Ignorance and Knowledge

In our life we take decisions both in our personal and professional life. We undertake many work some time on the spurt of the moment, and sometimes after deep deliberations. Yet we are not certain of success of our decisions and actions all the times. We are hit by random events, unexpected happenings that are against our expectation. This is the case even we think that we are taking an informed, knowledgeable decisions. The reason is difference between knowledge and ignorance. Information, partial information, misinformation, lack of information, misconception, dynamics of information all play its part. The oft heard parlance in management corridor, when postmortem of negative events are being dissected is, well, we took decision with the available information at that time and with the understanding of the same.

Is it possible for one to be correct always? Can we know all information upfront by research? Can ignorance be warded off by knowledge? If so what needs to be done and how.   This is playing out at the background of our mind for no one is spared of issue that there have been things that could have been avoided had the information that is known currently had been known then. That is what we call us hindsight bias.

There is this beautiful passage from the book “The philosophy of Sanskrit Grammar” by Prabhat Chandra Chakravarthi attributed to “Barthruhari” that explains the limitation of our understanding and resultant ignorance.

“What should we then do under these anomalous circumstances? Human knowledge is limited by nature. It is not possible for a man to know anything in its entirety. To realise the ultimate essence of a thing lies practically beyond the range of human intelligence and what is almost incontestable is that our knowledge and experience, as Bhartruhari rightly observes are in most cases liable to be inaccurate and imperfect.

Human knowledge is must be remembered, is bound to be of difference types, the same object being variously perceived by difference men. Truth does not reveal itself to all persons. A man’s intelligence, however sharp and far-reaching, does not help him in getting into the real nature of things. If we closely examine our experience, drawn from personal observations, we do not fail to see how often we are deceived by it. knowledge as its comes from experience is subject to error.

As our experience are likely to be false and defective in most of the cases we should not treat them as the basis of our experience, without examining their validity by means of reasoning. Thus what is perceived directly by sense organs required to be fully determined by reasoning. Observations unaided by reasoning are not to be relied on as evidence at all. “

Bharadwaja was a venerable sage in Hindu lineage. Many of the ancient treatise, vedic scriptures are attributed to him. The story is that his thirst for knowledge was insatiable that he could not complete his learning even after repeated birth and he asked for extension of life by hundred years to Lord Siva, ( some say Lord Indra) multiple times so that he can continue his pursuance of knowledge unhindered. Twice it happened. Third time the reply he gets is interesting. The God tells him that, do you see the Mountain Himalaya far off. That is the vastness of knowledge available in Vedas. For our understanding let us say knowledge needed to lead a righteous life. And what you gain in life time is equivalent to the dirt you can hold in your hand.

So when and how did ignorance get attached to us. Do we become knowledgeable all of a sudden the answer is no. Ignorance is a state of illusion.  The knowledge that is inside us has been veiled for reasons unknown to us. Like a brightness in a vessel that shines after cleaning, ignorance has to be removed and knowledge has to be obtained by cleaning out senses, mind and intellect of the dirt and darkness hiding the real beauty, so that knowledge can come out and shine.

So, let us not feel bad for our past mistakes and ignorance that has been the cause for it. We did our best.  And no guarantee that we will not make mistakes in the future.  Yet, let us go ahead and understand our true nature and try to eradicate our misconceptions, lack of knowledge slowly, be it in our daily life or aspirational life by association with wise people, role models, learning from scripture, by our experience, Intellect and intuition. One day we may reach there.

***

Grieving to Surviving

 

Grieving to surviving

Grief sometimes becomes unwanted guest in our life. it strikes you when you least expect it. Loss and pain spares none. Our life is package policy of some action, inaction, happiness, sorrow, growth, decay and that keeps changing constantly. While we can predict that life expectancy is 70 on an average, it also means there are people who live upto 40 only so that someone else can leave up to 100 which we conveniently forget. When you happen to be in unfortunate 40, it attacks one with such a vehemence that one does not know what hit.  What follows loss be it of failure in exam, not getting that coveted job, promotion, losing a girl friend or boyfriend, or death of loved ones, is utter desolation. N amount knowing from story books, movies, games, poetry, why leave philosophy does not prepare one adequately for the reality. Worst of all is the loss of beloved.

On death of loved ones, what follows is ethereal. First you become numb. Your mind, senses do not cooperate. Your body is constantly fatigued. You tend to rewind all of your life together. You question your every action and see where you went wrong and right, though you could not go back and change any of them. Your relations, friends, people who live with you do not understand what is going on. Acquaintances and others because it does not directly impact them tend to think why the fuss. They expect you to come back to the mainstream and function at your pre loss level at the earliest. This is definitely the case if you are working, studying, or participating in the society in some form.

You tend to question the society. You tend to question the purpose of life. You ask why me. You are on guilt trip. You think of what all you could have done or not done to avoid this from happening. You cry your heart out, of course alone. You understand that individual factors do not matter for every diabetic with that particular number or a heart patient, or a cancer patinet you can find thousands that have been living with that conditions for decades. For every person who has decided to end life following failure in exams you know there are millions who fail to clear the exam, take it up next time or look for alternative and continue to live happily. You come to an understanding that “Death defies Logic”. Any amount of rationalization, thinking, whacking you brain cells to make sense is not going to work.

Then there is withdrawal from society. The music that used to enthrall you now evokes no response. Some time may be anguish.  Here again, the songs, movies, dramas, entertainment full of pathos, to borrow from P. B. Shelley, “our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought” that you used to enjoy tend to worsen the situation. For they are no more words, lyrics, poetry, music, sound, acoustic but new knowledge, understanding, reality. So they tend to make you grieve more. But ultimately it helps in catharsis. You come to a situation when your tear glands have completely dried and that there are no more tears left. A situation similar to blue sky following a thunder storm.

Slowly you look up. You find that your appetite has been non existing. Your interest in day to day life, mask that we wear by way of our dress, make up, fashion etc has been torn away. It is not possible to go to the earlier role. Or rather futility of it is understood. You see that the world has moved ahead when you were grieving and as the famous adage goes – “Time and tide stops for none”. And that you are a non-entity and your space in this multi-universe is like a speck.

You tend to think of the life you had. You think of the time when your loved ones can not stand your suffering, getting angry or being down. Your think of the time when they were rejoicing with you in your glory, cheering you, consoling you, supporting you through ups and downs, sharing burden with you, loving you, caring for you, protecting you, helping you grow, helping you claim you place in this world, in nutshell being with you forever!!!  You think what they would think if they have been here with you now. You think of other people who are there for you now. You think that they are gone and you are here must have some reason. You come to an understanding that grieving is not going to bring them back. You understand from scriptures that they are there, but nor in the form you know. From manifestation to un-manifestation.

They are moments that slowly change. The song both of you used to like. The rituals you used to carry. The song of cuckoo to which you both used to wake up. The dog that you used to feed. The trees that you have planted and have grown big. The wardrobe you have accumulated over a period and history behind each of the items. Innumerable nonsensical things that are shared memory now. You start to reminiscence. You think of the plans for future you had. You think what your loved one would have wanted you to do if they had been alive. You think what would be their reaction when they see you in current state. Something strikes in you. They would not be happy to see in despair. They would want one to lead life to full fill their duties, dreams, aspirations and take care of their dependents as they did when they were alive.

Each one of us have a karma to fulfill. Some independently some jointly. With the passing away of the loved one be it parents, spouse, children, friends, grandparents, relatives our joint responsibility there off ends. New normal has to be created. Nature abhors vacuum.  So we need to think how we will the vacuum created by the departure of our loved one. The time, energy, space, activity that we shared with them is not going to be available anymore to us. But we have to fill the time that is available to us. It is a clean state available for you to start afresh.

Start small. Establish a routine. Venture out to the familiar areas. If uncomfortable go to a new area, new market new place. Any thing that can bring you out of your sorrow state. Minute by minute. Understand you can spend your time grieving or doing that would make both of you proud. Being stoic helps. Start adding things one by one, be it books, music, movie, friends, events, outing, travel. Look at every aspect of your life. Keep what helps you and be ruthless in saying no to what you think has no place in life any more. Do this in every aspect of life clearing away the clutter and cobwebs both in your physical and mental realm.  Find activity that is beneficial to fill the time. Understand that your life must go on, and so also the relationship with your departed one but with different dimension. You owe your endurance, success, happiness to them and doing that makes you, them and everyone around you proud and happy. It is not going to be easy. It is not going to happen at a snap of your hand. It is not that you are not going to face resistance from the world around you. Yet it must be done. May the power be with you.

***

P.S. I had my own thoughts as to whether I should put it in the blog considering the topic is generally considered off limit. But then even if it can helps one person…….

 

 

Life, Old Age and Renunciation – Perspective from Bhartruhari’s Vairagya Satakam

Bhartruhari’s Vairagya Satakam

The hundred verses of Vairagya satakam are divided into ten groups and deals with criticism of desire, renunciation of sense object, oppression by evil men. Of vanity, indifference to worldly things, principles of time the destroyer, control of mind through wisdom, life of ascetic and self renunciation. His elucidation of life, old age, the problems and issues of it, and how to face it is a lesson in itself.

Men with property, learned, having respected sons, untold wealth, a beloved wife and of youthful age, thinking this world to be permanent, deluded by ignorance run into worldliness. Whereas those who consider the transient nature of the world and renounce it are blessed indeed.(20)

The objects of enjoyment, even after staying with us for the long time are sure to leave us sometime. Then what difference does their privation in this way make to men, that they do not of their own accord discard them. If enjoyment leave us on their own initiative they produce great affliction of the mind but if men voluntarily renounce them they conduce to the eternal bliss of self possession. (12)

31.The downside of every enjoyment in this world is fear. In health and enjoyment, there is the fear of disease. In social position, the fear of falling off. In wealth the fear of hostile kings. In honour the fear of humiliation. In power, the fear of enemy. In beauty the fear of old age. In scriptural erudition, the fear of opponents, in virtue the fear of traducers, in body the fear of death. All things of this world pertaining to man are attended with fear. Renunciation alone stands for fearlessness.

Similarly everything has to end one day. Birth ends in death. Brilliant youth in old age. Contentment is attached by greed. Happiness and self-control by wiles of gay women, virtues by jealousy of men. Forest tracks by beasts of prey. Kings by wicked ministers. Thus, there is nothing stable in the world. (32)

Life is insecure. Desire of youth unsteady. Realizing this, wise men firmly fix their mind in yoga for peace and equanimity. Wise work towards improving the man kind. (33)

Life is changing like a big wave. Beauty, possessions, enjoyments are all transient. Enjoyments are transitory individually and inexhaustible collectively, so we are in never ending wild goose chase which brings in turn stimulation and grief. Desire produces this terrible entanglement and hope keeps it on. So, free your mind of these.

The life of a man as ordained is limited to one hundred years. Half of it is spent in night and out of the other half one half again is passed in childhood and old age. And the rest which has its illness, bereavements and troubles is spent in serving other. What happiness can there be for mortals in a life which is even more uncertain than the ripples on the surface of water?(49)

The earth is but a lump of clay circled by a ring of water. Even the whole of it is but a particle. Hosts of kings, having partitioned it after fighting hundreds of battles, enjoyed it. these very poor insignificant persons may or do give. Nothing is strange for them. But downright shame on those mean fellows who would beg bits of coin from them even! (50)

Why you, my mind, wander about in vain. Be restful. Whatever happens in a particular way happens so by itself and not otherwise. So not thinking over the past, nor resolving about the future, I realize enjoyments that come without engaging my thoughts. (51)

Stay away from the troublesome sense objects. Take the path of highest good which is capable of bringing about in a moment the destruction of endless troubles; get thee to the state of thy atman. Stop agitating. Be calm and now and never again seek transient worldly attachments. (52)

In old age the body becomes shriveled, the gait becomes unsteady, the teeth fall out, the eye sight is lost, deafness increase, the mouth slaver, relatives do not value one’s words, the wife does not nurse and even the son turns hostile. Know the misery of man of worn out age. Seeing the grey hairs on the head of a man, and discomfiture of old age youthful women at once fly away from him. (53)

As long as this body is free from disease and decrepitude, as long as senility is far off, as long as the powers of the senses are unaffected and life is not decaying, so long, wise persons should put forth mighty exertion for the sake of their supreme good, for when the hose is on fire what avails setting about digging a well for water. (75)

Live practicing austerities, or serve our wives, read scriptural literature or poetry. Man having longevity do not know which one to undertake. (76)

The rulers of the world have minds restless like a horse and therefore difficult to please, while we are after gains, age steals away bodily strength and death cuts short this dear life. ah! Friend nothing is good for the wise in this world except the practice of austerities. (77)

When honor has faded, wealth has become ruined, those who sue for favors have departed in disappointment, friends have dwindled away, retainers have left, youth has gradually decayed there remains only one thing proper for the wise. Reside somewhere in the grove, in solitude and on the banks of river. (78)

This freedom to wander about, this food to which no meanness attaches, the company of holy men, the cultivation of vedic wisdom result of which is spiritual peace, the mind restrained in its movements towards external things there is peace, pursue it. (79)

***

Ref: Vairagya Satakam, Swami Madhavananda, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta.

To Work or Not to Work –  Gita Chapter V

The Way of Renunciation

The chapter starts with Arjuna asking Krishna – Tell me clearly, what is better, Work or renunciation of work.  For in the previous discussion, Krishna has advised Arjuna that work is the way to go, Knowledge is the way to freedom and renunciation of action is ultimate . This has again raised question in the minds of Arjuna. Hence is this question.

Action Or Renunciation of Action – Divergent paths with same goal

Way of action and renunciation of action both lead to happiness, they lead to different path in life, but of the two, work is better than renunciation. Both has to be practiced serially, for first Karma yoga clarifies one’s understanding, illuminates intellect and thus paves way for contemplation and meditation through which only the final experience is achieved. Knowledge is possible with action. Right actions help in self-discovery. To renounce first one must experience the world, experience the life. Renouncing without experience would lead to exhaustion. Life of renunciation because of inability to get something, failures or forced is not true renunciation. Thus only mind that has experienced, only one who has performed active work can let go intelligently. It is like been there, seen it, done that and now I am happy, fulfilled and in such a state letting go happens naturally.

Who is a Renunciate

Krishna portraits the picture of renunciate as – the one who is engrossed in effort, with senses controlled, calm and focused mind, victorious in self, understanding self in all and all in self. This is because one who has well developed intellect, who has honed his work, who understands the purpose and process of work, works in desire-less state only is capable of working in controlled and competent way. For him emotions are also under control. For such person work becomes child’s play and meditative state is automatic. Thus having mastered his mind renunciation becomes easy and a natural state.

Work Intelligently

Like how one is not aware of the involuntary acts of the body, when ego is surpassed, all conscious work also becomes instinctive. Despite being engaged in action, one moves with the mind that I am not doing anything. Krishna counsels us to live the life with intelligent detachment. Rather than detaching ourselves completely from work or doer-ship, which is difficult, for is not possible for human mind, the direction here is for one to engage in this world of ours, yet to stay detached from or work in areas not prompted from ones likes and dislikes and desired state. When work is performed thus it is transformed from mere Karma to Karma-Yoga. Thus, having abandoned attachment, the wise man performs work by using body, senses, mind and intellect and purifies himself. Contrary to the one who works, still impelled by mind, intellect, body and senses, attached to results of one’s action, the wise man performs desire less action with detached mindset and having no expectation of fruits of action. He is able to achieve peace,  becomes well poised and unrestricted. He is able to acquire a degree of self control and is happy.

What is Sanyas

Sanyas or renunciation is not just forced withdrawal from actions, a mere physical escapism but mental withdrawal from thing that are unintelligent and wasteful. It is a mental attitude and not a mere external symbol by way of dress, color or dress, hair style, food and the variants of it. it is not running away from life and its challenges.  Sanyas is for one or Sanyasi is one who has his ego and desire under control, performs his duty as per his stage of life intelligently and lives a life of happiness, joy, peaceful and contentment.

Knowledge and Ignorance

Work in outer field intelligently. The world is run by nature. As long as ignorance is there, knowledge has no place and once the veil of ignorance is removed knowledge shines. Ignorance creates egocentricity and with the removal of ignorance egocentric lifestyle is stopped.  And with the end of ego, self becomes aware of its grandeur. One comes to recognize the divinity everywhere, oneness of everything and everyone. That the distinctions in the outer world of names and forms are temporary phenomenon. He understands that Brahman, nature, consciousness, god head whatever name one proposes to call it by is all pervading and homogeneous. Everything happens in it yet nothing happens to it.

Thus, for an individual who is identified with his body, it is changing factor and he comes identified with every passing phenomenon except for the fact that the eternal self, the substratum, the atman remains the same under all circumstances. Thus an individual who comes to be aware of this has sufficient amount of tranquility in him and nothing happening around him can disturb him and is able maintain equi-poise under all conditions. Therefore the man of perfection is neither grieved when unpleasant things happen and nor exuberant when pleasant and favorable circumstances arise. He is not affected by pleasant and unpleasant, holds his intellect steady and in him all delusions have ended. And he comes to “know Brahman” and knowing Braham he becomes Brahman.

Why Equanimity

Krishna also answers the question, what use is this equanimity where one is expected not to rejoice nor to wallow in sorrow. why control or withdraw senses from external objects. To what purpose should one forsake enjoyment.

Pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin. When one is full of desires, starts any activity, or even in our ordinary course of life, obstacles are bound to arise mid-course. Accidents do happen and all sorts of problems like loss of job, loss of loved one, failures in study do occur. When that arises, ordinary man reacts in anger, fear, despair, dejection and sorrow which then more often is likely to derail him further from his course of action. He has to then come out, calm and compose the mind, collect oneself together again, think intelligently, course correct and start again. If he wins he is happy and rejoices. Thus he alternates from sorrow and joy, moves from activity to activity. Instead if he is able maintain equanimity he reaches an inner calm, peace and joy unaffected by the results of action which is more permanent than temporary. He is able to withdraw himself from outer objects and enjoy the inner bliss laying foundation for contemplation.

Thus work intelligently such that renunciation becomes automatic.

******

Logic in Sanskrit – Tarka Sastra

In the time before knowledge got written down, codified, popularized,  the work of Philosophers, Scientist, Scholars, Writers were different. The epistemological study was to be done in painstaking manner, starting from observation, understanding, query, analysis, dialogue, discussion, discourse, deliberation, debate, dialectic, decision and finally conclusion to avoid confusion, And for successful debate, specially between conflicting ideas, philosophy and thought,  dialogue and debate was an option to reach conclusion. To this the scholars of ancient India, the Sanskrit scholars have researched and came to an inference that the primary need is common understanding of the words, their association and method of understanding. This is the starting point of logic. The scholars had written what is called “Nigandu” (Thesaurus), “Tarka Sastra”, and “Nyaya Sastra” as first step towards logical understanding.

Tarka is the process of questioning and cross-questioning that leads to a particular conclusion. It is a form of supposition that can be used as an aid to the attainment of valid knowledge. Tarka Sastra is a science of dialectics, logic and reasoning, and art of debate that analyzes the nature and source of knowledge and its validity

Sanskrit is stated to be the ideal language for computer processing because of its structure. It is one of the ancient language, constructed by human being (all languages are created by human being). The fact that it was well deliberated, with concise grammar for expanding the language in case of future requirement is one of the reason for its popularity till date. Understanding philosophy, especially philosophy and Sanskritic writings makes it difficult because of the subjects dealt there in and the concise manner in which it is written. Of course it was need of the time that it has to be written in short forms for the oral tradition was in prevalence for imparting knowledge and in many cases may predate writing and printing. Logic thus becomes imperative to understand these texts and that was also written down somewhere along the way. By writing down the way in which it is constructed decoding the knowledge becomes easier to that extent.

Tarka Sangraha” by Annam Bhatta is one such book on Logic. The book in its original, or should I say thesis, in Sanskrit is just of fifteen pages. But is a great aid in understanding or processing of concepts so that clear understanding of the same can be obtained. The similarity between current day computer language constructs of DDL (Data Definition Language), SQL (Structure Query Language), RDBMS (Relational Data Base Schema) is evident. The book had clear classification, data description, structure, linking between data sets, context and way to manipulate and manage the data. Such is format of this book.

To give an overview, there are primarily seven categories to describe in which anything and everything in the world can be fit in. From there it starts like this.

Data Sets

  • Categorie is of seven types which is – substance, quality, action, genus, difference, co-inherence and non existence.
  • Substance in turn is classified into nine type which are earth, water, fire/light, air, ether, time, place, soul and mind.
  • Quality has 24 attributes
  • Actions are of five types
  • Genus are 2
  • Difference are of five types
  • Coinherence is one and
  • Non existence has seven data points.

To give an example let us take the case of earth which is the first data point mention in the category substance.

Data Definition : Description of a substance: Earth has an inherent odour. In can be in its atomic structure or can be used with other substance to produce various things. In body part it is present in the nose for it is the organ on smell, in its mass form it is prevalent everywhere. Its primary color is brown but can take other colors. It has a taste, it is tangible. It is measured in dimension and so on. This is essentially achieved by linking the various data sets.

Knowledge Creation: Having identified the various categories and related data sets it also specifies how knowledge of any subject can be achieved. Knowledge is gained by understanding. Primarily there are two ways. One is remembrance for which prior knowledge and memory is needed. The other is Notion for unknown aspects. Notion is of four types. Notion could be right or wrong. And the right notion is obtained in the following means – Perception, Inference, conclusion by similarity, and assertion by authority. And further if you take the example of Inference, Inference could be obtained for two reasons. For self-understanding or for the purpose of instruction to others. And the way of doing it by proposition, reason, example, application and conclusion. Thus the various ways of knowledge acquisition in systematic manner if expounded.

Thus they have a system of both inductive and deductive reasoning based on data. The reasoning is methodical, scientific, investigative and rationalistic. Considering the timeline of these literature and how ancient it is and yet modern logically it becomes our duty to understand what our ancestors thought in various subjects and restore it to its natural glory. And this is sure to facilitate us to understand the frontiers of knowledge, which are extensive in a conscious, constructive and consensual way.

***

Ref: Tarka Sangraha Annam Bhatta

 

The Fountain

I will always return

What is life?

what is Death?

Why are we born

Why do we die

Can we stop ageing

Can we stop death

Is immortality possible

Tree of knowledge do we know it

Tree of life do we know it

 

Is there purpose to life?

Or are we born to  die

Do we come as we go

Are de we grow, learn

And mature in each birth

Like rings of tree that grow with each year

Picking up knowledge with each birth

Burning immaturity and darkness in every life

 

Is every life the same

Is every path the same

Can medicine break this life and death cycle

Is it ever possible

Has it not been the quest for man from time immemorial

But have we not as our life expectancy increases

Prone to more disease, sorrow and pain

Are we running in circle

Or are we growing in sphere

Up and up with every ring

To reach to sky to be part of eternity

 

What is life

Is it mundane living, eating, running to earn a living

Or is there more to life

Is it not what the philosophers spent time

Did they find something that is beyond us now

If Death is the road to awe

Then what is life

 

What defines where we are born

What we do and where we go

Why is that some traverse hard path

Other have it easy

Like musical notes that rise and fall

Like waves that have ebb and flow

Is there a pattern to life

 

Death and life are two sides of the same coin

For in death life is reborn

Death of ignorance is life of knowledge

Death of toddler is youth

Death of youth is Adult

Death of Adult is Old

Death of Old is start of new era,

 

Death of seed is start of a tree

Falling of branch is blossoming of new life

Change of seasons is death and life

And death of night is birth of day

For billions of stars die

Billions of stars born

Each by coming together and going apart

For each has its time

For time is the ultimate winner

***

P.S: “The Fountain” (2006) iz the movie that started this rant. Check it out.

Teach Me by Seneca

Teach me my duty to my country,

To my father, to my wife,  to mankind

Teach me to know  how to be honest myself

And to live  according to that knowledge

Teach me to  tune my affections,

And to hold constant to myself

Teach me to measure my appetite

And to know when I have had enough

Teach me to divide with my brother

And to rejoice in the prosperity of my neighbour

You teach me how I may hold my own

And keep my estate but I would rather learn

How I may loose it all

And yet be contented

We must ask the mathematician, geometry, music

To teach us to master our hopes and fears

All the rest is to little  purpose

We take a great deal of  pains to trace

Ulysses in his wanderings; but

Where it not time well spent to look to oneself

That we may not wander at all?

Are we not ourselves tossed with tempestuous passions

And assaulted by terrible monsters in the one hand

And tempted by sirens on the other

Where is time for fooleries?

Let me fortify myself against death

And inevitable necessities

Let me understand that the good of life

Does nor consist in length or space

But in the use of it.

***

_from “The wisdom of Stoics” Edited by France and Henry Hazlitt, University Press of America

 

Gita – Working your way through Life – Chapter III

Karma Yoga Chapter III

Knowledge or Action which is superior, what should one go after is the theme of Chapter III of Bhagavad Gita, which is the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, Krishna being the Guide. This is one question perplexing to us for it is generally seen that either one is good in execution or good in strategy, planning and design and there is a general mistrust between these two set of people. Arjuna was not an outsider to this. And like many of us he is lazy to contemplate and decide for himself and wants Krishna to give a directive answer. Let us see what are Krishna’s answer to this.

Action Vs. Inaction

There are two paths, path of knowledge and action each having its own virtue. Man, does not get freedom from action by not participating in it nor by renouncing it. And by nature of birth, man cannot be without performing action. On the other hand, by shunning physical action, sitting in meditation controlling the action of mind and sense organs, man can achieve perfection is sheer hypocrisy. But the one, while controlling his mind and senses, does his duty in this world, action in alignment with his Dharma is superior. Hence perform right action, for action is superior to inaction and that action is needed even if one must just maintain the physical body. (Even though it is not considered action in normal parlance, actions of breathing, eating, pumping of blood by heart, excretion etc. are the acts of maintaining the body also need some action from one though could be involuntary and when this stops the life ends.) the world is bound by action and as such one has to perform action free from desire, attachment and for the common good. For action, free from desire and attachment, both which is the cause and effect of calm mind, and results in superior result, gaining knowledge and excellence

The Action Cycle

Food is essential for man and he comes from food. Food comes from the bounty of rain gods for rain is needed for production of food which is followed by sacrifice and action. And action comes from knowledge that comes from consciousness that is eternal and all pervading. So for a man who participates in this wheel of action, not indulging in sense pleasures, content and rejoicing in self there is nothing to do. He is self sufficient that he does not depend on external ideas, objects or actions for his happiness. Hence please perform work without any attachment for therein lies freedom.

Role Model

People follow a role model. What a leader does everyone follows. Leaders set standards for other to follow. Krishna gives the example of self that though he is not going to gain anything from the work he performs (Creation, sustenance and destruction), he still has to continue for if he stops the whole world stops leading to destruction. Thus no body is exempt from working.

How to Work

An ignorant man acts with attachment to his work and a wise should act without attachment. And at the same time wise man should not denounce the act of ignorant ones who act with attachment. All actions follow the natural cause and yet man thinks that he is the doer. So each man performs work that is appropriate to his state, nature and knowledge. Thus a man who is superior in knowledge and experience does work according to his inherent nature, his evolutionary state and yet should not delude those who work in different stratum of hierarchy. For doing this would confuse them and hinder their work and the society. The wise many by virtue of his performance would anyway be able to lead them towards improvement.

Work within the Laws of Life

There are various laws existing – laws of nature, society, organization, political, economic, moral and ethical etc.- those who are aware of these laws and work within the framework of these laws appropriate as per the ground reality progress and prosper in this world and those who defy and break them come to grief and debasement.

Man by nature is varied in his disposition. One is introvert or extrovert, knowledge oriented or action oriented, thinking or intuitive and so on. And all his action would be in alignment with his nature. Each one is encouraged to evolve in line with his temperament. Attaining perfection in their way of action is the goal for him. For following ones nature aids in his growth and evolution and actions against their nature is not conducive for his welfare.

This leads to the next question – If one is to follow his own nature for freedom then what is the role of self-control and self-discipline. While working as per ones natural tendencies man gains and with the help of senses, mind and intellect understands reality, performs his action and leading to fulfillment, yet man has to learn to work controlling the senses rather than being controlled by it. By taming the senses, beyond likes and dislikes, man has to learn to work. And in work the best philosophy is each according to his own, that is doing one’s own duty is superior to performing duty of others however good one may be at it and pleasurable and adept at it.

What Induces man to commit sin?

Krishna says that desire, that is all consuming is the cause for sins or problems of the world. It is insatiable as fire and covers like smoke covers the fire, dust the mirror and water the fetus, meaning is not easily visible. The desire is created by senses, mind and intellect where in mind is greater than senses, and intellect that mind for each is subtler that the previous. But Atma, Brahman, Self or consciousness as you may call it is greater than all the three. Thus discriminating and being aware of the action created by desire, induced by sense, mind and intellect and transcending it restraining the self the man over comes the desire and attains freedom.

To summarize,

Thus Krishna advises  that Knowledge and action are both needed in this world. And when performing action, do your duty, as per your stature, nature, and instinct. Be you the president of country, rich, poor, leader, follower, lecturer, blue color worker, bachelor, married, monk, young, old does not matter. All have to work and carry out the responsibilities applicable to them. It may be varied yet they are the same. There is no escaping the fact.  Perform and acquire excellence through the directed, disciplined action using senses, mind and intellect yet not giving into their domination. Action is unavoidable for those who have born in this world. So work selflessly for only through work the world runs, and one attains perfection in their chosen course of work and work without being egged by likes and dislikes and with calm disposition to succeed in life. By controlling desire, sense organs, mind and intellect, performing ones duty one can attain freedom from the life. Each work according to his own.

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“The Power of Silence” Carlos Castanda – Quotable Quotes

During our active lives we never have the chance to go beyond the level of mere preoccupation, because since time immemorial the lull of daily affairs has made us drowsy. It is only when our lives are nearly over that our hereditary preoccupation with fate beings to take on different character. It begins to make us see through the fog of our daily affairs. Unfortunately, this awakening always comes hand in hand with loss of energy caused by aging, when we have no more strength left to turn our preoccupation into a pragmatic and positive discovery. At this point, all there is left is an amorphous, piercing, anguish, a longing for something indescribable, and simple anger at having missed out.

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Perception is the hinge for everything man is or does and the perception is ruled by the location of the assemblage point. Therefore, if the point changes positions, man’s perception of the world changes accordingly. One who knew where to place his assemblage point could become anything he wanted.

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Transformations were strategical. They are determined by the need of time.

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I was young and stupid that only the obvious had value for me.

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Wisdom always comes to us painfully and in driblets.

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Plans of action is appropriate only if one were dealing with average human beings. In the human context, we can plan and plot and depending on luck, plus our cunning and dedication can succeed. But in the face of the unknown, the only hope of survival was to acquiesce and understand.

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Stalking was an art applicable to everything and that there were four steps to learning it; ruthlessness, cunning, patience and sweetness. And ruthlessness should not be harshness, cunning should not be cruelty, patience should not be negligence and sweetness should not be foolishness. And these four steps should be practiced and perfected until they were so smooth that they were unnoticeable.

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Women are natural stalkers. And only in a woman’s disguise could any man learn the art of stalking it is about being ruthless but charming, cunning but nice, patient but active, and sweet but lethal.

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People have no idea of the strange power we carry within ourselves. At this moment for instance you have the means to reach infinity.

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Words are tremendously powerful and important and are the magical property of whoever has them.

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The very first principle of stalking is that a warrior stalks himself. He stalks himself ruthlessly, cunningly, patiently and sweetly. Very succinctly stalking is the art of using behavior in novel ways for specific purposes. Normal human behavior in the world of everyday life is routine. Any behavior that broke from routine caused an unusual effect on our total being. The unusual effect was what sorcerers sought because it was cumulative.  The seers of ancient times, through their seeing, had first noticed that unusual behavior produced a tremor in the assemblage point. And if unusual behavior was practiced systematically and directed wisely, it eventually forced the assemblage point to move.

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The real challenge for those sorcerer seers, was finding a system of behavior that was neither petty nor capricious, but that combined the morality and the sense of beauty which differentiates seers from witches.

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Heightened awareness – what would the survival value be. Would one be able to assess the situations better? Be quicker than the average man or perhaps be intelligent? Heightened awareness was the entrance to the portal of intent.

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The knowledge was there for everyone. It was there to be felt, to be used but not to be explained. One could come into it by changing levels of awareness and therefore heightened awareness was entrance. But even the entrance could not be explained. One could only make use of it. The natural knowledge of intent was available to anyone, but command of it belonged to those who probed it.

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Thinking and saying exactly what you want to say requires untold amounts of energy.

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Cutting our chains is marvelous, but also very undesirable for nobody wants to be free. The chains imprison us, but by keeping us pinned down on our comfortable spot of self reflection, they defend us from the onslaughts of the unknown. Once our chains are cut we are no longer bound by the concerns of daily world. We are still in the daily world, but wo don’t belong there anymore. In order to belong we must share the concerns of people and without chains we can’t.

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Normal people share a metaphorical dagger; the concerns of our self-reflection. With this dagger, we cut ourselves and bleed; and the job of our chains of self-reflection is to give us the feeling that we are bleeding together, that we are sharing something wonderful; our humanity. But if we were to examine it, we would discover that we are bleeding alone; that we are not sharing anything; that all we are doing is toying with our manageable, unreal, manmade reflection. Seers are no longer in the world of daily affairs for they are no longer prey to their self reflection.

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Extraordinary perception, seeing occurs when by the force of intent a different cluster of energy fields energizes and lights up both within us and outside us. And awareness takes place when the energy fields inside us were aligned with the same energy fields outside. Thu alignment of energy sources is the source of heightened awareness. Awareness was the glow of energy fields being lighten up and the force that did that is called will.

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Our great collective flaw is that we live our lives completely disregarding that connection. The busyness our lives, our relentless interests, concerns, hopes, frustrations and fears take precedence and on a day to day basis we are unaware of being linked to everything else.

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It did not matter what out specific fate is as long as we faced it with ultimate abandon. If we had to go under it should be fighting, not apologizing or feeling sorry for oneself.

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Stalking is a procedure, a special behavior that  is secretive furtive, deceptive and is designed to deliver a jolt. And when you stalk yourself your jolt yourself using your own behavior in a ruthless, cunning way.

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The idea of death is of monumental importance in life. The knowledge of our impending and unavoidable end is what gives us sobriety. Our most costly mistake as average men are indulging in a sense of immortality it is as thought we believe that if we don’t think about death we can protect ourselves from it. Not thinking about death certainly protects us from worrying about it but that purpose is an unworthy one for average man a travesty for seers. Without a clear view of death, there is no order, no sobriety, no beauty.  This crucial insight is needed to help us realise that the life will continue beyond the moment. This realisation gives one the courage to be patient and yet take action, courage to be acquiescent without being stupid.

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Death is not an enemy as though it appears to be. Death is our challenger. Death is the only worthy opponent we have and we are born to take that challenge. Life is the process by means of which death challenges us. Death is the active fore. Life is the arena. And in that arena there are only two contenders at any time. Oneself and death. If we move it is only when we feel the pressure of death. Death sets the pace for our actions and feelings and pushes us relentlessly until it breaks us and wins the bout or else we rise above all possibilities and defeat death.

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What we need to do to allow magic to get hold of us to banish doubt from our minds, once doubts are banished anything is possible.

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The place of not pity is the site of ruthlessness.

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I had learned through life fearful experience that nothing in life is free.

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Silent knowledge is something that all of us have. Something that has complete mastery, complete knowledge of everything, but it cannot think, therefore, it cannot speak of what it knows. When man became aware that he knew and wanted to be conscious of what he knew he lost sight of what he knew. This silent knowledge which you can not describe is of course intent – the spirit, the abstract. Mans error was to want to know it directly the way he knew everyday life. the more he wanted, the more ephemeral it became meaning that the more he clings to the world of reason the more ephemeral intent becomes.

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What is continuity – the idea that we are a solid block. In our minds what sustains our world is the certainty that we are unchangeable. We may accept that our behavior can be modified that our reactions and opinions can be modified  but the idea that we are malleable to the point of changing appearances, to the point of being someone else, is not part of the underlying order of our self reflection. Then that order is interrupted the world of reason stops.

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Human being are creators of inventory. Knowing the ins and outs of a particular inventory is what makes a man a scholar or an expert in his field. When an average persons inventory fails the person either enlarges his inventory or his world of self reflection collapses. The average person is willing to introduce new items into his inventory if they don’t contradict the inventory’s underlying order. But if the items contradict that order, the persons mind collapses. The inventory is the mind.

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Continuity is so important in our lives that if it breaks it always instantly repaired. If there is break uncertainty is to be expected till a new continuity is established.

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If you think of life in terms of hours instead of years, our lives are immensely long. Even if you think in terms of days life is still interminable.

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My benefactor did not believe in handing down knowledge. He thought that knowledge imparted that way lacked effectiveness. It was never there one needed it. On the other hand if knowledge was only insinuated the person who was interested would devise ways to claim that knowledge.

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Way of Intelligent Life – Sankhya yoga – Gita II

In Gita, second chapter, Krishna after listening to the lamentation of Arjuna arising out of his fear, attachment, worry that makes him weak and ready to leave the battle field, shows him the glimpses of life and how one has to face it valiantly.

We are all like Arjuna, in dire need of guidance, redemption from the conflict, sorrow and having to fight every step of the life and for us Knowledge is the only way out. Understanding, knowledge and action is that which can pull up the man from misery. The person who fights, gets up every time falls, bold, gives up cowardice is respected. Weakness is never appreciated. This and other world is for the one who is strong, fights a righteous war, strong of body, mind and intellect. Strength is life and weakness is death. Weak cannot achieve anything in this life and bold person can do wonders.

Grief is Meaningless:

Grief is meaningless. Keeping mind constant in all eventualities is the way of wise.  Wise are not tossed by the ups and downs of life. He who harmonizes his thoughts, word and deed is able to maintain his integrity and character. These are necessary quality to avoid conflict and disharmony.

Regarding death, people come and go but the atman/soul is eternal. Like a baby is born, becomes youth, then middle age, old age follows ending in death. During these times the body changes – baby dies, youth is born and so on at every stage. But the identity of the person remains the same. The change is to the body and not to the atman. Thus, birth and death is for the body only and atman is eternal.

Sense organs are the organs of pleasure and pain and that originates from what one sees, hears, eats, does, smells and understands with mind. These pleasures of bodily origin start and ends with body. And they also change with time, and place that what is enjoyable once many not be other times. And the fact that body is perishable so also joy and sorrow. understanding this and training the mind to treat both equally is what makes one healthy and competent.

Correspond this with soul the indweller in the body. It is eternal. Was there before we were born and will be there after our death. And through birth, childhood, youth, middle age, old age and death it remains unchanged and unaffected. It has taken this body to experience this world made of sense objects and body. Understanding this and leading the life removes one from ignorance and pain and pleasure. Life is a series of experiments where we are born again and again to learn until our liberation.

Body is only an agglomeration of elements hence as good as nonexistent. It is like water that remain in states of water, waves in ocean, ice berg, vapor, rain clouds and so on. But the wateriness is common. So change is natural. And what changes cannot give everlasting pleasure. What is born is sure to die. So grieve not. And as one discard the old cloth and gets a new one, atman acquires bodies.

Atman is awareness. Pure consciousness, it is untouched by time, space and causation, states of mind such as sleep, dream, wakefulness are beyond it. Consciousness is ultimate reality. It is unaffected by all changes that happen to the body. The body changes but atman does not. This is similar to the sky that remains unaffected by all the movement of clouds, electricity in it. Atman is unborn, eternal, constant and ancient. It is not killed when the body is slain. Weapons do not cleave the atman, fire burn it not, water does not wet it and so does wind not dry it. Essentially meaning that it is beyond elements. Hence it is eternal. Hence unmanifested, unthinkable and immutable. Therefore Grieve not. Many people come in to our life midway and go away some time same way. Hence, no point in lamenting for the changes that are bound to happen.

Death is certain of Birth and birth of that which is dead. Do your duty. Like Warriors is to fight a rightful war. And fighting war, being your duty is better than renouncing and walking off.

Grieve not for death. one has to do his duty to the best of his ability. While doing his duty thus, time comes when he becomes successful. When the time is right little effort becomes appropriate and leads to great results. No matter what, diffidence and despondency should be avoided. Pursue the right course of action. Between what one likes and what is good, and when they are contradictory, follow what is good. For the tide of fortune and the opportune time comes to one and all consistent with law of growth and evolution. Fame and honor are for those who lead a righteous life in this world. So also, that ill will, misfortune and dishonor comes to those who forsake their duty.  And dishonor and ill-fame is worse than death. So withdrawing from war front is not advisable for generations will talk ill about this and there is no way that can be remedied.

Be fearless. Don’t Be a weakling:

A man given to fear does not achieve anything in this world and any deed done out of fear will cause the need for repentance in future. If you avoid fight now, you will be scorned as one who ran out of fear. And your enemies will slander and ridicule you which could be worse than fighting the war and facing the consequences thereof. To explain further, people who have been praising one hitherto for valour, courage, strength, capability, achievement, success etc., when find that one has withdrawn fearing setbacks will talk ill about the same person at the back.  So, don’t give into this. Either way, if you win you will enjoy this earth and if you perish fighting then will reach heaven. So, get up and fight.

In pain and pleasure, gain and loss, victory and defeat engage in work be equipoised that way you would be successful. Not to rejoice in pleasure, gain, victory as it is done in the mundane world and on the contrary slump when things do not go in one’s way. Doing work during all times, is the way to prosperity.

Be firm of mind. Be concentrated. Don’t dissipate energy in multiple directions. Understand the purpose of life is not to enjoy life but attain perfection. Be beyond the three Gunas that favor knowledge seeking, action orientation and languishing in darkness. Be free from the pairs of opposites, ever balanced, unconcerned with getting and keeping and centered in the self.

Work, Not in anticipation of results:

The most repeated, famous and misunderstood verse of Gita – You have right to your duty and not to the fruits there off. Be you not the producer of action so also of inaction. Work has multiple aspects and participants to it. One cannot control every aspect of it. You can do your duty to the best of your ability according to the prevailing circumstances. Having done that whatever be the result, you would not be affected by it. So also by not focusing on the results, not worried about it you can gather all his energy and focus it on the execution. Clarity, understanding and efficiency increased there by producing superior results inevitably.   So be active. Shun inaction. And when you work, work righteously without worrying about the fruits of action.

When work is done despite ones likes and dislikes of a mind in equilibrium new Karma does not accrue to him and old bad karma vanishes. And one who works likes that acquires perfection in mind. Slowly indifference to the world of actions sets in. and when ones intellect, till then tossed about various dualities of pain and pleasure, likes and dislikes, conflict of ideas and opinions has become poised and reaches equilibrium such a man reaches yoga and nearer to godhead.

Being  a steadfast man

Arjuna asks Krishna about the quality of man who is steadfast, wise, and in Samadhi. How does one with these attributes walk, sit and speak. How does one understand the eternal consciousness. Self on its own, when contented gives one happiness. However when a man reaches outside for sense objects and presumes that it gives him happiness, he needs to understand that it is verily the self, the atman, the indweller in every one that gives happiness. Thus shunning desire helps one to avoid pain and related pleasure that accrues from it. Remaining self satisfied and not running after world outside is the first step towards steady state of mind.

A man of steadiness is of calm mind where all his sorrows have been destroyed. He is in a state of equilibrium, unaffected by joys and sorrows and anchored in intellect.

Pacifying the mind

He whose mind is not perturbed by adversity, who does not crave for happiness, free from attachment, fear and anger is the man of constant wisdom. One has to face endless problems, trials, tribulations, adversities, untoward events in life. some have it more and some are lucky to have their life untouched by these events. The man of wisdom is one who remains unperturbed by these happening, view them as unavoidable and ignore them. If not ignored then man ends up adding fuel to the fire and worsens the scene and ends up increasing the volume and intensity thereby getting affected more.

Detrimental Effect of Anger

Once senses are brought under control, conflicting thoughts are arrested in its initiation state itself and thus mind is subjugated. Then focusing on eternal power, leads to wisdom. Alternatively giving way to sensual pressures leads to attachment to them and from the attachment comes the desire to have more and when the desire leads to expectation and the failure of fulfilling it leads to anger. From anger arises delusion, which in turn results in confused memory which becomes the cause of ruin and one’s ultimate fall. Two things that are noteworthy. Anger. Anger is temporary insanity. When the mind is occasionally upset it results in anger and when permanently affected it is lunacy. Both results in delusion. State of mind given to anger obscures thought, reasoning and vision resulting feeling is confusion.one loses the power of discriminating good from the bad resulting in delusion leading to indiscriminate violence  paving way for self-destruction.

Control Mind for Peace:

There is no wisdom in fickle minded, nor is quietness. To the unmeditative mind there is no peace and without peace no joy or happiness. Hence disciplining the mind becomes essential.  Uncontrolled mind, the mind that runs after sense objects results in lack of discrimination and dispersion of mind power. Like a rudderless ship we cannot predict where the mind would take one to. Thus the mind that follows sense objects leads one to astray away from desired result. To avoid this use of senses should be under the control of mind rather than mind running behind the senses. Rather than man who desires desire, the one who works with equanimity would attain peace. When the sense organs brings contact with the outside world the man of steadfastness, is able to work on them consciously thereby preventing the changes to the desire from resulting in unwanted feelings, longings, aversion etc. and does not allow them to affect his mind. This steady state of mind leads to liberation. His state of mind produces peacefulness on those who come in contact with them. Thus the man who lives devoid of “I”, and “Mine”, free from desires is said to live a peaceful life.

Viewed from worldly point:

Chapter II of Gita that proposes the way to intelligent life is makes an interesting reading, profound in its impact. Yet if one is to ask a question, is it practical, implementable the answer would be easier said than done. While it is difficult but not impossible. And all things that are said impossible at one time, it means it takes longer time to accomplish.  The first step in any redemption effort is the knowledge of how it is done. once the understanding is reached, constant contemplation will pave way for actionizing and that we start following it. To start with may be one out of ten time you remember and that is o.k., to start with.  both in sorrow and joy I should be same and maintain my equanimity, that would be successful. Then slowly by discipline, practice, constant repetition in mind one start internalizing it and follow the teachings of Gita. Therein lies the way to freedom.

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