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THE BHAGAVADGITA

Book: Dr. S. Radhakrishnan


Summary: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi

Part 2

Chapter 7: The Individual Self

Reality is, in its own nature, infinite, absolute, untrammeled, inalienably


possessed of its own unity and bliss.

God’s purpose for the world or the cosmic destiny of man is the realization of the
immortal aspiration through his mortal frame, the achievement of the Divine life
in and through this physical frame and intellectual consciousness.

Any sense of satisfaction and security derived from submission to external


authority is bought at the price of the integrity of the self. Submission is not the
human way of overcoming loneliness and anxiety. By developing our inner
spiritual nature, we gain a new kind of relatedness to the world and grow into the
freedom, where the integrity of the self is not comprised. We then become aware
of ourselves as active creative individuals, living, not by the discipline of external
authority but by the inward rule of free devotion to truth.

The individual self is a portion of Lord, a real, not an imaginary form of the
Supreme, a limited manifestation of God. Any form that the individual assumes is
bound to be superceded, for he always tries to transcend himself and this
process will continue till becoming reaches its end in being. When the ego is lost
in a false identification with the not-self and its forms, it is bound; but when
through the development of proper understanding, it realizes the true nature of
the self, then it is freed. This realization is possible through the proper
functioning of ‘buddhi’ or ‘vijnana’.

Man is the possessor of freedom. After describing the whole philosophy of life,
the teacher asks Arjuna to do as he chooses. The whole teaching of Gita
requires man to choose the good and realize it by conscious effort.

Man is a complex multi-dimensional being, including within him different


elements of matter, life, consciousness, intelligence and the Divine spark. He is
free when he acts from the highest level and uses the other elements for the
realization of his purpose. But when he is on the level of objective nature, when
he does not recognize his distinction from not-self, he becomes a slave to the
mechanism of nature. But even when he falsely identifies himself with the
objective universe, and feels that he is subject to the necessities of nature, he is
not without hope, for the One Spirit operates at all levels of being.

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Neither nature nor society can invade our inner being without permission. The
world is not fulfilling a prearranged plan in a mechanical way. The aim of creation
is the production of selves who freely carry out God’s will. We are asked to
control our impulses, shake-off our wanderings and confusions, rise above the
current of nature and regulate our conduct by reference to ‘buddhi’ or
understanding, as otherwise, we will become victims of ‘lust which is the enemy
of man on earth’.

There are certain factors in our lives which are determined for us by forces over
which we have no control. We do not choose how or when or where or in what
condition of life we are born. On the theory of rebirth, even these are chosen by
us. It is our past ‘karma’ that determines our ancestry, heredity and environment.

Our life is a mixture of necessity and freedom, chance and choice. By exercising
our choice properly, we can control steadily all the elements and eliminate
altogether the determinism of nature.

We must rise above our ego and grow into the Supreme Self of which the ego is
an expression. When we make our individual being one with the Supreme, we
rise above nature with its three modes, become ‘trigunatita’, and freed from the
bonds of the world.

Chapter 8: Yoga – Shastra

The Bhagavad-Gita gives us not only a metaphysics (‘Brahma-Vidya’) but also a


discipline (‘Yoga-Shastra’). Derived from the root, ‘yuj’, to bind together, yoga
means binding one’s psychic powers, balancing and enhancing them. By yoking
together and harnessing our energies by the most intense concentration of
personality, we force the passage from the narrow ego to the transcendent
personality.

Perfection at human level is a task to be accomplished by conscious endeavour.


The image of God operating in us produces a sense of insufficiency. Man has a
haunting sense of the vanity, the transience and the precariousness of all human
happiness.

For every individual there comes an hour sometime or other, for nature is not in a
hurry, when everything he can do for himself fails, when he sinks into the gulf of
utter blackness, an hour when he would give all he has for one gleam of light, for
one sign of the Divine. When he is assailed by doubt, denial, hatred of life and
black despair, he can escape from them only if God lays his hand on him.

The invisible impulse to seek God produces the agony that inspires heroic
idealism and human fulfillment. The image of God in us expresses itself in the
infinite capacity for self-transcendence.

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Chapter 9: ‘Jnana’ or Saving Wisdom

Wisdom is not to be confused with theoretical learning or correct beliefs, for


ignorance is not intellectual error. It is spiritual blindness. To remove it, we must
cleanse the soul of its defilement and kindle the spiritual vision. The fire of
passion and the tumult of desire must be suppressed. The mind, inconstant and
unstable, must be steadied so as to reflect the wisdom from above. We must
control the senses, possess the faith which no intellectual doubts disturb and
train the understanding (‘buddhi’).

Wisdom is direct experience which occurs as soon as obstacles to its realization


are removed. The effort of the seeker is directed to the elimination of the
hindrances, to the removal of the obscuring tendencies of ‘avidya’. According to
Advaita Vedanta, this wisdom is always present. It is not a thing to be acquired; it
has only to be revealed.

‘Jnana’ and ‘ajnana’, wisdom and ignorance are opposed as light and darkness.
When wisdom dawns, ignorance dies and the evil is cut off at the root. The
liberated soul overcomes the world. There is nothing to conquer or to create.

Chapter 10: The Way to Knowledge: ‘Jnana-marga’

We can reach the goal of perfection, attain the saving truth in three different
ways: by a knowledge of the Reality (‘Jnana’), or adoration and love (‘Bhakti’) of
the Supreme Person or by subjection of the will to the Divine purpose (‘Karma’).
These are distinguished on account of the distribution of emphasis on the
theoretical, emotional and practical aspects. Men are of different types, reflective,
emotional or active but they are not exclusively so. At the end, knowledge, love
and action mingle together. God Himself is ‘Sat’, ‘Chit’ and ‘Ananda’, reality,
truth, and bliss.

From the earliest times, yoga has been employed to describe practices and
experiences of a special kind which have been later adapted to the teachings of
the different methods, ‘Jnana’, ‘Bhakti’ and ‘Karma’. Each of them uses the
practices of ‘Dhyana-yoga’ or the way of meditation. According to Patanjali
[Yoga-Sutras 1.2]:

“Yoga is the suppression of the activities of mind.”

Unless the individual has complete self-awareness, he cannot become master of


his life. Besides body, life and mind require to be integrated. As a self-conscious
being, man is actually aware of the deeper discords in him. He generally resorts
to working compromises and leads a precarious life. But until a perfect harmony,
an organic balance, of his many sided possibilities is achieved, he is not fully
master of himself.

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The Bhagavad-Gita describes to us how the aspirant avoids bodily excesses of
indulgence or abstinence, chooses a comfortable seat, regulates his breathing,
focuses his mind on one point and becomes harmonized (‘yukta’) and detached
from all desire for the fruit of action. When he attains this unity, he arrives at a
perfect understanding with his fellow beings through sympathy and love and not
because it is a matter of duty.

Yoga is to be practiced for the sake of attaining truth, of gaining contact with
Reality. Krishna is the Lord of Yoga (‘Yogeshvara’) who helps us in our life to
save ourselves. He is the supreme lord of spiritual experience who conveys
these moments of celestial glory when man gets beyond the veil of the flesh and
also indicates their true relation to the problems of daily existence.

Chapter 11: The Way of Devotion: ‘Bhakti-marga’

Bhakti or devotion is a relationship of trust and love to a personal God. Worship


of the personal God is recommended as the easier way open to all, the weak and
the lowly, the illiterate and the ignorant.

Bhakti is derived from the root ‘bhaj’, to serve, and means service of the Lord. It
is loving attachment to God. Narada defines it as ‘intense love for God’. For
Shandilya, it is ‘Supreme longing for God, for his own sake’. It is surrender in
trusting relationship appropriation of the grace of the Lord. It is ‘Ishvarapranidhan’
of Yoga Sutra, which according to Bhoja, is “the love in which, without seeking
results, such as sense enjoyment, etc., all works are dedicated to the teacher of
teachers”.

The Eternal One is viewed in the Bhagavad-Gita not so much as the God of
philosophical speculation as the God of grace such as the heart and the soul
need and seek, who inspires personal trust and love, reverence and loyal self-
surrender.

When the soul surrenders itself to God, He takes up our knowledge and casts
away all forms of insufficiency and transforms all into His infinite light, and the
purity of the universal good.

Man’s effort is involved in the total surrender to the Supreme. It cannot be


unintentional or effortless. The doctrine of grace is not to be interpreted as one of
special election, as such a conception conflicts with the general trend of the Gita
that the Supreme is “the same to all beings”.

So long as worship is done with devotion, it purifies the heart and prepares the
mind for the higher consciousness.

Bhakti leads to ‘Jnana’ or wisdom. When the devotion glows, the Lord dwelling in
the soul imparts to the devotee by His grace and light of wisdom. The devotee

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feels united intimately with the Supreme, who is experienced as the being in
whom all antitheses vanish. He sees God in himself and himself in God.

Bhakti, in the Bhagavad-Gita, is an utter self-giving to the Transcendent. It is to


believe in God, to love Him, to be devoted to Him, to enter into Him. It is its own
reward. Such a devotee has in him the context of the highest knowledge as well
as the energy of a perfect man.

Chapter 12: The Way of Action: ‘Karma-marga’

In determining the purpose of any treatise, we must see the question with which
it opens (‘upakrama’) and the conclusion to which it leads (‘upasamhara’). The
Gita opens with a problem. Arjuna refuses to fight and raises difficulties. He puts
up a plausible plea for abstention from activity and retreat from the world, an
ideal that dominated certain sects at the time of the composition of the Gita. To
convert him is the purpose of Gita.

Right through the teacher (Krishna) emphasizes the need for action. He does not
adopt the solution of dismissing the world as an illusion and action as a snare.
He recommends the full active life of the man in the world with the inner life
anchored in the Eternal Spirit.

The Gita is therefore a mandate for action. It explains what a man ought to do
not merely as a social being but as an individual with a spiritual destiny. It deals
fairly with the spirit of renunciation as well as with the ceremonial piety of the
people which are worked into its code of ethics.

The Gita adopts the view developed in the Bhagavat religion which has the two-
fold purpose of helping us to obtain complete release and do work in the world.
The Gita asks us to live in the world and save it.

The Gita advocates detachment from desires and not cessation from work.

Krishna advises Arjuna to fight without passion or ill-will, without anger or


attachment and if we develop such a frame of mind violence becomes
impossible. We must fight against what is wrong but if we allow ourselves to
hate, that ensures our spiritual defeat. Action done devotedly and
wholeheartedly, without attachment to results makes for perfection.

The Gita requires us to lay stress on human brotherhood. If we act in the spirit of
the Gita with detachment and dedication, and have love even for our enemy, we
will help to rid the world of wars.

In his commentary on ‘Sanatsujatiya’, Shankara says: “Liberation is


accomplished by wisdom, but wisdom does not spring without the purification of
the heart. Therefore, for the purification of the heart one should perform all acts

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of speech, mind and body, prescribed in the ‘Shrutis’ and ‘Smritis’, dedicating
them to the Supreme Lord.”

The teacher of the Gita recognizes a realm of reality where ‘Karma’ does not
operate and if we establish our relations with it, we are free in our deepest being.
The chain of ‘Karma’ can be broken here and now, within the flux of the empirical
world. We become masters of karma by developing faith in God.

We can live in God’s world as God intends us to live only by keeping alive the
precious unearthly flame of uniqueness. By placing ourselves in the hands of the
Divine, by making ourselves perfect instruments for His use do we attain the
highest spiritual wisdom.

The Gita teaches the doctrine of the Brahman-Atman which the followers of the
Upanishads seek and proclaim. The teacher of the Gita reconciles the different
systems in vogue and gives us a comprehensive eirenicon which is not local and
temporary but is for all time and all men. He does not emphasize external forms
or dogmatic notions but insists on first principles and great facts of human nature
and being.

Chapter 13: The Goal

The Gita insists on the unity of life of spirit which cannot be resolved into
philosophical wisdom, devoted love and strenuous action. Work, knowledge and
devotion are complementary both when we seek the goal and after we attain it.

The liberated souls take upon themselves the burden of the redemption of the
whole world. Anchored in the timeless foundation of our spiritual existence, the
freed soul, the eternal individual works for the ‘jiva-loka’; while possessing
individuality of body, life and mind he yet remains the universality of spirit.
Whatever action he does, his constant communion with the Supreme is
undisturbed.

When the purpose of the cosmos is reached, when the Kingdom of God is
established, when it is on earth as it is in heaven, when all individuals acquire the
wisdom of spirit and are superior to the levels of being in which birth and death
take place, then this cosmic process is taken over into that which is beyond all
manifestations.

Summary: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi

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