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)

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

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The Way of Meditation – Gita VI

The Way of Meditation – Gita VI

Man, to succeed in life, excluding the external factors beyond his control, from his individual self, need to have co-operation from his body, mind, intellect, ego and consciousness. When any one of these are out of control, then energies are frittered away and then one has to concentrate and work to bring the energies that are off under control. Of these mind is challenging. It controls the sense organs and when not in tune is controlled by sense organs. It often flirts from one subject to another thereby hampering focus which is essential for any action to succeed.  In this chapter 6 of Gita, Krishna shows the way of bringing mind under control by Meditation, the techniques there off and how this meditation is likely to lead one to freedom.

Krishna elucidates, the qualities of a meditator/yogi, the ideal physical environment for meditation, the food, attitude, practice requirements for meditation , for if any one of these is not ideal one is likely to be disturbed and  concentration becomes difficult. And ends it up with importance of meditation and the benefits there off. There by in this chapter Krishna shows us the way for our emancipation through the practice of meditation.

Let the man be lifted by his own self:

Man is his best friend and worst enemy. Self help is the best help. A man’s own self, and his discriminative knowledge is the only friend. Any external object, event, person that one gets attached creates attachment and bondage. But the man who has not control over himself, his self injures him, like any external enemy and for such a person there is no need for an external enemy. He who has conquered himself and is serene in mind is constantly absorbed in supreme self, alike both in heat and cold, pleasure and pain, in honour and dishonor is wise. Yoga of meditation helps man to uplift himself and one who accomplishes meditation becomes a Yogi.

Qualities of a Yogi:

Yogi is one whose heart, through knowledge and realization, is filled with satisfaction, who having conquered his senses, never vacillates, and to whom a clod, a stone, and gold are the same.  Yogi is one who has equal regard for well-wishers, friends and foes; for those who are related or indifferent to him, for the impartial and the malicious and even for the righteous and sinful. Now how does one get to that state of inner poise.

Way of Meditation

For some people meditation happens naturally. They can sit, pull their senses away from external objects, quieten the mind and turn consciousness inward with least resistance. Such people are also able to function effectively in the outer world.  They are able to organize their life, have purposeful life and carry calm demeanor not impacted by the happening around them. They can renounce their thoughts -all thoughts of imagination, planning for future and dreaming and be in the here, now.  Such a person is called Yogi.  Others need practice.

For meditation to happen one should always try to concentrate his mind, retiring into solitude and living alone, having subdued his mind and body and got rid of his desires and possessions. He must purify the mind the of past impression, agitations, ego-centrism and integrate the mind.

The Seat: In a clean spot having fixed his seat, a firm seat that is neither too high nor too low and being comfortable and sitting there, restraining the activities of his mind and senses and bringing his thoughts to a point, he should practice yoga for the purification of the self.

The posture: one should sit firm, holding his body, neck and head erect and still, and gaze steadily at the tip of his nose without looking around. When the eyes are withdrawn from sense objects, the mind becomes steady and the eye balls are still and the gaze is directed as it were to the tip of the nose. His breathing has to be measured.

Serene and fearless, chaste and celibate, with disciplined mind thinking of Brahman creator he has to meditate.

The Food: Yoga is for one who neither eats too much nor for him who eats too little. It is not for one who sleeps too much nor for him who sleeps too little. It is for one who maintains moderation in eating, sleeping and in every activity, he undertakes. Simply put no extremes. Body well provided for and under control. When that happens the bodily disturbances and distractions disappear and so also the thoughts of presence or absence of body.

Controlling the Mind: Mind by nature is restless and difficult to control. It is a friend if one has controlled it, else it is one’s enemy. The uncontrolled mind runs behind the pull of sense objects. Controlling one’s mind is the first step towards one’ release and not easy.  However, this can be achieved by practice and by detachment. Austerity, continence, discrimination and faith are also helpful. And last but not least one should persevere despite failures for control of mind being difficult is not likely to happen in the very first attempt or few attempts. So persistence is imperative.  An understanding that sensory enjoyments are likely to lead one to short time happiness with another side being pain and sorrow effort must the taken to detach oneself from engaging in excess of sensory pleasures and entertainment.

Success in Yoga –  When the well controlled mind practices meditation, resting on self, free from longing for objects – seen or unseen, belonging to this world or the next, then one is said to have attained yoga.  Yoga is not possible for one who cannot control himself. And the test of Yoga’s validity lies in one’s seeing results through actual experimentation.  Thus by practice alone can one attain Yoga. And the path being difficult, if one fails in his path, he would still be benefited. For having tried, the knowledge stays with him.  And by virtue of his practice he can take it up from there towards perfection anytime in this life or here after.

Benefits of yoga of Meditation – Yoga is a unique state of self-realization. When meditation is practiced thus, with subdued mind, one attains the peace and subsequently freedom and bliss. The mind is completely tranquil, passions are quieted, free from stress and strains and becomes one with Brahman.

In deep meditation sense object are pulled in and merge with mind. With mind also rested and calmed becomes steady. In that state cognition alone functions and that is when self is realized. When mind is under control, focused, calm, seeing the real self one experiences boundless joy that is beyond the sensory perception can bring in. One is able to go beyond pain, transcends sorrows. As a result of this realization of Brahman and oneness with Brahmans, one attains a state where he is able to see himself in every one and in everything and vice versa. He realizes Unity, Brahman and oneness with Brahman. The result of this knowledge is liberation.

Thus is the way of Meditation, imparted by Krishna in sixth chapter of Bhagavad Gita.

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Knowledge – A Gateway to Freedom – Gita Chapter IV

Knowledge, Action and Renunciation – Way to Freedom

Freedom can be obtained by either following the path of Knowledge, Action or Renunciation and the path differs based on the individual’s latent tendencies.

Why birth:

As per Hindu philosophy, there is reincarnation. Everybody has had multiple births and death but are not aware of it. And that there is a definitive pattern behind taking birth. Natures decide the course. Everyone is born with certain tendencies and these latent characters of one decides one’s preferences and orientation in life. There also exists the reason behind everyone’s birth and the success is in knowing our purpose of being born, our areas of work, field of operation and tendencies which we must harness and fine tune so that our purpose in life can be fulfilled. In Bhagavad Gita Krishna states his life purpose as – “whenever there is decay of “Dharma” – morality, virtue, righteousness – and there is rise of “Adharma” – decay, decadence, injustice, wickedness, – I am born in this world; for the protection of good people, for the destruction of evil-doers, for re-establishing the right.” Only different being his birth and ours is that his is not guided by the desires and karma but by his own determination and based on the needs of time. He is not bound by the life-death cycle which we are. And the ultimate freedom for a human being is supposed to be getting liberated from this cycle.

Knowledge as-a-way to freedom:

Krishna says – Those who know me, my action, my birth obtains freedom. Those who can get rid of desire, fear and anger, worship me, get purified in the fire of wisdom, or whichever way they reach out to me get liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Ways of Action and Organizing Society:

Men are endowed with different temperaments and tendencies. All are not equal and each one has some tendencies that are prominent. Action is the easiest way to achieve material success in this world. For this purpose, the society and people working are divided into four divisions, based on the energy requirements for effective functioning, each function being complementary. The four castes or varnas are created, are aligned with types of tendencies and actions, being the tendency for knowledge acquisition and exposition, for warrior-ship, for commerce and business and for production involving ground level work. Four division of labors, based on their tendencies and capability, each meant for specific purpose or excelling in certain works to express themselves to fulfill societal functions. There is no work that is low or high and all are equally important for the effective functioning of the society. This division helps in one expressing themselves freely based on their inherent tendencies. It is not that others cannot do it but something like the economic concept of comparative advantage. This we find still prevalent in organizations and more akin to consultant, architects, authors, teachers forming intellectual class, Military, Police, CEOs, Controllers, Sales and Marketing, forming part of warrior clan.  And Business, trading, Farming and producing class constituting the third section and service oriented work forming the other sections of the society.  It is important to note here, that as Krishna says in the opening verses of this chapter, these knowledges has however deteriorated and collapsed in the course of time, when being handed over from generations to generations and societal imperfections that this has becomes the most mis-interpreted concept in Hinduism and India currently.

Way of doing work:

Do work without doers-ship. Do without enjoyer-ship. Work. Engage.  Be amidst work. But do not think that you are doing it. Because the nature that is present in the world does it. Circumstances make it happen. It is a collective action.  To understand this better, if you have put a seed to grow, for it to start giving fruit, in addition to you, the sun, water, nutrients from soil, may be birds for pollination need to work together for the tree to start giving fruit. And when it starts fruiting may be the enjoyer could be somebody else. In the same manner, your duty is just to work without bringing into thinking that it is who you are doing and you are the enjoyer. When engaging in action, understanding that the circumstances and my inherence tendencies is making me do this, without getting impacted by the ego, you are free from the sorrow of individuality and not bound by the suffering born out of work.

Action, Inaction, Prohibited Action

In familiar parlance action means movement and inaction is absence of movement. Any action against law is prohibited action. Life means activity, a way to evolve, is dynamic and cannot even for a second cease to work. When life cases death occurs. So, action is inevitable.

Action is imperative if one lives. One cannot renounce action. Every action has a reaction and one has to bear the fruit of their karma.  However, any action that is performed without attachment, that I am the doer or for the fruits of action does not bind the soul.  Work is needed for purification of the self. Even if one is high up in the ladder in the society and can do without performing any work, it has to be done so that no wrong precedent is set for others still in the lower spectrum of evolution.

Action in inaction and Inaction in Action:

Performing action with an understanding that it is being done by body and mind, not induced by once nature, one self and the soul is not involved in it is inaction though action is being done. Here action essentially means those actions that is needed to be done and not the ones impelled by one’s desires, likes and dislikes and circumstances.  Similarly, when one thinks no action is being performed while say sitting, sleeping etc., it means no perceptible bodily action is taking place. It needs to be understood that the bodily action of breathing, digesting, circulation of blood etc. is happening involuntarily. Our mind may be busy in thinking, dreaming, extrapolating and visualizing. So seemingly inactive one is active.

And the man whose work is devoid of desires and purposes to enjoy the result of action, and whose actions are based on knowledge he is called a sage by the wise. Such a man, even when involved in worldly action performs it because he had to do it and to set example for others rather than for fulfilling his desires or expecting any results. If he is a renunciate he works to maintain his bodily functions only. Free from desire, with the mind and the self-controlled, having relinquished all  possessions doing mere bodily action, he incurs no sin.

Satisfied with that which comes to him by chance, or in course of nature, rising above the dualities or like and dislikes, pleasure and pain, hot and cold etc., being equipoise both in success and failure, working with such frame of mind even though he is working he would not be bound by the actions.

That man from whom all attachment is gone, from whom all cause of bondage, right and wrong has fled away, whose mind is ever fixed in wisdom alone, who acts  with a view,  to  the  performance of a sacrifice, his action with  its result is reduced to  nothing meaning does not create bondage arising out of action. Thus, work not prohibited in scriptures, work performed with the right knowledge of doing, without the desire for its action and with a sacrificial mindset frees one from the bondage arising out of such actions.

Know that, Brahman is the “Real, Consciousness and the Infinite”. He is cognized by all and is the innermost self of all.  It is instrument of action. He is all pervading. He manifests himself as an instrument of action, and the five forms actions and its accessories.

Work as a Yagna-Sacrifice:

Sacrifice is not limited to fire sacrifice or yagna alone as known in the traditional circle. It includes all work done with restraint, focus and effort. Thus, there are multiple ways in which sacrifice is performed.  Controlling one’s senses, Imparting knowledge one had gained to others, charity by donating wealth, following austerity, sacrifices by way reading, writing, acquiring knowledge, following scriptural vows are of different ways of sacrifice. Essentially all works that require discipline, excellence and renunciation of something is what is meant as Yagna here. It is work for work’s sake and duty for duty’s sake.

Controlling food, sensory intake, engaging in pranayama – Controlling one’s incoming and outgoing breath, and performing the sacrifices one is said to obtain freedom.

The sacrifices performed with material objects produces material effects, whereas wisdom-sacrifice does not. Therefore, sacrifice where knowledge is involved is superior to the sacrifice performed with material objects.  For, wisdom, which is the means to moksha comprehends all action.

Superiority of Wisdom:

Wisdom being the means to one’s freedom, Krishna says that it should be the basis for all actions. Then he describes why, how, from whom, with what mindset one gets to acquire wisdom. And what is this wisdom and benefit of acquiring this wisdom.

Approach the Guru, the teacher who is a realized self, with a sense of humility, enquiry and respectful mindset and by providing him service. Enquire what is the cause of bondage and how to get relieved from it.  And What is wisdom (Vidya) and what is ignorance and mistaken belief (Avidya). Guru can then impart knowledge of action, renunciation and wisdom.

Once this wisdom is obtained, clarity sets in and one will not be confused again as one is now. One is also able to perceive that all beings, all manifestation say from self to grass is of same Creator (Brahma), consciousness and the whole universe exists in oneself and one in the universe. There is a oneness, a unity of all things and all beings which is essence of Upanishadic wisdom.

With the right knowledge one can cross this samsara. While prarabdah karma, responsible for this life, that has commenced has to run its course, the result of future action, accumulated karma from actions of previous life that has not commenced (sanchita karma), yet to start and yet to fructify can be nullified by right knowledge.

Thus, the seeker of freedom, who has perfected himself by practice in yoga of action, knowledge and renunciation will attain peace and spiritual wisdom. On the other hand, the man who knows not  the Self, the man who has no faith in the teachings of his Guru, the main whose mind is full of doubts is  ruined.

Therefore, the man by practice of Karma Yoga has all his doubts and ignorance cleared and by knowledge acquires wisdom.  Hence Krishna commands – Arise! O Arjuna! Fight.  And thereby energizing us also to get out despondency and perform in this world with knowledge and wisdom.

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25th April, 2017

The Nature as Teacher – 24 Gurus around us -III

continued from previous post…..

  1. Pingala: There was a dancing girl named Pingala, she was tired of looking for customers. As time went by no one came and she became anxious and frustrated. At the height of frustration she gave up her wait for customer and went to sleep. At that moment it also dawned on her that she does not need anyone for her happiness and bliss, decides to give up her pursuit of wealth and pleasing customers. She teaches that abandonment of expectation from people leads to contentment and infinite joy. Also with Atma contained in oneself there is no need to search outside for happiness and contentment.
  2. The kurara bird (hawk):A hawk carrying a prey was attacked by other birds like crow, eagle and other larger animals eyeing for same prey.  After some fierce fight, the bird carrying the prey, out of fear for its life,  let it fall so that other birds immediately went after the prey  allowing the original bird that had the meat to escape. From this one learns that there is intense competition and aggression in the world to acquire  material objects and for worldly pleasures. One who yearns for it is likely to come into contest and clash with fellow being who also compete for the same leading to avoidable aggression, strife, worry and stress. By balancing, managing and controlling ones wants one can save himself much of the unhappiness, have  and enjoy peace of mind.
  3. The child:Two children fight for some time. Their parents intervene to end the fight and they end up being enemies for life. But the children who were fighting initially  after some time forget and start playing together again. This is because they are free from ego and innocent. Be like a child to be happy.
  4. The young girl:There was a young girl who was doing work with hands full of bangles. During work it jangled against each other and was making noise. Since she had guest then, she did not want them to know that she was doing work. So, to reduce noise she removed all bangles except two. This reduced the noise to a great extent, but still was making noise, then she removed one more and was wearing only one in each hand. This way she could work without making noise and desist other from knowing what she was doing. So too, when many people live together, there will be noise, clashing of interests, disturbance, discord, dispute and fighting. Even when there are only two people difference of opinion and resultant discord is bound to be there. So, the ascetic is better of living in solitude. This is what the maiden working with hands full of bangle teaches one.
  1. The arrow maker: Once there was an arrow maker who was so absorbed in his work of making a straight arrow that he did not notice the king’s procession passing by. Then I learnt that to produce excellent result focus is necessary.
  2. The snake: The snake never builds a place for itself. It moves around and changes its place and sheds it outer skin. Thus it is able to lead safe life. An ant though puts effort and makes ant hill and later that is taken by snakes. Likewise, the householders endure difficulty in building and running their house by themselves while ascetic lives free by roaming around and not being rooted in one place. Thus one should know that people aspiring for carefree life should live lite, know his true self, and understand that at the end of his life time one will shed this body and get a new life as per one’s actions in this life time.
  3. The spider: The spider weaves its web from the thread in the form of a fluid. After sometime, it gathers up the web into itself. Thus the God projects the whole world during creation phase and after sometime, withdraws it into itself at the time of dissolution. The individual soul too takes birth in the body as per its past action, and in alignment with its inherent tendencies acquires intellect, mind, sense organs and bodies of action. Its latent tendencies direct the role play and actions while in this world and space. And at the end of allotted time-frame, death occurs when the soul again withdraws its senses, mind, and tendencies acquired in the life time and leaves the body. Thus, birth and death, creation and dissolution happens is what one learns from Spider.
  4. The wasp/Caterpillar: Wasp trapped a weaker insect in his hive. This insect took on the mentality of a wasp out of intense fear of the wasp, and thus became a wasp in its next life. This illustrates how one attains in the next life what one’s mind is fixed upon. You are the company you keep and what you think you become is what one learn from caterpillar. Good thoughts, company and action will lead one to higher level/birth.

Thus are the advise of Dattatreya to Yadu on what he has learnt from nature around him and how inculcating it in his life has made him blissful.

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The Nature as Teacher – 24 Gurus around us -II

continued from earlier post…..

Of the following 24 teachers from around us we saw The earth, Air, Sky, Water, Fire, Moon, Sun, and Pigeon in the previous post. In this let us see what the stories of python, sea, moth, honey bee, elephant, honey collector, deer and fish teaches us.

The Earth The Air The Sky Water Fire Moon
Sun Pigeon Python Sea Moth Honey Bee
Elephant Honey Thief Deer Fish Prostitute Pingala Kurara Bird
The Child Young Girl Arrow Maker Serpent Spider Wasp
  1. Python: Python does not roam around looking for food instead waits for food to come to him and eats whatever comes it way, be it sufficient or not. It teaches us to accept whatever one comes across in the life, taking sufferings, hardships, miseries in life, joy, happiness, wealth in ones stride. Be rest assured and content with one’s state and be peaceful, you will get what is needed.
  2. Sea: Sea is deep. Sea is Clear. Sea cannot be crossed easily. Can’t churn it. Because of monsoon or the rivers emptying in it, sea does not swell or shrink. A sage, like sea is clear minded, unmoved amidst the tribulations of life. His wealth of knowledge is available to all those who associate with him.
  3. Moth: A moth is captivated by the radiance of flames, gets attracted, approaches flame, gets burned and dies. Thus being attracted by the outward look of things, we get deceived and fall prey. Man is foolishly gets tempted by the illusory pleasures of the visual sense and gets caught in the ceaseless cycles of birth and death. The wise one, understand the illusion of the sensory world and controls it and thereby obtains freedom.
  4. Honey Bee: A honey bee obtains honey from all flowers, without harming the flower and within the limit. Also note that the honey bee does not drink honey but it gets killed for it by honey gatherers. Thus a wise man should be able to know how, where and how much obtain necessary things, without harm for the self and the giver, without being greedy.
  5. Elephant: A bull elephant is captured by using female elephant as bait. Thus is man/woman gets lured by infatuation and sex and uncontrolled and unrighteous attraction to opposite sex is harmful is what elephant teaches one.
  6. Honey Thief: Honey being greedy collects honey, stores it, does neither eats it by self or allow other honey-bees to eats it. And one fine day it looses it to honey collector. Similarly man accumulates wealth by hard work, over a period of time, by umpteen sacrifices, forsaking enjoyment, and may lose it suddenly to fire, flood, treachery, tax, or if he were to die to his heirs or third party if issue less who may use of misuse his wealth. Thus being greedy leads one to loss is what honey bee teaches
  7. Deer: The deer is very fond of music and is very much attracted by it thus is trapped by hunter using music. It is trapped by the sense organ of listening – the ear. Thus excessive passion and sensory pleasure of listening to music and dance is thus harmful is what Deer teaches.
  8. Fish: The fish in search for food, due to greed is caught by the tasty bait and dies. Similarly, man meets his destruction by his craving for delicious food. Among the senses, tongue is the most powerful and difficult to control, and once controlled it makes it easy for one to manage other sensory pleasures. Learn to eat healthy and balanced food and be saved. Control your tongue, the sense organ for taste is what one learns from Fish.

To be continued

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.

***

 

Being Discriminatory and Overcoming Tendencies

We all have a vasanas or tendencies or propensity to act in a certain way, in a given situation. The less aware we are at the moment of action, the more likely it is that we will act in that way again and again. Depending upon whether these are good, bad or mixed, tendency it could decide our state of wellbeing. Being freed from these discriminatory tendencies leads one to liberation or freedom.

Origination of Behavioral Tendencies

How do we create tendencies? Every thought, feeling, imagination, perception and action creates an impression in our mind. When they become deep rooted they are called vasanas or tendencies. These tendencies then can become manifest or hidden. These tendencies create like or dislike in us and prompt us for action. If they are weak we can dismiss it and if it is strong then one is compelled to act.  If our tendencies are good, then actions tend to be favorable else we end up having problems and sufferings.

These tendencies cloud our mind and take away our freedom of action. How do we overcome the desire for objects? How do we free ourselves from our tendencies, our discrimination between likes and dislikes, good and bad. One needs to have strong intelligence and mind power to overcome our negative tendencies.

Cultivating intellect

Intellect is of two kinds – sharp and subtle. Sharp intellect is the one we use in our day to day life and that helps us in understanding physical world, analyse and categorise objects, people and actions of the world and help us to acquire material wealth and enjoy our life. This is essential to bring fame, wealth and worldly success.

Subtle intellect, on the other hand helps us to understand ourselves better and the questions of existence in this world. Questions such as who am I, where from I come, where do I go henceforth, why this world is full of sufferings, is this real. Understanding these questions call for different kind of intelligence.

But for a person which intelligence is predominant depends upon their status in life and their general tendencies in life. Whether inherent or acquired, our tendencies are the ones which decides our life to a great extent.

Sage Vasistha counsels Rama thus:

“That which is desired by man is called purushartha and the effort to gain the desired goal is also purushartha. Fate is what comes to us as a result of our past actions, todays efforts carves tomorrows destiny. What comes to us in the present is our destiny what we do with what we get is our effort. Therefore, success and failure are in our hands. Consequently, instead of wasting time in worrying about past or the future we must do our best with whatever we have on hand.

One who waits for better times to come waits forever. One who blames luck, stars or god can never succeed.”

– “Yoga Vasistha sara Sangraha” – Swami Tejomayananda

Overcoming bad  and cultivating good behavioral tendencies

One needs to lift oneself up by their own effort. And how do we work.  To be effective our work has to be well directed, well thought, focused and continuous till the goal is achieved.

We are of our mind. All of us are bundles of good and bad tendencies while good dominates in some and bad in some. Both these tendencies have to be overcome to attain freedom.

Bad tendencies are those desires that seek pleasure, destructive, of negative emotions and inauspicious.  Overcoming bad tendencies require subtle energies. It needs us to understand ourselves and our aspirations, likes and disposition better as a first step.

So how can this be achieved.

  • By being intellectually alert
  • By analysis
  • By substitution
  • By outgrowing
  • By observing others
  • By one’s own suffering
  • By path of action
  • By path of devotion
  • By path of knowledge
  • By path of meditation

 

Bad tendencies pollute our mind and affect our joy and peace in life. Bad tendencies are overcome by cultivating good tendencies. And what are they? Any thoughts and aspirations that express feelings and thinking of upliftment of oneself and others, studying scriptures, being creative, introspection and meditation and doing one’s duty. The awareness of our thought helps us in cleansing the mind. Whenever we find oneself getting into negative thought, bad company be it of books, people, situation, or programs that evoke the bad in us we need to get out of it immediately and substitute it by alternate thoughts and actions. Some of these desires are overcome as we fulfill or as we outgrow it

We should also learn to question our desires, needs and aspirations and understand where they lead us to. When we watch them in our mind without trying to question, control or manipulate it they vanish by themselves.

It is not only bad tendencies but also good tendencies affect us.  At first one has to transform bad tendencies into good and ultimately be freed of good tendency also.

Cultivating Good Behavioral Tendencies

For liberation one need to cultivate the quite mind, inquiring mind, content mind and association with wise people.

The mind has to remain quite despite provocations, insults, problems, sufferings and unfulfilled desires. We should develop intellect to question the nature of reality – who am I, why am I here, where have I come from, where do I go from here, who are my parents, what is this universe in which I live so on and so forth. And we should cultivate the virtue of contentment. Spiritual progress is possible only for the one has who attained material contentment. Hence material contentment should be achieved.   Needless to say associating with wise help us improve ourselves, understand the goal of life and the means to reach it.

Being intelligent, discriminatory, calm and alert in the moment with our intellect one would be able to decide between alternative courses of action and overcome detrimental innate tendency if any and  lead a good life.

  • Adopted from Chapter II, Preparatory teachings of Sage Vasistha, Yoga Vasishta Sara Sangraha, Swamy Tejomayananda, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust Publication