Gita essays 34
Lord Krishna, while clearing Arjuna’s doubt regarding renunciation, also explained about what constitutes Karma. Then continuing to speak on the same subject of Karma, Lord spelt out the threefold impulse that propels activity (Karma Chodana) and also the threefold basis of action (Karma Sangraha). The impulse to action is made up of Jnanam (knowledge), Jeyam (known) and Parijnata (knower). The basis of action consists of the Karanam (instrument), Karma (action) and Karta (doer). Of these six factors, Lord takes up for guna-wise analysis Jnanam, Karma and Kartha along with three other incidental subjects Buddhi (intellect), Dhrithi (Will-power) and Sukham (happiness). As per Swami Paramarthananda, if these six topics are understood properly the entire Gita teaching is understood. Before we take up the classifications of these six subjects, Jnanam, Karma, Kartha, Buddhi, Dhrithi and Sukham, let us remember that Satvic quality contributes to spiritual growth, Rajasic quality results in spiritual stagnation though it may promote material growth and Tamasic quality leads to spiritual downfall. So our aim in spiritual path should be to cultivate Satvic variety, shunning Tamasic variety and to try and progress from Rajasic variety to Satvic one . Let us take up the subjects one by one starting from Jnanam.
Jnanam by which the one Supreme Being, Brahman, is seen as Athma in all beings is Satvic Jnanam. Satvic Jnanam recognizes that though the body, mind equipments are different in different living creatures, all of them are the expressions of one and the same Non-dual Truth, Brahman, which is the life-force in all of them and which is different from the body-mind complex. Electric gadgets may be different but they are all activated by one electricity. Similarly one principle of Consciousness as Athma lends sentiency to all living beings. So Satvic Jnanam is that by which one sees the one non-dual Athma in and through all the beings. In Rajasic Jnanam, one knows one’s Real Self is Athma and is different from the body but considers that different beings have different Athmas and so Athmas are many. So Rajasic Jnanam is that through which one considers Athmas as many and holds them distinct and different in every being. Tamasic Jnanam mistakes the body itself as one’s true Self, Athma. It is Deha Athmagya Jnanam.
Satvic Karma is that which is motivated by dharma, performed without raga-dvesha and spells good to the community and the world. These actions are just performed spontaneously with a feeling of fulfillment and joy. Rajasic Karma is one performed to satisfy one's desire in a spirit of arrogance, egoism and vanity and desirous of fruits of action. Such actions involve considerable effort and strain. Tamasic Karma is one that is undertaken without any regard for the consequences thereof, bringing disaster and sorrow to all including the performer. It arises out of one’s misconception about the goal of life. Whereas Satvic Karma is dharma-pradhana, Rajasic karma is raga pradhana and Tamasic Karma dwesha pradhana.
A Satvic Karta is one who has no attachment to the field in which he is acting, who is not egoistic, who is full of persistence and zeal unmindful of obstacles on the path, who is not perturbed by the results of his actions, be they success or failure. He is a performer of Satvic Karma. Rajasic Karta is one who yields to passions, desires and attachments, who eagerly seeks the fruits of his work, who is selfish, greedy and insatiable, whose acts may cause harm to others, who is not pure in his means and who is tossed between joys and sorrows of life. A Tamasic Karta is one who has no control over his own base mental impulses and instincts, who is arrogant, vulgar and obstinate in his own wrong conclusions, who is unsteady, despondent, deceitful, indolent, procrastinating and malicious.
Satvic intelligence is that which knows everything regarding dharma and adharma, right and wrong as well as the bondage and liberation comprehensively and correctly. This intelligence can readily discriminate between things that are to be done (Pravritti) and things that are to be avoided (Nivritti). Rajasic intelligence is something that has incomplete and doubtful understanding of dharma and adharma, as well as right and wrong. Swami Paramarthananda calls it “jack of all trades and master of none”. While nishchya Jnanam is Satvic Buddhi, samsaya Jnanam is Rajasic Buddhi. Tamasic Buddhi is that which understands dharma, adharma, etc., perversely. This understanding that values the wrong as the right due to ignorance, is no understanding at all; it can only be a misunderstanding, reversing the values.
Satvic willpower is continuing with one’s Satvic pursuits despite whatever obstacles in the way. It sustains the functions of all organs in the spiritual path unswervingly through yoga. The willpower with which one steadily controls one's mind and sense organs and their activities through single-pointed concentration upon a given goal is of the Satvic type. Rajasic willpower is that willpower by which a person continues with material pursuits whatever be the obstacle. The willpower with which one firmly pursues duty, pleasure and wealth, ever desirous of enjoying the fruits of his action is of Rajasic type. The will power that makes one persist with his dreams and imaginations, fear and agitation, grief and sorrow, depression and arrogance is of Tamasic type and such a person is called Durmedha, a fool. He does not achieve anything either spiritually or materially as Tamasic willpower is one which follows neither spiritual pursuit nor material pursuit.
The happiness which is born of Self-knowledge which looks though painful and arduous in the beginning, is enduring in the long run, in contrast with the fleeting joys of sensual satisfaction. Lord describes it as “like poison in the beginning and like nectar in the end”. For Self-knowledge brings about tranquillity in the intellect and from this tranquility of the intellect emerges Satvic happiness. Satvic happiness born out of spiritual growth, without depending upon external factors like money, status, people, possessions, lasts longer and yields greater sense of fulfillment. Rajasic happiness is the temporary happiness provided by the sense-objects. This is a conditional pleasure which can become a potential sorrow and when the conditions go away one feels pain to the extent he felt happiness. So Lord describes it as “which is at first like nectar and in the end like poison”. It also suffers from the anxiety about its diminution and ultimate loss. Tamasic pleasure is born out of sleep, not the physiological every day sleep but the non-apprehension of Reality and the incapacity to perceive the goal of life; indolence, the incapacity of the intellect to think correctly about the problems that it faces to arrive at a correct judgment, and heedlessness, ignoring the values of higher ideals. There is neither spiritual pursuit nor material pursuit because they both require dynamism, which it lacks.
Lord concludes His analysis of various topics with a general statement in verse 40:
There is no being on earth or again in heaven among the Devas that is liberated from the three qualities born of Prakrithi (nature). (18-40)
This verse emphasising the point that there is nothing in the creation which is free from these three guṇas concludes the guna-wise analysis of the six topics that Lord chose to discuss after talking about the constituents of Karma.