The Way of Self Knowledge
2. From where has this ignominy favored of the ignoble, unheavenly, and disreputable, entered you at such a troublesome time, O Arjuna?
3. Do not lapse into impotency, O Son of Pritha; it does not well behoove you. Abandon this littleness and weakness of the heart and rise, O Scorcher of Enemies.
Arjuna is in danger, and it is therefore necessary that he immediately assimilates all his scattered energy and overcomes his feelings of pity and despondency. All too often the call of one’s attachments dissipates the mind, and one forgets the sources of power and light that is hidden within. Sri Krishna makes Arjuna aware of the courage that is within him and encourages him to act on the basis of that courage. In the moments of weakness in life, the great ones always restore the courage of their beloved students with their graceful advice.
Three distinct ways of understanding and approaching life are allegorically described in the Bhagavad Gita. First, the Kauravas are dependent on external resources and the physical strength of their army. They represent the materially oriented perspective, as they are concerned with the external world and are not sensitive to the inner life. Second, Arjuna, a skillful warrior and a true seeker, loses his sense of direction when he forgets the deeper reality and identifies himself with the weak. Because of pity, Arjuna is crippled and unable to use his skills and inner strength. Arjuna is more sensitive and compassionate than the ignorant person who identifies with material existence, but his sensitivity cripples him and makes him ineffective. Third, at the most dangerous period of Arjuna’s life, Sri Krishna awakens him to still another level of consciousness, leading him to realize that which will dispel the darkness of his ignorance. In that mode of consciousness one is aware that the immortal Atman is the center of his being. After attaining that awareness, one becomes self-confident and fearless. Understanding these three levels of consciousness makes one aware that compared to inner strength, external strength ids of little value. If inner strength is lost or forgotten, one becomes weak, no matter how much external might he possesses.
Sri Krishna says to Arjuna “A warrior like you should not behave in a cowardly manner. Remember your noble Aryan heritage and perform your duty. The word ‘Arya’ in Sanskrit means ‘fully civilized’.
11. You are grieving about over whom one should not grieve, and yet you are speaking words of pretended wisdom. The wise do not grieve about those who are yet breathing nor about those who have ceased to breathe.
Aspirants can be divided into three categories. Students in these three categories have different qualities, and their strength are on different levels. The first kind of spirant is like an elephant that is very powerful but is unable to separate sugar from sand. Such an aspirant is unable to distinguish what is helpful from what is harmful to his growth, what is real from what illusory and binding.
Another type of student is like the ant that makes great efforts and is capable of separating sugar from sand but has no capacity to store what it has gained. Such am aspirant repeatedly slips back to the point from which he started. The third type of aspirant may be compared to the bee that is able to collect the sweetness from the flowers and transform it into honey. Such a student comprehends and assimilates the truths that are offered and continues to apply them in his daily life. Arjuna fits within the third category of students. He is open and ready to integrate the teachings of Brahma Vidya into his own life. Thus Sri Krishna begins to impart that perennial knowledge to Arjuna, and that knowledge leads him to understand that his grief and sorrow are based on his sense of false identify and strong attachment.
Sri Krishna, the teacher of Brahma Vidya, first makes Arjuna aware of the center of consciousness, Atman. He teaches Arjuna that if he constantly remains aware of that center, he will not go back to the grooves of his past habit patterns. Arjuna reasons as though he is a wise man, but in actuality he is mourning and deep in sorrow. Wise is he who has learned to discriminate truth from untruth and who is not disturbed by the past or by what he imagines will occur in the future. Such a man understands that past, present, and future are merely realities created by the human mind, which is frail and weak. A wise man has profound knowledge of all dimensions of life and is free from all conditionings of the mind. He understands the mystery of birth and death. A wise man is he who has attained the knowledge of Atman.
In this verse two words are important and informative: gatasu and agatasu. Gatasu means the dead and comes from two roots: gata (gone) and asu (breath). Agatasu means not dead, literally, “whose breath is not gone.” The living are those who are still breathing, and the dead are those whose two breaths, inhalation and exhalation, have abandoned the city of life. Death is just the casting off of one unit of the entire composite that makes up the human being, that part which is considered to be mortal. Death and birth are two strong habits of the body: they have nothing to do with annihilation. Death does not annihilate the essential; it merely brings about a charge of the coverings around it. Assuming a new covering is called birth, and casting off the old is called death. There is no death for the Atman because: (1) Atman is eternal; it is never born and never dies; it is a perennial source of knowledge; (2) Atman is self-existent and does not need the support of anything else, for Atman alone exists everywhere; and (3) Atman is formless: although it assumes and casts off forms, it remains unaffected.
The great teachers first make their students aware of two distinct realities. One is called the absolute Reality, and the other is called the apparent reality. They are like light and shadow. With the help of that discriminative knowledge, the student becomes fearless and determines to remove the barrier created by his limited knowledge.
Sri Krishna’s first advice to Arjuna is to develop clarity of mind and skill in dealing with the external world while at the same time understanding that the temporal and mundane world is merely the apparent reality.
Without comprehensive knowledge of both the absolute and apparent realities, the discriminative faculty is not able to function properly, and strong habit patterns create a network of entanglement that draws the consciousness to external awareness.
In the Indian system of psychology, the student is led beyond mental life. Mind in its totality should be understood, but it is more important to be aware of the source of knowledge, the center of consciousness, Atman. Knowledge of Brahma Vidya is essential for learning the psychology of the East. If one studies only the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind and analyzes only the waking, dreaming, and sleeping states, he will be unable to comprehend the perennial psychology of the Bhagavad Gita.
Ancient psychologists thoroughly studied both psychology and philosophy, which are separate subject but are essentially connected. The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, beginning with this verse and going through Verse 38, teaches Samkhya philosophy, the most ancient system of the seven schools of Indian philosophy. The word Samkhya means “that which explains the whole.” It is an analysis of all levels of life and the universe and is the very basis of yogic science. Yoga is a practical science and is supported by Samkhya philosophy Samkhya philosophy has given birth to the science of mathematics, the very basis of all science. Thus Samkhya philiosophy is the mother of all science, and yoga science is its practical side. They are one and the same, but one offers the formulas and conclusions, while the other is experiential and experimental.
14. The contacts between the elements, O Son of Kunti, are the causes of heat, cold, pleasure, and pain. Being non-eternal, these come and go; learn to withstand them, O Descendant of Bharata.
15. O Bull among Men, the person to whom these do not cause any suffering, the wise man who is alike to pain and pleasure, he alone is ready for the immortal state.
Sri Krishna makes Arjuna aware that which is experienced through the senses is transitory and that the cause of his sorrow and grief is his own deluded, unorganized, and disorderly mind. Teachers in the East always insist on the practice of discipline in order for the aspirant to learn to withdraw his senses and thereby to isolate the mind from the effects of perception. It is the objects of the world and the ways one accepts and conceives of them that create the feelings of joy and sorrow. Discipline is a gradual but steady way of self-training that makes the students aware of higher dimensions of life. Without discipline, the dissipated energy of the mind and the unruly behavior of the senses cannot be brought under control.
Many modern psychologists do not understand the importance of discipline. They equate discipline with punishment. Punishment, however, has the opposite effect of discipline: it produces mental strain that in turn creates physical tension. Discipline is self-applied, whereas punishment is imposed on one by others,
Modern students and teachers think that they can accomplish something of significance without practicing discipline, but that is not true. Modern students do not want to discipline themselves, and yet they search out that which is only attainable with discipline. Discipline should not be forced on the student but should be introduced to him. He should understand that discipline is the first prerequisite for organizing one’s internal states. Discipline is a leader that helps one verify, analyze, and know the subtler dimensions of life.
Telescopes have immense capacities in the external world to show us countless galaxies. But if one wishes to look inward to study his thoughts, feelings, and desires, the telescope is of no use. An instrument should be used for the purpose it was designed to accomplish. Self-discipline is an instrument for becoming aware of and mastering one’s internal states. The discipline that helps one gather the dissipated and scattered forces of mind should be accepted and practiced regularly. Otherwise the human mind deprives itself of the awareness of the higher dimensions of life.
18. Belonging to the immeasurable, imperishable, eternal owner of the body, these bodies are said to be perishable; therefore fight, O Descendant of Bharata.
Arjuna is a most powerful and skilled warrior, and he wants to know the highest duty, that which needs to be attended to first. “Shall I fight or not? Shall I continue performing my duties or follow the path of renunciation?” That is Arjuna’s conflict. Sri Krishna frees Arjuna from the bondage created by his ignorance, self-pity, despondency, and attachment. He makes Arjuna aware that it is his duty to fight, not to retreat to the forest dwellings, escaping from the reality of life. Even in the path of renunciation, one has moments of confusion about that which has the highest priority. In all conditions of life, whether one prefers to follow the path of action or renunciation, he should learn to understand his duties.
After studying this verse, the unwise and the wicked may conclude that the Bhagavad Gita justifies killing. Such a conclusion shows a lack of understanding of the depth of the teachings and the way in which they are applied. The situation of Arjuna is entirely different from that of a person who is controlled by violent emotions and thus wants to justify his act with help of the scriptures. Violence is not at all the subject matter of the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita does not say “kill anyone you dislike” but teaches that one should not be afraid to die while performing his duties.
When a doctor uses his surgical knife, he has no intention of killing. He just wants to remove the abscess that can disturb or destroy his patient’s whole frame of life. However, when a butcher kills a goat, he has a different intention: he wants to use the goat for his own-selfish ends. When a warrior fights to establish the good conduct of life and the highest virtues-justice, truth, and harmony, killing is of an entirely different nature. In that situation refusing to fight is an escape, a disease brought about by mental imbalance. And when mental balance is lost, the whole battle of life is lost.
29. One sees it as a wonder, another speaks of it as a wonder, yet another fears it as a wonder, and yet another hears of it as a wonder. But even someone hearing of it does not come to know it.
30. This body-bearer in everyone’s body is eternally undestroyable, O Descendant of Bharata. Therefore you should not grieve after any and all beings.
All beings exist in an invisible state and then come to a state of visibility. Changes occur only on the surface, for the self-existent glory remains unchanged: changing form does not affect the self-existent Reality. Atman, the Self of all, dwells in all that is perishable, yet It remains imperishable. Sri Krishna imparts this knowledge to Arjuna and makes him aware of the great marvel, Atman. Those who experience Atman completely lose awareness of the external and go into deep contemplation. All words are lost to them, for mere words are inadequate to describe the unfathomable glory of Atman.
The wise do not grieve for the visible or invisible, seen or unseen. Weapons have no power to destroy the Self. Therefore there is no cause for grief. As the Isha Upanishad states, “The unborn, free from change, decay, and decomposition, Lord of the body, eternal Purusha is not capable of being killed. It is smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest.” The Katha Upanishad describes it thus: “Many do not have the opportunity to hear about the Self and even after hearing, many are unable to know It. It is a rare opportunity for a teacher to expound that knowledge to one who is fully prepared, for among thousands of aspirants rarely one strives for perfection.”
Imparting the knowledge of Brahma Vidya is the most difficult of all tasks for the following reasons: (1) Students cannot organize their internal states due to lack of discipline, and thus their mental energy remains dissipated; (2) The desire to know Truth is only one of many desires of the human mind, and without a single and one pointed desire, one is not able to direct the course of his life; (3) The modern way of life distracts one with many preoccupations and involvements; (4) One does not find a suitable and quiet environment for sadhana; (5) The aspirant is easily swayed by a variety of philosophical statements and concepts, and so due to lack of experience, he changes his way of sadhana; (6) For lack of true and selfless guidance from a competent teacher, the student does not make the decision that sadhana is his prime duty and that all other duties that he has to fulfill are only means to attain the goal of sadhana. The goal of sadhana should be understood comprehensively both in theory and practice before one treads the path. There are many opportunities to become lost in the inner jungle of thoughts, feelings, and desires; (7) The further the aspirant advances in his experience of the inner levels of lie, the greater are the obstacles he finds. One therefore needs considerable patience.
Unless one follows discipline in all levels of life, regulating the four primitive urges-food, sleep, sex and self-preservation-sadhana is impossible. And without sadhana there is no experience of the Self. Five or ten minutes of practice may give one a bit of solace, but sadhana that is not motivated toward the attainment of constant consciousness does not lead to experiential knowledge.
For lack of direct experience, one knows yet does not know. The Upanishads say, “One who believes that Atman can be comprehended through the knowledge of the mind is ignorant.”
Many aspirants acquire superficial knowledge from reading books or listening to scholars and then contend that they have acquired profound knowledge, but they are merely feeding their egos. Thus they create additional barriers instead of removing those that already exist. The ego maintains a fortress all the time. It loses consciousness of the Self and forgets that it is a representative of the Self. That is the prime source of delusion.
One should not merely acquire intellectual knowledge but should practices self-discipline, which is an essential requisite and not a source of stress and strain. It is impossible to perform one’s own duty successfully without being disciplined. It is important to note here that modern teachers and leaders are not disciplined themselves but nonetheless try to discipline others. Thus they are not successful. One must first discipline himself before he can teach others self-discipline.
33. And, if you will not do this righteous battle, then abandoning your duty as well as glory, you will be incurring sin.
Sri Krishna tells Arjuna that if he caste off his duties, he will incur sin. Although this word is used by orthodox religions all over the world, it has baffled the theologians of all great traditions. The fear of sin is so deeply ingrained that even after long austerities, penance, and confessions, one still has guilt feelings. The belief in sin creates guilt, and guilt creates fear of punishment.
Yoga science understands sin in a different light. It says that which is called sin is actually a behavior that creates obstacles for oneself, and that behavior can be modified. For example, if I fail to act lovingly I am not committing a sin that will be punished by an external agent, but I am erecting a barrier to my realization of my unity with all. That in itself is its own punishment, and by changing that behavior my suffering is dissolved. One should, therefore, make sincere efforts rather than focusing on punishment and becoming afraid. According to yoga science, sin arises from ignorance, which is the mother of all problems. One commits sins or creates obstacles because of his negative habits. When one knows that a particular act will bring disastrous results yet dismisses that truth, he is doing something out of habit that he should not do. Knowledge means one knows and knows that he knows, and he performs his duties in accordance with that knowledge and then does not create obstacles for himself. Sri Krishna tells Arjuna that if he does not perform his duty he will create obstacles that will prevent him from fulfilling the purpose of his life.
34. People will be telling inglorious things of you forever, and such ill repute of someone once honored is worse than even death.
35. The great commanders of chariots will believe you to have withdrawn from the battle out of fear. Having been mush thought of, you will be belittled in their eyes.
36. Those who wise you ill will speak much evil of you, despising your capacity. What can be more painful than that?
37. Either, having been killed, you will attain heaven, or having won, you will enjoy the earth. Therefore rise, O son of Kunti making the decision to do battle.
The word Kshatriya means one who fights for justice and truth and protects others from injury. Sri Krishna’s instructions and guidance strengthen Arjuna’s inner awareness, lead him to perform his duty, and provide a great lesson for those who have lost their direction because of the fear of killing or being killed.
Pain and pleasure are two opposites that we experience in daily life, but they are relative terms. When one sees the horizon through the window, it appears very limited, but when one goes to the roof, he finds a vast horizon around him. In the same way, when one learns to expand his vision, the meaning of pain and pleasure also changes. Pain and pleasure are two concepts created by our mind and senses when they contact the objects of the world. But when the sense of discrimination is applied, they vanish because one’s values change. Pain and pleasure change their values when one attains a higher dimension of life. One feels pain and pleasure according to his inner strength, endurance, tolerance, and purpose in life. One’s experience of pain and pleasure is dependent on what is important to him. For example, a mother experiences pain when she gives birth to a baby, but she goes through that pain because she wants to accomplish something higher.
Pain and pleasure have the same source. In the absence of one, the other appears. For example, if one loses his pen he feels emotional pain, but finding it gives a pleasant feeling. That which creates pain today can be a source of joy in the future.
Sri Krishna explains to Arjuna that he should transcend both pleasure and pain and attain a state of equilibrium. He urges Arjuna to let go of the pain he is experiencing because of his narrow-mindedness. Pleasure and pain, victory and defeat, gain and loss should be regarded with detachment and equanimity. Sri Krishna tells Arjuna to stand and fight with an inner peace based on that understanding.
In the modern world people become confused about what is right, and they are uncertain about which duties should be given the highest priority. The important is always important; therefore it should be attended to first even though it may seem to be painful. In performing one’s duty one should learn to go beyond his identification with pleasure and path, loss and gain, and all the pairs of opposites.
39. This wisdom I have told you according to the philosophy of Samkhya; now hear it according to Yoga, the wisdom joined with which, O Son of Pritha, you will abandon the bondage of karma.
40. There is no loss of initiative on his path nor is there any possibility of failure. Even a little of this discipline protects one from great danger and fear.
Sri Krishna has taught Arjuna the philosophy of Samkhya, which helps one to know that which is the Self and to distinguish It from the non-Self. Now he begins his teaching of yoga science. Samkhya philosophy teaches that the Self of all is eternal and immortal and that the world of objects is transitory and changeable. Samkhya is a philosophy, whereas yoga is the profound science of sadhana that applies that philosophy. Samkhya and yoga go hand in hand; without sadhana, philosophy remains mere speculation, and without philosophy, sadhana remains without a goal. When Samkhya and yoga are combined, one experiences the philosophical truths directly; they are no longer mere intellectual concepts. By practicing yoga one can apply the philosophical truths of Samkhya in his daily life.
The path of yoga teaches those disciplines of sadhana that help the aspirant in self-unfoldment. Yoga in action means well-disciplined and skillful action done in a non-attached way, without any expectation of the fruits of one’s actions. Sri Krishna, the exemplary teacher of yoga science, explains how to develop equanimity and perform actions skillfully. In the Isha Upanishad the Vedic sages advocate the same way of performing actions: “Find delight by renouncing the fruits of your actions. Do not covet. If you wish to live a long life, learn to perform your actions without attachment.”
While following the path of dharma and truth, one can temporarily become confused and commit a mistake, but the quest for dharma and truth will in itself lead him back to right understanding. He will once more perform his duties according to his dharma. Following his dharma helps one to be one-pointed in his thoughts and actions, whereas dissipated and endless are the thoughts and actions of the irresolute. Furthermore the conscious effort one makes to follow his dharma has an enduring effect. It is motivation that is important here. Having a pure motive, one will perform his duty well.
In the path of sadhana no efforts is in vain; all sincere efforts bear their fruits in the unconscious mind according to the inevitable law of karma. Impressions live in the unconscious, in the storehouse of one’s memory. Even a little sadhana practiced with sincere effort leaves deep imprints in the unconscious mind. Those impressions help and guide the sadhaka whenever he goes off the path. The conscious part of the mind is but a small part of the whole. It is helpful in communicating with the external world but has very little use on the inward journey. If the conscious part of the mind is trained not to create further barriers, then sadhana is useful.
Yoga sadhana alone has explored all the unknown levels of life and is thus useful for knowing the levels of the unconscious and for training the totality of the mind. Although modern psychology has come a long way in the last one hundred years in its recognition and exploration of a few of the layers of the unconscious mind, there is no training program in any of the educational and therapeutic systems of the world that can help one know the unconscious to the extent that yoga science can. If one does not know himself on all dimensions, how can he understand his relationship in the external world? Sadhana alone is the way of knowing, understanding, and analyzing the internal states and one’s relationship to the external world.
While treading the path of the inner world, the sadhaka comes in touch with those potentialities that guide him unconsciously, or sometimes through dreams, and at other times consciously. Fearlessness thus increases, and self-reliance is strengthened. He is fully protected by the finer forces that exist, although he is not aware of them because of his extroverted nature. No danger can ever befall the sincere sadhaka in his exploration of the inner realms. The sadhaka is completely protected if he is fully dedicated to the goal of Self-realization.
41. O Prince of the Kurus, there is only one determinative wisdom, and the intellects of those who do not have such decisive wisdom are unending, with many branches.
Merely knowing what to do without one-pointed ness of mind will not lead one to perform his duty accurately. Therefore the desired results will not be attained. Just as profound knowledge of what to do is essential, so having a one-pointed mind is equally essential. The modern student tends to know intellectually but does not make sincere efforts to develop one-pointed ness of mind. Thus his mind remains scattered and all his actions result in disappointment. For lack of a one-pointed mind, the modern student jumps from one path to another because he does not understand that it is his scattered mind that is creating barriers for him. He thinks the barriers are outside. Assuming that another path or goal will be better is trickery played by the mind. One already knows what is right, but he does not know how to put it into practice. In childhood the fundamentals of all great truths are taught to us. Then we spend energy in trying to apply those truths, but we fail. We do not realize that with systematic practice we can succeed. The key point of practice as well as of success lies in one-pointed ness of mind.
Attention is the first step on the ladder to develop one-pointed ness of mind. One must pay wholehearted attention to all of the things he does from morning until evening. The aspirant should also understand why he is acting in a particular way. Actions should not be performed as a reaction without understanding why one does them. The human mind is prone to be reactionary if it is not trained, and an untrained mind creates disorder, disease, and confusion. If one does something with full attention, he will increase his awareness and ability to perform his duty. If one forms the habit of attending fully to whatever he is doing, the mind will become trained, and eventually concentration will becomes effortless. It is a great quality for one to be able to express his knowledge through his speech and action with a one-pointed mind. Thousands of thoughts remain waiting to be entertained. The purpose of sadhana is to attend to those thoughts in a systematic manner so that they do not create unrest in the inner world. Arjuna is instructed to make his mind one-pointed before performing his duty.
48. Perform actions dwelling in yoga, abandoning attachment, O Conquerer of Wealth, being alike to success and failure. Equanimity is called yoga.
According to Patanjali, the codifier of yoga science, the practical methods that are applied to attain perfect control of the mind and its modifications are called yoga. The yogi who has control of the mind and its modifications maintains balance of mind and inner composure in all situations and under all conditions. Those who do not have control of their minds are lost, for they remain enslaved by the external environment and their reactions to it.
Modern man does not yet understand the importance and necessity of controlling the mind. He thinks that it is impossible to understand anything that cannot be seen with the eyes and touched by the fingers. It has already been said that such an attitude is the cause of much human misery and the source of innumerable psychosomatic diseases. If modern man learns to do some practices that will enable him to understand his internal states and to organize them in an orderly way, he will free himself from a great deal of misery and suffering. He will be able to eliminate mental and emotional turmoil as well as psychosomatic illnesses. One often hears complaints from so-called rich and well-off people that life is burdensome. The rich man says, “We have all the comforts and amenities of life but not peace of mind. “Unless one understands life within as well as without and learns to create a bridge between these two aspects of life, he will never find peace of mind no matter how much wealth he possesses. Why do we not learn to spend some time doing practices that will help us analyze and control our thoughts, emotions, desires, and appetites?
Those who live in the contemporary world often say that they are not happy in their present situations, yet they feel compelled to live under the circumstances in which they find themselves. But what are those circumstances, and who created them? If one analyzes his circumstances, he will find that they are actually self-created. The predicaments one experiences are a result of his disorderly mind, which does not know how to adjust itself to the various relationships that he has created for himself. Verily, all miseries are self-created. One should not blame God for one’s own in competencies. But modern man feels delight in blaming others for his own failures. That is merely an escape and only provides temporary relief through an emotional outburst. Such escape does not work for a long time, for the reality within eventually compels one to face the facts of life. Throughout the East and West, individuals and groups suffering from this self-delusion blame others or God for the situations they themselves create. People have to perform their duties, and yet they do not like to perform them. That creates serious conflict and is one of the chief causes of modern illnesses.
When one experiences repeated conflict between his duties and his desires, various forms of neurotic disorders and psychosomatic disturbances result. One who performs his duties grudgingly experiences no happiness in life. Or one may run away from his duties and lead an undisciplined life of self-interest. Many people remain torn by conflict or plagued by guilt because they have avoided their duties. Then they experience anxiety, or the anxiety is expressed in physical symptoms.
Modern psychologists are making futile efforts to probe into the heart of these disorders, and they have not as yet found adequate methods to resolve them. Their results are often long in coming and incomplete. The Bhagavad Gita, however, offers a profound method for removing all such disorders by leading one to a state of inner composure from which he can perform actions skillfully and without negative repercussions for himself or others. To attain this way of being, one must transform himself through sadhana. Harmonious action in the world will follow later. Without sadhana, peaceful living is not possible.
In order to achieve successful outcomes from the actions he performs, one must have a well-balanced mind. When the aspirant understands the importance of equanimity of mind, he pays attention to his inner organization and becomes aware of those finer forces that normally remain in a dormant state. Anything that is within is easily accessible if one follows a definite path of sadhana. Regardless of which path one follows, if he follows it resolutely and steadily, he will attain a balanced state of mind and thus will not commit errors when performing his duties.
When one learns to enjoy the beauty and grandeur of non-attachment, he acquires the ability to love his duties and comes to experience the offering of the fruits of his actions as the highest of all joys. Non-attachment becomes a great delight and the love of his life. Love and non-attachment are synonymous.
49. Action is by lower than the yoga of wisdom, O Arjuna. Seek to take refuge in wisdom. Those whose actions are causes of fruits are petty minded.
50. One endowed with wisdom relinquishes here both the god deeds as well as the bad ones. Therefore be directed toward yoga; yoga is skillfulness in actions.
51. The wise men endowed with wisdom indeed give up the fruit that arises from action; liberated from the bondage of birth and its attendant cycles, they reach the state of wellness and holiness.
A selfless person is concerned with the needs of others; his focus is on giving rather than on receiving. The family institution helps one to understand the philosophy of giving. When a man learns to give to his wife, children, and other family members, he is taking the first step in learning to give. He can expand that an awareness to his neighbor, nation, the whole of humanity, and to all creatures of the world. Learning to love others is one side of a coin; the other side is life itself. Without love, life is impossible, and without life, love is impossible. Love and life are two sides of the same whole; they are inseparable-nay, they are one and the same!
In modern life instead of learning to give, everyone in the family expects to receive without giving. Whereas giving is an expression of selflessness, expectation is an expression of selfishness. A selfish husband and father uses his wife and children to satisfy his ego. He does not know the law of giving. When this way of being is typical, the family institution radiates hatred instead of radiating love, and chaos is created in society.
The Upanishads say, “Enjoy through renunciation, for that is the way of salvation.” But the question arises: How is it possible for one to live in the world and to discharge his duties without becoming attached to the objects of the world? The Bhagavad Gita explains that this can be accomplished by developing the understanding that all things of the world, animate and inanimate are not ours. We have the right to use and enjoy them but not the right to possess them. This teaching is like a ray of light that tears the veil of false identity and possessiveness, which always creates misery. One should have an exact, profound, and comprehensive attitude toward life. He should understand the law of action and reaction and the importance of giving up possessions. Otherwise the joy of giving and loving is changed into sorrow and misery. But instead of understanding this fact, modern man becomes overwhelmed by the sense of ownership. And when one possesses something that does not really belong to him, he lives as a thief and not as a free man.
Intellectuals raise the question: If man does not desire the fruits of action, will he be motivated to act? In response to this question, the sages who have trodden the path and graciously left their foot prints for us to follow have said again and again, “Have a desire so that you perform the action, but do not have a selfish desire, for selfish desire is the very source of misery, but selfish desire brings joy and makes you free.” When surrendering the fruits of actions becomes the basis of one’s life, he knows nothing but giving. And at that stage further knowledge is not needed, for one has already attained the goal of life. He realizes his oneness with all and lives in that realization. Therefore, give up all the fruits of your actions to others and live in perennial happiness.
52. When your intellect overcomes and crosses the confused mass of delusion, then you will reach the state of dispassion concerning all that you have and learned and all that you have yet to hear and learn.
53. When your intellect, previously confused by the variety of teachings, remains firm and unmoving in samadhi, then you will attain yoga.
According to Eastern psychology, the ego or sense of I-ness is like a rock without buddhi; it is dumb and deaf. But Western psychologists attribute all the qualities of buddhi to the ego because they do not have the comprehensive knowledge of the various faculties of mind. Their way of analysis involves knowing through the intellect, logic, and external observation, whereas the perennial psychology of the East has differentiated various functions of the mind with the help of discipline and the introspective method of inner sadhana. This method is based on direct inward knowledge, whereas the methods of modern psychologists rely on the collection of data from external observation. Western psychologists have begun to realize that the study of the waking state alone is not sufficient, and they are now probing into one level of the unconscious, the dream state. But there are other subtle dimensions of life are parts of the unconscious that are not explored by modern psychology. Modern psychologists do not understand that which is beyond observation and the analysis of thoughts and emotions.
According to Eastern psychology, there are subtle dimensions of life still to be explored by the West. Suppose a mosquito bites someone who is in deep sleep. His fingers reach for the bite, yet he is not aware of it. What is that level of life that remains awake recording such occurrences even during the sleeping state? The perennial psychology, it is not the mind that goes through the waking, dreaming, and sleeping states. The mind shares the experiences, but it is actually the individual self (jiva), which is quite different from the ego, that experiences the waking, dreaming, and sleeping states. The individual self-presents a personality of its own, for it uses a particular vehicle called the unconscious, which is the reservoir of all the past impressions of mind, action, and speech. As long as the self uses the unconscious as a vehicle, it is called jiva, but the moment the Self renounces the vehicle, it is called pure consciousness.
As long as the intellect is clouded, one remains selfish, and as long as he remains selfish, the mind is impure. One then depends on others and loses self-reliance. He collects pleasurable objects and remains deluded and allured by the temptations of the external world. His troubles increase day by day, and sunk in immense sorrow, he struggles for peace. In the course of seeking truth, he may, meet a sadhaka or spiritual guide. Then alone he can think of coming out of the mire of delusion created by his selfishness. He begins to cast off his infatuations and to seek practical methods of ridding himself of the impurities of the mind and intellect.
54. What is the description of a person of steady insight who remains in samadhi, O Krishna? How does a person of stable wisdom speak forth? How does he sit? How does he walk?
Arjuna asks his teacher ‘how can one know that a person has attained an equitable state of perfection?
Arjuna’s question carried great meaning and is equally valuable to modern man. He wants to know the definite signs and symptoms that denote that one has attained a state of equanimity. Since all human beings express themselves through speech and actions in as much the same manner, how does the behavior of the great man differ from that of the ordinary one? How does the man express his thoughts, emotions and desires? The ancients developed a behavioral psychology of considerable breadth. They not only studied the motivation of one’s behavior but also the behavioral signs and symptoms of various internal states and the means for modifying such behavior. In order to analyze human behavior, one must probe deep into the deeper level from whence all emotions spring.
The signs and symptoms of one who has inner balance and poise- the way one speaks, acts and sits-are different from human beings who have not disciplined themselves and have not attained the state of equanimity. Having a tranquil mind, the man of equanimity sits in calm, still posture. He walks with full confidence, without any fear or uncertainty. He speaks with clarity of mind in a straightforward way.
The Bhagavad Gita, and this verse in particular, are closely related to the Mandukya Upanishad, one of the best and perhaps the most thought provoking books in the library of man today. The Mandukya Upanishad thoroughly explains the three states of mind: walking, dreaming and sleeping. The explanation of these states has been expanded in the Mandukya karika (commentary) by Gauapada, the great grandmaster of Sankara. The man who has attained equanimity can survey each of these three states of human experience at once, while at the same time maintaining his position on the state beyond, called Turiya. Deep sleep is very close to the state of turiya, but in deep sleep one is not aware, while in turiya unbroken unconsciousness exists. The purpose of the teachings of the Gita is to lead Arjuna and all the Arjunas of the world to the state of turiya. That state is the highest that can every be experienced. One who experiences turiya is called a man of equanimity.
The waking state is experienced by a very small part of the mind and is no way capable of comprehending the meaning of the whole. Our modern methods of education and training are imperfect because they focus only on that small aspect of the totality of our internal organization. Here lies the tragedy and bankruptcy of the modern way of life and education, that which is the cause of misery in the world today. Why haven’t we devised inner methods and made them available for all so that everyone has access to all states of one’s being? Such education was available in ancient times, but it has been largely forgotten today. Modern therapists and psychologists have started probing into the dreaming state, but their exploration is still in an infant sages and needs different methods. They do not have a practical training program to explore the many aspects of the unconscious mind. The Bhagavad Gita, however, offers the knowledge that can help the modern therapist to know the unknown dimensions of life.
62. As a person contemplates the objects of the sense, there arises in him attachment to them; from attachment arises desire; from desire anger is produced.
63. From anger comes delusion; from delusion, the confusion of memory and loss of mindfulness; from the disappearance of memory and mindfulness, the loss of the faculty of discrimination; by loss of the faculty of discrimination, one perishes
If one who constantly thinks of satisfying his desire for sensory gratification finds any hindrance or opposition to the fulfillment of his desires, he becomes frustrated. That frustration leads to anger toward that which is frustrating him. Unfulfilled desire or dissatisfaction is thus the cause of anger. When one becomes angry he forgets to use discrimination, and his memory wavers. That leads to the loss of reason, and one’s mind becomes completely imbalanced.
The downfall of a human being begins when he becomes preoccupied with the objects of sensory gratification and the enjoyment of those objects. Such a deluded person goes on collecting the objects of sense enjoyment. He becomes dependent on those objects, and gratification becomes the goal of his life, but his pursuit of pleasure creates self-degradation. Such a person is called a hedonist. When for some reason the objects of reason the objects of sense gratification are absent or not available, he becomes frustrated and angry.
If two such people seek the same pleasure and desire the same object, they become enemies. For example, two great friends might kill each other if they are strongly attracted to and fall in love with the same woman. But two friends who are on the path of Self-realization and share the same goal become even closer, because love for sensual objects is quite different from love for Self-enlightenment. The first leads to selfishness and the latter to selflessness. A selfish person is never able to conceive of the idea of selflessness, which is the singular expression of universal love. When we study the lives and saying of great people, we find in them the quality of selflessness, no matter what their religious or cultural background might be. Ahimsa (non-injury) and selflessness are common characteristics of these great people, whereas selfishness and violence are the symptoms of those who do not remember the Self, who are preoccupied with and engrossed is sense gratification.
70. As waters enter the ocean, which is totally full yet whose basin and boundaries remain stable, he in whom all the desires enter similarly attains peace, and not one who desires the desires.
71. The person who wanders free of attachment, having abandoned all desire, devoid of ego and of the concept of ‘mine.’ He attains peace.
72. This is the godly state, O Son of Pritha; attaining this, one is no longer confused. Remaining in it even at the final hour, one finds absorption into Brahman.
The aspirant who has attained calmness and serenity is like the infinite sky in which storms, winds, and lightning may rage but which have no power to disturb the serenity of the infinite. Similarly the storms of desires and emotions pass through the mind but are not at all able to disturb the tranquility of the realized yogi. Ironically enough. One who leads a pleasure-oriented life is usually miserable, whereas the yogi who has perfect self-control and has attained a state of calmness knows the joyous art of living and being, which enables him to walk on this earth without being affected by the so-called charms and temptations of the world. Sri Krishna teaches Arjuna that this is the state of mind of one who has realized the Self. Such a Self-realized human being is not subject to delusion, dejection, or despondency. Even at the crucial hour he remains undisturbed, for he identifies himself with his essential nature, Brahman, instead of identifying himself with the ego and the objects of the world. The man who is free from egocentric I-ness and my-ness performs his duties skillfully and joyfully.
Such an enlightened one develops an entirely different attitude toward life, relationships, and objects. He does not identify with the objects of the world and therefore lives in the midst of so-called possessions while maintaining his aloofness. The ordinary man, however, is in the habit of identifying himself with the objects of the world; he clings to his possessions and develops an attachment for them. He is not certain that he will attain what he desires and always remains afraid that he might lose what he possesses. The fear of not gaining what he wants and the fear of losing what he possesses makes him miserable.
But the yogi who has attained the state of equanimity, tranquility, and equilibrium knows that the objects of the world should be used only as means, without a sense of attachment. They should not be allowed to dissipate the mind. What is there to possess? Great ones are great because they develop will power so that sense gratification and the sense of possessing things completely lose their value. This attitude comes after complete self-transformation. One then lives in the world discharging his normal duties without being affected.
Such a man is always aware of the truth that he has come to his world as a traveler on a longer voyage. He is always like a guest in this world. Such a traveling guest does not carry a burden on his back because the traveling would then become a painful experience. He always remembers that life is like a crowed bazaar, and he devises a method of traveling through that bazaar without being hurt or hurting others. As a guest lives in someone’s home without disturbing the members of the family, the traveler thinks, “I am a guest here for a brief stay. Nothing belongs to me.