in the indifference of Buddha and Mahavira but by and large they are both indifferent to the mundane world. They are both born in royal family and leave home and wander around in the wilderness. Buddha has talked about majjham nikaya (middle path) as his applied adwaita. Both of them still choose moksha and nirvana. The emphasis is on the achievement of enlightenment. The sansara is maya (illusion) and is meaningless in their eyes. It is not possible to imagine Mahavira or Buddha in the middle of Kurukshetra. It does not interest them.
Rama is different. He is in some respects similar to Krishna, but he has more differences than he has similarities. Rama is an ideal person. He has the sum-bhava but acts in the larger interst of the social guidelines. There is a story in Ramayana where Rama is praying to the samudra devata (the ocean) for a safe passage to Lanka. The Ocean ignores Rama and does not respond. Now Rama picks up his bow and uses his anger (watch the word uses his anger)…and the ocean helps him out of fear. Rama does not hesitate to use his anger when it is needed. Another touching event in Ramayana is a time when Rama’s younger brother Laxaman has been shot with a shakti and is lying listless. The whole of Rama’s side is waiting for Hanumana to bring the booti (herb). And Rama started lamenting and crying. Rama is not afraid to show emotions. These are clear examples that avatar or no avatar, sum-bhava does not mean death of emotions. Sum-bhava allows one to use and express the emotions as appropriate after knowing, experiencing and imbibing the whole truth, the truth of adwaita.
Rama is different from Krishna. There is a saying about the ancesters of Rama and Rama will live up to that.
Raghukul reet sada chali aayii
Pran jaye per bachan na jaahii
Krishna on the other hand is sum-bhava in that as well. He makes the promise that he will not pick up arms in the Mahabharata war, but is willing to break it as well. There are reasons given for that, but all the same he does break it. Krishna is willing to run away from a fight and is also not hesitant in breaking social norms of the time. He has no hesitation in dancing with gopis, something you can not imagine Rama doing even in dreams.
Coming back to Ahimsa of Gandhi. Gandhi’s Ahimsa is one sided. He will do no harm to others, even if it meant harm to himself or his own people. His bhavana inside was that the other will inevitably see the truth when he sees suffering inside of him. So Gandhi is willing to go on fast until death until the love of people for Gandhi stopped them from killing each other. And it did work. Hindus and Moslems ultimately stopped the riot in Calcutta when he fasted. This was his applied Ahimsa. He used his Ahimsa to change the heart of other people. To some his Ahimsa was used to manipulate the sentiment of others.
Mahavir’s Ahimsa is another story. It is absolute. There is nothing else inside Mahavira, it is the purest form of Ahimsa. There is no manipulation. You cannot hurt Mahavira. There is no possibility of that. He is not ready to accept your hurt, and believe it or not, you can only hurt someone who is ready to accept it. He says:
Dhammo mangalmukkitam, ahimsa, sanjamo, tapo
Mahavira’s ahimsa is a total acceptability of status quo. He is not willing to interfere. If the ant is going on its path, who am I to disturb it. Mahavira’s inner core will give room for the ant to exist unpurturbed. It is said that Mahavira touched the heart of animals in his sermons. If ones’ state of being is such that every thing is accepted as it is, it is possible to communicate with one and all.
Krishna’s sum-bhava is harder to understand because it comes from the ultimate of choicelessness. He refuses to be indifferent. Krishna will not be indifferent and will not be neutral or non-alligned. Krishna has talked about anasakti (non-attachment) and we will touch it when the time comes. But for now, when Krishna is trying to avert the war he is working for every possibility of peace between Pandavas and Kauravas. He gets the Pandavas ready for mere token place to live in turn for a peaceful existence. When all roads to peace are closed Krishna is willing to take part in the unavoidable war that follows. His bhavana inside does not change. He still has sum-bhava. Arjuna nd Duryodhana both go to Krishna for help, and Krishna obliges both. He keeps his sum-bhava for both of them. If Krishna has a weakness it is towards Dharma, he is there to protect Dharma. And this most likely is also coming from his sum-bhava.
We saw the applied aspect of Adwaita and how it can be so different and how bhavana can affect the outcome so much. Adwaita is the knowledge base where as bhavanas help make the expressions. It is not very dissimilar to becoming a doctor or a lawyer. Studying medicine does not make you a good doctor and studying law does not produce a good lawyer. It is important, but there is more to it than just going to school. The applied part has to be learned by being involved in patient care or by being in the court. Studying about adwaita or brahma is one thing. The applied part is another story. Krishna talks both the theoretical aspect and the applied. He soon will ask Arjuna to arise and fight with sum-bhava. And, Gita continues.
Sat and Asat
nasato vidyate bhavo
nabhavo vidyate satah
ubhayor api drsto 'ntas
tv anayos tattva-darsibhih
Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation. These seers have concluded by studying the nature of both. ||2:16||
avinasi tu tad viddhi
yena sarvam idam tatam
na kascit kartum arhati
Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.||2:17||
antavanta ime deha
tasmad yudhyasva bharata
Only the material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is subject to destruction; therefore, fight, O descendant of Bharata.||2:18||
Before we analyze the shlokas let us understand few basics. Gita is an applied Upanishad and that is so clear in these sets of shlokas. Krishna is talking about making of a meditative man, even in the face of a war. This aspect of Krishna has not been fully appreciated at all. I think that there are many people who feel that Gita would have been a great book if it did not have the inferences that Krishna arrives to after saying his golden words. What Gita has in 2:16 and 2:17 is marvelous, it is so wonderful, it is so true but why should therefore Arjuna fight as inferred in 2:18. That troubles many people and they are either willing to say that Gita never really happened or that Gita should be ignored or focus should be directed towards the other Upanishads.
Let us try to understand Krishna’s stand. Krishna is talking about a working sanyas. He wants to bring the superior knowledge and achievements of brahmaloka to one’s day-to-day working life. Krishna brings the concept of a meditative man in the real world who is driving his car, goes to work and plays his game of cricket, soccer or basketball. Whatever he does he does meditatively. That is what he is trying to tell Arjuna, arise and fight and fight with sum-bhava.
It is not an accident that Krishna talks about Sat and Asat and asks Arjuna to arise and fight after he has talked about sum-bhava. Krishna instills the bhavana of sum-bhava in Arjuna before he talks of the real and unreal or his invitation to Arjuna to fight. Krishna implies that Arjuna keep sum-bhava to sat and asat as well. Before we get into the details of sat and asat, this is Krishna’s condition. The reason is simple. Krishna knows the pitfalls of understanding sat; you start choosing sat over asat. That is the very nature of a man, especially so of a moral and ethical man. Krishna says be a meditative man, know the difference but stay in choicelessness, stay in sum-bhava.
Let us analyze a conventional sanyas so that we can then understand what Krishna’s working sanyas may mean. The basis of a normal concept of sanyas is rooted in Karma sanyas. A conventional sanyas begins by the understanding that there is no point in doing mundane karmas and therefore one should take sanyas from the every day karma. A conventional sanyasi does not see the point of getting married or gathering any wealth for him. He realizes that such karmas that he has done in many past lives have not brought anything to him. He always died empty handed and hence there is no point repeating the same karmas again in this life. This conventional sanyasi in some respects is a life negative person; at least he appears to be that way. He becomes very much indifferent to what goes on in our real world. He sees our world as Maya and disconnects himself from this illusory world. This sanyasi is however not choiceless, he chooses the other life instead of this life in the mayaspace. This was the concept of a sanyasi in those days before Krishna brought in the concept of a working sanyas. Even in todays’s world this conventional sanyasi’s concept is deep rooted. Aadi Shankaracharya and Buddha as well are some glaring examples of this conventional sanyas. There is nothing wrong with it and one sanyas is not superior or inferior to the other.
Krishna’s sanyas is different and has a different basic understanding. He wants everybody to be able to experience the concept of sanyas. It is not only for those who can see the futility of the usual mundane karma. There is no need to take sanyas from karma (work). Krishna wants us to bring the sanyas to work. Actually, Krishna is more interested in the bhavana behind whatever we do. We may be in the jungle physically, but our mind may be thinking of what beauty is there in the nightclub of Manhattan in New York. Krishna will say that if you are centered then it does not matter whether you are in the forest, middle of ocean or in a nightclub. What is important is your state of being. But, his condition is sum-bhava, which we have discussed in our previous column.
Soon after he talks about sum-bhava, Krishna divides the existence in to two parts, sat (the real) and asat (unrealor say maya). Again, I want to emphasize that before Krishna starts talking about duality, he has pointed out to Arjuna about the sum-bhava to prevent Arjuna from taking the side of Sat. If Sat is what is real then why bother about Asat which is not going to last at all. Before we get into it let us first understand the concept of Sat and Asat (the real and the unreal). Asat does not mean non-existence. Unreal does not mean that it does not exist at all. Asat is unreal in the sense that it appears to be there, but in fact, it is not there or it is oon not going to be there.Krishna’s test for Asat or Unreal is that something which has a beginning and an end, it was not there at some time and it is there now and will not be there at some time in future. In other words whatever appears in the domain of time/space is Asat. Krishna also implies that Sat is the sustaining force, which is always already present. This understanding comes very close to the search that Einstein always had, “a theory of everything.” Some force or energy has to be there which can explain every thing.
Krishna says it very simply. To him Sat and Asat are so clear. He says that Asat has no independent existence, meaning thereby that Asat can only exist on the shoulders of the Sat. Let us try to understand by example. A 2 or 3-year-old child in Boston goes with his parents to the grocery store where the mom buys milk, and takes out money from the ATM machine. The same mother or father may go to hospital and bring a baby. The little young child comprehends that milk comes from the grocery store, money comes from the ATM machine and baby comes from the Hospital. We know it differently. The question is of knowing.
Krishna knows what he is saying, and that is there is some energy source (Sat) that sustains whatever we are able to perceive, the unreal (the Asat). It is like the light decorations of Christmas. You drive around and see different shapes of lights on the street; the real is actually the electricity that is not in the visual range. The science of today knows that the electricity is the underlying energy and Krishna knew then that Sat (the unseen or the real) is the underlying energy of the Asat (the one that we can see, the Asat). The bulbs shining the street by its light has a life and the Asat with its glory has a life too.
We can stretch the similarity a little more. Electricity can be used to heat the house in winter and cool the house in summer. There is a utility value of the manifestation of electricity. We know that if we switch off the electricity, we cant find comfort in either of the seasons. Similarly Sat as energy force is there but its manifestation is what we see. Although it is Asat or say unreal, that is the part in our grasp and that is what is valuable in our every day life. There is an applied part of electricity and there is an applied part of the Sat energy as well. We know that electricity is the underlying energy, but unless we convert it inot utility it is just energy. It is good to know about the electrical energy and that understanding has advanced our lives. Similarly, it is good to know that forces of Sat sustain whatever we comprehend, but the applied part is only in the unreal world, what I have called in previous columns as Mayaspace.
Stretching the similarity a little further we can try to understand the concept of Adwaita. Electrical energy and the manifestation thereof appear to be two different concepts. The streetlight and electrical energy appear to be two different facets, one travels through the wires and the other shows up through the light bulbs. A heater and an air conditioner are poles apart. This is Dwaita which means theory of two; there is distinction between the two. But, we know that it is the same electrical energy. This is Adwaita. When it manifests through different modalities, it always manifests as two or more different sources. Similarly, Sat and Asat appear two but Asat cannot exist without Sat, Sat is the sustaining force and that knowledge is Adwaita. Whernever we apply Adwaita, it has to be in duality.
There are of course dissimilarities between electrical forces and the forces of Sat. There is no element of ahamkar (ego), mind (man) or Buddhi (wisdom) in the case of electrical energy. The electrical energy does not have to deal with jealousy and ambitions. The Sat is a vibrant living energy; we can call it Consciousness or simply Parmatma.
Krishna always comes down to the bottom line. Arjuna’s main problem is the possibility of death of his loved ones. Krishna is saying that these physical bodies are going to die, but the essence, the atma inside of these bodies have no way of dying. It has never died or better expressed it has always already been there. Therefore, Arjuna should fight for the cause and he should fight with sum-bhava. The cause is the sustenance of Dharma.
The same forces of Sat are sustaining both Duryodhana and Arjuna in the Mayaspace. And here lies the dilemma. As we discussed earlier about how Dharma is the value system of the Mayaspace, Dharma has to be upheld. And this to me is the reason, Krishna infers in 2:18 that Arjuna should arise and fight. What were the choices with Krishna when Arjuna wanted not to fight? Arjuna was not talking of Ahimsa (non-violence). Arjuna was simply worried about impending death of his loved ones. He would not have had any problem killing anyone who he saw as an enemy. Arjuna was looking at his friends and that bothered him so much. Krishna had the choice letting Arjuna do what he wanted, or remind Arjuna of all the atrocities that were done by the Kauravas or do what Krishna did.
Krishna took this opportunity to make a meditative warrior out of Arjuna. We have so far only covered few basic points of Krishna in his approach of making this meditative man. As we go further there are many other techniques that Krishna talks about and these techniques can help us all become meditative people. The problem is that we will all not become Arjuna. We all will be meditative workers in our own fields and that is what the whole approach of Gita is. It gives us the opportunity to become authentic individuals and one day we may be able to say, arise and do our jobs and do it meditatively.
Na hanyate hanyamane sharire (2:19-2:21)
ya enam vetti hantaram
yas cainam manyate hatam
ubhau tau na vijanito
nayam hanti na hanyate
He who thinks that the living entity is the slayer or that he is slain, does not understand. One who is in knowledge knows that the self slays not nor is slain.||2:19||
na jayate mriyate va kadacin
nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah sasvato 'yam purano
na hanyate hanyamane sharire
For the soul there is never birth nor is there any death. Nor, having once been, does that ever cease to be. That is unborn, eternal, ever existing, undying and primeval. That does not die with the death of the body. ||2:20||
ya enam ajam avyayam
katham sa purusah partha
kam ghatayati hanti kam
O Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill? ||2:21||
Arjuna’s problem is the same as our problems. How can he kill people whom he loves? What are his gains? Are those gains worth the killings? Arjuna views death of the physical body as the death of that individual. The body is so important to Arjuna and to us all. Our definition of Himsa and Ahimsa lies in the hurting of this or any physical being and our Ahimsa also is based on protecting or at least not hurting any being’s body. We shall get back to this issue later.
Krishna knows this very well and therefore he addresses the whole concept of killing and dying early in the Gita. As I said before, Krishna is systematic and methodical. He first talks about Sat and Asat and then applies to an individual’s existence. Body is the Asat which is sustained by the Sat, the essence, the Atma. And he goes on to say that there is no way to destroy the essence, the Atma. Those who think that Atma kills or can be killed do not know, and those who know, know that it is not possible to kill the Atma. That essence is outside of the cycle of birth and death and does not die with the death of the body.
Let us explore the death of the body a little further. What happens? Why is there so much pain when someone dear to us dies? It is important for us to comprehend our ignorance about death. We see that a body ‘s functions stop. As a Doctor we certify that a person is dead when the heart stops beating. Recently, when the modern medicine learned to keep the heart and lung going, the concept of brain death was brought in. And sometimes we do not know if that is real death. In any case, for most of us death is real. Death to some is the only certainty.
But, that is our inference. Someone is walking and talking one day and the other day he meets an accident. He may sustain an injury to the neck and become quadriplegic. Now he can not move his legs or hands. This happened to Christopher Reeves, the one who used to be in the movies, “Superman.” Talk to some one like this. Inside they is still feel as a complete being. There is no injury to the being.
Death is an inference. It is not our knowledge. People always are dying around us. We do not know what happens to them. We know that we cannot relate to them in the same way as we used to before. And therefore, we conclude they must be dead. The pain that we feel for them is not so much because they are gone. It is more so because they had become a part of our being, and when they are gone we have lost that part of our being. That part dies and it hurts. Some one in remotes of Africa dies. That is not so painful because they have not been part of us yet. Anyway, death is our inference and so it was for Arjuna. He has this anguish that some people close to him are likely to die in the war. And that attachment, the possibility of them dying caused all this grief to Arjuna.
But, the question is here is as to what dies. If body is the whole story, then death is certain. Krishna’s stance is totally different. He knows clearly that body has to die anyway, but the essence never shall die. There is no way. And that is what he is trying to convey to Arjuna. Krishna here is saying that for the essence, the Atma, death is impossibility. And therefore Arjuna should have no qualms in killing them for the upholding of Dharma.
“Na hanyate hanymane sharire” is a dangerous statement if it is not qualified. Krishna already talked about Bhavana (state of being) before he gave this statement. He talked about the sum-bhava before he even mentions about this statement that the essence Atma does not die witht the death of the body.
Why is Bhavana so important? If it is okay to kill because Atma never dies then the proponents of Himsa can use this statement to justify the killing of 6 million Jews by Hitler, the killing of 13 million fellow Russians by Stalin and the killing of some 80 million Hindus by several Muslim invaders and rulers. What is wrong? Hitler even designed ingenious methods to do it. It was economical and fast. But there comes the whole equation of bhavana. Krishna’s sum-bhava deserves better understanding.
Krishna redefines Himsa and Ahimsa. At a deeper level, if one enjoys the killing, it is Himsa. Language has a problem. If this definition is made hard and fast, there will appear people on earth who will kill and say I killed without enjoyment. Professional killers can say that. But, the fact remains and that is the pleasure in killing (maarane ka ras) is Himsa.
Krishna’s sum-bhava goes one step further. We have covered it before, but will try to understand it again from a different angle. You want to travel from Boston to New York. You have the choice of traveling by car, fly, catch a train or take a bus. You decide to go by car and go to mapquest.com and get directions from door to door. The computer calculates the shortest route and prints out the details. Now what bhava the computer has in giving those directions. Perhaps none, so that is no-bhava to my understanding. As a person, you have the option of following those directions or change according to your needs. You may want to avoid toll charges (on Mass Pike Rt.90) and take Route 95 all the way. You might want to meet a friend in Hartford on the way and take the appropriate road. And eventually you reach the friend in New York. You then discard the directions that you had printed out and pick up the map of New York so that you can go places. You do not have any special feelings or attachment to Route 95 or Route 90. You would have never thought about getting attached to these routes. You might even think it to be stupid to keep log of all the directions of the USA. The map can always be referred to. This is truly close to sum-bhava. Ahimsa and Himsa are the two major roads of life. A man with sum-bhava will default to the road of Ahimsa but is not afraid to take the road of Himsa. He, however, remains choice less and unattached to both, Ahimsa or Himsa.
We are coming close to making such difficult decisions in our times too. We as a international society, cannot just be bystanders to what the terrorists are attempting to do. We could not let Saddam Hussain run his own course. Krishna wants to establish some normalcy in the society. The value system of the maya-space, Dharma, has been eroded and the road to Ahimsa is closed. Instead of seeing the Dharma erode further Krishna is willing to take the path of minimum Himsa, knowing fully well that the Sat is never disturbed and the Atma never dies.
Don’t believe, just live (2:21-2:22)
ya enam ajam avyayam
katham sa purusah partha
kam ghatayati hanti kam
O Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill? ||2:21||
vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro 'parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. ||2:22||
Krishna is talking from his level. He is simply stating the characteristics of Atma. No reasoning or logic is presented. He simply says Atma is like this or Atma is like that. He starts his story from the description of Sat and Asat (2:16). This Sat and Asat as we analyzed earlier has nothing to do with truth and untruth, it is a classification of the whole existence into the essence and non-essence; non-essence in the sense that it appears to be the essence but is not the essence. Then he comes down and applies it a human being and says that the body, which has a time bound existence, is the Asat and the Atma, which is the eternal, is the essence. The non-essence Asat is the sustained by the Essence, Sat.
But, at the same time Krishna does not want Arjuna to take his word for it. Krishna says that these are the facts as Krishna knows it and Arjuna has to know it for himself as his own truth. Krishna emphasizes the process of knowing in 2:21 and then repeats it in 2:25. Why does he do that? It is quite significant. Krishna sees two dangers of these statements. These are truths spoken from Krishna’s level; these are facts from the peaks of existence.
It is easy to start believing it because the words are spoken from Krishna, the Parmatma and stop there. Faith can be used as a technology. Instead of debating about whether God is there or not, one can just believe that there is God. Now the journey of who is God may start. There is possibility that the man has stopped debating and will now go on the journey to find God. But there is also the possibility, that he will stop the journey altogether. The worst possible response is that this may lead to Fanaticism. My God is the only God and now it is my responsibility to make others believe in this “My God.”
Krishna is taking more of a scientific approach. He says to Arjuna that here is the truth, but be careful. You have to know the truth as yours. This knowledge of truth is not transferable. This truth cannot and should not be part of any one’s inheritance. Knowledge can come from Shashtras or books but knowing can only happen by living it. This has to be understood. It happens in our everyday life as well. You can read a book on how to swim. You can remember it as well. You can even recite it over and over again. But we all know that if thrown in water, there is a good chance that you will not be able to swim. Reading a book does not teach you swimming. You have the knowledge but no personal learning experience.
Krishna is careful. He knows the inherent dangers in Arjuna accepting his words. Krishna is also aware that in future, if others read Gita they may accept the words because it came from Parmatma himself. Therefore, he puts this disclaimer before and after he utters this wonderful description of the Atma. Don’t believe; live life. Learn from what life has to offer is his message.
I want to share a story about Osho, my Guru. Only Rajneesh “Osho” could have done it. When invited by a well-known religious organisation to speak, Rajneesh, on the spur of the moment, decided to play a practical joke on the organisers and the audience. He began talking about a strange and highly advanced society called “Sitnalta”. The truth of the matter is that before delievering his speech he was reading about the mythical continent called “Atlantis”. He just reversed the order to make it “Sitnalta” He told the gathering that in our body we had 17 chakras, not seven as mentioned in ancient Indian scriptures. The great ancient knowledge is lost, but a secret society of enlightened masters called “Sitnalta” still exists, and this society knew well all the mysteries of life. As people listened with rapt attention, Rajneesh went on and on with all sorts of nonsense he could come up with. He was surprised by the gullibility of his listeners. But an even greater surprise was yet to come. At the end of the session, the president of the society, who was totally floored, came up to him and said, that he had heard about that society and its activities. Then letters started pouring in, says Rajneesh. One man went so far as to say that he was a member of the “Sitnalta” society. “I can vouch that whatsoever you have said is absolutely true,” he averred.
Such are the uses of “belief”. It is very comforting, it is so reassuring, and it makes us feel so secure. The more absurd the notion, the more illogical and unscientific the reasoning, the stronger is the belief. People are out there eager to believe anything. Anything, so long as it is reassuring. If you proposed something logical, and if you could prove it scientifically, the question of believing it or not believing it would not arise, because the statement is true, irrespective of anyone’s opinion. If 2+2 make four, they will do so, whether you are a Sikh, a Hindu, a Jew, or an atheist.
Krishna is putting down what he knows about the Atma and suggests to Arjuna that you should not just believe what I am saying. Arjuna has to know it as his own truth. This is such a scientific approach. I have repeated it several times and say it again, Krishna is systematic, Krishna is methodical and Krishna is scientific. He does not leave room for misunderstanding. Once Arjuna knows it his own truth, there is no possibility of confusion, there is no room for fanaticism and there is no compulsion to teach others.
Krishna has some of his points about the indestructibility of Atma, the essence. Now he talks about the relationship of the Atma to the physical body. Krishna says that as a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. Krishna makes this similarity of clothes and the physical body. Some people question this statement on the fact that what happens when some one dies young. The physical body is not old and useless yet. This I think is stretching the slimily too far. All these examples have limitations and are meant to give a broader perspective. And the fact is, that the physical body is the manifested part of the soul and that it is temporary and destructible by default.
Outer appearance is changeable. Clothes that are old do not have a value in our eyes and can be discarded. In today’s time of affluence they do not have to be old to be discarded. The can be donated to others as well. The point here is that we are not our clothes. Krishna argues that similarly we are not this physical body either. The physical body will also be discarded by the inner being when it looses its purpose. We are all used to seeing the body from outside.
Krishna is trying to make us look at our body from inside. Once you start looking at the body from inside, it is a different experience. Almost all the meditations change the direction of looking inwards rather thanoutwords. There is this beautiful story in the Svetasvatara Upanisad.
samane vrkse puruso nimagno
'nisaya socati muhyamanah
justam yada pasyaty anyam isam asya
mahimanam iti vita-sokah
"Although the two birds are in the same tree, the eating bird is fully engrossed with anxiety and moroseness as the enjoyer of the fruits of the tree. But if in some way or other he turns his face to his witnessing friend--at once the suffering bird becomes free from all anxieties."
One of the birds is eating the fruit of the tree, and the other bird is simply watching His friend. Of these two birds, although they are the same in quality, the fruits of the material tree captivate one, while the other is simply witnessing the activities of His friend. Witnessing is the key. This witnessing will lead to knowing the essence inside of the physical body. Buddha makes this witnessing the core of his meditation technique that is so popular these days; the word vipassana actually means the witnessing.
Let us explore this a little further. Does Atma travel from one life to another? What happens at the time of birth? When Krishna talks about the sharira (body), he is not talking about one physical body, there actually is layers of bodies. We are familiar with the physical body, but there are other bodies. We will explore three of the seven bodies here for our understanding purposes. The first body is the physical body. It has its limitations but the most important role of this body is the experiencing and expression of different vasanas of the individual. We can taste what is sweet and what is sour. We can express our anger by hitting some one.
The physical body is the manifested body and photographs can be taken and kept in an album. The next body close to the physical body is the etheric body. This is more like collection of vapors. All emotions arise from the etheric body. Therefore it can also be termed the emotional body (bhava sharira). This body can expand or shrink depending on different situations. Once you start the inward journey and become aware of the movements of the physical body, then it becomes easier to see the movements of the second body, the etheric body.
Let us examine anger. When you are angry with a certain person, most of the times you realize it after you have hit the other person. It is usually termed as going out of control. It is not so much going out of control; we simply do not know about it unless it is already manifested. Once the witnessing starts, it is possible to see that there is anger that is surrounding the whole body. But, before the anger surrounds the physical body, it spreads throughout the etheric body. Some people can suppress this anger before it spreads to the physical body. They have mastered this art well. They can even smile at the person with whom they are angry, but anger is spread allover the etheric body. The repression at etheric body is not necessarily healthy, but practically it may reduce reverberations. In repression what happens is that we hold back the emotion on the plane of manifestation, but is really present at its original source.
In fear the etheric body shrinksThe process of shrinking we feel in fear is not that of the physical body. The physical body stays the same size. It happens quite often in medical practice. A patient comes in the room to find result of his test. He is anxious. He sits in the chair. The moment he hears the word cancer, he goes pale. This is not so obvious in all people but happens to most. The second body shrinks and becomes ready to leave the first body. He tries to pull himself together which takes variable time. In medical terms this reaction is called denial. It can also be seen in breaking an bad news to a person. The physical body remains the same but something happens at a deeper level. The etheric body can expand and contract. Expansion is its innate nature. This body usually expands in happiness or in company of someone who we like. If the meditator starts living in those conditions where the etheric body expands, a harmony is created.
Then there is the astral body. It is more like vibrations and its movements are subtler. Osho describes it as neighbor of a neighbor. We hear the clatter of the pots or crying of a child from the neighbor but do not hear any sound from neighbor of the neighbor. We can sometimes see the anger arising in the etheric body and see it manifested by action on the level of the physical body. If this anger is traced to the level of astral body, it is seen more as vibrations, vibrations that have both the anger and forgiveness. The same vibration can become anger or forgiveness. The duality starts loosing its hold as it is traced towards the astral body.
The astral body is the one that journeys from life to life. Samskaras are bundled in with the astral body and at the time of birth astral body enters the new body with all the samskaras. The role of Atma is more like a catalyst; it does not journey from anywhere to anywhere. It is simply there. When the desires, which form the samskaras, drop the astral body dies as well and Atma is then realized.
Krishna makes the point here and that is that the death of physical body is not the death of the soul, it is just changing of the body. Krishna emphasizes that Arjuna or we should know this by our experience and experiments rather than just accept what he has to say. There is no reasoning or logic needed to prove what he is saying. He wants us to live and find out. He says very clearly, “Don’t believe, just live” and find out.
In defense of Varna system (2:31)
sva-dharmam api caveksya
na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo 'nyat
ksatriyasya na vidyate
Considering your specific duty as a ksatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation.||2:31||
It is interesting that soon after Kishna puts forward his insights of Gyan Yoga, he starts talking about very mundane aspects of the life of maya loka. He has just talked about Sat, Asat and Atma and suddenly changes gear and is talking about the Swadharma of a Kshatriya. This to my mind is the applied aspect. As I have pointed out in my earlier writings, the schooling is over, now it is time to practice. There is a real patient in front of the doctor. The patient has an acute illness. The doctor has to decide whether to operate or not. Discussions of options of management will not do, management has to be done right now. The enemy is in front of Arjuna; Arjuna is a soldier and he has to make his decision now.
Krishna is not going to run away from the inevitable nor is he going to become indifferent. He understands the heights of the Brahmaloka and shares that with Arjuna, but the playing field right now is the maya-loka and the actions (be it drama or real) is going to take place in this space and in this time. So, the question is how do you apply the higher experience and knowledge to this playing field. From outside, there may be no difference between Duryodhana and Yudhistir, but the bhavana (state of being) of the two is entirely different.
When Krishna talks about Sum-Bhava, he is talking about the bhavana, when he talks about swadharma of a Kshatriya he is talking about actions. He talks about more mundane things in the follow up shlokas, but there lies the importance and understanding of the higher principles. Most readers of Gita will skip these few verses and jump on to the verses on Karma yoga. But to me these few verses sandwiched between the gyan yoga and karma yoga are crucial to understanding Krishna. Mayaloka is not trivial; it does not need to be trivialized. We all have our potentials, we all come face to face with opportunities and we all pay a social price if we do not live up to expectations. We will take these issues in our next column, but will focus our discussion here on the issue addressed in this shloka, the issue of Arjuna being a Kshatriya. This shloka is seen by many to support the varna system which forms the basis of the caste system.
Krishna in the verse 2:31 is talking to Arjuna in the language of Mayaspace and at Arjuna’s level. This is not a spiritual talk. Krishna is doing a very practical talking to Arjuna. Krishna and Gita has been criticized much because of this and some subsequent verses mainly because Krishna appears to be supporting the caste system. Caste system is under the attack not only from the outside but also from educated world of India. While some believe that it is the root cause of all evils in the Hindu system, the others feel that Varnashram is the core of Hindu Dharma. And the debate continues.
Let me start with a quote from Marvin Minsky:
"It often does more harm than good to force definitions on things we don’t understand. Besides, only in logic and mathematics do definitions ever capture concepts perfectly. The things we deal with in practical life are usually too complicated to be represented by neat, compact expressions. Especially when it comes to understanding minds, we still know so little that we can't be sure our ideas about psychology are even aimed in the right directions. In any case, one must not mistake defining things for knowing what they are."
Marvin Minsky, from The Society Of Mind, 1985
Having thus said, it is difficult to explain, understand or criticize a system (varna system) with what limited understanding we have of our universe and the cycles of births and rebirths associated with it. While some schools believe that this life is a one-chance deal the others understand it as a never-ending cycles of births and rebirths, which is self regulated by the karmic theory. While the former system believes that we start with a clean slate the latter insists that we carry with us a collection of virtual baggage (samskaras) from one life to the other. While the physical body dies the astral body along with this fresh virtual baggage starts on the journey of looking for another physical body. This astral body although un-manifest to our senses is indeed a reality that science is as yet to find means to recognize. This journey from life to life, which sounds mystical and unrealistic today to many of us, was a well-known fact to Krishna.
In Krishna’s time (and before that) the cycle of incorporeal being (unmanifest to our senses) to physical being (manifest) to incorporeal bodies again was a much more obvious happening than what it is today. When devising a social system, those people did not only take into account the manifest, but also had to consider the unmanifest. Otherwise, it could be a social injustice. In fact, not considering the whole picture would not have occurred to them. Because, they could see the problems an incorporeal being was facing in how to take a corporeal existence. It has to be fully comprehended because without understanding this, varna system will never make sense.
The science of psychology is coming close and it is possible that they will one day close the gap between the western thinking and the eastern understanding of psychology. The cognitive science is already looking at the study of intellect while cognitive psychology is trying to understand the information-processing phenomenon. There are interesting experiments and conclusions being drawn every day. There are debates whether consciousness is a construct or whether it should be studied at all by the science of psychology. Evolutionary psychology (EP) is an emerging branch of anthropology and psychology, which have been gaining ground lately. A fundamental tenet of EP is that large part of psychology is innate, as opposed to learned, to the point of rejecting the concept of "learning" altogether. Where does this innate learning come from? Is it on the genes or does it come from past lives? There are more questions raised than there are answers, all the same, an effort is being made in understanding the human psychology in a newer framework.
What Krishna is saying is based on the basic understanding that all humans are born with different potentials. People are not similar to each other. They should have equal rights, but they are inherently different. The second part that follows is that broadly speaking there are four categories of people, the intellectuals, the warriors, the business class and the working class. This broad classification holds true even in the west.
In the east they are respectively called Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and shudra. The system was based on facts and not meant to be relative. The varna system was not meant to be comparative, no one was meant to be superior to the other. Every one played a role in the social structure. The day the varna system became comparative, it lost its meaning. Exploitation began and the whole sytem became distorted. A higherarchy was developed and the fight began as to who is superior to whom.
The question then does arise as to how the varna system became associated with birth. I speculate that the thinkers of those times in consideration of the incorporeal beings being channelized appropriately developed this system. Crossovers did happen in those days as well. A Parashuram or a Vishwamitra did happen in those times too. To increase the probability of equal and opportune access to appropriate births for incorporeal beings, this bold experiment was initiated. It might have worked well for a long time, until exploitations began. And any system can be and is liable to be exploited. That is not so much the falut of the system as is of the people who it is meant for.
Krishna’s whole psychology is based on the fact that every one’s road to success, fulfillment and journey to Parmatma goes through his own swadharma (potential). Arjuna is a soldier and his success, personal fulfillment and liberation is through his bravery.
I came across an interesting research paper by Mathew J. Cook performed at the Fairfield University in Connecticut. Seven hundred and thirty-nine Fairfield University freshmen from the Class of 2000 volunteered to participate as part of their orientation program. Kolb's learning style inventory (LSI) was used to evaluate an individual’s learning style type. In this exploratory study, the learning styles of the members of the Fairfield University Class of 2000 were quite diverse. Such diversity in learning styles at the University suggests that it is important for administrators and professors to consider this diversity to more fully harness each student’s learning potential.
The data regarding major and learning style were particularly interesting. Various disciplines and fields have preferred learning styles (Kolb, 1993) that match what is expected in the particular profession. For instance, research suggests that natural science majors in the fields of medicine, biology, physical science, and mathematics should be either a converger or an assimilator (Kolb, 1993; Stice, 1987; Wolfe and Kolb, 1979), yet half of students in these majors were pursuing professions where their learning style was not preferred. Perhaps the large proportion of students who drop out of the biology and premed/dental program are mismatched with the desired learning styles of the profession that they are pursuing. A similar mismatch was found for declared business majors.
One thing is clear from these studies. People differ in their learning abilities. One-day the Universities may come up with a testing standard that will suit a particular career and mismatch between learning ability and what they want to be will be reduced. The probability that a psychological instrument could test a person’s swadharma is quite interesting.
Here Krishna is reminding Arjuna of his swadharma as a kshatriya and urging him to act according to his true self. There are certain expectations from Arjuna. He should not run away from his responsibilities. But, he has already put the condition of sum-bhava and that Arjuna should not fight with hatred or anger; he should act out of sum-bhava. The act of fighting will be the same for Arjuna and Duryodhana, but the bhavana will be different. Krishna is so amazing.
Some men are more equal than others
sukhinah ksatriyah partha
labhante yuddham idrsam
O Partha, happy are the ksatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets. ||2:32||
atha cet tvam imam dharmyam
sangramam na karisyasi
tatah sva-dharmam kirtim ca
hitva papam avapsyasi
If, however, you do not fight this religious war, then you will certainly incur sins for neglecting your duties and thus lose your reputation as a fighter. ||2:33||
akirtim capi bhutani
kathayisyanti te 'vyayam
People will always speak of your infamy, and for one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death. ||2:34||
bhayad ranad uparatam
mamsyante tvam maha-rathah
yesam ca tvam bahu-mato
bhutva yasyasi laghavam
The great generals who have highly esteemed your name and fame will think that you have left the battlefield out of fear only, and thus they will consider you a coward. ||2:35||
avacya-vadams ca bahun
nindantas tava samarthyam
tato duhkhataram nu kim
Your enemies will describe you in many unkind words and scorn your ability. What could be more painful for you? ||2:36||
hato va prapsyasi svargam
jitva va bhoksyase mahim
tasmad uttistha kaunteya
O son of Kunti, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore get up and fight with determination. ||2:37||
There is a common saying that all men and women were created equal. But this is far from truth in real life situation. It costs nearly twenty million dollars to run a campaign for the Presidency of United States and how many equal men and women can really raise this amount of money. So, in real life all men and women may be equal, but some are more equal than others.
This is one of the important points that we discussed in our last column. Krishna's principle in these shlokas is to highlight this issue of inherent differences in people.and also the fact that each individual has his own innate possibilities. While broadly speaking there are four categories of people on this planet earth, the ultimate flowering depends on the innate properties of that individual (swadharma).
Krishna is talking some very practical points, things that people talk in motivational seminars. But, there is a difference. The difference is what Krishna has talked about before he comes to the practical points. He has discussed about the gyan yoga, about sum-bhava and he has mentioned how important knowing all this is. Now, he is ready to talk about the mundane regular stuff. He is making sure that Arjuna understands that this mayaspace is the only playing field. Knowing of Atma and Brahmaspace is important, but then it has to be played out in this regular world. Buddha goes on a long journey and finds out the truth of Brahmaspace. What does he do then? He walks around in this space of maya world for forty years and plays the game the same way as others. Krishna has been there but abides by all the rules of the mayaspace as well.
That again is an important point to understand. While Krishna, Rama, Buddha, Mahavira or Ramakrishna know the same truth, they interact totally differently in this world. Buddha and Mahavira were contemporary. They walked through the same villages in Bihar. They had different messages. But they never met each other. No attempt to change the other or debate on issues was made. What makes this difference? Why do they have different expressions, although they have come to the same realization? And Krishna would acknowledge that there is difference in expressions because of inherent individual differences. It may be easier to understand albeit on a different level as to what happens to medical students who go to say the Harvard Medical School. They all go to the same type of teaching and experience; yet have vast differences when they become doctors and start practicing. There is no need of carbon copies in this world. We would get bored if every enlightened person behaved like Buddha or any one else.
The other important point that Krishna is making here is to live with the rules of the world. Although Krishna does not need to do any karma, he continues to do what he has to do all the time. He is going to become a role model; his life is no more a private life. He is pointing this out to Arjuna as well. Arjuna no more has a private life. What he does is important and has long lasting implications.
Any karma that is done is a journey in itself. It is going to produce its repercussions. If Arjuna leaves the battlefield and does not fight, there will be appropriate and inappropriate reactions. Krishna is enumerating few of them here. What the supporters and fans are going to think about Arjuna? They may even ridicule him for his actions. This is not only true for Arjuna but is still true for today. When a President Clinton of the USA does karmas that are not expected of him, he is openly criticized and ridiculed. Arjuna is not a no body. He is a hero of his time and any action by him that is not the norm or expected of him is bound to produce criticism similar to what happens to any public figure today.
Moreover, this is an opportunity for Arjuna to shine. He is in the middle of a battle of his lifetime. His Guru is on the other side. Bhishma is fighting against him and so is Karna. This is the time for showdown. If he wins, which is not what was expected, he will be full of glory. And, opportunities like this do not come every day. It is so true for any successful strategy. Krishna is apprising Arjuna of this opportunity that Arjuna should recognize and go for it. We all have to grab opportunities and keep looking for them, for that gives us the opportunity to show us what we have got.
There are two paths that people of distinction can take. It is the path of the jungle or the path of power. Duryodhana is on the path of the power while Arjuna wants to take the path of the Jungle. Neither of them can live without doing karma. Krishna is laying the ground works for describing his working sanyas. He has talked about pure gyan yoga and now he is describing to Arjuna what he should be doing. There is an opportunity and if he grabs the opportunity he has nothing to loose. If on the other hand Arjuna lets this opportunity go and goes towards the Jungle, he has everything to loose.
This is sometimes the tragedy in our times as well. Many people in India believe that good people should not go into politics. It is bad to go for power, and this belief has led many capable people to stay away from politics. This happened when India got its independence in 1947. Gandhi stayed away from power and so did Vinoba Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayan and many others. They decided to service from outside. And that did not really work very well. Who then will walk into politics? And who will be able to replace such a person? Krishna knows that it is natural for Duryodhana to go for power, but he has to be stopped. And that is what has led to this beginning of the Mahabharata.
It does not matter if Arjuna goes to Jungle or not, but it does matter if people like Duryodhana are allowed to stay on in power. Someone has to be worse than him to be able to replace Duryodhana. And the cycle continues. What will then happen to the value system Dharma? Any value system is only maintained by the strong and powerful. Might is right, but then why not right will have the might. There is no reason not to and that is what Krishna is pointing out.
Krishna wants Arjuna to fight and fight with sum-bhava. Knowing about Atma and Parmatma is not against fighting if that is what is needed to maintain the value system of mayaspace, Dharma. Krishna talks about these mundane sounding yet important points and is laying the groundwork of his working sanyas. Soon Krishna will be talking about the details of Karma Yoga. But, before that he will once again remind Arjuna of the sum-bhava that he described before.
One of the best-kept secrets of spiritualism is that success in this world follows centering growth, be it from any kind of yoga. Clarity follows such centering and right decisions can be taken. The divine also assists such a person in achieving their goals, because these goals are generally for the benefit of all. The reason it is not described openly is simple. The moment the goal of success comes to mind, the centering stops. The centering only happens when there is no desire of success or failure. That is why Krishna talks to Arjuna bout the realization of Atma, Parmatma and sum-bhava before he asks him to arise and fight.
Knowing (gyana) is power
sukha-duhkhe same krtva
tato yuddhaya yujyasva
naivam papam avapsyasi
Do thou fight in the battle (in sum-bhava) and do that without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat. By so doing, you shall not incur sin. ||2:38||
There is a common saying that knowledge is power. Education helps and illiteracy should be considered a curse. Education helps in the success of not only an individual but also the whole society and in turn a whole nation. We all know this. It is our common knowledge. So, how is Krishna different? People of a particular country say India get educated. It develops leaders who are highly educated. And they have to deal with real neighbors, some of which may be hostile. The country has to deal with friends who are helping the enemy camp. These are real life situations. How can you deal with these adverse situations and still progress towards your center is the art and science that Krishna is teaching here in Gita. Arjuna is highly educated and he is highly cultured. He is dealing with adverse situation of Mahabharata war. There are friends and relatives in the enemy camp. And that is when the higher education of Gita starts. This shloka (verse) should be painted on the walls of all parliaments in the world. This verse should be a requirement of all leaders and instead of swearing in and taking oath by raising the hand they should be given this shloka (verse) to live by. Krishna gives this ultimate knowledge of gyan yoga to Arjuna but then immediately points out the difference between knowledge and knowing. Krishna emphasizes more on knowing than on knowledge itself. Knowledge base is important but knowing is crucial.
Knowledge is universal; it can be in a book or in a computer. Anyone can and should have access to it. Knowing is individual and cannot be transferred to some one else. Others can perceive it, observe it and get influenced by it, but it cannot be transferred directly. This is not true only for the experience of Atma and Parmatma, but is also true in our day-to-day life. I recently met a businessman friend of mine who travels a lot. We were talking about air travel and how sometimes it is so frustrating to have to miss a plane and wait several hours for the next flight. He had a different outlook about it. He felt that missing the plane provided him an opportunity to be with himself. This is his bhavana that he has developed over time. Others can see the calmness in him when it happens and may feel that they can also try to develop it. But they have to develop this simple technique and bhavana for themselves. This is one example. There are many others. I am a surgeon and in my eyes surgery is an art. You learn more by observing and doing the surgery than by reading from a book. Similarly if you play tennis or golf, you can find your authentic shot or swing by yourself. It does not matter how much you read and how many lessons you take, when you are out there on the ground, you have to find your own best. What then happens to this knowing when we die? This has been addressed in Gita later, but let us suffice to say here that all of it is not lost. Most of it does travel with us in seed form with our samskara. Krishna knows that our birth is not all genetics. There is something we carry with us from life to life.
Krishna is also different in the sense that he uses the word yoga after the word knowing (gyan yoga). In my view yoga has been used in Gita more liberally than many other books and scriptures. A knowing that also centers an individual in my opinion is gyan yoga. As long as it brings the person closer to his center, it is yoga. Gita starts with vishad yoga and we have just covered gyan yoga. Karma yoga and others are yet to come. Even abhyas is yoga in the views of Krishna. Why so much stress on the word Yoga? Krishna is not interested in any knowing that does not bring Arjuna to his center. Duryodhana knows how to fight. He perhaps knows the shashtras as well. But how is he going to use all this knowledge is important. Is Duryodhana going to get centered using his knowledge base? That is what Krishna is interested in. Ravana in the times of Ramayana had a large knowledge base. Even Laxman went to learn from him. But, did Ravana use his knowledge or knowing to center himself? The answer is well known No.
Krishna talks about the Atma and Parmatma and the eternity of soul. That is knowledge base. He wants Arjuna to know this as his own. And once Arjuna knows the whole truth, a sum-bhava is the outcome. Krishna has already talked about this generic sum-bhava before. Now he gets specific. We shall come back to that. Before that, let us examine where Arjuna stood at the beginning of the Gita. Arjuna is gripped with grief of what may happen to his friends, relatives and Gurus because of the war. He is not talking about Ahimsa. He does not want to fight because of his attachments to some members in the enemy camp. Because of these attachments (mohas), he cannot think straight. It is important to realize that Arjuna is carried away by these emotions; it is an emotional state of Arjuna that is causing this crisis. Krishna can see this emotional disturbance clearly and he first tries to address that here. Krishna mentions it later in Gita as to what he expected Arjuna to do. Arjuna who can turn emotional by these facts would not have tolerated when the first shot would have been fired at his brothers, who were closer to him than all the others in the enemy camp. His emotional state would have turned by that time and Arjuna will have been shooting arrows to all those who were targeting his brothers.
Krishna knows the inside story. The inside story of Arjuna that was not even clear to Arjuna was so obvious to Krishna. Therefore, Krishna first addresses the fact that there is no possible death of anyone. Krishna does not want every little event in the Mahabharata to make Arjuna emotional. An emotional Arjuna will not have the clarity that was needed for him to fight the war. So, Krishna talks about the peak experiencing that I discussed in my last column. Krishna is making sure that Arjuna knows the truth about the death and life so that he becomes completely fearless, for all fear comes from the fear of death. The fear of death of someone else is also fear of death.
And having talked about all that, Krishna comes to specifics. Sum-bhava is in generic term has vast area of applications. He calls on Arjuna to fight and fight with sum-bhava in three specific areas. The war is going to be a roller coaster ride. There will be pain and suffering. There will be moments of excitement, exuberance and happiness. The first condition Krishna puts is a sum-bhava in these two. Suffering and happiness is inevitable in a war. Krishna wants to make sure that Arjuna keeps a cool head between the two and is not carried away by one or the other. This does not mean that he should not show happiness when it is due or should not have pain when an arrow goes through his arm. Arjuna like anyone else is going to have pain when hurt. Sum-bhava is being aware of the two possibilities. Pain will come and is inevitable. Happiness will also come and go. Sum-bhava is not a mental quality; it is a state of being that is a product of knowing through awareness. A war also is bound to lead to profit and loss. Again Krishna wants Arjuna to have sum-bhava in the profit and loss and he also wants Arjuna to keep sum-bhava between winning and loosing.
Krishna puts tough conditions for Arjuna to fight. For those who think that Krishna believes in Himsa should focus on this shloka. The war in Krishna’s eyes is not for profit or loss and is not for winning or loosing. It in Krishna’s view is simply a response to an inevitable situation where Duryodhana in Mahabharata has left no other choice to the Pandavas. And given this situation, he asks Arjuna to fight but fight with sum-bhava in suffering and happiness, in profit and loss and in winning and loosing.
The next statement by Krishna is so categorical. He says to Arjuna, “By so doing, you shall not incur sin.” This is so interesting. Normally we think that certain acts are sinful. Krishna on the other hand is saying that sin does not depend on an act. It depends on the bhavana. If you think of killing some one for a profit or loss, it is sin even though you have not acted to accomplish that killing. If a killing happens by you but you are in sum-bhava at the time, then it is not a sin. Krishna does not so much care for the act but he definitely cares for who the actor is and what is his bhavana at the time of the act. This focusing of responsibility on the doer rather than what is done is a shift from our normal social establishment. Krishna will say that there are good and bad people, there is no good or bad act. The focus is on the bhavana of an individual and the focus here in this shloka is on Arjuna fighting with sum-bhava.
Let us examine our social structure of today. We like to develop professionals. Doctors, Engineers and lawyers are professionals. They have the knowledge and the experience to perform intricate cases. Doctors can perform cardiac transplants and are on the verge of breakthrough with genetic manipulations. But, there are professional lawyers who will protect criminals; there are doctors who will go into medicine to get access to drugs for abuse. We have produced professional fundraisers and professional killers. The professional killers will kill for money and the professional fundraisers know how to exploit others emotions to get money. Despite these horror stories these professionals are the success stories of our times. Even a secretary in our office wants to dress and act professionally.
What then is there that Krishna can offer to us that are better than professionals in today’s society? If we examine Arjuna, he was a professional soldier in those times. The only thing that went wrong was that he got emotional. And this to our understanding is unprofessional for a soldier. Krishna could have either exploited these emotions or could have killed these emotions to get Arjuna going. Krishna chose instead to create a centered Arjuna. And a centered Arjuna will act out with sum-bhava. This is Krishna’s contribution for us. Krishna wants to create centered professionals. There have been many names for this centered being in Gita e.g. a Yogi, an sthitapragya and so on. A centered professional will then act out of a sum-bhava. Will he be as successful a doctor or a soldier or a businessman? In my view he will be better. After all the number one spot in whole of Mahabharata war does go to Arjuna and this happened after he became centered.
Relation of Budhi to Karma (2:39-2:41)
esa te 'bhihita sankhye
buddhir yoge tv imam srnu
buddhya yukto yaya partha
Thus far I have declared to you the analytical knowledge of sankhya philosophy. Now listen to the knowledge of Budhi yoga whereby one works without fruitive result. O son of Prtha, when you act by such intelligence, you can free yourself from the bondage of works. ||2:39||
pratyavayo na vidyate
svalpam apy asya dharmasya
trayate mahato bhayat
In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear. ||2:40||
bahu-sakha hy anantas ca
Those who are on this path are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one (eka-budhi). O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute is many-branched. ||2:41||
We recently went to Panama in Central America for a vacation. It was early morning and we went for a walk along a path in the Gamboa rainforest area. It was fairly quiet; very few people were there that early. It was simply wonderful. We could distinctly hear the sounds made by insects and various animals. Butterflies were going all around us and the little ants were carring loads three times their size from one end of the path to the other and further. They were all working. And, they have been working for several generations; doing the same thing over and over. But, they have not built a Panama Canal or an aeroplane. They have neither built guns not nuclear bombs.
What is the difference? The little ants do karma and so do we. We progress but the ants do not. The difference is the Buddhi, the intellect. With advent of buddhi we can build on what we have learned from our ancestors. Buddhi and karma are closely related. And then there is a difference in our karma and the karma of a Krishna or a Buddha. The difference is almost as large as that between the ants and us. But this difference is qualitative. On the surface Krishna and Duryodhana may appear to be eating or walking the same way. But, there will be a vast difference in the state of being inside.
Let us now examine the role of mun-indriya-vasana complex in doing of karma. The desires, which originate in mun bring in the concept of sakam karma. Sakam Karma means karma for a desired result. A result is expected in doing that karma. Duryodhana is also doing his karma and wants to fight. He expects to win the war. That is what he wants. In fact he wants to win and that is why he wants to fight. His desire to win and rule without any opposition is the source for this Mahabharata war. He is using his buddhi to rationalize what he is doing.
Similarly Arjuna in the beginning of Gita wants his friends and loved ones to live. His love for them is causing him to decide not to fight. He is using his buddhi and is coming out with all the right reasons for not fighting the war. There is a desire however subtle it is which is guiding Arjuna to take the stand of not fighting.
On the surface it looks straightforward. It seems that both Duryodhana and Arjuna know what they want. But, Krishna will argue that whenever there is desire and whenever there is mun, the buddhi is divided. A person living at the level of mun and desires by default will have a confused buddhi. Only a person who is centered will have the clarity of ek-buddhi.
And this has to be understood. Krishna is not telling Arjuna to do this or that. He is not saying to Arjuna that he should fight because it is the right thing to do. Krishna is very clear in all his statements of asking Arjuna to arise and fight. And every time Krishna asks Arjuna to arise and fight, he adds some condition of centering. Either he asks Arjuna to fight with sum-bhava or with sum-buddhi or with sam-arpana. Krishna’s whole emphasis is on centering a de-centered Arjuna, and once Arjuna is centered the right decision will happen.
We are all born with a center. As we grow in the society, we get off center. And then we get used to living off center and keep living off center. Some of us start missing this center especially when we come across a Bhagavadgita or a Dhammapada and start realizing that we may be missing something. Since the buddhi and mun-indriya-vasana complex can work happily forever at the periphery we do not miss much of what we need. And who really needs the center. Again sometimes we meet someone like Maharshi Ramana or Guru Govind Singh and see the calmness on his or her faces and start wondering. Can anyone be so silent and still do karma?
J Krishnamurthi has talked about conditioning. As we grow we are conditioned in one type of personality or the other. If you are born in the USA you think differently that if you are born in Burma or Indonesia. A de-conditioning is then needed to get to the center. Krishna or Buddha will say that we are not only conditioned in this life but there is conditioning present from several lives. A deep cleansing is required. And there are several techniques devised over times, which help in this de-conditioning process. Although J Krishnamurthi says that nothing needs t be done, he also mentions the process of focusing attention. Buddha developed the technique of vipassana. And there are many others. Many layers have to be traveled till we come to the center, and there may be several detours on the way. And that is one reason Krishna talks about the importance of practice (abhyas) yoga.
And now let us examine the shlokas. Krishna says that he has talked about the sankhya yoga so far and is now going to talk about buddhiyaga. Once Arjuna understands this buddhiyoga he would be able to go beyond the bondage (effects) of karmas. Krishna goes on to say that even an attempt at this karmayoga (implying nishkam karmayoga) allays any fear and that it brings in the clarity of ek-buddhi.
What is nishkam karma, what are these bondages and how can this nishkam karma allay all fear and bring clarity will be discussed in our next column.
Heaven is not the ultimate goal (2:42-2:44)
yam imam puspitam vacam
nanyad astiti vadinah
Flowery speech is uttered by the unwise, taking pleasure in the eulogizing of Vedas, O Partha, saying, “There is nothing else.”||2:42||
Full of desire, having heaven as their goal, they utter flowery words, which promise new birth as reward of their actions, and prescribe various specific actions for the attinment of of pleasure and lordship.||2:43||
samadhau na vidhiyate
For those who cling to joy and Lordship, whose minds are drawn away by such teaching, are neither determinate (definitive mind) nor can they meditate or reach samadhi.
Krishna continues on his description of ek-buddhi (definitive mind or clarity). We learnt in our last column how vasana (desire) contaminates buddhi (intellect) and how it is difficult for such a man to make up his mind. A mind with vaasana is always divided.
Arjuna like most of us believes in doing good deeds. And good deeds as mentioned in the Vedas lead one to heaven. Once the effect of good deeds is exhausted, one has to return on this earth again and continue the journey. We all desire for this heaven and therefore like to follow the techniques that will take us there. Krishna here is arguing that desiring for heaven is also a desire and it has the same effect on the buddhi (intellect) as any other desire. It will muddy the mind. And there is no possibility of clarity of ek-buddhi as long as any desire is present. Krishna is not saying that desiring for heaven is bad, he is not saying there is no heaven and he is not implying that doing good deeds is inappropriate. Krishna is simply stating a fact. Mind of such a person will not have clarity; he will not have the capability of being decisive. The desire of such a person will pull him in different directions.
Krishna goes on to say that such a person will not be able to meditate and thereby will not get to the state of samadhi. Clarity and ek-buddhi relate to mind and that according to Krishna is the purest state of mind. An uncontaminated mind has no difficulty making decisions. Desires of any kind, good or bad, contaminates this mind and may lead to indecision, delay in decision and even to decidophobia. Meditation is going beyond mind. Samadhi is to be established in such a state. All these three are interrelated. It is difficult to get beyond a confused and divided mind. It is easy to wander around in different thoughts. A definitive mind of ek-buddhi is centered and allows one to transcend the mind. A meditative man can see his own mind from outside and therefore understand all this more clearly. Meditation ultimately leads to samadhi. A person in samadhi can use his mind as we use our hands to eat and feet to walk. Mind is a tool for such person. On the contrary we are slaves to our divided mind, which is full of thoughts rooted in desires.
Krishna is very clear in these shlokaas that heaven is not the ultimate abode. When Krishna talks about the Vedas, he in my view is not only referring to the four Vedas; he in fact is talking about all and any recorded knowledge. Krishna is not critical about these, he again is simply pointing out the limitation of recorded words. The words, however flowery they may be, have certain limitations. This is especially true if they are talking about how to go to heaven.
Arjuna was very smart. He knew the contents of the Vedas. He grew up with them and his Gurus must have taught the values of the Vedas to him. Krishna had to ask Arjuna to unlearn what he knew before he could take him any further. Krishna, the Parmatma is the source of all knowledge including the Vedas. But, when he is present in person, why bother about books any way. Besides, Krishna also wants to emphasize that heaven is not the ultimate possibility for Arjuna. There is something beyond and better than heaven that Arjuna should aim for.
This is so significant. Many religions stop at heaven. That is their ultimate goal. Flowery words are spoken about those heavens and how to get there by teachers and preachers all around the world. Our life is miserable as it is. Only flowery words can really attract most of us. We shall all be one day in the kingdom of God and anything we desire will be available. All we have to do is to really believe that it is true. And flowery words can do the trick. The desire factor then can take over. And flowery words have no hesitation in adding spices. Not only you get to go to heaven, but you also get a thousand virgins around you and so on and so forth. Imaginations can run wild and then you are ready to kill for such a promised land. Yes, desires can have deadly results, even if they are for getting to heaven. Vedas do not have such proclamations but some other texts are believed to have such descriptions or at least are interpreted that way.
Buddha also says that life is misery, but then he instead of putting flowery words for travel to heaven, tells meditative techniques to get out of it. Krishna may not agree with life being miserable. For him, life is a celebration as long as you can accept whatever it throws at you. Krishna will not choose between heaven and hell, he will gladly accept whichever comes his way. He is warning Arjuna not to get entangled in the desire for going to heaven and soon will be talking about the technique of being choiceless.
‘Vedas do not have the last word and heaven is not the ultimate goal’ is the message Krishna is giving here. Krishna wants Arjuna to get to the state of definitive mind (ek-buddhi) from where he can take decisive action, but more than that Krishna wants Arjuna to become meditative so that one day he can be established in samadhi. This is the wonder of karma yoga.
Krishnam sharanam gachchami
A Clean Slate (2:45)
The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self.
Krishna wants to take Arjuna beyond any limitations. Arjuna on the other hand does have his limits. And that limit is common to us all. We all live within walls, walls created by us. Sometimes we look through windows and see some brightness outside. And we feel good about it. Krishna’s plan is to take Arjuna out of the walls and roofs and show him the blue and starry sky. But we feel so comfortable in our walls that we do not want to get outside. There are uncertainties out there. Here we are cozy. And then Krishna has to show us the limitations of this cozy place so that we make that attempt to walk out with him.
Arjuna is wise. He is an intellectual and knows the contents of the Vedas. He knows about heaven and hell. But, he does not know if there is anything beyond. We can try to understand it from our common experiences. We go to primary school and then to high school and so on to graduate from our colleges. We are constantly going ahead, but in the process of forging ahead something is being dropped all the time. Primary school books are being dropped when we get to the high school and so on. We become well read and informed. But, talk to any creative person. Any one who is creating something new whether it is inventing a new medical device or writing a poem or book like Geetanjali, has to drop everything that he has learned so far. The new and original can only come out of a clean slate. Whether Newton saw an apple drop or Archimedes saw the dispersion of water, it all came from an open and clean mind, and not from the burden of past knowledge. And that does not mean that the knowledge suddenly becomes useless; but it has to be transgressed. VS Naipal in a recent interview with New York Times said that, “No, no, no! I travel, and I meet people, and they tell me about their lives. I don't need to read the scholars. If I travel in India or Africa, the best way to go is with a very blank mind and let the facts emerge.” I do not know for sure what Naipal meant by ‘blank mind,’ but to some extent Krishna wants Arjuna to have a very blank mind and a clean slate.
When Krishna says that Vedas have some limitations, they are limitations of any spoken words. The whole, the samshti or even a simple experience cannot be fully expressed in words. Words have limitations. Krishna asks Arjuna to become centered, centered in his Atma, and to get there he has to drop all his clinging. The hardest clinging or attachment to go is our beliefs. We spent our lifetime trying to perfect these learning and suddenly here comes Krishna and says simply to drop all that. Arjuna had spent all his life learning these concepts and principles. How wonderful the Vedas are. Vedas are words directly from the Parmatma. How can he just drop that?
Krishna is not criticizing Vedas. He simply is pointing out the limitations of Vedas. We shall learn later the details of the three gunas that Krishna is talking about here. Anything material has to be within the confines of the gunas. This is like saying that any living bodies have genes, and the genes are made of three base pairs. And to go beyond to any incorporeal status you have to drop the limitations of the genes. Similarly, Krishna says to Arjuna that to be centered in Atma, you have to go beyond the limitations of the three Gunas. Stated in reverse, once centered, Arjuna will transcend the limits of the three gunas.
The second line is significant in my views. Most commentators have seen this as instructions to Arjuna as to how to be. Arjuna should transcend all attributes (the three gunas), be established in sattva guna, be free from all dualities, be free from all anxieties for gain and safety, and lastly be established in the Self. And it is easy for Krishna or Gurus to say that, but it becomes difficult for all of us normal beings to comprehend. Krishna, to my views, is not a sermon giver. He is not one who will come out with commandments for us to obey. Krishna is a technology person. He provided Arjuna with technologies that can apply in our lives as well.
As far as I see, Krishna is pointing to Arjuna that if he becomes centered in Atma he will transcend the gunas, he will become established in sattva guna, he will transcend duality and yogakshem (good things) will happen around him although he will still be not be attached to these good events (yogakshem). To become centered in the Atma (atamavaan), Arjuna will need to drop the Vedas as well. Not that Vedas are bad or useless, but for Arjuna to forge ahead, Vedas have served their purpose. It is like telling someone who is graduating from a medical school to drop his surgical textbook and go in the operating room. The textbooks have done their job, now it is time for application. And that only comes from experience.
Try this small technique for yourself. Drop all your ideas of meditation and knowledge just for few minutes. Look at yourself as you look at someone else. Create a little distance from yourself. Watch how hunger, anger or love comes and goes. Be established in the center and watch your emotions as if happening on the periphery. You will soon realize that nothing happens in the center. Once that gap is created, you and me can get centered. Actually this knowing of ‘nothing happens at the center’ gradually grows’ and helps in the centering process. Krishna talks about ‘Abhyas yoga’ later and that in my eyes is one of the best yoga available to us. By and by, centering does happen, and then the meaning of this shloka becomes obvious.
Krishna is telling Arjuna that he needs a blank mind and a clean slate. The journey to become centered then can start. And once centered Arjuna can get beyond the dualities, have ek-buddhi, and good things will happen around him.
Fear of loosing (2:46)
yavan artha udapane
tavan sarvesu vedesu
All purposes that are served by the small pond can at once be served by the great reservoirs of water. Similarly, all the purposes of the Vedas can be served to one who knows the purpose behind them ||2:46||
We are quite familiar with what we have and feel uncomfortable if there is possibility of loosing it. It does not matter how difficult the life is, it is known and familiar to us. There is a land and there is a small hut on it. The roof leaks but it can be patched. The door does not close properly, but it can somehow be put together. The wife is unhappy but life goes along. The sun rises and sets, the night comes and life continues. There comes a new man and says that he can give a loan to build a new house on the same lot. Now this causes a disturbance in the harmony of a difficult life. The hut has to be taken down. Where shall we live in the mean time? How shall I pay off the loan? I may have to find another job and work harder. It is a gamble. Do I want to do that? I am not ready for that. I am not prepared to loose what I have. Status quo, however miserable it may be, is quite comforting to me.
This is the basic fear. We do not want to loose what we have. The above story may not be a perfect example, because it may not be that difficult to take the offer to build a new house. It is possible to see the problems of the hut and then move on. The important point is the awareness of the difficulties and the preparedness of making a change. Just knowing is not enough, although, knowing is the first step. By the way, if a new house is built on the space of the hut, this will provide all the benefits that were present in the hut, and more. But that more is not obvious at the time of making the decision. Only the problems are obvious. The helping person does not understand why I will not agree to build the house. In his eyes, I am making a foolish decision by choosing the hut over a nice sturdy house.
And that is what Krishna is trying to impress here in this shloka. But, it is harder to comprehend. It is harder because Krishna is talking about leaving not the small leaky hut but leaving attachment to a big mahal (mansion). The mansions have bondage as well. Goodness has its own attachment and the attachment is so subtle. When you dismantle a leaky hut and build a nice sturdy house, you get something better. But, what you get when you loose attachment to a mansion? And that is hard to comprehend by our mind. Krishna can see it and that is why he says that what you get in the limits of mind is also present in the limitless that is beyond mind. Arjuna is familiar with the little pond of knowledge that he has tried so hard to acquire and preseve. Krishna as his friend and Guru wants Arjuna to drop it. Arjuna has to drop the treasures that he has and it is hard for him to understand what he is going to get out of it. Goodness is the hardest thing to drop in life because that is what we all strive for. We all want to be established in the satguna. And here comes Krishna and asks us to drop the satguna as well.
Words have limitations and so do the Vedas. Krishna would have included Gita as well because Gita is also words. The essence of the Vedas and the Gita are not in those words. The common expression for today is ‘in between words.” Krishna wants to take Arjuna from the world of ‘(shabda) words’ to the world of ‘no words (akshar).’ And that is taking to the source of these words. Once Arjuna gets to the source, he does not loose anything. The Vedas still hold for him, but he knows the source of the Vedas too.
Let us try to understand it from another angle. I have discussed it before as well. I am a surgeon. We as medical students read surgical textbooks. Reading surgical textbooks is one thing, doing surgery is another? You still need the books to guide you to do the surgery. But, if you want to be innovative and devise a new technique, then you have to, for a moment, drop what you know. New does not and cannot come from the textbooks. Textbooks can incorporate the new, but the books cannot be the source foo the new. Inventions do not come from the known; it comes from the unknown.
Krishna is saying to Arjuna to drop the last attachments. Attachments to his knowledge of Vedas need to be dropped. It is going to be very hard for Arjuna to drop all his values, the values deeply rooted in the Vedas. Krishna is saying to Arjuna that by doing so, he is not going to loose anything. Instead, Arjuna is going to keep what he knows but will also have the experience of the ultimate. Arjuna can meet the source of the Vedas itself, and after that Vedas will come alive to him much more so than what he knows today. Is it worth holding on to the leaky hut, or for that matter even the mansion and loosing the ultimate source?
The strange thing is that after gaining the ultimate, nothing is really lost; everything that is available at the time of loosing is still available. Goodness is the default of such a person. No effort is needed to maintain the qualities of goodness. Buddha, Mahavira or Krishna do not make an effort to be good, goodness flows from them. And this is unlike many moralists who practice to be good; goodness is an effort for them and not a natural state of being.
The reason we do not think of this ultimate source is because it is not in the grasp of our mind, and mind is all we are familiar with. Gita is a journey from mind to no mind, from books to the source of books, and from mundane to divine. We shall go with the flow. Let Gita descend in our lives.
Pursuit of excellence (2:48 - 2:49)
yoga-sthah kuru karmani
sangam tyaktva dhananjaya
siddhy-asiddhyoh samo bhutva
samatvam yoga ucyate
Eastablished in Yoga, perform your karma (actions), O Dhananjaya (Arjuna), abandoning attachment, being balanced in success and failure; samatwvam is called Yoga.||2:48||
durena hy avaram karma
buddhau saranam anviccha
Desire oriented action (sakaam karma) is far inferior to that performed with Buddhi yoga (centered intellect); poor are those who depend on sakaam karma and hence seek refuge in Buddhi yoga.||2:49||
Soon after talking about the basics of karma yoga, Krishna comes back to buddhi yoga. Krishna is very methodical. Before he talks about ‘the rights to karma but not to the result (2:47),’ he talked about the importance of decisiveness and clarity of thoughts (ek-buddhi, nischayatmika buddhi). It is obvious that decisiveness is important before we do any karma. And once the conditioning of moha (deep rooted desires) is gone the buddhi can become focused and clarity would set in. This is what Shankaracharya calls nischaltattva.
Desires have to go first. And we have discussed this before in ‘Two steps to dropping of Moha.” We shall explore it a little more here. You work for a big company. Your interest is to make money. You can steal money intelligently and serve your interest. In the process the company will go broke and you will loose the job. And then you find another job and do the same. If you are smart, you will never be caught. Let us look at another scenario. You work for the interest of the company and the company grows. The company pays you more and the cycle continues. Your interest is taken care of by the company. Similarly, when personal desires drop, one works in the larger interest of the existence and if the existence is happy, happiness showers on the individual as well. Moreover, his intelligence is not pulled in zillions of directions and he is able to work with a clear mind.
The person whose desires have dropped gets to clarity. He still has to perform his karma. This karma is performed out of a clear mind. And now comes the question of results. There will be a result of karma, but this does not depend on the karma alone. Other factors will influence the result. And, here in lies the fallacy of the interpretation of these shlokas.
It is mostly believed that we should not expect results. We do work for a result and there will be a result. We can expect a result. That is a normal situation. We choose to expect certain result and if the outcome is not as we expect we go through the cycle of frustration, anger etc. The other choice is to not expect a result. But, this is also a choice; we are still choosing not to expect a result. Krishna in my mind is not talking about not expecting a result. He is talking about a state of choicelessness. He does not want us to be taking any side.
Samatva is staying on the side of a river and watching the flow. It is like watching the traffic go by on a highway. Trucks, sport utility or sport cars, they are all passing by. There is no need to be identified with any of them. It is not a question of ‘not expecting any results.’ It is a question of accepting whatever the result may be.
And this is Krishna’s formula of achieving excellence. Arjuna has to reach to clarity first. This is the first part of Buddhi Yoga. This is achieved by dropping the conditioning of Moha (deeper roots of desires). Then he has to do his karma with this clarity. And then he has to accept the result, whatever it may be. This deep acceptance is a state of being and it also gives a great respect for the existence as it is.
Many people have a formula for success, which applies to sakaam karma (desire-result oriented karma). Positive thinking and positive imaging have been well described. Praying in a temple or chanting mantras are other techniques for getting divine help. Krishna is talking of a technique that is far superior to these. He therefore points out to the fact that result oriented people are inherently poor. They are in some sense hankering for a result. They are in fact glorified beggars in Krishna’s eyes.
Have you ever asked for a favor? And if you have, you know how the person who does favor looks at you in that time and moment. It takes away something from you. There is a beautiful story in this regard about Mahavira. Mahavira was in a forest and had vowed to maun (silence). A man walked by with his cow and asked Mahavira to watch it graze while he goes and does some arrant. Mahavira having vowed to keep his maun (not speaking) did no say anything, but the man took his silence as accepting the assignment. The cow in the meantime walked away from where Mahavira was and got lost. The man was enraged when he came back and started beating Mahavira mercilessly. Mahavira’s not talking did not help him at all. The story goes that Indra, the king of the gods, felt pity and came to offer help to Mahavira and it is said that Mahavira refused the help. He accepted the beating but would not accept favor from Indra.
I am not advising to stop asking for favors. But, I am pointing out to a fact that goes with the territory. Acceptance has a different quality. Then even if you are begging it has a divine property. Buddha was a beggar (bhikhu) and Krishna was just a saarathi (Charrioteer). The charisma is in the state of being and not in the class of karma. Krishna is advising Arjuna to get to the state of samatva of buddhi yoga, and this will be his road to success.
Efficient Working (Karmasu Kaushalam) (2:50 - 2:51)
tasmad yogaya yujyasva
yogah karmasu kausalam
Endued with this buddhi yoga one frees oneself in this life, alike from vice and virtue. Therefore strive for this yoga, O Arjuna, which is the art of all work. ||2:50||
karma-jam buddhi-yukta hi
phalam tyaktva manisinah
padam gacchanty anamayam
The wise, engaged in this buddhi yoga, and abandoning the fruits of their actions, are freed from ever from the fetters of the birth and go to the state that is beyond life and death. ||2:51||
We talked about expecting, not expecting and accepting of results in our last column. Karma will always produce result. Expecting a result takes away some energy from the performance of the work at hand. If the expectations are not met, frustration and anger follows. Not expecting a result is said to be hard. Why is it hard? It is hard because part of you or me is expecting a result. Then we have to force our self not to expect the result that we are expecting any way. It is a form of hypocrisy. That is why I have explained it as embracing or accepting the result as it comes. When there is total acceptance of any result as a gift from Parmatama, there is total trust in existence. There are no complaints. In this state of being, there are no expectations and then it becomes easy to understand what Krishna means by abandoning the fruits of action.
The whole work to start with was not performed for personal interest. The karma was done for Parmatma’s interests or for the interest of existence. Krishna bhaktas will say that it was performed for Krishna. Now, if the karma is not done for me then I (the ego I) am not the doer. There is no ego involved in the work. How can the result be for me? The question of abandoning the result does not arise. It was never mine any way. The problem is in the language and not in the existence.
This can be experienced subjectively better than be expressed in language. First get to the clarity we talked about in prior ‘buddhi yoga’ discussion by dropping of moha. Once the conditioning is gone, decisiveness sets in. Then make your plans and execute them by doing the karma. No expectations should arise, not even the not expecting, because even not expecting can be an expectation. Just trust the existence completely. Accept and embrace the results as they come. You will find that the results do not bind you. And this in fact is liberating itself. The results have been abandoned.
Let us first understand what is ‘freedom from paap (vice) and punya (virtue)’ mean and what is efficient use of karma (karmasu kaushalam). Krishna truly is talking about pursuit of excellence. Karmas are binding only when you do karma with your desires and when you think you control the results. If you have no personal desires and you are totally ready to accept whatever outcome is there, there is no relationship between you and the karma or the result. And then there is no question of vice or virtue. The interesting part is that Krishna calls this as efficient karma (karmasu kaushalam). It is efficient for many reasons but most importantly of all is that total energy is focused on the work and not on desires or expectation of result. And what can be a more efficient use of work. Krishna’s statement is purely mathematical here.
Krishna also tells us that buddhi yoga is liberating. It liberates us from the fetters of birth and leads us to the beyond. This is what Shankaracharya has described as ‘nischal tattve jeevan muktiha.” What is this freedom from the fetters of life?
We need to understand that, existentially; there is no problem with birth or death. The problem is in our understanding. Birth appears to have fetters. Death appears to be real. But, that is not the reality. We are so busy living a life of desires and expectations that we do not have time to experience any thing about life and death. We live and hence conclude that we know life. We see other people dying and conclude that we know death. Deep inside, we know that we do not know. Death is an inference. My father was there one day and he was gone the other. He is no more with us in physical body. Therefore he must be dead. He is the only one who knows the truth. He may be there somewhere looking at me and saying, “I am still here as much and as whole as I was when you left me.” Of course, I am not able to communicate with him at that level. There are many such possibilities. And that ignorance creates all the fetters, fears and bindings.
We are all extroverts in some respects. We are always traveling outside, running to get somewhere all the time. Our total energy goes on studying or pursuing other objects. Krishna is trying to direct our energy to study ourselves; he is encouraging Arjuna to do a subjective study. He wants us to spend some time with ourselves. And once this happens and we get centered, the rest happens from divine help.
I talked about acceptance and trust. This brings us to our center. A deep silence and reverence arises. In this silence the greatest mystery of life and death is revealed. And then we come to know, really know face to face, that there is no death. Death becomes a fiction. We can only laugh at ourselves and go on from there. Karma still flows. Results still happen. But then there are no fetters and there are no bindings. We are not only happy ourselves but add to the happiness of others. In fact, happiness is our true nature. We actually work hard to be unhappy and spend a lot of energy trying to stay unhappy. Moreover, we keep on justifying our unhappiness by saying how hard it is to be happy. Krishna is talking about the use of buddhi yoga for doing nishkam karma and mentions some of the great advantages of following this path. This is the way to efficient working for achieving great results.
Knowing your true self (2:52 - 2:53)
yada te moha-kalilam
tada gantasi nirvedam
srotavyasya srutasya ca
When your intelligence has passed out of the dense forest of moha, you shall become nirvedam (indifferent) to all that has been heard and all that is to be heard.||2:52||
yada sthasyati niscala
samadhav acala buddhis
tada yogam avapsyasi
When your mind is no longer disturbed by the flowery language of the Vedas, and when it remains fixed in the trance of self-realization, then you will have attained the divine consciousness.||2:53||
These are the two last verses in the description of buddhi yoga in the 2nd chapter by Krishna, before Arjuna asks questions related to this. Whole of Gita is interactive. Krishna makes his points and Arjuna asks more questions. And here is where Krishna gets to the core of our being.
We all live our life and feel that we know ourselves. I am a painter. I am unhappy because my neighbor makes noises and my wife does not listen to me. My son is not doing what he should and all of us are in a misery. In fact Buddha goes on to say to such a life that ‘life is misery.’ I go to a psychologist about my problem and then I go through a few sessions of psychoanalysis. I find out that I had an unresolved complex problem with my growing up. I go under hypnosis and then realize that I was tortured when I was 3 year old. And the cycle continues. Sometimes psychoanalysis makes us feel that it goes deep in our being; no it does not. It might go into our past, but it does not touch our inner core.
Krishna’s journey starts by dropping of this layer where misery prevails. The American dream states, “Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” Krishna will disagree with that. He promises, “life, liberty and happiness.” Pursuit is for excellence and greatness. And it starts from being happy. There is no need to pursue happiness; in fact once you know that conditioning of moha is the cause of your misery; it becomes easy to reach a steady state of happiness by dropping of moha.
We have discussed about this dropping of moha in our previous article, “Two steps to dropping of moha.” It is as if we are walking with a fake identity and we are convinced about that identity as being real. Let us bring our previous example of alcohol intoxication again to try to understand it. An alcoholic or a drug abuser lives in a different world. All he wants is to stay in that intoxicated state of existence. He or she cannot imagine a life without alcohol or their fix of the drug. Even if they stop the drug or the alcohol, the craving continues. In fact, an alcoholic is at best a recovering alcoholic. He is never recovered.
Moha is not so similar to intoxication. It is more a conditioning. Once dropped it is dropped. We then for the first time find out our true identity and our true potential. Buddhi (intellect) is revealed to us in full clarity for the first time. This is what Krishna is talking about here. Krishna says that at this juncture we reach the state of nirvedam. Nirvedam is an interesting Sanskrit word. Some have translated nirvedam as meaning indifference. But that does not do justice to this word nirvedam.
Let me try to explain it. Veda (meaning any knowledge) are important to a point. Then they do not have a meaning in real life. I used books and lectures of my professors to get through the medial school. I became a surgeon. I remember my first skin incision trying to do a minor surgery. I knew every line of what I had read or heard about ‘how to make an incision,’ but still my hands were not working with my mind. I was just making scratches. I had to make ten such scratches just to get through the skin. Now I do surgery all the time. I have written several papers. I have described new techniques. And I can now say with confidence that the knowledge has to be dropped or superseded to be able to become a good surgeon. Krishna is implying the same when he says that by dropping of the conditioning of moha, one reaches to a point when even the words of Krishna (whatever is known) or of future Krishnas are superseded (or transcended). Krishna is not teaching to become indifferent to Vedas; he merely is pointing to the limitation of Vedas.
I would like to summarize the conditioning part that we have addressed in previous columns. Thoughts are the starting point of attachment. Moha is attachments with deeper roots and produces the conditioning. Desires and thoughts are inter-related. A question commonly asked is, “Is progress possible without desires?” It is like an alcoholic asking himself, “Is life possible without alcohol?” We all know that life is better without alcohol intoxication, but we are not sure if life will go anywhere without desires. Krishna who is there already knows that life is so much better without the conditioning of moha (moha-kalilam). We still have to find out. And truly speaking no amount of logic is going to help until we get on to that path. There is inertia and a fear of loosing our treasure that we call desire. That is all we have. Life appears shaky without it.
Krishna says that such a person is called a yogi. Buddhi is no more torn in different directions. Intellect becomes steady (achala). Such a person is steadfast (sthitapragya). This is what Shankaracharya has called nischaltattva. These are statements. These are techniques that lead to a state of existence where a person becomes decisive; he is centered and steady. No amount of words or word combinations can really describe this state of being. These are just indications and hints to a being of a different kind. We will have to travel the path to get there. It is easy to understand the intoxication of alcohol or drug because we were normal before we got intoxicated. It is harder to understand the conditioning of moha (moha kalilam), because that is our normal state of being. Gita continues and so shall we in columns to come.
How does He walk the walk? (2:54)
sthita-prajnasya ka bhasa
sthita-dhih kim prabhaseta
kim asita vrajeta kim
How does a centered person talk?
What is his language?
How does he sit and?
How does such a person walk? ||2:54||
The difference is obvious. Is it the same Arjuna whom we heard in the beginning part of Gita? His questions have a different flavor. He is no more talking of fear of death and he is no more talking about the sequels of war. The questions are more personal. He is curious. And so are we. We all want to know what Arjuna wants to know. Arjuna is now on a different track. And this is what Krishna wanted to do.
It is important to note that Arjuna’s thought process has changed. It is equally important to see how Krishna did this. Arjuna was confused because of his moha (deep rooted attachments). He did not want to and could not have even if he wanted to, fight with the Kauravas, in that state of being. Krishna is his saarathi (charioteer). Arjuna had specifically requested Krishna to come with him. It was wrong timing for Arjuna to behave this way. What could have happened to his brothers? What could have been the state of Draupadi? If it were you and I in Krishna’s position, we would have given a big lecture to Arjuna about all these. I would have been angry and upset myself. After all it was an insult to me as well. I came to help him at his request and he says he would not fight. How dare he? This happens because our minds carry a baggage. It is not empty. Krishna does not carry such baggage and therefore can see Arjuna’s problem clearly. Krishna does not take this common path. He takes the high road.
How does Krishna do it and how can we get there. Watchfulness is the key. Awareness to the activities of the mind is the highway. Old habits will always be there. Even if your mind is not empty try it a few times. You come home and find that your brother is upset for nothing. He is absolutely wrong. Normally you have the compulsion to point out that he is wrong. It is your duty. Forget your duty for a moment and just let him be. Shower your love on him; just your normal brotherly love. Your brother is expecting a different response than what he gets. There is no guarantee, but he does not know how to respond to your not so usual response. More than likely there will be no arguments.
Osho has talked on a Zen master Ta Hui:
“When old habits suddenly arise, don't use your mind to repress them. At just such a time, it's like a snowflake on a red-hot stove.
Somebody insults you -- you don't have to be angry, but suddenly you find anger arising. It is not an effort; it is just an old habit, an old reaction. Don't fight with it, don't try to smile and hide it. Just watch it, and it will come and it will go.... Like a snowflake on a red-hot stove.”
Old habits are hard to die. I had learned driving in India and when I came to England the hardest part was to unlearn my bad driving habits. Krishna is already there and is pulling Arjuna towards that state of existence. Arjuna is with him now. And, he wants to know more. He wants to know how a centered steady person behaves? We all want to know. Arjuna’s question is a universal one. I want to know how to know a sat Guru from the fake one. Sometimes the fake ones look more authentic.
Mind has to be used in real life. Krishna has to use his mind to communicate with Arjuna. A surgeon has to use his mind to operate. A centered person also talks, walks and eats his meals. So what is the difference? How can Arjuna tell the difference between a Krishna and an ordinary person? It is usually relatively easy to differentiate between a good person and a bad person. But it is not always that easy. Osama Bin Laden is a bad person for many, but is a hero for his fans.
It is, however, harder to differentiate between men with a controlled mind from those with an awakened mind. There are many sadhus and sanyasis who have perfect control of their mind and senses. They act out in public so well. But they are not there yet. On the surface they appear perfect. Inside, it is a different picture. An awakened person is peaceful inside. His mind has disappeared. The peace surrounding him outside is simply a reflection of his inner peace.
A controlled person is simply imitating. He is putting on a persona, a mask. And that is always a problem. Authenticity is lost. It is similar to trying to fit into a size 5 shoes that we like so much even though the actual feet size is 10. There will be a lot of torture, but the appearance is so nice. This is not only true for an individual, but also true for a nation. India for example is a secular nation and wants to stay that way. Mahatma Gandhi used (ahimsa) non-violence in the 1940s and India has to follow non-violence to the brink. India of today has to fit its image of ‘restrictive secularism and a flawed non-violence,’ no matter what the consequences are. I call the current Indian secularism restrictive because it is biased and I call the current concept of non-violence flawed because it allows violence against the self.
No, Krishna is not ready to follow ready-made paths. No awakened person will. He takes Arjuna’s mess as an opportunity to change Arjuna’s whole being. And it so happens that we have the same technology available through the words of Bhagavadgita. Let us continue our journey with Arjuna and get there one day.
Home sweet home (2:55)
prajahati yada kaman
sarvan partha mano-gatan
atmany evatmana tustah
Krishna speaks, “O Partha:”
When all the desires have dropped (from the mind)
And a person is utterly satisfied (tushtaha)
By the company of his self with the self (atmanyevaatmana)
He can then be called a centered man (Sthitapragya) ||2:55||.
Krishna is now answering Arjuna’s question of what the properties of a sthitapragya (a centered man) are. The first and perhaps the most important quality according to Krishna is that such a person is ‘content with himself.’ He is happy with him own company; it actually is not even a company, he is simply established within himself. How do we get to that stage? How does one center? Krishna says that this happens only when all the desires have dropped. This is what Shankaracharya has called, “Nirmohatve nischaltattvam.”
We live in Maine. It is snowing outside. We have our fireplace going, are sipping coffee and eating samosa. Outside, it is cold but we are cozy inside. If we decide to go outside we shall wear appropriate clothing to beat the cold. Maine has not been our home before; we lived in England and India in the past. But, it is our ‘home sweet home for now.’ A centered person has come to his permanent home. He is cozy and comfortable with himself. Now it does not matter if he lives in England or he lives in Timbuktoo, he is happy and completely content with himself.
Every house including our house has a door. We had our old friend, Dr. Rajgopal and his wife Bhama come and visit us this weekend. We met after a long time. Rajgopal and me have always argued about nothing in the past and we did that to an extent this time as well. All of us played cards, went shopping and even meditated together. They just left for their home sweet home in Canada today. We were hosts, and they were the guests, guests for a few days.
Thoughts and desires are also our guests. They come and they go. Most of us do not know that and get identified with these thoughts. I call it my thoughts and my friend calls it his thoughts. And that is the difference between us, who are not centered, and Krishna, who has centered. He can see it very clearly that thoughts are outside. Once this is clear, the relationship with thoughts and desires becomes clear. The attachment is dropped. There is no need or question of dropping the thoughts or desires; it simply is a matter of dropping the relationship. I know my house and my friend knows his house. When he left our house to go to his house, he did not drop the house that we live in. Rajgopal knows that it is a friend’s house.
The house is still there. The relationship between the house and us is quite clear. Similarly, the thoughts are still there. Only the relationship between ‘me as a host and thoughts as guest’ is not clear. Thoughts are the doorway to attachment. Once the relationship is identified then it can be used to regulate which thoughts enter and which ones can be kept outside. And once I do not have unwelcome guests, I can be cozy besides my fireplace sipping my coffee with the samosa. A welcome guest is a welcome company. Thoughts that promote the remembrance of Parmatma is always welcome and we have called such company Satsang. Shankaracharya call it “satsangatve nissangatvam.” The same energy and door of thoughts and desires can be used to develop and deepen the relationship with Krishna. And this also leads to the same place. It leads to the recognition of the fact that the thoughts and desires are not yours, they are just guests.
Once this relationship between the host and the guests (atma as self and thoughts as guests) is recognized, happiness and contentment is natural. I have a friend Dr. Steinhacker who keeps repeating this saying, “I have been poor and I have been rich. I do not want to be poor again.” A centered person will have a saying something like this, “I have been unhappy before, I am happy now and I will never be unhappy again.” Once the relationship is recognized, there is no possibility of being unhappy.
We only know of company of others. We spend all our conscious life looking for a company. Whether it is reading a newspaper or watching televisions, we are always out of the door. As we are we do not spend much time inside our permanent home. This art of being at home is lost. We spend our lifetime wandering outside with the thoughts that we so strongly believe are ours. Krishna is pointing out to Arjuna that all thoughts are guests and that he should recognize this relationship. Once this is recognized, desires drop and centering happens. Such a person is established within him and has found his permanent abode. He is perfectly content being with himself (atmanyevatmane tushtaha).
A Buddha is a Buddha is a Buddha (2:56-2:57)
sthita-dhir munir ucyate
Misery does not agitate his mind
Happiness is not hankered after
A man who is free from
Affection, fear and anger
Is said to be a centered man.
(sthita-dhir munir ucyate)||2:56||
tat tat prapya subhasubham
nabhinandati na dvesti
tasya prajna pratisthita
He is universally unattached
He is unaffected by bad or good results
(prapya shubha ashubham)
A person who is neither happy nor unhappy
In such situations, is steadied in his wisdom.
(tasya pragya pratisthata). ||2:57||
Buddha says in dhammpada:
The wind cannot shake a mountain.
Neither praise nor blame moves the wise man
And that is what Krishna is precisely talking about. Krishna is talking about what we normally do and what a centered man does not do. Misery agitates not only our mind but also our whole existence. We are all hankering after happiness. We do not want misery and we are desperate to get happiness. In reality, we get a lot of misery and never even get close to happiness. Buddha went so far that he called our state of being as misery. That is his first assumption. Life is misery (dukkha). Krishna does not say that in the same words but implies that in the sense that as long as misery agitates the mind, there is dukkha.
Krishna is scientific in his approach. He first talks about outside influences. Both, the misery and happiness happen outside. An event happens outside; someone close dies. This in scientific terms is a stimulus to the mind. The mind gets agitated and the response is crying. Similarly, we go on vacation hoping there will be happiness when we get there. We are always in pursuit of happiness. After talking about these outside matters, Krishna turns to the emotions that arise inside of us. Affection, fear and anger normally arise inside us and then we respond appropriately. ‘Fight or flight’ is one such response.
Krishna says that affection, fear and anger do not arise in a centered person. Misery does not agitate his mind and he does not go looking for happiness. What is going on? Has this person lost all sensitivity? Yes, this does happen in a person who looses his sensitivity. A stone drunk person does not care about misery or happiness. He is too drunk to love or hate some body and many a times he does not fear anything. An awakened person on the other hand has got higher sensitivity. If he gets hurt, he will experience pain more that you and I.
So, what is going on? Krishna touches it briefly in the next shloka. The key is non-attachment. This has to be understood deeply. When Krishna talks about centering he is not talking about centering of mind or mental equipoise. He is talking about getting to the center. He is not talking about controlling mind; mind has to be bypassed to get to the center. He reaches to a no-mind state. We talked about a home in our last column. It is snowing outside. The roads are slippery. I am sitting inside the home, besides the fire, sipping coffee with samosa. I am home. It is still snowing outside and the roads are still slippery. If I go outside, I would use the four-wheel drive car and drive carefully.
A centered person has reached home. He has reached what is sometimes expressed as a no-mind state. He is happy in his own company (atmanyevatmana tushtah). He is sitting beside himself similar to me sitting besides my cozy fireplace. Events are still happening outside similar to the snow and slippery road outside my house. If this person with no mind has to do something, he still uses the mind similar to me using my four wheel-drive car. This person is centered, mind is still there; but he is aware of the separateness of the mind and himself.
Normally we live as a mind-senses-desire complex. They are all one entity along with the ego I. Mind is the master. Events that it does not like agitate it. And, it is always looking for happiness outside. Fear and anger are its company. Such a person has to control the mind to give an impression that he is in control.
All these entities are present around a centered person as well. He can see them as separate entities. Guru Arjan Dev ji must have felt the heat of the fire, perhaps more so than most of us. But, at the same time he would have seen the separateness of the being and the physical body, and much more at the time. Misery did not agitate his mind. His reaction may sound out of place, but is so authentic:
Tera Kiya Metha lage, naam padarath Nanak mange
(whatever you ordain appears sweet. I supplicate for the gift of name)
Attachment is the problem. Thoughts are the source of attachment. Awareness is the key. And this is where Shankaracharya says, “satsangatve nissangatvam. How does a centered person use his mind? Buddha has explained it beautifully in Dhammapada:
The farmer channels water to his land
The Fletcher whittles his arrows
And the carpenter turns his wood
So the wise man directs his mind
A Buddha is a Buddha is a Buddha. He has reached the center. He can witness everything that is happening outside. Happiness is his steady state. He is content in his own company. He is now the master and mind and intellect work for him. There is no question or need of controlling the mind.
When is a buddha not a Buddha? (2:58 - 2:59)
yada samharate cayam
kurmo 'nganiva sarvasah
tasya prajna pratisthita
A person who withdraws his sense organs
From corresponding sensory desires,
Similar to a tortoise withdrawing his limbs,
His wisdom is then considered steady.
(tasya pragya pratisthata). ||2:58||
rasa-varjam raso 'py asya
param drstva nivartate
A person centered in his body
Can control his sense organs
But still continues to long the same way.
A centered and steady person
By virtue of knowing the ultimate
Instead, gets rid of the longing (rasam) as well ||2:59||
A tortoise withdraws its limbs when it wants to rest. The limbs are in its control. They do not have a life of their own. The tortoise controls its limbs. It is not always so in our cases. We do not always control our sense organs (indriyas). The eyes want to see an attractive car. The feet follow. The hands are more than ready to co-operate. Sometimes it appears that they work on their own. They seem to have energy of their own. And that is why Krishna has taken this issue here. Krishna wants Arjuna to understand the relationship of our indriyas (sense organs), vaasanas (desires) and our body. The next few shlokas deal with this relationship. Tortoise is just an example, a good example indeed. It withdraws its limbs and Krishna wants us to become masters of our sense organs (indriyas) as well, so that we can also withdraw them at our will.
Krishna addresses the problem of this withdrawal in the next shloka. He knows that people are more than willing to copy the behaviors of the awakened ones. It is of course easier than become awakened. Why bother going through all the processes (saadhanas) and austerity (tapasya).
He talks like a Buddha
He walks like a Buddha
And He eats like a Buddha
But, he is not centered like a Buddha
This buddha is not really a Buddha.
Krishna is telling to Arjuna that it is possible to control the sense organs (indriyas) without getting centered. And this is a significant part that has not been very well understood. All our saints are putting so much emphasis on this control phenomenon. Every one is saying to control the sense organs (indriyas). Krishna is not so much after the control of the sense organs (indriyas). He is after the root of it all. Krishna will not appreciate if we make ourselves blind. And there is a deep reason behind it. Every sense organ is a bridge, a bridge between the outside and the inside. Every indriya has two sides.
One is how the sense organs (indriyas) work outside. This is just reporting. They are reporters similar to press reporters. That is their inherent important function. There is no point destroying this important function. Surdas gouged his own eyes. Gandhi’s three monkeys are famous for this purpose. Krishna will not agree with that. If you are driving a car, you will like your eyes to help you guiding through the roads. You will like your hand and feet to do the right thing.
The second aspect of the sense organs (indriyas) is what Krishna is more concerned about. This is the inner part of the indriyas, the ras. Ras is hard to translate, but longing or an urge comes close. We all know that wood can be used to build structures or hit some one. This is an outside property of the wood. Wood can also be used to produce energy by burning it. This is an inherent inner property of the wood. Behind every sense organ is a potential desire, longing or an urge. And that is what Krishna is concerned about.
It is possible to control the eyes from looking at a beautiful girl. When I was growing up in Ara, I felt guilty if I looked at the face of a girl. We always kept our eyes down looking at the ground like a good boy. What was going through my mind is another matter. There is a beautiful story in Ramayana. Ravana has abducted Sita. Sita dropped some of her jewelry on the way. These were found and Rama could not recognize those. So he asked his brother Laxaman if he recognized any of them. Laxman could only recognize the ones that were worn by Sita on her feet. The explanation given by so-called experts is that Laxaman was a celibate (brahmachari) and he never looked at Sita’s face. Now, that is not Krishna’s kind of celibacy (brahmachari). Krishna will argue that if some one is afraid to loose their celibacy (brahmacharya) by looking at Sita, he cannot be a celibate (brahmachari). If he is so weak, he should find another way to find the strength first. In reality Laxaman recognized the jewelry of the feet because he had been touching Sita’s feet every day.
Eyes have a reporting function. But the same eyes when obsessed with a certain desire can become tainted and see things that the mind wants it to see. Tulsidas was obsessed with desire to meet his wife. He crossed the river with help of a dead corpse. He thought the dead corpse was a block of wood. He climbed to the roof of his wife’s house by holding on to a snake. He thought it was a rope. The eyes were working for this intense desire. And that is the part that Krishna is concerned about. Awareness is the key to dropping these inner potential of the sense organs (indriyas).
A centered person has dropped the inner part of the sense organs as well. Once the inner part (the longing, urge or the desires) is dropped the outer is taken care of. The centered person then is the master of his sense organs (indriyas) and can move it (withdraw them or advance them) at his will.
What is the way? (2:60-2:61)
yatato hy api kaunteya
haranti prasabham manah
When the attachments (asakti) continue, O arjuna
The strength of the desiring sense organs
Can then abduct the wishful mind (mun)
Even though the person’s wisdom resists
For the desiring phenomenon is so strong ||2:60||
tani sarvani samyamya
yukta asita mat-parah
vase hi yasyendriyani
tasya prajna pratisthita
The seeker, having thus understood
The way the sense organs work,
Sits and meditates on me.
Such a man is master of his desiring mind
Has control on his sense organs
And His wisdom becomes centered
(tasya pragya pratisthita) ||2:61||
Krishna is so methodical. Arjuna asked him about the attributes of a centered person (sthitapragya). Krishna mentioned the attributes and then warned Arjuna of the possibility of copycats. Now Krishna gets down to the bottom line. What are the roadblocks? How come a person finds it hard to center? What energy pulls a seeker down? And what is the way?
We have discussed about the indriya-mun-vaasana complex. The sense organs (indriyas), mun (the wishing mind) and the desires (vaasana) work together. They are the periphery, but this is the plane where most of us exist. We have invested a lot in the way we are. The advertising agencies make all their money on keeping the status quo. We like to watch television and there are new designs available all the time. You wish and the industry is ready to fulfill your wishes. The world of advertising and the world of moneymaking industries thrive on our wishes and dreams. Is Krishna telling us to drop this whole charade?
No, Krishna is not telling us to drop the entire periphery. He just wants us to know the spade as spade. Krishna wants us to understand the workings of the indriyas (sense organs). He wants us to understand the relationship between the indriyas and the desires and how they work on the wishing mind (mun) and the physical body.
The first thing that he wants us to understand is that as we are, our indriyas (sense organs) have energy. Indriyas are powerful. They can generate a desire and then abduct the whole being of a seeker. This needs to be understood. I have a friend. He is a chief executive officer (CEO) of a hospital. His father died of lung cancer. He has been smoking far many years and continues to do so. He knows that cigarettes are harmful to his body. He must have made many New Year resolutions (sankalp) to quit smoking. Every time his indriyas have been more powerful than his resolve.
Where is this strength come from? The strength of the indriyas is in the habit, the conditioning. The indriyas have become used to getting the cigarette every so often. They are not aware of the resolution. The resolution is made by the mind. When the time comes, the indriyas start demanding. The whole body starts revolting. The mouth becomes dry. The hands start shaking. And before we know it the cigarette is lighted and in our mouth.
We can comprehend that the strength of smoking is related to this conditioning, the habit. But there are many other conditionings in our life that are difficult to comprehend. Doing regular puja or going for a walk can also be a conditioning. Being angry every other day can also be a conditioning. The strength of conditioning may not be limited to what we have done in this life; it may have come from several previous lives. And that is what we have called samskara. Indriyas (sense organs) derive their strength from our sanskaras. We continue to love and hate in a certain way. Krishna is not saying not to love or hate. He wants us to be aware of the forces of this conditioning sanskara.
I am used to sleeping late. I have often needed to get up in early morning to write my articles (there is a lot of I here). A little voice tells me to get up in the morning. When I get up I feel fresh. But, many times I do not get up. I keep myself in bed. The writing can be done tomorrow. More interesting than that is the fact that if I want to call the editor for one reason or the other, my moral I resists and says, “Am I calling for selfish reason, What will the editor think…and so on.” A lot of simple things in life can be affected by this conditioning. Some are obviously bad, the likes of smoking and alcoholism. The others like puja or writing can become subtler. But, all of these can be a hindrance in the search for a seeker of Parmatma.
Krishna is not passing a judgment. He is not so much concerned in right and wrong. He wants Arjuna to know the ways. The sense organs have energy that has been imparted by us; the energy is from conditioning (sankara). Are we then helpless and cannot do anything about it?
Krishna gives us one technique here. He is saying that we may be weak in handling these powerful indriyas ourselves. We have limited resources. Krishna tells Arjuna to use the energy of Parmatma in dealing with these conditioning (samskaras). The indriyas can be defeated; they can be defeated with the help of the forces of Parmatma.
It works in two ways. First the focus shifts from the sense organs to the Parmatma. The desire changes with it. Second part is not easy to understand. Once you leave it to the unknown forces of the divine, the energy of divine descends on you and this part can only be experienced. The availability of divine energy is not theoretical; it is practical. And once a seeker meditates on this ultimate energy of Parmatma, he becomes centered; he is the master. He has the clarity (of intellect). He can take clear decisions, decisions free from the conditioning of samskaras. This is the way, the way to successful existence.
Desire Pathway (2:62-2:63)
dhyayato visayan pumsah
sangat sanjayate kamah
kamat krodho 'bhijayate
Thoughts are the key to attachments
Attachments catch their roots
And give birth to lust or onging (kama)
Longing and lust (if unfulfilled) can then
Lead to the development of anger itself. ||2:62||
krodhad bhavati sammohah
From Anger comes clouding of judgment (moha)
Moha leads to loss of discretionary memory (smriti)
Then dawns the loss of intelligence (buddhi)
And this causes virtual death of the being (pranasyati)
Such a person is as good as being dead ||2:63||
Desire Pathway (2:62-2:63)
Krihsna has so far talked about the journey towards the center. The gyan yoga and karma yoga leads a person to be centered. The person still has to use buddhi, which is outside from the center and he still has to act it out with every one else at the periphery. And that is the reason why it becomes difficult to distinguish a centered person (sthitapragya) from others. Krishna eats the same way as anyone else; he walks the same way and so on.
Krishna here describes a pathway that leads us on the slippery slope. We ought to know what leads us to our downfall. It is not random. There is a system. There is a certain chain of events that are triggered by a simple thought process. The beginning is a simple thought. It appears very benign. We see a photograph of valley of flowers. The photograph is beautiful. This is a simple thought. Thinking about a subject (vishaya), the subject here being valley of flowers. The subject could be a beautiful girl or a beautiful car.
We then impart energy to this thought of the valley of flowers. This produces a relationship with the subject. Now I am curious. I want to find out where this valley of flowers is. What is the story? I want to know where the girl lives. A journey has started. A momentum has developed. The energy is on the move. This closeness can then become attachment. Now I am not only curious to know where the valley is but I want to get there.
The story goes that Draupadi saw this flower in a brook and wanted Bhima to find out the source where this beautiful flower came from. And that is how valley of flowers in the Himalayas was discovered in those times. Legends also associate this valley with the area from where Hanumanji of Ramayana collected "Sanjeevani" herbs to revive Lakshmana, the younger brother of Rama. Hanuman had to visit far-flung areas in his search for the life - saving herbs. Frank Smythe gets the credit for rediscovering this valley’s worth in 1938.
All the same, the desire is getting more intense. The simple thought of the subject (vishaya) brought closeness; closeness lead to attachment. There is a relationship and there is movement. Energy is flowing. Now a lust, a longing, a want is generated. The desire to get there is now intense. My whole being is disturbed. There is no problem with the flow if I am able to get there.
This should be understood. If I am living under the kalpavriksha (a tree that fulfills all desires), there will be no vices. Anger will not arise. Energy is flowing and there is no blockage. I want to go to the valley of flowers. And I get there. I want that beautiful girl and I get her. All my wishes are fulfilled. There is no problem.
The real world is not like that. Thoughts arise. Energy is imparted to that thought. Closeness and attachment develops. The journey continues. I want to get there. Now I do not have any money. Even if I get the money somehow, I can’t get there because the bus driver does not want to take me on the bus. There is a n obstruction to the flow of energy. Suddenly, there comes a blockage and I am unable to find a solution. Anger arises.
Anger is the result of obstruction of the flow of the energy that has been imparted to the desire. This is the pathway. It is so significant to understand this pathway. Once a seeker understands the normal flow pattern, he or she can then master the technique of not falling in to the traps. Awareness to the thought, awareness to the flow and awareness to the anger arising inside can have remedial effects. And all this can be helpful in the journey to the center.
It is essential to know the normal pathway. Krishna is no giving ‘does and don’ts.’ Krishna is not telling us what we should or should not do. He is simply telling us the science of desire pathway. I am angry. Anger has taken over my being. I am shaking with anger. I have a gun. My hand goes and brings out the gun, and before I know it, the bus driver is on the floor.
What happened? I knew that if I kill somebody, I will go to jail. There is no valley of flowers in the jail. What happened to my right memory? My buddhi (intelligence) did not come for help. Krishna is saying that things can get out of hand from anger onward. It is possible to master (by centering) or control (by disciplined approach) the anger. After the anger takes over the being, it may be difficult to stop the process. This should be deeply understood. The faculties that prevent us from our downfall are right memory and our buddhi (intelligence). The anger intoxicates our right memory. Right memory or discriminatory intelligence is also part of our overall intelligence. It allows us to know right from wrong. It allows us to know what is harmful for us. It is a bank where our learned information is placed. Once this is contaminated, the intelligence (buddhi) is simply destroyed. And a man without the faculty of intelligence (buddhi) is not a man any more.
Krishna has outlined the pathway so succinctly and so clearly. This is how things happen at the periphery. The pathway to the downfall starts with thoughts of a subject (vishaya). Awareness to this simple thought can change the direction to the pathway for centering. This awareness can be helpful up to the stage when anger takes over. Once the anger is allowed to manifest, it is too late. But, it is never too late to start the journey to center again.
We looked at the desire pathway in our last column. The flow chart that was outlined in the last column was a simple linear pathway. In real life it is not that simple. I want to go to the valley of flowers. Many other people want to go there as well. This produces a synergy. And the same phenomenon of many people can produce strain on the transport system and can produce the blockage by bottleneck effect. The blockage can then produce anger and so on. But before we get more into the complexities of the desire pathway, let us look at the flowchart from another angle.
“Man lives in misery – not because he is destined to live in misery but because he does not understand his own nature, potential, and possibilities of growth. This non-understanding is what creates hell. To understand oneself is to be naturally blissful, because bliss is not something that comes from the outside, it is your consciousness resting in its own nature.”
And this is what Krishna says when he says “Atmanyevatmana tushtaha.” It is important to understand our nature. And thought and desire make the framework of our existence. Our successes and our failures depend on it. The ultimate outcome of saadhana (spiritual practices) may lead to thoughtlessness and absence of desires but that is not where we are. Thoughts arise. The mind is constantly desiring. And this produces the attachment.
Dhyayato vishayanpunsho, sangasteshupajayate
Thinking about a subject
Produces attachment to the subject
So, what can we do about it? A subject is there. Thoughts about it arise. And then some relationship develops. Krishna wants us to understand the basics. Clarity can set in by knowing itself. He wants us to be aware of the events and steps that follow. The next thing that happens is the wanting, the longing, the lust and Krishna calls it kamana.
This leads to want, longing and lust (kama)
And this is the most important step that we can do something about. Thoughts and desiring are hard to deal with. They will arise. We can become a witness to them. We can see them pass through. Trouble arises from this level of kamana (want). Buddha has said in Dhammapada:
Where there is desire,
Happiness or sorrow-
Whatever befalls you,
This is such a simple statement. Yet it is so deep. Want imparts the energy that we talked about. The flow starts and if there is any obstruction to the flow anger ensues.
Kama then gives rise to anger
And Buddha in his simple methodology just says that. Let the thoughts and desire pass through. They are guests. They are just transiting unless you or me impart energy to it to make it kama (want).
You can still do the planning. You can still execute the plan. The want is not needed to complete a project. Want or kamana is a hindrence in the project. It cannot help, but can surely lead to misery. In fact some people believe that the less you want, the more you get.
In our example of ‘journey to valley of flowers,’ let us see what happened. I had the desire of going to the valley of flowers. I have shot the bus driver. I was in a state of shock about what I had done. Before I knew what was happening I was in a police jeep heading towards jail, far away from my wanted destination of valley of flowers. Things started flashing back. The events that happened in the journey started coming back to me in slow motion. I had thought of going to the valley (subject). I got the air ticket. I got a camcorder to shoot films and pictures. All this was because of the desire, which then became a want (kaamana). This want brought all the complications that might happen and brought the worries about what I will do if that happened. I was already tense even before I got on the plane. I know now that if I did not have the intensity of wanting (kaamana), I would not have been tense. Any way the flow of kaamana (want) had started. I came to New Delhi. There were problems at the aiorport. Somehow I got to Haridwar and Rishikesh and got on the bus to Joshimuth from where I could get to valley of flowers. There were several passengers on the bus. And there was this beautiful girl called Roopmati on the bus as well. She was just going back to her home in the valley area. Another thought came by my mind. Why not sit besides her. This thought might have crossed many other passenger’s minds. Only one person was going to sit besides her. Somehow, I did get a chance to sit besides her. Then I started conversing with her. And many others who did not have a chance to sit besides her were also in the bus. Were they jealous? May be. I started liking this girl Roopmati and wondered if she can give me a tour of the valley. It would have been perfect if I was the only one interested in her and that is all that mattered. There were many other thoughts and desires cris-crossing at this point. There were many wants (kaamana) in the bus at this point in time. The bus driver who had met her many times before was in love with the girl. The girl had no interest in me. She was just being nice. The girl’s brother was also traveling in the bus. And the cris-crossing of wants and the flow of me wanting the girl had to come to head at one time. The bus driver at the next stop did not want to take me any further. There was big blockage in my kamana (want). And anger arose. I was mad. My right memory (smriti) was out of the window. I am a married man. I have children at home. What will happen to the journey to the valley of flowers? All this was by the wayside. Kaamana had taken me over. And at this time, the police jeep reached the jail. My flashback stopped. There was an end to a perfectly healthy life.
Mind remains eternally in discontent. Buddha is saying, “Want nothing.” Be eternally contented. He is not against thoughts, intellect or even desiring. Just become a witness. The thoughts and desires will drop as well. But the starting point is “Want nothing.” Try to stop the stage of want, the kamana. (visit http://www.egita.org)Desire Pathway III (2:62-63)
The pathway continues. Once the desire becomes a want and there is obstruction to the flow, anger arises. It is a natural outcome. We discussed how to not get to the want (kam) circle. This can be achieved by awareness to the beginning, the thought of a subject and the relationship that develops because of this (attachment). By bringing awareness to the thoughts and the desires, non-attachment is achieved. This non-attachment prevents the want or the kaamana that then creates the flow.
Let us examine today what can be done if the pathway is not interrupted at the ‘want’ stage. The next obvious step is anger. There are three things that can be done at this step. Anger can be allowed to express. Some people believe that once this anger is expressed, it brings relief by release of anger. Krishna has explained it later that this is not true. Anger has an insatiable appetite. It behaves like fire; the more fuel you add to fire, it becomes fierier. Moreover this also leads to the next step, which are loss of the right memory and the inevitable destruction of intelligence.
So, expressing the anger is not the prudent pathway. However, does it mean that anger has no role in life? As long as anger is not the master, it may have a role. Let me clarify this a little. The anger we are talking about here is a by-product of obstruction to the flow. Anger in its pure form may have a utility, as long as, being a master of the situation uses it. Rama is in Rameshwaram on his journey to Lanka. He worships Shiva. Then he requests the ocean to provide a path to Lanka. His requests have no result. He has been ignored completely. Then Rama picks up his bow and arrow and uses anger to threaten the ocean. And this produces immediate results. Ramam’s anger was not a by-product. He was the master. He could use it and then forget about it. Anger did not contaminate his being (chitta) and it did not touch his right memory (smriti) nor did it touch his intelligence. And anger can have a utility value in such situations.
The other thing to note about anger is that it sometimes is cyclical. There are people who get angry at regular intervals. There does not need to be any reason for the anger to come. Anger is present all the time below the surface. It gets manifested periodically. It still follows the pathway that starts at the thought and desire level and travels through the attachment and want phase.
The second avenue for a person with anger is to control it. Control is usually possible by suppressing the anger. And this simply puts the anger under the surface. It continues to simmer there waiting to express itself at a more opportune time. It also creates its impressions on the face and personality of the person. The person who has suppressed anger for one reason or the other is never peaceful inside. This situation happens in some cases by mere inability of the person to respond to a situation. When Muslim invaders destroyed Somanath temple, Hindus were weak. They had to suppress the anger at that time. Manny years later this temple was reconstructed. Similar is the situation of a child when he is growing up and is abused by his parents. People who want to impress others and want to look good also practice the control. Many saints and sadhus do this routinely to show that they have mastered the way. At times controlling is the right thing to do. It is often better than expressing it.
What is the third way? What else can be done? This is the method that Krishna, Buddha or Osho will recommend. And this is the way to diffuse the anger. Awareness to the situation is again the key. We have to become fully aware. Anger has surrounded the whole body. The body is virtually shaking. The fists are getting tighter. The teeth are clinched together. Voice is harsh, shaky and loud. During this hight of awareness a magical thing happens. The anger is suddenly dissipated. And this is the way to get centered. The habits will come back again and again. Awareness is going to be the formula to disperse it.
Once the anger is allowed to take over the being, the next step before the contamination of memory is some kind of intoxication (moha). The word sammohan or moha cannot be translated properly in English, but is close to intoxications. Alcohol makes us drunk. A person in full anger is drunk with anger. And this drunkenness is what affects the right memory, smriti. The acts performed by an angry person are not rational. He stops using his intelligence. And once this stage sets in, awareness is really hard to maintain.
Awareness is easy to come when it is the stage of want (kamana). Thoughts and desires can be watched without getting attached. They can be treated as guests. Technically, it is possible to get to the no-desire or no-thought stage, but it is harder to try to start there. Nirvichar (no-thought) samadhi is a possibility; it is a potential. But the easiest start is to become aware at the ‘thought’ or ‘want’ stage of the pathway. As we proceed further, it becomes harder to continue to be a witness. Once the attachment sets in, the roots start getting deeper. The deeper the roots set in the harder it is to continue to bring awareness to it. But it is still possible up to the stage of anger. Once the sammohan, intoxication or drunkenness sets it, it usually goes all the way. But a seeker or a meditator can still get past this stage. However, a seeker (sadhak) usually does not let things go so far.
And once the anger has been expressed, there is always the next time. We ought to know the pathway in detail and keep this in our perspective. This will help in understanding Krishn’a words that are to follow. (http:www.egita.org)
The alternate pathway (2:64)
visayan indriyais caran
A centered person is the master
He understands the separateness of sense organs
And their relationship to the
Attractions (raag) and aversions (dwesha)
Knowing this He wanders
Amongst different sense organs
With happiness and tranquility
Such a person is content within himself.||2:64||
Krishna has just completed the details of a common pathway (desire pathway), or let us say pathway for a common person. It starts with thought; thought of a subject and this establishes a relationship of attachment.
dhyayato vishayanpunshaha, sangasteshupajayate
Krishna now is talking about an alternate pathway. This pathway is a derivative of the desire pathway that we have addressed already. Arjuna had asked the characteristics of a centered man (sthitapragya) and that is precisely what Krishna is talking about here. How does this pathway apply to a centered person? It is important to know the basics and then we can address the variations. Pathways are so important in the medical field. We eat our food. The pathway for digestion starts. Fat is metabolized through a different pathway compared to carbohydrates. Insulin is required for metabolism of carbohydrates and if there is not enough insulin, diabetes can set in. And because of this knowledge, insulin is used to treat a patient with diabetes.
Pathways can be interrupted. Pathways can be enhanced. But, for all this knowing the basics is important. Most of us to whom the desire pathway applies go on to the stage of want (kama). And as we discussed in our previous columns, an obstructed want produces anger and frustrations and the pathway continues.
Are we then condemned to follow this desire pathway, or is there a way out. If we bring awareness to the thoughts, an alternate pathway can be entered. Attachment develops because we act without our awareness. Non-attachment is the product when we bring awareness to the thoughts. An understanding of this step is crucial, because this is the turning point in the pathway. If there is no attachment, there is no progression to want (kama) or intoxication (moha). We have looked at this pathway in our column, ‘Four steps to samadhi’ described by Shankaracharya. And for differentiating purposes we shall call this Samadhi pathway. The starting point for both is thoughts. If you get attached it leads to desire pathway, if you stay non-attached, it starts the Samadhi pathway.
Desire pathway takes us down, and Samadhi pathway pulls us up. Desire pathway leads to confusion, and Samadhi pathway leads us to clarity. Desire pathway is misery, and Samadhi pathway is eternal happiness. Krishna here is saying that a centered person, a person who is independent of attractions and aversions (basically non-attached), appears to live the same way as any one else. Something inside has changed. There is a qualitative change to his interiority (antahkaran).
The question arises as to the facts that if it is so simple then why are we not able to get there. I have been meditating for so long. I can get to the non-attached place a lot of the times. Why then am I not where Krishna is talking about. Why am I not in Samadhi that Shankara has described? What is the hindrance? This is a basic question that every seeker (sadhak) comes across. Do vipassana or do a dynamic meditation. Minor explosions (experiences) happen but the major one happens only with the divine grace.
That does not mean that the samadhi pathway does not exist. It simply means that there is more to it than we really know. What is this more? Let us examine this closely. I have started doing meditation yesterday. I can become non-attached when I meditate. When I go to the market, the old habits take over. Non-attachment is not my undercurrent. Meditation is half an hour affair for me. Once it is over, it is over. Meditation is not my mainstream life. My total awareness is only present for half an hour (if that) a day. I have been following the desire pathway for several lives. Even now I am following it 23 plus hours a day. This is not going to work. Meditation has to become the mainstream of my life. And then comes the total acceptance of existence and what existence has to offer. Expectations, even expectations of happiness and non-attachment have to disappear. And, it is okay even if it does not happen. This has to be remembered by every seeker. We have just reversed the pathway. We have to give it some time. The samskaras have their own strength and they have their own momentum. It has to be watched carefully. The karma has to get to zero balance.
Let us go back to our ‘journey to valley of flowers.’ A thought comes. The thought is to go to valley of flowers. I chalk out a plan based on the information I can get. I buy the best price air ticket available on the market. I did my research about the price. Once I buy the ticket I move on. That step is over for me.
If I was on the desire pathway, things could have been different. I need a ticket to travel. I do not want to pay a lot of money. I research the price. It costs $1000.00. That is too much money. I try to negotiate. I do not mind begging, even though I can afford it. Ultimately I do buy the ticket for the same price. I feel torn inside. I have the ticket. But I have not dropped my want to get it cheaper. I keep an eye on the price. The price drops to $750.00 next week. This really makes me cry. Why did I not wait for a little while? I go back to the travel agent and try to get the new price. And again it does not work. I am already upset. The journey has not even started.
A person (me here) on the alternate pathway moves on. He (person on desire pathway) is on the same airplane as me. He wants special service from the airhostess. They do try to give him what he wants, but his wants keep getting more and more. Ultimately they give him a cold shoulder. And he is upset again. I am on the other hand quite happy with the service and move along. We both get out of the plane. But, he can’t get over it. He is going to complain. His whole journey has been miserable. How can he drop it? He is not a coward. He will make sure the airhostess gets fired.
I have exaggerated the events a little. But life is totally different on this alternate pathway. This alternate pathway is where Krishna is trying to get Arjuna. We all can follow Arjuna on this alternate pathway and be happy rather than follow the desire pathway and be miserable. There is nothing to loose. We still get to the valley of flowers and get the happiness and tranquility too.
Antahkaran: The inner core (2:65)
prasanna-cetaso hy asu
This internal happiness and contentment
Results in the end of all misery
Such a person’s intellect
Stops wandering around
And gets totally established in the center ||2:65||
We are all looking for peace. We all want to be happy. And there are teachers and Gurus who are teaching how to be happy or how to be peaceful. A whole industry has developed around this concept. And they are successful to an extent. I went to a six-day program once and the program was quite useful. They incorporated concepts from the east and that from the west. There was a modified vipassana and there were adventures events thrown in here and there. It was definitely a feel good program. All the participants shared their life stories in some sessions while they expressed their emotions in another. This allowed some catharsis. As I said, the program had this feel good effect and lasted for a while. This is similar to the effect of inspirational talks or inspirational songs that you hear in college or school days. It wakes you up for a few seconds. The peace or happiness does not really come and even if it comes, it does not stay.
So, what is Krishna talking about? Who is a happy person (prashanna-chetaso)? Krishna’s whole concept is based on the fact that our interiority (antahakaran) is always peaceful and is always happy. That is the so. There is no need to go on a journey to find peace or happiness. All you have to do is to find your inner core. Be with yourself. And happiness will shower on you by itself. There is no possibility of being unhappy in this situation.
This is worth meditating over. Our inner core is in the state of happiness. What is this inner core and how do we get there. When Ramana Maharshi talks about ‘who am I?’ technique, this is where he wants us to get to. He wants us to keep asking this question until there is no one to ask this question any more. And once we get there, there is natural stillness. And then it is easy to see all the upheavals on the periphery. You can then wonder why and how you have been so restless all your life. This person is not a coward; he is for the first time so strong. This person is not an escapist; he is for the first time enjoying life to the fullest.
Osho has tried to make a distinction between ‘conscience’ and this inner core and it is important for us to understand this distinction. Many people refer to this little voice that speaks to us when we see something wrong being done. And this is described as our conscience. I go to a Walmart. I like this new after-shave and pocket it making sure no one sees. This is termed shoplifting. I buy few things but do not pay for the after-shave. I feel great. But this inner voice keeps telling me, “It is wrong.” This is sometimes referred to be the same as the inner core. But it is not. Conscience is acquired, but the inner core is eternal. We learn from the society the concept of right and wrong. What is wrong for one society may be acceptable for another. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. A Muslim can marry his cousin sister, while a Hindu cannot imagine of doing so.
What is this inner core then? We have discussed before about the physical body being at the periphery. And we have also looked at the fact that we all have a center, the center being the Atma. The journey is from the periphery to the center. And this is Yoga. As we get close to the Atma, we come to our inner core (antahakaran). If we merge with Atma, then there is not much to report. In Osho’s terms, the ineer core (antahkaran) is a mirror that reflects the Atma.
The other thing we need to know about this inner core is that it is purity itself. Something so close to Atma can never be impure. So, there is no question of purifying your or my inner core. There is no evil here. Evil only exists at the periphery; it only exists at the level of body and indriyas (sense organs).
The third important thing to understand about this inner core is that it is universal. There are no religions at the level of inner core. Morality is not a property of this inner core. A Hindu may have different morality compared to a Christian or Moslem. But they all have the same inner core. That does not mean that a person who knows his inner core is amoral; he in fact transcends morality. He becomes incapable of being immoral or amoral.
Lastly, Krishna emphasizes on the decisiveness or clarity of intelligence of such a person. Krishna has mentioned this point several times before. He wants to make sure that Arjuna thinks clearly. And clarity in Krishna’s view is possible when one knows and is established in his inner core. This person is centered. He is rooted in his inner core. Now there is no possibility of confusion.
A dissociated (Ayuka) person (2:66)
nasti buddhir ayuktasya
na cayuktasya bhavana
na cabhavayatah santir
asantasya kutah sukham
A person with a wandering intellect and
A person with unstable emotions
(Ayukta =split person)
How can he get inner peace?
And how can anyone ever
Be Happy without this inner peace? ||2:66||
Soon after talking about happiness of inner core (prasannachetaso), Krishna addresses how we usually live. We are for lack of actual translation, all ‘split’ personalities. Krishna uses the word Ayukta (not joined together). We need to understand this terminology before we go further. Krishna knows that ‘inner core’ (antahkaran) is eternally pure; he still talks about a pure inner core. There is nothing to purify. Impurity is at our level; it is at the level of physical body. In fact all we have to do is get to the inner core, purity, harmony and happiness is secondary.
Similarly no person is actually split; we are all centered people. But, we travel to the periphery and then we forget about the center. Now we spend our lives, not one but many, trying to find this center. Even worse, we start finding means to be happy and harmonious at the periphery itself. Krishna will say that we have to know our center. We have to become centered and then life at the periphery will become happy by default.
Normally our intellect (buddhi) is wandering amongst many options. There is no clarity. It follows our interests. But it is strange that Krishna brings in the factor of bhavana (emotions) here and says that such a person does not have any (emotions) bhavana. This does not sound right. We see emotions all around us. I have watched movies with friends and relatives. Tears flow in the cinema halls. Fists fly in a film where there is Dara Singh wrestling with the villain. We are all fighting with each other about one emotion or the other. The wife complains to the husband why he did not give flowers on her birthday and so on. Love letters and expressions are not what Krishna is talking about.
To some extent what we think about a yukta (united, centered) person is what Krishna calls Ayukta (split or divided). We all establish relationships. We are looking to be related with someone outside. It could be a person or a pet animal. We become attached and call it love. We many a times become indifferent to anything other than the one we relate ourselves to. I am emotional. I cry when I see some one suffering in the movies. There is a new movie out and I want to get there. A rikshaw in Patna was our common means of transport. I get on the rikshaw and ask the rikshaw puller to get me to the cinema. He agrees and tries his best. It is hot and the outside temperature is 100 degrees. The guy is sweating and panting trying to get me to the cinema hall in time. I get there. He asks for 10 rupees but how dare he? I give him five rupees and dash in the cinema hall to catch the beginning. What happened to the bhavana or emotions?
Krishna is very categorical here. He says that unless we are centered we do not have the right kind of intellect and we do not have the right kind of (emotions) bhavana. And without this right kind of intellect and emotions there is no possibility of shanty (inner peace or inner harmony) and without inner harmony there is no possibility of happiness (sukham). One thing leads to another. Inner harmony is essential for happiness. And inner harmony is only possible to people who are centered.
Why do we need to be centered? Who cares if this takes us away from the real life? Krishna is not against life. Krishna is not against success. Krishna will have a different logic. He will say, “why not live with happiness?” Krishna is not talking about running away from life. He is talking about a working sanyas. Krishna is not asking Arjuna to leave the war and run away. He is preparing Arjuna for the fight of a lifetime. There is going to be many ugly scenes in the war. A steady and centered Arjuna with the right emotions will be a much more effective Arjuna, especially at the time of struggle.
Inner core is close to Atma and is always pure and in harmony. Happiness is its default. A person living at the periphery without knowing the center is dissociated from the center (ayukta). He may appear to be related to many and he may have many friends, but he does not know his own self. This person may display many emotions (bhavana), but does not have the right emotions. A centered person on the other hand lives the same kind of life but has the right intellect and the right bhavana and because of this he is in harmony with himself and with the entire existence.
Gone with the wind (2:67-68)
indriyanam hi caratam
yan mano 'nuvidhiyate
tad asya harati prajnam
vayur navam ivambhasi
As wind takes control of a sailboat on the water
A person’s sense organ wandering in a particular desire
Is taken complete total control of by that desire
His intellect is also abducted by this desire ||2:67||
tasmad yasya maha-baho
tasya prajna pratisthita
Therefore, hey mahabaho (Arjuna)
A person who understands the relationship of sense organs and the desire
And thereby abandons the desires completely from the sense organs
His intellect is established in the center
(tasya pragya pratishthita) ||2:68||
Soon after talking about the desire pathways, Krishna turns to how the desire functions. There is a special relationship between the sense organs (indriyas) and desires. Desires arise and wander around in the sense organs. There is as if a receptor in the sense organs which the desires can attach to. Once the desire and sense organs develop a relationship, there starts a movement. And in this stage the whole being is dragged in that direction. Just one indriya-desire complex can abduct the whole being.
Krishna says that it is similar to a sailboat and wind relationship. It is interesting also to note that sailboats existed in Krishna’s times some 5000 years ago. Sailboats have these sails that can receive the wind. The stronger the wind more is there movements in the boat. When the sail catches the wind, the whole boat is affected. Similarly, once a sense organ attaches to a particular desire, the whole being is affected.
The wind can get gusty, it can become a hurricane, and this can lead to the drowning of the boat. The desires can get rowdy and the lead to the destruction of the whole being. So, what is the way out? Can the wind be stopped? Can the sail be put down?
Two phenomenons are important here. First is that an knowledge and awareness of the process. Krishna tells Arjuna about the physiology of desires. This knowledge can help Arjuna so that he does not let the desire attach to the sense organs (desires). Or, he can choose which desires take hold of the indriyas. It is possible to fall in love with a beautiful flower. The next step is to try to acquire the flower. This is not so bad. Sooner or later the flower will perish, but it is beautiful at its bloom. Similarly, one can fall in love with a woman. The next step is to try to get the women. This can have problems, but can be worked out. This same love can produce jealousy and the individual may want to kill another man who also loves this woman. All sorts of complications are possible. Instead of loving a flower or a woman, the love can be directed to Krishna. Again the next step is to try to reach Krishna, the Parmatma. This becomes divine. But, all in all it is still desire. The same physiology works in all these relationships.
What is the source of the wind of desires? The desires come from an unsteady mind (mun). The unsteady the mind is, more intense are the desires. The steady mind of a steady person has no source for the desires. There is no question of stopping the desires once they have arisen. This should be understood deeply. Most of the preachers talk about stopping or controlling desires once they have arisen. We should control our anger. We should not be greedy and so on. This is not what Krishna is talking about. He is talking about not having anger at all. I am not saying that anger should not be controlled. It is better to control it than to express it. But such a control is not the treatment. The anger in such a situation just gets suppressed and this is ready to be expressed later at a more opportune time. The real treatment is to get to a point where the wind of anger does not arise at all.
Another important step to understand here is the importance of cooperation. A certain cooperation is required before the desires can take hold of the sense organs. The desires are there and so are the sense organs. An awakened person can see the two as separate entities. He can also see that a cooperation of the individual is needed for the desires to attach to a particular sense organ of the individual. These are three separate steps to any action that comes out of these interactions. Most of us do not see the distinctions so clearly.
Krishna is asking Arjuna to know the distinction between the desires and the sense organs. Knowing this us to steady our intelligence. And then we can control the movements of the desires and their relationship with our sense organs. Krishna has taken extra time and effort to impress upon Arjuna about the desire pathway and how it works. This is important for us to understand this today as much as it was important for Arjuna in those times. There is no wind. There are no desires. The person is quite. The mind has no movements. Tasya prgya pratisthita.
It is night, it is dark II (2:69)
ya nisa sarva-bhutanam
tasyam jagarti samyami
yasyam jagrati bhutani
sa nisa pasyato muneh
It is night; it is dark
We rest and we sleep
It is night and it is dark
He (the awakened one) is awake
He is alert; he is observing
It is daytime; we are busy in the market
We think we are awake; we are alert
He (the awakened one) is uninterested
Our daytime is night time for Him ||2:69||
We discussed the question of a literal meaning of this verse in our last column. Here we will explore the same question a little further. We call persons like Buddha, Krishna and Mahavira awakened ones. What does it mean? Does it mean that we are not awake or are we not awake to the same extent as them? What we see as awake is not the same state that Krishna is talking here in the second half of the shloka.
I start my morning. I leave the bed, get ready and am ready to drive. I get my car out of my garage and then drive to work. I do not have to go to work on weekends and holidays. But it does happen. I get my car out of the garage and end up in the direction of my work. I realize it and then take a different turn. Some of our actiona becomes like a robot. If you examine carefully many of our responses and reactions related to different situations can be predicted. It is so predictable. You go home and see your son watching television. He should be studying. You are angry, the son is unhappy and a scene is created. The same scene has been created several times before. It is as if we do not stop and think. We seem not to be examining ourselves.
There needs to be some slow motion replay of our lives to make us realize that we are not fully awake. Krishna here is saying this to Arjuna not to make him feel bad, but instead to be aware of the facts as they are. Once Arjuna or me know that we think we are awake but we are not wake really, we will work at it. Our state of wakefulness has to be improved. It is night, it is dark. The darkness is there and will stay. If you have a flashlight you can examine some corners. But if there is a lightning you can see the whole area. The sleep is there, will be there. A flashlight of wakefulness can help in examining different areas. And it is possible to do that. This wakefulness can be there in sleep and in our so called awake state. And that is what Krishna is talking about. An awakened person’s wakefulness is uninterrupted. It starts like a flash light for the seekers like you and me and ends up like a light of the lightning. However, the light becomes more permanent compared to the temporary one of the lightning. That does not mean, and I want to emphasize this point, that there is no sleep. The sleep is there but wakefulness to sleep is there as well.
Mandukya upanishad deals with this situation in a little more detail.
This pure self has four quarters
The first is the (so called) waking state
experience of the reality comes to every one
The attention faces outwards
enjoying the world in all its variety.
The second is experience of subjective worlds
such as in dreaming
Here the attention dwells within,
charmed by the mind’s subtler creations.
The third is deep sleep
the mind rests, with awareness suspended
This state is beyond duality
-from which the waves of thinking emerge
is enjoyed by the enlightened as an ocean of
silence and bliss
The fourth, say the wise, is the pure self alone (turiya)
Dwelling in the heart of all
It is the lord of all,
The seer of all,
The source and goal for all.
How can any expression be more scientific. The anesthesia describes four stages as well. They have their classification and pointers to each stage. Here the Upanishad describes the four stages. The four stages can be explored by each of us. The first is the so called awake stage that Krishna refers in the second part of the verse. We are focussed outwards. The second starts looking inwards, inwards at our dreams, thoughts, plans and projects. It is an important stage and is present as thoughts and projects when we are so called awake and as dreams at night. By practice, it is possible to do deliberations and thinking in the sleep as well. This is possible if the flashlight of awareness can be carried in the sleep.
The third stage is so beautiful. This is the source of all the thoughts and dreams. Yet there are no vibrations. There is still awareness present of something different. This is a state of suspended awareness. There is a totally different feeling. As if we are in a different state of being. The fourth is where a sthitapragya is always present.
We need to understand one thing. The playing field stays the same. Arjuna is going to fight. Krishna is going to be his charrioteer. Duryodhana is going to wield his club (gada). All this is going to happen in the same playing field (kurukshetra). Some one watching from outside may not know whose depth is what. Some will always know. It is like the prime minister of Inidia and common men are together in a big field. A child may not know who and what a prime minister is. All will look the same to him. But, an adult knows. Krishna knows and is trying to tell Arjuna what the differences are. We shall stay with Arjuna and learn through him. (please visit http://www.egita.org)
samudram apah pravisanti yadvat
tadvat kama yam pravisanti sarve
sa santim apnoti na kama-kami
Many a rivers, full to the brink
Flow and enter the ocean
The ocean is not disturbed
It does not even know or acknowledge
It stays still; it stays vast
Desires and longings that happen
And enter an awakened one
Is but a guest
Ready to transit and pass through
Not a trace is left behind
No imprints are made in his mind
He stays utterly still
No disturbance in sight
He is established in his inner self ||2:70||
vihaya kaman yah sarvan
pumams carati nihsprhah
sa santim adhigacchati
His desires have dropped
He is not attached
His I-ness has dissolved
He is peaceful inside ||2:71||
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