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.



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.