Monday, 28 May 2018

Lord's final advice

Gita essays 36

After a brief reference to Karma-yoga with emphasis on swadharma and swabhava, Lord Krishna made a short reference to Jnana yoga highlighting the role of nitidyasanam. When one gets established in Athma Jnanam, one remembers his identity with Brahman spontaneously which Lord described as entering Brahman. Then Lord takes up a brief revision of Bhakthi yoga with emphasis on surrender for receiving Lord’s Grace.  For not all are comfortable in pursuing Jnana yoga with its disciplines of mananam and nitidyasanam, even though they may start enthusiastically with sravanam.  Surrender to Lord is not out of fear or weakness but out of love for the Lord, the highest form of selfless pure love which Lord reciprocates as His Grace to His devotees. Surrender is not a passive act of physical prostration but a constant continuous remembrance of God  in all contacts and transactions to the accompaniment of mental renunciation of ‘I’ness and ‘My’ness in all activities. Lord prescribes different modes of saranagathi for different types of devotees of which first one is propounded in verse 56 as:
Doing all actions ever taking refuge in Me, one obtains the eternal, indestructible state or abode by My Grace(18-56).

The above prescription of surrender is made keeping in view aartha bhakthas and artharthi bhakthas.  They are not interested in Jnanam but have devotion to God and are also devoted to their material pursuits which take priority over devotion to God.  Lord does not want them to change their physical ways, only he wants the change in their mind setup. They should accord devotion to God priority always substituting ‘I’ consciousness with God consciousness at all times.  Giving up their ahamkara and selfish motives, they must work selflessly seeking His Grace.  In short, what they do, they should do as a service to God and what they get they should accept as the blessing of God.

He then assures Arjuna that one can overcome all obstacles and achieve peace and success while doing his swadharma without ego and without sense of doership, surrendering himself to Lord.  But at the same time He also strikes a note of warning that if because of ego one abandons the path shown by the Lord, and strikes a different path driven by his egocentric desires then he will perish without achieving anything worthwhile. He applies this to Arjuna’s life itself and warns him that if out of ahamkara, he decides not to fight and leave the battlefield to take up a life of renunciation, this may not be possible.  It will turn out to be a temporary mental aberration only as his Kshatriya swabhava will not let him stay away from the battlefield deserting his fighting brothers and may force him to join the battle rather helplessly, when it may be too late either for his or their good.

After cautioning Arjuna, Lord reminds him of Iswara tatvamIswara as the Supreme power lives in everyone’s heart and guides everyone’s development.  The relations of one’s inborn nature and fateful compulsion are in His hands.  As puppets are moved by a string-puller seated behind the scene, so also the created beings move and act on the stage of the world under the control of the Lord seated in the hearts of all.  So we must be conscious of the Divine on all the planes of our existence.  Arjuna is called upon to understand the will of God and do his duty. He must surrender unto Him and put himself totally at the service of the Lord without any reservations. Then by His grace Arjuna’s delusion will be dispelled and he will attain inner harmony and peace.

With these words Lord wants to end His advice to Arjuna and give him a free rein to decide on the best course of action in the light of this advice and act freely as per his decision.  But then His love for Arjuna is so strong that he feels like adding a few more touches before calling it a day.  And He again emphasises saranagathi in two more verses before proceeding to sum up the benefits that these words of advice can confer on one and all. The first of the two verses runs as:
Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, offer worship to Me, bow down to Me. you shall come to Me alone; I truly promise to you (for) you are dear to Me.(18-65)

This can be seen as an advice of surrender to Jijnasu bhakthas for whom God is a priority goal. They do not have the Ikya Jnanam but are committed to acquire Iswara Jnanam. Lord advises them to make Him as the only goal, surrender to Him their ego and body consciousness and act without the sense of doership in all their activities. This can also be seen as a final summary of Karma/Bhakthi yoga.

The second of these verses is the final advice coming from Lord.  This can also be seen both as a prescription to surrender for Jnani bhakthas and also as the gist of Jnana yoga. The verse runs as:
Renouncing all actions, take refuge in Me, the non-dual; I will liberate you from all sins; Do not grieve.(18-66)

This is the final teaching verse of Gita as the later verses are only winding up verses; and therefore Sri Ramanujacharya calls this the ‘Charama-Sloka’ meaning the final verse.  The teaching that started from the verse 11 of the 2nd chapter concludes with this verse and this verse is considered to be a very important one and also a confusing one as this is open to several different interpretations. All actions relate to body-mind complex and so renouncing all actions is possible only when one gives up mentally one’s identification with the body-mind complex. One non-dual Lord is the Advaitic Nirguna Brahman and surrendering to Him is through Athma Jnanam realizing one’s oneness with the Nirguna Brahman as Athma.  This in turn leads to the realization that as Athma  one stands liberated always, as Athma is ever untouched by Punyam as well as Papam and it is only through adhyasa mistakenly saddled with Punyam, Papam and bondage.  So Lord’s advice can be interpreted as “ Realize through Jnanam your true identity as Athma, that is the non-dual Nirguna Brahman and shed your false identification with the body-mind complex; thereby freeing yourself mentally from all the notions of punyam-papam and Dharmam-Adharmam, be a liberated Self here and now.”

After concluding the advice Lord makes a few general remarks concerning the study and teaching of Gita and also the phalam.  He first advises that one who has no faith, discipline, devotion and desire to know should not be given this knowledge. Then He declares that one who imparts and the one who receives this wisdom will attain the Lord Himself   And even the one who merely hears this with faith will also attain higher worlds. Then Lord Krishna asks Arjuna whether his delusion is gone to which Arjuna replies positively with grateful acknowledgement and promises to abide by the Lord’s teaching.

Sanjaya who had been so far broadcasting the happenings in the battlefield to Dhridharashtra now tells the blind king how fortunate he was to hear this advice direct from the Lord and how thrilled he feels to have had Cosmic vision of the Lord, Viswarupa darsan.  Sanjaya concludes his remarks with the declaration:
Where there is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga, and where there is Arjuna, the wielder of the bow, there will be permanent wealth, victory, prosperity and justice. (18-78).

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Actionlessness & State of Brahman

Gita essays 35


After concluding the guna-wise analysis of various topics with a declaration emphasising the point that there is nothing in the creation which is free from the influence of the three guṇas, Satvam, Rajas and Tamas that constitute Prakrithi, Lord Krishna applies the characteristics of various gunas to the social fabric and classifies the entire mankind under four different heads viz. Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. Lord Krishna has stated earlier (ch.4-ver.13) that human society is divided fourfold, based on duties and gunas. Now He elaborates further stating that different kinds of duties are assigned to each of these categories of individuals depending on their nature (Swabhava) which in turn depends on the gunas predominant in them.  This classification is based on the quality of the inner personality of the individuals and not on the accident of their birth. The emphasis on Swabhava indicates that human beings are to be treated as individuals and not as types. Predominating guna-wise classification is as follows:

1.     Brahmanas - predominantly  Satva (75%), some Rajas (15%) and a little Tamas (10%).
2.     Kshatriyas - predominantly Rajas (75%) with some Satva (15%) and a little Tamas (10%).
3.     Vaisyas - predominantly Rajas (75%), some Tamas (15%) and a little Satva (10%).
4.     Sudras - - predominantly Tamas (75%) some Rajas (15%) and a little Satva (10%).

The various duties of each of these categories of the individuals depending on their own nature (swabhavajam) are listed by the Lord as follows in verses 42, 43 & 44:

The control of mind and senses, austerity, external and internal purity, forgiveness, straightforwardness, jnanam, vijnanam, and faith in God and Vedas constitute the natural duties of the brahmaṇas born of their own nature. (18-42)
Valour, boldness, fortitude, resourcefulness, not running away from battle, generosity and overlordship are the duties of kshatriyas, born of their own nature.(18-43)  

Agriculture, cattle rearing and trade are the duties of the Vaisya class born of their own nature; action consisting of service is the duty of the Sudra class born of their own nature. (18-44)

A particular combination of gunas arise in a human being not because he is born in a particular group or community but because he is a product of his previous actions performed in his previous lives. Given the faculty of freewill, each human being performs different actions. These actions produce results, some of which are immediate and visible while some are invisible and carried forward as a residue. That which is immediate is enjoyed in that birth itself while the residual results come to fruition as vasanas in some future life.  When each one works according to vasanas in him and fully devotes himself to the prescribed duties, he develops within himself and attains gradually the state of spiritual perfection.  Lord Krishna says all these four professions are equally sacred; they are like the four organs of the body called the society; just as every organ is equally sacred in the body every profession is equally sacred.  Lord Krishna points out that karma yoga consists of worship of the Lord through any profession that a person undertakes. Through any profession a person chooses, he directly contributes to the world by way of benefit to the society. Social benefit is the direct outcome; but to convert it into an act of worship one should have the attitude of offering that action to the Lord.  When one learns to work and achieve in a spirit of surrender to God, work becomes worship free from ego and egocentric desires. Lord Krishna says by so performing one's own duties, svadharma, one can evolve into higher state of self-unfoldment.

Lord is not tired of repeating that sense-control and freedom from desire are essential to spiritual perfection, which Lord calls as “Supreme state of freedom from action (naishkarmya siddhi)”.  Attachments to objects, a sense of ego, are the characteristics of our lower nature. If we are to rise to gain knowledge of our true Self, we must conquer our lower nature with its ignorance and inertia, its love of worldly possessions, etc.  The state of actionlessness or transcending all work does not mean complete withdrawal from all work. Such a question is not possible so long as we live in the body.  What Lord advocates is the state of inner renunciation only. For attaining Brahman from this state of naishkarmya siddhi, Lord highlights nitidyasanam, Vedantic meditation, as the path in verses 51 to 53 thus:
Endowed with a clear intellect, controlling the mind by will, renouncing the sense-objects like sound etc., one should give up likes and dislikes. (18-51)
Resorting to a secluded place, taking limited food, controlling the speech, the body and the mind, taking to detachment, one should be ever devoted to dhyana yoga.(18-52)
Having given up egoism, power, arrogance, desire, anger, and possession, being free from ‘Mine’ notion, (and) remaining tranquil, one becomes fit for becoming Brahman. (18-53)

When our intellect becomes free from its attachments and thus controls our mind and body, then alone we are fit for renunciation of the lower ego-sense and reach for the Infinite Self which is the process of meditation.  Vedantic meditation involves sravanam, mananam as well besides nitidyasanam that involves meditation of the fact that I am akartha and abogtha athma which is different from the body and whose identity is Supreme Brahman.   Lord Krishna after summarising karma yoga as purification of mind for spiritual self-unfoldment, summarises jnana yoga as the means of liberation, highlighting the nitidyasanam.  The qualities required for successful meditation are summarised as
1)  An intellect without tendencies to acquire, possess and enjoy sense objects.
2)   Mind and sense-organs firmly brought under the control of such purified intellect
3)    Sense-organs restrained in their contacts with sense-objects
4)    Mind freed from the influence of likes and dislikes.
Further the true spiritual seeker of higher life must
1)        Seek a quiet place and solitude for sadh ana
2)    Have temperate eating habits
3)    Exercise control over his body, mind and speech
4)    Engage in continuous contemplation of Lord
5)    Lead a life of dispassion.
6)    Give up egoism, power, arrogance, desire, anger, covetousness and the notion of ‘mine’ness

Equipped with the above do’s and don’t’s, the spiritual seeker is fit for becoming Brahman, Lord says.  Becoming Brahman is to get firmly established in Self-knowledge that spells out the identity of one’s Athma with Supreme Brahman.  To know Brahman truly is to know that Brahman is devoid of all names and forms which are caused by maya and He is of the nature of the Absolute. It is also to know that Brahman alone is the essence of the diverse manifestations caused by His maya and He is non-dual, unborn, undecaying, unchanging and of the nature of Pure Consciousness. Entering Brahman is to own up the fact that this Brahman is one’s true Self as Athma and to say comfortably “Aham Brahmasmi”.  The acts of knowing and entering are not two separate and consecutive actions.  For such a person the ego is replaced by God Consciousness, the conception of individuality or `I-ness' ends and he is said to have attained the state of Brahman, oneness with Brahman or Brahma-Ikyam.