Saturday, 31 March 2018

Divine qualities & Demoniac traits


Gita essays 28

In the previous  chapter 15 Lord Krishna  talked about Athma jnanam, Self-knowledge which is the direct means for liberation.  Now In chapter 16 Lord Kṛiṣhṇa discusses the values to be adopted by a seeker to make the mind fit for absorbing the knowledge when received from a Guru as Vedanta becomes a pramaṇa (means of knowledge) only for a prepared mind.  Lord divides all mental traits into two groups; daivi-sampat, qualities conducive to Self-knowledge and asuri-sampat, qualities that are obstacles to spiritual pursuit. Generally speaking all satvic qualities come under the daivi-sampat, divine qualities, while rajasic and tamasic traits come under the asuri-sampat, demoniac traits.  Divine qualities are the virtues to adopt and Lord Kṛiṣhṇa lists them in verses 1 to 3, as follows:

Abhayaam – Fearlessness; Fear is the expression of ignorance and where there is knowledge there is fearlessness. Abhayam also stands for spiritual courage, the inner courage to face all the problems that come in the path of spiritual pursuit.
Satvasamsuddhih - Purity of heart; honesty of intentions and purity of motives.
Jnanayogavyavasthitih - Steadfastness in Knowledge and Yoga; ethical purity is difficult to achieve when the mind is turned outward.  When it is turned inward it can be trained to renounce worldly desires. Through devotion to knowledge the mind can be persuaded to give up all low temptations and make it opt for the higher values of life and the joys of the inner renunciation.
Dhaanam – Charity; the capacity to restrain one's instinct of acquisition and attachment to wealth and replacing it with the spirit of sacrifice and sharing. Charity can be at the level of head and heart also and need not be merely at the material level. Sharing with others our sympathy and kindness and to distribute one's knowledge are also charities.
Damaha - Sense control; mastery over the sense-organs that enables one’s harnessing of physical and mental energy for the higher purposes of spiritual pursuit.
Yajna – Worship of the Lord; ceremonial worship as well as converting all one’s activities into acts of worship.
Swadhyaya - Study of the scriptures; which includes not only the regular study of scriptures but also the practice of their teachings.
Tapaha Austerity: the denial of sensual temptations and concentrating on the divine.
AarjavamStraightforwardness; avoidance of disharmony in thoughts, words and actions.
AhimsaHarmlessness; this connotes not only physical non-injury but also verbal non-injury and avoidance of injury in the thought process itself.  In so living any accidental or incidental injury caused in any action with pure and clean motives can do no lasting harm.
SathyamTruthfulness; as explained under straightforwardness earlier.
Akrodhaha - Absence of anger; the capacity to check anger as it arises and keep it under one’s control so that it does not manifest in actions, physical or verbal.
ThyagahaRenunciation; vital to maintain an even temper on all occassions.
ShanthiPeacefulness; keeping one’s equanimity in all conditions of life; stormy, stressful, joyous etc.
Apaisunam - Absence of crookedness; honesty of conviction and avoiding double-talk, full of devotion, love and sincerity to others.
Daya Bhutheshu- Compassion towards beings; Recognising the imperfections in others and loving them with their imperfections.
AloluptvamUncovetousness; exercising self-control over sense enjoyments.
Maardavam - Gentleness; softness and kindness in attitude, absence of harshness and cruelty’.
Hreeh -  Modesty; shyness, also a healthy sense of shame that prevents a person from doing wrong actions.
Achapalam - Absence of fickleness; economy of physical energy in any activity
Tejah - Vigour - This is not of the physical structure of the body but the brilliance of the seeker's intellect, his peaceful nature, quietitude in his activities and his love for all.
KshamaaForgiveness; implies unruffled serenity even in the face of powerful oppositions and provoking situations in life.
DhritihFortitude; strength of faith, conviction of the goal, consistency of purpose, vivid perception of the ideal and the spirit of sacrifice in the task undertaken.
SauchamPurity; purity of thoughts and motives, purity of environments, cleanliness of habits and personal belongings.
Adroha - Non-hatred; It implies not only absence of hatred but also absence of even a vague desire to injure any living creature.
Natimanita - without exaggerated self-opinion; without notions of exaggerated self-importance and self-honour and without any pride..

These ethical qualities, when pursued sincerely, will contribute to the discovery of the Divine in oneself. After enumerating daivi-sampat, Lord proceeds to discuss asuri-sampat more elaborately starting with a brief enumeration of these demoniac traits in verse 4.
Dambha - Hypocrisy; with reference to dharma, pretending to be a dharmic person, while leading an adharmic way of life.
Darpah – Arrogance; pride in one's learning, wealth, social status or family connections.
Abhiman - Self-conceit; a life of imagined self-importance’
Krodha – Anger; a person of self-conceit looking at the world and finding that its estimate of him is totally different from his own he revolts within and hence gets angry over everything around him.
Parushyam – Harshness; opposite of mardavam; harsh, hurtful, sarcastic and insensitive in one’s speech and behaviour.
Ajnanam – Self-ignorance; knows not and also knows not he knows not which gives rise to self-delusion, self-conceit, arrogance and anger

After enumerating the qualities in two groups, Lord tells Arjuna that  daivi-sampat qualifies one for liberation while asuri-sampat condemns one to bondage. He then goes on to reassure Arjuna  that he need not have any anxiety in this regard as he is born with divine qualities.  Lord Krishna then starts analysing in detail people of demoniac nature till the end of the chapter.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Purushothama tathvam

Gita essays 27

In verse 6 of chapter 15, Lord gives a very important definition of Brahman, based on the upaniṣadic mantra, occurring in Kathopaniṣhad (2-2-15) as well as Mundakopaniṣhad (2-2-10), that says “The sun does not shine there, nor the moon and the stars, nor these lightnings—not to speak of this fire. He shining, everything shines after Him. By His light all this is lighted.”  In this chapter Lord, as His Higher Self of Para Prakrithi says “Neither does the sun illumine there, nor the moon, nor the fire;  Attaining this Brahman, one does not return to samsara again—“.   implying that samsara nivritthi is complete and total when one gets established in Brahma Jnanam.  The sun, moon, fire themselves cannot illumine Brahman, as Brahman is “light of all lights” (13-18) and in Its light only everything else shines.  With this glorification of Brahman, Lord starts describing Brahma Swarupam to Arjuna.  Later in the course of this description itself, Lord Himself will say “That light which, residing in the sun, illumines the whole world, that which is in the moon and in the fire - know that light as Mine”.(15-12)

In verses 7 to 15 Lord Krishna points out that Brahman alone appears or manifests in the form of the Jagat and Jiva in the world. Brahman has no parts and is not visible but in its manifestations as various entities it appears divided like pot space, room space etc. Although space is one entity it looks divided as room space, pot space etc.  Same way Brahman manifesting in various mediums appear to be divided in them   Brahman is described as sat, chit, anantham.  In non-sentient matter It manifests with Sat aspect alone and in sentient bodies It manifests with both Sat and Chit aspects.   So Lord declares that it is a part of Himself that manifests as the Jiva, individual soul, in each body.  The Jiva enjoys the world of objects through sense organs and mind. Brahman, the pure Consciousness, never directly illumines any object but when reflected upon mind and intellect It becomes Intelligence in which the sense objects become illumined. The Jiva, using the mind along with sense organs, enjoys the sense objects such as sound, touch, taste, smell etc.  It is  Brahman conditioned by mind and intellect that is Jiva and this Jiva takes various bodies from time to time. These physical, mental and intellectual expressions gives the body its individual personality and together is called subtle body.  At death the subtle body departs from the gross body taking with itself all faculties -senses, mind and intellect - as the wind takes away the scent from its source i.e. flowers, leaving the gross body inert as dead body.  Though the Self is the nearest and comes most easily within the range of one’s consciousness, still the ignorant and deluded do not see the Self because of their complete subservience to the sense-objects.  But those with the inner eye of knowledge behold the Self as entirely distinct from the body.

After describing about Brahman’s manifestation as Jiva, Lord proceeds to describe in four verses starting from verse 12, Brahman’s manifestation as Jagat, Jagat standing for achetana prapancha.  He quotes only a few instances as the representative of all. Instances quoted by Him are
1)    The light in the sun, the moon, and the fire in verse 12
2)    Capacity in the earth to sustain life and nourish it in verse 13
3)    The digestive fire that aids assimilation of food, and the subjective warmth of life in living beings, in verse 14
4)    The mental faculties of knowledge, memory etc. and the authorship and content as well as the knowledge of the Vedas in verse 15.
Lord says that the very light emerging from the sun which illumines the whole world, light coming from the moon and the fire are all manifestations of Him, the Infinite Consciousness. The manifestations are different because the equipments are different just as the same electrical energy manifests in a bulb, in a fan and in a heater in different ways.

Consciousness expressed through the sun is sun-light, through the moon is moon-light and through the fuel is fire.  Yet all these are manifestations of the one Brahman only. The same Consciousness while expressing through the earth manifests as the potential fertility of the soil, its life-sustaining capacity, its mineral wealth etc. The sun, the moon and the fire are the sources of energy in the world and that which gives them all the capacity to give out energy is the Consciousness only. Consciousness functioning through the moon nourishes the plant life through moon-light. Pure Consciousness that functions as Life Force manifests as digestive fire (Vaisvanara) which assimilates food. This digestive power assimilates food in four ways through masticating, swallowing, sucking and licking. The power in the digestive system that helps us to swallow the food, assimilate it and eliminate the wasteful by-products is nothing but a manifestation of the Lord as Life force.  From Brahman,the Pure Consciousness alone all memory, knowledge and forgetfulness come to us. A capacity to forget is an essential requisite for acquiring new knowledge because unless the imperfect knowledge is thrown out new knowledge cannot be assimilated. This Infinite Consciousness is the one common factor that has been glorified in all the Vedas and to realize this is the fulfilment of existence.  Since the very essence of Vedas is that Consciousness which is the Ultimate Reality, everything else is a projection upon it. The seeker who listens to the Vedas, who reflects upon their wisdom and who finally experiences the fulfillment of his life is also considered as nothing other than Consciousness. Lord Krishna states that one need not make any pilgrimage seeking this Divine Power for He is seated in the hearts of all only.  The heart here does not mean the physiological heart but it is the peaceful joyous mind settled in tranquillity capable of concentrating on the higher inspirations like love, tolerance, charity etc.

Lord Krishna now divides the whole creation into three parts; kshara purusha, akshara purusha and uttama purusha. Kshara purusha and akshara purusha are the material aspects of creation; as matter is viewed in two states as two manifestations.  One is the visible and tangible manifest matter, kshara purusha and another is the invisible and intangible unmanifest potential form of matter which is nature in its primordial state, akshara purusha, also called Maya.  Kshara purusha and akshara purusha are Lord’s lower or inferior nature. Both of them together constitute what we have seen as prakrithi in chapter 13. There is a third part which is not inert, and is beyond matter in all forms and it is the knower of matter in all forms. It is the witness of matter in all forms and it is chaitanya tatvam which Lord Krishna calls uttama purusha. The word uttama means the greatest, utkr̥ṣta tama uttama.  Pure Consciousness is called uttama because matter cannot exist independent of Consciousness, whereas Consciousness can exist independent of matter, and Consciousness alone lends existence to the matter.  The uttama purusha of  the 15th chapter is the para prakrithi of the 7th chapter, Kshetrajna or Jeyam of 13th chapter.  Lord Krishna says that uttama puruṣha or puruṣhothama is His real and higher nature, His superior nature.  Purushothama does not refer to any particular form of God but it refers to formless, attributeless chaitanyam, nirguna nirvishehah chaitanyam.  Whoever knows this Purushothama Iswara, he becomes omniscient and totally fulfilled. This self-fulfillment is called moksha.   Lord ends this chapter by telling  Arjuna that this is the most secret science which He has specially imparted to Arjuna, so that Arjuna can gain self-fulfillment, knowing this.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Samsara Vriksha & Samsara Nivritthi

Gita essays 26

The chapter15 contains only 20 verses but it is an important chapter for it contains the essence of the scriptures and teaches Ishwara Tatvam.  It is one of the most significant and complete chapters of the Bhagavat Gita that many people use for parayanam also.  In this chapter Brahman or Ishwara is called Purushothama and therefore this chapter gets the title “Purushothama yoga”.   

This chapter opens with Lord Krishna’s description of samsara as a huge tree (samsara vriksha), with Brahman as its root.  The opening verse runs as: “They (the scriptures) speak of the eternal asvattha tree (of samsāra) whose root is above, whose branches are below, and whose leaves are the Vedas. The one who knows it is the knower of the Vedas”.(15-1).  This is followed up by further description of this tree of life in the second verse as: “Below and above spread its branches, which are nourished by the gunas and which have sense-objects as its buds; and below in the world of men stretch forth the roots, originating action”.(15-2). In the first line of the third verse the description is continued as: “The form of this (tree) is not perceived here, neither its beginning nor its middle or end.”

Before seeing this description in detail, let us see the source for this description, in Kathopanishad from which Lord has taken the analogy. In Kathopanishad 3-2-1, Yama tells Nachiketas “This is that eternal asvattha tree with its root above and branches below. That root, indeed, is called the Pure; That is Brahman, and That alone is the Immortal.  In That all worlds are contained, and none can pass beyond. This, verily, is That.”  The word ‘asvattha’ means that which does not endure till the next day. The universe is compared to the asvattha tree on account of its ever-changing nature.  Brahman is the support for the universe just as the root is the support for the tree. The root is said to be up in a figurative sense as it is qualitatively superior to the lokas of the universe which are described as lower being qualitatively lower to Brahman, the root.  For, Brahman is eternal while the creation is subject to arrival and departure; Brahman is Satyam while the creation is mithya; Brahman is karaṇam, the cause, while the universe is karyam, the product.  In short, the asvattha tree of universe is endowed with perishable branches of lokas.  That Brahman is pure while the creation is full of impurities like papa karma, puṇya karma etc.  These impurities do not affect the Brahman.  That Brahman alone is immortal and is the support of all the lokas.  The existence of all objects is borrowed from Brahman only and nothing can exist outside the Brahman.

To this description of samsara vriksha, Lord has added a few more touches which we shall see now.  Vedas formulate codes of dharma and adharma with their causes and effects and by showing the way to prosperity and well-being in the relative world they protect the world. So just as the leaves protect a tree, the Vedas serve to protect the tree of the world and hence the Vedas are compared to the leaves of this tree of life.  The flow of life in the individual is sometimes for a higher evolution but very often it is to satisfy animal nature i.e. towards a lower purpose. Thus the tree of life has its branches growing both upwards and downwards. The tendency to lead a higher or lower life is determined by the dominance of any of the three gunas.  Thus upward and downward its branches spread, nourished by the gunas.  Nodular buds are potential branches. Sense objects (sabda, sparsa, roopa, rasa, gandha) are the buds because in the presence of these objects there is a tendency to throw away higher values to attain carnal satisfaction.  While the main root of the tree is firmly fixed high above in Brahman, the subsidiary roots grow all around and even downwards in the world of men initiating all actions. These secondary roots are the vasanas created in us as a result of our past deeds driving us to actions and reactions, good or evil, in the world.  Just as the secondary roots bind the tree to the earth firmly, these actions and reactions bind the individual to the plane of likes and dislikes, profit and loss, of earning and spending etc.  In order to avoid any misunderstanding about the mystic symbolism, the Lord adds that its form is not perceived here as such. The tree of life mentioned in these verses represents the entire field of manifested life. As the knowledge of samsara vriksha, gives one the knowledge of both perishable and Imperishable, finite and infinite, which is the complete knowledge, Lord calls such a knower as Vedavit, a knower of Vedas.

Swami Paramarthananda quotes from Sri Sankaracharya’s commentary the similarities between the universe and this tree in his talk on this chapter.  Let me recount a few of them briefly as follows:
1)    Both are huge, mahathvam.
2)    The beginning and end of both cannot be traced, adiantarahitham.
3)    Like the huge tree having many branches spreading far and wide, the universe is a vast tree with the fourteen lokas as its branches, ṣakavatvam.
4)     Leaves of the tree nourishes the tree and Karma kanda of Vedas nourishes the samsara tree, parṇavatvam.
5)    Samsara tree bears fruits of sukha and dukha, phalavatvam.
6)    The tree becomes the support for the nest of the birds. Similarly the samsara tree supports the jiva world, asrayavathavam.
7)    Even though the tree is very huge, by appropriate effort, this tree can be uprooted.  Similarly, the huge samsara vriksham also can be uprooted by the special axe called jnanam, cedyathvam.

The essentials of samsara are presented comparing it to a tree only to introduce the seeker to samsara nivritthi that is moksha.  As samsara nivritthi involves right knowledge of one’s true Self, it is only Athma tattvam that Sri Krishna teaches using this imagery. Lord now proceeds to explain how this tree can be brought down i.e. the means or methods for removal of samsara, starting from the second line of third verse.  Lord, in all, outlines four steps in verses 3,4 & 5 to get out of the hold of  samsara.  They are; 1) Detachment (Vairagyam), 2) Vedantic enquiry (Vedanta vichara), 3) Surrender to Lord (Saranagathi) and 4) noble virtues (Sad gunas). Let us see them in a little more detail.

The tree of samsara owes its existence to the ignorance of one’s Real Self.  It flourishes so long as attachment to worldly objects and material desires function.   Dispassion towards the worlds of perception and realms of emotion spells the end of this tree taking away its sustenance.  This the Lord calls as cutting away with the strong axe of detachment.  The tree’s existence ends on the realization of the Self and this Self-Realisation can be achieved through successful study of sastras under the guidance of a competent guru, which is termed as Vedanta vichara.  As one retires one’s thoughts from worldly pursuits, one should not let one’s mind lapse into nothingness but should transfer all his thoughts and attentions, physical and mental, towards that Primeval Purusha called God, the Brahman, which is termed as surrendering unto Him.  To reach this goal of Self-realization with total detachment to the material world and complete attachment to the Lord, one has to necessarily have certain qualities which had been called as Sad gunas.  These are described by the Lord in verse 5 as follows:
1)    Nirmana moha - Free from pride and delusion: Pride and delusion arise from a false sense of importance or arrogance. These qualities need mental preoccupation to maintain them leaving no opportunity to think about the greater values.
2)    Jitasangha dosha - Evil of attachment conquered: Attachment to sensuous way of life, is an impediment for realizing life’s nobler purpose.
3)    Adhyathma nithya - Ever dwelling in the Self: Detachment from worldly objects is not possible without attachment to something else as human mind cannot function in a vacuum. So the seeker should divert his concentration to the study of Self to keep his mind occupied.
4)    Vinivritta kamah - Desires completely at rest: A mind without desire becomes calm and serene, fit to absorb and imbibe Athma Jnanam.
5)    Dvantair vimuktha sukha dukha samjnaih - Released from the pairs of opposites such as pleasure and pain. Mind is the focal point at which pleasure or pain is contacted. Once the mind recognizes the pairs of opposites, it likes that which is agreeable and hates that which is disagreeable. This continuous process of liking and disliking destabilizes the mind. Hence it is advised that one should be equanimous towards the pairs of opposites.