Monday, 26 February 2018

Transceding the Gunas

Gita essays 25 

Earlier in ch.2, Lord Krishna advised Arjuna to transcend the three gunas of satva, rajas and tamas in verse 45 with the words “Be free from the triad of three gunas”.   In ch, 14 where the Lord discusses the gunas in detail he again emphasises the point as it is impossible for a person to get liberation unless one transcends the three gunas as all the three gunas bind a person, only the nature of binding differs. And also these three gunas together make up Maya Sakthi, the other name for Prakrithi. Maya Sakthi has two constituents, one called avarana sakthi, the veiling power, and the other called vikshepa sakthi, the projecting power. The veiling power throws a veil over the real nature of one’s Self and in the state of ignorance of the real nature of one’s Self as Brahman, one takes the body-mind-complex as the real nature of one’s self.  The projecting power projects the external world as real.  These two beliefs, one about one’s self as body/mind/intellect and the other regarding the reality of the external world, create samsara, the cycle of pleasure and pain.  One who transcends the three gunas and is called Gunatheetha, overcomes the influence of the two powers with the result he realizes his true Self as Brahman, and sees the real nature of the external world as transactional reality only and not as absolute reality.  Thereby he gets liberated from the clutches of samsara, and becomes a Jeevanmuktha.  So Lord Krishna says in verse 20: “Having gone beyond these three guṇas which are the cause of rebirth, a person becomes free from birth, death, old age, and sorrow, and attains immortality.”  

Gunatheetha understands his real Self as Athma that has no birth or death, sorrow or old age (though the body that is made up of the three gunas may suffer these till the end of prarabhdha), and is in a state of peace and bliss always.  This remark evokes Arjuna’s curiosity and so he asks the Lord in verse 21: “What are the marks of him who has transcended the three gunas, O Lord? What is his conduct and how does he go beyond these three gunas?”, leading to Lord’s description of Gunatheetha in the remaining verses of this chapter.  Through his question, Arjuna has asked for:
1)    The indicators to recognize a Gunatheetha
2)    The conduct of Gunatheetha towards the outside world and others
3)    The sadhanas through which one can become Gunatheetha

In verse 14-22, Lord Krishna states the answer to the first question,  Gunatheetha hates not the effects of the three gunas, satva, rajas and tamas, namely prakasam, light; pravritti, activity and moham,delusion, when present in his body mind complex, nor does he long for them in their absence. Gunas and their effects will still be present for him even though he has transcended them, for two reasons. Gunathitha has transcended the gunas through Athmajnanam that his true self is only Athma which is beyond the three gunas. So there is only change of cognition and no physical change involved.  Secondly his body-mind-complex remains physically the same as the product of gunas; mind, intellect and organs of knowledge, of satva of subtle pancha bhutas; prana and organs of action, of rajas of subtle pancha bhuthas and gross physical body, of tamas of grossified pancha bhuthas; the pancha bhuthas being the five elements, space, air, fire, water and earth.  So Gunatheetha watches the play of gunas in the body-mind-complex, as one watches a play without identifying with the characters.  Equanimity in all circumstances and inner peace independent of all environments is his hallmark.

In verses 23,24 and 25 Lord gives the answer to the second question.  In verse 23, Lord Krishna, describes Gunatheetha’s attitude as one of total unconcern to the impact of events and relationships as he is aware that what is happening is only a play of gunas on gunas as even the physical world is also a product of tamas of grossified pancha bhuthas.  So pleasure, creation of satva, and pain, creation of rajas, arising out of interaction with the world, also do not disturb his stoic indifference as he remains unshaken in his knowledge that he, as Athma, is like the space in the pot, uncontaminated by the contents of the pot. In verses 24 and 25 Lord Krishna describes few other characteristics which are:  
1)    samadukhasukhaha, He treats alike pleasure and pain.
2)    swasthaha- He is steadfastly established in his true Self, Athma, unruffled by drafts of pleasure or pain.  As he knows his Athma is the same as the one undivided Brahman, which pervades all, living and inert, he has a vision of oneness of all and from this vision flows 3,4,5, 6 and 7.
3)    samaloshtasmakanchanah- He has no hunger for possessions.  He treats alike with the same indifference, a lump of gold as with a piece of stone or with a clod of earth. He knows the value of gold, but he also knows it cannot give security like the mud and the stone.
4)    tulyapriyapriyaha- Through this and next three descriptions, Lord Krishna explains the equanimity of a Gunatheetha. Here it is stated he is equal minded whether pleasant or unpleasant things happen to him. Any categorisation here or hereafter as pleasant/unpleasant, praise/abuse, honour/dishonour and friend/foe is only as per our judgement and not from his standpoint.
5)    tulyanindatmaamsthuthihi- He treats equally praise and abuse, not flattered by one or provoked by the other
6)    maanapamaanayoh tulyaha- Honour and dishonour is the same in his vision.
7)    tulyo mitrari pakshayoho- He is the same with all whether they regard him as friend or foe.
8)    Sarvarambaparityagi- He is one who has relinquished all undertakings for profit, fame or self-promotion.  Any undertaking that he starts due to the force of residual prarabhdha, that keeps him alive in the body, will be for universal good and social welfare and not out of ego-centric desires, as in the case of Swami Vivekananda who founded the Ramakrishna mission.

Lord Krishna answers the third question prescribing bhakti as the sadhana to achieve this goal of becoming Gunatheetha in verse 26: “He who worships Me through the yoga of ananya bhakthi becomes fit to attain the nature of Brahman by going beyond these guṇas.” And the nature of Brahman is immortality and absolute ananda, as Lord reiterates in the final verse 27.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Satvam, Rajas and Tamas

Gita essays – 24

While discussing Purusha-Prakrithi Jnanam in chapter 13, Lord Krishna made four points; 1) Whatever being, moving or stationary, is born --- know that to be out of the union of Purusha (Khṣetrajna) and Prakrithi (Kshetram); 2)  Purusha and Prakrithi are both without beginning and all forms and gunas are born of Prakriti; 3) Purusha seated in Prakriti, seemingly experiences the qualities (gunas) born of Prakriti. It is attachment to the gunas that is the cause of birth in good and evil wombs; 4) He who thus knows the Purusha and Prakriti along with the gunas is not born again. In chapter 14, where Lord discusses mainly the three gunas, Satvam, Rajas and Tamas that constitute Prakrithi, Lord starts with the the glorification of Athma Jnanam (Purusha-Prakrithi viveka) praising it as an important knowledge that is worth repetition since those attaining this wisdom and being established in it will not ever be born again after they shed their mortal coil in death. He also restates the point no.1 referred to earlier from a different angle. He presents Purusha-the Nirguna, Nirvikara, Chetana, Sathya tatvam and Prakrithi-the Saguna, Savikara, Achetana. Mithya tatvam symbolically as the father-principle and mother-principle bestowing on every created being Conscious and material aspects representing Purusha and Prakrithi respectively.  The three gunas in varying proportions in each created being contribute to the variety in creation.

After the brief introduction Lord analyses the three gunas under four heads:
1)    Chief characteristics of each guna and the nature of their bondage
2)    Indications that reveal the predominance of each guna (lingam)
3)    Their effect on life
4)    Effect after death
This knowledge of the gunas can be used to transcend them when that Jnanam will liberate one from samsara, while alive and from the cycle of birth and death, on death.  So let us see the details as revealed by the Lord in these verses.

The characteristics of Satva guna is descrbed in the verse 14-6: “O Arjuna, Satva, is bright and harmless due to its purity, and binds by causing attachment to knowledge and to happiness”.  Satva Guna is marked by brightness and calmness.  A calm and bright mind can learn things, absorb knowledge and engage in meditation.  But this too can cause bondage as a Satvic mind seeks always seclusion and a tranquil environment, free from noise pollution.  As the external circumstances are not under one’s control, one’s longing for quietude and solitude, causing restlessness in noisy crowded environs, becomes a bondage.  Further, the knowledge that it seeks is mainly worldly knowledge which is not totally fulfilling and satisfying however much one acquires it.

Rajo guna is described in the next verse (14-7): “O Arjuna, know Rajas to be of the nature of passion, born of thirst (desire for sensual enjoyment) and attachment and binds the embodied one through attachment to action”.  Rajo Guna is of the nature of attachment and passion; a Rajasic mind is highly extrovert and it always wants to relate with things and people.  This thirst for sense-enjoyment propels one to action and so Rajas is characterised by activity. A Rajasic mind seeks always company and action and will go mad in seclusion.  As Rajasic mind is of competitive nature, it is always anxious and restless.  This restlessness and longing for activity and sense-enjoyment is the cause for samsara and samsara is bondage

Tamo guna is described in next verse (14-8): “O Arjuna, understand Tamas as born of ignorance and as the deluder of all beings. It binds by (causing) negligence, indolence, and sleep”.  Under the influence of Tamo guna one’s capacity for discrimination gets veiled and the person suffers from Ajjnanam and delusion.  It is just the antithesis of Rajo guna in that it dislikes activity and takes pleasure in laziness and lethargy; physical, mental and intellectual.  So the person’s attention span and absorption capacity are at a low level and he is ignorant or uncaring for the higher purposes of life.

Lord Krishna is non-judgemental as He outlines the characteristics, but we can grade them depending on their positive influence on one’s mental personality, ranking Satva that stands for brightness and knowledge as highest and Tamas that stands for lethargy and ignorance as lowest. We can also define them, in short, based on the aptitude of the person for activity at the time of predominance of the guna as non-activity, activity and inactivity.  The three gunas compete among themselves for supremacy and try to dominate overpowering the other two. Satva predominates overpowering Rajas and Tamas; Rajas predominates overpowering Satva and Tamas and Tamas predominates overpowering Satva and Rajas (14-10).

Lord Krishna gives also the indicators that reveal which is the predominant guna at any moment. When Satva is predominant all the jnanendriyas radiate the light of knowledge (14-11). This state of light comes from inner peace and tranquillity that Satva pradhana person enjoys and of his desire for knowledge. When Rajas is predominant, greed and activity, the undertaking of worldly actions with a selfish motive and longing for enjoyment are on the rise. (14-12).  Rajas pradhana people are great achievers and material progress is due to them, no doubt, but in their quest for success they tend to be impatient and intolerant of persons who do not measure up to their standard. They are restless in their longing for things not yet acquired and for tasks not yet accomplished.  Selfish interests and desires mark their activity.  When Tamas is predominant, darkness, inertia, miscomprehension, delusion flourishes (14-13). Tamas pradhana person has no interest in learning and doing with the result he is slow to act and understand.  Even where he acts, action is liable to suffer due to negligence and misunderstanding. In short, when one’s study and contemplation increases and when one becomes more calm and reflective we can say then Satva guna is predominant.  When activity increases and one becomes more competitive, selfish, aggressive and egoistic, Rajo guna is the dominant guna then, we can conclude. When one becomes lazy, lethargic and procrastinating spending more time in sleep and idleness, one is under the influence of Tamo guna, we can infer.
When Satva guna increases, knowledge and contemplation increases and so the fruit of Satvic action is stated as Punya..  When Rajo guna increases activity and ambition increases generating tension, anxiety, worry and sorrow and so the fruit of Rajasic action is termed as sorrow.   When Tamo guna increases sleep, negligence, idleness and dullness increases and so the fruit of Tamasic action is dubbed as ignorance.  So Lord tells in verse 16 & 17; “The result of Satvic action is pure puṇya; the result of Rajasic (action) is sorrow; whereas the result of Tamasic (action) is ignorance.” (14-16). “Knowledge is born out of Satva; greed is born out of Rajas; negligence and delusion along with ignorance are born out of Tamas.” (14-17).  

Lord Krishna goes on to say that gunas not only influence this life but they also have an impact on next life as well. When one is Satva pradhana at the time of death, then he will go to the higher lokas where he enjoys greater happiness.  When he is reborn he is born in a pious family. If one is Rajas pradhana at the time of death, he goes to the middle worlds and takes birth in the family of those who are attached to action.  If Tamas is predominant at the time of death, one goes to the lower worlds and is reborn in the family of dull and ignorant or even goes down the order of evolution being born in the animal kingdom. 

Lord Krishna talks more on the topic of classification of various subjects like Yajna, Dhana, Tapas, food, happiness etc. under the three gunas in the chapters 17 & 18 to enable one to shape one’s life on Satvic path, and eschew Tamasic ways in life.  One can make use of this knowledge of the gunas to change oneself to a Satva pradhana person as an initial step to transcend the gunas and attain Jivan Mukthi while living and Videha Mukthi at death, as a Gunatheetha, the person who has transcended the gunas, of whom Lord Krishna talks about in the rest of this chapter. 

Friday, 9 February 2018

Purusha-Prakrithi Jnanam

Gita essays – 23

Arjuna wanted to know from Lord Krishna about the six technical terms used in Vedanta; Kshertam, KshetrajnaJnanam, Jneyam, Prakrithi and Purusha. After explaining the first four terms Lord starts talking about Prakrithi and Purusha from verse 20 of chapter 13.  Lord has already explained in Chapter7 (Gita essays-11) the two aspects of His nature as Brahman; Para prakrithi, the higher principle and Apara prakrithi the lower principle and both of them are beginningless and eternal.  He has also further revealed that the changing matter principle constitutes the Apara prakrithi and the changeless Consciousness principle the Para prakrithi.  Now in this chapter Lord is talking about Apara prakrithi as Prakrithi and Para prakrithi as Purusha,  So from this we can see that both Purusha and Prakrithi are beginningless and also that both of them together constitute the cause of the universe.

Everything in the creation is born out of Prakr̥thi and this includes the body, mind complex also.  Not only the body- mind complex but also all the conditions of the body-mind complex, favourable and unfavourable like pleasure and pain, form part of the Prakrithi.  Purusha, as the unchanging witness lending sentiency to the body-mind complex, appears to experience all the conditions of body-mind complex as a silent witness associated with the body-mind complex. So Lord explains in verse 23 Purusha dwelling in the body is the same as Supreme. He is also called as the Witness, the Approver, the Supporter, the Experiencer (as the embodied Purusha), the great Lord and the Supreme Self”.  Purusha, as Supreme is everywhere including every Prakrithi enclosure of body.  We can see from this that Purusha is one and changeless, Prakrithi is many and changing; Purusha is attributeless. Prakrithi is with attributes; Purusha is beyond the influence of three Gunas, Satvam, Rajas and Tamas, Prakrithi functions under the influence of the three Gunas. 

Lord has pointed out earlier in verse 2 & 3, “This body is termed as Kshetra  and ---------- Know Myself as Kshetrajna in all Kshetras”   From this we can see that both Purusha and Kshetrajna are synonyms and refer to Athma and both  Prakrithi and Kshetra are synonyms and refer to anathma.  Lord has also stated earlier in verse 3 “O Arjuna! Knowledge of both the Kshetra(Prakrithi) and the Kshetrjna(Purusha) is considered by Me to be the Real knowledge”. Under Jnanam Lord had earlier discussed only the moral qualities and virtues that prepare the mind for  assimilating the Jnanam.  And now Lord gives more of the knowledge of Kshetram (Prakrithi) and Kshtrajna (Purusha) and the benefit of this Jnanam, which He calls Real knowledge..

In verse 27 Lord states “Whatever being, moving or stationary, is born --- know that to be out of the union of Kṣhetram (Prakrithi) and Khṣetrajna (Purusha), Oh, Arjuna !”
The union between the Prakrithi and Purusha is not of any physical kind or of any material nature but it is one of superimposition, called Adhyasa.  In every superimposition a delusion is recognized upon the substratum just like a ghost on the post where the non-existent ghost comes into existence and the existing post gives place to non-existent ghost.  Here the Prakrithi which has no independent existence and so mithya is superimposed on Purusha, Pure consciousness, which only has independent existence and is Satyam. This relationship conjures up the phenomenon of the material world, consisting of the moving and non-moving and also the insentient body being mistaken for the sentient Self and vice versa. This confusion is cleared when the illusion disappears due to Jnanam, the knowledge of Purusha and Prakrithi. So Lord states in the next verse, verse 28, “He who sees the supreme Lord who dwells alike in all beings and who is imperishable as the unperishing within the perishing, (alone really) sees”.

Samsara and resultant cycle of birth and death occurs due to ignorance of Real knowledge (Jnanam).  Lord calls this cycle as destroying Self by self and remarks that this Real knowledge, Jnanam, frees one from this cycle.  Jnanam consists of seeing that all actions are performed by Prakrithi alone and Purusha is actionless and that  Purusha is only the witness, not the doer; the spectator, not the actor.  This Jnanam is complete when one understands that the multiplicity of names and forms arise from the Purusha only and spread to become the Universe. In short as Kaivalya Upanishad (1-19) says “In me alone everything is born; in me does everything rest; and in me is everthing dissolved.  I am that Brahman (Purusha) secondless.”  The same is echoed in the Chandogya Upanishad (VII.xxvi.1) “From the Self (Purusha) is life, from the Self is desire, from the Self is love, from the Self is akasa, from the Self is light, from the Self are the waters --------”. When the variety of nature and its development are traced to the Eternal One, one assumes eternity. He realizes the all pervading nature of the Self, as the cause of all limitation has been destroyed by the knowledge of unity with Brahman and he becomes a Jivanmuktha.

Lord also states in verse 32 “Being birthless and attributeless, this supreme Self is changeless. Though dwelling in the body, it neither acts nor is affected.”  In next two verses 33 & 34, Lord compares Purusha with space and sun to illustrate the point that Purusha is one only and is unaffected by the activities of Prakrithi though it is closely associated with it as Self in the body. “Just as the all pervading space is not affected due to its subtlety, so also, the Self (Purusha), which is present in everybody (Prakrithi), is not affected.  (13-33).   “Just as one Sun illumines the entire world, so also does the Kshetrajna (Purusha) illumines the entire Kṣhetraṁ (Prakrithi), O Arjuna.”  (13-34).

Space is the subtlest of all gross elements and hence pervades everything that is grosser than it. Though everything remain in it, yet nothing that it contains can contaminate it. Brahman, the Supreme Self which is the cause of the very Space is subtler than Space. So Brahman (Purusha) pervades all and nothing pervades It and It is not affected by anything that exists or is happening in the world of plurality. Just like the sun, the Consciousness merely illumines the world of objects, the body, the mind and the intellect. Lighting of the world by the sun is not an activity undertaken by sun as light itself is the very nature of the sun and in its light everything gets illumined. Similarly, the nature of Consciousness is awareness and in Its presence everything becomes known i.e., illumined. The sun illumines everything, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, virtue and vice etc. So too, in our inner life, Consciousness functions through body equipments and illumines them but never gets contaminated by the actions of the body or by the emotions of the mind or by the thoughts of the intellect.

Those who imbibe this Jnanam regarding Purusha and Prakrithi and liberation from Prakrithi, through steadfast and sincere practice of either Jnana Yoga or Dhyana Yoga or Karma Yoga or Bhakthi Yoga, attain the Supreme, assures the Lord before discussing this Jnanam.