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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 Three - Path of Action

XXXI. Do your Duty - But without Concern for the Results

Krishna said, "Arjuna, you have work to do. Do it! But give up all interest in the fruit of your work." Krishna did not say that there would be no fruit. The fruit will certainly be there. Every action has its consequence or fruit. But the fruit is not your concern; you should not aspire for it. Therefore, the essence of Krishna's teaching is that you must do your duty, but do it without keeping the outcome in mind.

 Embodiments of Love,

For every action there is an outcome, and subsequently, this outcome gives rise to another action. This ongoing cycle of action and result, result and action, manifests itself in a way similar to the cycle of the seed and the tree. The seed and tree also follow one after the other, with the seed giving rise to the tree and the tree giving rise to the seed. Without a seed you cannot have a tree and without a tree you cannot have a seed. The same thing is true for an action and its result. These are natural cycles in the world. When this is so, with one always following the other, why should you take a special interest in the outcome? Your duty and responsibility is to perform the right action; have no concern about the result. Krishna told Arjuna, "In this battle, you should be indifferent to what happens to your own people or what befalls you. Do your duty without letting your mind dwell on the outcome."

The Shield of Devotion and the Armor of Wisdom

In battle, warriors wear shield and armor. This gives them some protection against the powerful weapons that are shot at them by their enemies. In the spiritual battle which you must fight, you must also wear a type of shield and armor. Here the shield is devotion and love for God, and the armor is wisdom. In an ordinary war relating to the world, the fighting may last only a few days, or it may drag on for a few months or even some years. But the spiritual battle goes on continuously; it never ends. It has been fought by mankind unceasingly, right from ancient days. Since time immemorial there has been the fight between good and bad, between virtue and sin, between attachment and detachment.

Humanity has been waging an endless war with its feelings of I ness and my-ness, with its feelings of hatred and jealousy and other evil qualities that have taken shelter within it. Egoism and attachment, in particular, have extraordinary strength. They are really dreadful. Compared to them, you, the individual who is fighting them, are not so strong. You are really quite weak. In fact, you have become so dominated by these negative qualities that, like Arjuna, you have identified yourself with them. Now, to fight such powerful enemies and qualities, you have to follow the directions of the indwelling Lord and you have to wear a very strong shield and armor. The mighty shield and armor that you have to wear in this spiritual battle are devotion and wisdom. They will protect you from such formidable enemies.

When you have a parasol to shade you, you are not troubled by the hot sun. When you wear sandals or shoes, you are not concerned about stepping on a thorn. When you wear a shield and armor, you are not too much bothered by the weapons being hurled against you. "Therefore, Arjuna," Krishna said, "in this inner battle you must don your spiritual shield and armor." When Krishna lifted Arjuna out of his despondency at the beginning of the Gita, he gave Arjuna the armor of wisdom. That was the first teaching that Krishna offered.

Use Wisdom to Conquer your Inner Enemies

Krishna said to Arjuna, "All these attachments that you now have, all these desires to possess things, are not tendencies that you acquired yesterday or the day before. They have been with you for numerous births and they are responsible for all the pain that you are experiencing. You have no way of knowing when you will finally be able to rid yourself of the pain they have caused. But you cannot do much about the past, so do not worry about it. Focus, instead, on the means for eliminating the pain that would come to you in the future, were these attachments and desires to continue ruling over you.

"In the battle that you are about to fight, you have provided yourself with worldly armor. That will help protect your body from external enemies; but how will you be able to protect yourself from the internal enemies which you are battling inside you? To protect yourself from them, you have to wear the armor of wisdom. You are concerned about your external enemies, but you are not thinking about the inner enemies at all. If you succumb to your inner enemies you will never be able to conquer your external enemies. Therefore, first conquer these inner enemies."

It is natural to search for a doctor when you are sick and suffering, but it is of greater importance to see to it that you do not contract any illness in the first place. It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. From earliest times, the inner enemies have been subduing mankind and filling human beings with sorrow. As long as you are filled with egoism and attachment, you will not be able to free yourself from grief and sorrow. You have been engaged in wrongful actions, and these have been responsible for all your pain. Does this mean that you should abstain from action? No. You have no choice but to act. You must act, and you are free to enjoy your actions as well. But from now on, you must perform all your actions properly, in a way which will not accrue harmful consequences and pain to you in the future. In keeping with this, it is very important that you understand the underlying principles of right action.

Every Worldly Experience can be traced to Karma

Action is called karma. You are born in karma, you develop in karma and you die in karma. It is karma, or the actions you perform, which are responsible for all good or bad, sin or virtue, profit or loss, joy or sorrow. Truly, karma is responsible for your very birth itself. Karma is really the creator for mankind. It shapes your life. It follows then that you should not look upon action with carelessness. Your entire life is associated with action. Therefore, recognize the importance of right action and engage in that, unwaveringly.

Do not think that action is just a small thing. It may start as a small sapling but it will grow into a very big tree. Before a seed can become a tree, it has to break out of the soil in which it was sown. Then, once it has become a big tree, it will offer you its fruit. Whether this fruit brings you joy or sorrow depends on the seed that you have sown. To get the very finest fruit, the seed of action which you have performed must be of the highest quality and it must break out of the soil of egoism. Then this action can be transformed into yoga. Yoga is union with God.

Egoism Develops when you Forget the Indweller

What is the root cause of egoism? Why should you ever feel egoistic? Egoism arises because of the ignorance which is inherent in you. You have to think out for yourself what is the birthplace of this egoism, where did it come from and where will it end? Consider these facts of the physical universe: Light travels at the rate of 670 million miles per hour. At this rate, light travels a trillion miles per year. We consider the sun to be very near; the distance between the earth and the sun is approximately 90 million miles. For us, the splendor of the light coming from the sun is exceptionally bright. But this is the light from only one sun. There are billions of suns and stars. The distance to the nearest of these is almost 4 light years, or something like 23 to 24 trillion miles.

The stars look as though they are very close to one another, but the distance between any two stars is tens of trillions of miles. They look as though milk has been spread all over the sky. The stars that you can see with a high-powered telescope number in the billions. And there are many, many more objects in the heavens which you cannot see. What is the size of the earth in the context of such a vast universe, where there are billions upon billions of stars, spread over distances of trillions upon trillions of miles? And what is the place of this little planet earth in relation to the huge sun, which, nevertheless, is only a minor star among the countless stars that speckle the heavens?

On this earth, what is the size of the country in which you are a citizen? What is the size of the state you are living in? Within it how small is this district that you are now in? And how much smaller is the little town that you call home? And then, how very much smaller still are you on this tiny plot of land that you occupy within it? If such is the scale of the universe and such is your size in it, why are you so puffed up with egoistic feelings? If you were to take true cognizance of the vastness of the world, you would not have any egoism. Only when you are oblivious of the greatness of the universe in relation to your minute size can you ever be filled with such a foolish notion.

Perhaps you are proud of your own body. But the body consists of only the five elements. One day or another it will perish. Only the indweller is permanent. It does not have birth or death, it does not grow or decay. It shines everywhere. In the whole world it is the one permanent entity shining as the effulgent one, in a sea of changing forms. It is behind every form, it is the splendor animating every feature in the vast universe. Even in utter darkness it is there, for it is that which reveals the darkness to you. This all-pervading splendor is the indweller, the eternal flame ever shining inside this inert body. Look to this indweller, turn towards it, and you will not be deluded by pride and egoism.

The Body is an inert Thing made of the five Elements

Take shelter in the indwelling Lord. Do not keep looking towards the body and feeling proud. The body is subject to so many diseases; it undergoes many changes. It is barely able to journey on this ocean of worldly existence and survive. The body is only an inert thing; it is nothing more than seven buckets of water, the iron from four 2-inch nails, the phosphorous from 1,100 match sticks, the carbon contained in four pencils and two pieces of soap. When you put all these things together with a few other assorted substances, it becomes a body. So, the body just consists of this inert matter. But it is able to move and exhibit life because there is an indweller inside.

Consider the wall clock that is hanging there. It has three hands: a second hand, a minute hand and an hour hand. As soon as you wind the clock, all three hands start moving at their own prescribed rate. How long will they keep moving thus? They keep moving as long as there is power in the spring to energize them. The moment that power is exhausted, they stop wherever they are. Your body may be compared to a clock. The breath may be compared to the spring. Your actions may be compared to the second hand; your feelings may be compared to the minute hand; and your joy may be compared to the hour hand. It is the divine energy within which empowers and vitalizes all this.

In the context of this example of the clock, you can answer the question as to why you perform actions at all. You see that the second hand, which represents your actions, moves quite fast and soon covers one whole revolution of 60 seconds. At that point, the minute hand, which represents your feelings, will have advanced one sixtieth of a revolution. It is only when the second hand has made sixty full revolutions of sixty seconds each, and the minute hand has gone once around, that the hour hand, which represents an experience of divine joy and bliss, will move one division. The hour hand moves so slowly that you cannot even detect its movement, although you can see the movement of the minute and second hands.

There is an inner secret here. Once every hour all three hands meet. When the action which is associated with the body and nature, when the feeling which is associated with the inner man, and when the unending joy which is associated with the divinity all come together, then you have the meeting of nature, man and God.

From Sacred Action to Devotional Feelings to Bliss

Nature has been described as the field of action; it gives you the opportunity to sanctify your work and reach your goal. When you perform 60 good actions, one good feeling will emerge. Therefore, to get the one good feeling you have to perform so many good actions. And it is only when you have sixty such good feelings that there will be one small movement of the hour hand, which represents the ineffable experience of divine joy. Therefore, Krishna told Arjuna to perform good actions. When you do innumerable good actions, you are likely to get one or two deeply satisfying and lasting good feelings. And it is only when you develop innumerable such good feelings that you will be able to reach the bliss that is the eternal state of the atma. Therefore, you must start by performing many good actions.

The body has been given to you for this specific purpose of performing actions. It is impossible to spend even a moment without being active. That is why the performance of sacred activities, which includes ceremonial and ritual worship, has been given so much importance in the Vedas, the holy scriptures of India. But sacred actions do not just refer to performing sacrifices, doing penance and giving charity, each of which gives rise to an anticipated result. There are many actions that you can undertake from which you would not expect any fruit, at all. Such actions, which are performed without any concern for the fruit, can be termed karma yoga.

When an action is performed without desire and without any feeling of egoism, then it is karma yoga. That is the highest form of action, the most sacred of all, and it's one you should follow in every move you make in life. Remove your egoism. Drive it away. Remove your desire for the fruit. When you perform action with this attitude, it becomes work in the spirit of true sacrifice, it becomes penance and it becomes yoga. All three of these, sacrifice, penance and yoga convey the same idea. Every action you perform should be sanctified in this way. Even inhaling and exhaling are actions; they are also karma. Without performing karma, man cannot live for even a moment in the world. But karma associated with ego will always be narrow and harmful.

Food gives Rise to Thoughts, Feelings and Actions

Therefore, perform all actions with only the feeling of sacrifice in your heart, not with a self-serving feeling of egoism. The results will be good or bad, beneficial or harmful depending on the type of actions you perform. The actions themselves depend upon the feelings of selflessness or selfishness you have. The feelings, in turn, depend on the thoughts you harbor. And the thoughts depend on the food that you consume. Therefore, you have the sequence of food leading to thoughts, thoughts leading to feelings, feelings leading to actions, and actions leading to results. These results, in turn, lead to more feelings, ones of pain or joy, depending on the nature of the actions, feelings, thoughts and food. From this you see the great importance of always taking in very pure and wholesome food.

Assume that a sage performing a vedic ritual makes a small fire, as is prescribed by the scriptures. The smoke pouring forth will depend on the type of fire that was made. A cloud will form as a result of the smoke that has risen up. Water vapor condenses due to the cloud and there are droplets of rain. The crop below depends on the rain, and so the food that is consumed depends upon the crop. Finally, the physical body, being the same as food, depends on the food that is taken in. Therefore, even food can be traced back to the type of actions, in this case, to the fire that had been built and the sacrifice that had been performed.

Focus on the Action, Not on the Fruit

If your actions are good, then your birth will be good. Your actions are the original cause, your birth is the final result. In this context, Krishna said, "Keep all your attention on performing good deeds; do not pay any attention to the fruit." The fruit will follow by itself, but your focus should be on the action.

In the past, you have been associated with a number of good or bad actions and as a result, you are now enjoying or suffering their consequence in the form of joy or sorrow. How do you get rid of the sorrow that is the result of your past bad actions? It is only by engaging in good actions that you can remove this sorrow. That is the reason why action has been given primary importance in the Vedas. Bad actions must be replaced by good actions, which then lead to totally selfless actions, where there is no personal interest in the fruit. This, then, becomes karma yoga and brings you into union with divinity.

If you are careless with your actions, or if you waste your actions, your whole life becomes a waste. Life has been given to you so that you engage yourself in good karma and ideal activities. Karma does not mean just performing actions with the body. Karma is the very name of the body itself. Since the body has come as the result of actions performed previously, one of the meanings of karma is body.

Body is the consequence of actions; it is associated with time, circumstance and causation. But this applies only to the waking state. In the dream state, the body is inactive, so there cannot be any action at all; there will only be the illusion of action, or maya. In dreams, all the senses will be still. In the state of deep-sleep, which has been called the causal state, there will not even be any mind. Beyond this state is the ultimate source, that which is called the great cause, the original cause. It transcends the causal state. This original cause is the divinity. Here is a small example to illustrate these states.

Those of you who are students walk here from the hostel, which is about one kilometer away. At 4:15 in the afternoon, you leave the hostel and by 4:30 you reach the gates of the ashram. So, it takes you about 15 minutes to move your body from the hostel to this complex. Your purpose for coming here is to hear Baba's lecture. In every action you undertake, there will be these same four factors, a time, an activity, a cause or purpose and a result. The time, as you have seen, was 15 minutes. The activity was to walk from the hostel to the prayer hall. The reason was to listen to the lecture. The result is that you will be sanctifying your life thereby. In this way, the waking state can be used for one's spiritual advancement.

Time, Action, Purpose and Result apply only to the Body

Now consider further, that after this discourse is over you return to the hostel. After you have had your dinner, you relax on your bed and go off to sleep. You have a dream. In the dream you find yourself wandering on a boulevard in Paris. When did you leave the hostel to travel to Paris, and how long did it take you to get there? That question cannot be answered. There is no specific time involved here. How did you travel there? Was it by ship or by plane? That also cannot be answered. There is no specific activity involved in getting there. Why did you go to Paris? You do not know; there is no apparent reason for being there. What is it that you have enjoyed there? What is the result of your going? Even that you cannot answer. There is no specific result accruing from your action that can be discerned there. So, in the dream state, there is neither time, action, purpose, nor enjoyment of the results; none of these are there.

Now, assume that soon after you fell asleep, some one came and woke you up. You got up and realized that you had been asleep for only five minutes. During the course of those five minutes you had your dream and you went to Paris. How is that possible? It is not possible. It was only a mental experience. You have not performed this action, either with your body or with your senses. That mental experience is associated with your subtle form. But it is the gross body which has these four factors of time, action, causation and circumstance. You have seen that none of these occur in the subtle or mental experience associated with the dream state. Only because of the tricks of the mind have you been able to create a new world there.

The mind created so many people on that busy boulevard in Paris, so much traffic, so many objects. The mind has this exceptional power. It has an extraordinary capacity to create anything, or destroy anything, not only in dream, but also in the waking state. For all your actions, it is the thoughts in your mind which are responsible. When you offer such a powerful mind to the Lord, then not only the mind but all your actions, everything you do, will have been offered to him. When you use your mind to think of the Lord, all your actions become sacred.

Turn Desire towards Wisdom to Gain the Divine Light

A great sage used to say, "If you sing hymns of praise to the Lord and offer a light to him, then the entire world will shine with the effulgence of that light." In your worship you take a flaming lamp, and offer the light to the Lord. Your mind, which is made up of many desires, can be likened to the oil, the wick can be likened to the sacred wisdom you have gathered. When you join these two together, using your wisdom to turn your desires to God, then you get the effulgence of divine light blazing forth from their union.

For this oil and wick there must be some holder. The body can be thought of as the container which holds this oil of desires and the wick of wisdom. The blissful joy that you feel is the effulgence of the light coming from this sacred lamp. If there is only a wick and you try to light it, it will not burn. Or, if you want to light the oil itself, you will not be able to do it. But when the wick is associated with the oil, then it will be able to burn, and you will have light.

Another way of seeing this oil and the wick, is to think of action or work, which is associated with the mind and its desires, as the oil. The buddhi, or the intuitive intellect, which is associated with wisdom, can be thought of as the wick. When you combine these two, namely, action and buddhi, in other words, when you make all your actions sacred, following the dictates of your highest inner motivator, then the light will shine forth. This light is the eternal light of the atma. When all your actions become sacred, you will come into awareness of your eternal truth, you will be basked in the light of the one immortal self.

Now, the flame in the lamp has a number of individual characteristics. When there is a breeze, the flame will flicker. When water comes on it, it will sputter, making some sound. If there are impurities in the oil, it will give forth smoke. It also gives off heat; if you touch it, it will burn you. And, depending on the type of oil and the flow of air there will be different colors to the light emerging from the flame. These various characteristics belong to the flame, but they are not associated with the radiance that emerges from the light of that flame.

There is only one characteristic to that radiance; that is, it envelops all it touches in the splendor of its effulgence. The flame has a number of different attributes, but the effulgence of the atma has only the one attribute of illuminating and removing darkness. That immortal inner light of the atma is given equally to all people. That is its one all-encompassing quality. But, for the flame of life, there will be many individual characteristics. Many changes and problems will come into it.

The three Types of Actions

There are three types of activities emerging from different aspects of this flame of life. There are the ordinary actions which lead to ordinary results, which in turn, lead to more actions in an endless cycle. This is like a flame that burns steadily one moment and sputters the next, or burns in various hues and at various temperatures.

Then there are the good actions, those which always bring good results. These good actions are like an unchanging flame which is ever steady. This second type of activity applies to performing your worldly duties in a righteous manner, being active in good causes, engaging in devotional practices, etc. These are all good actions but along with them, there will still be a clear interest in the results. The Vedas have declared that even the best and most beneficial actions performed with interest in the results can only take you as far as heaven. You should not be under the impression that heaven endows you with immortality; when the merits of the actions have been consumed, you have to come back down to earth. So, this second type of action, also perpetuates the cycle of birth and death.

Lastly, there are actions which are not related to the attributes of the flame. This third type of activity is associated with the pure radiance, the effulgence of the atmic light. For such actions, interest in the fruit is not relevant, at all. Such actions emerge out of your inner nature, your deepest truth, which is divine. You perform all your actions as an offering to the divinity, knowing that the one divinity is in everyone. Such sacred acts can be called yoga, for then you are engaged in karma yoga. This is purity in action where there is no attachment to the outcome.

Realize that when you are interested in the fruits, they soon become exhausted, and new actions have to be undertaken again and again, in an endless cycle. Take, for example, a member of the legislative assembly who runs for election. If he achieves victory in the election, he can go to the assembly for five years. As time passes, his term of office runs out and at the end of five years he has to return home. Similarly, all the merits which you earn through your activities may be compared to this kind of limited term which lasts for a number of years. At the end of the period you have to come back into birth again.

As long as your merits last you enjoy heaven, but as soon as they get exhausted you must again descend into birth. Therefore, while describing the doctrine of karma to Arjuna, Krishna said, "Instead of aspiring for the temporary result of an action, which keeps you bound to the cycle of birth and death, aspire to realize the supreme divinity which is your own true self. When you know that the one divinity is the immortal self of all and act from that knowledge, then your actions are aligned with the divine will and they will be sacred. Then you will never have to come back into birth again. But, if instead, your actions are motivated by the results, which, in turn, leads you into to life after life and you are perpetually coming and going, then how will you ever be able to reach your permanent goal?" There is a small story to illustrate this.

Aspire for the Supreme and Never Come Back

An inveterate thief was caught in the act of stealing and was put into prison. It was decreed in court that he be imprisoned for six months. The six month period soon passed and the day arrived when he was to be released. The jailer came and told the thief, "Well, by tomorrow evening your term will be completed and you will have served your punishment. You can make your preparations to go. Collect all the personal possessions that we are holding for you, and be ready to leave." The thief was not overly happy to hear this, but he was not unhappy either. He was just indifferent, for he knew what was to happen. "Let the articles remain here," he said.

The jailer asked him, "Why, don't you want to take these things with you?" The thief replied, "There is no point in taking them with me. In a day or two I will be back. Soon enough, you will see me again in this same jail. Since it will be just a few days, why should I bother with them?" So, this thief knew that he was going to indulge in stealing again, that he would be caught and punished again and, undoubtedly, he would land right back in this same prison.

In the same way, your actions may be compared to this coming and going of the thief. You perform actions in your life here on earth. In time, you are motivated to make all your actions good actions and they produce good results. Afterwards you go to heaven. When your term there has expired you come back again to earth. Krishna said, "This process of going up and coming down is not good." At this point, Krishna gave Arjuna the sacred teachings. He directed Arjuna to seek out the place of eternal truth and abide there. Once you are established in that permanent place, abiding in your immortal self, actions can no longer bind you. Then there will be no need to ever come back again, for you will be established in the permanent bliss of the atma. Compared with this exalted state, earthly and heavenly joys are like mere atoms in the infinite universe.

The Yoga of Action - Relinquishing the Fruit

Krishna told Arjuna repeatedly, "Arjuna! Do your duty. Engage yourself in rightful action. But do not aspire for the fruit of your action." Krishna's intent was to turn all of Arjuna's actions into sacred actions, into karma yoga, and thereby help him to reach his spiritual goal.

Embodiments of Love,

In the world, all actions are performed for the sake of the rewards, or what can be called the fruits. If there were no fruits resulting from their actions, if they were not compensated or paid in some form or other, the great majority of human beings would not undertake any work at all. What is Krishna's objection to Arjuna aspiring for the fruit of his labor? When almost everyone performs actions for the sake of the reward, what is the deeper meaning in Krishna directing Arjuna to perform all his actions without expecting any reward? Krishna's sole interest was to see to it that all of Arjuna's actions be transformed into yoga, in other words, that Arjuna's will be aligned with the divine will. This would happen when Arjuna surrendered himself fully to the divinity, offered all his actions to the divine and gave up all his attachments to the results. Then his karma became karma yoga.

Transform all your Actions into Sacred Actions and be Free

As long as you act with body-consciousness, that is, as long as you identify yourself as the doer of an action, then that action cannot be karma yoga. Any action performed with the feeling of ego, the sense that I did it, or with the sense of attachment, that it is my act, can only bring sorrow to you in the end. Such actions will always result in further bondage. However, when you transform your actions into yoga, then you become free from bondage. How does action or karma become yoga? All actions performed as offerings to the divinity, without any sense of individual doership and without seeking any personal results, will be transformed into yoga.

Numerous troubles arise when one acts with a feeling of egoism. Inwardly, you might feel, 'This action was performed by me, so I should derive the benefits from this action. I worked, so I deserve to get paid. I am certainly entitled to the rewards accruing from these actions that I have performed.' Such feelings serve only to further strengthen the sense of ego, the sense of I and mine. As this sense of I and mine goes on increasing, the atma goes further and further into obscurity, and the joy emerging from the atma goes on decreasing. To destroy egoism completely, Krishna asked Arjuna to transform all his actions into yoga.

What is the method of transforming your action into yoga? You must become impersonal; you must not identify yourself with the actions or the results that accrue from them, but, instead, concentrate fully on the action itself, remaining indifferent to the results. In other words, you act because it is your nature to do so, offering all your efforts to the indwelling divinity, and remaining totally unconcerned and disinterested in the fruit. With such a feeling of detachment, whatever task you become engaged in will become sacred.

There is the example of King Janaka, who showed by his life that if you perform actions without any desire for the fruit and without any personal interest in the act, then your accomplishments can indeed become very great. While ruling a kingdom, and bearing all the responsibilities associated with it, King Janaka performed all his acts with the attitude that he was only the witness. Because he acted without any attachment to the results, Janaka became a sacred king, a monarch who was also a yogi.

Turn Actions into Yoga

Every action that is offered to the Lord and is performed without any personal interest becomes a holy sacrifice and can be considered as yoga. But when an action is performed with a personal interest in the action and its results, then it is nothing but roga, which in Sanskrit means disease. The root cause of all such disease is attachment. From attachment follows hatred and anger. These are the demons that will hide all your human qualities.

It is the same for everyone; once attachment and hatred begin to show themselves in you, they encourage all the demonic tendencies and you forget your true human nature. Therefore, Krishna commanded Arjuna, "Perform your actions free from all attachments. Be impersonal. When you perform actions without having any personal interest, the fruit of these actions will not touch you. That is how I rule over all the three worlds. Can you not rule over even one little body that way?

"Develop the firm faith that when you remain disinterested in the rewards you will be able to achieve many great tasks. But when you have attachment to the results of a task, you will be subject to disappointment. If you get the fruits you expected, you will be overjoyed. If you do not succeed, you will be worried. Try to control this sense of dejection and elation. Become truly wise. Do not allow yourself to be subjected to these wavering feelings of elation and dejection."

There is no human being who is not engaged in actions. Every person has a human body for the express purpose of performing actions. To sanctify the body, you have to perform only good actions. For every action there will be a fruit. You should realize that the joy which you get in performing an action is much greater than the joy you get from the fruit of the action.

For example, on an auspicious religious festival, a family may choose to be together throughout the night with other devotees, relatives and friends to sing devotional songs. As long as they are engaged in their practice and involved in their ceremonies they are unaware of any feeling of fatigue. Even if some of them were suffering from fever they would not mind; they would be completely absorbed in the function. During that period, when they are immersed in their practice, no one feels tired. But when you visit this family soon after the function is over, you find them all looking rather weary.

The Joy of Doing is greater than the Joy of the Rewards

You get joy while performing an action, but you do not experience joy to the same extent after the action is completed. You are simply deluded by the feeling that there is some joy in the fruit of the action. But, truly speaking, there is no joy whatsoever in the fruit. The joy which you believe you get from the fruit is only a reflection; it is a shadow of the real joy. It is just a phantom joy. It is not the permanent joy that you are seeking. When the actions themselves are temporary and transient, how can the fruits derived from them be anything more than fleeting shadows?

Perhaps you feel that by performing acts of charity or by doing good, involving yourself in good causes, participating in auspicious events or by engaging in various acts of personal sacrifice, you will earn heavenly rewards. However, Krishna declared that heaven is only temporary. He said, "Arjuna, there is something which is far greater than heaven. Of course, you should always do good. I am not saying that you should stop performing good deeds, sacrifices, austerities, religious rituals and the like. It is not only your right but your duty to continue with such good actions; but, do everything you do with only the welfare of the whole world in mind. Do not act with any selfish motive. Perform every action selflessly, disinterestedly, concerned only with the peace, welfare and prosperity of all living beings, everywhere.

"Do not be concerned with reaching heaven. Set your sight on a much higher goal, beyond heaven. Heaven will last only as long as the merits of your actions last. Once these merits are exhausted, you will have to come back to earth. Therefore, give up your longing for heaven, which is temporary and impermanent. Cultivate nearness and dearness to the Lord. Become merged in him; that is what is truly important. The principle of divinity is greater than heaven. When you understand the secret of action and perform all your actions from the proper perspective, you will be able to acquire the divinity itself."

The Gita brings the Highest Wisdom into Daily Life

The Gita has not asked you to renounce all worldly activities and become a sanyasin, a wandering mendicant. Some people are under the impression that the Gita should not be taught to children, for the youngsters might get a notion to renounce the world and go to the forest. Many people suffer from such wrong impressions. But consider the great number of people who have been teaching the Gita. Are they all sanyasins? Have they renounced all the things of the world? Did Arjuna, who heard the Gita directly from Krishna, become a sanyasin?

The inner significance of the Gita has to be understood in the context of human nature as it is expressed in the world, in the everyday activities of people. The most important objective of the Gita is to bring down the priceless, ancient wisdom to the level of the mundane world and to raise worldly life to the level of the highest wisdom. The Gita brings down Vedanta into daily life and elevates daily life to the level of Vedanta; it not only introduces philosophy and spirituality into daily life, but it also introduces daily life into philosophy and spirituality. Hence, it reconciles spirituality and daily life.

Human existence does not just involve the daily, secular activities; it is not meant at all for just eking out a livelihood. The Gita teaches the sanctity of human life; it directs man to his ultimate goal. It teaches him how to make his livelihood in the world, in a way that enables him to transcend the human condition, and in a way that does not bind him to further human births. You will not be bound by your actions when they are performed selflessly, without any interest in the fruits. The Gita teaches you to develop nonattachment to all your activities, duties and possessions. What actually happens by having this attitude of detachment is that your actions become sacred. The Gita does not encourage you to renounce work; on the contrary, it encourages you to do your duty and perform all the activities appropriate to your status in life. But you must transform all these actions into sacred works by offering them to the Lord.

For example, consider the work of a cook. Cooks perform their duties properly and do their job well when they keep their mind on the cooking. If instead, they do everything keeping only the wages in view, then they will not have much interest in their work and the cooking will not be good. Cooking should be performed with a sense of love and absorption in the work and with the welfare of all in mind, without concern for the monetary rewards. Then it becomes a sacred and pure service that nourishes and sanctifies.

In the same way, when you perform your assigned duties, whatever they are, with full concentration on the work, offering it to the divinity, and without any personal interest in the fruit, then your actions become sacred and grand. With this feeling of disinterestedness in the fruits, your work becomes steady and you will also progress steadily forward towards your goal. But when you have a personal interest in the work that you are performing, there will be ups and downs, fickleness will develop and your desires will quickly grow.

Krishna held out King Janaka as an ideal person because he ruled his kingdom with this sense of detachment, and thereby attained perfection. There are some people who have only outward vision. There are others who have developed inward vision. Outward vision sees only the illusory world outside. Inward vision transforms the mind and fills the heart with sacred feelings. In order to gain inner vision, you have to develop this quality of absorption in the work and detachment from the results, offering everything you do to the divinity within. There is a story to illustrate the great spiritual power of this lofty practice.

Janaka and Suka

Once, in the age previous to Krishna and Arjuna's, the young sage Suka, had entered King Janaka's kingdom and was traveling in the neighborhood of the capital city. King Janaka heard that Suka was in the vicinity, but did not know where Suka chose to make his camp. The king sent out messengers in all directions, to get news of Suka's whereabouts. They located Suka living in a shelter in a forest, near the capital city. Janaka, along with his ministers, went to visit Suka. Janaka did not go there as a king or ruler. He went as a servant of the Lord. Janaka had long ago removed all traces of ego and now went as a humble spiritual seeker. Suka was giving a discourse to his disciples on a spiritual topic.

During this discourse, Janaka stood and listened with full concentration. Evening came. Before he left, Janaka went to Suka and asked, "Swami, may I come every day and experience your inspiring discourses?" Suka replied, "Janaka, spirituality and philosophy are not anyone's private property. Whoever has the interest, whoever enjoys listening to these teachings, whoever believes in reaching the goal, has a right to this knowledge. Certainly you may come. You are most welcome." Janaka went back to his palace and returned each day to attend the discourses.

Now, Suka wanted to demonstrate to the world that King Janaka had inward vision, whereas most people have only outward vision. With this in mind, he moved to a spot on the crest of a hill overlooking the capital city, and made his camp there. From this place, he continued his daily discourses on Vedanta. One particular day, King Janaka, because of some urgent responsibilities of administration, was delayed in coming there. Suka purposely held up starting his discourse until Janaka had arrived.

Suka took no cognizance of the large gathering of people that were already assembled there, waiting for the discourse to commence. To demonstrate his interest, Suka started asking questions of this person and that, trying to find out why King Janaka had not come. He also told some people to go and find out what had delayed the king. He himself stood on the roadside and watched for the royal party to arrive.

At this, some murmur began among the people there. The disciples, the elders and youngsters who had assembled there, began whispering among themselves. One said, "Look at Suka. He is considered to be such a great sage who has renounced everything; but it does not seem to be true. Here he is waiting for King Janaka. Just because Janaka is an important ruler, Suka is not paying any attention to us and does not seem to care about starting the discourse."

Another person said, "Look at this peculiar behavior of Suka. Why does he show so much partiality to kings? For a sage, should there be any difference in his feelings for a king and for others?" Now, Suka noted all this talk that was going on. In fact, it was with the intention of teaching them a good lesson that he had conducted himself this way. Half an hour passed. An hour passed. Two hours passed. Suka continued to wait for Janaka to come; he did not make any attempt to start his discourse.

The Venom must come Out before Teachings can go In

Meanwhile, those people whose hearts were a little polluted, gave expression to their feelings of jealousy and anger. All those impure feelings which were inherent in them, but had been hidden inside, now started coming out. That is just what Suka wanted, for only after the venom that was in their hearts had come out could the teachings of the Vedanta enter there. If there is nothing inside one's head, then it can be filled with sacred teachings. But if one's head is already filled with all sorts of impure stuff, how can it take anything pure and sacred in?

Without emptying the head of all the useless dross, sacred teachings will never take hold there. So, Suka's wish was that all these baser feelings should manifest themselves and be expressed. He wanted his students to pour out all the dirt and filth which was inside their minds. He knew that as long as their hearts harbored attachments and bad feelings, his teachings would not take hold. So he had them undergo this process of purification.

Meanwhile, with a great deal of anxiety, Janaka rushed to attend the discourse. Suka noted the approach of Janaka. He could be seen coming from a long way off because Janaka did not usually come alone. Although Janaka was not interested in bringing ministers and servants, they would invariably accompany him to provide security and protection to the king. Soon all the people became aware that King Janaka was approaching. Entering the area where the discourse was given, Janaka prostrated himself before the guru and humbly asked his pardon for coming late. Then Janaka spread his grass mat and sat down.

Immediately Suka commenced his discourse. Now, in the hearts of the young disciples who had assembled there, hatred fructified. Their faces began changing because of their feelings towards Suka and King Janaka. 'Look at this Suka!', they thought to themselves. 'He only cares about pleasing the king. That is the extent of his Vedanta.'

The Fire that brought out the Attachments of the Disciples

Suka decided to teach a lesson to all the people assembled there who were harboring such negative feelings. After some time, he interrupted his discourse suddenly and said, "Janaka, look at your kingdom. It is on fire!" King Janaka, who had closed his eyes and was totally absorbed in listening to the sacred teachings, took no notice of these words. He had fixed his mind on the Vedanta, and so he kept his concentration only on the Vedanta.

The other people who had assembled there saw the flames and smoke rising above the city. Some of the disciples, thinking of their relatives and belongings, began running towards the capital city, in the plain below. All the attachments which had lain hidden deep in their hearts now came to the surface and fully exposed themselves.

A few moments later, Suka told King Janaka, "Janaka, this fire has now spread to your palace." Even then, Janaka did not take any notice of Suka's statement; Janaka did not move from his seat. He had the true feeling of complete detachment and indifference to all things worldly. His interest was only in the atma. Except for this absorption in the atma he had no other feelings.

Among those in attendance at the discourse were a number of celebrated spiritual teachers having worldwide reputations. Suka wanted to demonstrate to them that they might be very great scholars but they had not killed their attachments. When these scholars saw the flames, they were apprehensive; they turned to King Janaka and began praying, "O, King! O, King! Please do something about this terrible catastrophe happening below!" But Janaka had entered into a state of samadhi; he was enjoying the bliss of the atma.

Tears of joy were coursing down Janaka's cheek. He did not waver for even a moment from the holy thoughts on which he had fixed his concentration. Suka observed Janaka's state and was very pleased. After some time, those disciples who had run away towards the capital returned, reporting that, in fact, there had been no fire at all. Then Suka began to explain to the disciples the meaning of all that had gone on.

Suka said, "Well, children, I did not delay starting my discourse for two hours because Janaka is the king and, therefore, a very important man. I delayed because he is a deserving person, a true seeker; and I believe in waiting for such a one. Because he has purged himself of ego and pride, because he has true humility, dedication and detachment he has the authority to hold up the discourse. You listen, but you do not hear what is said or put it into practice; therefore, you have no such authority.

"Instead of teaching hundreds of people who have made no effort in applying these teachings to their daily lives, I can teach at least one person who truly has a right to being taught, because he has integrated these sacred precepts into his very life. What is the use of teaching people full of attachment and egoism? It is something like throwing a stone into water. For any number of years the stone may lie in the water, but it will not absorb even a drop of water.

"Even if I can get just one person like Janaka, it is sufficient for me to go on. Why have useless shining stones in great numbers? If there is at least one gem which is truly valuable, that is enough. Why have ten acres of barren land if you can have even a small plot that is fertile and abundant in its yield? If one king like Janaka can become sacred, then he can transform his entire kingdom and turn it into a sacred realm that will be an example to the whole world." Suka's intent was to make Janaka a sacred king and at the same time to teach a valuable lesson to the conceited disciples who had gathered around him.

Through Arjuna Krishna taught the Whole World

Krishna had a similar intent when he taught the Gita to Arjuna. Arjuna was also a sacred person, and he had qualified himself for the teachings by his character and his high ideals. Arjuna had control of the senses; he had won a great deal of spiritual power from the penance he had performed. He had, to a large extent, suppressed his worldly attachments. He had a highly developed intellect and had become skilled in many arts. And he had surrendered himself to Krishna in true humility.

Krishna decided that Arjuna was ready for the highest wisdom and resolved to turn him into a truly wise being. With the intention that if Arjuna could be corrected, the whole world would benefit thereby, Krishna took great care to give these sacred teachings to Arjuna. Arjuna had both the capacity and the virtue to rise to great spiritual heights. That is the reason he had been given a number of titles. The Sanskrit word arjuna means one who is pure.

Another title Krishna gave Arjuna was the sacred-hearted one; another was the jewel-of-men. Arjuna was such a powerful person that he could, if he wanted to, undertake acts which would terrify the entire world. But Arjuna always acted purely in keeping with righteousness. He earned the right to use a powerful weapon which could not be wielded by any other living person of his day. Originally, this weapon belonged to Lord Shiva. This same fearsome weapon which was originally with Shiva and then with King Janaka in an earlier age, in Krishna and Arjuna's time, became the Gandhiva, Arjuna's formidable bow. By earning the grace of Shiva, Arjuna was able to obtain this magnificent weapon. In every respect Arjuna was an outstanding hero, and it was such a noble and righteous human being that Krishna chose to teach the Gita, so that the entire world would benefit thereby.

It is through your mouth that you offer food to the stomach. Then it is through the stomach that the food reaches the entire body. In the same way as food reaches all the limbs of the body when offered to the stomach, the Gita was given to a pure and selfless person such as Arjuna so that it might reach the entire world. One of Arjuna's names is Parthiva which means son of the earth. All of you are children of the earth. Since Arjuna may be considered an outstanding representative of all mankind, Krishna felt that the whole world would in time be transformed by converting him into a sacred person.

Ordinary Actions, Detached Actions and Sacred Actions

Compared to ordinary actions which are done by thinking of yourself as the doer, actions done without any sense of doership will be much greater. But, an action that is done with complete selflessness, performed impersonally with total indifference and without any attachment - is greater still. But when the action is entirely offered to the Lord, when it becomes a holy sacrifice, it is even more sacred than all of these. Thus, Krishna commanded Arjuna to offer all his acts to the Lord. When Arjuna reached this state of evolution, that is, when Arjuna acted completely selflessly and offered everything he did to the Lord, Krishna began to teach him the Gita.

In the primary stage, every human being has to perform actions and be actively employed in the tasks for which he is suited. One needs to perform action in order not to develop laziness. A lazy person is absolutely useless to the world. Swami does not approve or encourage anyone to be lazy. First, you must perform ordinary actions. Then you should enter into the stage where you perform all your actions without any self-interest. Gradually you transform these actions into yoga, you transform work into worship. This is one of the core teachings of the Gita.

The Gita will give you whatever you are Ready to Receive

It is to utterly destroy selfishness, egoism, arrogance, pride, possessiveness, attachment, hatred and other such poisonous qualities that the Gita has taught the truth in so many ways. In the process, it has helped many different kinds of people to develop a sacred nature. The Gita may be compared to a wish fulfilling tree. Whatever you desire from the Gita it will give. The meaning given to different teachings in the Gita depends on your outlook and stage of spiritual preparation. No one can say that he knows the one correct meaning for a particular verse; no one has the authority to claim that theirs is the only meaning.

The Gita teachings apply to every level of spiritual seeker. Therefore, the Gita may be described as the heart of the Vedanta. It is its very essence. The Gita is a treasure chest of gold; the Gita is a flower-strewn path; the Gita is the support of all earnest seekers and aspirants; the Gita allows them to swim and survive in this sea of worldly life; the Gita helps them to traverse all obstacles and reach their goal. A person who does not care for the Gita misses the very purpose of life.

Whatever be your feelings, the meaning you will derive from the Gita will be commensurate to your level of spiritual development. For example, many of the devotees here will know the Sanskrit chant which is used as an incantation for evoking the blessing of the Lord. Its first line translates, 'to the white attired Lord'. Lord Vishnu is this all pervasive one. He is omnipresent. He is described as ash-colored. He is also described as having the color of the moon, being whitish, which is the same as saying that he has the color of ashes. He has also been described as having four hands and a most pleasing and sacred face, which does not exhibit any feeling of elation or dejection. This is the feeling of believers, and it is in this way that they pray to the Lord. But non-believers may use the very same words, although the image they describe with these words may be completely different.

The Sanskrit word that starts this incantation also refers to the one who carries white clothes. In whatever situation you see this one, you find it does not exhibit any feelings; it is ash-colored, and it has four limbs. One can take these attributes, put them all together and say that these words describe a donkey. A donkey will be carrying white clothes from the washerman, it has four limbs, an ash-colored body and a most patient face. It is not tied down to any place, you can find it roaming in the roads, in front of the house, everywhere. This is the meaning given to these very same words by non-believers. So, whether it is the exalted Lord or a lowly ass, depends on how you look at it, whether you are a devotee or a non-believer, and whether you are interested in or oblivious to such spiritual expressions.

In the same way, the Gita yields up different meanings to different types of people. Based upon the state of your feelings, each of you will get the meaning which is appropriate to the stage you have reached on the spiritual path. So, this Gita is a great wish-fulfilling tree. It is a celestial cow, giving freely of its milk. You can take from it whatever meaning you like, whatever teaching you are ready to absorb. There is plenty of water in the ocean, but the amount of water you can take away from it depends upon the capacity of the vessel that you have brought to fill up. The water will be the same; the difference will only be in the size of the vessel. Likewise, there may be differences in your feelings, but the Gita is only one.

The basic message of the Gita is the same for all; its sacred purpose is to transform humanity into divinity. You should not take such a holy book lightly. You should approach the Gita with a deep feeling of devotion and commitment. You should chant the verses with genuine feeling and understanding. And you should practice daily at least one or two of the precepts given here. Only then will you gain complete fulfillment in your life.

XXXIII. Developing the Inner Vision

Whether you are actively working in the world or have withdrawn from it, the most important consideration is not the work that you do or not do, but how effectively you have been able to uproot and destroy the deep-seated tendencies which lie hidden in your heart.

Embodiments of Love,

The principal objective of all spiritual practices is the removal of the deep-seated negative thought forms, impure habits, tendencies, and predispositions, which in Sanskrit are called the vasanas, and which have encased themselves deeply within you. They manifest in your thoughts and actions as the twin evils of attachment and hatred, or attraction and repulsion. You must cleanse yourself of all trace of these evils which have harbored themselves inside you.

You cannot Run from your Inner Enemies

If you just run away to the forest or to a cave without performing the appropriate exercises to remove your inner enemies, then, whether you like it or not, all your latent tendencies will continue to produce thoughts and actions that bind you. These impurities will lie there as seeds in your heart and prompt a stream of thoughts that will be saturated with likes and dislikes, desires and delusions. As a result, you end up forgetting your true human nature.

The Gita has shown that if you can root out the entrenched tendencies that cling to your heart, then you are free to perform any action without concern for the results. From that point on, you will not be bound by any actions that you may become engaged in. In other words, you will be freed completely from the fruits of your actions. People who do not understand this truth and end up renouncing all outside activities become mired in sloth and laziness. But the Gita has repeatedly warned that there is no room at all for laziness in the world of the spirit.

What the Gita teaches is the yoga of impersonal action, in which you remain totally detached and free of any personal interest in the work that you do and in the results that accrue from it. It means working with full concentration to the limits of your capacity for excellence, but orienting all your actions to the service of God and remaining established in God-consciousness. You will not be able to reach this high stage of desirelessness in your actions and renunciation of the fruits of your labors, as long as your vasanas which have arisen from past actions are unfavorable for spiritual progress.

Transform all Self-serving Actions into Selfless Actions

You must first remove the negative tendencies which have driven all your ordinary, self-serving actions that have kept you bound, and replace these negative tendencies with positive, noble qualities which are associated with beneficial and selfless actions. Then, when you are firmly established in the stage of selfless service, wherein you perform only good actions, you can go on to the higher stage where you renounce the fruits of all your actions. From there, you will naturally rise to the stage of totally selfless, impersonal yoga. At that stage, you make sure that all your actions are of the highest purity and then you offer them all up to the divinity, to do with as the divinity wishes.

What is the inner secret of performing work? It is the Gita's proclamation that only through positive, laudable activities can the negative tendencies be removed. The Gita advises you to be engaged only in good actions so that you will steadily purify your heart. But it goes further than that. It asserts that true purity of heart can be achieved only by dedicating all your actions to the Lord. Every action that you perform must be offered to God; only then can your heart be fully cleansed. Consider an example.

When food is eaten after having been cooked and prepared in different ways, it is just ordinary food, and you are subject to the good or bad effects of eating that food. However, if special care is taken in the preparation of this food to make sure that it is pure and worthy of being offered to the divinity, and then, before consuming it, it is offered with full heart to God, then it becomes consecrated food. From that point on, this will no longer be ordinary food. Consuming it will confer divine blessings, for it will be the sacred gift of the divinity.

By the same token, all the many activities performed by you during the day fall into the category of ordinary actions. But when you perform these same actions, even if they are just little acts, with the intention of making them an offering to God, devoting their results not to your own pleasure but for the pleasure of the Lord, then your actions become sacred actions. In other words, your karma becomes karma yoga. It is only through such karma yoga that you will be able to rid yourself of all evil tendencies and make your heart pure.

Purify your Actions before Offering them to God

What should be the qualities of the actions you offer at the feet of the Lord? How sacred should they be? Before an object is offered to an ordinary individual, you see to it that it has some utility, that it has some value, that it is pure and that it will be cherished. In other words, that it will be received with joy. That being the case in offering something to another individual, then how much more care should you take in making an offering to the Lord! How very pure and extremely fulfilling it must be! One must not offer all types of objects and all types of actions to the Lord. Before you offer anything to the Lord, you must first make it pure, you must make it sacred and great. Then it will be a fit offering for the Lord.

For example, if you want to offer a rose to the Lord, you first select a beautiful, fragrant bloom. Then you remove the insects from the flower. Next you remove the thorns and any imperfect leaves from the stem; and in a number of other ways you make your offering as beautiful and as pure as possible. Only then do you offer it to the Lord. Every action you perform should be like this flower which you offer to the Lord. Just as a fine fragrance is inherent in the flower you offer, so also your actions must be saturated with the fragrance of love and sacredness. Just as the flower that you offer is beautiful and pure, so also your actions must be good and pure. Such is true karma yoga. The Gita prompts you to offer only such kinds of action to the Lord.

You must be able to distinguish between wise action and unwise action, and for that you must understand the difference between wisdom and ignorance. You must develop your wisdom until it expands and merges with the cosmic wisdom, the divine wisdom. Anyone who wants to directly experience the Lord must develop this wisdom, and along with it a number of important qualities.

The Characteristics of an Enlightened Being

These qualities of a person endowed with spiritual wisdom are patience, determination, purity of body and mind, selfless love, an everpresent awareness and yearning for the indwelling divinity, and the six qualities which are known as the spiritual treasuresãnamely, control of the mind, control of the senses, renunciation of selfish desires, endurance and indifference to all kinds of opposites such as pain and pleasure, an unshakable faith in the sacred teachings and contentment derived from a steady, unwavering mind. Let us consider the first of these qualities: patience.

Patience or forbearance is one of the most important characteristics that every person should practice and possess. Many kings have been destroyed because they abandoned this quality of patience. Even great sages have lost all their spiritual merit because they neglected this quality. Countless scholars have come to ruin because they overlooked this invaluable characteristic. Patience can be thought of as the most important shield and armor for facing the battle of life. You quickly lose all your human qualities if you lose patience. As you have already seen, the quality of patience is an extremely important sign of a great person; without patience it would not be possible to become an enlightened being.

A resolute nature, in other words, the quality of determination and being endowed with a firm resolve, is the pre-condition for developing patience. Now, a resolute nature should not be associated with stubborn foolishness. In matters relating to the spirit, firmness and a resolute nature refer to a mind that is free from delusion and unsteadiness.

Whatever obstacle is encountered, whatever troubles and problems arise, with a resolute nature you will remain firmly committed to pursue the tasks which you have undertaken until you achieve your final goal. If you do not have this quality of determination, then patience will have no basis and cannot develop in strength. Patience and determination are twins; one cannot exist without the other. Without determination, patience cannot establish itself, and without patience, determination will degenerate into arrogance.

Next, let us consider purity. Just as you undertake various actions to purify your body, so also you must undertake various good actions to purify your mind. Through these acts, you can remove the attachments and desires that have polluted your mind with egoism. Only when these negative qualities are eliminated will you be able to achieve self-control. Just as a tortoise is free to loosen its limbs and come out of its shell, or to withdraw itself back into its shell, in the same way, you should be able to control your senses and use them when you need them. The Gita has affirmed that these are also very important qualities of a wise person.

By their Actions People will Reveal their Inner Natures

It is in the field of action or karma that you most patently reveal your character and the type of human being you are. That is why so much importance has been given to performing all your actions without attachment to the fruits. Just as a mirror can show you the type of face you have, your actions will reveal the type of inner feelings you have. When you have some dealings with others, you can easily find out the type of people they are by examining their actions.

People may appear to be very fair, to be serene and mild, and have a very peaceful disposition; in other words, they appear to have a satvic nature. They may also appear to be individuals ready to undergo great personal sacrifice. You may believe that they are blessed with a sacred heart. But their actions may prove them to be otherwise. Their actions may be totally devoid of love and compassion and true caring and consciousness of others. Their actions may reveal an animal nature or even a demonic nature. Through their actions their hidden nature is revealed.

Other people, by the outer impressions they first make, may seem to be cruel. You may feel that they are curt and abrupt and lacking in civility or gracious manners. They may appear, in every way, to be very rajasic or even tamasic, the lower animal-like qualities previously-discussed. But, if in their actions people exhibit compassion and other great human qualities, then you must conclude that they are truly satvic in nature. So, if you want to ascertain whether a particular person is predominantly satvik, rajasic, or tamasic in nature, whether his inner being is serene and selfless, or desire-ridden and quick to react negatively, or slothful, vicious and mean, then you need only to observe his actions. People's actions will unmistakably reveal their inner nature.

The Gita has pointed out the type of actions that should be performed in daily life. The Gita has not commanded you to renounce everything, take up sanyasa, by which is meant that you detach yourself from all worldly possessions and interests, and go to the forest. Rather, the Gita has shown that an important duty and responsibility of every human being is to undertake useful activities in the world. Furthermore, the Gita proclaims that the secret of human life is to recognize and follow the path of dharma, which means engaging yourself in selfless and sacred actions that promote the welfare of your fellow human beings.

The Gita declares that human life lies in action; you would not even be able to sustain the body if you abstained from all actions. Therefore, every ordinary human being, as well as every spiritual aspirant, should enter into the field of activities and work. But the actions which you perform must be sacred actions; they must conform to the principle of dharma.

You have to convert your activities into karmas which are useful to others. You have to perform actions which are ideal, and you have to practice such ideal actions without any selfish motive. They must originate not from the compulsive drive of desire, but from the peaceful quality in your heart, devoid of self-interest and attachment to the fruits. Only then can your actions be considered satvic in nature. Ordinary people will not be able to perform actions completely without desire. You will have to orient your actions and your desires towards the purpose of seeking and experiencing God. When that sacred orientation becomes the basis of all your activities, then your karma becomes yoga. That will lead you straight on the path to your goal of becoming one with the divinity.

The Spell of Illusion and its two Powerful Forces

However, involved with all your actions, there will be the spell of maya or illusion which will frustrate your efforts to reach your divine goal. There are two powerful forces which make up maya; these are the veiling power and the projecting power. There is no particular form or shape to these two. First, consider the veiling or covering power. How does it cover? With what does it cover? How can you uncover this thing which it has covered? If it does not have form itself, by what means does it cover? How can it be removed? These are all questions that cannot be answered.

Maya is mysterious and inexplicable. Delusion and confusion are its very nature. Consider a rope lying on the road. In the darkness you are deluded into believing that this rope is a snake. What is it that has covered the rope? Try to understand what happened. You were suddenly filled with a feeling of fear because you imagined a snake lying on the road before you. So, it was in your mind that the rope got converted into a snake and you got frightened. Is the snake really there? No, there is no snake there. Then how can the rope be converted into a thing which does not exist and never has existed? This is the delusion.

Under what circumstances does this delusion exert its influence on you? It is during twilight or in the dark that you imagine you see the snake when there is only a rope there. It is through darkness that the delusion comes and envelops you. In truth, no snake has replaced the rope, but the delusion beclouds the minds of human beings and obscures their clear perception. This delusion is maya. When you shine your light on the area, you find no snake there; there is only a rope lying there. Thus, in the light, delusion disappears and the real object is seen.

That which exists will always exist; it will never cease to exist. It remains unchanged forever. There cannot be even the slightest variation in its existence. It is only the delusion affecting it which comes and goes. The form that this delusion takes in the mind is the second powerful force of maya, the projecting power, which superimposes imaginary creations and objects on the unchanging basis. In this case the projection was the snake. Another time it will be something else.

Moods, pains, pleasures, all come and go. They are something like relatives that come to visit you but do not stay permanently. In the same way, this maya comes and goes as a delusion for human beings. The delusion in your mind which covers the rope and hides it from view is the veiling power. The illusion which has been projected by your mind onto the rope is the projecting power. With the help of the light you see the rope as rope, and the snake vanishes. So these two aspects of maya have come in the darkness and have disappeared in the light.

The Power of Maya to Delude can be Permanently Dispelled

Do these two powers of illusion always come at the same time, or can they come at different times? The veiling power and projecting power may appear and disappear at the same time, but, as happens in deep sleep when there is only the veiling power, they may appear and disappear at different times, also. Maya is inexplicable. It has no beginning. But it can permanently come to an end. When the light of wisdom shines on it, maya will finally disappear. Then the one unchanging reality will stand revealed. By teaching this great wisdom to Arjuna, Krishna was able to free him from delusion and helped him shine with the inner light.

Then as now, you are developing only superficial understanding and outer vision. But it is the inner vision that is important; it alone is true and sacred. You lose sight of the one reality, of your own truth, because you pay attention only to the impermanent outer vision and completely forget the permanent inner vision. God's mission is to restore this sacred inner vision. This is what he does when he comes as avatar.

Krishna said, "Dear one, whatever actions you perform during the time you are on this earth, know that they are all impermanent. In time, you will discover that everything in this world is temporary. Your relationships, your attachments, your accomplishments, the sense of individuality you have developed, are all going to disappear. Everything gets washed away in the flow of time. If you try to catch hold of things and cling to things which are themselves being carried away by this flow of time, what chance is there for you to be saved? What chance is there for you to reach that perfection which is forever unaffected by this flow, and which not only is never subject to it, but is always its master?

"Arjuna, the things you are holding on to are all being washed away. Develop the firm conviction that in attaching yourself to temporary things you are wasting your life, that you are wasting the sacred opportunity that has been given to you to reach the permanent state that is your true reality. Surrender yourself to the divinity, hold on to that permanent entity always established in your heart, and you will surely gain the eternal joy, the bliss divine."

A Pure Heart is Free of Attachment and Illusion

In this way, Krishna urged Arjuna to free himself from the attachments and illusions that were confounding him. Krishna said, "Arjuna, you yourself must purify your heart and remove the veil of ignorance that is beclouding you. Take to the path of righteous action, work for the welfare of the world and dedicate every act to me, your very self, residing in your heart."

There is no royal road for human life leading to spiritual awakening other than through karma yoga, through the path of sacred action. You will be able to enter the path of devotion only after you have laid a firm foundation through good actions. And only after you have purified your feelings and developed your devotion will you be able to enter the path of wisdom and proceed on to the highest level of God-realization. It is in the arena of action that you lay the groundwork for reaching up to the loftiest regions of the spirit, or plunging yourself down to the lowest depths of sorrow. Your good or bad circumstances are inextricably linked with your actions.

As part of your activities, you may perform the various scripturally-prescribed sacrifices and ceremonial rituals. But, as previously mentioned, these can take you only up to heaven. Krishna informed Arjuna that there was a state which was far beyond and far more sacred than heaven. "Do not consider heaven as a permanent place,"

Krishna said. "When you have exhausted your merits you will have to leave heaven and return to earth. Heaven is only a temporary camp; you will not be able to reside there permanently. Perhaps you think that in heaven you will be able to enjoy so many bodily and mental pleasures. But, in truth, the pleasures you get there are only a little greater than those you get here on earth. There is a state which is far, far beyond; far more sacred. That state may be reached by identifying yourself with God, by associating yourself with the atma, by merging your small individual self with your highest eternal self. In order to attain this state you will have to become totally desireless and selfless; you will have to perform all your actions without expecting any fruits from them."

Actions without Attachment to the Fruits

Whenever you perform an action, there will always be a consequence, a resultant fruit from that effort. However, there is no rule that says that you alone should enjoy the fruit of your actions. A grandfather might have planted a seed which subsequently developed into a fruit tree. And this grandfather might have died before the tree produced any fruit. But the fruit of the tree might have been enjoyed by his grandchildren, some time later. Here is a case where a person performing an action did not personally enjoy the fruit; but some others had the chance to enjoy them.

The grandfather might have knowingly planted the tree without ever expecting to enjoy the fruit; he undertook the task originally with the broadminded view that the tree in the courtyard would give fruit to the generations who came along later; fruit which would be greatly enjoyed by them. And so, the fruit of his broadminded action was reaped by succeeding members of his family.

With what motive did the grandfather plant this particular tree? He might have done it with the slightly selfish motive that it would give enjoyment to members of his family. But the selfishness that comes from doing everything only for your own enjoyment is much baser and meaner than this grandfather's slight tinge of selfishness. The inner urge which leads you to undertake actions which are primarily for the welfare of others is always greater and nobler than the narrow feelings that lead you to act completely selfishly, expecting to derive all the benefits of your actions only for yourself. In this sense, the grandfather's action must be considered far superior to that of an individual who acts only for himself.

But, clearly, there is an even greater action, one that goes beyond all selfish considerations; that is when you perform an action as an offering to God. That is the greatest of all actions and that is what you should strive for. You should endeavor to perform all your actions selflessly and disinterestedly, offering them to God, without expecting to reap any of the fruits. Such action is truly yoga.

From Ordinary Actions to Buddhi Yoga to Karma Yoga

Using your intellect to plan out an action, the fruits of which would benefit someone else, as was the case of the grandfather planting a tree that was enjoyed by future generations of his family, can be called buddhi yoga. In buddhi yoga, you inquire into the consequences of your actions, and thereby base your actions on the reasoning power of your intellect. Intellect goes far beyond the narrow selfish considerations of the lower mind and the senses. But even here there is still a tinge of selfishness.

When you are completely free of all selfishness, totally indifferent to the results, acting effectively and with full concentration, but without any attachment or desire, and offering all your actions to God, then you are practicing karma yoga; that is far superior to buddhi yoga. Such a high state is not easily accessible to ordinary people. But that does not mean that you should give up trying to attain it. With whole-hearted effort and with God's grace, seemingly impossible things can be achieved. If you persist in your efforts, then with practice you will be able to reach this high level of karma yoga in all your activities.

To succeed in this, the inner vision must be developed. In order to firmly establish that inner vision, you must keep a particular principle constantly in mind. It is this: no matter how hard you search, whether it be in this physical world or in the world of your dreams and imaginations, or any other world, all you will ever see, wherever you look, will be combinations and variations of the five elements, either in their gross or subtle forms. They are the only things you will ever be able to find anywhere. There can never be anything else; there is no such thing as a sixth element.

These five elements are all reflections of the unlimited effulgence of God. They are his aspects. Their basis is the one divine principle. Therefore, perform all your actions with full consciousness, regarding all objects in the world not as the different, multifarious names and forms that they appear to be, but as mere combinations of the five elements, energized and illuminated by the one divine principle. When you know that, when you see everything in the world to be the sacred manifestation of divinity, then all your actions will automatically become offerings to God.

By keeping such lofty ideas in view while performing your actions, you effectively turn your vision from the limited outer vision to the liberating inner vision, and thus become a sacred human being. Constantly reflecting, in this manner, on the divinity that is everywhere, is the best way to develop the inner vision that will establish you in karma yoga. But such inner vision is very rare among people; even the greatest pundits and scholars are steeped only in the outer vision. Here is a story that illustrates this.

Astavakra at the Assembly of Scholars

Once upon a time, King Janaka called an assembly of great scholars. Noted academicians participated. Famous pundits and logicians came from all over the realm. Scholars of renown, who were extremely articulate in their arguments, streamed in. A number of highly gifted persons who were capable of impressing the whole world with their intellectual and verbal prowess came to the great hall of the palace where the assembly was being held. This assembly was composed of such giants that there was no room at all for ordinary people to enter.

The daily meetings were presided over by King Janaka himself. Of the highly select group in attendance, only the most outstanding and accomplished were given an opportunity to speak and present their views. Into this magnificent and august assembly, young Astavakra, a young boy with a hideously deformed body, sought to gain admission. But who would permit Astavakra to enter? He did not have any credentials or any recommendation whatsoever. He did not have the help of any great teacher or sponsor. The only help he had was his deep faith in God.

Whoever has an abiding faith in God will not be put to any insurmountable difficulties. Temporarily there may be some obstacles, but in the end he is sure to meet with success. For three days Astavakra waited at the gate of King Janaka's palace through which all the participants to the great assembly entered. There, while waiting, Astavakra observed all the world-famous scholars who were coming to attend the meeting. Although only recognized scholars were being allowed inside, Astavakra was not prepared to give up his resolution to join the assembly and participate in its deliberations. 'I, too, have a chance,' he said to himself and continued to wait patiently at the gate, day after day.

There was one observant and sympathetic old scholar who noticed Astavakra standing by that gate whenever he entered and exited through it, morning and evening. The kindly old scholar informed King Janaka of the boy's presence. He told King Janaka that there was someone standing outside waiting for days to enter the assembly, although he did not have any of the usual qualifications necessary for being permitted inside. He told the king that this was not an elderly scholar, nor even a middle-aged one, but a very young person who did not seem to have much experience and who did not wear any of the accepted marks of achievement in scholarship, nor was he personally recommended by any of the pundits present. In short, nothing was known of this person or his qualifications except that he had been continuously waiting to come inside.

King Janaka directed his attendants to find the boy who was waiting at the gate outside and to bring him into the assembly hall. Shortly after King Janaka had taken his seat and the meeting began in the solemn and sacred atmosphere befitting such an august assembly, Astavakra entered the hall. The moment they saw this young boy with such a crooked form come to take part in the assembly, most of the great scholars who had gathered there began to laugh. King Janaka, who was keenly observing Astavakra as he entered, did not laugh.

Astavakra carefully looked around the hall, and then quite inexplicably started laughing even louder than the scholars who were seated there. This loud burst of laughter from Astavakra was quite inadmissible and greatly surprised the scholars. It became a real problem for them. 'Why should this young scamp be laughing at us?' they thought. 'There certainly is reason enough for our laughter, considering how funny he looks, but there is nothing at all strange about us, so what conceivable reason does he have for all this laughter?' They were very disturbed and irritated by what they considered the boy's impertinence.

You find this to be a rather common experience in the world, that when ordinary people see someone who has a physical defect which gives him a crooked appearance or makes him appear strange or unusual, they are inclined to laugh. Such gross behavior can only be considered a sign of ignorance. It is totally different from the warm smile of an innocent child. A small child will smile at any person, regardless of their appearance. When the child smiles, every other person seeing this child will also smile along with it. Such a child's smile, which infects everyone who sees it, arises from the sacredness of innocence. But in that assembly hall, the laughter that Astavakra met with was very different from a child's innocent smile. That hall was packed full with very great and noted scholars, persons of exceptional accomplishments in learning; but there was no child-like innocence to be found there.

The assembled scholars were eagerly waiting to find out why this strange-looking young lad who had just come in was laughing so loudly. One of the scholars was bold enough to speak to Astavakra. He asked, "Young stranger, who are you? We do not know you. When we looked at you as you came in, your form made us laugh. In response to our laughter, you are laughing even more loudly. What is the reason for this? What is so ludicrous about all the renowned scholars seated here that you have not stopped laughing even for a moment?"

Without Inner Vision they were Shoemakers not Scholars

Astavakra replied, "I entered this gathering thinking it to be a sacred assembly convened by the famous Emperor Janaka to discuss the holy scriptures. If only I had known what kind of people were attending this assembly, I would not have bothered to come. I waited patiently for many days and then entered this hall thinking that the greatest living scholars would be assembled here. I looked forward to being in the company of such sacred souls. But, alas, I find nothing but common cobblers here, only shoemakers, who stitch sandals and work with leather."

When they heard this, all the scholars became furious, feeling deeply insulted by Astavakra for using such abusive words. But Astavakra continued in the same vein, "Cobblers is the proper word to describe you. Only cobblers, only people who work with hides would think about the worth of a particular skin; others will not be bothered about it. All of you are laughing at my skin and have obviously decided that it is not worth much. But not even one of you has made any effort to know my spiritual understanding. Pundits should have the capacity to look inward, but you only seem to care about the outer covering. If you have not developed your inner vision but are only concerned with the superficial outer vision, then you cannot be considered scholars at all. Then you are only cobblers, shoemakers, specialists in hides." Thus spoke Astavakra.

The scholars hung their heads in shame. King Janaka, who understood very well what Astavakra was saying, invited him to take a seat in that assembly and subsequently bestowed numerous honors upon him.

As was the case then, so is the case now throughout the world. However great people may be, they have developed only the external vision. They do not bother to cultivate the inner vision. When you examine a person, you pay attention to his physical features, his wealth, his status, his education and degrees and so on. On the other hand, when God examines a person, he looks at the purity of his heart, he pays attention to the peace that is within him. You should also develop such inner vision and inner peace. Whatever be the circumstances, you should not be subject to quick excitement. You should allow time for the nobler feelings to well up from inside you and manifest themselves.

Let all the Poisons emerge Without Interference

Suppose someone insults you what will you lose by their insult? You should not respond to such insults with any agitation or excitement. If you remain peaceful, all the anger of the other person may freely pour out. But if you try to obstruct others' strong feelings by preventing them from venting their anger, it could possibly lead to a dangerous situation. Consider, as an example, that someone has become sick, that he is feeling quite nauseous and is throwing up the contents in his stomach. What is the reason for his being sick and vomiting? It is because some impurities, some toxic substances have entered his stomach. Wherever there are impurities you will soon find germs or poisons, and along with them come sickness and diminution of health. For this reason, it is most important that no impurities enter your system.

The body is carefully arranged to immediately throw up and expel any toxins that attempt to enter it. When the body reacts naturally by vomiting out the poisons, it would be incorrect to give medicines to stop that vomiting. If medicine is given, the toxins will not be thrown up; instead they will remain in the stomach and soon poison the whole system. Therefore, one should allow all the impurities to come out and not obstruct them by giving medicine which suppresses the nausea. After all the impurities have been thrown up, then one can give some healing medicines.

Once the vomiting and nausea are over, a person will feel very weak. Then he will do whatever you ask; that is when he will obey you. So this is the best procedure to follow when someone is vomiting out poison. The same thing applies whenever someone is very angry and is vomiting out poison, in that form. Let them do it; do not obstruct them. Whatever they want to say, let them say it as long as they want to. Until such time as it all comes out, you should remain peaceful and patient. Why should you subject yourself to a lot of disturbance and excitement? Instead of becoming upset, your patient attitude will actually promote feelings of peace and happiness within you. This itself is the experience of heaven, namely. to maintain your equanimity and compassion under all circumstances. Why should you deny yourself the joy of such heavenly feelings?

Patience is a most important quality. Of all the good qualities a person can have, patience and forbearance rank at the very top. Baba has said a number of times that forbearance is truth, forbearance is righteousness, forbearance is nonviolence, forbearance is happiness. Forbearance really is equal in value to everything that you can find in all the worlds. If a person has forbearance, then he will be able to acquire all the other important qualities such as mind control, sense control, renunciation, fortitude, faith and equipoise. All these make up the state of inner purity.

You use soap and water and powders and perfumes of various kinds to purify yourself externally. In the same way, you develop these six spiritual treasures and put them into daily practice in order to purify yourself internally. Inner purity is extremely important; it is even more important than outer purity. The Lord is ever present both inside and outside. The entire place where the Lord is to be found must be purified and sanctified, both inner and outer. Then the indwelling God will protect you wherever you go.

The six Spiritual Treasures

Krishna taught Arjuna all the qualities which make one an ideal person, firmly established in wisdom. They have been previously mentioned but let us examine them once again. They are:

 

  1. peace of mind,
  2. sense control,
  3. renunciation of desires,
  4. fortitude under all circumstances this means that whatever be the test, whatever be the circumstances, you maintain a steady, undeluded and unwavering mind,
  5. a firm faith in the teachings of the scriptures, as well as in the words of the guru and the great saints who have trod the spiritual path before you, and
  6. being contented under all circumstances and having complete equanimity of mind.

Only when you have equanimity of mind will you be able to develop firmness and fortitude. Only when you have fortitude will you be able to develop firm faith. Only when you have intense faith will you have some sacred feelings and renounce desires. Only when you have disgust for the objects of the world will you have sense control. Then when you have achieved sense control, you will gain peace of mind. Where there is peace of mind there is inner and outer purity. And where there is inner and outer purity, patience will be second-nature to you and you will dwell automatically in that peaceful state. Therefore, you must make an effort to develop these basic qualities which are so vital to progress on the spiritual path.

By reading or listening to these teachings on the Gita, or even committing various passages to memory, you will not be able to achieve much. Along with these activities of the mind, you have to put at least one or two of the injunctions given here into practice. Only then will the fragrance of the Gita enter your heart. It is Baba's wish that all these great teachings which you have been enjoying be put into practice by you, so that they can become your inner treasure and be an integral part of your expression in all your day-to-day activities.

XXXIV. Remove Body-Counsciousness - Realize God-Consciousness

The world is filled with God. Saturated as it is with the divinity, the world is also filled with karma or action. Karma is the power of creation, the power of life; it is a power directly derived from God. You come into human birth in order to reap the fruits of your previous actions. In that way, actions lead to rebirth and then to more actions, thereby, keeping you bound to the cycle of birth and death. To free yourself from this bondage, should you engage in actions or should you abstain from actions? The Gita makes the answer clear. The path to liberation is through karma, through action. But it enjoins you to turn all your actions into karma yoga, sacred action which will take you towards union with God.

Embodiments of Love,

When the power of life takes on manifestation, it becomes a body. Life, which wears these various bodies, has also been called karma. The Sanskrit word karma means work or action; but karma refers not only to the action itself but also to the cycle of action and reaction, of work and its resulting fruits. Your body is formed on the basis of the karma or actions that you performed in an earlier birth. You get this human body and this life in order to enjoy or suffer the consequences of actions that you were engaged in during another life.

The body is directly associated with karma; it has no meaning outside of karma. Body means karma, and karma means body. It is through the body that every conceivable kind of action is performed. The place and the time where these actions occur are within nature or the world. When actions become sacred and righteous, when they are selfless and of the highest purity, and when they have been offered to God, then they become yoga; they lead to union with God. So, you can see, that in action God, man and nature all come together.

You perform Actions in order to Sanctify your Life

Everything in the world is the result of karma. That is why the ancient wisdom teachings have declared, 'Offer your prostrations to karma'. Whatever happens is the consequence of some previous action, in other words, the result of karma. And, be they good or bad, be they virtuous or evil, all karmas, all actions are derived from the powers of God. The expression may be different but in the deepest sense, everything comes from God. That is the reason why a yogi, without caring whether it is favorable or unfavorable, accepts everything that happens to him as the will of the Lord, and considers the performance of righteous action as his primary duty.

The purpose for which you should be performing all your actions is to sanctify your life. It is only through God's grace that you gain the privilege to engage in righteous actions. It is through the teachings of the Lord that you get this sacred opportunity and direction. It is for that reason that this holy scripture is called the Gita. Gita means song. It is the song of the Lord. All those who listen to this song will be able to overcome grief and sorrow. Whether it be on the battlefield or on some other field, wherever this sacred song is sung, grief and sorrow will be dispelled.

When actions are performed as offerings to God, they become yoga. This is revealed in the prayer given by a great saint who sang,

O beloved Lord. You are the atma, my very self. My body is your house. All my daily duties are my offerings to you. My life's breath is your praise. Wherever I walk I am circumambulating you. Whatever word I utter is a mantra in adoration of you. Every karma I perform is done as worship unto you.

This saint had purified every action performed by his sense organs and offered these actions to the Lord; thereby; all his deeds became acts of worship. When you transform your actions into sacred actions, suitable as offerings to God, then your actions will bring you into alignment with God; they will become yoga. You need to recognize the greatness inherent in such yoga and strive to purify every act you perform and offer it to the Lord. On the eve of the great war, Krishna commanded Arjuna, "Arjuna you must fight this war. But while doing so, think continuously of me and make every action pure and offer it to me. That is what pleases me." Obeying the commands of the Lord, Arjuna fought on the battlefield to preserve righteousness, keeping Krishna steadily in his mind.

Make all your Actions a Sacrifice not a Battle

To reach your spiritual goals, you need to obtain God's love. In fact, for a devotee, pleasing the Lord is itself the goal. It becomes your most important duty. You must make sure that every act you perform will satisfy the Lord. Krishna taught, 'Obey my commands and perform your duty.' In obeying the commands of the Lord and fighting in the war, Arjuna's actions became a sacred yagna, a sacrificial ritual which exalts the divinity and immerses one in the divine flow of grace. In contrast, there is a story in one of the epics of Daksha who wanted to perform a yagna, a ritual sacrifice. However, he disobeyed and disrespected Lord Shiva, and he also violated the commands of the holy sages. With a sense of egoism and attachment, he commenced the sacrifice. His egoism converted that sacrifice into a war.

You see that because Arjuna obeyed the Lord's commands and fought in the war, his battle became a sacred sacrifice. But for Daksha, who performed his sacrifice in violation of the Lord's commands, his sacrifice became a battle. What is a war and what is a sacrifice? All actions that are pure and selfless, and performed as an offering to the Lord, become a sacrifice. But actions which are undertaken in violation of the Lord's command, which are contrary to the scriptures and which are performed with a sense of egoism and pomposity, undertaken only for the purpose of promoting one's desires or hatreds ...all such actions become a war, even though the nature of the action may be that of a sacrifice. When the anguish and hatred in a person takes form in words, and these words, in turn, lead to argument and counter argument, then a battle will soon ensue. The root of all this is attachment and desire, arising from identification with the body.

You are the Atma, You are not this Body

Krishna said, "Arjuna, obey my commands. Give up body consciousness. Give it up completely. Stop identifying yourself with your body. The body is full of mucus and filth. You are not this body; it is only temporary and transient. You are the witness, the indweller, the atma inside this body. This six-foot frame is not you. You are the cosmic personality; you are boundless. This body is subject to birth and death. You, however, are the atma which is birthless and deathless. You are not a limited individual, subject to the passage of time. You are that most effulgent form which has conquered and mastered time itself. Discriminate between the permanent and the impermanent! Inquire into wisdom and ignorance! Distinguish between truth and untruth!"

Krishna continued, "Arjuna, recognize your real nature! Censure and praise are associated with the body; they are not permanent. Profit and loss are also associated with the body. They are a result of activity, of karma, but they are not characteristics of your essence, the atma. Be indifferent to all these polarities. Treat joy and sorrow equally. Only when you develop this kind of equal-mindedness, will you be able to realize true fulfillment and become a truly wise being." In this way, Krishna taught Arjuna the highest wisdom, the discrimination between truth and untruth, the recognition of that which is permanent behind all that which is impermanent.

God in Human Form is not limited to the Avatars

God is everywhere. He is all-knowing, he is all-pervasive, he is all-powerful. He is not limited to the body. His power is not limited to the karma performed through bodies. The divinity is not just a particular body called Rama, born in a particular age, or another body called Krishna, born in another age. Those incarnations served as exemplary models for mankind to follow. But, the principle of divinity is not limited to any given body. The divinity is omnipresent and omniscient.

Again and again this truth has been taught to mankind. Krishna spoke of this to Arjuna. He said, "Arjuna, in remote antiquity, in many ages gone by, I have taught this Gita to the sun god. Then others in a long lineage of sacred beings came to know of the Gita when the sun god passed it on to the many great sages of those times. But thereafter, slowly and gradually, this knowledge became hidden and was finally lost. But it is this same ancient, sacred knowledge that I am now teaching to you here today."

When Arjuna heard this, a number of doubts entered his mind. He began thinking, "The sun god is a very ancient entity. Krishna was born only recently in this present age. How could Krishna have taught the sun god who is so ancient?" As soon as Arjuna had these thoughts, Krishna, who knows all minds and all hearts, spoke up immediately. He said, "Well, Arjuna, I know your doubts." With a smile on his lips, he continued, "You see, Arjuna, I am not this particular body. I am the one who has no birth. I transcend all time and space. I am not limited by circumstance. I exist in all ages, in all times. Basing your conception of me on my body, you are thinking that I belong to this particular age. But all these ages and all these eons are within me. Do not try to limit me to this body and to a given time. Bodies change but I never change. I take on different bodies, at different times, in order to perform karma and to fulfill a particular mission." The moment Arjuna heard this, spiritual understanding dawned within him and he recognized the timeless, unchanging principle of divinity.

Expand your View of Yourself to Understand the Divinity

All people will not be able to understand the omniscience of God. Even spiritually-minded people will base their view only on the visible outward actions of the Lord, thinking of him as an individual entity associated with a given form. Since they identify themselves with their own bodies, so they also identify the Lord with a particular body. They speculate on the future of this particular divine incarnation and fail to recognize the omnipresence and omniscience of the divinity. But this is not right. Krishna commanded Arjuna, "Develop a broad mind and expand your vision. You can start with the concept of the individual personality; but do not get stuck there. Do not waste your entire life thinking only of individuals.

"From the individual, you must move on to the concept of the society, which transcends the individual. Individuality and personality are associated with a limited name and form, but let your mind soar beyond name and form. Reach and experience that divine principle which is your very essence. You are still viewing everything in the framework of duality, and so your life is manifesting only duality. You are caught up in name and form, in subject and object. Make the effort to travel from duality and illusion to complete oneness with the divinity, constantly keeping this highest wisdom of pure non-duality as your goal. Make an effort to see the same divine principle everywhere and in everything, until you realize the ultimate truth that only the atma, which is your very self, is real and that it alone exists."

Buddha taught the same great truth, although he may not have made reference to the Vedas or used Vedantic terms. Nevertheless, he experienced and demonstrated the essential spirit of the Vedas. First he said buddham sharanam gacchami, meaning, 'I take refuge in the buddhi, my power of discrimination.' This deals with the individual; it speaks of the limited personality. Gradually, he added sangham sharanam gacchami, meaning, 'I take refuge in the community, I take refuge in the extended family of spiritually minded beings.' He recognized that feelings associated with individual and personal considerations are selfish and narrow, and cannot take you very far.

Go from the Individual to the Society to the Divinity

You should not consider this individual self as everything; it is only a drop in the ocean. Along these lines, Krishna also directed, "Arjuna, expand your heart and become broad-minded. Include the entire human society within your scope." Society does not have any particular form; it is made up of individuals. When a large number of individuals join together, they become a society. Baba often says, "Expansion is my life." When you expand individual life to infinity it becomes divinity; that is to say, let yourself as an individual multiply and broaden to see the divinity in all, and you will reach divinity. Therefore, Krishna told Arjuna, "Live in society, serve the society, and develop broad-mindedness. Recognize the divinity to be present everywhere, in everyone."

The expansion from the individual to the society does not mean merely shifting your loyalties to a particular group, kinfolk, region, community or country. This is the first step, but you must go beyond that. These will still limit you and not take you all the way to the divinity that is your own truth. Therefore, Buddha added one more step, dharmam sharanam gacchami, meaning, 'I take refuge in dharma, I take shelter in truth and righteousness.'

Dharma, as used here, has a very broad connotation; it refers to the one who supports the entire world. When you investigate the general meaning of the word dharma, you find that it relates to the basic nature of a thing, its essential truth. It refers to the immortal atma, the indwelling divinity. Therefore, the deeper meaning of dharma is found in the true nature of everything, which is divinity. To take refuge in dharma is to become one with all the attributes of divinity. It has been said that maya or illusion is the body of God, but it is more correct to say that dharma is the body of God. It is his very form. That is why Krishna announced, "For establishing dharma I have come again and again." Dharma reveals the broad nature of the divinity in all its glorious aspects.

Krishna directed Arjuna, "Move beyond this short-sighted feeling of individuality. Do not keep this body as the entire basis of your life. It is only a covering, an instrument. It is what you see through your mortal eyes. Broaden your vision. Develop your insight; acquire God-vision. When your vision is filled with God, then the entire creation becomes God for you. Make dharma your vision and your vision will become God-vision; then you will see the entire creation as God."

Krishna continued, elucidating the correct means for practicing dharma, "As an individual you are a prince, belonging to the warrior class. Fighting to protect righteousness and organizing for battle is your duty, your dharma. It would not be right for you to go out and incite a war, but in this case, your evil cousins have declared war against you. My direction to you is that you honor your duty, and while performing your duty, remember me and follow my commands. In that way, all your actions will become suffused with dharma."

The Nature of Dharma

In instructing Arjuna, Krishna revealed the essential form of dharma. "Arjuna, it is the very nature of fire to burn; if it does not have the power to burn, then it is not fire. Similarly, ice has the nature of coolness. If it is not cold, you cannot call it ice. And sweetness is the very nature of sugar. If sweetness is not there, the substance may look like sugar, but it may be salt or it may be flour, but it is not sugar. In the very same way, death is natural for every human body. When the human body moves on to its natural conclusion, why should anyone worry about it?

"Just as burning is natural for fire, coolness is natural for ice and sweetness is natural for sugar, so also death is natural for every human body. Without concerning yourself about the bodies of your relatives, fight this war; but do so keeping the attributes of a truly wise being in mind. If you want to obtain peace, then you must destroy your ego and attachments. And you must also give up your delusions. But do not give up God! He is within you. He is the very source of your being. Attune yourself to him and obey all his commands, and you will recognize the true nature of humanity."

Dharma, the divine quality which is natural to and inherent in man, will itself destroy maya, the illusion of world, individuality and separateness. Previously it was mentioned that the letters in the word man, where by man is meant a true human being regardless of gender, the letter m stands for 'maya removed', the letter a stands for 'atma seen' and the letter n stands for 'nirvana attained'. In other words, remove the ego I, have the vision of the inner Lord and merge in the joy of your immortal divine self, the atma... this is what makes up dharma; this is the essential duty of man. Repeatedly, again and again, you should contemplate on this.

Peace can only be found within Yourself

Peace is not an object which is available in the market place. It is not a thing which can be bought and won, along with a kingdom. It is not a gift which can be given to you by your relatives. Peace is inherent in your own nature; it is within you. Only when you search for it within yourself will you be able to find it. Therefore, get rid of your outward vision and develop inward vision. Outward vision is appropriate to an animal, not a human being. A true human being has inward vision. "Therefore," Krishna commanded Arjuna, "sanctify your life by developing this unique potential of the human beings to turn their minds inwards."

The story has been told of how early in the career of the sage Narada, he was continuously having one type of worry after another. Now, Narada had learned quite a few things. He was a master of all 64 types of learning and had practiced all 64 human skills; and yet he felt no inner peace. He began thinking to himself, 'What is the reason for all this worry, this lack of peace that I am feeling? I have mastered all types of learning, I understand all fields of human knowledge; still, I have not been able to remove my sorrow.' He went to a great sage and asked him to explain the reason for his worries and lack of peace.

The first thing the sage asked Narada was, "What are your qualifications?" Narada replied, "I have learned and mastered every type of education; there is no field of human knowledge which I have not learned." The sage then said, "Well, that is very good. Then you must have learned the knowledge of the self?" Narada replied, "No, except for self-knowledge I have had every kind of education." The sage told Narada, "You can get peace of mind only with the knowledge of the atma. Only when you have learned that supreme knowledge by which you will know everything else, can you be called educated. Otherwise, you remain ignorant, no matter how many fields you have mastered. What is the use of learning so many things without understanding the one thing which is truly essential?" Here is a small example.

For a Marriage there must be a Husband

In a small village there was to be a marriage. The lady of the home where the marriage was to be celebrated, told the neighboring lady, "Dear friend, we are planning to celebrate a marriage at our house in a grand way. We have invited a famous Bombay band. We have also invited a number of noted singers. Several highly gifted cooks will come to prepare food for the occasion. We are planning to put up a very big marriage tent. It will be a truly grand affair. Please come. You will greatly enjoy this marriage. It will be a unique celebration." After hearing all these things, the neighbor lady said, "O, how wonderful. I certainly will come." Then she inquired, "Please tell me, who is the bridegroom?" At this the lady replied, "Well, that has not yet been decided."

For a marriage, the bridegroom is a very important person. If the bridegroom has not been selected, who will be married in the marriage tent? What good is the fine band and cooks and singers and priests when there is no one to be married? First the bridegroom must be chosen, then all these other things take on value. In the same way, if there is no peace of mind, what is the use of having learned so many things? The wise sage told Narada, "Only by acquiring atmic knowledge can you obtain peace of mind."

Today's man is an easy prey for attachment and hatred. He is overwhelmed by the possessive nature and filled with ego. Just look at the state he is in and what he is doing! He considers himself to be the most important being in the world. He deludes himself with the feeling that there is no one greater than he. Because of this delusion he has lost his power of discrimination, and so he has not even been able to reflect on his own confused state. He considers that it is he who is doing everything. He thinks that he can hire the whole world and do with it as he pleases. But it is not he who is running the world. He does not have that power, neither for good nor for evil. The one who is the creator of this world, the one who is the protector of this world, the one who is the father of this world, the one who is the mother of this world, the one who is the Lord of this world... only he has the power and the authority to run it. For this entire moveable and immovable world, there is only one master. This is an all important truth that every human being must recognize.

Use the Hardships you Encounter as Opportunities and Tests

Do not give in to temporary excitements and anger, and thereby lose your peace of mind. Sorrow, loss, pain, worries are all tests to help you rid yourself of your weaknesses. They reveal whether or not you have developed firm faith and patience to endure hardships, and be unaffected by them. There is no use in merely passing examinations conducted by educational institutions. You must pass the examinations presented to you by life itself. It has been said, 'After acquiring all types of education, it is only a fool who doesn't know his own mind.' Whatever learning he might have acquired, a mean person will not acquire any good qualities from it. Then what is the use of all his education? After acquiring a lot of useless knowledge, he has only achieved the faculty for engaging in arguments and counter-arguments.

Why study so many things which have no value at all? Instead, make every effort to learn about that which has no death; that is the education which has lasting value. What is the knowledge which enables you to know that which has no death? That knowledge is the knowledge of atma, and that education is the atmic education. The one who has no death has no birth either. Everything which is born, which has come into existence, undergoes modifications and will eventually die, and thereby lose its form. The entire world and everything in it has a particular form. As it has form, it will undergo change. You should try to reach the state where there is no change at all. To do so you must gain self-knowledge, you must realize the atma.

No Need to Carry your Luggage on your Head

There once was an old, ignorant villager, who left his native place to set off on a long journey. He had never traveled by train before; in fact, in all his life he had never even had a chance to see a train. Now he had come to the railway station and was waiting for the train to arrive. A train made up of many wagons drew into the station. The villager was completely awed by this train. 'It has so many carriages,' he thought to himself, 'and it goes so fast. Look at how easily it balances on those narrow rails that a human being can hardly even walk on.'

Hundreds of passengers were waiting to board the train. The amount of luggage which most of these passengers had brought was very large. The villager sat brooding, thinking to himself, 'How is this train going to be able to carry so many passengers and so much luggage? Why do these people have so much luggage anyway?' Along with the others, the villager entered the train. Putting their luggage on the racks overhead or leaving it on the floor, the passengers took their seats and began chatting and relaxing.

The villager thought to himself, 'How cruel all these people are! Why are they giving so much burden to this poor train by throwing their luggage down in the compartment and relaxing?' So, this old man sat down, keeping all his luggage on his head. It was enough that the train was carrying him; the least he could do was to carry his own luggage and not place any further burden on this heavily-loaded train! A co-passenger asked him, "Sir, why are you carrying your luggage on your head? Why not put it down and be comfortable?" The old man replied, "When the train is carrying so much luggage already, I do not want to add my own luggage also. So I have put it on my head and will carry it myself."

Whatever you do with your luggage, the train will still be carrying both you and your luggage. By keeping the luggage on your head you are not helping the train at all. So you might as well put it down and enjoy your journey. Now, this naive old man had kindness and compassion, but he did not have much intelligence and discrimination.

Krishna told Arjuna, "Though you are highly educated, though you have sense control, though you have accomplished great feats and have developed many skills, you are, nevertheless, experiencing many difficulties. This is because you have not been able to understand the divinity. As long as you do not understand the divinity, you cannot be free from sorrow. If you want to free yourself from sorrow and earn the grace of the Lord, you must obey my commands.

"First of all, remember that you are not the body. These sense organs have no connection with you; they are associated with the body. Use the body for doing work, but do not identify yourself with the body or the work. You have taken birth in this body as the result of your past actions, your karma, and you must use this body for performing karma. So, get up! Arise, Arjuna! Do your duty. Perform actions and offer them all to me. Let me have the consequences of your actions. Shun selfishness, uphold justice, be fixed in faith! That is the dharma from age to age. If you obey my commands, I will take care of you."

Identify yourself with the Divinity not with your Body

Krishna continued, "I want to tell you one other thing, the blind father of these evil cousins of yours had 100 sons, yet in the end there was not even one of them left to perform his funeral rites. What is the reason for this? All these sons were the children of God, but the blind king considered them as his. Arjuna, you are also becoming a brother to him. You are deluding yourself with the idea that this body is yours when it really is not yours, at all. By thinking that you are the body, you are developing the same blind outlook. That is complete ignorance. Unless you drive away this ignorance, you will not be able to realize wisdom. You have to develop discrimination and self-inquiry in order for wisdom to enter into you.

"Within your body is the spiritual heart, and within that heart is God. Also in your body is the individual soul. These two, God and the individual, appearing to live separately inside the body, are playing together, acting out their parts in a grand drama. They come together and go apart again, as directed by the author who has written this play. He assigns all the separate roles of good and bad, virtue and sin. But, in truth, there is only the one divinity that plays all these parts.

"From the standpoint of the body, there is the individualized soul manifested as this particular person of body and mind, and there is God who is the indweller of the heart. As long as you have the delusion of the body, these two, God and the soul remain separate entities enjoying their play with each other. As soon as the delusion disappears, they merge into the one all-pervasive divine principle. When you remove the false delusion of body consciousness, you bring about the union of the individual and God. Then you are established in divine consciousness and enjoy eternal bliss."

Teaching in this way, Krishna was able to impart to Arjuna the knowledge for becoming a wise being and the means for reaching the bliss of non-duality. He said, "Arjuna, always have the sense that everything which exists is one and the same entity. Do not allow the senses to pull you away from this feeling of unity and equanimity. Let your heart be free from sorrow and elation, attachment and hatred. Be unaffected by censure or praise. Treat all people equally."

Krishna told Arjuna, "When you firmly believe that everything in this creation is the manifestation of divinity, then you will become steeped in wisdom and freed from illusion. Then you will have realized the true purpose for which you have been born as a human being. Arjuna! Carry out my commands! See me everywhere! Know me to be your very self, the atma! Realize the atma and be forever free!"