This is an e-book convertible download.
Return to Vahini.org / Bababooks.org
SAI BABA GITA
The Way to Self-Realization
and Liberation in this Age
Compiled and edited by Al Drucker
Published by Atma Press
Part One: Path of Devotion
Part Two: Path of Wisdom
Part Three: Path of Action
Part Two - Path of Wisdom
XV. Give up Self-Delusion - Know your Real Self
Krishna admonished Arjuna, "Give up this faint-heartedness! Pluck up your courage and fight! This weakness of heart that has overtaken you is not becoming of a great hero!"
Embodiments of Love,
What was responsible for Arjuna's despondency? It was ignorance. Because of ignorance he developed body-consciousness, and because of body-consciousness he became confused and weak-minded; he lost all his resolve and courage and was unable to accomplish anything.
Infatuation and Attachment lead to Sorrow
Krishna told Arjuna, "As long as you are weak-minded, even the smallest task will not get done. You will be haunted by sorrow. Do you know what causes this sorrow? It is your attachment. You are infatuated with a sense of my people, my kinsmen, my friends. This possessive attitude stems from ignorance. Attachment and infatuation will always make you faint hearted and plunge you into grief. These are the real enemies you must battle and conquer.
"As long as you are swayed by this possessive attitude, thinking only of your self, your family, your people, your things, you can be certain that sooner or later you will be cast into sorrow. You must shift your focus away from your little self and its concerns for me and mine. Align yourself with the will of the divine. Travel from selfishness to selflessness, from bondage to liberation."
More than ever, this teaching is applicable today. For example, think of the time when the school photographer came to take pictures of all the students in your class. When the photos came back from the lab, more than likely you were interested in finding your own photo; you were not as interested in the others' photos. Or consider when your father came home from a long trip, and brought with him presents for every child in the family. You were probably most eager to find out what he had brought for you. These are examples of a widespread selfishness which is prevalent everywhere. But, you should leave this kind of narrowness behind and become broad-minded and selfless. Then you will be a fit instrument in the hands of the divinity and contribute to the welfare of the whole world.
Infatuation will Destroy your Courage and Will
Before the great war referred to in the Gita, Arjuna had participated in a number of battles, but never before had he been overcome by despondency and attachment. Now, the same Arjuna was overwhelmed with grief when he realized that the opponents he had to fight were his own grandfather, his kinsmen and his teacher. This possessive feeling made him feel dejected. He became a victim of infatuation; the feeling of my-ness had crept in. As this attitude grew, its consequence, which is sorrow, also grew along with it. Previously, when Krishna went on his peace mission to the opposing side, Arjuna discouraged it. He urged immediate war. He tried to convince Krishna that the mission would fail, that talk would prove futile and only a victorious war could restore to them the kingdom which had been stolen from Arjuna and his brothers.
At that time, Arjuna told Krishna, "This struggle for right cannot be settled by peaceful means. Our enemies will never agree to the terms of your peace mission. Their hatred and greed is unappeasable. Why waste your time and efforts on them? Good and evil cannot coexist; they are incompatible; they will never join together. Your mission is bound to fail." Then, Arjuna was full of courage and determination because he was not seeing his grandfather, his teacher, his relatives and many of his friends facing him on the opposing side. Before this possessive vision emerged on the eve of the war, it seemed that Arjuna had a very broad vision. But now, standing in the middle of the battlefield, Arjuna's vision was beclouded. His eyes became dim. His heart was heavy and his mind confused. When he saw his close relatives and some of his friends arrayed on the other side ready to fight him, he felt dizzy. He said, "Krishna, I will not fight!"
Remember that Arjuna was about to fight a war to protect righteousness, a war for which he had been preparing for many years. He was already on the battlefield and the war was about to commence. Was that the time to look upon his opponents as relatives? When Krishna heard Arjuna's words he got very angry. He told Arjuna, "This is faint-heartedness. It doesn't become you! A fearless person like you, who has always walked proudly with his head held high like a true hero, now seems to be suffering from timidity. A person who suffers from such faint-heartedness cannot be my disciple. The war is about to start. The final preparations for war have been going on for the past three months, and now the battle plans have been set.
"If you had shown this kind of hesitation in the beginning I would surely not have taken on this task of driving your chariot. At this late stage you are hesitating, after you have convinced friends and relatives of the rightness of your cause and have persuaded them to join your side. Now with them all assembled here, you are laying down your weapons and giving up ignominiously. Is that the way for a hero to act? You are destroying the true spirit of your royal line, whose sworn duty is to protect honor and righteousness. If you continue in this way as a timid, faint-hearted weakling, the coming generation will laugh at your cowardice. You have taken the name of Arjuna but you are not living up to that name!"
Ignorance is the Cause of all Sorrow
What is the meaning of arjuna ? It means sacredness and purity. For such a noble person as Arjuna to lay down his arms and resolve not to fight a battle in which righteousness was at stake could only be due to ignorance. The Lord, being fully aware of the nature of this disease, resolved to eradicate it.
At the very beginning of the Gita, Krishna could have taught the principle of devotion and the commitment to duty and selfless action. But Krishna chose not to do so. In fact, he started speaking only after listening for a long time to Arjuna's weeping and lamentations. While Arjuna was carrying on, Krishna did not interfere at all. He patiently waited while Arjuna verbalized his confused state. Finally Krishna asked, "Arjuna, are you done? Have you vented all your feelings?" It was only at this point that Krishna started teaching.
Just as students become empty after writing their examinations, Arjuna also became empty after airing all his concerns. Then Krishna told him, "This awful defect of weak-mindedness has sprouted in you. I know how to deal with it. I will cure it! It is ignorance which is responsible for this infatuation. This ignorance is causing your weak-mindedness." Then Krishna started instructing Arjuna in the highest wisdom, the knowledge which distinguishes the true self from the false self, the eternal from the ephemeral, the sentient from the insentient.
When a person is overcome with anguish and is suffering from ignorance, what should be done to free him from his delusion? He is like a patient who is in great danger. The first thing the doctor must do is to see to it that the patient gets out of danger. After that the doctor can undertake longer-term treatments. Suppose the patient is in immediate danger of losing his life, then any treatments the patient is given will prove to be useless unless he is first brought out of the emergency. Once he is out of danger, then many therapeutic procedures can be undertaken. For example, if a person is drowning in a river, you must first bring him out of the water, lie him down on the bank, and give him artificial respiration. Then you can start your other treatments to bring up his circulation and get him over the shock. You certainly would not start those treatments while he is in the water, drowning.
The Cure for Ignorance
Krishna, therefore, gave Arjuna a strong injection of courage to save him from drowning in sorrow and dejection. His immediate first-aid treatment was to teach Arjuna how to discriminate between the true self and the personal self. He said, "Arjuna, as long as you are overcome with fear and anxiety, you will not be able to accomplish anything. Be courageous! Know that you are the atma, not this body; then you will be fearless. I can help you to achieve great things, but only if you base your actions on true knowledge and remain fearless." At this point Krishna was smiling, but Arjuna was weeping.
The one who is always smiling is the Lord. The one who is weeping is man. Krishna is the true self, Arjuna is the false self. One is the embodiment of wisdom and the other is filled with ignorance. Krishna said, "I would like to explain some things to you which are very important. Right now we are behaving in different ways. I am smiling while you are crying. But we could both be alike; either I could become like you or you could become like me. If I should become like you, then I would become weak-minded. But that is impossible! Weakness can never enter into me! On the other hand, if you were to become like me, then you would have to follow me and do as I say." At this Arjuna replied, "Swami, I will do exactly as you say. I will follow all your commands implicitly!" Having given Arjuna sufficient encouragement and strength of purpose, Krishna enabled Arjuna to recover his strong resolve. From that point on, Arjuna undertook to fight, following the directions given by the Lord.
Krishna started his wisdom teachings with some important truths relating to the body and mind. He said, "Arjuna, you think that these people are your relatives and friends. But, what is meant by a relative or a friend? Does it refer to the body or does it refer to the indweller? Bodies are just water bubbles; they come and go. These relatives and friends which you are so attached to now, have all existed before, in any number of births. But were they your relatives and friends then? No. You too have existed countless times before, and I as well. The body, the mind and the intellect are all just so much apparel. They are like the clothes you wear; you change them now and again. They are mere instruments. Why develop a close relationship with these things, getting infatuated with them and then having to suffer so much sorrow and grief?
"Do your duty! All the honor that is due to you as a prince will be bestowed on you. But on the battlefield there cannot be room for any feeling of weak-mindedness and feeble-heartedness. Fighting boldly to preserve righteousness and shrinking in weakness are completely incompatible with each other. To have this timidity on the battlefield is not becoming of a great hero. Your cause is just and you have come to fight. Therefore, fight!" With words such as these, Krishna cured Arjuna of his despondency and helped him to find his strength and courage. When Krishna finished his teaching on the battlefield, Arjuna regained his noble ideals and faced the upcoming fight with renewed valor.
The War between Selfishness and Selflessness
This particular field on which the war was about to be fought had historically been a sacred place, where sacrifices and other sacred and auspicious acts had been performed. At the same time, it was also the place where the dynasty that sprouted the hundred wicked brothers had engaged in its nefarious activities. Therefore, this field was both sacred and corrupted by evil. This field is symbolic of the human body.
When a body is born it is pure and unblemished; it is not a victim of any of the six enemies of man: desire, anger, greed, infatuation, pride and jealousy. A new-born baby is naturally joyful. Whoever may look at it, whether that person is a thief or a king, the baby is happy. It smiles and laughs at anyone who comes towards it, whether that person has come to kiss it or beat it. Since a small child is pure, its body can be described as the field of righteousness. As the body grows, it goes on collecting bad qualities, such as jealousy, hatred, attachment, greed, selfishness. As these evil traits accumulate, the body becomes impure. Therefore, the body can be considered both pure and impure. Good and bad are both encased in your heart.
The impure qualities are associated with my-ness, the possessive tendency. The inner significance of this battle between the forces of good and evil, with the five Pandava brothers and Krishna on one side, and the 100 wicked Kaurava brothers on the other side, is the inner war taking place in each individual, an all-out war between good and bad, between righteousness and immorality, between selflessness and selfishness.
The Kaurava brothers represent those people who consider things which do not belong to them as their own. They represent the possessive nature. They consider the body as their very self. If you observe people of the Kaurava mentality, that is, those having this possessive attitude, you will find that they all identify themselves with the body and the senses. The great war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas lasted only eighteen days, but the war between the forces of good and evil goes on throughout your life. It has no end. This battle is fought in the field of your own body. In this way, Krishna explained some of the deeper significance of the war to Arjuna.
Foresight and Compassion - Qualities found in a Pure Heart
You might wonder why the Gita was taught to Arjuna. Among the Pandavas, some of the other brothers, such as the oldest one, Dharmaraja, who was the very pillar of virtue, might be considered better qualified spiritually than Arjuna. Why was the sacred Gita not taught to Dharmaraja who was known for his outstanding moral strength? Or if you were to consider physical prowess, then Bhima, who was the most powerful among the brothers, would surely have qualified for the teachings. Krishna could have given the Gita to Bhima, but he did not. Why not? Why did he give it only to Arjuna? You have to understand the inner significance of this.
Dharmaraja was the embodiment of righteousness, but he did not have foresight. He did not think about the future consequences of his actions. Only after events had already occurred, did he think about their consequences and feel sorry for what he had done. He had hindsight but not foresight. If you take Bhima, he, of course, had great physical strength, but he did not have much intelligence. He was able to uproot a tree, but he was lacking in discrimination. Arjuna, on the other hand, had foresight. For example, Arjuna told Krishna, "I would rather be dead than fight against these people. It will mean so much suffering later on, even if we win the war."
In contrast to Arjuna's anguish about all the suffering that would be brought on by this war, Dharmaraja was quite ready to get on with the battle, although later he felt deeply depressed about all the killing when the war was over. Years earlier, Dharmaraja had been pulled in to a royal game of dice, in which he lost everything, including his wealth, his kingdom, and even his wife. Afterwards, he was filled with great anguish and remorse. Whenever a person without discrimination and foresight is called upon to make a decision while in the midst of difficult circumstances, he invariably regrets his actions later on. This was also the nature of King Dasaratha, who was the father of Rama, the divine incarnation 5000 years earlier. King Dasaratha lacked foresight and discrimination.
Early in his reign, Dasaratha had to fight a war to defend and preserve righteousness. In this war he took his young queen, Kaikeyi, with him. Kaikeyi had been a princess in a warrior kingdom and had been well schooled in the art of warfare. It was Kaikeyi, in fact, who taught Rama archery and some of the methods of waging war. When Dasaratha was fighting during the war, one of the wheels of his chariot started coming off. Kaikeyi used her finger to keep the wheel from separating itself from the axle. In so doing, she saved Dasaratha's life, as well as her own.
After having achieved victory, King Dasaratha noticed that her hand was bleeding profusely. Seeing her plight, he was so overwhelmed with infatuation and so pleased with her courage and sacrifice that he told her, "Kaikeyi, you can ask for two boons. Ask for anything that you wish, and I shall do all in my power to grant them to you!" He granted the boons in gratitude for her heroic act in saving their lives. But his infatuation with her blinded him to her weak-mindedness. He did not specify what kind of boons she should ask for nor when they should take effect. He blindly granted the promise of boons without thinking of any of the possible consequences.
Kaikeyi waited until the time when Dasaratha decided to hand over the kingdom to Rama. At that point, Kaikeyi asked for Rama to be banished to the forest, and for her son, Bharatha, to be put on the throne instead. Then Dasaratha felt desperately sorry for having granted the boons without any pre-conditions. But it was too late to retract them, and the resulting grief brought on his death.
We know that Krishna had a great deal of affection for Arjuna, but is that the reason he taught the Gita to Arjuna and not to one of the other brothers? No. Krishna looked at all the consequences, all the implications, and found Arjuna alone qualified to receive the Gita from him. Arjuna foresaw what was going to happen after the war, and therefore declared that he did not want to fight, because the consequences would be very bad. He was not feeling sorry after the war was over, but before. That attitude of feeling sorry before taking action, instead of afterwards, can only be found in a pure heart. Arjuna certainly had such a pure and sacred heart and that is why Krishna was so fond of him.
The Transformation from Kinsman or Friend to Disciple
In those days people lived much longer than they do today. At the time of the great war, Krishna and Arjuna were already quite advanced in years, by today's standards. For over 70 years, Krishna and Arjuna had been inseparably together. Although they were together for so many years, at no time during all those years did Krishna teach the Gita to Arjuna. Why was this so? During all those years Arjuna treated Krishna as his brother-in law and his close friend. Krishna did not teach the Gita to Arjuna as long as Arjuna was living with body-consciousness.
The moment Arjuna surrendered and accepted discipleship, then Krishna became his teacher and Arjuna became Krishna's student. Only after this act of surrender on the part of Arjuna did Krishna teach him the Gita. This means that if you really want to acquire spiritual knowledge from another, you have to relate to that person as disciple to spiritual teacher, before the transfer of knowledge can flow freely.
In the ancient scriptures there is a similar story of a great teacher. At that time there was no greater teacher than he. But he sent his own son to another teacher to attain spiritual knowledge. The father himself would not teach his son. He took this step because he knew that as long as the son considered him the father, the boy would not relate to him fully as the teacher, and therefore, the boy would not have been properly instructed in the highest wisdom. This was also the situation with Krishna and Arjuna. As long as the relationship of brother-in-law existed between them, Arjuna could not receive knowledge from Krishna. But once this feeling of brothers-in-law left his heart and the feeling of being in the presence of the supreme divinity entered Arjuna's heart, then Arjuna was able to learn from Krishna.
After Arjuna had surrendered completely and developed the feeling that Krishna was divine, he said to Krishna:
You are my mother,
You are my father,
You are my nearest kin,
You are my dearest friend,
You are my wisdom,
You are my treasure,
You are my everything,
You are my Lord, my loving Lord.
It was then that Krishna accepted him as a disciple. At that point Krishna said, "You do my work. Do everything for me and I shall take care of you." The most important thing that Krishna did was to free Arjuna from the feeling of body-consciousness. So long as body-consciousness persists, regardless of what path you follow, whether it is the path of selfless service or the path of devotion or the path of inner inquiry, you will not be able to practice the required disciplines that will lead you to the goal. Body-consciousness and the attachments resulting from it will constantly pollute your heart. Without emptying the heart of its dross, it is not possible to fill it up with sacred feelings. If a tumbler is full of water, how can you fill it with milk? You first have to empty the water. Krishna said, "Arjuna, you are full of body-consciousness. First you must completely rid yourself of this. Only then will I be able to fill your heart with sacred thoughts."
Be Courageous, Be Fearless, Be Discriminating
Krishna's teachings were aimed at freeing Arjuna of his infatuations, and the grief and sorrow which resulted from them. The two most important steps in this process are surrender and elimination of body-consciousness. Once Arjuna's body-consciousness was gone, Krishna was ready to reveal to Arjuna the highest spiritual teaching, that of self-knowledge. With that, Krishna awakened Arjuna out of his sleep of ignorance. He said, "There are a number of reasons for your sorrow but the most fundamental one is your ignorance. You have been unaware of your true nature and therefore you have become overwhelmed with grief. But now you have cried out for God. You have cried out for righteousness. You have cried out for me. When you cry for me, I will take care of you and give you everything you need."
You all cry for so many different things, but do you cry out for God? Do you shed tears when there is a decline of righteousness? When you do, the Lord will establish himself in your heart, teach you his highest wisdom, and make you an instrument in his mission. For this, you must have courage and inner strength. Krishna told Arjuna, "You should never have any kind of weak-heartedness. It is only after you remove such weakness from your heart that the divine power will enter and reside in your heart. If you do not have courage, even sheep will frighten you, not to speak of evil minded men. You must have the capacity to face all circumstances. If you run away in fear, even monkeys will attack you. But, if you have a stick and stand your ground, the monkeys will not come near you. Whatever the circumstance, face it squarely and do not show your back. Then will you be able to achieve what you set out to do."
The essence of this teaching is, "Be courageous! Be fearless!" Courage is the primary instrument for achieving any kind of success. You need to have more courage and more determination. But you should not have blind and foolish courage. Courage must be accompanied by discrimination; only then will success be assured.
XVI. Banish Ignorance and Sorrow will leave you Forever
To gain wisdom, you need to undertake the practice of inner inquiry. In this practice you dissociate yourself completely from your mind and your thoughts. It is identification with the mind and its impurities that causes bondage. In this connection, Krishna told Arjuna, "Timidity, grief, sorrow... all these weaknesses and fears that you are experiencing are associated with the mind. What is the reason for this sorry state you find yourself in? It is the impurities in your mind, Arjuna. You have identified yourself with this impure mind, and as a result you are suffering."
Embodiments of Love,
The first thing Krishna did when he started speaking was to diagnose Arjuna's malady. Arjuna was suffering from ignorance. He was ignorant of his own true nature and the true nature of everyone else. Because of this ignorance, Arjuna came under the spell of delusion and duality. He had fallen prey to the impurities in his mind. He felt the anxiety of separation. As a result he became despondent. He was overcome with grief and sorrow. The cure for this disease of ignorance is wisdom. Therefore, Krishna started his teachings by expounding on the path of wisdom.
Your true Nature is Eternal Joy
Life may be thought of as a flow, where different energies, feelings or states of being come together and then separate again. These are moments of transition, when a particular ephemeral quality changes to its opposite, or when a particular time period changes to another. For example, the junction between night and day, between sleep and waking or between health and illness are times of transition. The coming together of happiness and sorrow is also such a time. At the very moment of transition, you are neither happy nor sad. At that time when you transition from one feeling to another, your mind is in equipoise and you are not bound by either emotion. But you do not remain there for long. Soon you move into the opposite quality, you feel happiness or fall into sorrow, and you come under the sway of that feeling. Of course, you aspire only for happiness and not for sorrow, but to permanently achieve that you must transcend all these temporary feelings.
When you become aware of the transitions you realize that your unchanging truth is neither of the opposites which you cycle between in life. The path of wisdom reveals to you your essence which is eternal joy. Your true nature transcends all these temporary joys and sorrows. When you are identified with your eternal self, you are not be affected by the pairs of opposites. The path of wisdom teaches the way to eternal joy through the practice of detachment and discrimination. This practice must be based on unwavering love for the divinity, present everywhere.
The Body is the Outer Garment that you, as Pure Spirit, Wear
In the Gita, you will find reference to the master of the sense organs, and to the one who has acquired control over his sense organs. Krishna was the master of the senses and Arjuna had gained control over the senses. But at the beginning, Arjuna was steeped in body-consciousness and was not in control at all. Arjuna began worrying after he started thinking about the future consequences of the forthcoming battle with his relatives and friends. He was deeply concerned with what might happen following the destruction of these people. In other words, Arjuna was thinking only in terms of body-consciousness. The body can be thought of as a vessel or a container or apparel which the individual soul puts on. Just as it is natural to throw away a dirty or a worn-out article of clothing and wear a new one, in the same way, you also give up this body and put on a new one. Krishna showed that death was very much like getting rid of an old piece of cloth.
When ordinary people hear that the body can be thought of as a dress that you put on and take off, they get some doubts. After eighty or ninety years when old age has had its effect, one can easily accept that the body has become like a worn-out cloth. Then one would agree that these old clothes should be left behind. But if a person dies during youth or manhood before old age has set in, it would amount to leaving new clothes behind. Suppose a body of twenty years is left behind, how can it be called an old worn-out cloth? That is obviously a new cloth. Krishna answered this doubt with an example.
Suppose you had gone on a pilgrimage one year and while there you had purchased a piece of cloth. You brought the cloth home and kept it in a closet. Then after five or ten years, while putting some clothes in storage, you came across this piece of cloth and remembered that you had bought it many years earlier. You took this cloth to a tailor and got a shirt made. One day while wearing this shirt, you bent over to sit down and the back of the shirt tore. You thought it was a new shirt, but how quickly it had become torn! Why did it last only for such a short time? It tore because the piece of cloth was old; the shirt was new but the cloth came from old stock. Wearing a body and spending only a little bit of time in it may appear on the surface as if you are discarding a new body. But actually it is of old stock. It has come to you from many past births.
Here is another example that will help you to understand this. There are two individuals, a young person and an old one. The young man who is 18 years old has been striking a stone repeatedly, giving it twenty powerful blows with a hammer, but it does not break. He sits down to rest. Then an elderly person comes along and with only two strokes of the hammer breaks the stone. What is the reason for this surprising result, where the stone did not break after 20 strokes given by the strong, young person, but was quickly broken by a feeble individual of 80 years of age who gave it only two strokes? The mistake in thinking is to count only the two strokes given by the old man, believing that the stone had given way after the impact of those two strokes. But in truth, it gave way after 22 strokes. After the 20 strokes given by the young man it was given an additional 2 strokes by the elderly person; then it broke.
This Body is only One of Many you have Worn
Similarly, you may have done a number of spiritual practices and enjoyed a variety of spiritual experiences in a previous birth, after which you gave up your life. Now in this life, you resume your spiritual journey and even before you attain old age you may gain spiritual fulfillment. In thinking about this kind of thing you may be taking only the present life into account, considering only the efforts and consequences of the actions of this birth. But in the eyes of the Lord, all your past lives, all your past efforts and past consequences are considered. Krishna said, "Dear child, in the end, each body is destroyed by time. Know that you have existed in countless bodies and have gone through countless cycles of births and deaths for ages past, as far back as anyone can count."
The very meaning of the word for body in Sanskrit, is 'that which wears out'. It is born as a lump of flesh. During its growth it becomes a beautiful attractive body, but then ultimately it becomes old and loses its strength and attractiveness. The body is an inert, insentient thing. During a lifetime it undergoes a number of changes and then eventually gets worn out. But now you may have a doubt. How can the body be called inert and insentient? It is talking, it is walking, it is living, it sees, it hears, it feels, it experiences pain, it is full of activities. This living body cannot be called inert. But, once you wind the mechanism of a watch, it also starts working and moving. From that moment on, the hands of the watch will be going around and the bell will be chiming every hour. But that is not sufficient reason to say that the watch is alive. Because of the power it got when you wound it, this watch functions properly. In the same way, because of the life energy given by God, your body talks and performs various functions. Without the divine principle animating it the body cannot function, just as the watch cannot function without being wound.
But now another question arises. A watch is working but it does not change its form and size, whereas a body will be growing. How can you account for this? If it is merely an inert thing how can it grow? Inert things do not grow. But if you sweep the floor and collect the dust and put it in a dustbin, even that heap will grow. When you go on feeding this body with all sorts of food, this body also grows. As the food heaps up inside, the body grows. A heap of dust may grow but you cannot say that it has life. Similarly, just because you find your body growing you cannot infer that it is alive. The body itself is just an inert thing. But it is full of consciousness, because its very basis is divinity. Always remember that basis. It is this divine consciousness that supports and activates the living principle in all beings.
Ignorance is being Unaware of your True Nature
When Krishna called Arjuna ignorant did it mean that Arjuna had no education? No, it did not mean that at all. Arjuna had mastered a great number of skills; he was well trained in the martial arts, in the art of administration and many other professional skills. But in the field of spirituality he had no knowledge. Here he exhibited real ignorance. People use their capacities and faculties to specialize in one particular field and develop a proficiency in it. Some people use their faculties for mastering music, others write poetry, others develop skills in painting and sculpture. Among scientists, one person will achieve excellence in the area of physics, another in the area of chemistry, another in mathematics, still another in biology. In that way they may have made extraordinary contributions, each in his own particular area. But they do not know much about other areas of knowledge.
The only one who has complete mastery and proficiency in all areas is God. That is why he has been described as omniscient. One who is omniscient is also omnipotent and all-pervading. Only God has these three qualities, omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. Knowing the past, present and future, and knowing that Arjuna was ready, Krishna undertook to teach Arjuna the great spiritual truths. He told Arjuna, "Recognize the ephemeral nature of the body and never forget its unchanging basis. With that divine basis as your focus, discharge your duties. To begin with you must get rid of all your attachments. You are overwhelmed by attachment to the body. This attachment is very dangerous. It will destroy all your powers of discrimination." There is a small story to illustrate this.
The Danger of being Attached to the Body
Once upon a time Indra, the lord of the celestials, was cursed to be born as a pig on earth. Being born thus, he was spending all his time living a family life in dirty, muddy water. The sage Narada, while passing by and seeing this pig and its family, recognized Indra reduced to that lowly form. Narada, who loved Indra dearly, took great pity on him. Narada spoke to the pig, "Indra, look at what a state you have degenerated into. How did this happen? How could you, a great deity with unlimited power, the lord of all the heavenly regions, have come to this? But never mind, don't worry, I will get you out. I will use all my accumulated powers of penance to help you." He spoke to him very sympathetically, lamenting that one who should be enjoying all the luxuries of heaven had been put into such a miserable state. How very unfortunate Indra's life had become, Narada thought.
But, Indra, in the form of the pig, replied, "Narada, why are you coming in the way of my happiness? The joy that I am getting in this dirty water I will not be able to get anywhere else. The wonderful life that I am enjoying here with my wife and children in this mud hole I cannot even get in heaven. Why have you come here to meddle with my life and get in the way of my joy? Please go your way and leave me be." Indra, who was under the spell of the illusion of attachment, did not realize his pitiful condition. Narada had to summon Indra's own weapon, the celestial thunderbolt, to render that pig body asunder and free a much-relieved Indra from his prison of attachment and body-consciousness.
When you are under the spell of attachment; you will be completely deluded. This delusion is due to the irresistible power of maya, which veils your truth and keeps it hidden from you. If you want to destroy this power of illusion, you must develop your knowledge of the true self. Therefore, Krishna took it upon himself to start out his teachings by instructing Arjuna in self-knowledge. It is only after you have the direct experience of your eternal self, that you can truly do your work and discharge your duties properly. Without this knowledge you will not understand even the mundane daily activities relating to the world.
Listening to spiritual teachings can help you only to a small extent. When you are listening to the Gita you feel so happy and so full of joy. It all seems so simple. But this elation you experience is just a temporary phenomenon. When you undertake to put the teachings into practice many real problems and difficulties arise. But you must persist in your efforts. The teachings will do you little good unless you put them into practice. Whatever you have heard and whatever you have read you must enter into and completely make your own. Then you will gain something truly worthwhile.
You must Live the Teachings
A great sage, while on a pilgrimage, reached a village in the south of India. In the temple of this village a number of people had assembled. A learned teacher was expounding the teachings of the Gita. The teacher was reading the text, the disciples would repeat the verses and then the teacher would give the appropriate commentaries. One particular disciple was found sitting in a corner profusely shedding tears. All the other people were holding the Gita and were repeating the lines, listening to the teacher's words very attentively. Their facial expressions would constantly change as the text was being expounded. Sometimes they would be joyful, sometimes serious. But the disciple sitting in the corner was not having any experience like that. His facial expression did not change at all. He was only shedding tears.
The sage observed all this. He addressed the man and asked him, "Why are you crying? When the Gita is being expounded in such a joyous way, what is the reason for your sadness?" The man replied, "Master, I do not know who you are. I do not know Sanskrit. I cannot pronounce the verses. Since I do not know Sanskrit I do not want to repeat these verses in the wrong way because I may be committing a sin that way. Therefore, I was just picturing in my own heart Krishna giving this Gita to Arjuna there on the battlefield. Krishna was seated in the driver's seat, Arjuna was sitting behind him in the chariot. I was crying because I was imagining Krishna having to turn his head back for such a long time, trying to convince Arjuna of these great truths. Keeping his head turned like that must have given him a great deal of pain. If only Arjuna had been sitting in front and Krishna in the back, then it would not have caused so much trouble to the Lord. Thinking of that hurts me very much."
The sage recognized that here was a true devotee. The man was experiencing so much love for Krishna and had immersed himself so deeply in identifying with the Lord giving the Gita teachings to Arjuna, that he had become a part of Krishna, himself. The sage concluded that experiencing such feelings was far greater than merely listening to and repeating the Gita verses.
Even now, while the Gita is being expounded, some of you are writing everything down reverently in your notebooks while some of you are holding the Gita in your hands and following the verses, trying to learn them. But these are all just outer activities which will not evoke very deep feelings of devotion. If you want your heart to become completely saturated with the essence of the teachings, you must seek the inner experience. Do this by putting the verses into practice in your daily life. Even if you practice only one of them it will be more than enough. What is the use of taking down a hundred of them? If you fill your head with all the contents of the book, your head will be just another book. What counts is what you get imprinted on the book of your heart. Even if only one of these teachings is imprinted in your heart that will be all that is needed. Let your heart become saturated with love. That is enough. Instead of filling your head with scholarship and book knowledge it is far better to fill your heart with love.
Ignorance must be Completely Dispelled
Krishna said to Arjuna, "There is no meaning in your grieving and lamenting, basing all your feelings on these outer bodily attachments and relationships. Go inside; let your mind become introspective. Then you will be able to understand all the things that I am expounding. You are grieving for people for whom there is no need to grieve. You are making yourself miserable without reason. You should not suffer so. You are feeling all this sorrow because your heart is full of ignorance. Drive this ignorance completely out of your heart. It is only when there is not even the least vestige of ignorance left in your heart that you will be capable of understanding wisdom."
Ignorance is like fire. Suppose a fire is extinguished almost completely, except for just a few glowing embers. If a breeze comes up, sparks from these few coals may develop into a huge conflagration. Therefore, there should not even be a remnant of the fire left. Ignorance is also like sickness. Suppose your disease is almost cured but there is only a small vestige of it left. If, after coming home from the hospital, you give up the proper diet, it may quickly develop and spread again. There should be absolutely no remnant of disease left.
You can also compare ignorance to being in debt. Suppose you have discharged all your debts; there is only one small loan of a hundred dollars left. But if you let the interest accumulate, what will happen? The debt will start piling up again. Therefore, you should discharge your debts completely. In the same way, if there are any latent impressions of attachment and desire left in your heart, your sorrow is likely to flare up and grow. That is why Krishna admonished Arjuna, "If you retain even the smallest trace of attachment in your heart, whatever I teach you will become useless. You must completely destroy all your attachment which has been fed for so long by the ignorance that is beclouding your heart. To help you do this, I am teaching you the path of wisdom."
The wisdom teaching is an extremely important part of the Gita. Once you understand the difference between the true self, the divine atma, and the false self which is associated with worldly things, then all the other teachings will become very easy to understand. You have to spend a number of days in concentration, trying to understand from the very core of your heart the distinction between the real and the not-real, and then detach yourself from the not-real. That is the central teaching of the path of wisdom.
Each word of these teachings is a rare jewel. It is only when you completely understand the nature of the wisdom path that you will be able to understand the Gita in full and live a life free of grief and sorrow.
XVII. Master your Senses and the Whole World will be Yours
Whatever you seek, wherever you look... whether you look for it here on earth or in the heavens or in the nether world... all that you will ever find are the five elements, and only the five elements. In all the worlds there is nothing else. Whatever you have ever desired, whatever you have ever used, whatever you have ever lost, all these myriad of things are but varying expressions of the same five elements.
Embodiments of Love,
Everything in the universe, everything that has ever been created, everything that will ever be conceived of, is made up of the gross or subtle aspects of the five elements, namely, space, air, fire, water and earth. These countless variations of the five elements have been and are forever changing with time. They are all temporary, endlessly cycling from one name and form to another.
The Transitory Nature of all Things
The flower which has blossomed today will be dried up tomorrow and it will be decomposed a few days later. Food that has been cooked today will be spoiled tomorrow and becomes poisonous the following day. Once it has become spoiled you cannot get the fresh food back. The beautiful form of today will have turned ugly by tomorrow. Even atoms making up the matter in the moon may in time end up here on earth, and atoms making up matter here on earth may go to the moon. Every seven years all the atoms which constitute the human body undergo a total change. It would be foolish indeed for you to think that the body and the sense organs which are made up of the five elements are permanent, or that any object made up of these elements has any lasting value. Only the senses will be hankering after such external, transitory things.
The Gita has shown that this impermanent complex of five elements which we call the body, mind and senses, consists of 24 principles. It is made up of the five gross sense organs, the ears, the skin, the eyes, the tongue and the nose. These reach out to the sense objects through the subtle sense organs, comprising sound, touch, sight, taste and smell. These gross and subtle senses are inextricably related. Without the subtle the gross cannot not function. For example, you may have eyes but no sight, you may have ears but no hearing, you may have a tongue but no taste.
The 24 Impermanent Principles
In addition to the gross and subtle senses there are also the five life energies which vitalize all bodily functions. One of these is related to breathing, another to elimination, a third to circulation, the fourth to digestion and the fifth to the upward flow which energizes the higher centers. Besides the 15 principles enumerated above, there are the four faculties comprising the 'the inner instrument'. This inner instrument is made up of all the different aspects of what we know as 'mind'. It consists of the thinking faculty which analyzes and reacts; the intuitive faculty, also known as buddhi, which knows the deeper purpose of life and discriminates between the real and the unreal; the subjective individual expression or ego self which is associated with the personality; and the reservoir of feelings and memory wherein the effects of past actions are stored.
All of the foregoing are contained within the five sheaths. These sheaths can be thought of as various bodies interpenetrating one another in a successively more subtle way, each one finer than the previous one. The grossest sheath is the food sheath which comprises the physical body. It is made up of physical matter. Next, the first of the subtle, intangible sheaths, is the vital sheath. It relates to the life breath and physical energy. Then there is the mind sheath which relates to the lower mind. The fourth sheath is the intellectual sheath. It is associated with the higher mind wherein the buddhi, the intuitive, discriminating faculty, is contained. These last-mentioned three sheaths, the vital, the mind, and the intellectual, all make up the subtle body of man. Finally, there is the bliss sheath, the subtlest of all the bodies. It is known as the causal body. It is beyond all aspects of mind. It is the source of all mind stuff. Within it, only a thin veil of ignorance remains to hide the true self, which is pure bliss.
The Immortal Self - Beyond the Ephemeral Individual
Together these 24 principles comprise the individual being. The wisdom teachings deal with these various principles. Their purpose is to help you realize the one transcendent principle which is beyond all these. That is the atma. It is the immortal self, the one reality that underlies all these bodily principles, but which is in no way affected by them. It is true and unchanging, whereas these 24 are just manifestations of ignorance, constantly undergoing change. Together these 24 principles constitute the illusion which makes you appear as a separate being. If you go on spending your life depending only on these changing qualities, how will you ever be able to attain the eternal bliss which is your true nature, and which is not in any way influenced by these transitory things?
The joys that you experience through your sense organs, that seem so delightful in the moment, are likely to give you sorrow later on. Such joys come and go; they are not permanent. Krishna strongly emphasized that you should not believe in these sense organs and be led astray by them. However educated you may be, whatever office you may hold, whatever position you may have, unless you gain control over your senses you will not be able to gain peace of mind. Inner peace can be obtained only by controlling the sense organs. Perhaps you think that controlling the sense organs is too difficult for you to undertake, but in the Gita, Krishna taught a number of different ways which can help you succeed in mastering them.
The Noble and the Ignoble
Krishna said in the Gita that there are two types of people, the noble ones and the ignoble ones. The noble ones are those who follow the right path, the sacred path. They seek the company of great people and practice their teachings. As a result, they experience the great spiritual truths and enjoy the inner life of the spirit. Opposed to them are those who are full of unsacred thoughts and have impure hearts, who are under the spell of ignorance and live an unrighteous life. Their evil behavior can be said to be the direct opposite of the exemplary behavior of the noble ones, just as darkness is the opposite of light. Therefore, we can describe these two categories as that of gods and demons, or beings of light and beings of darkness. Krishna said, "Arjuna, I thought up to now that you were noble, that you were a true knight, but I see that you are entering the wrong path. You are getting steeped in darkness. You are following unsacredness. It would be wrong to call you noble. You are proving yourself to be otherwise."
Krishna gave Arjuna various such admonishments in order to encourage him to make a heroic effort to manifest the qualities of true nobility. He told him, "The primary cause of your present grief is your attachment, and the basis for your attachment is ignorance. It is out of ignorance that you allow your senses to govern your actions. If you want to free yourself from attachment and sorrow then you must control your senses. You have to clearly understand the nature of the senses. In the journey of life these sense organs are important; they are like the horses of your chariot which can take you to your goal. But only when you have full control over these horses will the chariot and the person riding in it be safe. If you leave them uncontrolled it is inevitable that the chariot and its occupant will come to grief. Therefore, if you want to reach the goal safely you must take charge of these horses. In other words, you must assert absolute control over your sense organs."
The Nature of the Sense Organs
When Krishna spoke of the sense organs he mentioned that they have the capacity to measure. For example, the tongue determines the taste of foods, deciding whether a thing is sweet or bitter. It does this by measuring the relative sweetness and bitterness of the food. Similarly, the ears determine whether some music is melodious or not and the eyes discern the beauty of objects seen. In this way, all the senses measure different qualities. Krishna also spoke of certain limitations of the sense organs, as ordained by God to insure their right use. For example, you can use the nose for smelling and for breathing. If you use the nose correctly, you are obeying the commands of the Lord and will surely benefit thereby. If, instead of using the nose for breathing and smelling good things, you use the nose to inhale noxious drugs, then you are not using it in the way specified by God.
As for the tongue, you have the Lord's gentle reminder, "Child, use this tongue to talk sweetly and not to hurt others' hearts. Use words which give them joy." The other function of the tongue must also be attended to. Use your tongue to take in fresh, wholesome food which is full of vitamins and proteins. On the other hand, if you use your tongue and sense of taste for smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol you will be misusing the tongue. Then you will be disobeying the commands of the Lord and you will come to harm. In this way, you should use all of the sense organs for the specific tasks which have been assigned to them by God. Then you will be fulfilling the purpose for which each instrument has been given. This kind of regulated behavior will help you to achieve your life's goal.
As a result of the functioning of the senses, you may experience joy or grief. This joy or grief that you feel does not come from the senses themselves. It is only after the senses have come into contact with the sense objects that you will experience these feelings. For instance, suppose you are on a protracted visit to a friend in a neighboring town, and while you are away something happened in your home. No matter what happened, whether good or bad, you would experience neither happiness nor grief, joy nor sorrow, as long as your ears had not heard the news. But once you get a phone call and came to know what happened at home, if the news is good you would feel joy and if the news is bad you would feel sorrow. It is only after the senses became associated with the sense objects that the joy or grief would have come to you.
Those Bound by the Senses are Destroyed by the Senses
There are a vast number of sense objects in the world, but you should see to it that your senses do not come into contact with too many of these. They are all impermanent things. By becoming captivated with small things your whole life becomes small and impure. You can see this in a number of living beings which are victims of one or two senses. For example, when a deer hears some melodious music, it becomes fascinated by it and can easily be captured. Therefore, a deer is bound by sound. A huge elephant can be controlled through the sense of touch and therefore becomes bound by touch. In this way a number of animals can be bound and controlled through different sense organs. Take for example a moth. When it sees light it gets strongly attracted to it; it becomes bound by the light and may be destroyed by it. In a similar way, a fish will swallow the bait and gets caught because it is bound by taste. And a bee will enter a flower and be bound by the power of smell; there it can get trapped for the night when the flower closes its petals.
Each one of these beings is bound by one of the sense organs; but man is bound by all five of them and, therefore, he is even more vulnerable than all these animals. Here is a small story:
Once upon a time a great sage undertook a tour of the country. He considered each one of the five elements as his teacher. Once he happened to go to the shore of the ocean; he was enjoying the waves and the various aspects of the ocean. As he was watching, along came a wave and brought some debris to the shore. He noticed that the moment any dross fell into the ocean the waves came and pushed it back out. The sage thought to himself, 'Why should the ocean which is so deep and vast find it necessary to throw out this little bit of filth? Could it not allow even such a small impurity to remain with it?' Then he went into meditation. In that meditation he understood that if the ocean were to allow any impurities to stay in its waters, these impurities would accumulate day by day and, in time, cover the whole ocean and pollute it. He decided that the ocean must have resolved not to allow any debris or impurity to come into it from the very beginning; in that way it had been able to remain clean and pure.
In the same way, right from the start, you should see to it that impure thoughts and ideas do not enter your mind, even in a small way. Not even the minutest impurity should be allowed to enter your heart. Before such an impurity can establish a foothold, you must immediately throw it out. If you give room to it, thinking that after all it is only a very insignificant thing and it cannot really harm you, then it will start growing in the heart. Therefore, if you understand the functioning of the senses and learn to limit them to the right use for which they were intended, then you will be able to benefit from them and not be disturbed by them. If instead, you allow the senses to rule you and bind you, neither joy nor peace of mind will be yours. Here is another small story to illustrate this.
The King who was Ruled by his five Wives
Once there was a great king who had five wives. But his wives never listened to him. He might have been a king to everyone else, but he was not lord over his own wives. And so he was suffering very much. He had a crown on his head, but inside his head there were only worries. 'I have become a slave of these wives and I am suffering very much,' he thought. 'Is there anyone in the world who is not afraid of his wife? If there is such a one, how does he control her? How does he manage not to be dominated by her?' To inquire into this directly by asking individual citizens would not have been considered proper, so he decided to hold a public meeting and invite all his male subjects to attend. There were two stadium-sized tents put up at the meeting-ground. One was erected on one side of the field, the other was put up on the other side.
The king announced that the first tent was meant for people who had controlled their wives, and the second one was meant for people who were controlled by their wives. All the male citizens of that country started pouring into the capital; they all went straight into the second tent. The king went there and found that this huge tent, the one that was intended for those who were controlled by their wives, was filled to capacity. He got a little courage from this for he realized that he was not the only one controlled by his wives. But before beginning the meeting he saw one lone person waiting in the first tent which was meant for those who had control over their wives. That mammoth tent was totally empty except for this one man. The king was overjoyed to see him there. He went to him and told him how glad he was to see that at least one person in his kingdom had gained control over his wife.
The king questioned him, "Tell me, good man, what is your secret in controlling your wife?" The man, trembling with fear, replied, "No sir! No sir! That is not how it is. I cannot control her. It is I who am being completely controlled by her." The king said, "Then why did you come into this tent?!!" With his knees shaking and stammering his words, the man replied, "My wife ordered me to come into this tent. She forbid me to go into the other. That is why I am here. My wife ordered me not to go inside the tent where the slaves of their wives are staying. She made me go into this one." The king got very irritated with the man and commanded him, "You must leave here immediately! Under no condition can you remain in this tent! Go and join the others in the second tent!" The citizen turned white with fear; the blood rushed out of his face. He got down on his knees and implored the king with his hands folded in supplication, "My lord, please listen to me! You may punish me. You may do anything you wish to me. But I am terrified of disobeying my wife. Please! Don't make me go to the other tent!" The king then realized that there were no people anywhere in his kingdom who were not slaves of their wives.
The Mind with its five Wives, the Senses
This king is the mind, and he is never able to satisfy all his wives, namely, the senses. The eye demands, "Take me to a place where only the most beautiful sights are to be seen." The tongue demands that only the tastiest of foods be supplied to it. The ear commands that the most melodious sounds be played for it. The skin desires to feel only materials which are the most pleasing to touch. And the nose wants to smell the very best perfumes in the world. Who can satisfy all these desires of the senses? There is no coordination and cooperation among them. If you yield to the sense organs, they are going to give you a lot of trouble. Right from the beginning you must find a way to bring them under absolute control. Then you will have accomplished something truly worthwhile. The real hero in this world is the one who has managed to completely control his senses.
When the senses make their demands do not listen to them. Instead, turn your mind towards the higher intellect. Let it decide what is to be done. Then, the lower mind will follow and, in turn, give its commands to the senses. This way, the senses will have to obey. That is the proper way to curb the senses. A person who bases his life on his lower mind and senses will come to ruin and become worse than an animal. The wise one bases his life on his higher mind, which is his intellect, his power of discrimination and discernment and intuition. One who follows his higher mind becomes the most excellent of human beings. If you base your life on your higher mind, your buddhi, it will take you straight to the final goal. But if you base your life only on the lower mind and the senses, then every moment new changes will come about. It will become difficult to predict what will happen to you and where you will land. It is something like crossing a raging river or a storm-tossed ocean in a small boat. You do not know when your little boat will get flooded and when disaster will overtake you.
Being ever Vigilant in Controlling the Senses
There was a great saint in ancient India. He was an extremely virtuous person; a truly wise man. He had complete control over his senses. One day it became known that his end would come soon. All his disciples assembled there and gathered around his bed. He was suffering from intense pain in the throat. He made heroic efforts to transcend the pain. He seemed to want to say something, but he could not speak. The disciples were very eager to find out what message their master was trying to give them during his last moments on earth. The disciples tried to help him in every way and implored him, "Swami you want to tell us something. We are eager to hear your message."
Summoning his last bit of energy, the sage found his voice and said, "My dear children, I have been followed all this time by maya, the power of illusion. Illusion told me, 'Everyone else has become my slave, no one has succeeded in becoming free of me, except you. You have been able to completely control your sense organs and, thereby, you have been able to conquer me.' Then I replied, 'Maya, I may have conquered you up to now, but you know and I know that I have not fully conquered you yet. There is still a little life left, and a few breaths are still to come. Until my very last breath has been taken, I will not relax until I have conquered you totally.' My dear children, until now I have been able to control the senses and conquer maya, but I do not know whether I will continue to succeed until my last breath. During these last few moments, in order to free myself from maya, I have been thinking only of God and praying to him with all my heart." Then he fell silent, and thus he consummated his life.
As this story shows, you must be careful until the very last breath of your life not to yield to the sense organs. To realize the immortal self you must control the outgoing senses. Therefore, sense-control is an integral part of the path of wisdom, as taught by Krishna. Once you gain full control of the senses, you will easily be able to master the spiritual path.
In the beginning you may be subjected to a certain amount of difficulty. When you learn to drive, you first have to go to an open field and practice there. It is only after you have learned to control the car and have mastered the art of driving that you can take the car onto the main thoroughfares and the narrow streets of the city. If you try driving in city traffic before that, it will not only be difficult for you but also dangerous. Similarly, once you have mastered the senses and are unaffected by the allurements of the world, then you can face any situation without concern or problems.
Victory over the Senses through Self-Inquiry
To master the senses you should develop a broad view. Enter into the spirit of inquiry and find out who is the true self and who is the false self. After developing this discriminating power you can safely move in the world while continuing to keep your sight steadily on the goal.
The wavering senses can never give you permanent joy. Only when you gain the knowledge of the true self, the immortal self, will you experience true joy. All other knowledge and education will only help you to eke out a livelihood. Knowledge of the self alone is true education. With that you will be able to enjoy the unity of all existence. Once you identify yourselves with the divinity that is in everything then there can be no further clashes arising from any sense of difference. When you experience everything as God and see the whole world as God, then even the practice of discrimination falls away. Once everything is seen as one then there is no further need for discrimination.
As Baba has mentioned before, the senses can be very dangerous; they can be like horses running wild. If you do not use the reins to control them, they will run away with the chariot and go wherever they like. Rein the senses in with the help of your mind. Let your taste, your smell, your sight, your listening, your touch, all the various sense impressions come under your control. A number of times Swami has been telling you that you should not see or hear too many things. It is only when you see a thing or hear about it that you start thinking of it. Once you think of it you develop an attraction towards it. Then you want to possess it. Once you talk about a particular thing then you think of its form. Therefore, whatever may be the object, the first thing you should ask yourself is, 'Does it have any defects or flaws?' When you realize its flaws, that it will not last, that it is ephemeral, then you will not develop any attachment for it. If you want to reach God, you must be free of false vision, false speech and a false attachment to any sensory impressions.
Control of the Tongue, the first step in Sense-Control
Spiritual practice begins with control of the tongue. The reason for this is that the tongue has two functions. The eyes have only the one function, that of seeing. Similarly, the ears have only the one function, that of hearing. And the nose has only the one function, that of smelling. But the tongue has two functions; it can speak and it can taste. Therefore you must make a special effort to control it. You have no right to criticize others. You have no right to think badly about others. It is far better for you to think of your own shortcomings. See the good in others and remove the unreal in yourself. If you have not even developed the power to inquire into your own true self, then how can you assume the power to look into others? First get fulfillment in your own life. It is only after you have saved yourself that you can become an instrument to save others. Therefore, you should not use harmful words or give condescending looks or think impure thoughts towards any other person. Spend your time only in good thoughts, in good listening and in good talk.
In order to exercise self control you have to do some spiritual exercises. Constant practice and detachment are essential for gaining control over your senses. If you understand that all things are impermanent, you will be able to gain control over your senses and develop detachment. Your true nature is nobility. You are not base and ignoble. Enter into good paths and develop your own innate sacredness. Only when you have the light of wisdom shining inextinguishably within you, will you be able to help others through your good thoughts, good sight and good counsel. Those who do so are veritably gods. Those who display the opposite traits are demons. Demons seek only darkness. But you must resolve to give up darkness and fill yourself with light. If you choose the path of light, then whatever has been your past, the Lord will accept you and shower his grace upon you.
The Pure Brother of the Impure Demon King
The brother of the lord of the demons surrendered to Rama and fell at Rama's feet. Seeing him, the generalissimo of Rama's army warned Rama, "He is the brother of Ravana. Like his evil brother he is a demon. He loves darkness. Just because he has had some quarrel with his brother and left him, you should not trust him and give him shelter. Even though he now proclaims himself to be an enemy of his brother, it is still dangerous to believe him." Rama smiled patiently and told his commander, "Brave warrior, I accept him not because he has opposed his brother, but because he has surrendered himself to me. I will give protection to whoever comes to me and says, 'I am yours'. I do not care who he is."
The commander then said to Rama, "You have given this demon your protection, and assured him that when this war is over and his brother, Ravana, is overthrown, you will make him the king of Lanka. But suppose this evil Ravana came to you now and surrendered himself at your feet. What kingdom would you give him?" Rama replied, "If Ravana had such fine ideas and were to surrender himself to me, I would ask my own brother Bharatha, who is ruling the kingdom in my behalf, to step down. And I would make Ravana the king of my capital city of Ayodhya. I have never asked anyone for anything; asking for favors is not my way. But if Ravana were to have such good thoughts, I would ask Bharatha to give up his throne."
Throughout the ages, divine incarnations have been espousing sacred thoughts and broad ideas such as this. In that way, they set an example for the whole world to follow. The point of this story is that whatever your past, whatever impure and unsacred environment you may have been brought up in, if your resolve is pure and you surrender yourself fully to God, he will take you in. Start by mastering your senses. This is the first step in leading a noble life and getting closer to your divine source. Sense-control is the basis for all sacred action and for enjoying a worry free life.
Krishna said, "Arjuna, there is nothing that you will not be able to achieve once you have gained complete control of your senses. You will be master of the world. But, if you are a slave of the senses and get caught up in desire, you become a slave of the world. Therefore, master your senses. Make the senses your slaves. Only then will you be able to function as an instrument in my mission. Arise, Arjuna! Learn to control your senses! Do not get elated by joy or dejected by grief. The primary reason for this grief of yours is ignorance. You do not know the difference between truth and illusion, between reality and appearance, between the true self and the false self. Begin now to discriminate between them. Practice discrimination and your senses will come under control. Then all will be yours."
XVIII. You are the Indweller - You are not the Body or Mind
Krishna said, "Arjuna, I am your very self. Focus your mind steadily on me, and with your mind fixed on me do your duty."
Embodiments of Love,
If you do your work, being aware of your own reality, you will accomplish great things. Actions performed with the awareness of the atma, your true self, are free from bondage. To carry on your work while at the same time, being fully aware of your identity with the atma, requires perfect control over the senses. Sense-control is an essential precondition for being illumined. Once you enjoy complete control over your sense organs you can be described as a person imbued with the highest wisdom.
When you consider all the pairs of opposites, such as joy and sorrow, heat and cold, profit and loss, honor and dishonor, with an equal mind, and are established in your true reality, then you have gained the characteristics of a wise man. It is the nature of the wise to treat everything equally. Once you recognize the nature of the senses, it will be easy for you to follow the path that leads to true wisdom. But if instead of identifying yourself with the atma, you continue to identify yourself only with your body-mind complex, then it will be impossible for you to obtain that exalted state.
You are the Atma, You are God
Krishna told Arjuna, "Always remember that you are the indweller, not the body. You are the one who wears the cloth; you are not the cloth itself. You are the resident of the house; you are not the house. You are the witness, the knower of the individual, you are not the individual. But now, Arjuna, you are mistaking yourself to be this limited individual. Enjoyment of impermanent things can only give you impermanent happiness. Eventually, all these momentary pleasures and enjoyments will only turn into sorrow. Keep your mind steady and discharge your duties, remembering the atma. Do not think or worry about birth and death, or the joy and sorrow which accrue to you. Birth and death are relevant only to the body. They do not refer to you. You are not the body. You are the permanent entity which is free from birth and death. You have neither a beginning nor an end. You were never born and you will never die. Nor will you ever kill anyone. You are the atma. You are all-pervasive. Verily, you are God. Your very self is God and God is your self."
After realizing that it is in the nature of fire to produce heat, would anyone grieve over the fact that fire burns? Would anyone suffer from sorrow after learning that ice cools? The very nature of fire is to burn and the very nature of ice is to cool whatever it comes in contact with. In the same way, everything which is born will some day die. This is natural. Whatever is free to come must also be free to go. Therefore, you should not brood over things which are natural, like birth and death, joy and sorrow. Recognize the inherent defects and weaknesses of all things. One day or another, everything existing in the world will have to undergo change. The same five elements which are to be found everywhere in the world are also to be found in you and in everyone else.
Whatever things you desire, whatever things you are seeking, even if you pursue your search for them into the farthest corners of the world, you will discover that you are really just seeking the five elements. These five elements are all you will ever find in any of the things of the world. But since they are already part of you, what is the point of seeking them in the things outside? It is natural for you to seek and aspire for something which you do not have. It is unnatural for you to seek and aspire for something which you already have. There is only one entity which transcends the five elements. That is the divinity. That is what you should aspire for.
Keep the Atma in View and Nothing can Harm You
Wisdom is seeing the one everywhere. That all-pervasive unity is the atma. Seek out this unity and keep it constantly in view. When all your actions are based on the atma, they become sacred and pure. When all your activities are performed for the sake of the atma or for the pleasure of God, then you become sanctified and filled with spiritual wisdom. A number of sages, right from ancient days, have made heroic efforts to attain this supreme state of being immersed in the highest wisdom.
Once upon a time, the King of Greece, Alexander, reached the banks of the great river on the north-western border of India. He intended to enter India, to conquer and plunder it. For this purpose he had come with a mighty army. In those days there were no royal roads; the few roads that existed were more like footpaths. The king crossed the banks of the river and entered the forest with his army. The scouts preceding the army found a yogi lying under a tree, with his legs spread out across the path, deep in sleep. This yogi had attained the stage of enlightenment; he was a truly wise man.
One soldier went up and awakened the yogi and commanded him to move out of the path. But the yogi was totally indifferent to the orders given by the soldier. He did not move. The Greek soldier started threatening the yogi and boasted that the great emperor of Greece, Alexander, was coming with his army and that this emperor had decided to invade India and plunder the entire nation.
While the soldier was shouting at this yogi, Alexander arrived on the scene. The Greek soldier was enraged to see that even after the emperor had come, this yogi remained completely unconcerned. The yogi was not paying the proper respect and courtesy due to the emperor. At this, the soldier threatened to cut off the yogi's head. The moment the yogi heard that the enraged Greek soldier wanted to cut off his head, he started laughing and stood up. On the yogi's face there was no trace of fear. He was amused, but at the same time he remained completely serene. The emperor saw the great effulgence on the yogi's face and spoke to him. "My soldier has just threatened to cut off your head and yet you seem very happy and unaffected. If you were an ordinary person you would immediately fall at his feet, beg for pardon and try to save your life. But you are only smiling. What is the meaning of your behavior?"
The yogi replied, "I am the eternal truth. I am pure awareness. I am infinite bliss. I am forever free. Your weapons cannot harm me. Fire cannot burn me. Water cannot wet me. Wind cannot blow me away. I was never born and I will never die. I am the immortal atma, the one true self. I am indestructible. Thinking that I am just this body, your soldier is threatening to destroy me by cutting the head off this body. Isn't that ludicrous? Hearing this provoked me to laughter."
When the emperor heard these words he was astounded. He thought to himself, 'It is natural for people to get frightened when someone threatens to kill them and they are about to face death, but rarely will anyone laugh and be so happy when they are about to die. In India there are people who have attained such a high spiritual state that they are not even afraid of death. How can I conquer a nation such as this? No, I won't succeed here with my weapons.' Having concluded that India could not be subdued by him, he turned his army around and penetrated no further into India.
Sense-Control is easy when you Understand the Senses
From times immemorial, great beings such as this yogi have existed in India, and, in the way in which they conducted their lives, taught other nations the highest truths about spirituality. They showed the spiritual heights that could be achieved through control of the senses. People who do not know the method of controlling the sense organs get lost and stray onto the wrong path. But, actually, controlling the senses is quite easy. When you do not understand the fickle nature of the senses, all attempts to control them are fraught with difficulty. But once you understand their limitations controlling them becomes easy, because you realize that all the pleasures and enjoyments you gain through them are filled with sorrow.
The first step in controlling the senses is to investigate the defects and problems associated with the various objects of the world. For the sake of temporary joys and pleasures you are subjecting yourself to many difficulties and problems that will hound you long after the little fleeting joys are forgotten. A person who has a disease may take some food items which are not prescribed in the diet and feel temporarily happy. Having ignored the diet and taken food which is prohibited, he may experience some temporary joy; but in a short period of time he will experience the unhappy consequences of his acts. It may even lead to a dangerous situation. In the same way, man, yielding to temporary joys, will suffer a great many problems in the long run.
How many powerful kings have there been who have created huge mansions and palaces, enjoyed luxurious comforts, eaten a variety of luxurious foods, traveled in luxurious cars and indulged themselves in countless vanities, all the while thinking that they were enjoying all the great pleasures available on the earth? What has happened to them in the end? Ask yourself, 'Is a king who indulges himself like that really enjoying the luxuries or are the luxuries enjoying him?' You will have to conclude that it is the luxuries which are enjoying him. It is he who is being enjoyed by the sense objects. They are literally eating him up. Soon he becomes weak, he becomes diseased and gets old.
If the king were really enjoying the sense objects, then he should have attained unbounded health and strength from them. But, as he is the one who is being enjoyed by the sense objects, he loses all his health, and his life span gets reduced. Not recognizing this truth he temporarily experiences some happiness. He fixes his vision on these transient sense objects without realizing the dire consequences which ultimately must come his way because of his indiscriminate desire to enjoy the senses.
Realize the Transitoriness of all Sense Objects
A certain man went to a palmist who told people's future by reading the lines on their hand. The man showed the palmist his hand. The palmist told the man that there was a line on his hand which signified that he would become very wealthy. The moment the man heard this he was overjoyed. After looking at his hand some more, the palmist told him that the line also showed that he would get a lot of honors. The man felt even more happy.
Then, after examining the hand still further, the palmist said, "You are going to occupy a very high position." The man felt so happy, it was as if he had just been told that he would become prime minister that very day. After a while, the palmist told him that he was going to have many children. Joy was now heaped on joy. Then after telling him all these things, the palmist said, "But your life span is going to be very short!" The moment the man heard this, all his joy left him; he got totally dejected and shrank down in despair.
Whatever may be your property and wealth, whatever position you may occupy, whatever honors you may get and however many children you may have, if you only have a finite life span, then what will be the use of all these things in the long run? If you are not going to be alive then how can any of these things be of lasting value to you? How many kings and how many emperors have lived? In what circumstances have they left this world?
In the history of India, there once was an emperor who ruled over all the hundreds of kingdoms comprising this huge land. He was most powerful, but did he not have to leave this world? In ancient times, there was an even mightier emperor who ruled over the entire world; could he take even a handful of earth with him? King Rama built a magnificent bridge spanning the ocean from India to Lanka; where is that great bridge now? So many kings have come and gone. Not even one person can carry a handful of dust with him. If you think and reflect over the past history of mankind, you will be able to understand how impermanent this world really is. Therefore, two important defects to be noted about the worldly pleasures: They are impermanent and they are harbingers of misery.
All that you see in the external world is but a reflection of what is inside you. There is only one thing which is real and true and all-pervasive. That reality, that truth, is always within you. It is eternally true, it is eternally auspicious and eternally beautiful. Make every effort to realize that permanent truth. Live in that auspiciousness. Be one with that divinity. It is the very embodiment of all beauty.
Focus on the Divinity, Your True Self, and Do Your Duty
After explaining the qualities of a wise man to Arjuna, Krishna directed him to enter the battlefield and fight. Krishna told him, "Keep all your attention on me. Concentrate on me alone. Obey all my commands and do your duty. This body has been given to you for the purpose of discharging your duty. It is because of your actions in the past that you have gotten this birth. Now, you must use your actions to sanctify this life."
The only light in this world which does not get extinguished is the light of the atma, the light of the immortal self. As long as there is electricity, the electric bulbs will burn. The moment the power goes off, the bulbs do not shine. Only as long as there are batteries in the flashlight, the flashlight will function. In the same way, when the senses are not receiving any power, they will cease to function. Even the sun and the moon, which do not need either oil, batteries or electricity, will lose their effulgence in the end.
When the sun and the moon are likely to lose their light, what about you? When this is true of these mighty mountains, then what about this small pebble that is you, deluded as you are, with body-consciousness? Krishna told Arjuna, "Because of the grief arising from your attachment to relatives and friends, you are getting drowned in ignorance. You are being washed away by the tears from your own eyes. Arise! Awake! Do not stop until the goal is reached!" Thus Krishna rescued Arjuna and put him on the right path.
Intellect Surpasses all your Senses
The sun and moon shine in the world but they cannot illuminate God. The light shining inside the house can illuminate the objects inside but it cannot illuminate God. How do you know that the sun and the moon shine and that fire burns? On what basis can you declare that these things are bright and luminous? It is because of your eyes that you can recognize their brightness. If you did not have eyes the radiant light of the sun and moon would not be seen by you. But as for these eyes, what is it that helps them to see? Even when you are sleeping or when your eyes are closed there is an unmistakable radiance shining in your awareness. It is your highest intellect, your intuitive faculty, your buddhi. Therefore, you can conclude that even more effulgent than your eyes is your intellect. There is a small story to illustrate this.
There were two friends, a blind man and a lame man;. They would go begging together from village to village. The blind one had good legs and the lame one had good eyes. The lame man sat on the shoulders of the blind man. So, with the help of each other they were able to go from village to village. Once, on their way, they came across a beautiful field of melons. The lame man said to the blind man, "Brother, there are some very fine looking melons in this field. Let us go into the field and eat some; afterwards we can take a little rest and proceed on our way."
The blind person said to the lame person, "Brother, be careful. There may be some watchman keeping an eye on the field." The lame man said, "No, there is no one there." The blind man went on, "Please tell me if there is a fence or a gate around this garden." The lame one said, "There is neither a gate nor a fence. We can go and have our dinner." The blind person immediately said, "Brother, these melons must be very bitter and inedible, otherwise why is there no watchman, no fence and no gate to protect them?"
A person may not have eyes to see, but if he uses his intellect he is greater than the one who sees with his eyes. Therefore, it is really the intellect which lends a shining quality to the eyes. But from where does the intellect get its power? The intellect is shining because of the atma. Therefore, because of the atma the intellect is illuminated, and because of the intellect the eyes shine and can see, and because the eyes see, the effulgence of the sun and the moon can be perceived, and because of the sun and the moon the whole world shines. We see that the ultimate source that illuminates everything is the atma. Therefore, it is the atma which you should worship.
A Wise Man never forgets the Atma
It is only when you keep the atma constantly in view, in everything you do, that you will be able to reach the stage of true wisdom. A wise man is sometimes thought of as having something to do with worldly people. This confusion comes about because it has been said that, 'When everyone is awake, the wise man is asleep, and when he is awake all the other people are sleeping.' According to such a definition, you would conclude that those who work nightshifts, such as the night watchman and the station master, who are awake at night when others are sleeping and asleep during the day when others are awake, are all wise men. But, obviously, this is not the correct meaning of the word.
All those people who base their lives on this impermanent world, will be fully awake to this world and its objects. The wise man on the other hand, will be asleep and indifferent to worldly objects. Ordinary people will not be alive to the beauty of the atma; they will be sleeping through that. But when it comes to this world and its sense objects they will be fully alert and awake. Therefore, a wise man is one who is asleep to the principle of the world and who is fully awake to the principle of the atma. A wise man is not one who has renounced the world and gone to the forest. Krishna said, "Do your work in the world. Live in the midst of the things which are necessary for your daily life. But keep your attention and concentration constantly on the atma. That way you will gain abiding wisdom."
Here, a doubt may arise. Why does such a wise person need to work at all? He will have no interest in work nor have any ambitions regarding work. And yet for the good of mankind he will take up work. If a wise man had the attitude that he did not need to work, then he would not be able to inspire others to work. The sage has to set an example for ordinary people so that they will be able to follow him. "Therefore, Arjuna," said Krishna, "Become an ideal human being. You are very close to Krishna. You are his relative and you are very dear to him. Keep the inner significance of all these teachings in your heart. I want to raise you as an example to the world. I will use you as my instrument. You will be my instrument in doing many great things in the world."
Whatever Krishna has said is for the welfare of the entire world and for setting an ideal example for mankind. All avatars undertake activities which are absolutely sacred, but ordinary people will not be able to recognize these activities as divine activities. In this context, Krishna told Arjuna, "Arjuna, I have not accepted the job of being the driver of your chariot because I like this task and want it so much. It is not for the sake of my love of horses either that I'm doing this. Don't you think that I have chariots and horses of my own? Do I need to drive your chariot and your horses? This body-consciousness that you have saturates your whole being. It is in your blood. I am enacting the entire play and I have taken on this task of driving your chariot in order to see to it that you become permanently cured of this disease of body-consciousness."
God does not wish to be Praised by Anyone
Arjuna frequently addressed Krishna using an affectionate phrase that referred to Krishna as his closest and dearest relative, the light of his heart. Krishna once told Arjuna when they were sitting on the banks of a sacred river, "Arjuna, I do not like to be revered by you as your dearest relative, without reason."
In the world many people will freely praise God, using terms of great respect or familiarity, but God will not accept such adulation. Praises will be very common for people to utter in order to gain favor. It is as if they were going to some government officer to get into his good graces. But, praise which has no real basis, is like perfumed water. It can be smelled but it cannot be taken as nourishment. You will hear all manner of flattery but it will not touch your heart. God accepts only true feelings that come sincerely from the depths of your heart.
Krishna said to Arjuna, "I don't want to ask you to give up calling me your closest relative, and yet you are saying it out of praise rather than because it is really true. Therefore, I want to become your relative so that you can say it sincerely, knowing in your heart that it is true." Shortly afterwards, Krishna offered his sister in marriage to Arjuna and became Arjuna's brother-in-law.
Krishna's brother Balarama did not approve of this marriage, and would not even come to the wedding. Instead, he went off to a forest. From that time on, Balarama did not feel much love for Krishna. But, for the sake of harmonizing thought, word and deed, Krishna was willing to risk his relation to his own closest kin, his older brother, who as a divine being had taken birth for the express purpose of assisting Krishna in his mission.
This trait that we see here in Krishna, of putting principles before considerations of kinship, is truly extraordinary. His actions were always commensurate with his words. Unity of thought, word and deed is the very nature of divinity. It is also the true nature of man. Whatever you think must be in harmony with what you say, and whatever you say, that you must do. This harmony of thought, word and deed is the deeper meaning of Swami's often repeated statement, 'The proper study of mankind is man.'
Krishna told Arjuna, "I want to make an example of you to the whole world, that is why I am teaching you here on the battlefield the qualities of an enlightened being. First, I will turn you into a wise man and then, through your example, I will teach others. To begin with, you must understand this most important principle, which is that you are not the body; you are the indweller. When you understand that, you will no longer be bothered by body-consciousness.
The body is temporary. God is eternal and permanent. You are not the cloth but the one who wears the cloth. The body is the temple of God, but the indweller is God himself. This world is impermanent and full of sorrow. There is no use taking refuge in it. All the people you know will change. God is the only fixed entity. He is the one lamp which does not get extinguished. Take shelter in him. He is the supreme light. He is the light of the soul. He is the undiminishable light of pure consciousness. He is the one light, without a second."
Through such inspiring words, Krishna transformed Arjuna's heart which had been filled with impurities. By explaining all these noble principles to him, Krishna made Arjuna's heart bright and pure. Krishna turned Arjuna into a true wise man, one who manifested all the divine qualities.
XIX. Sense Control - The Key to the Highest Wisdom
Once you have gained true detachment, then even the attainment of the highest heavenly worlds will seem trivial and insignificant to you. Arjuna asserted, "Krishna, even if I were given rulership over the three worlds and I were made master over all of creation, it would mean nothing to me. I have no interest in any of these things."
Embodiments of Love,
Arjuna had achieved great strength of renunciation at the time when he surrendered himself and was ready to receive the Gita teachings. At that point, he had detached himself from the world, and attached himself firmly to the transcendent principle manifested before him in the form of Lord Krishna. Such detachment from the world and its objects, and attachment to the divine principle, which is your true essence, must become your goal also. This is the destiny of every human being. In the course of your spiritual evolution, you will, as will every other individual in time, develop renunciation and dispassion towards the objects of the senses, and at the same time, develop an intense aspiration to realize the atma within.
Sense-Control, the Foundation for Self-Knowledge
If you were to construct a house, even a simple and ordinary one, wouldn't you take great care to lay a proper foundation? If that is true for a little house, then how much more care must you take in laying down a solid foundation for the great treasure house of self-knowledge. It is to provide such a foundation that Krishna, in his teachings to Arjuna in the Gita, emphasized the need to control the senses by developing a strong detachment from the objects of the world. This is an essential requirement for building up a solid foundation. If the foundation is not strong, the mansion of self-knowledge will not last long. It will soon collapse.
Renunciation does not spring up suddenly to become the foundation of self-knowledge. Such strong detachment does not just happen on the spur of the moment. This quality must be steadily developed and practiced, together with devotion and sense-control. If you want to light a lamp, you will need oil, a container to hold it, and a wick. In the same way, in order to light the lamp of wisdom, there is a need for detachment, devotion and control of the senses. Detachment can be thought of as the container and devotion the oil. Sense-control may be compared to the wick. If you bring these three elements together, the Lord himself will come and light the lamp of self-knowledge inside you. Before lighting this lamp in the heart of Arjuna, Krishna told him that he first had to establish complete control over his senses.
Such strict control over the senses is not something which can be achieved by most people. Even if they were to make an effort in this direction and achieve some measure of sense-control, ordinary people would not continue with these efforts because they would be convinced that by giving up sense enjoyments their very life would come to an end. They consider sense enjoyments as the only true source of happiness. This is what they experience day after day. But, the unbounded joy of self-knowledge is something they have not experienced even once. When you have a bird in your hand, would you let go of it and try to catch the two birds which may or may not be hiding in the bush? Reasoning in this way, they consider it madness to give up the sensory enjoyments which they enjoy every day in order to gain the bliss of the atma through self-knowledge, an experience which they have never known.
Sense Enjoyment is an Illusory Joy
It is for these reasons that you will find many people criticizing the doctrine of detachment and control of the senses which is taught in the Gita. They say it is not really useful and applicable for ordinary people in their daily lives. But this criticism arises because they are ignorant of the real process that is taking place. All the momentary pleasures which they enjoy are just reflections of the true joy that always exists in the heart. By thinking again and again of a particular person or object, the mind departs from its own resting place and goes out to that person or object and takes on its form. Then it deludes itself into thinking that it is enjoying that object. But this can never be real joy. It is only a limited kind of joy which is imagined in the mind, a reflection of the true inner joy which is the source of all joys. To make this clearer consider an example.
A small baby may be sucking its thumb and drinking its saliva. It gets delight from this because it thinks that it is getting milk out of its thumb. But, the fact is that the saliva, which the baby thinks is milk, is coming from its own mouth, not from its thumb. It deludes itself into thinking that the source of its joy originated from outside its mouth. Consider another example.
A dog has found a hard bone. Once he has this bone it becomes very dear to him and he does not want to share it with any other dog. So, he takes it to some solitary place. There, he looks at it, admires it and starts gnawing on it. Since it is an old bone it is very hard. With all his enthusiasm and strength he goes on biting until he dislodges a tooth from his gums. Some blood spills out and oozes onto the bone. The dog is convinced that the blood has come out of that bone, and he immensely enjoys the taste of it. But the blood has not come out of the bone; it has come out of his own mouth. The dog does not realize the truth. Just as in the case of the baby, he has become deluded by following the imaginations of his own mind.
All Joy comes only from the Self
In a similar way, the ignorant think that they are getting joy out of the sense-objects. But, this limited joy that they experience does not come from outside of themselves. Ever present within their own hearts is true joy. It is this unchanging inner joy that gets superimposed on an object, making that object appear as if it is the source of joy. In this way, they believe they are deriving joy from the things of the world, but their joy is merely a small reflection of the unlimited joy that is hidden within them. Once they delude themselves into thinking that the joys and pleasures which they have in the outer world are true experiences, and the joy which they might get from the inner world is only an illusion, they lose all interest in practicing detachment. Then they give up pursuing the transcendental joy and continue to pursue only the worldly enjoyments which they believe can be obtained from sense objects.
If an object truly gave joy then everyone would experience that joy to the same extent. If the joy were really inherent in the object itself, then the joy derived from that object should be the same for all people. Yet we know that this is not the case. If a particular object gives joy and pleasure to some people, the same object may be repulsive to other people, giving displeasure to them. For instance, some people may greatly enjoy cucumbers, whereas others may not like them at all. If joy were an integral part of cucumbers then there would be the one experience for all. Cucumbers would not give a feeling of joy to some and a feeling of dislike to others. Why is there this difference in reaction between different people? Why are there things which you may like that are disliked by others? It must mean that the joy you experienced was not directly associated with the object but that this joy came from within. The feeling that you experienced was but a reflection of your own inexhaustible inner source of joy.
Sense Objects can only give Temporary Joy
These likes and dislikes that you now feel, are just temporary phenomena. They are not permanent. Consider for a moment that at some time you felt very hungry. Now suppose that you were served some food which you found very tasty. What made this food so delicious? If you examine this question carefully you would conclude that it was your hunger that made everything taste so good. As long as you were hungry you found the meal that had been served to you to be most delectable. But after your hunger was satisfied, even if the most sumptuous delicacies were placed in front of you, they would not have appealed to you. When you are hungry, ordinary food will taste quite good, giving you great joy. But once your hunger is satisfied, even the most delicious food is not at all tasty to you. The only way that you can understand this change is that all these likes and dislikes emanate directly from you, the individual. They do not come from the objects as such. All your feelings of joy and sorrow emanate from the inner being, not from the external objects.
Ordinary people think that the joy or pain which they get from being with people whom they like or dislike comes from those people; but it is not so. It is one's own likes and dislikes which are responsible for one's joys and sorrows. It may be observed that when people have a strong liking for others, holding them very dear, then whatever be the attitude or the actions of that person, they will still like them all the same. What is the reason for this unshakable fidelity, this affectionate regard one may have for another person, despite a number of unsavory things which that person may be saying or doing? The reason is that when you like someone, the things which that person says and does will appear sweet to you. When you consider a person as very dear to you, then you feel that you love that person very much. This quality which you call 'love' is really a feeling of attachment in you that you are directing towards the other individual. In such an attachment both the love and the joy which appear to be present, originate only from you. Whether or not the other person has similar feelings, the feelings which you actually experience come from within you, only. They are not a part of the other person, at all. A similar thing was told by a great sage to his wife, in the ancient scriptures.
The sage said to his wife, "Dear one, you do not love me for my sake but for your own sake. Everything you love and hold dear, you love only for the sake of the atma, your highest self;. The atma is the dearest of all, and it is for its sake that someone is dear to you. These feelings you have for others are all just manifestations of that great love you feel for your own true self."
Body-Consciousness taints the Pure Love of the Self
In the whole world each person, whoever he may be, will love another only for his own sake, not for the sake of the other. If he loves an object, he loves it for the self alone, and not for the sake of that object. That self is the atma, the true self. But, when the pure love of the atma becomes tainted with body consciousness, and the senses hold sway, attachment and selfishness arise. This inevitably leads to sorrow.
The body is impermanent. Death is certain for all. Even if someone were to live for a hundred years, he would still have to face death one day. Everyone knows that. But, isn't it strange that the would-be dying are crying and feeling sorry for those who have already died? Everyone is sure to meet death and so everyone may be thought of as among the dying. Yet, even though they themselves are dying, people feel sorrow and grief when thinking of someone who has died. It is as if death were a totally unusual and unexpected thing, rather than the natural conclusion that must come to all. This sorrow that comes on, particularly when someone near and dear has died, can only be there because of attachment. After knowing full well that death is certain, if you still worry about somebody, it must be due to the attachment which you have developed for that body. It is this attachment which is responsible for all your grief. Therefore, when someone has died the primary cause for sorrow is attachment, not love.
Basically, every human being, at all times, is a seeker of joy. He thirsts for joy and does not ever want sorrow. Man always aspires for profit, never for loss. That is his very nature. Profit, joy and bliss are inherent in his makeup; they are at the very core of his being. Every man, right from the beginning, would like to have only gain, not pain. For a business man, the first thing he thinks of is his profit. Here in India, when measuring out some staple such as rice, if the number of kg's goes above six, then the shopkeeper will not say '7', but '6 + 1'. This is because the word for seven also means 'weeping'. The shopkeeper will use another word to avoid uttering this unhappy word. In this way, man never wants to face unhappiness and loss. He wants only profit and gain, and the happiness they bring.
Self-Knowledge gives the Greatest Joy
Of all the possible profits and gains, the supreme profit of all, which gives the greatest joy, is self-knowledge, the knowledge of the atma. That is the joy you must seek and make your own.
Consider a beautiful rose; the moment you look at a rose joy emanates from your heart. Similarly, when you see a handsome person or any beautiful thing in this world, you instantly feel joy. Many people undertake trips to go sight-seeing. Why do they go? In order to derive joy from it. Therefore, you can see beauty in nature and you can see beauty in people, and you can derive great joy from all the beauty that you see. But how long does this kind of joy and beauty last? The rose that you picked today starts to dry out tomorrow; then its beauty gets lost. The moment the beauty fades away, the joy that you previously derived from it also subsides. It is the same with the different stages of life: childhood, youth, adulthood and old age.
Childhood may be said to reflect divinity. During early childhood the individual does not suffer much from hatred, jealousy, anger and so forth. Jesus said that since children do not have any really bad qualities, they could be considered divine. During that period of life, there are no bad thoughts or bad traits, either in the mind or in the body. Little children are beautiful because they do not have impure feelings arising out of impure thoughts. As they grow up they gradually develop tainted qualities. The moment such negative qualities grow, the beauty of the small child fades away. Therefore, it is the coming in of impure thoughts which lead to impure words and impure deeds, which then results in the child losing its beauty.
Beauty and Joy
We see that the beauty possessed by a person is transient. It gradually fades away and, therefore, it cannot give permanent joy. Even a new-born donkey is very beautiful, but gradually as it grows up it develops a big stomach, gets a splotchy coat, and becomes ugly to look at. As long as there are no negative qualities everything looks beautiful. But, whoever be the person or whatever be the sense-object, you will find that its beauty is limited and, therefore, the joy derivable from it is also limited. Joy and beauty always go together. What is the one principle which has permanent joy and permanent beauty within itself? It is the atma! It never changes; it has no modification. In fact, it has no form at all. Beauty and joy are its form.
Although joy naturally emanates from the core of your heart, you think that you are deriving joy from the sense-objects and the sensory organs. But this is not so. All joy comes from within you and you have deluded yourself into thinking that it comes from something outside. The scriptures speak of the ethereal joy that emanates from the heavenly world of the creator. The joy which can be experienced through the contact of the senses with the sense objects is extremely small when compared to that creative joy. The sensory joy may be described as a drop in the ocean of bliss that is the creator's joy. But even this vast ocean of joy experienced by the creator of the universe, is itself as small as an atom when compared with the boundless joy that radiates from within your spiritual heart. That is the primary source of all joy. It is the joy of joys. The heart can be compared to a most splendorous and effulgent light which shines everywhere. Try to understand this brilliant spiritual light, which is ever luminous and all pervading, and is your inner truth.
The Light of Atma Illuminates Everything
During the day, the sun illuminates the various objects of the world; at night, the moon plays a similar though lesser role. Therefore, you can declare that it is the sun and the moon that are responsible for the luminous nature of the world and its objects. But during the dream state you also see various things; where are the sun and the moon in that state? The sun that you see in the daytime during your waking state is not there in the dream state; nor is the moon there, nor is any other source of light visible there to illuminate the various objects. Yet you can see an entire world, namely, the world of the dream. What is it that illuminates that world? In the deep-sleep state there is absolute darkness. There is neither knowledge nor wisdom in that state. But how do you know that it is dark? What is it that enables you to apprehend this darkness?
The deep-sleep state has been described as the unconscious state; the dream state has been described as the sub-conscious state; the waking state has been described as the conscious state. There is a fourth state which transcends all these other states; it may be described as the super-conscious state. In the super-conscious state you are able to see everything, everywhere, and enjoy bliss supreme. What is the light that illuminates this bliss state and permits you to experience this unmitigated joy? That light is the effulgence that emanates from the atma. It is this light which illuminates all the other states as well and enables you to see them.
In the Vedas, the sages have spoken of this super-conscious state. They declared, "We are able to see a state which transcends the others, including the darkness of the dreamless state. Beyond the dreamless state is the supreme light of the atma which illuminates the waking, the dream and the deep-sleep states." To understand this a little better, consider an example from the waking state. When you close your eyes for a minute, what exactly are you seeing? You will say that there is nothing there, only absolute darkness. But then the question arises, 'How is it that I am able to perceive this darkness? Since I seem to see it and am able to describe it, there must be a light of consciousness which illuminates this state and enables me to see even this darkness.' That light is the light of the atma It is only through this transcendental light that all the other lights can shine.
We celebrate a festival of light in which we light a candle, and from that one candle go on lighting all the other candles and lamps. This first light is the basis for lighting the others. It is because we have this first light that we are able to light so many others. For living beings, this first light is the divine light of the one atma. With it, all the individual lamps, representing the countless individual beings, are lit in turn. It is because of this divine light that the eyes are able to see. It shines from inside and illuminates all beings. But it is not only the source of all living beings, it is also the source of all objects and all the external bodies of light, such as the sun and the moon.
You may wonder, since you cannot see this divine light, how can you be sure that it illuminates all these other objects and lights. Here the example of a battery will be instructive. You cannot see the electrical power which is in the cells, but if you switch on the current flow you can see the light in the bulb. If there had been no electric power in the cell, you would not have been able to get any light from the bulb. The body may be thought of as an electric lamp driven by this battery cell which is the mind your eyes are the bulb and your intelligence is the switch which controls it. In this battery cell of the mind, a very special type of energy derived from the atma is stored. In ordinary electric batteries the power gets exhausted very quickly, but the atmic current flows continuously through the mind. The Vedas have declared that the mind is the receptacle for storing the atmic energy. It is this inexhaustible source that provides the temporary flow of pleasure when some pleasing object is perceived.
The Joy of the Self is the only True Joy
All the joys and pleasures which you enjoy in this world are only temporary, and are just the reflections of the immeasurable joy which is inside of you. Out of ignorance you believe that your joy comes from sense-objects and that this momentary joy is true. But only what is permanent is true. These temporary joys which are associated with the things of the world are not the true joy. Only the eternal bliss that is the atma, is true; these others come and go. All the things that you see in the waking state disappear in the dream state. All the joys and sorrows which you experience during the dream state you leave behind when you come back into the waking state. People and objects that you see in the waking state will appear as changing reflections in the dream state, and then they get completely absorbed and disappear in the deep-sleep state. In this way, your joy changes as these states change.
All the worldly joys which you think to be so permanent will give you a great deal of trouble in the end and lead you to grief. "Therefore," Krishna told Arjuna, "pay attention only to your inner truth, the basis, from which springs all manifestations. Then outer appearances and sense-impressions will not bother you." The basis does not change, whereas the manifestations which depend on that basis continuously change. If the basis were changing along with the manifestations, it would be impossible for you to even live. Consider this small example.
At various times you may have used different types of vehicles, such as cars, trains or buses, to travel from one place to another. The car might be moving fairly fast, so might the bus, and even if you are just walking you might be going quite fast. In each case, this movement will be in relation to the road which remains steady and unchanging. Suppose along with the moving car or the moving bus, the road itself is also moving rapidly, as in violent earthquake. Then what would happen? You would certainly be moving, but you could end up in any direction. You are not likely to reach your goal despite great efforts and hardships along the way. In order to reach your goal the road must be steady.
It is because the atmic source, the indweller of every heart, is permanent and steady that people are able to enjoy the things of the world, which are impermanent and changing. But, Krishna warned Arjuna, "Do not be satisfied with these furtive pleasures, which you mistakenly believe come from the world. The world is fleeting. It is fickle and full of sorrow. It is the ever-changing outer manifestation. It is not the permanent basis. It cannot lead you to your truth. How can you count on the world for your support when it is undergoing so many changes and modifications? Would it be possible for you to derive permanent bliss from it? Let go of the world and turn towards the transcendental principle. Turn towards the atma. It is forever steady and unchanging. There you will find the unending joy that you have been seeking futilely outside in the world."
Do not Drive with your Foot on the Brake
Now, some of you may be thinking that if young children are taught sense control they would turn into inert, helpless human beings? But nobody is telling them that they should not make use of their senses. It is only that they should learn to control them properly. There are brakes in a car, and whenever there is danger you use the brakes to stop the car. When Swami is asking you to control the senses and to control the mind, some of you might be wondering if you would be able to live at all and carry on your routine functions. Swami is not asking you to drive with your foot on the brake, but to use the brakes when necessary to control the car, whenever there is some danger. It is when there is some danger, such as impure thoughts, impure feelings, impure sights, impure hearing and so on, that you have to exercise control. If you do not have any brakes at all you will surely come to grief. A bullock which cannot be brought under control, a horse without reins, a car without brakes, a person without sense control, are all extremely dangerous and heading for disaster.
"Therefore, Arjuna," Krishna said, "control your senses and your mind, and recognize the defects that are inherent in all the objects of the world. When you turn from the changing manifestations and establish yourself in the unchanging basis, then you will be able to live happily anywhere, because you will be established in the source of all happiness, the atma, which is eternal bliss."
The wisdom teachings do not admonish you to give up your family or give up your worldly duties. Be in the world. Use your senses. But do so in a proper and ethical way, appropriate to each time and circumstance, never forgetting your true purpose. The Gita teaches the importance of discipline, of observing limits in all your activities. The brakes are used in a car for the welfare and protection of the passengers, so that they can safely reach their goal. In the same way, the senses must be brought under control and used for the welfare and protection of the individual, so that it can complete its journey safely. That is why Krishna was so insistent that Arjuna develop sense-control.
Detachment, Devotion and Sense-Control
This sense-control is something like the wick in the lamp of your heart. Merely having the wick of sense-control is not enough. You must also have oil, which is the fuel for the lamp; that is your devotion. And there must be a container which holds this oil, and that is your detachment. If you have the container, the oil and the wick, you will be able to light the lamp easily. Still, someone has to come and light it. That someone is God. Once you have detachment, devotion and sense-control, then the divinity will come and light the lamp in your heart. In the case of Arjuna, it was Krishna who performed this sacred act of lighting the lamp and revealing the splendor of the atma in Arjuna's heart.
Suppose you have some flowers, a needle and some thread, will these automatically turn into a garland? No. There has to be someone to string the garland together. You may have gold and precious stones, but without a goldsmith to create it, you will not be able to obtain a beautiful jewel made out of these articles. You may have a high intelligence, you may have books containing the highest knowledge and you may have keen eyes to see them, but without someone to teach you to read, they will all be meaningless and useless to you.
The atma is always present it never changes, it never comes and goes. The spiritual teachings will also be ever-present; they will be there waiting for you when you are ready to receive them. And, inwardly, you may have an intense yearning for illumination. All these may be there for you, but unless the true guru, the spiritual teacher, comes and transmits the immortal knowledge to you, you cannot become enlightened. If you are ready to realize the underlying reality of all the objects of the world and to discover the divine principle within you, then you need the true teacher, the highest source of knowledge to come and instruct you. To gain the sacred knowledge of the self, that teacher is the universal teacher. It is God himself who comes to guide you to your goal. He may take on different forms. In the case of Arjuna, the divine teacher was Krishna, the avatar of that age, and he started by teaching Arjuna sense-control.
You must take some time to reflect on the deeper significance of all these teachings on sense-control, which were given by Krishna to Arjuna, not in an ashram setting, but on the battlefield, at the eve of a great battle fought to preserve righteousness and to counter the forces of injustice and untruth that had become rampant.
XX. Worldly Knowledge is Useless without Self-Knowledge
Krishna taught in the Gita that once you acquire true spiritual knowledge your troubles, difficulties and sorrows all disappear.
Embodiments of Love,
As long as you identify yourself with your body, you will be exposed to countless problems and sorrows. The primary reason for having obtained your body in the first place, is to enable you to undergo the consequences of your past actions. This is your karma, the results of activities you have engaged in which have not yet fructified. Why did you accumulate this karma in the first place? Why did you engage in activities which bear consequences long into the future? The reason for karma is the desire or attachment you have for some things and the dislike or repulsion you have for other things. And what is the reason for this attraction and repulsion? It is because your mind is steeped in duality. You believe that this world is real and is filled with objects and things which are separate from you. But, where did this false view, this duality, come from? The reason for duality is your state of ignorance, the beclouding of your consciousness by a dark veil that covers the knowledge of your true reality.
The Light of Wisdom dispels the Darkness of Ignorance
You have forgotten the fundamental unity of all beings. You have become unmindful of the divine basis of all things. You have lost sight of the atma, your real self. It is because of this ignorance that you experience so much grief and sorrow. If you want to be free of this darkness of ignorance, you have to obtain the light of wisdom. The only thing that can remove darkness is light. Similarly, the only thing that can remove ignorance is wisdom or spiritual knowledge. Ignorance has covered the knowledge of divinity and you are not able to perceive the truth. Just as the embers of a fire are covered by ashes, your light of truth has been covered by the ashes of ignorance and, therefore, you have not been aware of your own reality.
You may have the power of sight in your eyes but if there is a cataract covering the surface of your eyes, you will not be able to see. It is only after an operation is performed that you will be able to get your sight back. Similarly, it is only after a spiritual operation is performed and the cloud of ignorance is removed, that the sun of wisdom will shine freely. It is just like the sun's rays beaming into a room the moment you pull back the heavy drapes covering the window. The principle of divinity exists in everyone, so it is impossible for any person to be completely devoid of wisdom. There is no doubt whatsoever that, in time, the clouds of ignorance will be dispelled for all of humanity and the full light of wisdom will shine forth. All will realize their divine state.
When human life is infinitely expanded it becomes the one divine principle. Man plus infinity is divinity. When the human mind is expanded to infinity it becomes the divine mind, it becomes the creative principle which brought forth this universe. The atma, the self in man, and the divinity that dwells within him, are one and the same. Add infinity onto yourself and you become the divinity itself. You will have merged into the atma. Unfortunately, having become embodied, you have forgotten your divinity, your unlimited infinity. You are aware only of your limited individuality. If you want to attain your infinite reality, you must make an inquiry into the divinity which is inherent within you.
Atma remains unchanged, the Individual changes
Consider a person who has built a house for himself. From the moment he completed the house he has been considering it as 'his' house. When he dies, the house goes to his heir, who then starts calling it 'his' house. Suppose, as time goes on, this new house owner becomes poor and has to sell the house to discharge his debts. Another person buys the house and begins calling the same house 'his' house. Now, who does this house really belong to? Does it belong to the one who constructed it, to the one who inherited it or to the one who bought it? There is no change in the house. In other words, the object remains as before. There is a change only in the persons who claim to own it. The house just continues to be there, but the claimed ownership undergoes repeated change.
In a similar way, there is the unchanging entity, the atma, which, like the house, remains unaffected by the countless owners who come and go. Each one claims personal ownership of this inner house which they call I. Each one believes the I to be their own personal self, but, in truth, it is the one, unchanging atma. And so this my-ness goes on constantly changing, but the atma which is being claimed as one's personal property, expressed every time one says I, remains unaffected by all these assertions.
Is there any medicine to cure this disease of I-ness or my-ness? Both the revealed and the written scriptures have declared that it is the mind which is responsible for this possessive nature. It has been said that along with the five senses of perception, the mind may be considered to be a sixth sense. But it is not just another sense equal to the other senses. In fact, it is the master of all the senses.
The two States of the Mind, Pure and Impure
If there were no mind, neither the motor organs nor the sensory organs would be able to function at all. For all these various senses, the mind is in the position of the controller. It acts as the bridge to the inner life of the person. You may be in a lecture hall and your eyes and ears may be taking in all that is happening, but, if your mind is not there, if it were to wander off to your home town to think over some events going on there, you would not register anything which was taking place in the hall. Afterwards, you might question your neighbor, "What did the lecturer say? My mind was not here." What is the reason for your not hearing, although your ears are there? What is the reason for your not seeing although your eyes are there? The reason is the mind.
If your mind is absent, even if your eyes are here, you will not be aware of who your neighbor is; even if your ears are here you will not be aware of what is being said. The inner significance of this is that the mind is the master of the senses. All the senses should properly be subservient to the mind. When the mind is in a position of stillness, the senses will not be able to function at all.
The mind has two states. One is the impure mind, which is the thinking faculty, and the second is the pure mind, which is the seat of deepest feelings, experienced as the spiritual heart. When the mind allows itself to be subservient to the senses, it is impure. But, when the mind exercises control over the senses and follows the dictates of its highest inner knowing, it is pure. In other words, when the lower mind follows the buddhi, the higher mind, which knows the dictates of the heart, it is pure. Impure and pure are just aspects of the same mind. In its natural state, the mind is pure. Through the thinking process and its association with the senses, the mind becomes impure. Consider a small example.
The nature of a handkerchief is pure whiteness. The white color is natural to it. When you use the handkerchief it acquires dirt, and then you describe it as being dirty. After the washerman cleans it, you again think of it as a clean cloth. The dirty cloth and the clean cloth are one and the same. The same cloth, having acquired some dirt, has become a dirty cloth. Once the cloth has been washed and the dirt has been removed, it has become pure and you call it a clean cloth. You say that the washerman has made the cloth white. But really, he has not made it white; whiteness is its natural state. He has only removed the dirt. Similarly, when the mind absorbs impurities from the senses it can be described as an impure mind. But when the sense impressions have been removed and the mind is no longer turned towards the senses, it becomes pure again.
It is in this context that you can understand the meaning of these two states of the mind, pure and impure. When the mind is intimately associated with the senses it is impure. Then it is nothing but a bundle of thoughts; it can be conceived of as the process of thinking itself. In this process of thinking, revolving around duality and its polarities of attraction and repulsion, the mind gets dirty. It absorbs the impure impressions of the sense organs and becomes impure. At this point it does not have any specific form; it is merely the thing which thinks.
Give the Mind some Peace - Turn it towards God
When the lower mind is free of the dirt and impurities of the senses and is turned towards the higher mind, it again becomes pure. Higher mind is always aware of the inherent divinity. When you turn your mind to the divinity, you will be able to free it from all the troubles and sorrows associated with impure thoughts which arise from the impressions of the sense-organs. Therefore, you have to make every effort to turn your mind away from the senses and towards God. This can be described as meditation or yoga, union with God. This is the process whereby you cleanse a mind which has become impure, and again make it pure.
The mind needs a certain amount of peace. Just as the body needs rest, the mind needs peace. How can the mind get peace? It is only when you control the thinking process and slow the flow of thoughts that the mind gains some peace. The mind will always try to go out through the sense-organs toward various sense-objects. This then, gives rise to the thinking process. If you control this tendency of the mind to go outwards, and instead turn it inwards towards God, impure thoughts will diminish. Then you will be using the mind properly, and giving it some rest as well. This has been described as the yoga of constant inward-directed practice. Let us look at this further.
How to cross the turbulent River of Worldly Life
When you are traveling on a wide, powerful river, what is the most important knowledge you should possess? You should know how to swim. That comes first; that takes precedence over all other knowledge. If you go on a great river but do not know how to swim, however educated you may be, you run the risk of getting drowned. There is a story for this.
A highly educated scholar had to cross a wide river to attend an important meeting. The wind and the river current were going in opposite directions, so the journey was quite slow that day. Now, pundits have the habit of constantly talking, whether it is to themselves, going on repeating verses from the scriptures, or whether it is to anyone within easy earshot. On this particular day the boatman was quietly concentrating on steering the boat in the river. This pundit, who was the only passenger traveling in the boat, had no one else to speak to, so he started a conversation with the boatman.
"Do you know how to read and write?" the pundit asked. The boatman answered, "No, I don't know reading and writing."
"You seem to be quite a strange person," the pundit said, "In these days in every village the government has established schools, and you should know at least a little bit of reading and writing."
Just to while away the time, this pundit continued speaking to the boatman. Next he asked him, "Do you play any musical instruments?" The boatman answered, "Swami, I've had no chance to learn an instrument." "Well, do you know any of the latest popular songs?" asked the scholar. "No, I don't even know that," replied the boatman.
"What a strange person you are. In every street there is a movie house, and there are loud-speakers all around it playing the latest hits. And the radio broadcasts are filled with all the current pop recordings. Shouldn't you at least take a little of your income to buy a cheap transistor radio and listen to music?"
The boatman confessed, "I do not even know what a transistor is."
The pundit replied, "If in this modern age you don't even know about a transistor, you have wasted much of your life; at least a quarter of your life has been dumped into the water."
He asked the boatman another question, "Do you have a newspaper with you?" The boatman replied, "I don't have any education at all; what is the use of my having a newspaper, Swami?" The pundit went on, "Without having an education and without being able to read a newspaper, you've wasted even more of your life. At least half of your life has been dumped into the water."
After a few minutes the pundit asked again, "Do you have a watch? Can you tell me what time it is?" "Swami, the truth is I don't even know how to tell time. Then what is the use of my having a watch?" the boatman answered. The pundit rejoined, "Look at how much of your life has been wasted. If you don't have a radio to enjoy music, and you can't read a newspaper to find out what is going on, and you don't even know what time it is, then three fourths of your life has been dumped into the water."
Meanwhile a strong wind came up and it quickly turned into a powerful gale. The boat started swinging from side to side and the river was soon in full flood. The boatman could no longer maintain control of the boat. He asked the pundit, "Swami, do you know how to swim?" The pundit replied, "No, I never learned how to swim."
As he was about to go overboard, the boatman said to the pundit, "O Swami, what a pity! What a waste! You don't know how to swim? Now your whole life will be dumped into the water."
When you are traveling across a turbulent river, you should know how to swim. Without knowing how to swim, all your other knowledge of philosophy, physics, chemistry, botany, commerce, mathematics, political science, etc., will be of no use to you. In the journey of life, you are traveling on a rushing, unpredictable river, and you should know how to stay afloat and cross that river. To swim safely across the river of life, you must have the knowledge of the atma, and you must develop a strong power of discrimination, to know that which is useful and that which is useless for crossing this river. If you have not developed a capacity along these lines there will be no way for you to find fulfillment in life. You will drown in the river of worldly life.
External Freedom and Inner Freedom
As long as you base your life on wealth, property and worldly things, you will never be able to derive any real joy. There are two things which every person has to attain; one is external freedom, the other is inner freedom. External freedom speaks of independence, being free of external bonds and limitations. Inner freedom speaks of liberation from the bondage of the senses, having them under your full control. Every individual should realize both of these freedoms.
In the external world, as long as you are under the control of people who are unsympathetic towards you, such as some foreign king or ruler, you will not be able to get real joy. In the inner world, as long as you are a slave of the senses, then you will also not be able to enjoy real freedom. Even for the outer freedom, sense-control is important. But for becoming master of the inner world, the single most important faculty that you must develop is the control of the senses and thereby gain control over the mind. Once you have control of the mind you will be able to turn it away from the world and towards God. Then you will get real joy, both externally and internally, for then you will see the divinity everywhere.
Control of the mind and control of the senses is the victory that must be won by all human beings. Up to now you have been craving for different types of joys and pleasures; you go on uttering prayers for attaining happiness but you are not making any real effort to discover where that happiness is to be found. Krishna told Arjuna, "You are deluding yourself, believing that you can get happiness and peace in daily life. But, you won't be able to get real joy there. Sense-objects cannot give you the joy that you are seeking. It is only when you control your senses that you will be able to get peace and joy."
Whether you are a believer or a non-believer, you will have to gain control over your senses. Be the master of your senses. Do not allow them to get excited and run after sense-objects. When the senses get excited and you follow them, you will become weak and forget the Lord. Keep your senses under control and keep your mind firmly fixed on the Lord. Follow his teaching and directions. Without his grace your strength will leave you, and you will not be able to undertake any useful work.
You need the Lord's Grace to Achieve Anything Worthwhile
As long as Arjuna had the blessings and the company of Krishna, he was a mighty hero and he was able to accomplish many heroic deeds. Once Krishna left his mortal body, Arjuna, through body consciousness and attachment, was overcome with sorrow and self pity. He felt that Krishna had left him, and as a result, he lost all his valor. Arjuna, the great hero, now became weak and unable to accomplish even the smallest tasks. When Arjuna was bringing the surviving women and children from Krishna's household to shelter, robbers attacked him in the forest. Arjuna tried his best to fight against them and to free the women and children from the grip of these murderous robbers; but he could not do it.
During the many battles of the Mahabharata war, Arjuna was able to fight and defeat so many great heroes. He was unconquerable, no matter the odds against him. But, the same Arjuna was not able to even vanquish the robbers in the forest and rescue the women and children who were under his protection. What was the reason for this? Until that time, with Krishna at his side, Arjuna had felt great strength. Not recognizing where that strength came from, he believed it was his own valor and his own strength that had provided the victories he was able to gain. But this delusion stemmed from ignorance. Arjuna's strength had not been his. That strength had been given to him by the divinity.
Even though a person may be endowed with divine strength, he deludes himself into thinking that the strength he has is all due to his own human capabilities. So it was with Arjuna. But, once he lost the strength of divinity, he was not able to accomplish even the smallest thing. Man has been able to undertake many types of activities because the divinity is inherent in him and has been providing all his inner strength, sustenance and power. Without this divine power, man would not be able to accomplish anything. Without the stamp of divinity not even his smallest undertakings would reach fruition. That stamp is all-important. Consider the following example.
Let us say that you have made a beautiful envelope out of heavy art paper. You have written Swami's address on it in colorful decorative script, and you have enclosed a beautiful letter, carefully written with calligraphy and adorned with striking colors. The borders of this envelope are also artfully embellished with many exquisite designs. You have inserted the letter inside the envelope, you have sealed it and posted it. Yet, despite all your great efforts and skill, the letter never reached Swami. Why is that? The reason is that you did not put a stamp on the envelope. All your decorations and all your beautiful handwriting could not help in getting that letter to Swami.
Even a letter which has been dropped in the postbox at the college hostel will not reach the temple here, less than a mile away, without a stamp. But with a stamp on it, a letter could even have traveled thousands of miles and reached its destination. The postal department will not look at all the decorations, the ornate letters, the striking colors and designs. They will not pay any attention to all your beautiful art work. They will only look at the address and check to see if the envelope has the correct stamp. So, what was most needed was for you to procure a stamp and properly place it on the envelope.
God's Grace is earned through Purity of the Heart
As in the example just given, God will not pay attention to all your elaborate efforts unless you have addressed your efforts correctly and have procured the stamp of divinity and affixed it onto your work. How do you obtain that stamp? Through purity of the heart. By bringing all your efforts in alignment with noble values. God does not care for all your scholarship, your accomplishments, your wealth and position. Worldly-minded people will have their eyes on that, but not God. God only looks in your heart. What is the use of earning many degrees and achieving great scholarship in a particular subject if your heart has not become purified by all your education? It is the values that you practice every day in the area of truth and honesty which will carry you through life and be your greatest asset. That is why we emphasize values so strongly in the system of education we have here at the ashram.
Would a hungry man have his hunger satisfied if you just showed him some different types of delicious food? Would a poor man be freed from poverty if he merely heard stories of great wealth? Would a sick man be cured if you just described to him the various medicines that could make him well? No. And in the same way, if you merely listened to the great teachings of the Gita you would not be able to derive much benefit from them. You have attended many discourses and you have heard many great truths expounded. Now you must put into practice at least one or two of these truths. Then you will be able to experience real joy.
For your efforts to succeed and be truly worthwhile you need the stamp of divinity. Purity of heart will earn for you that stamp. This means practicing the noble values that the Gita has been teaching. But even before these values can be put into practice you will have to control your mind and turn it one-pointedly in that direction. This can happen only if you master your senses. Therefore, the crucial lesson in all these teachings is the control of the senses. Krishna told Arjuna, "Arjuna, if you want to accomplish anything truly worthwhile in this world you must gain control over your own sense-organs." The same thing was said by Prahlada to his father, the demon-king, "Father, you have been able to conquer so many worlds but you have not achieved the real victory. You have not been able to conquer yourself!"
There are many Beings but only One Underlying Divinity
If a person has not conquered his own mind and senses, how will he ever be able to taste the sweet nectar of divinity? To achieve control of the mind and senses, it is important for you to know the deeper reason for all your efforts. The ultimate goal of your life is to realize the one divinity that underlies everyone and everything. You must become established in the one atmic principle that exists in every heart.
The sun is one for everyone. There is not a separate sun for different beings and for different species in different parts of the world. There may be thousands of different vessels all filled with water, standing on the ground. Some will be earthen pots, some will be brass vessels and some will be silver or copper ones. Above them in the sky is the one sun, reflecting itself in all of these vessels. From the many reflections it would appear that there are many suns, but even though the vessels are all different and the reflections are many, the sun which is being reflected is only one. The values of the vessels will also be different; the silver vessel is very costly compared to the earthen one, nevertheless, the sun which is being reflected is one and the same.
Similarly, right from the highest scholar to the most ignorant dullard, right from the wealthiest man to the poorest beggar, from the greatest emperor to the humblest citizen, the bodies and the apparel in which they are clad will be different, but the one who is the resident of all these bodies, the atma which is reflected in all these bodies, is one and the same. The clothes that you wear and the jewelry with which you adorn yourself may be very expensive. A poor person would not be able to have such costly things. But, these are just like the differences in the value of the vessels. The divinity inside all these bodies is only one.
Once you become aware of this truth and recognize the unity in all beings, you will be able to exercise sense-control quite easily. Instead of seeking to control others you will seek control over yourself. Instead of correcting others you will take charge of your own mind and senses. Defects and faults abide in everyone. Then who is to exercise power and authority over whom? If a person has committed some mistake it may be your job to show him the right way, but your main focus should be to correct yourself. Discharge your duty, do your assigned work but always remember the one divinity resident in everyone.
Only Wisdom can conquer Ignorance
Ignorance is very deep. It covers your inner truth. It is impossible for you to remove this thick layer of ignorance by encountering it head-on. In the early morning at 7 o'clock, although you may be only 5 feet tall, your shadow will be 50 feet long. How can you reduce the length of this 50-foot shadow? Is it possible to fight with it? If you admonish it, will it listen to you? If you criticize it, will it be reduced? Whatever you do, its length will not come down. But as the sun goes on steadily rising, the length of the shadow diminishes automatically. Once the sun occupies the position overhead, the shadow, by itself, will have come down to your feet, obliterated itself and disappeared from view.
You may be 5 feet tall but your ignorance is 50 feet long! Therefore, you have to develop inner inquiry so that your wisdom will grow. As long as the sun of wisdom goes on rising, ignorance will go on diminishing. In this way, your ignorance can be totally destroyed. This is one method.
There is still another method for dealing with this shadow that is 50 feet long. You realize that you cannot conquer it by turning towards it and trying to run over it. You realize that by facing it, your shadow will not get any shorter or disappear from view. But, if instead of turning your face towards your shadow, you turn your face towards the sun, then your shadow will automatically be behind you, and however big it is, you will not be aware of it anymore. It will continuously remain out of sight. Therefore, instead of thinking of this ignorance, always think of the sun of wisdom. That way you keep the ignorance behind you and the sun in front of you, and you will not be affected by this shadow anymore. This means always turning your vision towards God.
Both methods should be employed. Always turn your vision towards God and use your intellectual and intuitive faculties to increase your wisdom. These are two major yogas or spiritual paths, the path of devotion and the path of wisdom. If you do not turn towards God and increase your wisdom, but continue to turn towards the world, then as with the shadow and the setting sun, your ignorance will go on increasing and you will get lost. "Therefore," Krishna warned Arjuna, "use your buddhi, your highest intelligence, to increase your wisdom. That way your ignorance will get destroyed. The moment your ignorance is destroyed, duality will vanish. When duality goes, your attraction or repulsion to sense objects will also disappear. And, once these attachments or revulsion to objects disappear, your body consciousness will also disappear. If there is no body consciousness then there is no sorrow."
Develop Wisdom through Inner Inquiry
We have seen that if you want to overcome body-consciousness, you must first overcome your attraction or repulsion to sense objects. Once this goes, duality will be destroyed. And when duality disappears, ignorance will vanish. This will all happen when you develop wisdom. Therefore, the Gita has declared that it is through wisdom that you will be able to destroy ignorance and reach your ultimate reality.
What is this wisdom that you should develop? Can it be gained by acquiring secular knowledge in the world? No. It does not deal with external phenomena at all. It deals only with internal experience. It is only when you have developed self-confidence, confidence in the indwelling atma, that you will be able to develop a strong confidence in the Lord. If you do not believe in your self, you cannot truly believe in God. When you have faith in yourself, then you can have faith in God. To develop such a firm belief in yourself, to realize the indwelling divinity which is the same in everyone, you need to constantly engage in the practice of self-inquiry.
From the moment you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night you go on saying I, I, I, and myself and mine. But even when you say I, do you know who this I really is? You say 'this is my body', 'this is my intelligence', 'this is my inner feeling', 'these are my senses', but do you ever ask yourself, 'Who am I ?' If you never inquire into your own truth what good is all the education you have acquired? If you will not make the effort to inquire into your truth, then who else will come and remove the writing that is on your forehead? Who will remove the karma that is imprinted there? Instead of engaging yourself in self-examination, you just allow impure thoughts to enter your head, and so all your thinking becomes dull and null.
You should realize that when you say, 'this is my handkerchief', the one who is the you, is different from the object which, in this case, is the handkerchief. You say, 'this is my body'. You do not say, 'I am this body'. When you say, 'this is my body' you are declaring that you and the body are different and separate from each other. If you then inquire who is this you who is saying this, then you will be led to the indweller. You must inquire who this indweller is, in other words, who is owning all these things. Only when there is an owner can there be any meaning in saying 'this is my property, this is my land'. Only the master who owns the property has the right to say 'this property is mine'. For the body-mind this master is the indweller. This master will not undergo any change. He will never leave you. Therefore, by means of inner inquiry, you should try to discover and recognize this unchanging indwelling divinity which is your true reality.
Every spiritual aspirant should take up inner inquiry. In all your spiritual practices that you engage in, you should spend three fourths of your time on self-inquiry. Then you will get the full results. Only by using your time properly, by sanctifying your body and by sanctifying all your actions, will you be able to reach the goal. The most important reason for all these sorrows you are prone to, is the weakness you develop because your senses are not under your control. Use the strength you have to keep your senses under control. Put your mind on the right path and develop a firm resolve. You will gain great strength thereby.
The Gita declared that you should control the senses, not that you should destroy them. The Gita does not say that you should renounce action, but that you should renounce the fruit of your action. Therefore, you have to do your work. Although there is no need for the Lord to perform any particular work, you will find that he is working all the time. If he is working constantly, should you not be working also?
Perform your work and use all your senses correctly. Use them within the proper limits for the purposes for which they were intended. Do not ever use them in the wrong way. This is the message of the Gita.
XXI. To Know the Divinity is to Become the Divinity
Krishna said, "If you are a slave of your desires you will be a slave of the entire world. But when you make desires your slave the whole world will be yours."
Embodiments of Love,
Have faith in the indwelling divinity, the atma, which is the basis of every happiness and joy that you will ever experience in the world. People are suffering immensely because of their erroneous belief that the joys of the senses and the delights of worldly objects are real and will last; but these are only temporary and cannot last. People have not inquired to find out what is the basis for the joys associated with the sense objects and all the luxuries of the world.
The Atmic Light gets Hidden by the Impure Senses
In the Gita, the human body has been compared with a container having ten holes, within which is an inextinguishable light. If you were to cover this container with a thick cloth, then you would not be able to see any light shining through it. If, however, you gradually lift this thick cloth covering the container, then you would be able to see the light shining from each of the holes. At that point, it looks as though there are ten lights. But when you take the container away and leave the light, you realize that there was always only the one light. That one light shining within the container, which is the body, is the self-effulgent atma.
The splendorous light of the atma has been covered by the body and its sense organs. There are five gross and five subtle sense organs associated with the human body, which can be thought of as the ten holes in the container through which the light of the atma shines. This container of the body, in turn, has been covered by the thick cloth of my-ness and attachment, which obscures the pure light of the atma. First of all, you must remove this cloth of selfishness and my-ness. This my-ness stems from ignorance. It is a form of delusion which makes you feel separate and keeps you bound up in duality. It arises from the cosmic illusion, or maya. Maya can be thought of as the outer vesture or garment of God. God has been described as having illusion as his outer form. This illusion veils and hides him from view. Once you take away this cloth of illusion, then the inner light becomes revealed, shining radiantly through the sense organs.
The light which you see through your eyes is but a reflection of the one self-effulgent divine light that is inside you. Every sensation you feel through your skin or hear through your ears is but a reaction to that same inner light. And every sound which you make through your mouth is but the resound of that one divine inner light. All that you have been able to do and experience through the senses is only a reflection, a reaction or a resound of that one splendorous radiance which is your immortal self, the atma. But as long as you still identify yourself with this container of the body, you will not be able to see the one atmic light. Only when you identify yourself completely with the atma will you be able to experience this one atmic light instead of a multiplicity of many different lights.
See Unity in all Diversity
Up to this time, you have been seeing diversity and separation in what is actually unity. But now you have to correct this wrong vision. The ancient wisdom teachings have emphasized that you will not be whole until you can see only unity in the illusion of diversity, that appears to be around you. When can you see and directly experience this unity? Only when you destroy your sense of identity with the body. Then you will be able to experience all as one. It is maya which causes this delusory experience of seeing diversity when there is only unity. But it is the universal experience of the great sages and mystics that there is only the one unity to be found within all the multiplicity of the world.
This unity is the basis of everything everywhere. It is the atma. It has to be experienced in every object and in every being. This is the sum and substance of the Gita, which itself is the essence of all the ancient wisdom teachings. The Gita has described the experience of unity as yoga, the process of becoming united with and immersed in the one divinity. You must make an inquiry, taking instances from your own daily life, to see how you can experience this oneness within all the diversity, and, thereby discover the divinity which is inherent in everything.
Take the example of some food preparations. For instance, you can consider some different types of sweets, such as cookies, cakes, candies, desserts, or other sweets which you might enjoy. The forms and names of all these items are different but the inner substance which gives them all their characteristic sweet taste is the same. That underlying sweetness comes from sugar. It is because sugar is present in these items that there is sweetness in all of them. Flour by itself has no sweetness; its taste is insipid. But, when flour is associated with sugar, then you enjoy it as a sweet. It does not matter what flour you use, whether it comes from rice or wheat or other grains. When it is associated with sugar, it becomes sweet. Similarly, the objects of the world are tasteless and insipid, but because the sugar of divinity has been mixed in with them, you can enjoy so many things in the world, considering them desirable and sweet.
You are a Human Being, not an Animal
Do not waste your life running after worldly enjoyments. Realize the truth that you did not get this human birth for the sake of enjoying food or sleep or wasting your time on meaningless activities or entertainment. When you look around you can see any number of animals, birds and worms which live only for the sake of food. Why have a human life if you use it only to enjoy the pleasures that animals, birds and worms enjoy? What is the use of acquiring a higher education, and then spending your time reveling in lowly pleasures that even without benefit of higher education, the animals, birds and worms also indulge in? What is the special ideal which has been held out for humanity? What is the inner significance of the statement that it is extremely difficult to obtain a human life?
Human life has not been given so that you can act like an animal. Human life has not been given so that you can act like a demon either. Man has taken human birth in order to realize his divine essence. Human life has been given to you so that you can reach the highest plane of God-consciousness. The same thing was taught by Jesus when he said, "Man does not live by bread alone."
You have to attain an achievement which is of extraordinary significance. You have been given life so that you may realize the divinity which is inherent within you. Your primary duty as a human being is to give up the things which are impermanent and attain those things which are permanent. But today you are not aspiring for such extraordinary qualities. Instead, you are living a wasted life, filled with attachments. This was also Krishna's admonishment to Arjuna. He said, "Arjuna! This body consciousness and attachment to the body is binding you. You are wasting your life. Give up your attachment to the body now!"
You have to inquire why you develop attachment to the body. Consider this small example. Everyone knows that it is not right to utter a lie. Many people, at some time, take an oath resolving that they will not lie from that moment onwards. But, the very next time they get into a conversation, they tell a lie. Or take a businessman who knows that he should not deceive. He makes a resolution that he will limit himself to earning only a fair and modest profit. But the very next day, he resorts to unfair means. Or a person decides he should not gossip or hurt others with his talk, yet within minutes he has totally forgotten his vow and begins to criticize someone.
Man seems not to have a steady mind at all, and without a firm and steady mind he is unable to control his actions. On a holy day he may feel that he should be thinking of nothing but the Lord and abstaining from taking any food. But after some time he excuses himself and says, "Let me at least have a few biscuits with tea." When man is constantly deviating in this way from his own firm resolutions, there must be some very powerful entity which is working inside him, constantly defeating him. If there weren't such a powerful instinct or urge working within him, he surely would not have changed his resolve and he would have been able to use his will to hold to his announced discipline.
Desire makes you Break your Resolutions
So, there is some power, some force that is hidden within man, that he is not able to control or understand. If he thinks deeply and tries to discover just what exactly this power is, he will find that it is related to the three worldly qualities which are inherent in the human condition. These three attributes which comprise worldly life characterize the mind and its thinking process. They are tthe slothful or dull, the active or passionate, and the serene or calm tendencies. These three attributes, in various combinations, will dominate a person's life. They will be fostered or diminished by the quality of the food taken in and by one's tendency towards indulging in or depriving oneself of sleep.
Of these three attributes, the first two qualities mentioned, that of slothfulness and furious activity, are likely to encourage you to take the wrong path. Slothfulness gives rise to dislike, repulsion and anger. An excessively active nature gives rise to attraction, desire, or attachment to worldly things. Desire is the most powerful urge making man give up all his resolutions. It acts as the leader or captain of all the bad qualities.
You can plan certain programs to defeat your external enemies, but all your plans and strategies will be of no use until you have conquered your inner enemies. Once you have yielded to your inner enemies, how can you hope to conquer your external enemies? When these inner enemies have subverted your will power and defeated all your good intentions, how will you be able to challenge and conquer your external enemies? This captain of the bad qualities, desire, has made a hole and entered the house. The others like hatred, anger, greed and jealousy then follow him into the house. The moment these enemies have entered into you, you lose all your discrimination and wisdom. The moment you lose your wisdom you also give up your resolution. Therefore, the most important reason for not fulfilling your own firm resolve is the welling up of desire. Let us try to understand this further.
When palaces are constructed as residences for great emperors and kings, there is usually a fortified wall surrounding the palace, protecting it from intrusion from outside. There will be a number of guarded gates within this wall. Similarly, a temple is usually situated within a compound having a protecting wall around it in which there will be a number of gates or doors. The body can be thought of as the compound wall enclosing God, who resides inside in the temple of the heart as the atma. An external fortress or a temple will be constructed with the help of bricks, cement, sand and mortar, but this temple of the body is constructed out of flesh and blood. In this body of flesh there will be a number of gates in the form of the sense organs. It is through these gates of the senses that desire and the other bad qualities break in, and invade the inner sanctuary.
The Body is given to you to Realize the Indweller
The body gains its luster from the indweller, who is God. As long as the indweller resides in the body, it will be full of fragrance and full of life. The moment this indweller leaves the body, the body becomes foul and offensive. Without the indweller the body is a reprehensible thing. Far from being fragrant with perfume, it just emits a bad smell, moment to moment. The process of transforming a body with such repugnant qualities into an instrument for serving mankind and realizing the divinity can provide great joy and inner satisfaction. But man thinks of his body only as a means for giving him physical pleasure, and so he uses his body primarily in self-defeating ways. Krishna admonished Arjuna that this was not the mark of a real human being. He told Arjuna, "The body has been given in order to understand the indweller. Arjuna, use your body only for that sacred purpose. Animals and birds have not been given this discriminating power."
You have the capacity to experience great things through your unique ability to inquire and engage in self-examination. You have to use all your powers to understand the principles which constitute human nature. First, you must understand the power of worldly desire which makes you give up all your resolutions. Of course, there must be some desire. Without desire you cannot live for even a moment. But you must use all your desires for good. Your desires should be to help others. That constitutes living as a true human being. If you do not have the welfare of the whole society as your goal you cannot be called a human being.
Since you are born in society, since you live in society and get so many benefits from society you have to serve society. In serving society, you will be serving the Lord. Be it a small job or a big job, whatever you do must be done for the sake of the Lord. Whatever work you do must be converted into divine work. It must be transformed into worship. You must question every action you undertake and ask yourself, "Will it lead me towards the goal?" When you see the Lord everywhere in everyone, then you will be doing everything with God-consciousness.
All the lights or energies in the body originate from the one divine light coming from God. They are all the reflections of the inner light of the atma, which is the effulgence of the supreme Lord. Similarly, all the lights shining in individual beings come from that one light of the divinity, the one atmic light pervading everywhere. You should always have this in your consciousness. You are able to see the external body with its features, but since you cannot directly see the atma, you have not developed the right understanding of the infinite splendor of the Lord, who abides as the indweller in all beings. Consider a small example for this.
Everything comes from the One Indwelling Divinity
There may be a great downpour. Huge torrents of water will be flowing from the trees, water will be coming from the roof and the rain-gutters, it will be coming from the overhangs, it will be spilling over from the roof of the adjoining house, and running off from there onto your house, it will be flooding the ground all around causing rushing rivulets and streams. The water will be everywhere and will seem to be coming from so many different sources, but every drop of all this water can only have originated from the sky above.
Similarly, all this speech, all this strength, all this beauty, all these skills, in whomsoever they appear, are all coming from only the one source, the one divinity pervading everywhere. You have to recognize the unity which underlies all these different traits. Once you have a firm grasp of this unity, all diversity will disappear. And once the diversity disappears, the desires will also disappear. Then, when desire goes and the attraction to worldly objects goes with it, there will be no more room for repulsion and dislike leading to anger. Therefore, when you gain divine wisdom you conquer desire and anger.
It is through spiritual practice, particularly through inner inquiry, that you will be able to realize the unity and enjoy the divinity which is always within you. This yearning to gain the light of divine wisdom, to see the one in the many, is expressed in the great prayer:
From the unreal lead me to the real,
From darkness lead me to the light,
From death lead me to immortality.
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.
Tamasoma jyothir gamaya,
Mrityorma amritam gamaya,
Om shanti, shanti, shantihi.
Whatever work you do, if you do it for the sake of the Lord and offer it to the Lord, then the work takes on a sacred value. Anything that becomes associated with the Lord, thereby becomes sacred and highly potent. Consider, for example, an ordinary rat, which is a despicable thing. If you see a rat inside your house, you take a stick and try to kill it, or set a trap to destroy it. When you see it you feel revulsion. But, traditionally in India, the rat has been associated with a particular form of the divinity, Lord Ganesha, who is the embodiment of divine wisdom;. The rat is Ganesha's vehicle which carries Ganesha around. Now, if you are a devotee of Ganesha and you see images of the rat associated with Ganesha, you revere it as the sacred instrument of the Lord. What is the reason for this? The high value that the rat carrying Ganesha has been able to obtain is due to its association with this representation of the divinity.
Similarly, when you come across a snake you may feel some fear and go to get a stick to drive it away. Or you may get a snake charmer to catch hold of it. But when the same snake adorns the neck of Lord Shiva, you worship it and offer it your prayerful salutations. What is the reason for this? The reason is that it has offered itself to the Lord and serves him alone. Therefore, it has also become divine like the Lord. Even if it is a poisonous snake, once it has offered itself to God, it acquires fame and nobility.
Association with the Divinity makes you Divine
Once upon a time, Lord Vishnu sent a message to Lord Shiva. He sent the message through Garuda, the eagle which is Vishnu's vehicle. Garuda came to Shiva, flapping its wings. When the snake, which was adorning Shiva, caught a little feel of the wind which was being produced by the flapping of Garuda's wings, it started hissing. Although an eagle is the deadly enemy of snakes and a snake would normally slink away when an eagle comes near, now, this snake began hissing at Garuda. It had the courage to do this because of the great strength it got by virtue of the position it occupied around the neck of the Lord. When this snake fearlessly continued hissing, Garuda said, "O snake, you are there around the neck of Lord Shiva; therefore I must excuse you. But just come aside a little, come away from there for a moment." The instant the snake leaves its position, it becomes a meal for the eagle. As long as it remains in its position it gains great strength because of its nearness to divinity.
Truly, the only I-ness that is acceptable is when you link your I with the Lord, and when you say, 'I am one with the Lord.' If instead you give up your nearness and dearness to the Lord and ego takes hold of you, then you become very mean and weak and vulnerable. Even if it is just a small thing, a valueless thing, once it takes shelter in the Lord its value will be greatly increased. An ordinary stone may be lying in the street, but when a sculptor comes and shapes it into a sacred form, it is revered and worshipped in the temple. You can reflect on the extraordinary value you will gain once you associate yourself with the divinity and become one with it.
There is no possibility whatsoever of any kind of smallness finding a place in divinity. In the Rama story we have the occasion when Sita, Rama's wife, had been kidnapped by the demon king, Ravana, and kept captive in his palace. At that time, Ravana was suffering great mental anguish. Even though ten months had elapsed since she had been abducted, Sita would not yield to him. She would not even utter a word to Ravana. Whatever threats he made against her, she remained totally indifferent to him. This fact was noted by Ravana's wife, who went to her husband and tried to correct him. She said, "Ravana, you have infinite powers. You have done a great deal of penance. You are an extraordinary devotee of Lord Shiva. You have acquired extraordinary powers to disguise yourself. You went disguised as a mendicant to abduct Sita. You have the power to go in any disguise whatsoever and appear in any form. Since you can take on whatever form you want, why haven't you gone to her in the form of Rama? Then Sita would have immediately accepted you? Why haven't you done this?" Ravana told his wife, "If I were to disguise myself as Rama and take on his sacred form, I would not have been able to retain such lustful desires!"
When you become one with divinity, all your little mean thoughts and ideas will vanish. They can no longer come and disturb your tranquillity. "Therefore," Krishna told Arjuna, "When you are fighting the battle, fight; but while fighting think of me. That is the proper way of discharging your duty. In that way you will be upholding the high ideals of protecting righteousness and you will be setting a good example for others. You will also gain a great deal of renown. If you offer everything to the divinity, you will be successful in every endeavor. To do this you must gain control of the senses. Slowly but surely you must exercise control over your sense organs until they come under your complete control. Then you will be able to realize your full potential as a human being. Then, also, you will have developed equal-mindedness, and you will be called a truly wise man.
"Now you are still living with so many attachments; when you are so bound up, how can you develop equanimity? You are keeping inner peace far away from you. All these relationships and associations that you are cultivating are constantly changing. They are impermanent and cannot possibly help you in the end. Recognize the truth which is permanent. Attach yourself to the divinity. It is ever with you. It will never leave you."
XXII. The three Worlds - The Gross, the Suble and the Causal
All the myriad objects you see in the world are just combinations of the five elements. Everything, without exception, is made up of the five elements and only the five elements. There is no sixth element to be found anywhere.
Embodiments of Love,
There are three types of spaces which can also be considered as universes or worlds. They are the gross physical universe, the subtle universe of the mind, and the subtlest and most pervasive of all three, referred to as the causal universe. Beyond these and serving as the basis for all three of them is the transcendental, the divine principle, the atma, the supreme self.
The five Elements, Gross and Subtle
A devotee who is anxious to know the divine principle and merge with it should have an understanding of these three universes. The first of these, the gross physical universe, is made up of the five great elements, that is, ether, air, fire, water and earth. Ether, which is also called space, is the first of the five elements it is all-pervasive and very subtle. It does not have any specific attributes except sound. After that comes air. Air can be felt but it cannot be seen. It has only two attributes, sound and touch. Next is fire. Fire can be seen. It is denser than air. It has three attributes, namely, sound, touch and form. Following fire there is water. Water is still more dense, and like fire it can be seen by the naked eye. It can also be tasted. Water has 4 attributes, namely, sound, touch, form and taste. Earth, the last and densest of all the elements, has five attributes, namely, sound, touch, form, taste and smell. You can see that the last three elements, fire, water and earth, have form. The first two, ether and air have other qualities but no form.
All things found in the physical world, are impermanent and subject to continuous change. In time, all objects undergo complete modification from one name and form to another, and then to still another, and so on. In the physical universe, everything is in constant motion. Let us inquire deeper into the nature of physical objects made up of these five elements. Consider the various atoms which exist in a given place and a given time. They will comprise the various objects which appear there at that moment. As the atoms move and change their position, the forms they make up also change. The atoms in all the objects undergo such rapid change in position, that it is hard to say when a particular change has taken place in an object. There is an ongoing process of change. All the objects made up of these changing atoms will be changing their forms continuously with time.
The atoms which make up the human body, like the atoms in any other form, change every moment, causing the body to undergo modification. All these different changes are very much like waves, such as the waves you find in the ocean. For the waves in the ocean there is no beginning or end. The drops of water in one wave get merged into the next wave. The waves in which those drops have been merged again get merged into other waves, and so on. This process of forms changing and merging goes on continuously. This is the very nature of the physical universe.
Life is a Series of Waves
Humanity can also be described as a series of waves; and other living beings such as animals and birds can be thought of as other waves. Plants can also be thought of as waves, as can the insects and crawling things. The demonic forces can be described as still other waves, and the divine forces are yet other waves. In nature, it is impossible to say what aspect of any wave will merge with any other wave. Therefore, just as drops of one wave in the ocean will mingle with and get merged into another wave, so also you may find that a wave containing human characteristics may merge into another wave containing characteristics of other living things. It is one continuous process of change and modification. In this way, life itself can be described as a series of waves.
In the same way that the body undergoes change, the mind also undergoes change. Human nature is associated with the thinking process, which is the result of a continuous string of thoughts. These thought processes are all impermanent. They constantly undergo change. We see that everything comprising human life is undergoing change. Unless you are able to recognize the six principal types of changes which occur in life, namely, birth, growth, maturity, decline, degeneration and death, you will be deluded into thinking that life is permanent. The root cause of such lack of understanding is ignorance, which gives rise to the ego and egoistic feelings of self-delusion.
The physical universe contains billions of suns, each with its own world. There are countless planets, big and small and innumerable beings. In this entire vast universe, the earth is smaller than even a tiny drop. On this earth, India is just a little country. In this little country there is a small state. In this small state is a very little district. In this little district there is just a minor village. In this village there is an insignificant little house. And in this little house there sits a very small body. Isn't it ludicrous to think that such a small body could ever feel egoistic and blown-up with self-importance, considering its minute size in this huge universe? When you think of this world and your own place in it, you can see that physically you are the merest speck in that vast totality. Can such a tiny speck ever hope to understand the totality? Can a mere little ant ever hope to measure the whole ocean? And yet, this ocean is itself constantly undergoing change... and so does the whole earth... and so does everything else in the physical universe.
The world in which you are living is completely temporary and transient. How can an insignificant, temporary thing living in a transitory world try to understand the infinite, limitless, permanent entity? To understand the permanent entity you must occupy a permanent place within that permanent entity. Body, personality and individuality are all temporary. They can be compared to a mirage. Man is trying to quench his thirst from a mirage. A mirage appears to be made up of water, but there is no real water there. No cloth can be wetted from a mirage; no bucket can be filled there. You can never slake your thirst there. In the same way, your body and your individual nature can never satisfy your thirst for the true joy that you are seeking.
But for the Divine Principle, The World is totally Inert
The whole vast physical world is something like an atom in the mental world, just as your body is like a infinitesimal atom in the universe. But this incredibly huge mental world is itself only the size of a mere atom in the causal world. The physical world, being made up of the five gross elements, can be apprehended by the five senses of perception. But since everything in the physical world is made up of the five elements and only the five elements, this world is totally inert and insentient. Yet, the divine principle is inherent in it. This divine principle is also to be found in the mental world. Since the mental world is made up of the same five elements (in their subtle aspects), this world is also inert and insentient. But just as the divine principle, as indweller, is inherent in the inert body, activating it, and is inherent in the inert mind, vitalizing it, so also it is inherent in these inert physical and mental worlds, energizing and vitalizing them.
This divine principle which brings energy and vitality to the physical and mental worlds, shines forth most splendidly from the causal world, the subtlest of these vast universes. To understand this process consider the reflections in a mirror. The image or reflection has no independent existence of its own. It can shine and be seen only when the object which is being reflected is luminous, and it can move only when this same object being reflected, moves. All the apparent luster of the things making up the world arises from the causal world, and is then reflected by the mental and physical worlds, which act as mirrors. Just as the effulgence of the sun gets reflected by the moon, the effulgence present in the causal state gets reflected in the subtle mental state and the gross physical state.
Now suppose you wanted to decorate the reflection which you see of yourself in a mirror. Could you do it so that it would remain there permanently? When you see your face in the mirror, could you paint a dot on the forehead of your image in the mirror and keep it there? No, it would be a futile effort. If you were to paint a dot on the mirror where the center of your forehead is on your image, then as soon as you move, the image would also move, and the dot which was formerly in the center of your forehead would now be over your ear. Whenever you moved to one side, the image would also move to one side and the dot would no longer be in the center of the image. Then, is there any way that you can put a dot on your forehead of your image in the mirror so that it will remain there, no matter what happens? Yes. You must put the dot on you, the object which is being reflected. Then you can move in any direction, or even turn the mirror to one side or the other, and the dot would not move on your image. Here is a small story which will illustrate this principle.
The Artist who tried to Capture the Image of the Lord
There was once a world-famous artist. He had an extraordinary talent for figure and portrait painting. He came to Krishna, in his capital city of Dvaraka, and wanted to paint Krishna's portrait. With a beaming smile Krishna said, "Well, if you want to paint my image you can certainly do so. Tell me what I should do." The artist requested, "Swami, if you would kindly just sit still for an hour in the same place, I will draw an outline, and then later on I will fill in the details." Krishna sat down on for the artist and remained without moving. The artist made some preliminary sketches. After a while, he prostrated at Krishna's feet and said, "Swami, I am done now." Smiling, Krishna asked, "When are you going to show the picture?" The artist answered, "Swami, by tomorrow at this time I should have completed it."
Throughout the night, he worked untiringly on this difficult task of accurately painting a likeness of the Lord on canvas. When the picture was done the next morning, the artist was extremely pleased with his work. He covered the painting with a beautiful cloth and brought it to Krishna. But when the cloth was removed, it was seen that in the intervening 24 hours the form of Krishna had undergone a remarkable change. The artist put the portrait directly alongside Krishna. He looked at the picture and then looked at Krishna. He realized that there was very little resemblance between the two. Krishna also looked at the painting and pointed out, "My dear fellow, there seem to be a number of defects." The artist said, "Please forgive me, Swami. Please give me another chance. Let me try again and I will do better." It went on like this for ten days.
Each day the artist did his work over again, but it was impossible to get a proper picture. Now the artist began to feel ashamed. He decided it would be best if he just disappeared from there, and so he hurriedly left the city. On the way, sage Narada happened to meet the artist departing from the city. Narada asked the artist, "You seem quite disturbed. Tell me what is making you so unhappy." The artist explained to him all that had happened. Narada told the artist, "Well, Krishna is a master actor and a master director. He is enacting this whole drama. Using your methods you will never be able to get a true likeness of him. But if you really want to succeed then listen to my words and follow them implicitly.
The artist agreed to do exactly as Narada instructed. He returned to Dvaraka, and the very next day went to Krishna, carrying with him a picture covered with a fine cloth. He told Krishna, "Swami, I have finally been able to bring you your exact picture. Please have a look. This will always give the correct likeness of you. Whatever changes come into your expression and form, the image that is seen here will show all these changes faithfully." Then he got ready to remove the covering cloth and said, "Please accept this as my best picture of you." When the cloth came away, it revealed a clean mirror.
If you want to paint a portrait of the Lord who is permanent with temporary materials like brushes, paint, etc., you will not be able to succeed. In the physical universe everything is temporary. All forms are constantly undergoing change. Such transient forms cannot give a proper vision of the permanent Lord. If you want to have a clean and unchanging vision of the Lord, you will be able to obtain it only in the clean mirror, which is your own purified heart.
To Reach the Permanent, Go Beyond the Impermanent
Trying to know the Lord through the changing forms found in the gross physical universe, is a type of delusion. The permanent unchanging entity cannot be known through impermanent, changing forms. Whatever knowledge you get this way will be impermanent. Whatever joy you may derive from trying to know him in this way will only be temporary. The basic nature of these five elements is that they are constantly undergoing change. To reach the state of the permanent, you have to go beyond these five elements and their changing forms.
Suppose you go on a pilgrimage to a temple to have a vision of the Lord. Coming there, you may have had to undergo a great many difficulties. Then, when you finally arrive there and have a chance to go into the temple, you stand before the likeness of the Lord with your heart filled with yearning. You look at the sacred image, but immediately you find yourself closing your eyes as you experience the intense feelings of being in the divine presence. Spontaneously, you close your eyes and turn your vision inwards. Having gone to so much trouble to get there to have a look at the holy image, why, once you are there, do you close your eyes and look within yourself? What is the inner significance of this? You turn your sight inward because you realize that in order for you to get a permanent and true vision of the Lord, you have to look inside your heart. You know intuitively that the pictures taken in through your eyes will remain fleeting impressions, superimposed on impermanent thoughts. After having registered these visual images in the thoughts, they must be fixed so that they can become unchanging impressions in the heart.
Although you cannot get a direct experience of the divinity in the physical universe, the indirect vision of the divinity that you can get there will give you some sacred experiences. Just because the physical world is transient and changing you should not renounce these feelings of connectedness with the divinity, even though they may be short-lived. These feelings will give you some temporary joy. First, you will have to secure this temporary joy and then slowly and gradually make the journey towards permanent joy. This journey will take you through the three worlds, the physical, the mental and the causal, going from the grossest to the most subtle. It is only in the causal that you will find the image of real truth. The causal arises from the transcendental state, which interpenetrates these three worlds, and is beyond them. That transcendental source which illuminates the causal is the unchanging light of the atma.
You are not just One but Three
You can get some understanding of all this by contemplating the statement that Swami has often made, 'You are not one person but three... the one you think you are, the one that others think you are and the one you really are.' The one you think you are, the body, is ephemeral and untrue. Whatever life you are living today, whatever experiences you are having today, they are all transient. Both the body and its activities, are temporary and associated with the physical world. Now, when others think of you, they do so not only in terms of your physical makeup but also in terms of your personality and character traits. Theirs is a more mentalized image of you. Therefore, the one that others think you are, relates to the mind and the mental world, which is also changing and untrue. But, the one you really are, is the atma, the unchanging truth, shining in the causal state.
A piece of ice in your hand will start melting until it becomes water again. Why is this so? Because melting is the very nature of ice. Similarly, changeability or transitoriness is the very nature of everything that appears in the physical world. Even while you are trying to understand the gross physical universe, you have to think of the finer, subtler inner worlds. The physical world is at the gross level. You experience it during the waking-state. The same thing in a subtle form is associated with the mental world, which you experience in the dream-state. In the waking state, you are able to see objects because of the light emanating from the sun and the moon. But the sun and the moon of your waking state are not present in the dream-state. It is only the light which emanates from the mental world which helps you to see the objects of that world.
The moment you push aside the gross, the subtle light becomes evident inside. During the day you are not able to see the stars. But just because you cannot see them does not mean that they are not there. Stars continue to shine even in the daytime, and yet because the sun's effulgence is so great, you cannot see them. As the light of the sun becomes dim at dusk, you begin to see the shining stars.
Behind the Gross the Subtle, Behind the Subtle the Causal
Behind the outer, grosser experience lies the subtler, finer experience, from which the outer has sprung. And within the subtle can be found the template for the gross. Even in the childhood of a great spiritual teacher, you can see the mark of one whose mission it is to bring light to mankind. And when you apprehend this underlying subtle quality of that being, you clearly see how it has shaped every aspect of that life through all its outer manifestations and through every major period of life.
There is another state that transcends both the gross and the subtle. That is the causal. The causal state does not have any movement; it does not undergo any change. Within it is to be found the self-effulgent light of the atma. It is because of this all-pervasive light of the atma shining in and through the causal state that you are able to experience the mental and the physical worlds. If there were no subtle mental world there could be no gross physical world for you. But, if there were no causal, there would be neither subtle mental nor gross physical worlds for you. To realize your divine state, your journey has to take you from the physical through the mental to the causal. Your truth is rooted in the causal. You must use the physical to reach the mental and the mental to reach the causal.
Ultimately, it is the light of the atma, the indweller, which activates and vitalizes all of these states of experience. The atma is the source and the substratum of all three worlds. In the ocean you will find waves and swells and foam on the surface, large-scale currents below the surface and the stillness of the deep ocean regions, far below. The waves and foam, the currents, and the deep ocean waters are not different. Water is the common element which interpenetrates all of them. But, it appears as if the waves, the currents and the deep ocean are different.
In the phenomenal world also, you have to discover the common element that underlies all experience and unifies the physical, the mental and the causal worlds. You can associate these three universes with the three states of consciousness. You can think of the waking state as the physical, the dream-state as the mental, and the deep-sleep state as the causal. Beyond these three states, interpenetrating them and common to all of them, is a fourth state. That is the superconscious state, the transcendental state. The unconscious state of deep-sleep is associated with the causal. It has a very profound quality of peace. But by itself, the deep-sleep state will not provide you with a permanent experience of real bliss. The bliss is there but you are not conscious of it. It is only after you come back to the waking-state from deep sleep that you remember the serene feeling of total rest you were enjoying. However, in the super conscious state, you will be able to enjoy eternal peace and bliss, and be fully conscious of it always.
Samadhi is Equal-Mindedness
The experience of that bliss has been referred to as the state of samadhi. What is the meaning of samadhi? Samadhi is ordinarily mistaken to be an emotional state in which a person acts abnormally, as if in a state of high excitement or trance. You may think that samadhi is something different from the waking, dream or deep-sleep states. But, truly, samadhi is something common to all three states. The meaning of samadhi is inherent in the word itself. Its root syllables sama or equal, and dhi or mind, together mean equal-mindedness. To be equal-minded in cold or in heat, in profit or in loss, in praise or in censure... that is samadhi. Therefore, a person who is immersed in samadhi, whose mind is in equanimity, will always be in a state of bliss, whether he is in the waking state immersed in his every-day life, or whether he is in the dream-state or in the deep-sleep state. Everyone yearns for such a beatific state. To attain it, a great deal of spiritual practice is necessary. You also have to earn the grace of the Lord by living a life replete with the virtuous qualities that are pleasing to him.
After describing the noble characteristics of a truly wise man, Krishna told Arjuna, "Arjuna, there is no value whatsoever in your basing your actions only on considerations involving the body. Follow my commands! Discharge your duties while all the time thinking of me. Then you will be able to experience and enjoy the divinity that is everywhere. This divinity is the unity which underlies all the diversity in the world. Base your actions on that. Constantly concentrate on that divinity. I am that divinity and you are very dear to me. When you concentrate on me, then I will be fully concentrated on you." For a wise man, whatever be the state he is in, his thoughts and feelings will not undergo any change. He will have developed an unwavering attitude, being focused at all times on the divine principle within.
Who will be surprised to hear that fire is accompanied by heat? Burning is the natural state of fire, just as cold is the natural state of ice. So also, everyone who is born will die. This should be considered as totally natural. Anyone who recognizes this truth will not be subjected to sorrow. In all places and in all circumstances, develop an equal-mindedness. Whatever happens, always keep your mind firmly fixed on the divinity, which is your true self. In order to develop this ability to think of the atma, your divine nature, in all places and at all times, you will have to gain a deep understanding of the characteristics of the three worlds, the physical, the mental and the causal.
In the evening you take your food and shortly afterwards you go to bed. Soon after that you are asleep and get a number of dreams. Many things happen to you in your dreams but after getting up nothing remains of the dream state. In the waking state you engage in many different activities and have numerous experiences, but then later on, when you go back to sleep again all these activities of the waking state are superseded by the events in the dream state. We see that so many changes come about in just 24 hours.
You Alone are True
There are a number of striking differences in your experiences of the dream-state and those of the waking-state. Considering this, what should you believe and what should you not believe? You may ask, 'Which is true, which is not true? Am I the one who experiences all these various happenings in the waking state, or am I the one who experiences all those other happenings in the dream-state?' The wisdom teachings give the answer, 'You are neither this nor that. You are not the one experiencing the waking-state, nor are you the one experiencing the dream-state, nor are you the one asleep in the deep-sleep state. You transcend all these. You are the transcendental reality itself.'
That which you think exists really does not exist. That which you do not believe exists really exists. When you acquire wisdom you realize that there is only the One which really exists and is eternally true. That is the atma, the transcendental principle. But this principle of atma is not easily accessible to ordinary people. All that you read, listen to and experience are merely attributes of the physical state. Starting with this you have to reach out and try to achieve your goal. From the form you have to progress to the formless, from the changeable you have to progress to the changeless, from the attributeful you have to progress to the attributeless. Beyond all these, transcending all attributes and going even beyond the attributeless and formless, is the unchanging and unwavering superconscious state. This is the goal of all spiritual aspirants. One who has become immersed in this state is described as a wise sage. You may wonder if Arjuna achieved this state. Yes, Krishna himself conferred this state on Arjuna. Krishna transformed Arjuna into an instrument of the divine and thereby turned him into a truly wise being.
If a wise man does not engage in activities he will not be able to set a good example to the common people. In schools you will find a director of physical education and a drill master. The drill master takes his orders from the director. During the calisthenics drill, the director will keep quiet, but the drill master will call out, '1..2..3..!' and perform all the drill movements. He has to set the example. Only then can the others be expected to follow him. Similarly, the wise man, while taking his orders from the inner director, sets an example so ordinary people will be able to follow.
When Krishna gave Arjuna the Gita he transformed him into an ideal man. Krishna told him, "I will turn you into my instrument to do my work, so that you will be an example to all of humanity." What is the deeper meaning of Krishna doing all this for Arjuna? Arjuna means the one with a pure heart. Arjuna was always living in Krishna. A number of times Krishna referred to Arjuna as 'the one who lives in the effulgence of God'. All the deeper aspects of the relationship of Krishna and Arjuna can be gleaned from the names that Krishna gave to Arjuna. Arjuna's only duty was to implicitly follow Krishna's commands.
The Qualities of the Truly Wise
Arjuna said, "Swami, I will obey your commands, whatever they may be. Whatever you ask of me I will do. I will not undertake anything on my own, anything that is outside of your directions." This is the true attitude of a sage. He will not have the feeling of I and mine. He will not have any egoism or attachments. His every action will destroy any traces of ego or possessiveness. He will accept and follow only the commands of the Lord, who is no different than his own inner director. Because these noble qualities are so important for spiritual unfoldment, the characteristics of a wise man are explained at great length in the second chapter of the Gita.
But, just describing the qualities of a wise sage would not have been of much use, so Krishna began by explaining the qualities of the three states and the different aspects of the three worlds. Arjuna had the intellectual capacity to grasp the true significance of this. After being given the vision of the cosmic form of the Lord, he immediately understood its deeper meaning. He realized that it meant the union between the physical, the mental and the causal. After having had the vision of the cosmic form, whenever Arjuna closed his eyes thereafter, he would continuously see Krishna as an indelible impression on his heart. He realized that what he had seen with his eyes wide open was in the physical plane. Then, after closing his eyes, whatever still registered in his mind and was being seen by him internally, was in the mental plane. The indelible impression of this vision that remained in his heart was in the causal plane. It is something like print on paper. Once a picture is printed, it is impossible to separate it again from the paper. In this way, the cosmic form of Krishna became a permanent impression in Arjuna's heart.
Arjuna was the ideal man. Yet, in order to serve as an example for all of humanity, he undertook all kinds of common activities just like an ordinary person. Inside, within himself, he always kept his mind firmly fixed on Lord Krishna, who was the formful expression of his own true self, the atma. Arjuna knew that this physical body was for the sole purpose of obeying the commands of the inner director, manifested for him in the divine form of Krishna. In the Gita, Krishna held out this quality of inner surrender as the ideal mark of a truly wise man.
XXIII. Limit Desires, Be ever Content and you will be Dear to God
Whatever is born passes through six stages of life, namely, birth, growth, maturity, decline, degeneration and death. But, what is never born, never dies. For it these stages do not apply.
Embodiments of Love,
The second chapter of the Gita relates to the path of wisdom. The principle that underlies the wisdom teachings is that whatever is born must die, but what was never born, can never die. What is never born and will never die? The atma. Atma has neither birth nor death. It never undergoes any kind of modifications. Atma is permanent. It is immutable. It is everlasting. It is attributeless. It is your own true nature. The body is born and the body experiences the various phases of life and dies, but the indweller of the body remains unaffected by all these bodily changes. This indweller is the atma. It is free of illusion, devoid of maya. Once you understand this divine principle you will recognize it as the only thing of true value, the only thing worth knowing. Everything else is ephemeral and impermanent. You must make every effort to acquire the knowledge of atma and thereby gain lasting joy.
Be Satisfied, Do not Chase after Desires
Do not encourage the multiplication of desires. Be satisfied with whatever you have been given. In the chapter on devotion, Krishna enumerated the 26 noble qualities which endear a devotee to the Lord. Of these, contentment stands out as one of the most important characteristics of a devotee. It means not running after worldly enjoyments. You have enjoyed so many luxuries and so many sensual things in your life but you have not gained peace and fulfillment from them. Give up chasing after them and you will gain contentment.
The heart of a person who does not have contentment is like a bamboo basket riddled with holes. If you try to draw water out of a well using such a basket, by the time it comes up, all the water will have leaked out. There will not even be a drop of water left to quench your thirst. Similarly, when you are suffering from pangs of desire and greed, all your contentment leaks away before you even have a chance to fulfill your desires. When contentment leaves your heart, discontent remains behind to take its place.
Desire breeds more desire. A person who does not have anything at all may feel very happy and contented when he gets 100 rupees. But once he gets the 100 rupees, he thinks how nice it would be if he could get 1000 rupees. If by chance he gets the 1000 rupees, he desires to have a million rupees. Then he would aspire to become a major property owner. From a property owner he would want to become a legislator and then a minister and then the prime minister. Finally, he would want to use all his status and wealth to attain the God-state. But you can never reach divinity with the help of power and wealth. As the person's desires cross all limits, he becomes discontented and his wealth gains him no inner peace at all. You must learn how to gain contentment from whatever you have, being satisfied with whatever wealth you have been given. Your responsibility is to take care of the possessions you have received through the grace of God, and be happy.
You must Win God's Love
You all praise God, but it is far more important that God praises you. You declare your love for God, but you have to find out if God has declared his love for you. You believe that God is yours, but has God told you that you are his? Suppose you send a registered letter to someone. You will gain full satisfaction only after you receive an acknowledgment from the addressee that the letter has been received and read. Declaring your love for God and declaring that God is great can be compared to sending a registered letter. But that alone will not satisfy you. You experience the deepest contentment only when you get the positive acknowledgment from God that you have his love and that he considers you great also. It is only when he says, "You are my very own. You are most dear to Me!" that you attain total fulfillment.
Arjuna got such an assurance from the Lord after he said to Lord Krishna, "Swami, you are my all, I am yours! I surrender everything to you!" Previously, Arjuna had a number of desires, but when he surrendered fully to the Lord he renounced all his wants and desires. Then he earned the declaration from the Lord, "Dear one, you are mine!" To gain this result you have to engage yourself in spiritual practice. The hope and fruit of all spiritual practice is to get this declaration from the Lord that you are his. This becomes your greatest treasure, the consummation of your life.
Even if you are highly educated, even if you occupy a very high position in life, even if you are very wealthy, whatever be your station in life, when you go abroad you must have a passport to travel in a foreign land. A person may say, "I'm highly educated. I'm very wealthy. I have vast land holdings. I would like to have a passport." But just by saying that he will not get the passport. All these things may be personal attainments and accomplishments, but if you want to go to another country there is a particular procedure that you must follow. This procedure cannot be different for educated people and for uneducated people, for wealthy ones and for poor ones.
Even in such a small thing as going somewhere by bus or train or plane, no one will care to know your position and accomplishments. As long as you have a ticket with you, no one will ask you if you are a wealthy person or an educated one and what position you are holding. They will be satisfied to know that you have a ticket, and they will take you to your destination. If you do not have the ticket you will be left behind, no matter what your credentials are.
In the same way, if you want to gain entry into the kingdom of liberation, you need to have the grace of God. That is required for entry. The grace of God is your passport. But even a passport is not enough. If you merely have a passport, then there may still be some objections and problems. You should also have a visa; that gives you the right to enter your place of destination. In addition to the grace of God you must also have the merit of your spiritual efforts and yearnings.
The giver may be ready to give the gift, but the receiver must also be ready to receive it. God is prepared to give, but you must have the capacity to receive. Through your surrender and spiritual efforts you become ready to receive God's grace. Therefore, to enter into the kingdom of liberation you must have God's love and you must also have the merit of your own spiritual efforts. When these two come together you will be able to gain liberation.
Contentment is the Real Wealth
The Gita taught that if you want to enter the kingdom of liberation there are 26 noble qualities that you should acquire. But, truly, it is enough if you have gained just one virtuous quality. That will be sufficient to qualify you for entry. Of all of the virtuous qualities given in the Gita chapter on devotion one of the most important is contentment. Only the one who has contentment can be considered great. Swami asks quite often, "Who is the greatest human being in this world?" The answer is, "The one who is always satisfied." Therefore, develop this contentment in yourself.
Do not get lost in the world aspiring for impermanent joys, impermanent wealth, impermanent position and luxuries. There is no objection to your enjoying the happiness which comes your way. But never forget that the world is made up only of the five elements. It has no eternal value. Your body also consists only of the five elements. As long as you consider this world real, you will tend to have attachments to the body and to a given place. It is best if you do not waste your time caught up with these attachments. Instead, always remember the goal. Here is a small example.
There was a wealthy man who had traveled the world over. He resolved to build a palatial mansion without equal anywhere. It was to be a house of such extraordinary grandeur that it would be beyond the imagination of anyone. He resolved to construct this unique structure even if it cost him tens of millions of rupees. A number of engineers and architects were called from various countries for this purpose. Ultimately he completed his beautiful mansion, and he now had a house which satisfied people from all points of view and different cultural backgrounds. Tens of thousands of people came to look at it. This wealthy man made all the arrangements for a grand inauguration of his unique place. Before the inauguration, he called a number of experts and asked them, "Do you find any defects, any faults in this building anywhere, even in the smallest detail?" They could find none. It seemed to be perfect.
He invited all kinds of people to the function, including many wealthy citizens and high officials. He also invited great sages to gain their blessings. Among the invited guests there were a number of truly wise men. All elaborate arrangements were made for their stay. After they were assembled, he prayed to them, "I humbly ask you to let me know if there are any defects, any shortcomings in this structure?" The engineers who had constructed the building echoed his sentiments and also asked the assembled crowd, "Who can come forward and just point out a single flaw in this beautiful building? We feel that it is absolutely flawless and magnificent. It is totally unique and modern, perfect in every detail."
At this point, a yogi who was standing in the corner, stepped out and addressed the wealthy man who was hosting the affair. The yogi said, "Esteemed sir, I see two major flaws in this building." All the people assembled there were greatly surprised. The engineers and architects were shocked. Everyone was most curious to know what these defects were. The wealthy man, whose house it was, folded his hands in supplication and said to the great sage, "Swami, please tell me what those defects are that you have spotted. Everyone is anxiously awaiting your answer."
The yogi said, "O rich man, these are faults for which you are not to blame, nor your engineers or architects or workmen. These defects are not within your reach or anyone else's to correct. One defect is that with the passage of time this building, and everything that is now standing here, will fall down and be reduced to rubble. This is a defect that cannot be changed. The second failing is that the person who built this structure will also perish and be forgotten. This too cannot be changed. Even though these conclusions may be delayed for a short period of time, they will both come to pass. Not realizing this truth you think that you have accomplished something flawless and great, that your achievement will be permanent. But it is not so. These defects that I have mentioned will always prevail in the end."
Such is the state of affairs for people who forget death and think that they, or their works or reputation, will be permanent. Only when you keep your focus on the atma will you be filled with contentment and feel unending joy and bliss. When you have such everlasting peace and contentment, you will be established in a mansion that can never perish, for then you are abiding in the atma, your unchanging permanent self. It alone has lasting value. There is nothing that can be compared with that dwelling place. Unlike the mansions you find in the world, it is perfect and permanent, free from all defects. Therefore, you have to recognize the truth that in this mundane world everything is impermanent. Keep your sight and concentration on the permanent atma. Constantly engage yourself in spiritual practice in order to achieve this inner vision and remain ever contented, undisturbed by worldly affairs.
Atma is never Born, Atma never Dies
To dispel Arjuna's confusion about his outer role and his true identity, Krishna said, "Arjuna, you are disturbed because you think you are going to kill some people. You have lost sight of the truth that underlies all beings. Know that you are the immortal self and your kinsmen, though they have been engaged in evil deeds, are in essence the very same immortal self. Then who is going to die and who will be engaged in killing? You who are the atma do not kill and your kinsmen who are the same atma will not be slain by you. Death relates to the physical body, not to the true self. Atma cannot be killed. Atma is never born. Atma never dies. It is only when you understand and practice this truth that you will be following the wisdom teachings and performing your duty, unaffected by outcomes. Recognize the immortality of atma and fight to uphold righteousness. Then you will act in harmony with divine will and even in the thick of battle you will be immersed in inner peace. When you recognize the principle of the atma, realizing its permanent nature, you will know that there can be no defect or flaw of any kind in it. Then no disturbance can come into your mind and no doubts will ever becloud you."
All this must be understood in its deeper meaning. These statements that one does not kill and that one is not going to be killed, are quickly accepted at face value by most people who read the Gita. But they make no attempt to understand the deeper significance of these declarations, which are based on the principle of the immortal and unchanging nature of the atma. If you look about to see how people are practicing this teaching you will see that they are not practicing it at all, although they will freely repeat all the verses and even give lectures on them to others. Here is a small example of this.
There was a certain hunter, a very bad man who had killed a great number of animals. His killing soon spread to include human beings. He began murdering all the people who passed through the forest and came his way, in order to strip them of whatever possessions they were carrying. When he was caught and convicted, the judge decided to sentence him to death by hanging as punishment for all the horrible crimes he had committed. It was announced that the judgment would be read in court the next day. When he was led into court for sentencing, this criminal brought with him a copy of the Gita, which he kept in his pocket. The judge declared that by 7 o'clock the following morning, he would be hanged. But now, quite boldly, the criminal spoke up, declaring, "Sir, why are you inflicting such a drastic punishment on me?" The judge replied, "This sentence is being given because you have murdered so many innocent people."
At this point the convict took out the Gita from his pocket. He showed it to the judge and said, "According to this holy scripture, Sir, I am neither the killer of those people nor have they been killed!" And he brazenly added, "How can you deny these statements made by God himself?" Well, the judge was equal in cleverness to this man. Without a moment's hesitation, the judge said, "Yes, it is certainly true that you have not killed, nor have those people been killed. Similarly, as pertains to my judgment, I am not killing you nor will you be killed. Nevertheless, the hanging will take place at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning."
Reduce Your Desires and Remember the Atma
You cannot use the Gita to change the circumstances to suit your convenience. You have to practice the truths that are contained in the great statements made in the Gita after realizing their inner significance. The Gita has not just been taught to Arjuna. This sacred teaching has been given to all people born on earth. The Gita has been given to the entire world with Arjuna as the medium. Arjuna stands as the representative of all mankind. These teachings which have been given to the representative of humanity are applicable to humanity as a whole.
To follow these teachings you have to gradually reduce your desires and wants, and gain an understanding of the principle of the atma. That will bring you to a permanent state of contentment. Examine your life to see if you are practicing these teachings in your day-to-day activities. Just by memorizing the 700 verses of the Gita you will not be able to experience the great truths that are hidden there. These deeper truths will reveal themselves in the circumstances of your daily life. It is there in everyday situations that you will be able to experience these truths directly. You have to clearly understand the qualities that have to be practiced while discharging your duties. You have to recognize how each of these 26 qualities will help you reach your goal; and then you have to apply them in your daily life.
Therefore, keep your desires and your greed under control and be ever content. This will earn for you the love of God. Your profession of love for God is not enough. That you love God is not of much use unless you get His love directed towards you. You have to learn how to earn His love and grace. There is no point in shouting and saying that God is yours. You have to aspire to hear from God the declaration that you are His. That is the most important thing you must achieve in this life.
From this moment on, develop the sacred qualities which will evoke this priceless declaration of love from the Lord, and thereby sanctify your life.
XXIV. Patience and Forbearance - The Heart of Spiritual Practice
Of all the noble characteristics that a devotee must possess, none is more vital than forbearance. When you have forbearance you shine with a peaceful forgiving quality that remains undisturbed under all circumstances. When you have forbearance, then no matter how others treat you, whether they are caring and friendly or whether they are hostile or indifferent towards you, you will feel only love towards them.
Embodiments of Love,
Forbearance is the heart of all spiritual practice. It is the one quality which all spiritual aspirants must achieve in their lifetime. For the truly wise, for the great sages and great souls, forbearance is their very splendor, their penance, their sacrifice, their righteousness. It is their wisdom, their immeasurable love. Forbearance is the essence of their nonviolence, their compassion, their depth of happiness. Forbearance is the very mark of all great beings. Truly, forbearance is everything. Without forbearance it is not possible to realize the truth of the atma, to manifest the everlasting and ever-luminous divine presence, that shines undiminishably within you.
Realize the Atma through your Direct Experience
As long as you think that your body is real and your divinity is not real, you will not understand the principle of atma. And as long as you identify yourself with your body and not with your essential truth, your real self, you will not be able to gain the direct experience of your indwelling divinity. The atma has been spoken of in many ways, but you can comprehend it only through your direct experience.
Someone may describe the exquisite sweetness of mango nectar to you in elaborate detail and with great enthusiasm; but unless you have tasted the nectar and experienced it directly, you will not be able to appreciate its unique sweetness. When the nectar is on your tongue and you delight in its taste, then you understand what is meant by its sweetness. Similarly, unless you seek the direct experience of the Lord, unless you engage in spiritual practices and develop the noble qualities that are dear to the Lord, you will never be able to savor the divine sweetness arising from the atma.
What is the way to immortality? It is the removal of immorality. Swami has often spoken of this. Only when you remove the immorality within you, will you be able to gain immortality. When you remove the weaknesses, such as jealousy, hatred, anger, pride and all the other evils which have obscured your truth, then you will be able to enjoy the strength of the unchanging presence of divinity inside you. It is when you embody at least one or two of the 26 virtues which have been mentioned in the Gita, when you understand their deeper meaning, practice them and make them part of your daily life, then it will become possible for you to realize the immortal nature of the atma. Of the many virtuous qualities that a devotee can develop, forbearance is at the heart of all of them.
You gain Forbearance through Difficult Circumstances
Forbearance cannot be learned by studying books. It cannot even be acquired by the teachings of a guru. It is not something which can be purchased in the bazaar. It is only by faithfully sticking to your spiritual practice, when you are under trying circumstances, that you will be able to acquire forbearance. It is when you are under test, in situations which are full of problems and difficulties, that the cultivation of forbearance takes place. Under those trying circumstances, weaknesses which are hidden within you will show their ugly heads. They will manifest in you as anger, fear, arrogance, hatred and many other evils that cover your essential truth. It is at such times that you must recognize these weaknesses and rise above them. Whatever action you must undertake that is appropriate to the situation, your inner state must be unaffected and rooted in unwavering peace and love. This is the practice of forbearance.
If you have not developed forbearance then you will suffer a lot of unhappiness and lack of peace in your life. Without forbearance you may take to harmful and evil ways. Therefore, it is essential that you recognize the importance of forbearance. All the education, strength and renown that you may have acquired will be of no use to you if you do not have forbearance. There have been a number of accomplished people who have acquired great powers by means of penance, but they were unable to enjoy the fruits of their penance because they lacked forbearance. Dearth of forbearance has made great scholars lose their prestige. Lack of forbearance is the most frequent reason for the loss of kingdoms by ruling kings. Forbearance is the shining jewel that decorates a human being. If this important quality is lost, you will suffer innumerable problems and sorrows. Therefore, develop forbearance. It is essential for your spiritual progress. Without this quality you will come to ruin.
Cultivate forbearance by the arduous practice of putting yourself to the test in very difficult circumstances. Forbearance is your vital protection. When you are equipped with forbearance you will not be troubled by grief or difficulties, by problems or unexpected situations. There is nothing extraordinary about returning good for good, but doing good in return for bad is an extraordinary quality. What is meant by doing good at all times, no matter whether it is right or wrong action that is directed towards you? When you are established in your essential truth, when you are in touch with your reality, you cannot but give the proper response under all circumstances, and it will come from the infinite reservoir of goodness and love, which is your unchanging nature. The practice of such a virtue requires a great deal of skill and courage, and a deep commitment to the essential truth of the one divinity, present in all hearts.
However much other people may criticize you, however much they may undermine and condemn you, you should never lose forbearance; you should remain unperturbed and continue to enjoy inner peace. When others admonish you, what will you lose - you, who in your essence are immortal? How can they possibly harm you? When you have forbearance and you are established in your divine nature, how can anyone diminish you? How can anyone affect your essential truth, which is unwavering, no matter the circumstances? But if, because of weakness, you lose forbearance and forget your truth, then you are subject to endless suffering, and you lose everything.
The Tree, the River and the Cow
There are three important aspects of nature which are very useful to man. These are the tree, the river and the cow. Without trees, rivers and cows, humanity would not be able to function very well. Whatever violence is done to a tree, however much trouble is given to it by cutting its branches and taking some of its wood, the tree continues to give protection from rain and sun to any person who takes shelter under it, and it will try to continue to give that person joy. Trees have been doing good for people by giving fruit, flowers and fuel, even though in return, people may have been doing harm to them.
In the case of rivers, however much the rivers are polluted by people, in whatever way people may use and abuse them without showing any gratitude towards them, they will still continue to serve humanity by bringing the fresh waters from the clear mountain sides. And even as the rivers serve all, their concentration is on reaching the ocean which is their home and goal. The waters of rivers give life to humanity. Whether you put their pristine waters to good use or bad, the rivers do not mind. They will continue to serve as they return home to their ultimate source.
Then there are the cows who deny milk to their own calves in order to provide milk for humanity. They freely give such a fine and nourishing food to mankind. Whatever troubles you might give a cow, it will always give you sweet milk, not bitter milk. So cows also have been doing only good for humanity, whereas humanity may be giving all kinds of troubles to cows. Men may beat or encage them, they may starve them or abuse them, but cows retain their peaceful inner disposition and continue to serve, under all circumstances. These three, the tree, the river and the cow are good examples of this sterling quality of forbearance.
There are Times when you should Withhold Forbearance
But, sometimes, the outward signs of forbearance must be tempered, to provide the appropriate response to a particular situation. Although at all times, you should have forbearance deeply ingrained in your heart, you should not go on displaying it under all circumstances that come up in the world. When practicing forbearance you must carefully examine the conditions that apply and employ discrimination. It is well known in Indian history that a vicious invader threatened the northern kingdom, and gave a lot of trouble to its good king. This merciless assailant invaded the country 17 times. Whenever he came, he caused widespread destruction in the country and took away a great deal of wealth. He put the entire populace through innumerable difficulties and losses. In spite of this, when the kingdom's ruler caught his enemy, he excused him and allowed him to return to his own country.
Because of his generous heart, the good king, lacking in proper discrimination, forgave his ruthless foe. Whenever the king vanquished his foe and the defeated villain asked for pardon and protection, the good king excused him and sent him back home, without inflicting any punishment. But the heartless invader did not show any gratitude at all. He was an absolutely unrepentant, wicked fellow and he continued with his hatred towards the king and his greed to conquer the kingdom. The moment the invader was freed and back in his own country, he invaded again and again. Finally, through deceit, he succeeded in catching hold of the good king. Mercilessly he put out the king's eyes. To people who are ungrateful like that, who are vengeful like snakes, you should not display forbearance. You need to use discrimination and respond appropriately.
When to Use Forbearance and when it is Inappropriate
In the great epic, the Mahabharata, which chronicles the war of righteousness between the Pandava brothers and their wicked cousins, there is an incident depicted in which Arjuna dragged the murderer of all her children, before Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandava brothers. The Pandavas had just won the war when the horrendous deed was committed. Even though Draupadi was overcome with sorrow, she pointed out to Arjuna the circumstances under which a wicked person should be excused. Draupadi told Arjuna that it was not proper to execute a person who was overwhelmed with fear, or a person who was humble and penitent and pleading for mercy, or a person who had lost his sanity and become deranged, or a person who had acted out of inconsolable grief, or women and children, in general, even if they deserve such punishment. For such, it is proper to show forbearance and treat them mercifully.
But, for people who are repeatedly ungrateful and malicious, who are unrepentant and untrustworthy, it is not appropriate to display forbearance. You need to deal with them firmly, according to the circumstances. But remember that all such actions relate only to your outer worldly life. In your heart, you must never lose your peaceful inner state of forbearance. For your spiritual life, forbearance is an essential quality necessary to reach the divine state, and you must practice it assiduously.
In the case of Jesus you can also see his highly-developed quality of forbearance. There were 12 disciples living and traveling about with him. Jesus extended all love and compassion, all protection and shelter to them. But one of them, Judas, was tempted by money and became a traitor to his master. Despite Judas' infidelity, Jesus remained unperturbed and continued to extend Judas his love. There is no need for you to pray to God to see that such people are punished. As was the case with Judas, their own acts will bring them to ruin. Whatever wicked actions a person commits, the fruits of those actions will have to be borne by him alone. No one can escape the fruits of his own actions. You may not be able to predict when and under what circumstances he will suffer the consequences, but the suffering is certain to come some time.
In both great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, there are a number of instances depicted which show how people suffered in the end, when they did not practice forbearance. Consider the great suffering the five Pandava brothers underwent, having to go to the forest and live on roots and leaves, because of the hasty action of the eldest brother, Dharmaraja, in accepting a challenge to play a game of dice. Dharmaraja, as the king, felt it his righteous duty to respond to the challenge, and although he knew the game was rigged against him, he was in such a hurry to defend his honor, that he ignored the instructions given by Krishna and the advice given by his brothers. With a determination to be true to his principles, he hastened into the gambling game and had to suffer the consequences. As a result, he and his brothers lost their kingdom and were banished to the forest for fourteen years, undergoing untold deprivations and difficulties. It is only because of Dharmaraja's haste and lack of forbearance that all these consequences occurred.
You even find that a great soul like Rama, at times, did not have sufficient patience. At the end of the Ramayana, there is the incident in which Rama, after hearing the criticism and comments of one worthless washerman, immediately decided to banish Sita from the kingdom. Afterwards he suffered great pangs of separation. But, Rama was the avatar of his age, the embodiment of all the divine principles. In the case of the divinity, there will always be some deeper meaning and significance to the avatar's actions. Still, when you try to understand Rama's actions in a worldly sense, you can see that because of losing patience, Rama banished Sita and then had to suffer afterwards. Of course, when people who do only good and live only for the welfare of others, experience various troubles they will suffer their problems graciously. In this way they act as an example and teach the value of patience and forbearance when undergoing hardships in the world.
Undue Haste and Delay are two Extremes to be Avoided
The qualities of patience and forbearance must be used with great discrimination, depending on the circumstances and conditions. There are circumstances when you are justified in acting quickly. You must always think ahead and be aware of the consequences of what you do. Under certain conditions, exercising unrestrained forbearance may lead to great troubles later on. Under most circumstances, haste creates problems. But if you are unduly slow, it may also lead to problems. It is said that undue delay can turn nectar into poison.
Slowness and haste are two extremes. On the one hand if you are too hasty your actions may be fatal, but if you delay too long they may also be poisonous. So, you must use your discriminating power and exercise patience to the degree appropriate to the circumstances. If first-aid must be given immediately, or if you are attending to a person who is very sick and is likely to lose his life in a few minutes if medicine is not given, then you must act quickly. In such situations there must be no delay. Delay would be poisonous and you must act fast and do the proper thing.
There are also circumstances when you are faced with people who are wicked and who are pursuing harmful ways. Then it may be necessary for you to warn them and correct them or otherwise deal with the situation. In such a case, appearing to lose patience may be your best recourse. Frequently, all that is necessary is just to change the sound of your voice a little. It doesn't mean that you have lost your inner quality of forbearance. Even if you elevate your voice and appear to be angry, you can still maintain the sacredness of your heart and not lose your peace, inside.
To Adhere to Truth is the same as Practicing Forbearance
By following the path of truth, you will be naturally practicing forbearance. In all circumstances, always stick to the path of truth. But sometimes you may have to change the tone of your voice and the volume of your speech in a way that will deal appropriately with a difficult situation. There is a well-known story in the Mahabharata. Ashvattama, the son of the teacher of both the Pandavas and their wicked cousins, and one of the three remaining warriors on the opposite side, had taken a solemn and powerful oath on the last night of the war, that he would use all his strength and accumulated power of penance to destroy the Pandava brothers before the sun rose the following morning.
Krishna, of course, knew of Ashvattama's murderous resolve and also knew of Ashvattama's considerable wealth of spiritual prowess to carry it out. Therefore, Krishna, out of his deep love for the Pandavas, took steps to protect them. It was getting close to midnight and Ashvattama had been unable to find the Pandavas. Krishna knew that Ashvattama would go to the all-knowing sage Durvasa and ask him where the Pandavas were. Now, a great sage like Durvasa would never tell a lie. He was well known for his anger, but his anger was used only to protect righteousness and to quench the fires of wickedness and evil. Even in his anger he would stick to the truth, but often times he would change the volume and sound of his voice, as he was declaring that truth.
You may have to Raise your Voice a little to Tell the Truth
On this particular evening, Krishna went to see Durvasa. Durvasa was supremely happy to receive Krishna. Durvasa told Krishna how greatly blessed he felt to be honored by the Lord's visit. He asked Krishna, "Swami, please tell me what is the purpose of your visit?" Krishna replied, "Durvasa, I need your help."
In his heart of hearts Durvasa was overjoyed that Krishna, who was the protector and master of all the worlds, had approached him for help. But even for this there is a limit. Durvasa, who was extremely intelligent and who knew all things, said to Krishna, "Swami, I am prepared to give you any help you ask for, but I'm not prepared to tell a lie." Krishna told Durvasa, "I am the indweller in the heart of all beings. I am born again and again to protect dharma, to safeguard righteousness. How could I ever ask you to utter a lie? Dharma means right conduct its very basis is truth. Certainly, I would never ask you to tell a lie." Durvasa replied, "In that case, I am ready to do whatever you say. What is your plan, Swami? I will implement it."
Krishna asked that a deep pit be dug which could hold five people. Krishna then told the Pandavas to get into that pit. Wooden planks were put over the pit to cover it completely. A rug was put over those planks and then Durvasa's chair was put on top of the rug. Krishna asked Durvasa to sit on the chair. He told Durvasa, "Ashvattama will come and ask you where the Pandavas are. You must tell the truth. But in telling the truth, you might just change the sound of your voice a little." As was predicted by Krishna, Ashvattama came. Offering his salutations to the sage, he asked Durvasa, "Swami, you know all things in all the three worlds. Please tell me where I can find the Pandavas?" Durvasa did as he was instructed by Krishna. He told the truth. He said to Ashvattama, "Pandavas is it? Pandavas, is it? Yes, they are here! They are certainly here! THEY ARE RIGHT HERE UNDER MY FEET!"
When Durvasa, pretending to be very angry, told Ashvattama that the Pandavas were directly under him, Ashvattama got very frightened. Durvasa's anger was well known and much feared. Ashvattama thought that instead of killing the Pandavas, he himself might be killed by Durvasa's yogic power, right then and there. Suddenly overwhelmed with fear, he ran away. Durvasa had uttered the truth. In keeping with his own integrity and stature as a great sage, he followed the commands of the Lord to give protection to good people by sticking to truth. But, he did change the impact a little, by raising the tone of his voice.
Negative Qualities must be Uprooted and Destroyed
You must have patience and forbearance, but at the same time, you should know under what circumstances and in what manner to use them. As we have shown, there are situations in which you must temper your outward expression of forbearance. You need to use your discrimination to know how and when to express the quality of forbearance, which should be ever firmly established in your heart.
Forbearance and patience are indicators of your inward state. They are instruments which you use to counter the negative qualities that are within you, the unwholesome character traits which come in the way of realizing your divine truth. Consider the ability to exercise forbearance in difficult circumstances as a test. It is in these times that the negative qualities buried within you will rear their heads and will tend to manifest themselves in wrongful or harmful actions. Welcome such difficult situations as challenges and opportunities to expose and destroy these negative qualities. You do this through your forbearance, patience and restraint, when otherwise your impulse would have been to use words or actions to harm. It is only after you achieve patience and forbearance and establish them firmly within you, that you will develop the inner peace and equanimity that is needed in order to understand the true principles of spirituality and divinity.
There are many negative qualities which must be completely shunned by devotees. In particular, you should not have any attachment, any hatred or any jealousy within you. If you have attachment, hatred and jealousy, even in the smallest measure, you will not be able to progress spiritually. Attachment, hatred and jealousy, and their hand-maiden anger, are the great enemies of devotees. They are the opposites of patience and forbearance. We will take up these negative qualities next and learn how to completely uproot them.
XXV. Jealousy and Hatred - Twin Pests that Destroy your Peace
The divinity is one. It is eternal, unchanging and everlasting. It is the indweller of all bodies. As the indweller of the body of living beings it is called the atma, the immortal self. As the indweller of the world it is called God. It is the one divinity present in different forms. Just as the physical being can be thought of as the body of the atma, so also the world can be thought of as the body of God.
Embodiments of Love,
The body is impermanent, it comes and goes; but the indweller of the body remains the same. Another name for the indweller is atma, the immortal self, the universal spirit, which underlies everything that can be named or spoken of. It is the one permanent unchanging entity which pervades all space and all matter, and which is the basis of all living beings. It may be called God, the atma, or the indweller. Atma and God and indweller are exactly the same. They are the one divinity.
Discover the Indweller through your own Inner Practice
The sacred scriptures provide guidelines for seeking out and recognizing the indweller; but scriptural teachings in themselves will not be sufficient to know it. You cannot attain the divinity by merely studying the scriptures. Using the declarations in the scriptures as your basis, you have to make a determined effort to develop inner vision. Scriptures can only show the path. They are like guideposts; they give the directions. To reach the goal you have to walk the path yourself. Following the directions given you have to undertake this sacred journey and unwaveringly adhere to it until the goal is reached. For this the Gita has laid out the path.
In the Gita, the directions for the journey commence with the eleventh verse in the second chapter. That is the beginning of Krishna's teaching. It starts with the injunction not to grieve for those who should not be grieved for. Who is it that should not be grieved for? What is the way to prevent grief? The Gita teacher declared that there is no point in grieving over things which are impermanent and transient. Bodies and personalities are impermanent and transient. All the things of the world are impermanent and transient. Krishna said, "Arjuna, all your grief is for nothing."
The five Characteristics that make up Everything
Each of the myriad of things that can be found in this manifested universe is made up of five basic characteristics:
- Each one is. It exists. It has beingness.
- Each one shines with an inner light. It has luster. It is innately alive with energy.
- Each has a deeper purpose. It has a reason for its existence. It is dear and a source of joy.
- Each has a specific name, a category or designation.
- Each has a given form, either tangible or subtle. It has a distinguishing feature.
These, then, are the five characteristics that are found in everything that can be spoken of. Whether tangible or intangible, once something has been conceived of, we can say that it exists, it shines, it has a purpose, it has a name, and it has a form.
The first three of these five characteristics make up the eternal truth which never changes. This is the permanent reality. It is the atma, it is God, it is the indweller, it is the divinity. It is referred to in Sanskrit as sat-chit-ananda, meaning existence, consciousness, bliss. For sat-chit ananda there is no birth and there is no death. Sat-chit-ananda may be described as the mark or signature of the divinity. The remaining two characteristics speak of the body of the divinity. Name and form are only transient and illusory. They are really just imagination. So, of the five basic characteristics that make up everything, three make up the underlying divinity which never changes, and the other two are the changing names and forms which make up the world.
Realize that all the created things which you see in the world are artificial. They all have come at some time and will go some time in the future; in other words, they are subject to birth and death. They can be compared to relatives. Relatives come for a while to stay with you and then go back. They will not stay in the house permanently. Just like relatives, happiness and grief come and go. Similarly, everything having name and form is impermanent. To understand spirituality, you must realize that all created things are transient and temporary. Any day these things will disappear; they are constantly undergoing change. Grieving over such things which are impermanent is foolish indeed.
If you want to understand the three underlying qualities which are permanent, you have to develop certain noble qualities and virtues. As has been declared by Krishna in the chapter on devotion, the aspirant who has attained the 26 noble qualities is very dear to the Lord. But there is no need to have all 26 qualities. In a match-box you will find a large number of matches. If you want a fire, you do not have to strike all the matches; only one needs to be struck to provide all the fire you want. If you fully develop one or two of these virtues within you, then the others will also develop of their own accord. But they must become an indelible and integral part of you before you can hope to understand the principle of the atma. In striving to acquire these virtues, you will encounter certain negative qualities within you. They are your internal enemies. They will try to keep you from manifesting these virtuous qualities.
Jealousy and Hatred
In the previous chapter, the virtues of forbearance and patience were discussed. Now we will take up their opposite evils, jealousy and hatred. Jealousy and hatred are twin thieves. The one cannot live without the company of the other. There is an inextricable relationship between them; they will always take shelter within each other. Hatred may be compared to an underground pest and jealousy may be compared to an above-ground pest. Together they can destroy a tree. Consider a tree which is very green, which is flowering and producing fruit, which is very attractive to look at. When pests enter this tree the tree will become dry within days. One of the pests will go to the branches and leaves above while the other strikes at the roots below. While the one spoils the beauty of the tree the other will try to destroy the very life of the tree. They will always accompany each other.
So it is also with jealousy and hatred. Wherever there is jealousy there will also be hatred, and whenever hatred is visible you will find jealousy lurking invisibly behind. Hatred takes on a particular form. It manifests itself in various ways. For jealousy there is no form; it remains hidden under the surface. It has been said that there is no person in the world who does not suffer from some jealousy; there will be at least a small tendency towards jealousy in every person. To make sure that this jealousy and hatred do not enter your system you have to develop selfless love. Where there is selfless love there is no place for jealousy and hatred to enter and take hold. When jealousy and hatred are kept out, you can have the experience of divine bliss.
Beauty is a form of bliss. Wherever there is beauty you will also find joy. A thing of beauty is a joy forever. What is beauty? Is it the world which imparts beauty to a thing or is it already inherent in the object? We have seen how all things undergo change. Consider all these things which undergo change, how long can they remain beautiful? Only that which is permanent can be beautiful. The one permanent entity is God, and so God alone is beautiful. There is nothing in the world which is more beautiful than God. The most important duty of a devotee is to drink the nectar of bliss which emanates from that beauty. To imbibe and fill yourself with this divinity, which is so full of beauty, there is the need for acquiring certain virtues. In order to develop these virtues you will have to destroy the weaknesses and shortcomings that fester within you.
Being Jealous of the Divinity
Jealousy can even come into your relationship with the divinity. It is a form of arrogance, wherein you think of yourself more than you think of the Lord, and become jealous of the undue attention you feel is being given to the Lord. There is an example of this in the Mahabharata, the great epic detailing the war between the forces of righteousness and evil, in which Arjuna fought on the side of good, and Lord Krishna was his charioteer. During that great war, Arjuna was seated in the chariot behind Krishna, who was driving the chariot. On the eve of the war, Arjuna had heard all the teachings explained and expounded by Krishna, which make up the Gita, but he was not yet fully ready to practice them. He felt that Krishna was a very great person, a divine teacher, but he was not able to understand the full divinity of the Lord.
The great war was going on and some of the most fearsome weapons were being employed on the battlefield. On one particular day, Arjuna was battling with the grandfather, Bhishma, who was the generalissimo of the other side, and was considered one of the greatest warrior of that age. During that fight, a number of very powerful and terrible missiles shot by Bhishma entered Arjuna's chariot, but caused no harm to Arjuna. Arjuna fought brilliantly all day, skillfully wielding his bow while directing the chariot, using his feet to push against Krishna's shoulders, who would then steer the horses, to turn the chariot to the right or left.
The battle raged unabated with neither side gaining an upper hand until finally towards the end of the day, Bhishma swooned in his chariot and withdrew from the scene. At that point, Arjuna, exhausted but triumphant, blew his conch to proclaim victory in the fight that had been raging that day. Arjuna certainly had faith in the divinity, but at that moment he also felt a little arrogant. In that moment of glory, he felt that he was responsible for the victory and that, after all, Krishna had not fought, but had only driven the chariot.
It was after sunset when they turned the chariot towards home. As soon as the chariot reached the Pandava camp, Krishna halted it some distance from the tent, turned to Arjuna and said, "Arjuna, please get down and go into the tent." Arjuna who was a little puffed up with egoism thought to himself, 'I fought and won the battle today. Krishna was only the charioteer directed by me. Properly speaking, he should get down first and open the door for me. That would be the correct protocol.' And so Arjuna said to Krishna, "I think you should get down first." But Krishna insisted, "No Arjuna, you get down first." As this interchange continued, Arjuna developed some dark thoughts and began to feel some resentment towards Krishna.
Arjuna said to himself, 'Here I have been thinking that Krishna was so great, and it is surely because I had complimented him and expressed my admiration for him that he is now acting like this, considering himself more important. Well, it is my own fault. But yet, the war is continuing, it has to be fought and I need Krishna, so it would be best if I didn't develop any strained feelings between us. Getting into an argument with him now would certainly not be in anyone's best interest.' So, very reluctantly, Arjuna got down from the chariot. After he got down he stood near the chariot. Krishna continued pressing Arjuna, "Don't stand here. Go into the tent." Left with no alternative, Arjuna entered the tent. Krishna jumped down immediately, leaping a long way from the chariot. The moment Krishna came out, the entire chariot exploded into flames and was destroyed to ashes.
The Divinity never has Selfish Motives
Arjuna and Dharmaraja, his eldest brother, who were both watching from a distance, were astounded. Arjuna asked Krishna, "What just happened here? What is responsible for this spectacle?" Krishna answered, "Arjuna, no one understands my actions. For the divinity there is never any selfishness or egoism. The protection of my devotees is my only concern. The benefit and encouragement of my devotees is my only wish. I kept all those fearsome weapons which were employed by Bhishma and had entered the chariot, harmlessly under my foot. As long as I had my foot on them, they were not able to exercise their powers over you. If I had alighted from the chariot first, these weapons would have destroyed you along with the chariot. You would have been reduced to ashes. Being unaware of this, you asked me to get down first."
The moment Arjuna heard these words of Krishna, he realized his own arrogant and ignorant behavior. He was exhibiting all the signs of jealousy. Finding fault with the divinity and thinking that he was greater than Krishna can be seen as a form of jealousy.
There are a number of important signs of jealousy. Jealousy makes its appearance when you meet a person who has earned greater fame than you. Or it will develop when a person has more wealth than you. Jealousy will also show its head when you come into the presence of a person who is more beautiful and handsome. For students, jealousy will soon appear if there is another student who scores higher marks than you. It is the weakness of ordinary human beings to develop jealousy whenever they come in contact with people who excel them in terms of wealth, position, beauty, intelligence, and other such qualities.
Jealousy will not live harmlessly inside you. The moment jealousy enters all the virtues which you have cultivated over a long time, all the great qualities which you have developed, are destroyed. It ruins the human nature; it strengthens the animal nature; it promotes the demonic nature. It has no scruples. It does not look forward or backward. It is such an insidious quality that you must see to it that jealousy will never possess you. Enjoy the prosperity of others. Enjoy the progress of others. Enjoy the welfare of others. Enjoy the beauty of others. This is true virtue. This is one of the most important teachings of the Gita. Desiring the good of others is a laudable quality which everyone should possess.
Conquer Jealousy and you can Conquer Anything
There is an ancient story of a devout woman who had a reputation of being completely equanimous and free of jealousy. Even her name meant 'without jealousy'. When the three aspects of divinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, which are the creative, the preservative and the destructive principles of divinity, came to test her, her extreme purity of heart was able to win them over and turn them into little babies. She became like a mother to them. In her presence, they remained happily nestled in her arms.
The three aspects of divinity also represent the three qualities in nature, the active, the passive, and the cyclical, which govern all phenomenal life in the world. These three qualities make up our experiences in the world, and the three aspects of divinity are the substratum of these qualities. Therefore, the deeper meaning of this story is that when you are free of jealousy, everything in the world will be like a babe in your arms. You will be its mother, it will look up to you and follow you. Truly, once you are free of jealousy you will be able to conquer anything.
But it cannot be emphasized too strongly that when you have jealousy, it will destroy all your good qualities. You may think that it will destroy others but in fact it will destroy you, not the others. It will make you sick. You will not be able to sleep well. You will not be able to eat well. Even if you are totally healthy, once jealousy takes hold of you it will cause all kinds of physical ailments to sprout up in you. It is like an inner consumption. Just as tuberculosis creeps in and consumes, so also jealousy weakens you without your realizing it. It can get into you in any number of ways and will ultimately destroy you.
Jealousy is a vicious disease which must not be permitted to gain a foothold. You must feel that God will always bless you with his grace. Even if you are in a lesser position than you think you deserve, you should enjoy the happiness of others. You should be glad to hear of their accomplishments and not feel sad just because they have things which you do not have. Jealousy is all-pervasive in this immoral age. It is prevalent in all types of people, be they worldly or spiritually inclined. It is mostly because of jealousy that people lose their peace of mind and waste their lives. Along with jealousy, backbiting and hatred soon make their ugly appearance. If you are the target of these evil qualities in others, your best protection is the great virtue of forbearance. Here is a small story.
Forbearance will Overcome Hatred
Buddha was walking along the country-side begging for alms. He was approaching a village. Many people in that village had a great affection for Buddha. But just before he reached the outskirts of the village, some young rowdies loitering along the road began to jeer at him. A little surprised at this reception, Buddha stopped and sat down on a rock. He said to them, "Well, gentlemen, what pleasure do you derive from criticizing me?" Without giving any reason, they increased their denunciation of Buddha. Buddha said, "Continue as long as you want." They berated and reviled him to a point where they got tired of their own invective. Buddha's forbearance was so well developed that their hatred could not touch him. At first they were having a good time, but finally, having exhausted themselves without getting the reaction they wanted, they decided to go away.
As they were walking away, Buddha called out to them, "Children, I want to tell you something. In the village just beyond here, there are many people who love me very much. If they were to hear that you have been denouncing me in this vile way, they would cut you to pieces. In order to save you from that danger, I have stayed here on this rock and allowed you to criticize me. In that way I have given you a gift. Without spending a single cent, without making any effort, I have been able to give you so much enjoyment by allowing you to berate me. Rather than feel unhappy with your criticism, I am glad because I have been able to give you some pleasure and spare you from serious harm."
Then Buddha explained yet another important point to them in a way that made an indelible impression on their hearts. "Suppose a poor monk comes to your house and asks for alms. You bring some food out to him. But suppose the type of food you are offering is ritually impure and not acceptable by the monk. What will happen then? Since he has not accepted your offer, you will have to take it back and it will remain with you. Similarly, you are offering me all this criticism. These are the alms you are trying to give me. But I have not accepted your offerings. Well then, you will have to keep them; they remain with you. So you see, all your criticisms are really just being redirected to yourselves. You are not criticizing me at all!"
One can send a letter by registered post to a friend. If the friend does not accept this registered letter, what will the Postal Department do with the letter? It will redirect it back to the person who sent it. If you are criticizing someone but this person does not accept your criticism, then inevitably the criticism comes back to you. Do not think that by voicing the jealousy and hatred you may be feeling, that you will be troubling those to whom these odious sentiments are directed. In truth, you will only be troubling yourself. Jealousy and hatred will create great difficulties for the one who is infected with them. Jealousy and hatred spring from egoism. Here is a small example.
Behind Jealousy and Hatred is Egoism
There was a devout religious man who took great joy in cultivating a garden full of beautiful flowers and fruits. Even though he was steeped in spiritual knowledge, he had developed a strong touch of egoism within him. The moment egoism developed, jealousy also entered. When egoism and jealousy make their appearance, hatred automatically joins them. God took a personal interest in this errant devotee. God saw that this person, although he had all the proper religious outer trappings, had nevertheless, filled his heart with poison. God decided to correct him by teaching him a lesson. The Lord manifested himself in the form of an old mendicant and took a stroll by that garden.
The old mendicant went to a recently planted tree and greatly extolled the beauty of that tree. Noticing the garden owner nearby he asked him, "Who is the gardener responsible for cultivating such a fine tree?" The proud owner puffed himself up and said, "Sir, it is I who have brought up this entire garden. I grew this tree and I raised all the other trees that you see here, as well. By my own efforts I developed all these pleasing paths and made this beautiful garden. I alone look after everything here. There is no hired gardener. I am the one who draws the water. I spread the manure. I pull the weeds and I remove the pests. I clean the paths. I am developing these beautiful flowers and fruits, doing all these things for the sake of giving joy to others." In this way he went on repeating I... I... I.
Appearing to appreciate the beauty of the garden, the old mendicant continued to dwell there for awhile, while the owner busied himself nearby, grooming his garden. After some time the mendicant left. A little bit later a cow entered the garden. She was so weak that she was about to fall and destroy the plants that were there under her body. The owner of the garden saw that this cow was about to spoil his beautiful garden. So he took a small stick and threw it at the cow to chase her out. But the moment the stick touched the cow, the cow fell down and died. Now, in his religion, cows are considered very sacred, and should never be molested or harmed. Having thrown the stick from which the cow dropped dead, he would now have to suffer the great sin of killing a cow. He was aghast at this terrible turn of events.
It was not very long afterwards that the same old mendicant came back into the garden. Walking along the path where the cow had strayed, he saw the dead cow and was shocked. He sought out the owner and urged him to quickly come to the spot. The mendicant asked, "Who killed this cow? Who committed this outrage?" When the owner did not answer immediately, the old mendicant asked more directly, "Tell me, do you know who killed this cow?" The owner replied, "Surely it was the will of God. Without the will of the Lord, would she have died just like that? Unless she was meant to die, would she fall down and expire just because a little stick touched her?"
The moment the old mendicant heard this he told the man, "Previously you told me how it was you alone who was responsible for raising this whole garden, how you alone planted and nurtured all these plants and put in all the paths. You were taking credit for all the good things that have happened here. But for anything that is wrong and inauspicious you put the blame on God. You are an arrogant, self-serving fool, so puffed up with your own importance that you won't even acknowledge the Creator's hand in bringing forth all the beauty that is here. You are taking credit for that which belongs to God. You are even jealous of God. If not for the will of God, there would be nothing in your garden."
At this point, the old mendicant revealed his true identity. He said, "I am the Lord himself. I have come to destroy your egoism." The erring devotee fell at the Lord's feet in contrition. The devotee realized how ego had stolen into him, had gained a foothold, and then had completely taken him over. Now, he understood the deeper meaning of the spiritual teachings that he had been mouthing for so long. He realized that everything is imbued with the divinity, and therefore, he should see the divinity everywhere and live his life with the knowledge that down to the minutest detail, everything is under the control of the divinity.
Destroy Egoism, Jealousy and Hatred with Love and Forbearance
You must take care that you do not develop egoism and its henchmen, hatred and jealousy. Once they take root within you they will be very difficult to eradicate. When you have become infested with these bad qualities you may not be so fortunate as this devotee and get the attention of the Lord so directly, to help you eradicate them. You will not be able to exterminate jealousy merely by reading scriptures or engaging in spiritual rituals. But by making a determined effort to transform your thoughts and develop selfless love, you can destroy this pest. Offer up all your negative thoughts at the feet of the Lord and fill yourself with unwavering love and forbearance.
So long as you have jealousy you can never shine. All the great virtues in you will disappear. The Gita has taught that the primary spiritual practice is to develop ideal virtues and apply them in your daily life. In this way, you create favorable circumstances for yourself. When you lead a virtuous life, you will be able to experience the principle of the atma. But if you do not develop the great qualities and apply them to your daily life, you will never be able to realize the divinity.
The light of the atma is everywhere. It is not limited to any one person or form. It shines as an effulgence, filling the entire universe. It may take any form and any name. It is the very basis of every name and form. Take for example the light that is emanating from a bulb, or the breeze you get from a fan, or the heat you get from an electric cooking stove, or the work you get from an electric motor. The effects are all different. The work done by the motor is different from the breeze obtained from the fan. The light obtained from the bulb is different from the food cooked on the stove. The effects are different, the machines are different, but going through all of them is the one electric current. The same is true for the principle of the atma. In different bodies it manifests differently, but underneath there is the same unity.
The luminosity of the electric light is proportional to the current that flows in the bulbs. The light that shines forth from the bulbs can be compared to the atmic effulgence which shines in individuals. Light has no shape or form, but bulbs come in various shapes and strengths. An incandescent bulb has a particular form; a fluorescent light has a different form. The dining-room bulb may be very bright; the bulb in the bedroom may be quite dim. Because of ignorance you may think that if the one type of electric current powers both the bedroom bulb and the dining room bulb, why should there be a difference in the light? The difference comes about because of the bulbs.
Similarly, there is a difference in the expression of love in various hearts. If your love is wholesome, full and complete, you will be able to manifest the fullness of the atmic effulgence and shine brightly. If you have a narrow selfish love, it will be something like a dim bedroom bulb. It is not a question of current; the potential for providing any amount of current is available and ready. You must change the bulb in order to get a greater light. If you are filled with jealousy, then the power of the light will be very small. If you have the effulgence of selfless love, then the power will be something like a 1000 watt bulb. Therefore, develop your love. It is possible to recognize the divinity only with the help of love.
Only through Love can you Experience God
In order to see the moon, there is no need for you to shine a flashlight on it. By the light of the moon itself you can see the moon. If you want to see and perceive God who is always love itself, then only through love will you be able to see him. It is impossible to see him if you are filled with hatred. Hatred is the very opposite of love. Hatred is something like blindness.
However powerful a light you shine on a blind man, he will not be able to see the light. As long as you have bad qualities, the divinity which is very near will not be perceived. When you are free of jealousy, when you are free of egoism and hatred, you will be able to directly experience the effulgence of the divinity. A person who has opened his eye of wisdom will shine with the God-presence. A person who has closed his eyes with ignorance will not be aware of God. By closing your eyes you will have to search all over for a towel which may be directly above you on a shelf, very close by. If you open your eyes you will be able to place your hand right on it. The wise person whose eyes are open to the divinity and who is not beclouded by ignorance, directly perceives God and reaches him.
You become wise when you become fragrant with virtues. But if you are saturated with bad qualities, with doubts and all sorts of jealousy and hatred, you will not be able to understand anything at all. That is why it has been said, 'Death is sweeter than the blindness of ignorance.' You must free yourself from ignorance. Jealousy is an evil which develops that ignorance. Therefore, students who have very tender hearts, who have a bright future ahead of them and much progress to make, should never give room to jealousy.
If any person in your class gets an outstanding grade you should not succumb to jealousy. You can also work to attain an outstanding grade. If you have not achieved that and you also feel jealous, then you will be making two mistakes. In the first place, you have not studied adequately, otherwise you would have done better; and in the second place, you have darkened your heart with jealousy. Then crying over it is your third mistake. You should not develop these bad qualities which are sure to cause you so much trouble; they can even destroy a whole family which was previously happy and enjoying all the goodness of life.
Jealousy and Hatred Destroy those who Possess them
While explaining these principles to Arjuna, Krishna told Arjuna, "For your evil cousins, the one hundred brothers who have been plotting to destroy the Pandavas' joy and happiness, it is their evil qualities which encouraged them to do all their wicked deeds. People who are jealous attract bad people for company. These cousins have with them their evil uncle, who encouraged them in their enmity towards the Pandavas. He is filled with jealousy. These are all blind people. Just as their father is physically blind, all hundred brothers are mentally blind. They join together and fall in line with one another. But you can be sure, Arjuna, that the bad qualities in these people will destroy them." As Krishna predicted, not even one of these hundred brothers survived the war to perform the funeral rites for their parents. This is the great tragedy of falling into hatred and jealousy.
If you want to really understand the Gita, then you have to start by developing all the good qualities and virtues that have been discussed. Once these good qualities are part of you, you will be able to experience the divinity directly.
Anything you desire can be gotten from a wish-fulfilling tree. The Gita is such a wish-fulfilling tree. It will grant you whatever you are ready to receive. It will give you the level of understanding which reflects your own particular desires. In this age, people are interpreting the Gita incorrectly, because they are filled with so many wrong desires. And so, the Gita has been of little use to them. But, you must develop your virtue and fill yourself with love. Then the lofty message of the Gita will shine within you and inspire you to reach the divinity. To reach the divinity is your birthright. It is your unchanging reality, your undying truth.
XXVI. Truth and Good Character - The very Breath of Life
Krishna said, "Wherever there is exemplary behavior, wherever there is righteousness and sacredness, wherever duty and truth are adhered to, there will be victory. When you conduct yourself in an honorable way, when you live by the principles of right conduct, those very principles will protect you. Arjuna! Always live a sacred and honorable life. Then you will be leading a life that is truly worthwhile."
Embodiments of Love,
There are seven facets to living a sacred life, which are like the seven colors contained in the rays of the sun. They make up the standards of virtuous behavior and moral excellence which are the very fabric of spiritual life. The first facet is truth. The second facet is good character. The third is right conduct. The fourth is sense-control. The fifth is conscious living with emphasis on restraining one's desires. The sixth is renunciation or detachment, and the seventh is nonviolence. All of these principles of right living have been laid down for the protection of the individual and for the well-being of society. Collectively they are referred to as dharma or righteousness.
Truth and Dharma
Truth is the very basis of righteousness. Just as burning is the nature of fire, coolness is the nature of ice, fragrance is the nature of a blossom and sweetness is the nature of sugar, so also, truthfulness is the nature of a human being. Truth and good character are your very life breath. When you recognize the innate truth which is your essential nature, then you understand your own reality.
To achieve success in the field of spirituality, good character is essential. Good character can be spoken as having three aspects. The first aspect is best conveyed by the words sacredness, holiness and goodness. The second aspect is best described by the words tolerance, compassion and forbearance. And the third aspect is given by the words resolve, determination and commitment.
Whatever education you have, however wealthy you may be, whatever position you may occupy, whether you are a great scholar or a statesman, if you do not have these three aspects of character, you are as good as dead. Whatever else you may have earned, without these three aspects of character, all your attainments and achievements will be worthless. People pay attention to external human beauty, but God recognizes only the inner beauty. Truly speaking, for human beings it is their sterling character which makes up their real beauty. A person devoid of good character is nothing but a stone. You have to follow these seven facets of dharma and let each one of them shine within you, for each one of them is completely natural to you.
The foundation step is truth. Truth does not simply mean abstaining from lying. You have to take truth as your very essence, as the foundation of your life. You should be prepared to renounce everything for the sake of truth. The world conducts itself in the fear of truth and is always subservient to truth. When there is no truth, man develops fear and becomes too frightened even to live. On the other hand, truth confers fearlessness on man. It is truth which protects the entire world and makes it function. Truth drives away all fear. It is such an important quality that only when it is being faultlessly observed will you be able to attain divinity. Character is the breath of truth. Important for character is virtue and good behavior. Humanity will not shine without good behavior. Virtues, good qualities, good behavior, all these lend splendor to humanity.
Truth needs to be established from the Earliest Age
In order to serve humanity and realize your innate divinity, you have to take truth, character and good behavior as your basis. Right from childhood make the necessary efforts to establish yourself in these noble virtues. Early in life, children are likely to make a number of small mistakes, either knowingly or unknowingly. Fearing that these errors will become known to the elders and that there might be some punishment or criticism, children will try to hide their mistakes.
In this way, from an early age, there is a tendency for the child to develop the habit of straying from truth, to avoid blame. Eventually, this habit will destroy the very foundation of life. Untruth will destroy one's humanness. Therefore, children should be strongly encouraged to always tell the truth no matter what, without fearing the consequences, be these consequences joyful and profitable to the child, or should they result in chastisement and punishment. Just as a foundation is very important for a mansion, just as roots are the very basis of a tree, so, truth is the very basis of life as a human being.
If you are wavering in truth, there will be no safety and no protection for your life. An example of strict adherence to truth can be seen in the life of a great king in ancient times. Because of his uncompromising stance on truth, he was forced by circumstances to give up his wife, his son and his kingdom. He considered truth as his penance. Even in the most difficult situations that assailed him, he was not prepared to tell an untruth or deviate from dharma. Eventually, he lost his kingdom. Banished and alone, he took up work in a cremation ground. When his son died, his wife brought the body to the cremation ground. Although he knew that it was his wife, and the body was that of his son, still he felt bound to discharge his duty as the person in charge of the cremation ground. Under the most trying tests, this king never gave up either telling the truth or following dharma. He considered truth and dharma like two eyes or like two wheels of a chariot or like two wings of a bird, each indispensable to the other.
Even a little Fib can lead to Unhappiness later
Right from the very beginning, it is incumbent upon elders to teach youngsters the importance of telling the truth. Here is a small example to show how making up stories to playfully befuddle a younger sibling, can produce unhappy consequences for a child. Once upon a time, a father wanted to give a special gift to his son on the son's birthday. Because of the love he felt for his son, this father gave the boy a gold coin, asking him to go to his mother and get a ring made out of the coin. The next day the son had his examinations; he kept the gold coin on the table where he was studying.
Now this boy had a younger sister who was very curious and mischievous. She entered the room and saw the gold coin. She took it in her hand and asked, "Brother, what is this?" He told her, "It is a gold coin." She asked, "Where did you get this?" Jokingly, he said, "Well, it grew on a tree." "How could this gold coin come from a tree?" his little sister asked. He then made up a story and proceeded to tell her a number of fibs. He said, "If you treat this as a seed and sow it by putting it in the ground, then pour water on it and tend it and protect it, a tree will soon come forth. Then from this tree you will be able to get many more gold coins."
She started asking some more questions, but he said, "Listen, I don't have time to talk to you now. I have to study. Ask me later." Seeing that he was busy, she took the opportunity to pocket the gold coin and left. From there she went into the yard and dug a small pit. She put the gold coin into the hole and covered it with soil. She poured water on the mound. All the while, she was thinking of what her brother had told her, how a tree would grow out of the gold coin, if it was planted.
A maid-servant, who was watching this little girl from a window, saw her put the gold coin in the hole. When this little girl went inside the house, the maid dug up the hole and took the coin. After some time, the mother came and asked the son to get ready to go to school. He wanted to give the coin to his mother so that she would have a ring made out of it for him, as his father had suggested. But the boy could not find the gold coin anywhere. He went to his younger sister and asked her whether she had seen it. She said, "Brother, I thought if we could grow a tree out of it, we could get lots of coins like that; so I've planted the coin in a hole I made in the garden." They went to the place and dug around, but the coin was not to be found.
Now the boy was very distressed. On his birthday, when he should have been very cheerful, he was crying. He told all this to his mother. His mother asked him, "But, tell me, son, why did your little sister take the gold coin and bury it in the garden?" The boy did not know, so the little girl was sent for and asked why she had done what she did. She said, "Brother explained to me how this would turn into a gold-coin tree; so I did as he said." His mother told the boy, "Because you made up this story and knowingly told an untruth to your little sister, the consequence is that instead of being happy and enjoying your birthday, you are weeping. And not merely that, you have also lost the gold coin that your father gave you."
If children are permitted to tell lies and harbor untruths at their tender age, this habit will grow and grow with the years. On the other hand, if you teach them from the earliest years to take truth as the basis of their lives, they will grow in character and be able to achieve many great things.
When one Bad Quality goes the Rest cannot long remain
There once was a great teacher who helped many people develop in spirituality. Whenever anyone came to him to be initiated by him, he used to inquire into their behavior and their character to determine the type of qualities they had. Appropriate to their qualities and stage of evolution, he would then give them a sacred incantation, a mantra. A thief, after recognizing this teacher as a great man, went to him and asked him for a mantra. The guru said to him, "Well, child, what are your qualities? What are your defects?" The thief said, "My bad qualities are going from house to house in the middle of the night, breaking in and stealing things. Since I spend the night in stealing articles, during the day I drink myself to sleep. Drinking is my second bad habit. If the police were to catch me, then to save my skin I would make up lies and tell them a lot of false information to put them off. That is my third bad quality."
The spiritual teacher asked him, "Well child, you say that you steal, you drink and you tell falsehoods. Can you give up one of these three bad qualities?" The thief thought for a while to himself, 'If I don't steal, how can I take care of my family, my children and my wife? No, I cannot give this up. Only when the body is healthy and strong will I be able to escape when I'm caught. So I have to get lots of sleep, and drink helps me get to sleep in the daytime. But it is unlikely that the police will catch me very often. So, I shall give up telling lies.' Then the great man asked him, "Do you promise that you will always tell the truth from tomorrow onward?" The thief replied, "Most certainly. Even from today I will only tell the truth." This is what the thief firmly resolved to do. And indeed, from that day onward he made it a habit to tell the truth wherever he went.
One hot summer night the thief was out prowling in a nearby town looking for a good place to break into. The mayor of this town, a very wealthy man, was taking rest on the terrace of his house. In those days, there were no air conditioners or even fans. Because of the heat and the still, sultry night air, he was not able to sleep. The thief managed to climb up to this terrace. As soon as the thief scrambled onto the terrace, the rich man spotted him, realizing that he was a thief. The rich man accosted him, saying, "Hey there, who are you?" Because the thief told only the truth, he replied, "I am a thief." In order to find out what this man's plans were, the rich man said, "Is it so? Well, I'm also a thief."
They decided to work together and planned to steal certain valuable things that were kept in that house. The rich man told the thief, "There will be quite a few valuables locked up in the safe inside the house of this rich man, but it will be very difficult for us to get into the safe unless we get hold of the keys. Let me break into the house and see if I can manage to steal the keys." The rich man continued, "I have been waiting for someone who can keep a watch for me. Now that I have been able to get a friend like you, I will go inside."
He left the thief and pretending that he was breaking into the house, he went inside; busying himself here and there, he delayed coming back for some minutes. Then he took the keys and stealthily came out. Now he told the thief, "I have the keys, but I looked everywhere for the safe. I couldn't find it. Let me keep watch and you go inside. See if you can locate the safe and get the valuables that will be kept in it by the rich man." As it turned out, this rich man had three big diamonds inside the safe. This thief went inside and soon found the safe. He opened it and took out the three valuable diamonds.
Immediately a problem arose in his mind. How to distribute the three diamonds between the two of them? As this thief followed the path of truth, a certain amount of righteousness had also automatically entered into him. He brought all three diamonds out but he told the rich man, "Brother, one diamond you can keep. The other diamond I will keep. The third diamond cannot be broken into pieces. I will put it back in the safe for the owner of this house. Let him keep it for himself." Deciding on this, the thief went back into the house to put one of the three diamonds back in the safe. Then he returned to the terrace.
After settling this transaction, the thief was about to leave when the rich man said to him, "Well, brother, perhaps we can have this kind of partnership now and again in the future. Please give me your address where I can contact you." As he was bound to tell the truth, the thief gave his correct address. The next morning, this rich man who was also the highest public official in that area, took the address and sent orders that a police complaint be lodged regarding the loss of some diamonds out of his safe. He told the police to go to the village mentioned in the address and arrest the thief who was living there.
In that particular village the thief was well-known. The police went there and had no trouble finding him. They caught hold of him and brought him to the mayor. The thief did not recognize the robed official in front of him as his partner of the night before. The mayor then questioned the thief, "Well, how did you enter the house? How did you get hold of this diamond?"
The thief narrated meticulously all the details of his adventure. He told how he had climbed onto the roof, had gotten into partnership with another person, entered the house, opened the safe, took out three diamonds, gave one to his partner, kept one for himself and again went into the house, again opened up the safe and put back one diamond. The mayor called in his head official and said, "Go and find out if there is a diamond remaining in the safe." The officer took the keys to the safe. To himself he thought, 'Can there be any thief who will put one diamond back?' Thinking this way, he opened the safe, saw the diamond that had been returned there by the thief, pocketed it, and went back to the mayor, reporting that there was no diamond in the safe. But then, the mayor searched the pockets of the officer and recovered the diamond. Immediately, he dismissed the officer from his service.
The mayor now addressed the thief. He said, "I know that in everything you have related, you have told the truth to me. Therefore, from today onward, I appoint you as my head administrative officer. Only a person who is truthful should be a public official. Unfortunately, you have become a thief; but your nature is not like that." This person now gave up thieving and became a high official; he continued to practice telling the truth and automatically, in the natural course of events, he gave up drinking as well as his thieving and became an honest and upright human being.
In the beginning, by adhering to truth, you may be put to a lot of trouble. In spite of the trouble you encounter, if you pursue the path of only telling the truth, eventually this truthful nature will fill you with joy and happiness and give you success in all your endeavors. Therefore, it was to promote the happiness and welfare of mankind that in the Gita, Krishna taught that one should always be truthful. He proclaimed that truth was life's royal road and that the path of truth was the only way to foster right conduct in society.
Dharma is Changeless but its Practice Changes in each Age
Sometimes it has been said that righteousness has declined and that the dharma has diminished. But that is not correct. Dharma is based on truth. Truth is absolute; it can never undergo change or be diminished. However, in any particular age, the practice of dharma may undergo change. God incarnated as Krishna, not to re-establish dharma, but to re establish the practice of dharma. Dharma never left, nor did it ever change; but it was out of use.
The seven facets of dharma have been present in all the past ages;. However, each age has had practices most appropriate to that age. For instance, in ancient times when spiritual awareness was very high, the appropriate spiritual practice was meditation. In the age in which Rama incarnated, the most appropriate practice was penance and sacrifice. In the Krishna era, the practice was ritual and ceremonial worship. And in the past five thousand years of this present materialistic age, in which spiritual consciousness is at a low ebb around the world, the chanting of the holy name is the most appropriate practice. But, just as in the earlier ages there were also many believers who practiced the repetition of mantra, evoking the name of God, so also, in this age there are people who take to meditation, there are people who take to doing penance and there are people who take to ritual worship. But the principal practices depend upon the general character and mood of the times.
Different practices give different forms, so to speak, to dharma. But the inner flow of dharma is always the same. Truth will never change. Truth is always one, never two. In all the three times, past, present and future, in all the three worlds, earth, heaven and the nether world, in all the three states, waking, dream and deep sleep, and in all the three worldly qualities, passivity, activity and equilibrium, truth is always one. Since truth is one and the very basis of dharma, dharma cannot change. It never wavers or undergoes any modifications. But duty and practice will undergo intermittent change.
For example, take a person who is doing a job. How long will this job be his duty? Until he retires from that particular job. Until then, he goes to the office every day. Once he retires, his duty changes. After retirement, he might get involved in doing business. Then he says that pursuing his business is his duty. In doing business, he may be tempted to gain some extra profit by taking to under-handed methods; he may try to earn money through lying and cheating. Even though he may have now taken to lying and cheating in order to earn money, he will still consider the work he is doing as his occupation and his duty. When so many changes can come about in duty, how can it be described as dharma ? These changing activities that occupy your time in the interest of providing for your living needs, cannot automatically be described as dharma. Duty becomes dharma when it shines with the virtues that make up the facets of dharma.
Not Harming others is Dharma
There is a simple meaning to the word dharma. All those actions which do not come in the way of others, which do not impinge on the freedom of others, can be described as dharma. Here is a small example for this.
You are holding a long stick and playing with it, moving it this way and that, and at the same time you are walking down a main street. This street is a busy public thoroughfare. You may feel, "I have every right to move wherever I want." Well, if this is your right, then the person who is coming in the opposite direction has every right to save himself from being hit by your stick. You are indulging in an activity which is likely to put other people walking on the street in danger. However, correct conduct expects you to act so that you do not interfere with the freedom of other people walking on the same road.
If you can conduct yourself in a way that is not detrimental to others or that does not impinge on their freedom, then you are behaving according to dharma. Later, we will take up Krishna's teachings in which he points out that merely refraining from doing harm is not enough. You should also be friendly and compassionate to all beings. But if, at the very least, everyone were to consider it their duty to conduct themselves without causing any harm to others, then there would be peace, prosperity and joy aplenty in the world. Acting in this way is your real duty, a duty which has to be performed for the sake of setting an example to others and for upholding the essential ideals of dharma.
Social Duty, Obligatory Duty and Family Duty
In your daily life in the family, there are three types of duties which may be considered to be three aspects of dharma. There is social duty, there is obligatory duty, and there is family duty. These duties express themselves in different ways. First consider an example of social duty. Assume that tomorrow is Sunday, which is a holiday for you. You may want to invite some people to come to your house for tea. Suddenly in the night, you develop a fever. While you are sick, you realize that if you were to invite your friends to visit the next day, you would not be able to receive them properly, and so, it would not make you or them happy. Therefore, in consideration of your obligations to your friends, which you would not be able to perform while sick, you decide to postpone the tea party. On the basis of the change in circumstances and your consideration for your friends, you change the tea party to the following Sunday. You are free to make the arrangements that fulfill both your wishes and your social obligations.
Next, consider an example of obligatory duty. Let us say you are a lecturer in the university. In connection with the upcoming examinations, the department head has directed that the whole teaching staff of the department assemble for a meeting. As this is an important department meeting, you will have to attend. Even if you are suffering from fever, you take some aspirin pills and go to the meeting. This is an obligatory duty and you have no right to cancel this. The scheduling of this meeting was not in your hands, and once it has been called, you are expected to attend.
Now, consider an example of family duty. You are in your own house. There is a small family quarrel between husband and wife. Inside the room, the husband and wife are having a tiff. She is very angry. Suddenly, the door bell rings and he goes out to answer it. He finds that a co-worker had dropped by for a casual visit. As soon as the husband sees the visitor, he greets him with a smile and a fond hello. He asks the visitor to be seated. With the visitor he is quite cordial. When he enters the bedroom and tells his wife of the visitor and finds that she is still very angry with him, he may resume his stern tone. But as soon as he goes into the other room to meet the colleague who has come by, he carries on with his friendly conversation. It is his duty to protect the good name of his family by conducting himself in such a way that an outsider would not know that he had quarreled with his wife.
If a person who is angry with his wife inside the bedroom comes out into the living room and irritatedly asks the visitor to leave the house, then the guest will be appalled. It is important to see to it that the secrets and confidences of the family are not thrown out into the street. This is an important duty of a family man. He must be ever vigilant to protect the honor of his family. If by his indiscretion the family honor is destroyed, then there will be no happiness for him or his family throughout their lives.
Sense-Control is the Key to Doing your Duty properly
To protect the good name of your family you must remain alert and aware of others' needs; this requires sense-control. If you do not have sense control, as was explained in a previous chapter, you become arrogant. One who is arrogant and devoid of sense-control is nothing but a demon. If you want to practice and protect dharma, you have to develop sense-control. For everything worthwhile in life, sense-control is very important. Krishna said to Arjuna, "Arjuna, be a wise man, and have complete control over your senses. Do not obey the fickle cravings of your senses. The senses must be under your control. You should not become a slave of your senses. Make them your slave. Be their master. It is only when you have mastered the senses that you will have earned the right to be close to the one who is the one who is the originator of all the senses and has complete dominion over them."
In the second chapter of the Gita all the qualities of a wise man have been explained. Of all these qualities, sense-control is one of the most important. In this chapter we have been exploring some different aspects of dharma, which can be seen, like the rays of the sun, to have seven colors or facets. As has been pointed out at the beginning, this sunlight of dharma contains the rays of truth, character, righteous behavior, sense control, penance, renunciation and nonviolence. You must make all of these your own.
Try to understand the meaning of these Gita teachings and practice them in your daily life. It is Swami's wish that when you have taken so much interest in studying these teachings that you should also evince the same degree of interest in practicing their meaning, and thereby acquire all the good qualities that are conveyed by them.
XXVII. Kindness and Compassion - The Mark of a true Human Being
Love all. Do not harbor enmity or hatred towards any being. The divinity in all its fullness resides in the heart of every being. This is the basic teaching of the Gita.
Embodiments of Love,
Whenever you hate someone, it is really God whom you are hating, for God is installed in every being. Whenever you criticize or admonish someone, it is the very Lord whom you worship that you are criticizing or reviling. That same Lord is the resident of all hearts. This awareness of the divine essence in every being is the basis of the teachings of universal brotherhood that have been given in the scriptures of India since ancient times.
The Unity of the Self, the One Atma Existing Everywhere
The Gita proclaims that the divinity is present everywhere and in everyone, as the all-pervading reality we call God. But the Gita declares an even higher stage than this. It teaches not only that God is everywhere, but that the inner truth behind the I that you refer to when speaking of yourself is your immortal self, your highest self, one and the same with God. And that highest self in you is also the highest self of everyone. It is the atma, one with the divinity. In essence, you and everyone and everything are God.
Therefore, in addition to teaching the unity of God, expressed through universal brotherhood, the Gita also teaches the unity of the atma, the one self existing everywhere. The Gita shows that the atma, which exists as the true self in you, exists as the same self in all other human beings, and in animals and birds and every other kind of being as well. Just as the Gita instructs you to regard happiness and misery as equal, so also it instructs you to recognize the one atma as existing equally in all beings, whether they are humans, animals or plants.
You must have the conviction that right from microscopic creatures and insects up to the creator, the same divinity exists uniformly everywhere. That is why a great poet, brimming with devotion, sang:
O Lord, You have been living in the ant as well as in the creator. You have come as Krishna and Rama. But truly, you live in every form. I see you everywhere, in every being I encounter.
Harmonization of Thought, Word and Deed
Today, human nature is such that when you see some ants and roaches you don't mind killing them. At the same time, when you go into a temple and see an image of one of the forms of God, you pay homage to it. You act differently in the two situations, even when you know and profess that the one God is present everywhere. Saying one thing and doing the opposite is a common disease of humanity today. That is why, instead of attaining the status of a mahatma, a divine being, people have not risen very far above their lower natures. The Gita teaches truth in action, which is the harmonization of thought, word, and deed. This is the real mark of a human being. It is in this way that you manifest your divine nature in everyday life.
Develop your faith and see the same divinity existing in every living being. Spread your love, which is the very essence of your divine nature and the divine nature of all living beings. Look upon every person with compassion and love. Unless you adopt this approach in your dealings with others, all your spiritual exercises will just be a waste. Worshipping God while harming your fellow human beings can never take you to your goal. The Gita teaches that man himself is God, and that God is man. This unity of God and man has repeatedly been emphasized in the Gita. "Only the one who treats all alike is a true human being," Krishna proclaimed.
Whatever education you might have acquired, if you do not have human kindness then all your schooling and accomplishments amount to nothing. Kindness to all living beings is one of the most important virtues of a human being. You have to use your discrimination and discover how to develop this kindness and apply it in your daily life. Kindness to living beings refers to looking after people and other living things which are in distress and going to their rescue. You have to make the necessary effort to reduce their pain, their sorrow and their troubles. It is no use to repeat 'love, love, love' an endless number of times. You have to act with love and kindness in everything you do. Kindness must be an integral part of your life. You have to believe that kindness is the same as divinity. You have to believe that the heart which houses kindness is the temple of God.
Kindness is the Hallmark of a true Human Being
There are a number of weaknesses that have invaded human beings. As a result, they lose their innate kindness and become cruel. They behave more like wild animals dwelling in the jungle. But clearly this is not the true nature of a human being. It is the very opposite of humanness. The very word human or humane is used to denote kindness. Of all the different flowers of devotion, God accepts the flower of human kindness with the greatest love. Offering ordinary flowers and worshipping God with the ordinary thoughts and intentions that accompany them, will not evoke the love of God. That will not please him, nor will he accept such offerings.
What offerings will God accept? What does he appreciate? He will accept the flowers of human kindness, the flowers of love, the flowers of compassion blooming in your heart. How should you express this feeling of kindness? It is not enough for you to just do some good. You must transform your heart. There must be a leap of faith. You must develop a deep-seated belief in God's omnipresence. You have to live the conviction that the same God exists in every heart. Then you will be able to recognize other's pain and sorrow as your own pain and sorrow. Here is a small story.
In a village there lived a couple who had a young daughter. It was just a small family of three. It was not a well-to-do family; in fact, it was a very poor family. But poor as they were, these parents decided to provide a proper education for their child. There was no school in the village in which they lived, so they had to send their child to a neighboring village. She had to traverse a forest every day to go to the village where the school was. City people might be afraid of walking through a forest, but villagers do not mind; it is part of their daily life. So this little girl spent her time going to the school in the neighboring village, learning her lessons there, and then coming back home in the evening.
A Child Suffused with the Nectar of Human Kindness
Along the way, in the forest, a small shelter had been erected to provide rest for wayfarers. One day, when passing by, this girl found an aged man in the shelter. He appeared to be undergoing some suffering. She realized that he would not be able to reach the next village where he could get medical help and protection. Because of want of food, his body had become weak, and as she passed by she could see that his condition was not good. Daily she had been carrying some food for herself, and from the next day onward she gave this food to the sick man, who continued to lie in that small shelter in the forest. Every day, in the morning on her way to school, she would leave the food, and then in the evening she would collect the empty food container on her way back home. After ten days of ministering to him in this way, he regained some strength.
One day, as she was coming by on her way home, he took the hands of this little girl and asked her, "Dear child, you have been giving me food every day. Please, tell me where this food is coming from. Do your parents know that you are bringing me food every day? Or are you taking it from somewhere without their knowing it? Is this, perhaps, the food that has been provided for your daily lunch, and you are giving it to me instead? Tell me what you are doing. Please answer my question." She replied, "Honorable sir, I have been brought up to take things only with permission, and I can assure you that my parents know of my bringing food to you. Ours is a very poor family and we have very little money, but still we have been able to manage to provide food for ourselves and those in need. So, I have been bringing food from my family especially for you."
He asked her, "But if you have so little money how are you able to buy this food?" She replied, "Beyond here in the forest, there is a fruit-bearing tree. On my way, I collect fruits from that tree and sell them before going into the school. With the little money I collect, I buy the food. The next morning I prepare it and bring it you." The old man was overjoyed at her sacrifice and her intelligence and straightforwardness. He questioned her further, "How did you get such a noble mind?" She said, "Whatever good I am able to do is because of the upbringing and teachings given to me by my parents. As long as I can remember, my parents have been telling me that we must share with others and serve others. Ours is a very poor family, yet we always try to help others. We feel very blessed when we have the chance to do so. It gives us so much satisfaction." In this way, she told the sick man a little bit about her family and then went home.
Gradually the man recovered his health and was able to walk to the village where this girl and her family lived. What was the result of all the kind actions directed towards the sick man by this sweet little girl? The man told the family how he had been praying to God, "O Lord, give health and prosperity to the parents of this girl. When I was sick and helpless, I could not be of any use to the world. Now I am much better and can be helpful to others. I pray to you out of a heart filled with gratitude to bless this family." In this way, he shared with them his prayer that God bless good families such as these who generously help those in need. Then he left.
God showers His Grace on those who have Kindness
Whatever this girl did in the way of kindness, she never expected any reward for her actions. Without expecting any result or any fruits, she had faithfully been serving the sick man every day. Now God showered his benevolent grace on her. One evening, the Lord came to that house with a chest full of gold and asked, "Is this the home of the child who has given so much food and water to one in distress?" The Lord continued, "It was I who assumed the form of the sick man who languished in that shelter, until your little girl came and took care of me. Now I am leaving this gift so that the child can grow up and become highly educated. I lived in that shelter for ten days to test this girl. This child's heart is very sacred and pure. It is full of kindness. Her heart is my dwelling place, my own temple." He handed over the chest to the parents telling them to use the money to secure her happiness and prosperity.
But the parents were not overjoyed at the prospect of getting such a large amount of wealth. They fell at the feet of this divine person who had blessed them with his visit. They said to him, "Revered sir, we do not have any need for so much wealth. Wealth beyond one's own capacity is harmful, it can take away one's peace of mind. It can increase one's ego and make one forget God. We do not want so much wealth," But, having blessed them, the divine visitor disappeared, leaving the entire treasure there. This person who came was not merely a great man. The family members recognized him as the Lord himself. Without keeping the money just for their own family, they used it for the welfare of the whole community in which they lived. They asked everyone to conduct themselves in the belief that present in every being is the full manifestation of God. They showed by their own lives how God could be obtained, by expressing love and compassion and kindness to all beings who were in need.
You should not narrow your belief in God by thinking that he exists only in a certain place. You have to experience God everywhere. How will you be able to develop this feeling? God exists both inside and outside. If God existed only inside, inner purity would be sufficient. As God exists externally as well, external purity is also required. Therefore, since God is both inside and out, you need to have both inner and outer purity only then will you be able to become fully aware of the omnipresence of God.
Inner and Outer Purity
What is the meaning of external purity? Of course, external purity means keeping the body pure and wearing clean clothes. But it means much more than that. The place where you live must be kept clean. The books which you read must also be clean and wholesome. Be it your body or your mind, you should not allow dirt and bad qualities to accumulate. The statement that you should take a daily bath means that every impurity in body and mind has to be cleansed. Where dirt accumulates, germs will gather and bring on disease. Therefore, do not allow impurities of any kind to remain on you.
Every day in the morning, you should brush your teeth and also clean your tongue. Let there be no impurity in the main entrance. Whenever there is some dirty water outside, mosquitoes, worms and undesirable bacteria will soon fester. In the same way, wherever there is some dirt in your body, all these germs and insects are likely to accumulate. Not merely that, in the surroundings of your house you have to keep everything clean. There is a saying, 'Look at the house and you will know its resident'; in other words, the cleanliness of the house is a reflection of the cleanliness of the indwellers of that house. This principle of cleanliness is meant for your own good. Whether it be the house or its surroundings, if everything is kept clean, you will be happy. You have to keep yourself and everything around you clean and orderly in order to enjoy good health. When you have good health you will remain happy.
You may have only two sets of clothes, but when you wear one, you should make sure that the other is clean. Then, afterwards, you can wear the second set, cleaning the first. Actually, there is no need even for having two sets of clothes; just the one may be worn every day as long as you keep it clean. Whatever you have must be kept clean; do not allow yourself to become dirty. But just cleaning the exterior and wearing clean clothes, while keeping the heart impure, is not of much use. You have to make every effort to achieve inner purity, as well. For this purpose you need to keep all your thoughts and feelings sacred. Let your thoughts be directed towards the service of others. Do not allow jealousy or hatred to enter into you. Always try to develop feelings which are full of joy.
There is no need to bother yourself unnecessarily about others' affairs. Just always think good of others. In this context the ancient teachings declare, 'Let the whole world be happy.' To promote universal joy and well-being is the basis of the spiritual teachings and the object of all spiritual practice. Therefore, the sacred name of God should be continuously contemplated upon, so that it purifies your heart. Only when you take proper care to maintain inner and outer purity will you be able to prevent the entry of impure thoughts and harmful qualities, such as jealousy and hatred.
Conquer your Inner Enemies
Prahlada, the great devotee of the Lord, declared that only when you conquer the inner enemies can you be considered truly great. He told his father, the demon king, "You are only a king now, but if you can overcome the inner enemies that have invaded you, then you can become a great emperor." These inner enemies, including such evils as hatred, greed, pride and jealousy, make up the delusion that besets human beings. You should never allow these inner enemies to enter your heart. If you keep them out, you will be free of all difficulties and problems. To achieve that, you must treat joy and sorrow, profit and loss, heat and cold as all the same. When you develop such equanimity, these inner enemies will not touch you.
But it will be difficult to treat joy and sorrow, misery and happiness as equal unless you are firmly established in the belief that God is dwelling in every heart. When you recognize that, then all the pairs of opposites will have been conquered and they can no longer disturb your equanimity. Then you will be immersed in divine grace, and no matter how unfavorable may have been your fate, the hand of destiny can no longer touch you.
When you have the firm belief that the same divinity exists in every heart, then every obstacle is overcome. When you have full faith in the indwelling divinity, then anything and everything becomes yours. That faith is the key. It is the very root of spiritual life. Catch hold of that. That is your goal. If you need to fell a tree, it's not necessary to first cut away all the branches and leaves. Cut the trunk and the whole tree comes down. Once you gain hold of the divinity, everything comes under your control. To do this, you must develop the practice of expressing your compassion for all beings, until this concern for the welfare of others suffuses every action of your life. And also, you must develop both inner and outer purity, keeping both body and mind sparkling clean. Only then will you be able to recognize the divinity that is everpresent everywhere.
You need to realize that when in your devotion you pray to God and offer him your obeisance, it is the same God who is dwelling in every heart. So you must be very careful not to criticize others. You must develop the strong conviction that any criticism you direct towards another being will go straight to God, residing in that heart.
The Two Banks of the River of Life
Life may be compared to a river. If you allow this river of life to proceed unchecked and unbounded, you are likely to destroy many villages. You have to take whatever measures are needed to see to it that this river remains within its bounds and reaches the ocean. It is only the ocean which can bear this river and absorb it. How to make this river of life reach the ocean? In the Gita it has been said, you must have two banks constructed. When the river has two banks, it can safely go on and reach the ocean.
What are these two banks for the river of life? They have been described as two powerful mantras. On one side you have a mantra which says,
He who has doubts will perish.
On the other side you have a mantra which says,
He who has faith will attain wisdom.
So the two banks for the river of life have to do with renunciation of doubt and the blossoming forth of faith. When you have these two banks channeling your life, then you will reach the goal and merge in the ocean. This teaching given by Krishna is the very essence of devotion. It enables you to reach the ocean of infinite grace.
The three Principles that take you to your Divine Goal
Krishna said, "Child, that ocean of divine grace is the goal of mankind. It is the ultimate goal of all life. Don't forget that goal. Don't believe in the world and don't be afraid of death, but ever remember the divinity which is the very reason for your having taken birth. These are the three principles I give you:
Never forget God.
Never believe in the world.
Never be afraid of death.
Take these three and inscribe them in your heart. Always remember them, for they will sanctify your life and bring you to me."
XXVIII. Fearlessness - Seeing the One Self in Everyone
Fear arises when you see another as separate from God. But when you know that the one divinity is the basis of all you see, then fear leaves you forever. Once you become established in that awareness of the divinity being everywhere in everyone and in everything, then you are permanently freed from the specter of fear.
Embodiments of Love,
You must be firmly grounded in the belief that every name and form that can be found anywhere in the universe is only a combination of the five elements, and that the foundation of these five elements is always God. Then fear cannot gain a foothold within you.
Divinity is the Basis for Everything
Everything without exception is made up of the same five elements. There is nothing else to be found in this manifested creation; there is no sixth factor at all. Consider some of the objects you see in this room. Here is a table, here is a chair and here is a podium; over there is a window and a door. For all these different objects, the difference consists only of separate names and forms; the content, which is wood, is the same in all. Similarly, mountains are rocky, trees consist of wood, earth consists of mud, the body consists of flesh, the ocean is made up of waterä these are all different names and forms. But, in composition they are all just combinations of the basic five elements.
These five elements are five aspects or reflections of the one divinity. It is their divine basis that illuminates them and gives them their existence. Except for these five reflections of divinity, there exists nothing else in the whole universe. In all these five, the divinity is the same. It is one. Beyond it there is no second at all. When you know this without a doubt, then you will have no fear.
Of all the great virtues, fearlessness occupies the place of primary importance. It is the ideal virtue. Unless you have fearlessness, you will never be able to live comfortably. Be it in the secular field, in the battle of life in the world, or be it in your struggles in the realm of the spirit, you must never leave room for fear to creep in. It should find no place in your life. When you are obsessed with fear, you will become extremely timid. You will not be able to accomplish even the smallest job. When you are filled with fear you cannot shine in the world. Therefore, the Gita taught that you must become totally fearless.
Fearlessness is beyond Body-Consciousness
Fearlessness; is not just the absence of fear. Both fear and the absence of fear are associated with body-consciousness. Absence of fear can sometimes be foolish, such as when the body is threatened with harm. But fearlessness is beyond body-consciousness. It can be experienced only when you recognize the truth that the one divinity resides in full measure in every heart.
It is said that a person charged with fear dies every step of the way, while a fearless person dies only once. "Therefore," Krishna told Arjuna, "give up your fear and become completely fearless!" Only a fearless person can achieve victory in great undertakings. A person who is truly fearless will have detachment from all the objects of the world and be saturated with the love of God. On the other hand, one who is egoistic about his body and his worldly accomplishments will be charged with fear. Attachments to the worldly objects and egoism will never be entertained by a person who is free from fear.
In the epics, you will find the story of a demon king who was charged with fear, whereas his son was completely fearless. The king had placed his trust in the world. The son, Prahlada, had placed his trust in God. The boy's teachers went to the demon king and said, "Sire, your son is not afraid at all. However much trouble we give him he never complains or cries about anything. Rather than shedding even a single tear out of personal hurt, he constantly praises the Lord and sings endlessly of the Lord's glory and magnificence." Why was the boy free of fear? It was because he had the firm faith that there was nothing else in the world except God. This conviction endowed him with unshakable fearlessness.
In another ancient classic we find a guru commending his disciple on his fearlessness. The teacher said to his disciple, Janaka, who was a great emperor and yogi, "I am very pleased with you. You are now totally freed from fear and you need never again worry about anything. You have kept your heart entirely absorbed in the Lord. You are existing only as an instrument of God in the world, serving him in everything you do. You have no attachments at all to the objects of the world. You believe that everything in the world has the form of God and is imbued with divinity. Wherever you look you see only unity in the diversity that others see. This awareness has made you totally fearless."
Fear of Death - The most Powerful of all Fears
Of all the fears that haunt humanity, the fear of death is the strongest. No matter how courageous and valorous you may be, no matter how highly educated, no matter how much you may be blessed with unlimited wealth, no matter what great talents and skills you may possess, the fear of death will be lurking in the background, annulling all your accomplishments and destroying your self-confidence. Most people become subject to despair when they see people dying. The moment they hear of someone's death they consider it very inauspicious and try to close their ears to it. Even when they are over 100 they get frightened when they think of death. They always want to live just a little bit longer. But however much more anyone may aspire to live, death is certain.
The fear of death will not save you from death. Distracting the mind by dwelling on the transient joys of life will not save you. Your relations and friends cannot save you. Your great accomplishments cannot save you. All the objects in the world and all the people in it, are equally washed away by the flow of death. What profit is there for you to take shelter in those who are also being washed away? The person who is seeking protection and shelter, and the one from whom shelter is being sought, are both being washed away. Only when you catch hold of the divinity, which is the immovable bank of this river of death, can you nurture any hope of being saved. When you truly know that all there is, is the divinity, then there is nothing to fear. Then you are saved. You will have conquered the fear of death.
Fearlessness may be compared to a great mountain while fear is something like the small waft of air created by your breath. Can this little current created by your breath ever shake such a mighty mountain? Of course not. The little wind of fear can never shake the great mountain of fearlessness. When this steadfast and unwavering mountain of fearlessness becomes implanted in a mind that is clean and pure and free of delusions, and when it resides in a heart that is immersed in bliss, then you are veritably expressing your divine nature. Then the truth will be established in your heart of hearts, that there is only the one divine reality existing everywhere. Once you know this all-pervasive divinity to be your essence you laugh at death, for then death no longer has any power over you.
Why should anything ever frighten you? What can possibly make you afraid? Death is really just a kind of joke in this play of life. If the role calls for you to fall and die on the stage, will you, the actor, be affected? What is so earth shaking about the death of a body that is born to die. The body, which is made up of the five elements, has to be destroyed some day. For the sake of such an impermanent thing why should you worry? "Arjuna, you are not the one who is going to kill, nor will those you fight be killed. The only thing that can be killed is the body. You are the immortal self. You are not the body." This is the truth that Krishna taught Arjuna and thereby made him fearless. Fearlessness is a quality that is as vital and as important as your lifebreath itself. It is the foremost of the virtues taught in the Gita.
Fearlessness is the very Nature of a Human Being
In truth, human beings are divine and fearlessness is their very nature. It is the deeper meaning of the word human. Human refers to your divine essence. Here is a story to illustrate how human beings are not living up to their divine nature, but in their actions have become worse than animals.
Once there was a fearsome forest, and living in this forest there were a large number of animals. In most forests where there are lions there will be no elephants, and if there are elephants roaming about then there will not be any lions. But in this forest, there were all types of animals: lions, elephants, jackals, dogs, monkeys, the whole animal kingdom was present there. One day, a clever fox thought to himself, 'Human beings boast that there is something special and unique about human nature. They say that it is extremely rare and difficult to attain life as a human being. But human beings are born the same way that we animals are born. All these beings are born from the womb of a mother. The question is: Why are we all lumped together and called animals, while human beings are singled out and called humans? In what way are we inferior to them?'
The fox weighed all the various arguments and counter-arguments to this question that was perplexing him, and he resolved to prove that there was no distinction between humans and animals. From that day onwards, he started airing this problem to all the denizens of that forest. He sought out other animals and said, "Why should we accept the present state of affairs? People are considering animal life as inferior to human life. We should take steps to reverse this erroneous belief." In this way, he began to encourage all the animals living there to think about this issue and get excited about it. He showed how these false beliefs had been taught and accepted by all the animals, even by the mighty elephant who was stronger than anyone and the dauntless lion, who was their king.
The Grand Meeting of all the Animals
The fox resolved to have a very big meeting of all the animals to discuss these points and frame some resolutions on which they could universally agree. The name proposed for this meeting was 'the great gathering of the four-footed ones'. It was decided that on a particular day, at a particular time, all of them would come together in a big open area and assemble for this special meeting.
Initially, three agenda items were agreed upon. The first was that human beings, just like animals, are born from the womb of a mother; therefore there should be only one name, both for humans and animals. Either humans should be called animals or animals should be called humans; but there should not be two different names and two different titles. That was the first resolution they wanted to pass at the meeting. The second agenda item was that animals had been called unwise, while humans claim to be endowed with wisdom. But animals should not accept this. In what way do humans have superior wisdom to the animals? The fox was particularly insistent on this point. He asked, "What is this wisdom that man has, that we do not have? We have to firmly resolve that there is the same wisdom in both humans and animals."
The third agenda item that the fox proposed was, "Humans are considered to be talking animals whereas we are dumb; that is considered to be a very great disadvantage to us, which they claim makes a big difference. But even if we are dumb, what is it that we are lacking? By having learned the ability to talk and by possessing that skill, what is the extraordinary happiness that humans have attained? Let us propose that talking and dumbness be considered more or less the same."
"Then there is also a fourth point we should consider," the fox added. "Human beings think of us as being restless and excitable whereas they consider themselves to be calm and peaceful in nature. But none of us should agree to this. The peaceful nature that we have, even man does not possess. We deserve the reputation and recognition that we are far superior in serenity to human beings." They all agreed that these four points should be discussed in the meeting. But then they wondered whom they should ask to preside over their meeting.
The fox pointed out that there were a number of great sages who had been doing penance in the forest. "We should select a very highly accomplished sage to preside over our meeting," he suggested. They all agreed and resolved to send the fox to find a wise man whom they could trust to be true and just, and request him to chair their meeting. After a long search, the fox came to a cave in which he saw a sage engaged in penance. His instinct told him that he had found the right holy man to chair their gathering. He reverentially approached the sage and prayed to him, "Swami, in the kingdom of animals we have decided to have a very important meeting and we request you to preside over it." The sage, who recognized everything as the living divinity, said, "All right, I will be happy to come and preside over your meeting." So, in a vast open field they arranged to have their gathering.
In that forest, every animal from the smallest to the biggest came with all their children, and many brought their grandchildren also, to attend this important meeting. They were all in very high spirits and extremely happy to take part in such a grand meeting. And they all showed a great deal of respect for their president. A high platform was provided for the president. Just beside the chair for the president, a chair was provided for the lion. The sage presiding over the function was also in very good spirits and was not the least bit afraid of the lion who was sitting next to him. This sage recognized the existence of God in every living being; therefore, he was full of fearlessness. Once all of the animals were seated, there was a need for properly welcoming the august assembly. The secretary for this great meeting was the fox. The fox began his welcoming address.
"Revered president, your excellency the king, honored minister, dear brothers and sisters! This day is a day which will be written in golden letters in the annals of this great forest and all its denizens. This is an unforgettable day which will never be forgotten in the whole animal kingdom, for today we will achieve a grand success in this most important meeting for which we have all assembled here. In coming together here you have all made some notable sacrifices. You have given up a great number of activities and have made time available in your busy lives to participate in this meeting. So, in the very first place, let me express my deepest gratitude to all of you." Then the secretary went on and explained the items on the agenda. As soon as the agenda had been presented, the lion got up and addressed the vast gathering.
In what Way are Human Beings better than Animals?
The lion told them, "You have all heard what my brother has said to you. I want you to know that the great qualities you have, like valor and courage, humans do not really have. I myself am a direct proof of this. If you consider the courage and valor, the magnificent prowess and strength which I have, where will you find any human being who is my equal? Though I am king of the animals, I never take any wrong or unjustifiable actions. Without reason I do not kill animals. Only when I am hungry will I take a little food. I do not kill any animals for sport; I never waste any food. Consider our courage, our code of ethics, our high level of morality. Can you find such great qualities in human beings? No! They don't have them at all. Therefore, why should we be afraid of them? Why should we be thought of as inferior to humans? Today, let us resolve to wipe out this blot on our reputation." When the lion finished his address there was an uproarious cheer and the applause resounded throughout the entire forest.
When things quieted down, the elephant, who was sitting just by the side of the lion got up and said, "Humans are not even half as big as my leg. In form I am certainly mighty and magnificent. In intelligence I have attained proverbial greatness. Kings, emperors, distinguished leaders, all have developed great regard for me. If ever a coronation was to be performed and I were not there, it would have to be postponed. When I am so great, how can you say that humans are superior to me? My intelligence is extraordinary. Therefore, even if you consider just these two, my intelligence and my physical size, you must conclude that humans can never be equal to me." Again the audience cheered their agreement.
The fox got up and said, "The lion, our illustrious king, has just talked to you, and the big elephant, our distinguished minister, has also spoken his mind. Now we would like to invite a representative of the smaller animals to come and address us." At this point a dog who had strayed into the forest, and who had many experiences with human beings, was asked to speak to the gathering. It offered its humble salutations to the president, to the king, to the minister, to the secretary and to all in that great throng who had assembled there. Then it said, "Although I am very small and weak, in faith there is no one that can be compared to me. I have unswerving faith and unlimited loyalty to the person who has brought me up, and who looks after me. I will always be grateful and faithful, even if I lose my life. Even if I am hurt and harmed by my master, I will not return the harm in kind. Everyone knows that human beings do not have this sense of loyalty which a dog has. In this quality of loyalty I can never be considered inferior to human beings.
"Among themselves, humans often give trouble to the ones who most lovingly take care of them and guide them, such as their own parents or their teachers. Humans will not hesitate to do bad in return for the good which is given to them. They will criticize and concoct schemes to deceive and hurt the very ones who have looked after them so carefully. Humans do not have any gratitude at all. They do not have any loyalty. Only so long as their purposes are being served will they pretend to be obedient. The moment their own selfish interests have been taken care of, they start troubling their own teachers. When humans are like this how can we be considered inferior to mankind?" There was complete agreement in the audience. A nodding of heads and sounds of "Hear! Hear!" affirmed every point the gentle dog had made. In this way, one by one, others got up and had their say. Appropriate to their status and experience, they gave speeches, extolling the many fine qualities practiced by the animals but which were being ignored by human beings. Finally, there was the speech of the president.
Through Effort Humans can Transform their Lower Nature
The sage addressed the gathering, "Dear animals. All that you have just spoken of is true. Whenever a spiritual teacher does something or says something to us, it is meant for our own good. It is intended to promote our inner development and also our friendship and good understanding with others. But as soon as this friendship flowers and understanding blossoms forth, human beings become suspicious and think that something bad is being done to them. To your face, they will offer salutations and use words of praise but behind your back they will criticize and revile you. Filling themselves with opposites like that and with low forms of cleverness, they waste their intelligence and their lives. All the defects that have been pointed out here are certainly true and present in humans. As for food, sleep, breathing and such things, there is absolutely no difference between humans and animals."
The sage continued, "I do want to point out, however, that there is one specialty in human beings that is unique, in which they cannot be compared with the animals. Animals may inherit a streak of cruelty. Once they have acquired that they cannot change it. A tiger, however hungry he may be, will not eat rice and curry. He only aspires to have mutton. He will not settle for just a little tea and biscuits. However much he may try to change his habits, he will not succeed. On the other hand, if sufficient efforts are made by humans, they can transform their cruel nature and any of their bad habits. The most important difference between humans and animals is that humans, with effort, can bring about a complete transformation in themselves, whereas animals will not be able to accomplish that. These special capacities and skills for transforming themselves are only available to human beings."
The fox got up and said, "Swami, we will concede that human beings have these special capacities for changing themselves, but if they do not make use of these capacities, do they deserve the high status that they now enjoy?" The president declared, "If anyone has the capacity to change himself but does not use it, then he is much worse than an animal." At this all the animals burst into an uproarious applause. The cheering went on and on until the president gaveled for order. The sage then repeated the principal point he had just made... that any human beings who had the capacity for doing good, but who did not use this quality to improve their own behavior and develop the good within themselves, were, without a doubt, worse than animals. Then the sage added, "What is the use of all the learning that human beings accumulate? Will it change their faith? As soon as bad thoughts enter their heads, their thinking becomes dull and they become like idiots. In learning and skills, humans have attained a high status. But all this learning is only for the sake of procuring some bread. They use their education only to fill their bellies and to eke out a livelihood."
At this point, the fox got up and added to what the president had just said, "In the process of eking out their livelihood, humans use all kinds of unethical means. In this respect, it is clear that we animals are much better than human beings." The fox got carried away by his own rhetoric. He continued for some time on the same theme. "We are always fair in gaining our livelihood. In all respects, when compared to humans, we are far better. Really, we are the BEST!" He got an exuberant, almost riotous ovation from the whole four footed assembly. Everyone agreed whole-heartedly with this appraisal and urged the fox on to say more. But now the enthusiasm had exceeded its limits and the president pounded the gavel and called for order. The sage arose and made a few additional remarks. He explained the second major difference that make human beings unique. He said, "Man has been able to conquer maya, he has been able to master illusion. Once he has achieved that, he is able to experience the atma, his own true divine self. Then he can reach the state of nirvana, the exalted state of eternal bliss. This is a vital difference between humans and animals.
The vital Difference between Human Beings and Animals
"Human beings have the power and also the authority to conquer maya and totally free themselves from delusion. If man takes the trouble and makes the effort, he will be able to directly experience the atma and, thereby, know himself as the divinity that he truly is. With the help of spiritual exercises he can reach nirvana and be immersed in supreme bliss. In the interest of truth, I have to point out that you animals do not have these powers and potentialities with which human beings have been endowed." The sage added, "Dear children, in the English language, human beings have been collectively called mankind, using the generic term m-a-n. The same is given in Sanskrit as manava. The inner significance of m-a-n is that human beings can separate and remove this illusion, maya; they can get the vision of atma, and immerse themselves in wisdom and joy in the state that is called nirvana. This, then, is the meaning conveyed by these letters m-a-n, where 'm' stands for 'maya removed', 'a' stands for 'atma realized, and 'n' stands for 'nirvana attained'. Attaining nirvana means that man becomes one with joy and bliss. So, a true human being is one who has removed the ignorance of maya, who has had a vision of the atma and who has become merged in the supreme state of bliss."
When the sage had finished, all the animals bowed their heads and there was a deep reflective silence as they mulled over the words the president had spoken. They had to agree that these were three possibilities, which they, in their present forms, could never hope to achieve. But then a question was raised by one bold buck, "Have all human beings been able to attain this?" The sage responded with a resounding "No!" He said, "Only very, very few people care at all about these extraordinary treasures which are their birthright. Most people fritter away their lives, never pursuing these invaluable opportunities of human life. Their pursuits reek with selfishness and they treat each other much worse than animals. Although humans have this great capacity for wisdom and bliss, they do not develop themselves in this direction and, so, they have not been able to derive any real joy from their lives."
Most Human Beings behave even Worse than Animals
The animals came to a consensus and agreed that those people who do not make any effort at all in these directions are just like them and there is absolutely no reason for distinguishing them from animals. The sage agreed. Then, on a personal note, the president explained the reasons why he had come into the forest to live. He said, "Human beings do not care much about these noble qualities. Animals give trouble only to those who give them trouble; otherwise they will live in peace with one another. But humans hurt those who do not hurt them at all. Without any reason they begin to blame and cause trouble, harming people who are unblemished and who have given them no cause for provocation.
Humans also enter into all kinds of improper work which they have no right to be engaged in." He concluded, "It is for these reasons that many true spiritual seekers have become renunciates, have given up the company of men and gone into the forest to live. Humanity is becoming increasingly selfish. Whatever people say, whatever they do, whatever they think, is laced with selfish motives. Animals do not have such selfishness. Animals are not harming other animals and accumulating wealth. Therefore, in many ways humans behave worse than animals."
In this context Krishna said to Arjuna, "Be a true human being, not one who is worse than an animal. Rise above the animal nature to your true human nature. There are two qualities of animals that you should never have. You are neither a sheep, which is timid and fearful, nor are you a tiger, which is cruel to others. You are a man. You are worthy of higher things. Be fearless! Do not ever allow yourself to be subjected to fear. In truth you yourself are the divinity. Sorrow and fear can never have any power over you."
When you have a Firm Faith in God you will be Fearless
There is infinite power inherent in the human heart. But despite such power, you do not have faith in yourself. What is the reason for this? The reason is that you feel separate. You believe that you are different from the divinity. But in truth, the divinity is always inside you as your very core. This same divinity pervades the entire universe. When you develop a firm faith in God, you will never have any fear whatsoever. You will recognize that the God you worship is the one who is present everywhere in everyone and in everything, and also in yourself. That belief will remove all vestige of fear from your heart.
But if you do not have that faith then you will be ridden with fear. Every moment, every step, you will be frightened. When you have an examination you will be afraid. While going in an airplane, you will be afraid. When a truck comes in the opposite direction on the road, you will be afraid. Right from the very moment when you get up from bed until you again go to bed you will be afraid. And even in bed you will be afraid that thieves might break into the house and steal your belongings. You will be expending your entire time in fear. But this is not the way a human being should live. You should become steeped in the conviction that the divinity is present everywhere and thereby attain utter fearlessness.
Your faith in the omnipresent divinity is the key to developing fearlessness. Only when you lose faith will you develop fear. Only when you forget your true self will fear arise. You have forgotten your own true nature. You have forgotten the atma. You are considering yourself to be this little five-and-a half-foot body, but the truth is that you are infinite in form and your power is unlimited. When you make an effort to remove the delusions and get a vision of the atma, you become immersed in the bliss of nirvana. Then you can call yourself a real human being.
If you make no effort along the path of self-realization, but demean yourself into dark, selfish pursuits and degenerate behavior, you become more like a demon than a human being. Do not fall to such depths. Conduct your life so that you can truly call yourself a human being and live up to the high ideals that you inherited when you were given this sacred human birth.
Develop Good Qualities and Gain the Grace of the Lord
One of the names Krishna used to address Arjuna was the one who delights in being engaged in work. When most of you are given some work to do, you quickly get disgusted with it. When Sunday comes and you have a day off from work, you are happy. But if ever a day came when Arjuna had no work, he would be very unhappy. Arjuna always felt a great deal of joy and delight when he worked. The different names Krishna used for Arjuna in the Gita, are associated with various noble qualities and virtues. You will be able to understand the nature of the divinity, if every day you take up one virtue and try to incorporate it in your life.
Patience, forbearance, compassion and nonviolence are some of the qualities that have already been taken up in these chapters. Now you have also learned about fearlessness. There are a number of other important qualities. Only when you develop these qualities in your daily activities, will you be able to earn the grace of the Lord. Without developing these noble qualities you will not be able to gain a place in God's house, irrespective of the education, position, and wealth you have been able to earn. A person is not permitted to go to another country without a passport. Similarly, in order to earn the grace of God, your good qualities serve you as your passport. You must develop these qualities.
Along with your education you should also acquire good habits and a sterling character. Without these, all your education will be of no use. This education you are now pursuing is only useful for living in the physical world. It will not take you to God. In the world of today, scientists have been able to glean a number of secrets from nature. But have they been able to gain peace of mind? Have they been able to get joy and happiness from the machines they developed? Happiness and peace cannot come from these. You can get peace only from the divinity.
The worldly happiness and peace you get is but momentary and impermanent. It cannot take you to the state of permanent bliss. The wisdom chapter of the Gita emphasizes the practice of recognizing the one all-pervasive divinity that is always very near to you. This chapter is a very long one; there are 72 verses in it. But you will not be able to get rid of your sorrow by just learning these verses and merely chanting them every day. That will not be of much use to you. You will have to make a very strong effort to practice the inner meaning of these verses and apply them constantly in your day-to-day experiences. Only when you practice them in your daily life and make them your own, will you be able to earn the grace of God and be forever united with him.
XXIX. Turn towards God and God will turn towards You
When you develop your power of discrimination and become fully awake to the indwelling divinity, you will not suffer sorrow nor be subjected to fear. But as long as you have attachment to the body and attachment to objects, fear and suffering will be with you. Therefore, Krishna told Arjuna to develop his discrimination and rid himself of body consciousness. He told him that once he was free of body consciousness he would be able to develop integral vision.
Embodiments of Love,
Mankind today has three types of vision. The first is body oriented vision, which is totally superficial. When you have this kind of vision you see only the external appearance of others, such as the clothes and the ornaments they wear, their facial features, their body characteristics, their peculiarities of speech, etc. This type of vision is oriented only towards the phenomenal world.
The second kind of vision is insightful vision. Instead of focusing on the external characteristics of others, you focus on their inner feelings, particularly as it is reflected in their behavior and expressions. You gauge the thoughts in another's mind and the feelings in their hearts by carefully watching what they say and do. When you have this kind of vision, you become concerned primarily with the deeper feelings and motivations of the other person.
The third kind of vision is integral vision. With this kind of vision, you do not concentrate on another's external features or even their inner feelings. When you have integral vision you see the divine consciousness that pervades everyone, the inner unity that prevails everywhere despite body differences and differences in expression and emotional makeup. You realize that feelings, thoughts and behavioral characteristics all undergo change and transformation. But, you are not interested in characteristics that change with time. With integral vision you are wholly oriented towards the unchanging, indwelling divinity. Such a deep inner vision is a sacred vision. When you have this you are in the hands of God. More than that, not only are you in the hands of God, but verily you become God himself.
The truly wise say that one who knows God becomes God. As you perceive so you become. Therefore, when you gain integral vision, you take on the sacred nature of the divinity itself. To become a person of the highest wisdom, you must develop integral vision. You must steadily abide in the inner unity that is at the core of all the outer diversity. It is for this reason that Krishna commanded Arjuna to steadily turn his vision towards his highest self, and to maintain that vision at all times, under all circumstances.
In India, there has been a tradition from ancient days for temples in villages and towns to conduct chariot festivals. During these festivities the idol of the deity installed in that temple is taken in procession. First, a huge chariot is constructed for this purpose. Then the chariot is elaborately decorated and a beautiful seat is provided therein for the deity. On the auspicious day, the deity is transferred from the temple to the chariot with appropriate rituals and incantations. The chariot is then taken through the streets in a colorful procession pulled by devotees and preceded by groups of dancers, musicians and singers. Along the course of the procession, many people offer worship to the deity by lighting sacred lamps and waving them as the chariot comes by.
During these festivals thousands of people gather, coming from all the surrounding villages. Three kinds of people come. The first kind, which constitutes the bulk of the people present for the festival, concentrate all their attention on the chariot and its external appearance. Then there are others who concentrate mostly on the sacred feelings generated by the procession, such as the fervent piety of those who are pulling the chariot, the ecstatic joy of the dancers and singers, and the reverence of the priests and devotees who are offering worship. Thirdly, there are a few who recognize the real purpose for which this festival has been arranged. Only this small handful cares to have a vision of the indweller, the sacred person who is seated in the chariot.
Of course, the festival is being celebrated for the purpose of installing the image of God in the chariot. Without the representation of God, the festival would have no meaning. This sacred figure inside the chariot represents the indweller, who is God himself. But only the rare individual will turn his full attention towards that divinity. Most people will see only the physical appearance of the chariot, its decorations and other such things as the fine raiment put on the sacred image inside, the costumes worn by the dancers and musicians, and all the sound and color of the festivities. The largest number will concentrate only on these external things. But there will also be some people who concentrate their attention on the rituals of worship and the offerings being made, such as the breaking of coconuts, the waving of lamps and incense, and the devotion expressed through these rituals. The number of people with this kind of vision and interest will be much smaller than those who concentrate on the decorations, the dances and dramas and all the external paraphernalia associated with the festival.
But the divine person who has been installed in this chariot, who is driving this chariot and who is the resident of this chariot will be seen by only a very small number of intensely-devoted people who yearn to have the sacred vision of the divinity. In the huge throng turning out for the festival, such people may be counted on the fingers of one's hand. For them, all the outer trappings and all the sound and excitement of the procession will only get in the way of their having a real vision of God. All they long for is to see and be with their beautiful Lord, whose representation is seated in the chariot.
The Chariot of the Human Body
What is the deeper meaning of this chariot? How many such chariots are there? The chariot that is being spoken of here is the human body. So there is not just one chariot but millions upon millions of chariots. Every day, these chariots move from street to street and house to house, taking the indwelling resident in procession. You have been developing your vision in such a way that you see only the body and its external features or the expressions arising from various feelings and emotional states, but you have not learned to develop the internal vision, the vision which perceives the indwelling person in this chariot of the body, and understands who he really is. It is a very rare individual who attempts to look deeper, beyond the external and superficial aspect of the body, and beyond the emotional and mental traits of the individual, to try to discover the sacred divine principle which is there inside.
The bodies of human beings are not the only chariots. The bodies of animals like dogs or tigers or elephants are also chariots. In fact, the body of every being is a chariot. For example, Lord Shiva is depicted as riding on Nandi, the bull. The bullock is Shiva's chariot. Yet, when you see a bullock, you do not think of Lord Shiva; still he will be seated there. When you see a rat, you will not be thinking of Ganesha, the elephant god, who represents the aspects of protection and wisdom in the divinity. Lord Ganesha will be there, riding on that rat. The rat is his vehicle, so it is also a chariot in which God is installed. In a similar way, lions, crows, dogs, snakes, eagles and so many other animals and birds are used as vehicles for the many different aspects of God. In truth, every living being is a chariot taking God in procession.
These days you are developing the vision that sees only the chariot. You are focusing all your concentration on the external decorations. In this age, almost your entire time is spent on adorning the chariot and seeing to the comforts and pleasures of the body. As a result, you are paying attention only to the external differences and you are not spending any time trying to see the indweller.
"Therefore, Arjuna," said Krishna, "know that all these people about whom you are so concerned, are only chariots. They may be grandfathers, they may be brothers, they may be cousins, whoever they may be, they are only chariots. In truth, you are seeing only chariots in the form of these various relatives and teachers. You have been keeping your vision clouded by seeing only the body. But a sacred person like you should not care so much for externals. You must concentrate your mind on the indweller who is seated in every human body. Then only will your vision become sacred. Such sacred vision alone can provide the basis for your victory.
"Only a person who has sacred vision can achieve success in great undertakings. Arjuna, people are giving the same value to the shadow as they give to that which is casting the shadow; they are giving the same value to the reflection as they give to the one whose reflection they are seeing. But that is not correct. The unchanging, sacred principle which has given rise to all these shadows and reflections is the eternal self. It is the atma. Its value is unlimited and beyond all measure. On the other hand, the external beauties of these bodies and all the thoughts and feelings and behaviors that are being manifested in these bodies, are all just images. They are only shadows or reflections without any real substance or lasting value."
When Arjuna gave so much value to mere reflections, he was displaying his ignorance. His was not a worldly type of ignorance, but ignorance related to the spirit. Arjuna had not developed his inner vision. He was not yet able to discriminate between that which is real and that which is unreal. In order to save him from all the misunderstandings and confusion which would inevitably arise when there is a lack of inner vision, Krishna undertook to teach Arjuna the sacred knowledge of the eternal self. Krishna instructed Arjuna in the spiritual exercises which had to be practiced in order to attain this highest wisdom.
The Field of the Heart
Before a farmer can raise a crop in his field, he has to do a great deal of preparation. Before the seeds can be sown, the land must be cleared of brush, stones and weeds, and then it has to be softened by plowing and irrigation. The farmer must determine what particular types of seeds will grow best on that land, and what kind of nutrients would be required to fertilize the soil. When all these preparations are completed, he finally sows the seeds. Therefore, before a crop can be raised, the entire field has to be made ready for cultivation. Stones and weeds have to be dug out and thrown away. Only then can the appropriate seeds be sown to assure a good crop.
In a similar way, a spiritual aspirant must also carefully prepare the field of his heart. The same principles of cultivation apply to that field. First, one has to remove from the heart all undesirable thoughts and useless habits. They have to be dug up and cleaned out. After that, you have to irrigate the entire field of the heart with the waters of love. These waters of love make the heart soft and cultivatable. With the help of spiritual practices, you have to plow the field of your heart and spread the fertilizer of faith in order to make the soil rich and nutritious for the seeds to grow well there. Only when all this has been done will the entire field of the heart be ready for sowing. When the heart is covered with bad weeds of base thoughts, when it is barren, hard and dry and infertile, how can good seeds grow there and have any chance of maturing into a bountiful crop?
It is in this connection that Krishna said to Arjuna, "Arjuna, you must cultivate and transform the field of your heart. You must root out your external vision. Develop a pure and strong flow of love for God. Sow the seeds of God's name in your heart and you will raise a rich harvest of unity consciousness there, for that is what grows best in that field. That is its very nature. Then you will become a man of steady wisdom and attain your spiritual goal. In the garden of your heart you will be able to enjoy the sacred fruit of liberation. Once you have that, fear can never again trouble you.
When you have steady faith and an integral vision, and when you constantly think of the indwelling divinity, you will not become elated by joy nor shrink away from sorrow. It is only then that you will become completely fearless. Fearlessness does not mean the absence of fear. True fearlessness completely transcends fear. It is altogether different and much higher than the mere removal of fear. The latter is a momentary experience; it comes and it goes. For example, if you happen to see a rope lying on the ground after dusk, you might think, in the failing light, that it was a snake. Fearing that the snake might harm you, you would switch on your flashlight to get a better look at it and see if it is a poisonous snake. But as soon as the light shines on it you realize that it is not a snake at all but a piece of rope, and with this realization your fear disappears instantly. Here you were subjected to fear and then you became free of fear; both were just transitory experiences.
Fear is only a delusion created by the mind; lack of fear is also a delusion created by the mind. Mistaking one thing for another leads to fear; recognizing the mistake and rectifying it leads to the removal of that fear. But, true fearlessness is not associated with these two at all. Fearlessness is a permanent state where there is no question of ever experiencing any fear. When you are imbued with fearlessness you are continuously aware of your own reality. At that point, it would be impossible for you to become subject to fear. You should not consider this quality of fearlessness as just the absence of fear. When you are truly fearless you will not be aware of any second entity, at all. You can have fear only when there exists a second object who evokes the fear in you. But, fearlessness is always associated with unity consciousness. It refers to non-duality, where there can be no two but always just one. Only in the state of non-duality will you be truly fearless.
When you forget your true self you will suffer from fear. When you remember only the world and not God, you will suffer from fear. When you are filled with desires and attachments, you will suffer from fear. When you are deluded by objects, you will suffer from fear. On the other hand, when you are immersed in the transcendental reality, you will be totally free from fear; you will never be afraid of anything. Then you will be truly fearless.
Krishna said, "Arjuna, there is only one thing you will have to develop. You need not develop further your vision of the phenomenal world; nor do you need to further develop your mind. You need only to develop the vision of the one existing everywhere in everyone. If you know it, and if you remember it, then you will not be subject to this constant cycling between fear and its removal. So long as you have the deluded perspective that the world is real and made up of separate objects, your vision will be clouded and you will be subject to fear. But when you recognize the truth of the unity of the whole creation, you will be forever fearless. A person like you should become wise and never again experience fear."
The Story of Gajendra, the Elephant
You will have to control your tendency to look outwards towards the body and its deeds and towards the mind with its thoughts and feelings. Instead, develop the inward vision of the sacred self. This is the true vision, the integral vision. There is a fine example of this in the ancient spiritual classic called the Bhagavatam. It is the story of Gajendra, an elephant who was caught by a crocodile. This elephant, Gajendra, had a strong ego and he was convinced that with his great strength he would be able to fight and free himself from the crocodile. But here two facts must be known; elephants are very powerful on land, crocodiles are very powerful in the water. When an elephant enters the water he will not have so much strength, and when a crocodile comes out on land he will also be less mighty than in his natural habitat, the water. In this case, because the crocodile was in the water he was able to exercise all his great strength. But the elephant, Gajendra, was very arrogant; he was blown up with ego and felt that no crocodile could ever be equal to an elephant, who was the lord of the forest. He did not know that a crocodile in the water would be more than a match for any elephant away from land.
For a long time they fought relentlessly. Finally the elephant got tired and lost all his physical as well as mental strength. He had placed all his confidence in his physical and mental prowess, but having exhausted all that, he began praying to the Lord. As long as his vision had been directed to his body he did not look towards God. As long as he had confidence in his own bodily and mental strength, the thought of God did not arise and the Lord's grace did not descend. When the elephant lost his physical and mental power and turned towards God, immediately Lord Vishnu hurled his sacred discus, and freed Gajendra from the catastrophe that had overtaken him. Now, the discus spoken of here does not refer to a mere weapon used by the Lord; but it refers to his grace. You evoke God's grace by turning your vision towards God. Then God turns his vision towards you.
Turn your Vision towards God and See your Self
When will you acquire God's vision that will forever keep you in his grace? Only when you renounce all your egocentric beliefs in your own strength of body and mind. You gain God's grace when you turn your vision towards God, put yourself wholly in his hands and, just as the elephant Gajendra did, surrender yourself completely to his will. When you turn your vision towards the teacher you love, the teacher will turn towards you. Even if the teacher's vision were to fall on you, if you had not at the same time turned your vision towards your teacher, you would not have been able to experience the teacher's beneficent gaze. Now, all your vision is concentrated on the body. The effulgence of the shining sun may be all around you but its light will not have entered the room where you are staying. What is the reason for this? You have put curtains and shutters on the windows and kept the warm rays of sunlight out. Only when you break open these dark curtains and shutters will the effulgence of the sun enter your inner apartment.
In the same way, you have covered your vision with shutters of doubt and ego and thick curtains of body-consciousness, and so the rays of grace are not able to penetrate through and enter your heart. You might say, "I have not been able to get the grace of God." But how will you be able to get it if you do not turn your gaze on him?
When you do not look to God, then surely you will not be able to see God. If I am standing directly in front of you and you are standing directly in front of me, and we are looking at each other, what is it that we will see? Who will you see in my eyes and who will I see in your eyes? We will see each other, in each other's eyes. When we stand face to face, I can see my vision in you and you can see your vision in me. But if you stand behind or turn away, how can I see my vision in you, or you see your vision in me? It would be impossible. In the same way, if you want your eyes to meet the eyes of God, you must come and be directly in front of him and concentrate your vision on him. When you do, he will turn his benevolent gaze upon you, and you will see a vision of your higher self.
When the sight of the elephant, Gajendra, was turned towards God, God's sight met with it, because God's sight then turned towards him. Once that happened, all problems were automatically solved.
The Elephant of Arrogance and the Crocodile of Attachment
Who is this elephant? This proud elephant is arrogance and pride. When a man is full of arrogance and pride, he develops desire. Desire may be compared to thirst. When this proud man develops thirst, he goes to the waters of the world to drink. Even before he enters these waters completely, attachment catches hold of him. Attachment and possessiveness are the powerful crocodile that robs you of all your strength and makes you cry so pitifully. Before entering the waters of the world, before having gained so many attachments, you will have only rarely cried. For example, before marriage, a young man will feel free and unencumbered. But after marriage there will be a continuous growth of attachments. Then one has to take care of wife, children, parents, in-laws and quite a few other relatives, and soon it feels like the whole world has laid hold of him and is pulling him down under the waters.
Once you develop egoism and pride then desires follow. Soon attachments come, and from attachments all these bonds develop. When bonds develop, you will be so distracted you will not be able to turn towards God and see him. Only when you look towards God will you be able to see him. Then he will look towards you, and you will be able to perceive your own true image. "Therefore," Krishna cautioned, "do not become a victim of this bondage, Arjuna. Keep your mind clear and pure. Always look towards the immortal self, the universal principle. It is the one divinity existing in all things. Cultivate such sacred vision in your mind. Do not allow the weeds and shrubs of ego and body-consciousness to develop in your heart. Instead, grow the tree of God's grace in your heart. Turn your sight towards God. Let this be your objective. Make that your goal."
XXX. To Become Free - Surrender your Mind to God
The entire world is made up of three qualities. These qualities constitute illusion. They can be spoken of as density or inertia, action or reaction, and balance or harmony. Although their effects are very different, all three qualities befog your understanding. As long as these qualities reside in your heart you will remain in bondage.
Embodiments of Love,
Among the three qualities enumerated above, the first two, namely inertia and excessive activity, are responsible for all the sorrows, grief, troubles and problems that you experience. Whenever torpor, laziness, drowsiness or sleepiness manifest, or whenever unconscionable fear or rage or hatred take hold of you, then you are overwhelmed by the quality of inertia or density, which in Sanskrit is called tamas. Whenever strong desires, frenzied activities, impatience, passion, emotional and self interested actions of all kinds predominate, then the second quality, which in Sanskrit is called rajas, holds sway over you. When these two qualities are in control, your real human nature is forgotten. They bring out the animal nature and the demonic nature in human beings. Therefore, to begin with, these two qualities of tamas and rajas will have to be expunged from you.
Root Out the Weeds of Tamas and Rajas
A farmer who wants to gain a good crop starts by removing the weeds from his field. As long as the weeds cover the field, depleting the soil of nutrients and energy, the crops will not have a chance. Therefore, the removal of this unwanted growth is an essential precondition for raising a good crop. In the same way, if you want to gain enlightenment, if you want to realize the bliss of the eternal self, if you want to abide in the unending joy of the atma, you will have to remove from the field of your heart the weeds of tamas and rajas. They have rooted there in the form of desire, anger, greed, delusion, pride and jealousy, the baneful inner enemies which must be conquered. These inner enemies are the children of tamas and rajas. They keep you locked up in delusion. As long as these weeds remain within you, you will not be able to reap the bliss of the atma.
The first chapter of the Gita is filled with Arjuna's anguish and wailing. The two qualities tamas and rajas had taken over his heart and were responsible for Arjuna's grief and sorrow. Krishna taught Arjuna, that in the first place, he had to root out tamas and rajas from his heart, so that he could fully express his human nature. But, to express his true divine nature, even the third of the three qualities that make up illusion, the one which in Sanskrit is called satva and which is characterized by a balanced peaceful manner, had to be transcended. It is also a limitation which covers your divine nature, although with a very fine veil. All three qualities keep you locked into the individual personality and prevent you from fully realizing your divine self. Krishna told Arjuna, "Offer all three qualities, tamas, rajas and satva, to me. Then you will be free of timidity and sorrow, and you will be able to achieve victory in the world."
Clean your Heart thoroughly to Welcome God there
If you are inviting a great spiritual being such as a sage or a revered teacher to your house, there are certain preparations which you will have to undertake in cleansing, adorning and decorating your house. You will have to clean inside and out and bring order to the surroundings before the guest arrives. Great people will not enter a house which is full of dirt and which lacks sacredness. In the same way, when you have invited the governor or a high official to your town, you clean the roads and decorate the paths and keep everything ready and fit to receive the distinguished personage. Even though this person holds only a temporary position, you will still take great care to clean your house and make many preparations to welcome the honored guest to your place.
When you make so much effort to receive a worldly official, then how much more effort and preparation should you make to invite the very creator and protector of the world to come to your house? Clearly, when you welcome God into your heart, you must cleanse your heart thoroughly. Only when you purify your heart will God be pleased to enter it. Krishna said, "Arjuna, up to now you have been taking me only as the charioteer of your chariot, but you must take me as the charioteer of your life! The seat on which I am seated in the chariot is clean and well decorated. Now, think of how clean and grand your heart must be to make a seat for me there, if I am to install myself as the charioteer of your life."
If you go to a park and decide to sit down on the ground, you put down a mat, or a newspaper or a large kerchief and sit on that. When you take so much care about the seat for this body, which, after all, is just temporary and full of impurities, how much more care should you take when you are inviting God into the inner sanctum of your heart?
As long as the two qualities rajas and tamas are in your heart, your heart will remain impure. These two qualities continuously pollute and dirty the heart. As long as it is dirty, the divinity will not enter your heart; you will not be able to perceive the divine presence there. Therefore, you must first remove the quality of density and inertia, the tamas quality, and having done that, you must remove the rajas quality. Then the satva quality will shine in you, and you will become a self assured human being, in touch with your divine source. Start now by making every effort to remove every bit of dirt that has accumulated in your heart. There is a small example for this.
Devotion, Wisdom and Detachment will keep you Pure
When ladies go out, they frequently take along a little mirror, a comb and a handkerchief, to make sure that they will present a neat appearance. Why do they take these three particular items? During the journey, it is quite likely that their hair will get disturbed. To put their hair back in order they take the comb. To see if their hair is properly in place, they take the mirror. And to wipe their face they take the handkerchief. If they leave any one of these behind, they will not be able to achieve perfection in their appearance. So, a comb, a mirror and a handkerchief are necessary to help maintain facial cleanliness and a neat appearance.
In the same way, if you want to correct the disturbed beauty of your heart, you have to take certain aids for that too. Whether your hair is disturbed or not is shown to you by the mirror. Whether your heart is disturbed or not is shown to you by your devotion, which acts as the mirror. This mirror must be pure. When the mirror is clean, you will be able to see if your heart and mind are pure or if they have become covered by impurities. When you recognize that your heart is disturbed, you have to correct it. And for this purpose you need a comb, namely, the comb of wisdom. Wisdom clarifies the heart and returns it to a state of order and beauty. Then, just as you have a cloth to clean the dirt that has come on your face, you have to remove the dirt that has entered your mind with the cloth of detachment. With the help of detachment you can wipe off all the dirt that has accumulated in your mind.
Just as ladies take these three things, the mirror, the comb and the handkerchief, along with them whenever they go out on a journey in the world, so also, in your journey of life, you have to take devotion, wisdom and detachment to keep your heart and mind pure.
The Characteristics of Rajas
We have already considered the tamas quality which binds you to your lower nature. Now, let us examine the characteristics of the rajas quality, which also locks you into the lower realms of being and keeps you from expressing your true human potential. A person who is filled with rajas will always be hasty in everything; he will have no patience or forbearance. He cannot be steady for even a moment. And he will exhibit a great deal of anger. Not only this, he will also have unlimited desires. These are all characteristics of the rajas quality. This becomes clear when you go to watch animals in a zoo. Be it a cheetah, a tiger or a fox, they will not be quiet and steady for even a moment. The reason is that they are filled with an excess of rajas.
When rajas enters your heart it makes you unsteady in body and mind; you will be restless all the while. Not only does it make you unsteady, it also keeps you in delusion. When you are deluded, you have strong desires for the objects of the world. As these desires manifest in your heart, you take action to procure these different things for yourself. In that way, delusion leads to desire, and desire leads to action. These three, delusion, desire and action are the powerful qualities which are the characteristic features of rajas.
It is because of rajas that you constantly move about. For example, when you sit in a particular place, you find you will not be steady for very long; some part of the body or other will always be moving. This may be compared to the aspen tree. Even if there is no breeze or wind, the leaves in such a tree will always be moving. The same applies to a horse. The word for horse in Sanskrit refers to that which has no steadiness. Whenever you see a horse, whether it be the head, the tail or the legs, some part of it will always be moving. That is why in ancient times, a sacrifice called the sacrifice of the horse, was performed as a symbolic ritual to elicit the help of the gods, in the practice of steadying the mind.
Remove all three Qualities and Gain Liberation
The exemplar for the rajas quality is Ravana, the king of the demons. The exemplar for the the tamas quality is another well known demon in ancient lore, who slept for decades at a time. There was still a third demon whose heart was good and who surrendered himself at the feet of Rama. He is the exemplar for the satva quality he chose the side of good, but nevertheless, he was a demon. All three of these demons are brothers. If you allow the first two into you heart, they will lead you into endless harm and grief. If you let the third one dominate you, he will lead you into activities and ways of living that are good. But, nevertheless, he will also keep you immersed in delusion and forgetful of your true divine nature.
If you want to enter the kingdom of liberation, you must remove all three of these demons from your heart. All three belong to the same demonic family. That is why the Vedanta has been teaching that you must transcend the three qualities and offer them to Lord Shiva. He will watch over them with his three eyes and render them harmless with his three-forked trident.
What is the best way to remove these three qualities? If you are out in the wilds and a thorn were to enter your foot. You need not take a big sharp knife to remove it. You just take another thorn and remove the first with the second. Once that has been accomplished, you throw away both thorns, without making any distinction between them. In the same way you have to remove the tamas quality with the help of the rajas quality. Then you have to remove rajas with the help of satva. Finally, you give up satva also. Before you can enter into the kingdom of God realization, you have to cast out all three of these qualities that keep you bound up in delusion. That is why Krishna directed Arjuna to transcend all three qualities. He warned Arjuna that he would have to make a maximum effort and take great care to permanently rid himself of these three qualities.
After having taught Arjuna to recognize these various qualities, Krishna showed him how to rise beyond them. In that way, Krishna transformed Arjuna into a truly wise man. The primary cause of these three qualities is the mind. It is impossible to transcend this human nature and realize your divine nature until your mind loses its wavering nature and becomes still. Therefore, the best way to transcend these qualities is to offer your mind to the Lord. After you have offered your mind to him completely, God will take care of you in all respects. Here is a small story to illustrate this.
King Janaka's Challenge to Gain Self-Knowledge
Once upon a time, King Janaka sent a message to the people in his realm, saying, "If there be amongst you a great scholar, a pundit, a mahatma, a yogi, a sage, whoever he may be, let him come and teach me the knowledge of the atma." In his message he said that he expected to attain self-knowledge within a matter of a few moments of being properly instructed. Even while climbing onto his horse and before he was completely settled onto it, he should have gained self-realization. He said, "If the person offering to teach me self-knowledge cannot assure me this experience of instant illumination, then he will be banished from my domain even if he is the greatest scholar or the most learned person or the highest educated person in the land."
Well, all the pundits and sages were a little frightened by this requirement. They saw that this would be a severe test on their scholarship and learning, and so no one dared to come forth and offer himself to instruct the king and meet the conditions that had been posed.
It was at this point that the boy Astavakra entered the kingdom. While he was going on the road towards the capital city, he met a number of people coming from there, including quite a few scholars and pundits. All of them had long faces, looking worried and grief-stricken. Astavakra asked them what the cause was for their worry and grief. They explained to him all the things that had happened. But Astavakra could not understand why they should get frightened over the king's pronouncement, if they had truly mastered the teachings and realized their truth. He said, "I will gladly solve this problem for the king." So saying, he directly entered the court of Janaka.
Astavakra addressed the king, "My dear king, I am ready to teach you the knowledge of the atma. But this sacred knowledge cannot be taught so easily. This palace is full of rajas and tamas. We must leave here and enter an area that is pure satva." So they left the palace on horseback and went along the road leading out of the city towards the forest. As was the custom, whenever the king went outside the palace walls, the army followed close behind. But, when they approached the forest, King Janaka directed the soldiers to remain outside, and not follow them into the forest.
Astavakra and Janaka went deep into the forest. Astavakra told King Janaka, "I am not going to teach you the knowledge of the atma unless you accept my conditions. I may be only a young boy, but since I am to teach you, I am in the position of the preceptor. You may be an all-powerful emperor, but since you are going to learn from me, you are in the position of the disciple. Are you prepared to accept this relationship? If you agree then you will have to offer the traditional gift to the teacher, the gift that is given by the disciple to the guru. Only after you give me your offering will I start my instruction to you."
King Janaka told Astavakra, "The attainment of God is the most important thing to me, so I am prepared to give you absolutely anything you want. You can have my crown and the kingdom itself." But Astavakra replied, "I don't want any material things from you. All I want is your mind. You must give me your mind." The king answered. "All right, I offer my mind to you. Up to now I thought this was my mind, but from now on it is yours alone."
Janaka achieves Self-Realization
Astavakra told Janaka to dismount from his horse and leave it by the side, and then he told the king to sit down in the middle of the path. Astavakra walked further into the forest and sat quietly under a tree. Outside the forest, the soldiers waited for a long time. Neither the king nor Astavakra showed up, although it was long after the customary time when the king would have his repast. Both the officers and the soldiers who loved their king and were very faithful to him, became anxious to find out what had happened to him. So, one by one, they stole into the forest to look for King Janaka and the little boy who was with him, suspecting some foul play.
When they went along the path leading into the forest, they were relieved to find the king seated there, in the middle of the path. His horse was standing next to him. The king had his eyes closed and he sat motionless. The boy, Astavakra, was not to be seen. The officers addressed the king, but he did not answer. They feared that Astavakra might have exercised some magic spell over the king and had made him lose consciousness. They went to look for the prime minister.
The prime minister came and addressed Janaka, "O king! O king! O king!" But Janaka did not open his eyes. He did not move at all. The prime minister became very frightened. Not only the prime minister but all the other officials from the palace who had come, were now getting thoroughly concerned. The king had always kept to a rigorous schedule. He took his supper at the same time every day. Now that time had long since passed but the king still had not stirred. In this way, the day went on and evening came, but the king did not move from his position, sitting there immobile on the ground.
Left with no alternative, the prime minister sent the chariot back to the city to bring the queens, thinking that if the queens spoke to the king he would surely respond. The queens came and addressed the king, "Maharajah! Maharajah!" The king did not stir; there was absolutely no response from the king. Meanwhile the soldiers searched throughout the whole forest for Astavakra. At last, they found him under a tree. Astavakra was immersed in divine ecstasy.
The soldiers called out to him and exhorted him to answer their queries. Astavakra came out of his self-absorbed blissful state. They implored him to come to the place where the king was. Astavakra asked them, "Why are you all so worried? The king is safe and everything is all right." But they insisted that Astavakra come along with them and brought him before the king seated in the middle of the path. The king had his eyes closed. His body was completely still. The soldiers said, "Here, look for yourself! See what has happened to the king!" Until that time, whether the prime minister, or the other ministers, or the queens, or any of the court officials or soldiers or common people, had called out and addressed the king, he neither opened his mouth in answer nor opened his eyes in acknowledgment. But now, Astavakra came and spoke to the king. King Janaka immediately opened his eyes and replied, "Master!"
Astavakra questioned the king, "Well, the ministers have come and the soldiers have come, and also many others have come. Why did you not reply to their entreaties?" Janaka answered, "Thoughts, words and deeds are associated with the mind, and I offered my mind entirely to you. Therefore, before I can use this mind for anything, I need your permission. What authority do I have to speak to anyone or use this mind in any way? Without your permission and command, I am not going to do anything." Astavakra told Janaka to put one foot in the stirrup and get up on the horse. By the time he had climbed up and seated himself on the horse and put his other foot in the stirrup, he had attained the direct experience of the atma. Then Astavakra said to him, "You have attained the state of God-realization."
For Self-Knowledge Total Surrender of the Mind is Required
Once a person has offered up his mind, and with it all his words, deeds and thoughts, then he will not have the authority or the power to perform any actions without the permission of the one to whom he has surrendered his will. As was the case with Astavakra and Janaka, so also with Krishna and Arjuna. Krishna told Arjuna, "Arjuna, offer everything to me. Surrender all your actions to me. I will take care of you and I will guide you towards liberation and deliverance." So also, you need to offer all your physical, mental, spiritual and worldly duties, all your various actions, thoughts and words, to the Lord, the inner director installed in your heart.
But, you may wonder, if every duty and desire is relinquished and offered to the Lord, then does that mean that even the desire for liberation has to be given up? After all, that is also a type of thought. No. The real meaning is that when you offer up your load of desires and duties and responsibilities to the Lord, and allow him to make all your decisions, then he will carry all your burdens. And then you can be one-pointed in the one worthwhile goal of life, that of self-realization.
All this education that you acquire, all this learning that you pursue, is associated with the three qualities of delusion. Only when you transcend these three qualities will you be able to gain self-realization. In celebrating a marriage, a benediction is given so that the couple might be blessed with a successful career, with material prosperity, and with a fine family. These are three of the four primary goals of human life. The first refers to duties and responsibilities and position, the second refers to the accumulation of wealth and the third refers to the desire for progeny and the continuation of the family line. All three of these goals have to do with the worldly life. But there is a fourth goal of human life. That final and most important goal is liberation. The fourth goal relates to the spiritual life. The first three of these goals of human life cannot be considered equal to the fourth, which is liberation. Offer up all your little acts involving these first three goals. Give them all to the Lord, and trade them in for the one priceless treasure which he will give you in return, namely, liberation. Consider the following example.
In Indian currency, the smallest denomination is a paisa. It is a small metal coin. One hundred paisa is equal to one rupee. Conversely, 100 rupees is equal to 10,000 paisa. If you should have to carry these 10,000 paisa around with you, it would become a very large unwieldy bundle. Also, it would be quite difficult to hide and protect such a big bag of coins. If you were to heap all of these 10,000 paisa into one small cloth, the cloth would soon get torn and before long the coins would fall out.
Krishna told Arjuna, "Arjuna, I will give you a hundred rupee note. You give that whole pile of change that you are carrying, consisting of 10,000 paisa, to me. This one 100 rupee note and these 10,000 paisa are equal in value, but what a great difference there is in the burden of carrying them around with you. It is the same with all these many little duties and worries and thoughts of various types that burden you. Offer all 10,000 to me; I will give you a single 100 rupee note and relieve you of your load."
All your various thoughts, all your wishes and wantsä all these small desires may be compared to individual paisa. When you have so many small paisa, unless they are all put together, they will not be equal to a one rupee note.
Krishna said, "Arjuna, all these small desires can never be equal to the grace that I can shower on you. So give them all to me." This is how King Janaka was able to attain liberation after he had offered up his entire mind, all his thinking and doing and speaking, to Astavakra.
Offer up your Mind to the Lord
The sum and substance of all this is that you should offer up your mind to the Lord. In everything you do and think and say, follow his directions, emanating from the purity of your heart. That is what is meant by becoming mindless. Do not allow your mind to follow desires. Offer all these desires up to the Lord and follow only his dictates. Until you have done that, pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow and all the other pairs of opposites will be present within you. If you want to become free of these opposites and treat all things equally, you have to become mindless. That is why it has been said in the Vedanta that it is the mind which is responsible for liberation or bondage. As long as you retain the mind, rajas and tamas will not leave you. So long as you have rajas and tamas, you will have no steadiness. Why is the mind so unsteady, constantly hopping from place to place? It is because of desires. These desires all relate to the body.
Consider for a moment that you have poured a little water into a vessel; when the vessel moves, the water also moves. If the vessel is steady then the water remains steady. In steady water you will be able to see your own image. In moving water your image will be blurred and indistinct. It follows then that if you want to enter the still state of meditation and have a vision of your true self, you must keep your body steady. The body is like a vessel; the mind may be compared to the water inside. If the body moves, it is like the movement of the vessel. Then the mind inside will also move. Therefore, if you want to keep your mind steady, you must keep your body steady. Considering how much you move the body, think of how much more the mind will move.
If you throw a stone into a well, ripples will start. These ripples or waves, which arise from the stone hitting the water, will soon spread to the far end of the well. In the same way, once you put a thought into the well of your mind, it spreads to the entire body. And whatever be your thoughts, they will subsequently influence your actions. So, you must constantly keep good thoughts, positive thoughts, in your mind. When you are having good thoughts, there will also be good feelings in your heart. If negative thoughts enter your mind, then, in whatever you see, in whatever you hear, in whatever you say and wherever you go, these negative thoughts will lead to harmful actions and grievous results.
Steady your Mind and your Body
When you are sitting, the posture should be erect... not like that of an old person, all bent over. You should be steady and straight. You should not go to the other extreme either, of raising your head up; nor should you turn your head to one side or the other. For meditation, it is very important to have an erect sitting posture. If you were to imagine a line going vertically down through the top of your head, it should go straight to the base of your spine, the center of subtle energy at the bottom of your spine. That way the entire spine will be in proper alignment. The kundalini power will then be able to travel unimpeded from the lowest energy vortex to the highest at the crown of your head.
Therefore, keep the body steady and straight. If from youth it is bent, then by the time you become old you will be completely bent over. Be it your head, your neck or your torso, there should be no bend. This is extremely important for students, and equally so for devotees. Therefore, I will be telling you this quite often.
Why are you studying at all? What is the goal of your studies? Truly, you are studying in order to steady your mind and body. Except when you are playing, you should not be moving too much. Even when you are talking or when you are singing, you should be steady. In this way, right from childhood, if you can keep your body under control, it will be very useful to you as an instrument to achieve meditation. Krishna gave these instructions to Arjuna in the Gita, in order to turn Arjuna into an ideal representative of mankind, one who would serve as a model for all of humanity. Krishna told him, "Arjuna, I am taking you as my instrument so that by your example you may teach all of mankind."
Arjuna became an ideal person. Since his wavering mentality was due to the rajas and tamas qualities, Krishna told Arjuna to systematically rid himself of these two qualities, and offer them to the Lord. Eventually, he would even have to give up being controlled by the third quality, the satva quality. In the second chapter of the Gita, the chapter on the wisdom teachings, Krishna explained a number of ways in which the three qualities that have been discussed here, can be conquered. When you have completely expunged them from your mind, you will become transformed into a sage, a wise being, one who is steeped in the highest wisdom.