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Gita Saroddhara - Introduction___________________________________________________________________

INTRODUCTION TO KANNADA EDITION___________________________________________________


PREFACE_________________________________________________________________________________
1. Introduction:______________________________________________________________________________
2. On the sacred field of Kurukshetra:__________________________________________________________
3. Between the two armies:___________________________________________________________________
4. The background of Sri Krishna's teachings:____________________________________________________
5. Lament not for the unlamentable:____________________________________________________________
6. Attachment is the root of sorrow:____________________________________________________________
8. No harm will accrue from righteous warfare:___________________________________________________
9. Desire is the root of sin:___________________________________________________________________
10. The sole path of truth:____________________________________________________________________
11. Vedas and desire-prompted action:__________________________________________________________
12. Action and concern for the results:__________________________________________________________
13. Excellence of disinterested action:__________________________________________________________
14. The fruit of desireless action:______________________________________________________________
15. The Sthitaprajna and the control of the senses:________________________________________________
16. Sthitaprajna and his way of life:____________________________________________________________
17. Then why bother about action?_____________________________________________________________
18. Forsaking action is impracticable:__________________________________________________________
19. Let action be in the form of sacrifice:________________________________________________________
20. Pleasing each other:_____________________________________________________________________
21. Yajna and the life cycle:__________________________________________________________________
22. Evil deeds cannot be Yajna:_______________________________________________________________
23. Remission of action:_____________________________________________________________________
24. Obligation of action on the Jnani:___________________________________________________________
25. Difference between jnani and ajnani:________________________________________________________
26. Harmonisation of knowledge with action:____________________________________________________
27. Death in a proper pursuit is worthy:_________________________________________________________
28. The special virtues of the caste system:______________________________________________________
29. Desire, the arch-enemy of the soul:_________________________________________________________
30. The way desire invades man:______________________________________________________________
31. Knowledge is the means to overcome desire:__________________________________________________
32. The antiquity of the Gita dharma:___________________________________________________________
33. The incarnation of God and its purpose:______________________________________________________
34. The difference between the individual soul and the Universal Soul:________________________________
35. Jnanis and Traividyas:____________________________________________________________________
36. The fourfold varna system as depicted by the Gita:_____________________________________________
37. Action and inaction:_____________________________________________________________________
38. Different kinds of sacrifice:_______________________________________________________________
39. Knowledge itself is the Fruit of Sacrifice:____________________________________________________
40. The doubter perishes:____________________________________________________________________
41. Renunciation and Karmayoga:_____________________________________________________________
42. Knowledge and Action are not contrary:_____________________________________________________
43. The Non-attachment of a Karmayogi:_______________________________________________________
44. A jnani is not averse to the world:__________________________________________________________
45. The Jnani's identical Vision:_______________________________________________________________
46. Excellence of Spiritual Happiness:__________________________________________________________

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47. From Karmayoga to Dhyanayoga:__________________________________________________________
48. Social Service Is Indispensable for a Karmayogi:______________________________________________
49. The Theory and Practice of Meditation:______________________________________________________
50. The Path of Meditation is difficult but harmless._______________________________________________
51. Devotion and Knowledge of God's Greatness:_________________________________________________
52. Varieties of Devotion:____________________________________________________________________
53. Non-dualism and Devotion:_______________________________________________________________
54. Spirit of Worship is an Indivisible Part of Devotion:____________________________________________
55. Devotion and self-growth:________________________________________________________________
56. In Hinduism there is only One Supreme God:_________________________________________________
57. Sri Krishna is the Supreme God:___________________________________________________________
58. An Aspirant should Know the Fundamental Principles:__________________________________________
59. Spiritual exercise are meant for now________________________________________________________
60. Thinking of God at the Moment of Death:____________________________________________________
61. Journey during the Dark and the White Halves of the Month:_____________________________________
62. The Relationship between the World and the God:_____________________________________________
63. Is Hatred of God also a Means to Salvation?__________________________________________________
64. I Will Look After You:___________________________________________________________________
65. Offering Work to God:_________________________________________________________________93
66. Worship of God is Easy:________________________________________________________________94
67. Conduct and Devotion:_________________________________________________________________96
68. The Superior Manifestations of the Lord:__________________________________________________97
69. The Teaching of the “Vibhuti Yoga”:______________________________________________________98
70. Vision of the Cosmic Form:_____________________________________________________________99
71. Is God Formless?_____________________________________________________________________99
72. The Awareness of the Cosmic Vision in our day-today life:___________________________________101
73. The Worship of the ‘Shree’ (Lakshmi) Principle:____________________________________________102
74. Is the Unmanifest (avyakta) Nirguna Brahma?_____________________________________________103
75. Worship of Saguna Brahma is acceptable to all:____________________________________________104
76. Stages on the Path of Meditation:________________________________________________________106
77. Desireless Devotion:__________________________________________________________________106
78. Character Development in the Aspirant:___________________________________________________108
79. Who is the kshetrajna?:________________________________________________________________109
81. The Study of Fundamental Principles:____________________________________________________111
82. The Root of Bondage_________________________________________________________________112
83 The Influence of Three Gunas on our Life:_________________________________________________113
84. The Nature of the Tree of Life:__________________________________________________________114
85. mamaivaaMshojiivaloke—The Jiva is verily similar to Myself:________________________________115
86. The Yoga of the Supreme Self—puruShottamayoga_________________________________________116
87. Divine and Diabolic Tendencies:________________________________________________________118
88. The Evil of Atheism:__________________________________________________________________119
89. The Need for Faith in God:_____________________________________________________________120
90. Therefore let Scriptures be your Guide:___________________________________________________122
91. Righteousness and the day-to-day affairs:_________________________________________________124
92. Food:______________________________________________________________________________125
93. Alms giving:________________________________________________________________________125
94. Austerity:___________________________________________________________________________127
95. Knowledge:_________________________________________________________________________127
96. Happiness:__________________________________________________________________________128
97. Sacrifice and Renunciation:____________________________________________________________129

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98 The Difference between Desireless and Desire-prompted Action:_______________________________130
99. Is the Individual a (Free) Doer?:_________________________________________________________135
100. Surrender:_________________________________________________________________________137
101. Conclusion:________________________________________________________________________139

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Gita Saroddhara - Introduction
INTRODUCTION TO KANNADA EDITION
The Bhagavad Gita is the Sun that has risen from the Udayagiri - viz. Lord Sri
Krishna, the Para Brahman. Though this sun of saving knowledge makes the hearts
of all good men blossom forth like lotuses touched good by the sun's rays, some
defective commentaries which came to be written on the Gita, in course of time,
tended to obscure this light of the sun of knowledge, like passing clouds in the sky.
Such clouds had been dispersed by Sri Mukhya Prana taking Avatar. on earth as
Anandatirtha Bhagavatpada (Madhvacharya) who composed two learned
commentaries on the Gita -- the Gita Bhashya and Gita Tatparya. Scattering these
clouds still further away from approaching the Gita, Sri Jayatirtha deflated them,
with his Tikas on the Gita Bhashya and Gita Tatparya.

However, ordinary minds, which could not bear the dazzling sunlight of the Gita,
have been in dire need of a mellow light as of the full moon, to help them enjoy
and appreciate the beauty of the message of the Gita. The illustrious Satyadhyana
Tirtha was the first to come forward to meet this need of the common man. He
absorbed the dazzling light of the Gita which could only be perceived from a safe
distance even by the highly learned scholars -- and reflected it in its mellowed form
through his popular, word for word rendering of the Gita, in his Gita Pratipadartha
Candrika. This work has been of immense value to the common man in treading
the right path in life according to the teachings of the Gita.

Some commentaries on the Gita which have come down to us have tried to make
out that Advaita-vada is the true message of the Gita. These look upon Sri Krishna,
the supreme Lord, as still open to the illusion of duality. This may be gathered from
the following verse of the Pancadasi of Sri Vidyaranya:

maayaa khyaayaH kaamadheno vartsau jiiveshvaraavubhau |


"The Jiva and Isvara are the calves of the divine cow of Maya.

If Sri Krishna had really attained the experience of Advaitic unity, he should have
realised the illusory nature of the universe and his own lordship over such a
universe. In that case, it would be a gross deception on his part to claim to be the
Lord of all beings (Bhutanam isvarah). In order to maintain the truthfulness of that
claim, it will have to be admitted that from the Advaita point of view Sri Krishna is
still subject to the illusion of duality. It is not clear how one who is not himself
completely out of the illusion of duality can teach pure Advaita to others.

The Gita enjoins upon all enlightened Adhikarins like Arjuna, to fight against
Adharma as a Sacred duty, to he performed in a spirit of devotional dedication to
the Lord of all creation. This is inconsistent with the true Advaitic position that the
Jnanin is not under any obligation to continue with Karma and Bhakti.

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Though there is thus so much cleavage of views among the traditional schools of
thought regarding the message of the Gita, we hear so much talk nowadays that
all these divergent interpretations are but various ways of thought and action
leading to the same goal of Moksha or freedom from bondage. But the following
pronouncement of the Gita dearly rejects such a facile view:

vyavasaayaatmikaa buddhirekeha kuruna.ndana |


bahushaakhaa hyanantaashca buddhayo.avyavasaayinaam.h |

The present work discusses this issue with great insight and often satisfactory
answers to various questions concerning the problem and places the teaching of
the Gita on the question in bold relief. We have therefore no hesitation in saying
that this work is a good critical exposition of the philosophy of the Gita.

Thanks to the x-rays of the Gita Sastra, the pure gems of spiritual truth which lie
beneath the unfathomable ocean of Vedic and Upanishadic lore can now be
perceived from a distance. In a pioneering effort, Sri Visvesha Tirtha, Head of the
Pejavar Mutt of Udipi, has dived deep into this ocean and brought up some of these
gems of Gita thought and placed them in the hands of contemporary students of
the Gita. His work, the Gita Saroddhara, may be fittingly described as a special
collection and arrangement of these gems in resplendent array. We are sure that
all the good people of the world will derive immense benefit by going through this
work.

It deals with its subject matter in a straight and simple way, and thus goes straight
to the heart of the reader. It gives a good many illustrations from life to elucidate
the profound teachings. It alludes to stories and episodes from the Bhagavata and
Mahabharata to heighten the appeal to our minds. Modern students will find in the
rational approach of the author in clarifying so many knotty points a kindred spirit.

When a chronic patient who is fed up with swallowing bitter medicines hates all
medicines and rejects them in disgust, a discerning doctor makes them more
palatable and puts them in new bottles, administering them to the patient and
cures him of his ailment. The present work of Sri Visvesha Tirtha has similarly
refined and made palatable the ancient and unfailing remedies for the ills of our
lives.

His work is most useful in inculcating in the minds of the present generation deep
faith and pride in the teachings of the ancient sastras. Among instances of this
may be mentioned his masterly exposition of the Caturvarnya Vyavastha and the
doctrine of Svadharma and the need to sincerely adhere to it.

Sri Visvesha Tirtha has given us this work amidst the heavy and multifarious
responsibilities of his holy office as a Pithadhipati. He has snatched time to do this

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in the intervals of his lightning tours over the country, prior to his taking charge of
his biennial turn of office for Krishna Puja Paryaya at Udipi. His ceaseless round of
activities and public engagements, religious austerities, worship and teaching have
not prevented him from taking up such useful literary work also.

We have known Sri Visvesha Tirtha from his early days. while yet a boy of ten, he
came to us as a bright pupil. He was already an adept in Sanskrit literature. He
used to compose many attractive verses of high order of excellence in Sanskrit at
short notice. Once when Visvesha Tirtha was just eighteen, the well-known Advaita
scholar Mm. Ananthakrishna Sastri came to Udipi. There was a discussion in Sastra
between them. The learned Pandita was soon silenced by the inexorable logic of
the teenager and heartily applauded him for his alertness of mind and intellectual
quickness. Many other reputed scholars from the North such as Pt Rajeshvar Sastri
Dravid and Shadanga Ramachandra Sastri have paid handsome tributes to His
Holiness's exceptional mettle. His public discourses in Sanskrit and Kannada draw
huge audiences and hold them spellbound. He combines an uncanny debating skill
with a measured eloquence and a disarming sunny smile. He is noted for his high
sense of duty, unfailing courtesy and his spirit of give and take. His devotion to the
Lord is absolutely firm and childlike in its simplicity and trustfulness. These
admirable qualities of his head and heart have endeared him to one and all --
scholars and laymen, the old and the young, alike. We are well pleased with such
an ideal disciple of ours.

May Sri Hari and Vayu confer upon him long life, health and other blessings to
enable him to continue to do good to the community of the good souls all over the
world is our earnest prayer to our Upasyadevata - Sri Sitaramachandra. -SRI
VIDYAMANYA TIRTHA SWAMIJI of the Sri Palimar Mutt of Udipi and the Bhandarakere
Math of Barkur (S. K.)
Translated from the Kannada Introduction by Dr. B. N. K. SHARMA

Kindest Regards
Ramadas [dasa@ozemail.com.au]

PREFACE
The Bhagavad Gita is the one and the only scripture which expounds religious and
Vedantic principles in a concise, simple and beautiful manner. There is no problem
in life which cannot find its solution from this tiny book, one may say. It acquaints
us thoroughly with all the equipment necessary to make our life perfectly beautiful.
One can find from the Gita a sure guidance to follow in any critical situation. There
is no other scripture in the whole world which analyses and defines in such a
simple way the nature of life and its problems. The Gita was preached by Sri
Krishna and it was written in the present form by Sri Vedavyasa. When both are the
twin forms of the Almighty God Himself how could we ever fully praise the holiness
and greatness of such a work? The Gita is the immortal message to the mankind
given by the very person of the Lord Himself.

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yaa svaya.m padmanaabhasya mukhapadmaadviniHsR^itaa |
(That which has emerged from the very lotus lips of the Padmanabha.)

The Gita is both a science of philosophy and a science of life. We cannot find in any
other work such a unique harmonisation of philosophic principles with mundane
life.

While I was camping in Hubli for the Chaturmasya I got a good opportunity to give
a series of discourses on the Bhagavad Gita. This book is a fruit of those
discourses. Many people who attended those lectures desired that they should be
collected and published in the form of a book and which made it possible for the
work to find the light of the day.

In this small book of about 300 pages I could attempt no more than a mere
introduction to the Gita. The Gita is no doubt a small book but as one delves
deeper and deeper, it reveals a universe of meaning. In this tiny work I have been
able to vouchsafe to you only a very small facet of the vast work. This is but a
signpost to those who wish to undertake a deeper examination and study of the
work. The aim of this work is to stimulate the interest of people for an inquiry into
its meaning. Nobody should think that this book aims at an exhaustive exposition
of the full meaning of the Gita.

The main purpose of my lectures was to explain the constructive message of the
Gita bearing in mind the common man's daily problems in the' context of modern
conditions. Hence, I did not indulge in any deep scientific discussion of philosophy
but have made an attempt to expose simply the relationship between the
principles of the Gita and modern life. I wish to write a separate work, at my
leisure, devoting it to an extensive analysis of the philosophic subjects and
scientific criticism of the commentaries on the Gita made by various thinkers.

But in certain contexts I have touched upon the different interpretations given by
the various commentators on the Gita. Such a critical examination is done in order
to facilitate the understanding of the meaning of the Gita through a comparative
study and not to indulge in any aerobatics of philosophical argument. It is my
individual opinion that an examination of the faults and virtues of various systems
with an unprejudiced mind would never lead to any mental excitement but, on the
other hand, it would lead to a healthy development of philosophy. I have followed
the commentaries of Sri Madhvacharya not out of any sectarian attachment. I have
tried to place the Gita in the light of Sri Madhvacharya's commentary only because
I am fully convinced after an unprejudiced, undogmatic and open-minded inquiry,
that the heart of the Gita is truly reflected in his commentary. I hope the people will
welcome this well-intended effort and extend to me their usual cooperation and
encouragement.

My revered guru Sri Swamiji of Bhandarakere Math has blessed this attempt by

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writing an Introduction for which I offer him my repeated salutations. The person
who followed me as a shadow and who was mainly responsible for getting the
lectures in the form of a book out of me is Sri Ramachandra Bhat, the Proprietor of
the Ashoka Hotel, Hubli. His tenacity, unfailing effort and generosity alone could
make the work possible. I pray that God may shower His choicest blessings on him
for his laudable effort in this work of furthering knowledge.

The others who helped in various ways in its publication are Sri P. Venkataramana
Acharya and Kapu Hayavadana Puranik and I wish them God's blessings.
My hearty thanks are due to the Manager of the Associated Advertisers & Printers
for their job of beautiful printing.

SRI VISHVESHA TIRTHA SWAMIJI


Pejavar Mutt, Udipi

1. Introduction:
The Bhagavad Gita is the greatest spiritual and metaphysical scripture of the
Hindus. It contains valuable teachings applicable to all stages of human
development. Such a universal and all-pervasive teaching with practical solution
for every day problems of life fell from the divine lips of the Lord Himself. Sri
Krishna had once revealed to his mother the whole universe of infinite dimensions
in his tiny mouth; so also, in his short discourse uttered with a limited number of
words in a limited span of time Sri Krishna has given the very quintessence of the
universal science of life. This indeed is a testimony to the divine glory of Lord Sri
Krishna.

Once, after the Kurukshetra war, when the Pandavas were ruling their kingdom,
Arjuna besought Sri Krishna: "Oh Lord, I was fortunate to receive from you the
teachings of the Gita but that was in the din and bustle of the battlefield; I would
very much like to hear it once again at leisure in the calm and peaceful
atmosphere now reigning." To this, the omniscient Lord replied: "Oh Arjuna I do not
have the same inspiration today. I cannot recapture that same teaching again."
Although nothing would have been impossible to Him, this episode serves to
highlight the extraordinary greatness of the Gita.

The time, the Place and the dramatic context selected by the Lord to give His
supreme teaching to humanity are unique. Both the Kaurava and the Pandava
armies are lined up face to face and the war is about to begin. The minds of all the
soldiers taking part in the war are agitated because they are under the tension of
an explosive war. At this time who else but God Himself could have the poise and
power to expound such a simple and yet profound philosophic teaching? In our
daily lives, very often grave problems confront us. Confused, we lose our heart.
Only at such moments of crisis do we experience the dire need of the Gita. The
mind is a battlefield where the good and evil forces fight for supremacy. Unable to
face life and its problems, we are prone to run away from our duties and

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responsibilities out of sheer cowardice. To such cowards, the Gita offers hope and
encouragement. It prompts them into rightful action. The Gita which was preached
to Arjuna in the context of the Kurukshetra war has wider application to the war
that is going on constantly within our mind between the good and the evil forces.
Sri Madhvacharya says that the Mahabharata has not only a historical but also a
metaphysical interpretation. One may wonder whether this teaching given in the
bygone days of the Dwapara Yuga will ever be applicable to the modern atomic
age! But, in fact, the teachings of the Gita are perennial and contain elements of
truth applicable to all ages.

sarvopaniShado gaavo dogdhaa gopaala nandanaH |


paarthovatsaH sudhiirbhoktaadugdha.m mahat.h ||

In this verse, the Upanishads are called a cow, Sri Krishna is the milkman, Arjuna is
the calf which induces the cow to yield milk and the Gita is the milk. Just as the
milk is not for the calf alone, so also the Gita which contains the quintessence of all
the Upanishadic thought is not for Arjuna alone but for the whole of mankind.

While giving this discourse, Sri Krishna is described to have held his fingers in the
form of 'Jnana Mudra' which is also symbolic of milking and what has flown out in
the form of the Gita is the divine nectar itself. j~naanamudraaya kR^iShNaaya
giitaamR^itaduhe namaH |

2. On the sacred field of Kurukshetra:


The Gita commences with a dialogue between Dhritarashtra and Sanjaya. Sri
Vedavyasa, the author of the Mahabharata, makes Sanjaya give the blind
Dhritarashtra a running commentary of the whole battle. Sanjaya is giving him a
vivid description in minutest detail. Dhritarashtra asks: "Tell me, Sanjaya, what did
the sons of Pandu and mine do, when they gathered on the sacred field of
Kurukshetra." Spiritually blind also as he is, Dhritarashtra betrays his attachment
to and fondness for his own sons, as against the sons of Pandu. He did not ask
Sanjaya how the war progressed. Instead, he enquired what the Pandavas did. He
fondly expected that when the noble Pandavas assembled on the battlefield ready
for war, their piety would be roused and out of the goodness of their heart, they
would voluntarily give up all claims to the kingdom. Earlier this wily and selfish old
king had sent words to the Pandavas through Sanjaya thus: "Oh sons of Pandu, my
sons are after all wicked and quarrelsome. But at least you are good and noble!
Therefore give up your claim to the kingdom, retire to the forest and spend the rest
of your days in peace." He had hoped that this advice would have some effect on
at least one of the Pandavas, if not all and it is as though to see whether any of
them had been demoralised that he asks Sanjaya the above question. In fact
Dhritarashtra's advice did not really go in vain! The valiant Arjuna himself becomes
thoroughly demoralised and loses the determination to fight. He becomes a
nervous wreck and repeats the very arguments put forward by Dhritarashtra and
withdraws from war.

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Sanjaya replies: "0 Dhritarashtra! Your son Duryodhana had expected that the
Pandavas, having spent thirteen years in the forest, would not be able to raise a
respectable army in such a short time. He had hoped that the Pandavas would be
disheartened on seeing your majestic army. But on the contrary, it is Duryodhana
who has got unnerved on seeing the mighty Pandava army."

As narrated in the 'Sabha Parva', when Bhima under provocation, vowed that he
would kill Duryodhana and others, they got so frightened about their lives that
they ran to Dronacharya and got from him an assurance of protection. Now the
bewildered Duryodhana goes to Dronacharya and describes the heroes on either
side and expresses his genuine doubt and fear whether his army under the
command of Bhishma would ever be able to vanquish the army commanded by
Bhima.

The Pandava army has a very high morale. They are determined to strike down the
forces of evil. They are inspired by noble and revolutionary ideas and ideals.
Besides possessing strength of character, they are led by no less a hero than the
mighty Bhimasena himself who is the very embodiment of discipline and devotion.
On the other hand the Kaurava army is full of mercenaries and timeservers. They
are not fighting for any principle or just cause. Their heart is not in it and they are
carrying on the war much against their will, They are in the war because they are
under obligation to Duryodhana. No doubt Bhishma is a celebrated warrior. But he
knows that he is backing a wrong horse. His heart is not in this unholy war. Apart
from hatred and animosity there is no other ideal to inspire the Kaurava army.
Comparing the leadership of Bhishma and Bhima from this point of view and
realising the weakness of his army due to lack of determination and strength of
character, Duryodhana becomes nervous and runs to Dronacharya and expresses
his doubt about the final outcome of the war. Seeing that Duryodhana is nervous,
Bhishma and his followers blow their conches as though to infuse fresh life and
courage into him. To this the Pandavas reply by blowing their own conches.
tataH shvetairhavairyukte mahati syandane sthitau |
maadhavaH paaNDavashcaiva divyau sha~Nkhau pradadhmatuH || I-14

Krishna and Arjuna, seated in a chariot drawn by white stallions also blow their
divine conches, making a sound like the syllable 'Aum' of the Vedas. This sound is
indeed a fitting invocation for the great teaching about to flow out from the divine
lips of the Lord.

3. Between the two armies:

When the Kaurava and the Pandava armies are thus lined up and when the war is
about to commence, Arjuna asks his charioteer Sri Krishna to position his chariot
between the two armies so that he could have a view of his adversaries When the
chariot is thus positioned by Sri Krishna, Arjuna takes a good look at both the
armies. He immediately gets a shock because in the opposite army he sees the
familiar faces of his kinsmen, teachers and friends. He curses the fate that brings

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him to fight his dear and near ones. Arjuna gets perplexed, thoroughly confused
and has a virtual nervous breakdown. He tells Krishna that he has resolved not to
fight his own people and in support of this, he puts forth the following arguments:

"This terrible war which is about to begin will do good neither in this life nor in the
next. If I win the war I may get the kingdom but I lose more than what I gain. What
good is it, what happiness is it, if I have to build my empire on the graves of my
revered teachers, beloved friends and my own kinsmen? If I win, I may acquire all
the wealth of the world but it will not give me any happiness or peace of mind. Will
any plant sprout from fried seeds? Similarly, what enjoyment can sprout in a heart
burning with the sorrow from the death of one's kinsmen. I covet not such a
kingdom because it will only be soiled by the blood of my own relatives."

"By this cruel act, how can I get any happiness in the next life either. No doubt my
cousins, the sons of Dhritarashtra, are wicked and they had tried in many ways to
kill us, by poison and fire and they deserve to be annihilated. But we are not
fighting them alone. Along with them there are other relatives, friends and
preceptors and we have perforce to kill them. In the name of killing wicked people
like Duryodhana and others, we kill innocent people also and we ourselves become
cruel and wicked and will be bereft of heaven We shall have to keep company with
them in hell."

Thus does Arjuna feel that the war would lead to happiness neither in this life nor
in the afterlife. Further, he feels the war would lead to many social ills. Each and
every house has sent its able-bodied men into this war. Most of them would be
killed and hence the male population would diminish and women perforce might go
astray. Castes and communities would get mixed up. The social structure would
crumble and immorality and vice would play havoc, undermining the whole social
structure. These are no doubt some of the evils of war and we have seen all these
things happening after the recent world war.

Having thus narrated the evils of war for the individual both in this life and in the
afterlife and for the society as a whole, Arjuna reiterates his earlier resolve not to
fight. "It is better to beg and fill one's belly, it is better to spend one's life in a
forest like a mendicant than kill one's kinsmen for the sake of this earthly
kingdom," thus saying Arjuna lays down his weapons and sits dejected. At this, Sri
Krishna chides Arjuna for his lack of will and faint-heartedness and inspires him to
rise to the heroic occasion befitting his birth and stature. But Arjuna is adamant.
Under a heavy delusion he spurns both the kingdom of the whole earth and heaven
if they were to be secured only by the slaughter of his kinsmen. Arjuna is thus
tossed between two opposing duties, duty as a kshatriya to kill the enemies and
duty as an ordinary householder to show reverence to his elders and preceptors.
He is confused and knows not the right path. He is also aware that his vision is
clouded by his attachment to his kinsmen and that he is using high-sounding
philosophic arguments only to cover his weakness. He thus surrenders himself
completely to Sri Krishna and implores Him to take him as His disciple and show
him the right path.

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4. The background of Sri Krishna's teachings:
At this stage Sri Krishna commences his divine teachings to his humble aspirant
Arjuna. Some may argue that in His reply Sri Krishna has evaded the main issue
and failed to answer directly the questions raised by Arjuna regarding the evil
effects of war. What answer has Gita got for the social evils arising out of war?
Instead of answering this point, what was the need for Sri Krishna to talk about the
tough subjects like the immortality and immutability of the soul? Has Sri Krishna
tried to cloud the basic issues by his irrelevant, high-sounding words? But if you
study the Gita carefully you will realise that in his teachings to Arjuna He did not
follow any crooked path. What is the real cause of Arjuna's despondency? Is his
pacifism due to any moral principles? No. He is under a delusion caused by his
attachment to his kith and kin and fear of losing them in the war. Arjuna has fought
many a war before and he had not raised any of these objections. Why should he
raise these objections now? Even in our everyday experience we find that people
talk big and bring in Vedanta and philosophy only to cover their weaknesses arising
out of selfish interests. For example, persons, whose duty it is to protect and
propagate Sanatana Dharma, shirk their responsibility under the pretext that in
this Kali Age, it has been ordained by God that unrighteousness would prevail and
that we should not do anything to counter His design. Again, misers who want to
cover their thrift console themselves by saying that in these days of food scarcity it
is antisocial to feed brahmins and others and waste foodstuffs. Arjuna also finds
himself in the same category of self-justifiers. He had fought many a battle before,
but only now does he become a staunch advocate of pacifism! It is apparent that
he is only trying to hide his weakness for his relatives under the cloak of pacifism.
Even great seers like Vasishtha had betrayed their attachment to their sons by
bemoaning their loss. But they were aware of their weakness. They did not try to
defend themselves by any arguments as Arjuna is doing now. Seeing the
'predicament' of Arjuna Sri Krishna must have been amused, and so he smiles:
prahasanniva bhaarata II-10

He does not, therefore, elaborately answer the questions raised by Arjuna


regarding the evils of war. It is not true that, all wars are harmful. According to
historians, after the Kurukshetra war there was an all-round material prosperity
and spiritual advancement in India and this golden age lasted for thousands of
years. The objections raised by Arjuna are therefore not applicable to holy wars
and so Sri Krishna does not simply bother to answer them. Instead, he proceeds to
rid Arjuna of his spiritual ailment. Sri Krishna's main purpose is to rid him of his
delusion. That would be a treatment for his ailment far better than answering the
questions raised by Arjuna in support of his pacifism. Hence the all-merciful
Almighty, out of compassion for Arjuna, proceeds to dispel his delusion and gives a
discourse on the immutability of the soul and its existence independent of the
perishable body

5. Lament not for the unlamentable:


Sri Krishna asks: "0 Arjuna, are you lamenting for the soul or for the body of your
kinsmen? If it is for the soul, lament not because the soul is eternal and cannot be

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destroyed. You, I and all the kings in front of us were there in the past and will
continue to be in the future. Hence grieve not for the soul which is indestructible. If
you are sorry for the bodies of your kinsmen and preceptors, which you are afraid
might be destroyed, then also, grieve not because the body is in any case
perishable. After death the soul passes from one body into another. We demolish
the old house and build a new one in its place. Do we grieve? We discard old
clothes and put on new ones, do we lament? We step out of childhood and get into
manhood, do we not rejoice in it? In the garden, old flowers wither and new ones
blossom. So also in life change is not only inevitable but also desirable. We do
welcome such changes. Death is but one such change. Thus we should never fear
death. Just as childhood, boyhood and manhood, are but transitions, so also is
death a transition. Hence we should not fret over the death of the body."

Here a question may arise. What sort of new body would these persons get after
this body has passed away? It may be a better body or worse. If it is going to be.
worse, we have reason to be sorry at the passing of the present body. If we leave
one rented house and move into another which is worse, we shall certainly be
sorry for leaving the old one. Sri Krishna answers this point. As for Bhishma and
Drona who are great souls and who have earned nothing but merit in this life, they
are bound to go into a higher life. For them death is like a holy bath (avabhuutha)
at the successful termination of a Yajna or sacrifice. Better life awaits them and you
need not grieve for them. It is only the wicked and sinful people who are afraid of
death and if they get worse bodies in the next life they deserve such punishment
and you need not be sorry for them. There are instances of good people who even
if they had inadvertently committed sins, have atoned for them here itself and
warded off its evil effects Hence good people are taken care of and wicked people
deserve punishment and in both cases you need not grieve for death at all. If the
bad are not punished and you pity them, the whole social system would be
undermined.

Why should we believe in a soul as distinct from the body? Well, all evidence like
perception, reasoning and scriptures point towards the existence of a soul as
separate from the body. The body undergoes change from day to day as we pass
from childhood to old age. Our today's body is not the same as yesterday's. But we
experience something within us which does not change. This some thing,
changeless, within us we call Atman or the soul and this is what each one
experiences, throughout his life.
How do we know that after death the soul passes from one body into another? We
see among people talents and characteristics not found in their parents and near
relatives. Where from did they get these? They must have acquired them in their
past lives. When a child is born, its mind is not blank. It carries the impressions of
its past lives. It has its instincts and shows some likes and dislikes and propensities
which can only be explained if we believe that the soul has passed through many
lives before and that it carries the burden of its experience, both good and bad,
from one life into another.

All living things are sentient and they have intelligence or instinct. Mere matter is

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insentient. Matter combined with Spirit or Soul constitutes life. This proves the
existence of the soul as distinguished from the body. We see worms and insects
forming in rice and other grains. We also see bacteria growing in unhygienic
environments. How did life originate there? Scientists say that some living cells in a
submicroscopic form were already there and these only grew and multiplied.
Organic life does not come out of inorganic matter. Only life can breed life. I have
asked many scientists how the first living cell came into existence in this world.
They say that the riddle of the origin of life has not yet been solved. Evolutionists
are of the opinion that a living cell in the most elementary state somehow formed
out of inorganic matter under some favourable circumstance during the course of
evolution lasting millions of years. If that is so why the phenomenon of life
springing out of inorganic matter is not seen now even in a single instance? If it
could happen once, there is no reason why it should not happen again. Scientists
have not so far succeeded in producing life out of inorganic matter in the
laboratory. We have therefore to believe in the existence of the soul as separate
and distinct from the body and which is responsible for life and which is eternal.
Therefore one should not despair at the prospect of death. These ideas are
contained in the verse,

dehino'sminyathaa dehe kaumaara.m yauvana.m jaraa |


tathaa dehaantarapraaptirdhiirastatra na muhyati || II-13

6. Attachment is the root of sorrow:


Arjuna raises another query: "Oh Krishna, I agree that the soul is indestructible and
that I should not grieve for the body which in any case is perishable. But I can keep
contact with my dear and near ones only through their bodies when they are alive.
After death, their souls may be somewhere and without their bodies how can I see
them, touch them and talk to them, by which alone I feel happy, This sense of
losing them forever pains me."

Sri Krishna answers: "Oh Arjuna, such problem arise again and again. You can't
avoid them. You should get used to them. What is the root of misery in man? Is it
the contact between the objective world and the senses? No. When we are fast
asleep we still have contact between the senses and the outside world but we do
not become aware of such contacts and we do not experience any happiness or
misery. Only in our wakefulness do we become aware of these experiences. Hence
there is something else which is the root of our happiness and misery. It is our
attachment to the body. We fail to distinguish between the body and soul and
hence we suffer the pangs of misery. While we sleep we do not have this
attachment and we do not experience anything good or bad. Similarly, in our
waking state, if we manage to give up this attachment, we can carry on our normal
activities in life without being affected by good or bad experiences. For example, if
our own house catches fire we get very much concerned but, if another man's
house is on fire, we are not so much bothered. Both are houses and both are on fire
but in the first case we are more concerned because it happens to be 'our' house.
Similarly a newly married person gets very much concerned if his bride falls ill. But
he had not cared at all if the same lady had fallen ill before he had married her. In

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the first case he is concerned because she happens to be 'his' wife. Sri Krishna
asks Arjuna to overcome his sorrow at the loss of his dear and near ones by rooting
out all attachment to them.
taan.h titikShasva bhaarata 11-14
"You have to face these difficulties, 0 Arjuna and overcome them by getting rid of
attachment. You should never bow down to them." Thus does the Lord eradicate,
root and branch, the very source of Arjuna's sorrow.

This advice of Sri Krishna does not mean that we should be unconcerned when a
great disaster or calamity befalls the country or a community. In such cases we
should show all compassion and help the people as much as we can. It is the
narrow and selfish interest of man arising out of his undue attachment to his body
and worldly possessions that is condemned and not his genuine desire to render
social service. Attachment generated by narrow selfishness alone is the root of all
sorrows and the Lord wants that such sorrows should be faced squarely.

8. No harm will accrue from righteous warfare:

The above stanza has another meaning. "Nothing good can come from evil deeds;
nothing evil can come from good deeds." This clears the doubt of Arjuna that the
war will lead to sin and disaster in after-life.

The war in which the Pandavas are engaged is a righteous war fought against
unrighteousness. King Duryodhana had all along conducted the affairs of the state
based on unrighteous principles and selfish interests to the utter detriment of his
subjects. He was tutored in this wily art even from his boyhood by his wicked
teacher Kalinga. Treading this path, the king had fouled the whole atmosphere of
his state. Even great preceptors like Bhishma and Drona had become helpless and
could not stem the tide of unrighteousness let loose by the king. Sri Madhvacharya
says in Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya:

Chadmaiva yatra parama.m nasuraashca puujyaaH |


svaarthaina va~ncanakR^ite jagato'khila.m ca ||
dharmaadikaaryamapi yatra mahopadhiH syaat.h |
shreShThaH sa eva ... ... ... …
— Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya

Duryodhana's philosophy in life was as follows: "Be selfish and cunning. Do not
bother about God. To deceive the world, put on a mask of righteousness in this
drama of life." By this policy of the king the whole atmosphere of the state was
polluted and pervaded by greed, treachery and deceit. The main purpose of the
holy Mahabharata war was to purify this soul atmosphere and re-establish the rule
of righteousness and morality. Nothing but good could come out of such a holy war
fought for the universal good of all subjects.

dharmyaaddhi yuddhaacChreyo'nyatkShatriyasya na vidyate || II-31

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"Nothing is more meritorious for a king than a holy war."

Only righteous wars are meritorious, not others. Some complain that in the olden
days, kshatriyas were encouraged in mere warmongering. This is not true. Sri
Krishna does not recommend wanton expansionism. People who initiate such wars
are branded as tyrants and enemies of the world. Wars fought inevitably for
achieving a definite ideal and for the welfare of mankind are called righteous wars
and those who take part in such holy wars were praised and said to have gained a
place in heaven. The shastras have never encouraged selfish, aggressive and
imperialistic wars. Rarely do people get a chance to fight a righteous war. Sri
Krishna says that Arjuna has got such a unique opportunity now when the gates of
heaven are thrown wide open for him.

9. Desire is the root of sin:

Sri Krishna's teachings of non-attachment no doubt reduces the anguish of Arjuna


but still his fear of committing sin by killing preceptors and relatives has not
completely disappeared. Even though this is a holy war, some sin is bound to be
committed by the killing of innocent people and this will lead to unhappiness and
misery in the other world. The war will thus give mixed results of happiness and
misery. Instead, asks Arjuna: "Is it not better to be a recluse, forsake all action,
retire into a forest and lead the life of a mendicant, which is free from any sin. The
old doubt still persists.

In answer to this query the Lord proceeds to describe the philosophy of Bhagavata
religion or desireless action which is uncontaminated by sin. Just as attachment is
the root of misery so also desire is the root of sin. We should try to conquer this
desire. Does the mere performance of a violent act lead to sin? No. For example,
the judge passes death sentence on many culprits and the executioners hang
them. Do they acquire sin? No. This violence is committed not for any personal
gain but as a part of one's duty. Desireless action, therefore, does not result in sin.
The Lord Himself destroys the universe, still he is sinless. Under anaesthesia, the
doctor performs operations on the human body without the patient feeling any
pain. So also desireless action is like the anaesthesia which enables man to
perform his duties in this world unsoiled by sin.

Even if such desireless and godly actions are discontinued in the middle due to
unforeseen circumstances, they will not go in vain. They bear fruit unlike other
worldly activities like industry and agriculture which if discontinued in the middle
may not yield any fruit at all; on the contrary, it may become difficult to recover
from the loss.

nehaabhikramanaasho'sti pratyavaayo na vidyate |


svalpamapyasya dharmasya traayate mahato bhayaat.h || II-40

In taking medicine if the dose is either too small or too big there is harm but in the

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practice of Bhagavata religion of desireless action, there is no such fear. If the
heart is pure, even if there are some lapses in our action, they will be forgiven. Sri
Madhvacharya says' in Gita Tatparya.
praarambhamaatramicChaavaa viShNudharme na niShfalaa |
— Gita Tatparya

The Lord has thus given a simple and straightforward religion the practice of which
in our day to day life, even to a limited extent, will yield great results. It is not how
much we do, but how we do, that matters. Sudama gave but a handful of beaten
rice to the Lord. It is the spirit, the purity of mind and the devotion behind that
simple offering that produced the result. It is the quality that matters, not the
quantity. A single piece of currency note bearing the seal of the Government is
more valuable than heaps of ordinary paper. Even little deeds bearing the stamp of
devotion are more fruitful than scores of others performed without it. This in brief
is the principle of desireless action.

10. The sole path of truth:

Regarding action, there is diversity of opinion. Some say that all action is illusory
and that performance of action is mandatory to ignorant people only. Mimamsakas
say that the supreme goal in life is to perform action like sacrifice etc., and attain
worldly and heavenly pleasure. Sri Krishna says that the performance of desireless
action is mandatory both to the ignorant and to the illumined. Sri Krishna further
elaborates on this theme to clear the confusion wrought by various theories.
vyavasaayaatmikaa buddhirekeha kurunandana |
bahushaakhaa hyanantaashca buddhayo'byavasaayinaam.h || II-41

Sri Krishna says that the path of desireless action alone is what is preached in all
scriptures and this conclusion has been arrived at by a critical examination and
careful study of the scriptures. Some may argue that if all roads lead to the same
goal, it is immaterial what road we take. This is not correct. We should examine
more critically which one is true? If there are two contradictory opinions on the
same subject, both cannot be true. If it were so, truth and untruth should both lead
us to salvation. This is absurd. We cannot raise truth and untruth on the same
pedestal without injuring the very cause of truth.

I had a discussion on this topic with Sri Vinobha Bhave. He was of the opinion that
people could follow different paths and different religions according to their tastes
and inclinations. "Some people like sweets, others like savoury dishes and both the
dishes fill the stomach and satiate the hunger," he argued. I answered: "Different
types of food produce different biochemical reactions in the body. Similarly
different religions produce different reactions in the mind and the soul. Both truth
and untruth cannot have the same effect on the soul. Two contradictory
statements cannot both be correct." Sri Bhave conceded the point. We both agreed
that there are many things common to all religions and on this highest common
factor we should seek cooperation between members of different religions and in

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areas where there is a fundamental difference we should agree to differ and part
as friends. Thus we too parted as friends.

Some others argue: "Truth has many facets and each religion emphasises a
particular aspect of this truth. Even though there are apparent contradictions
between different religions they may be different facets of the same truth. Just as
babies, grown up persons, sick persons and healthy persons partake of different
types of food according to their needs, so also different persons may follow
different religions and still earn merit." But we must note that each religious
founder claims that his is the only true religion that leads to salvation and all other
religions lead but to perdition. How can different religions holding contradictory
beliefs all be true? How can two doctors prescribe two contradictory lines of
treatment to a patient suffering from a single ailment. Sri Krishna therefore says
that the scriptures preach one religion and that is the sole path of truth. Ishavasya
Upanishad also comes to the same conclusion while discussing science and
nescience (Vidya and Avidya). It is also stated in the same Upanishad that we
should get at the Truth by a critical examination. Just because we are hungry it is
not wise to fill the belly with anything and everything that comes our way; this may
lead to indigestion and disease. It is better to go hungry and safeguard our health
than eat unhygienic food. So also with knowledge. No-knowledge is better than
foul knowledge.

Merit will not accrue from either inaction or desire-prompted action. Only desireless
action preached in the Gita can give us merit and it should be kept as a guiding
principle in life.

11. Vedas and desire-prompted action:


Vedas recommend sacrificial rituals for the attainment of worldly and heavenly
pleasures. Such action is truly desire-prompted. The Gita advocates the
performance of desireless action. The two teachings appear to be contradictory to
each other. Actually there is no such contradiction because in the ultimate analysis
even the Vedas advocate desireless action. It is the protagonists of Mimamsa who
hold that the attainment of worldly pleasures is the goal of the Vedas. By holding
this limited view they have abused the Vedas and have led men away from the
physical study of the Vedas; they have succeeded in provoking men's greed only.
These people merely repeat the words of the Vedas parrot-like without
understanding their full meaning. The Vedas do offer worldly benefits for those who
seek but they offer much more if you care to dive deeper and get at the truth. The
followers of Mimamsa are like the foolish people who pluck the flowers for their
fragrance robbing themselves of the taste of the delicious fruits. Without knowing
the mystic import of the Vedas and by running after the cheap superficial rewards,
we would be robbed of the fruit of immortality. Mimamsakas committed this
mistake. The Gita criticises them as follows:
yaamimaa.m puShpitaa.m vaaca.m pravadantyavipashcitaH |
vedavaadarataaH paartha naanyadastiiti vaadinaH || II-42

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The promise of the worldly pleasures held out by the Vedas is only to lure the
people to its study just as the mother gives some sugar to children before
administering bitter medicine. But we shall be foolish if we stop halfway and be
satisfied with worldly pleasures only. We have to dive deeper. The spiritual
upliftment derived from the study of the Vedas depends upon our mental make-up.
The same is stated in the Bhagavata:
rocanaartha.m fala shrutiH
In the Chandogya Upanishad there is a beautiful parable. Once Death chased a
soul. The soul took shelter in the Vedas. Death pursued it even there. The soul
dived deeper and deeper into the Vedas and thus escaped from the clutches of
Death. We can have another illustration If a fish swims near the surface of water
any kingfisher can easily catch it with its long beak. But by diving deeper the fish
can go beyond the reach of the kingfisher's long beak and thus save itself.
Similarly a mere superficial study of the Vedas does not lead us to immortality For
that we have to make a deeper metaphysical study.

Sri Krishna says:


traiguNyaviShayaa vedaa nistraiguNyo bhavaarjuna | II-45
"Vedas preach action born of the threefold modes (of Prakriti). You do not follow
them, Oh Arjuna." Some say that this advice amounts to a criticism of the Vedas
and conclude that the Gita has preached a new religion not found in the Vedas. But
the desireless action preached in the Gita is nothing novel. The Upanishads have
taught this much earlier. In the Ishavashya Upanishad there is a beautiful reference
to this idea. Superficially Vedas appear to preach desire-prompted action but in the
ultimate analysis they preach desireless action. It is our duty to eschew desire-
prompted action and turn our attention to desireless action as preached by Sri
Krishna.

Vedas are like a huge reservoir and they contain many ideas. From the reservoir we
take water to the extent we need and to the extent we can utilise. We have to
make a critical study of the Vedas and select only those ideas which we can
assimilate and which we can turn to our benefit. Vedas preach desire-prompted
action only to create an interest in us in divine knowledge and initiate us into the
path of pure devotion. Prizes are given to the best student in the class just to
encourage students to study hard. Desire-prompted action is not the goal of the
Vedas. Acquisition of a true knowledge of God and performance of desireless action
with pure devotion to God is the essence of the Vedic teaching and as such, there
is no contradiction between the Vedas and the Gita and there is no room for any
criticism or misunderstanding on this score.

There is one more point. Vedas no doubt have stated many rituals for those who
want worldly rewards but nowhere has it emphasised that in performing such
action, we should be concerned with results. Only the desire and eagerness for
salvation has been stressed in the Vedas and there are no commandments
regarding the desire for fruit. Let those who want the results perform such and
such a ritual. By saying this it does not mean that everyone should perform these

Gita Saroddhara Page 19 of 140


actions for fruit only. Action can still be performed without any expectation of the
reward. Let those who are needy and greedy perform their duties and get paid for
it. It does not mean that there are not others who are willing to do the same work
in an honorary capacity, without any pay and doing the work just for the love of it.
The same rituals which are performed in the hope of getting heavenly and worldly
pleasure could still be performed without bothering about the rewards.
karmaNyevaadhikaaraste maa faleShu kadaacana | II-47

12. Action and concern for the results:


The above stanza also states: "Performing actions is alone within your capacity —
Rewards never. Since God alone is the giver of reward or fulfilment, only the
performance of actions is within our reach." Whilst discarding the desire for fruit,
we should not discard action itself. Let not the baby be thrown away along with the
bathwater. This warning has been given by the Lord. For family people forsaking
worldly pleasures may indeed be a difficult proposition. But what we gain by
desireless action far outweighs the loss. We may have to lose worldly pleasures but
we gain, instead, supreme bliss. Hence we need not grieve. The firefly gives some
light in darkness, no doubt, but do we on that score prefer darkness and shun
sunrise. While building dams and reservoirs, some wells may be submerged. But
do we therefore stop building reservoirs. What use is a tiny well when you have the
whole reservoir. What are these petty pleasures worth in comparison with the
supreme bliss born of desireless action.

Gita thus says:


yaavaanartha udapaane sarvataH sa.mplutodake | II-46
"Miserable are those who work for rewards," says Krishna:

The householder toils day and night. In toil he is not inferior to a karmayogi. The
karmayogi toils for God and the family man toils for his wife and children. That is
the only difference. But even this toiling for family can be done in the name of God
and as an offering to God. We undergo untold miseries, trials and tribulations in our
day-to-day life all because of our attachment to worldly things. These very acts can
be done disinterestedly for His sake and as a dedication to Him. The Lord pities
those who fritter away their energy in hankering after petty things.

The Gita no doubt repeatedly praises desireless action. But is it a practical


proposition to perform action without any concern for its result? We indulge in
action only to achieve certain objectives and results. Desire motivates all action
and is at its root. "There is no meaning in preaching desireless action," say the
followers of other religions. Certainly, without aim, all action is meaningless. But
this aim and goal of all action should be noble. Gita does not eschew all desires.
Only selfish desires for mundane things have been condemned. Have a worthwhile
ideal and goal in life and work for it wholeheartedly for public welfare. Let your
only desire be to earn the grace of God. The message or the Gita is that we should
not fritter away our energy being enticed by petty attachments and desires. There
is nothing impractical in the advice of the Gita. It preaches the genuine philosophy

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of life itself.

There is a story in the Mahabharata which is relevant here. After hearing a long
discourse on morality and religion by Bhishma, Yudhishthira raises an important
query: "0 Bhishma, of the four ideals (puruShaartha) of human life, Virtue
(dharma), Wealth (artha), Desire (kaama) and Release (mokSha), which is the
best?" Vidura replies that virtue is the most meritorious ideal. The practical-minded
Arjuna says that for the achievement of all other ideals and for the performance of
religious duties, wealth is absolutely essential and hence it is supreme. Dharmaraja
of course argues that the ultimate goal of all human beings must be the liberation
from the cycle of birth and death and hence it should take the pride of place. But
to the surprise of all Bhimasena argues that desire ought to be the dominant ideal.
Elaborating his point he explains that desire is the motivating force behind all
actions. Without it there is no morality, no wealth and no liberation. Noble desires
and righteous ambition spur us into worthwhile action. All other ideals of human
life are subservient to this ideal of noble desire. Desire is not merely lust for power
or base enjoyment. It can also be a driving force to the attainment of the highest
goal in life.
aniShiddhakaamitaiva hyakaamitvaamitiiryate | Gita Tatparya
"Not hankering after the unworthy things itself is renunciation of action." Forsaking
the desire for "selfish worldly pleasures and performing action purely for the
attainment of God's grace, liberation and universal welfare is the essence of
desirable action.
Performance of selfless and desireless action is easy to preach but difficult to
practise. Even good and noble acts are performed by people in their day-to-day life
either to earn merit or fame or a place in heaven. We may be scared by the high
ideal preached by the Gita. But we need not be disheartened. Even some great
men have fallen a prey to such desire-prompted action due to their delusion. Even
illumined souls may chance to be victims of low, worldly desires. But though
difficult to follow, we can keep this as our ideal to guide us in our day-to-day life.
The pole star is far away and beyond our reach. But it guides many a sailor on the
high seas. Similarly the high ideal of karmayoga or desireless action may be
beyond our reach but it should always be kept before our mind's eye as a guiding
star in our spiritual journey and by following this path blazed by such a high ideal
we shall certainly reach our highest goal. Hence, though difficult, we should try
sincerely to follow this ideal without unnecessarily being disheartened.

13. Excellence of disinterested action:

Wherever there is fire there is smoke. Wherever there is action there is bound to be
some lapse here and there. But there is a way of getting over this difficulty and the
special value of karmayoga lies in performing action without being affected by the
incidental taint.

If you want to swim across a river, you cannot do it unless you get into the water.
But you will get drowned if you do not know the art of swimming. Similarly, if you

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want liberation from this life-cycle, you have to get into the worldly life and
perform action; if you do not know he art of performing action selflessly you may
get drowned in the ocean of life. tasmaadyogaaya yujyasva yogaH karmasu
kaushalam.h | II-50
''Disinterested action alone is skillful action, performing action in a disinterested
way is an art itself." If one performs an action disinterestedly, one can cross over
this life without being drowned.

Let me give you another example. You cut open a jackfruit and try to remove the
pulp. It is all sticky. But you can avoid this stickiness by smearing your fingers with
a few drops of oil. Karmayoga or desirelessness in action is like the oil which
enables you to perform action without being stuck in it. Even while performing
good deeds some lapses may occur but no sin will accrue if we follow be path of
karmayoga. Even as I give this discourse I may be causing injuries to many insects
inadvertently. In our day-to-day life we may cause the death of many ants insects
etc. We cannot avoid it. But if we perform all our actions desirelessly in a spirit of
dedication to God these little lapses which are beyond our control and which are
committed inadvertently, will not affect us and we shall enjoy the perennial fruit of
the duty we have performed.

14. The fruit of desireless action:

The next question is how long are we to perform such desireless action?
yadaa te mohakalila.m buddhirvyatitariShyati |
tadaa gantaasi nirveda.m shrotavyasya shrutasyaca || II-52

The answer is that we should continue such action till the heart becomes pure,
ignorance is removed and spiritual wisdom is attained. For meditation and
realisation of God, purity of heart is most essential. God's image will not be cast in
a mind sullied by lust and hatred. The sun's reflection can be seen only in the
waters of a lake when they are calm and placid and not when they are disturbed
and wave-tossed. Even so the heart must be pure to see God.
karmaNaa j~naanamaatanoti
The purification of the heart is possible through right action. When you are
engaged in performing good deeds, there is no chance for any weakness of the
mind to show up. The mind is thus purified. During the struggle for Indian
independence, the political atmosphere was pure and people fought for a noble
cause and suffered great difficulties. They were as yet uncorrupted by lust for
power and wealth. But the same spirit of selfless sacrifice is missing in the recent
times in our political life and people are running after wealth and power. Seeing
this we get a feeling, sometimes, that independence came to us a little too soon.
Desireless action leads to purity of heart. When the heart becomes pure, one's
mind turns towards God and one is now set on the path of realisation of God.

In the above stanza the word 'Nirveda' does not mean resignation towards

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knowledge. How can you be disinterested in knowledge which has been acquired
with great effort? Would Sri Krishna ever be preaching resignation in matters of
spiritual knowledge instead of renunciation of desires? If any commentator gives
this meaning it is indeed strange.

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad


tasmaat.h braahmaNaH paaNDitya.m nirvidya
the word 'Nirveda' has been used to denote 'attainment'. We reap the fruit of our
study only when the mind is purified and ignorance is removed.
buddhiyukto jahaatiiha ubhe sukR^itaduShkR^ite | II-50
"By doing such desireless action, one gets beyond both merit and sin." Does this
mean then that by doing desireless action, even the merit is lost? No. By doing
good deeds we get the grace of God and this verily is merit and this grace is
essential for salvation. How could Gita then advocate forsaking merit?

There are two kinds of merit, desirable and undesirable. The merit earned by
performing desire-prompted action brings us only worldly pleasures and leads us
astray from the goal of final liberation. Such a merit is called 'undesirable merit.'
Desireless action and meditation give us merit which leads us to spiritual evolution
and ultimate liberation. This is called desirable merit. Gita advocates the forsaking
of undesirable merit and not the desirable merit. In fact, to attain final liberation,
one has to forsake the 'undesirable' merit which leads only to worldly happiness.
Even in our everyday life we find that to stand as a candidate for any public
selective post and to become a minister one has to give up his Government post,
contract, or any other office of profit. So also to obtain final liberation we have to
give up worldly pleasures though they are acquired by merit.

There are two categories of knowledge. One is indirect (parokSha) and the other is
direct (aparokSha). Knowledge acquired from the teacher, from reasoning and from
scriptures all belong to the first category. The knowledge be comes firm by rightful
action. After acquiring this know ledge of God through these external sources, we
desire to realise God and see Him within us without the help of either reasoning or
words. For this we should concentrate our mind on Him and meditate. Then we can
realise God within us and this is called direct knowledge or God-realisation.

Desireless action is as much necessary in the state of indirect perception as it is in


the state of direct perception. As disinterested action is necessary for the
perfecting of the indirect knowledge, so also is such action needed in the post-
indirect knowledge to prepare a background of meditation for direct knowledge.
Mere dipping the cloth in water and wetting it is not sufficient for cleansing. We
have to take steps to wash it, rinse it and squeeze it in order to remove the soil. So
we have to continue our desireless action even beyond the stage of indirect
knowledge till the mind reaches the stage of direct knowledge and becomes pure
enough to catch the image of God and hold fast to it Hence we should realise that
desireless action is necessary both for direct and indirect knowledge. One who is
steeped in God-realisation and beatitude is absolutely dead to worldly happenings.

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Nothing external can wake him up from this bliss and bring him back to the affairs
of the world. Such a person is called a Sthitaprajna (a person with a steady poise of
awareness.)

15. The Sthitaprajna and the control of the senses:

The Lord now describes the qualities of a Sthitaprajna or a person of equable mind.
He is one whose mind is turned towards God and who is free from worldly desires.
Pleasure and pain are both alike to him. Emotions like love, hatred and fear do not
perturb him. We all have need to develop these qualities step by step before
realising God. But in a Sthitaprajna these qualities are found to be native or in-
built. A child has to totter while learning to walk but when it grows up it walks so
naturally and effortlessly. We see a similar difference between an aspirant and an
illumined soul. Whereas an aspirant, a novice in the art, has to strive for it like a
child, an illumined soul gets it effortlessly. One who does not require any effort at
all in the expression of these virtues is termed a Sthitaprajna.

With his senses under control, he does not fall a prey to temptations and he leads
a pure life untorn by lust and anger. Just as a tortoise withdraws its legs into its
shell, so also can a Sthitaprajna easily withdraw his senses from the world of
sense. He is not hampered by the world of the senses. Mix milk with water, it is
hard to separate. But the same milk when boiled well and made into curds and
churned yields butter and this butter can be taken out of water easily. Our mind is
like milk and if we let it go into worldly temptations, it gets thoroughly mixed up
with it and we cannot take it out. But the mind of the illumined soul is like butter.
Even when immersed in worldly affairs it does not get mixed up with it. It can be
withdrawn from worldly things at will. We only know how to let go our senses but
do not at all know how to withdraw them from carnal pleasures. That weakness is
the product of a feeble mind.

There is a story in the Mahabharata. During the Bharata war, Ashwathama sneaks
into Arjuna's camp at the dead of night and murders his sons and other brave
soldiers. The fight starts between the two. Ashwathama tries all his weapons and
as a last resort uses his Brahmastra. Arjuna has no other go but use his own
Brahmastra. Caught between these two deadly weapons, the whole world quakes.
At this Sri Aedavyasa orders both of them to withdraw their respective weapons.
Arjuna withdraws his weapon easily but Ashwathma does not succeed in doing so
because he had lost that power due to his moral turpitude in murdering Arjuna's
children against all canons of warfare. We are also in the same ridiculous situation
as Ashwathama. We only know how to send our senses out into the world but
hardly know how to withdraw them when required. Our senses behave as did the
Brahmastra from the hands of Ashwathama. Instead of we dictating to them, they
are dictating to us. We, who should have been masters of the senses, have become
their slaves.

By self-discipline and fasting we try to overcome temptations and control our

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senses. But what usually happens is that we abstain from these temptations
physically but hanker after them mentally. While we fast on Ekadashi we are
always thinking of the next day's feast. Without food, all the other sense-organs
may become weak, but the tongue remains ever sharp and hankers after delicious
food. Even if we cut the branches of a tree, so long as the root is intact, it will put
forth afresh when we water; similarly if the tongue is left uncontrolled, the sensual
desires keep on cropping up. But complete termination of the sensual desires can
happen only by the realisation of God. Before that beatitude all other worldly
pleasures fade into insignificance. An illumined soul is not tempted by such worldly
pleasures. You may give sweets to a child crying for its lost mother but the child
will throw away the sweets in its ecstasy when it sees its mother. So also an
illumined soul spurns all worldly pleasures when it reaches this beatitude. The Lord
says:
rasavarja.m raso'pyasya para.m dR^iShTvaa nivartate | II-59
(The realised soul loses his taste for worldly pleasures at the sight of God.)

We run after worldly pleasures because we have no idea of the supreme bliss that
devotion begets. We are too weak to turn our attention to God. To overcome this
weakness we have to keep our mind engrossed always in the infinite good qualities
of the Lord and realise how futile it is to run after worldly pleasures. Instead of
finding fault with our fellow-beings why shouldn't we realise the dangers lurking in
these worldly pleasures? Thus by rejecting on the shortcomings of the worldly
things we easily renounce them; by meditating on divine attributes devotion dawns
on us naturally.

We are tempted by these worldly pleasures because we have not overcome them.
Even during prayer, we cannot concentrate our mind on God. The beads no doubt
turn mechanically between our fingers but the mind is wandering all over the
world. By yielding to the seductions of worldly things we are but confirmed in our
attachment to them. When obstructions are there anger is provoked; deluded by
anger a man forgets his duties and obligations. He cleanly forgets the
commandments of the Shastras. He loses his sense of right and wrong and grows
wanton in his desires. Then he only courts his ruin.

The Lord says:


dhyaayato viShayaanpu.msaH sa~NgasteShuupajaayate |
sa~Ngaatsa.mjaayate kaamaH kaamaatkrodho'bhijaayate ||
krodhaadbhavati sa.mmohaH sa.mmohaatsmR^itivibhramaH |
smR^itibhra.mshaad.h buddhinaasho buddhinaashaatpraNashyati || II-62, 63
Brooding on the objects of sense A man gets attached to them and Out of
attachment proceeds desire for them. When the desire is thwarted, anger erupts
and anger generates confusion. The confusion then leads to the loss of sense of
dharma; (sense of right and wrong as taught by the shastras.) With this loss there
is the collapse of the discriminating intellect and when this discrimination is lost,
he is ruined.

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Thus we must be wary of unchecked desires and save ourselves from imminent
ruin. Desire is the poison that lurks behind all senses. They attack like poisonous
snakes. For this we need not suppress our senses. We need not kill the poisonous
snake. We have only to remove its fangs and then we can play with it as the snake-
charmer does.
raagadveShavimuktaistu viShayaanindriyaishcaran.h |
aatmavashyairvidheyaatmaa prasaadamadhigacchati || II-64
One who is bereft of attachment and aversion attains a pleased state of mind,
sporting his senses in the objects but keeping them under perfect control.

Thus if we control our senses and overcome greed and hatred, attachment and
aversion, these senses will not harm us even if we move about among the objects
of the senses. Controlling the senses does not mean torturing them or unnerving
them. When we direct them into worthwhile channels we are said to have
controlled them. There is a story of the emperor Alarka who in order to control his
senses started cutting his sense organs one by one. Then the presiding deities of
these organs appeared before him, and said,: "Oh king, do not take recourse to
such foolish step as cutting away your organs. It is only through these sense
organs can you perform good deeds also. By removing these organs you will not be
able to achieve anything worthwhile and your whole life will be wasted. Proper
sense control consists in only guiding then in the right path."

naasti buddhirayuktasya nacaayuktasya bhaavanaa |


na caabhaavayataH shaantirashaantasya kutaH sukham.h || II-66
(The mind of the one who is not self-pleased does not have a control of the senses;
without the control there is no knowledge; without the steadiness of mind there is
no self-knowledge; without the self-knowledge there is no salvation; without
salvation wherefrom would bliss come?)

16. Sthitaprajna and his way of life:

What is the difference between an illumined soul and an ordinary person? The Lord
describes it as follows:

yaa nishaa sarvabhuutaanaa.m tasyaa.m jaagarti sa.myamii |


yasyaa.m jaagrati bhuutaani saanishaa pashyato muneH || II-69
(What is night for ordinary people, is day for the illumined soul. What is day for
them, is night for him.

We have great attachment for worldly pleasures and we are therefore drowned in
them. To what we are keen upon, the illumined soul is totally indifferent. The
illumined souls are not attracted by worldly pleasures. They are interested in God
only and they are wholly engrossed in His meditation. They are dead to all other
worldly attractions. In our case it is the opposite. Even as we are sitting for prayer
our minds wander and dwell on worldly pleasures. In short, the illumined souls are

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interested in God and disinterested in worldly pleasures. We are very much
interested in worldly pleasures and disinterested in God.

Has the illumined soul, engrossed in God, any duties to perform? Does he eat and
drink? How does he live? The Lord continues:

aapuuryamaaNamacalapratiShTha.m samudramaapaH pravishanti yadvat.h |


tadvatkaamaa ya.m pravishanti sarve sashaantimaapnoti na kaamakaamii || II-70

All rivers flow into the sea but the level of the water in the sea does not change.
Whether rivers flow in or not, it matters little to the ocean which is least perturbed.
Similarly in the illumined soul flow the worldly pleasures but he is not affected by
them. He can go without them too. Like the ocean he is unperturbed.

bhu.mjaanopihiyaH kaamaan.h maryaadaa.mnataretkvacit.h |


samudratat dharmamayii.m naa sau kaamiisaucyate || -- Gita Tatparya

Whatever water may come into the sea, it does not transgress its shore. Similarly
however much an illumined soul may enjoy the worldly pleasures, he will not
transgress the moral limits. He is the most disciplined servant of God. He confines
himself to all the moral rules and regulations and even as he enjoys legitimate
worldly pleasures he leads a superior, unperverted and contended life. All rivers
flow into the sea even without its asking for it. So also do all worldly pleasures
come to him without his running after them. If we run after our shadow turning our
back to the sun we cannot catch it. The faster we run, the faster does it run away
from us. But if we give up running after it, turn our face towards the sun and run,
the shadow will follow us as fast as we run. The same is the case with worldly
pleasures. If we run after them they will elude us forever. On the other hand, if we
look upon them with contempt and turn our attention towards God, they
themselves will follow us of their own accord. An illumined soul need not struggle
to get them, they go to him unsought.

Vibhishana did not ask Brahma for any favours. Ravana and Kumbhakarna did
penance in propitiation of Brahma to attain superhuman powers to rule the world
as they pleased and not be vanquished by anybody. When Brahma appeared
before Kumbharkarna, the latter got thoroughly confused, forgot whatever he
wanted to ask and obtained only the boon of fast sleep! Ravana obtained the boon
of invincibility from gods and demons, and also immortality. But he had to meet his
death from the hands of God in the form of a mortal being. But Vibhishana did not
ask any boon of God. He only prayed for enlightenment and pure devotion. God
was pleased with his attitude and blessed him with immortality which he enjoys
even to this day. An illumined soul thus gets what he wants even unasked.

Thus after being blessed with the sight of the Lord, the illumined soul lives a God-
permeated life which is free from voluptuousness and full of blessedness and
serenity. This is called the Brahmic state. Through the gates of the purified mind

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attained by the performance of noble deeds, he walks on the path of meditation
and realisation into the Brahmic state. The second chapter of the Gita concludes
with the description of the Sthitaprajna. In it are beautifully described the various
stages of the perfecting of the soul out of the lowest into the highest.

17. Then why bother about action?

Arjuna senses some apparent contradictions in what Sri Krishna said regarding Action and Knowledge.
duureNa hyavara.m buddhiyogaat.h ... | II-49
From such verses it appears that action is inferior to knowledge. Yet the lord has
said
maatesa.mgo'stvakarmaaNi ||
yogasthaH kurukarmaaNiH | II-47, 48
"Do not desist from action." "Perform Actions as a karmayogi." But in the earlier
verses Sri Krishna has stated that action must be performed by all means.

If knowledge is superior to action, then why not follow it as the sole path? Why
bother about action at all? This is indeed a genuine doubt and Arjuna says: "Oh,
Lord! in one statement you extol knowledge; in another you extol action. I am
thoroughly confused by your contradictory advice. I do not know which is the
better of the two, and which path to follow. Please give me a clear-cut and
unambiguous advice."

Even if we say that when Sri Krishna criticised action He had in mind only the
desire-prompted action and not the desireless action, the problem is not fully
solved. If we have to perform desireless action, then why go in for war? There are
many other actions which can be performed without any desire. As for example,
the duties of a saint or a mendicant. In other spheres of life, action performed may
be desire-prompted, depending upon the state of one's mind at that time.
Sacrificial ritual may be performed either to get some results or for its own sake.
But in the actions prescribed for a monk (Sanyasi) there is no room for desire at all.
If all action is to be desire-less action, then is it not better to embrace the life of a
mendicant rather than engage in a war which is desire-prompted? It is impossible
to fight a war desirelessly. War is nothing but shooting and killing and, from the
beginning to the end, it is desire-prompted. To engage in a fight and be detached is
as impossible as working in a coal mine and trying to keep the hands clean. When
there are hosts of other deeds which can be performed desirelessly, why engage in
a war where there is so much vulgar display of anger and passion. Arjuna gets a
doubt whether it is not preferable to don the robes of a recluse rather than fight a
war and he asks Sri Krishna: "Why then do you coax me into this bloody war?"
tatki.m karmaNi ghoremaa.mniyojayasi keshava | III-1
Here Arjuna raises two fundamental issues. Firstly, if action is inferior to
knowledge, then why not eschew action. Secondly, if action is so inevitable, then
why not perform desireless action prescribed for mendicants instead of engaging in
war.

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18. Forsaking action is impracticable:

To the first question Sri Krishna gives the following answer: If action is the root of
the cycle of birth and death and by eschewing action, we can free ourselves from
such a cycle, then why do not birds and animals for whom no action is religiously
prescribed, automatically get salvation? The animals, birds, insects and other
creatures are not touched by sin or merit which alone are the source of further
lives. Since they do not have either merit or sin, why should they not automatically
be released from the chain of lives? But merely by this negative approach of
forsaking action, one does not get release. It is only by a positive approach of
performing all action enjoined on him but desirelessly, that one can get release
from his cycle of birth and death. One should not embrace the life of a mendicant
just to run away from action; he should do it with a positive view to meditating on
God and leading a holy life.
na ca sa.mnyasanaadeva siddhi.m samadhigacchati | III-4
Mere renunciation (of desire-prompted action) does not lead to salvation.

For final release both true knowledge and desireless action are necessary. If action
is the root of birth and death then you may think that by eschewing all action you
may get out of this cycle, just as you can bring down a tree by cutting its roots. But
it is impossible to free ourselves from all action. It sticks to us even if we try to get
rid of it. Even if we try not to get into new enterprises we have to put an end to
consequences of our past actions only through living them out. One action gives
rise to ten other new actions like the family of the Raktabija. When one raktabija
dies, out of his blood cells thousands of other raktabijas are born. Similarly when
one action is completed, hundred others crop up as a consequence of this in an
endless chain. It is therefore foolish to think of eschewing action and attaining
liberation.

Nor can we rest idle without performing any action. We are always doing
something or the other. Even breathing is an action. Many bacteria get into our
body during breathing and get killed. We cannot run away from action even though
it binds us and leads us to many sins. It is impracticable to forsake action. At the
most we may give up all physical activity, retire into a forest and do penance. But
what can we achieve by sitting in the forest if our mind is entangled? Our sense
organs may not be engaged in any physical activity but our minds continue to
crave for worldly pleasures. By this we achieve neither worldly pleasure nor
heavenly bliss and be double losers, losing both this world and the other. If we
eschew action and enter the forest, we have to make our entry fruitful. Our mind
has to be controlled. But if the mind is controlled, we may as well be in family life.
There is no need to go to a forest. If control over mind is more essential for
salvation than renunciation of action, then is it not worthier to control the mind and
be in the family itself?

naantasyakimaraNyena tathaa naantasya bhaarata |

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yatraivanivaseddhaa.mtaH tadaraNya.m sacaa shramaH ||
Mahabharata, Shanti Parva
(If you can control your mind, why go to a forest? If you cannot control your mind,
what can you do by going to a forest? For one who can control the mind, wherever
he is that is his forest and that is his hermitage).

Hence concentrate on mind-control rather than on action control. Even to control


the mind, some sort of action is necessary. Without action the control of mind and
subjugation of desire are difficult. In any case action is indispensable and
unavoidable. Sri Krishna says:

karmendriyaaNi sa.myamya ya aaste manasaa smaran.h |


indriyaarthaan.h vimuuDhaatmaa mithyaacaaraH sa ucyate || III-6
(One who merely controls action but keeps on brooding on the objects of the
senses is called a deluded soul and a hypocrite.)

19. Let action be in the form of sacrifice:

One more question arises here. Our scriptures say that action binds us:
karmaNaa baddhayate jantuH |
Performing the action which binds us, how at all can we obtain liberation? It is
waste of effort to try to obtain liberation while continuing with action which is
inimical to it. As medicine without controlling the diet is useless, similarly striving
for liberation while doing action which binds us is a vain effort. This question has
been answered in the third chapter of the Gita. No doubt, since we cannot live
without food, we must take some food; but bad food ruins our health. If we do not
take any food at all since it may be harmful, the body may perish. Thus, we have to
take only good and wholesome food to nourish the body. Since action binds us, it
does not mean that we should give up all action. It is only bad action that binds us.
Good action performed with good intentions always leads to good results and such
action cannot be a hindrance to our liberation. On the other hand, it helps spiritual
enlightenment. Just as we discriminate between good food and bad food and
partake only of good food, so also in the performance of action we should
discriminate between good and bad, and do only the good ones. Action may be
described as the key which opens the case of ignorance which clouds the
auspicious nature of our soul. With one and the same key we can either open a box
or close it. Similarly action can both be a binding as well as a liberating agent. It
depends on the person who wields it.

We must first of all realise which actions bind us. Discriminating between good and
evil deeds, we must eschew actions which bind us down to the cycle of birth and
death, and perform those actions which ultimately lead us to God. Sri Krishna says:
yaj~naarthaat.h karmaNo'nyatra loko'ya.mkarma bandhanaH | III-9
[If a man performs actions which are not dedicated to the Lord (sacrifice in the
name of the lord), he is bound by them.]

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Sacrifice is a sort of service rendered selflessly in the name of God. Anything done
for the sake of God cannot bind us. It is only selfish deeds and actions that bind us
further to worldly life. But if we perform actions as an offering to God, the very
same chain that binds us becomes a garland and an ornament which enhance the
beauty of our person. Earlier it was mentioned that we should avoid attachment
while performing action; now it is further said that action should be performed as a
sacrifice. Service and sacrifice are the two constituents of a Yajna. Sacrificing
whatever we have as a service to God is the highest type of Yajna. Yajna should not
be construed in the narrow sense of offering things in the sacrificial fire. It has a
wider significance. Any good deed performed desirelessly in the spirit of an offering
to God becomes Yajna. How can a war be fought without the play of emotions, was
Arjuna's question and Sri Krishna answers it by saying that he should fight the war
desirelessly as a dedication to God and not for reaping any selfish desires.

Only selfish action should be eschewed and it is such action which is criticised by
Lord Krishna and not action which is performed as Yajna. Hence it is clear there is
no contradiction or inconsistency in Sri Krishna's advice.

20. Pleasing each other:

All actions should be performed as a Yajna in a spirit of service and sacrifice. Every
man born in this world should engage himself in his stipulated duties as a token of
gratitude to God and this will keep the wheel of the world moving. We are indebted
to God every minute of our existence in this world. The earth, air, fire, water and
ether are His gifts and we live by them. The deities that preside over these
elements and the gods that control them provide us with the food and drink and
activate us. In return for all these bounties enjoyed by us minute by minute, we
should realise that we owe Him duties and whatever we do, we should dedicate
that to Him, as the Lord of this universe. No mortal or society has such a sway on
the whole Universe.
iishaavaasyamida.m sarva - Ishopanishad
There is only one supreme Lord over the whole universe. He is Shri Hari. All the
things in the Universe are His. How can we partake of the bounties of nature unless
we perform our stipulated duties as humble offerings to God? Even the richest man
has no right to any of the worldly things unless he too performs his duties in a
spirit of dedication to God. On the other hand, even the poorest man has every
right to take, within limits, whatever he wants from God's Universe by performing
his stipulated duties. The same idea is expressed in the Isavasya Upanishad.
kurvanneveha karmaaNi jijiiviShet.h |
An individual uses his private property for himself and for his family. To increase his
profit he exploits others. In this way the power of some individuals or a party or a
group increases, which may lead to monopoly. If the idea that the ownership of all
means of production rests neither with the individual nor with the Government but
with God, then it will be good both for the individual and the Government and both
will prosper. In this way good deeds multiply. If God is the only Lord of the Universe

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and if His law rules the world, we become his humble and disciplined subjects. We
then engage ourselves in actions which not only please God but also serve His
other creatures. In this way only we can repay Him. We get food from Him, and in
return we should give Him offerings. Puranas say that gods are starved when
dharma and karma are at a discount. The Lord and the other lesser gods do accept
all our offerings however humble they may be.
shubhaM pibatyasou nityaM
naashubhaM sahariH pibet.h |

Gods get nourishment so to say by the noble deeds performed by people on the
earth. Goodness grows in this world only by the performance of noble deeds. If
noble deeds diminish, goodness suffers and godly spirit slowly disappears. Then
calamity overtakes the land. There fore as a token of our gratitude we should offer
to God only such things that please Him. Dedicated services formed selflessly is
the best offering which man can give to God. This will increase the godly spirit and
create a favourable and efficacious atmosphere throughout the world.
parasparaM bhaavayantaH shreyaH paramavaapsyat | III-11

21. Yajna and the life cycle:

Yajnas keep the life cycle going. The good and evil deeds performed by us produce
good and evil results on nature also. Good deeds ensure prosperity and they ward
off evil. All our deeds have some invisible effect upon nature. Atomic radiation is
invisible to the human eye but At causes great harm to those who are exposed to
it. Our scriptures say that good deeds performed by us affect nature invisibly and
there are no reasons to deny them. Some may argue that all around us sin is
committed and injustice is perpetrated but still rains come and crops grow. There
are persons who ignore medical advice but still are hale and healthy. The answer to
this is that there are many causes for an effect. For timely rain and bumper crop
there are many natural causes and performance of good deeds by men is certainly
one of them.

The good deeds we perform have a twin effect on the world at large, one on the
natural and the other on the social. If we perform good deeds in the form of Yajna,
our character improves. There will thus be an all-round prosperity. This is the social
benefit of Yajna. Besides there will be timely rain and bumper crops and there will
be plenty to eat. This is the natural benefit of Yajna. Today everybody is selfish and
if Yajna in the true spirit is not performed we are duped of both the fruits of Yajna.
Since we have starved the gods by not doing good deeds, we are also punished
with starvation.

We have to do our allotted task to keep the life cycle going. By our good deeds and
clean dealings we should develop a healthy social environment and strive for the
development of the whole society and thus serve the almighty God.
evaM pravartitaM cakraM naanuvartayatiiha yaH | III-16

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Sri Krishna says that if one keeps himself busy with his own personal affairs and
has no time for social work, his life is wasted. A father gives some money to his son
and launches him in some business. In the same way the Lord has given us capital
of Yajna before launching us into this world.

sahayaj~naaH prajaaH sR^iShThaa purovaaca prajaapatiH |


anena prasaviShyadhvam.h ... ... ... III-10

"Using the secret of Yajna, enjoy social pleasures, worldly happiness and the other-
worldly bliss," saying this the Lord has sent us here. The whole creation is for the
spiritual consummation of the soul. God has created this world only to enable the
soul to realise its hidden loveliness and identity. For this the Lord has given us the
secret of Yajna. Understanding that the design of God is the spiritual evolution of
the soul, we should play our part in the evolution of the whole universe. If we
ignore this responsibility of ours and fail to perform the Yajna and indulge in narrow
selfish interests it will be an act not only anti-God but also anti-world. Even after
being indebted to God if we do not redeem our indebtedness by performing holy
acts, we shall be committing an unpardonable crime.

Thus besides driving home the fact that duty performed in the form of sacrifice
does not lead to bondage, the Gita also aims at convincing that it is absolutely
necessary to perform such action with a sense of gratefulness and a desire to
guard the interests of maintaining the natural and social establishment in order.
The Gita proposes that every one who belongs to mankind should not withdraw in
fear from karma as the cause of bondage but should perform actions in the form of
Yajna, in a spirit of service to God.

22. Evil deeds cannot be Yajna:

One doubt may arise here. Can we- perform evil deeds and heinous crimes in a
spirit of Yajna and escape their consequences? All action is binding. But if it is
performed in a spirit of Yajna, it is not binding. Can we perform sinful deeds in a
spirit of Yajna and escape its consequences? First of all we must examine whether
sinful deeds can he performed in a spirit of Yajna at all. Freedom from desire and
hatred, and devotion to God are the essential elements of the Yajna spirit. Any
action can be considered as Yajna only if it is based on these principles. Can
anybody indulge in deceit, loot and crime without greed or hatred? If a man is truly
devoted to God he cannot have the impudence and arrogance to dedicate the
actions not sanctioned by the sashtras, to God. Therefore only those deeds which
are prescribed by the scriptures and which lead to universal welfare can be
performed in the true spirit of Yajna. Even these good deeds, prescribed by the
scriptures, bind us if performed for selfish interests, with a mind full of desire and
hatred. Deeds prohibited by scriptures do always bind us. The import of Gita is that
it is not at all possible to perform them both with a selfish interest as well as in a
spirit of Yajna.

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23. Remission of action:

If every one is bound to perform duties laid down in the scriptures, then what
about the persons who are in a state of samadhi? These people spend days
together in contemplation of God utterly unaware of what goes on in the outer
world. They have idea neither of the sunrise nor of the sunset. It is impossible for
them to perform the duties prescribed for the various times of the day. Can they be
condemned for this? Sri Krishna has an answer for this.

yastvaatmaratireva syaadaatmatR^iptashca maanavaH |


aatmanyeva ca sa.mtuShThastasya kaarya.m na vidyate || III-17

(For the person who is absorbed in the contemplation of God in a state of samadhi
and who is enjoying the supreme bliss of the intuitive sight of God, there is no
compulsion for doing any prescribed duties.) But when he comes out of this
samadhi state, he is obliged to perform all the pre scribed duties. Only those who
are liberated and thus unaffected by the laws of nature (muktaaH) and those who
are in a state of samadhi have no prescribed duties. The teach mg of the Gita is
that all the rest have to perform the prescribed duties in a spirit of service to God.

24. Obligation of action on the Jnani:

Some people argue that only in the state of ajnana there is room for performing
action and for a jnani there is absolutely no duties to perform. The Gita does not
subscribe to this view. Jnanis are only those who are capable of showing by their
own practice the ideal of disinterested action. Only such persons have acquired the
mental poise to perform action in a spirit of Yajna. Besides, by their realisation of
God they have developed the sense of devotion to God and they have no worldly
desires and so they can perform their actions with a pure mind. If such Jnanis do
not have to perform action, then who else can set an example to the world? God
stands eternally liberated, Nor is He bound by the laws of prescrip\-tion or
prohibition (vidhiniShedha). Even He performs action to exemplify the lofty ideal of
karmayoga; where do others stand?

na me paarthaasti kartavyaM triShu lokeShu kiMcana |


naanavaatmamavaaptavyaM vartaeva ca karmaNi || III-22
(Oh Partha, even though my desires are ever fulfilled and I am not obliged to
perform any duties, I do continue to perform them.) So says the Lord. Even Arjuna
is not an ordinary person. He is an incarnation of god Indra. Unless he had realised
the supreme God he could not have attained this position. The Lord is advising
even him to perform actions. This shows that whether one is a jnani or not, he has
to perform action.

This God-created world which is meant as a ground for the perfecting of souls, is
real. This ground is not illusory. As soon as you attain spiritual knowledge, the
world does not fade away into nothingness as some think, The world is the bridge

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by which we cross the ocean of "Samsara" and reach God. If this is a dream world
and if it disappears as soon as we wake up into perfect knowledge, the jnani will
not see any world at all and the question of his performing duty in this world will
not arise. But the Gita preaches the performance of action both before as well as
after the attainment of spiritual knowledge. Therefore the Gita does not subscribe
to the view that the world and actions performed in it are illusory. He who denies
the reality of the world also indirectly denies the reality of God.

asatyaM a[ratiShThante jagadaahuraniishvaram.h | XVI-8


If from the sight of a jnani the world disappears, then we will have to deny the
existence of jnanis who convey the vision of God to men. He will have no world to
preach to. But many a prophet had walked this earth and preached the religion of
God. All prophets are jnanis. Therefore we have to believe that this world is real.
The jnanis have to show the way of good action to others by doing it themselves.
They do it for setting an excellent example to others and to attain intenser bliss in
salvation. They perform action up to the very end of their existence till they attain
salvation. Even if they reach the very top of the ladder they tarry there to give a
helping hand to other aspirants to climb likewise, as a man might stop and help the
children climb up.

25. Difference between jnani and ajnani:

But there is a lot of difference between the actions performed by a jnani and an
ajnani. After having obtained the sight of the glorious Paramatma, the jnani has no
desire left for any sensuous objects. All his love is for God alone. Hence no worldly
desires tempt him. And he performs desireless action in a perfect way. Outwardly,
there may seem no difference between the actions of a jnani and an ajnani. Two
lakes may look alike when viewed from outside. But if you dive in you may find in
one more mud than water while the other may be full of crystal clear water.
Similarly, in the deeds of a jnani and an ajnani there may be outward resemblance.
We cannot judge the spiritual depth of the individual from outside. If his heart is
full of wickedness, his actions cannot bear good fruit. It is not how much you do but
how you do that matters. A rich man may donate a lot of money in ostentation for
his own glorification but if a poor man gives his little mite with a pure heart it
becomes a greater and real sacrifice. We must judge one's actions not by the
external deeds but by the spirit with which they are performed. There is a beautiful
parable in the Mahabharata. Once there was a famine. A family consisting of four
members after starving for many days at last managed to get a little grain and
they cooked their food. At that time the deity of dharma appeared in the form of a
guest. The head of the family welcomed him and offered him his share of the food.
The guest ate the food but he was still hungry. So the lady of the house, her son
and daughter-in-law in turn, one by one, offered their share of food, vying with
each other. God was pleased by the spirit of sacrifice shown by this poor family,
and blessed them. When the food was thus offered to the guest some water spilled
on the floor and a mongoose which got wet in this water had its half portion turned
into gold. Even if the mongoose rolled in the holy bath water (avabhR^iya) from
sacrifices performed by kings and emperors, the other side was not transformed

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into gold. The moral of this parable is that it is not quantity but quality that
matters. It is not how much you give but how you give it that really counts.
Sincerity and purity of heart enhance the value of the sacrifice and offerings,
however little they may be in quantity. The actions performed by the jnanis is of a
very much higher order than the action performed by ordinary persons. Realising
this difference between the jnani and the ajnani, we should strive our utmost to
follow in the footsteps of the jnanis.

26. Harmonisation of knowledge with action:

Some may object to the theory that all should perform action and without action it
is not possible to attain liberation. For liberation there are two paths, one is of
knowledge and the other of action. When there are two clearly independent paths,
why should action be imposed on all? Why can't we attain liberation by following
the path of knowledge, without performing any action?

Sri Madhvacharya discusses this question elaborately in his Gita Tatparya. If there
is no action in the path of knowledge then there should be no knowledge in the
path of action also. Is it possible to attain liberation by mere action unillumined by
knowledge? No. Just as knowledge is associated with right action, action is also
associated with right knowledge. In a jnani, if there is a preponderance of action,
we call him a karmayogi; if there is a preponderance of knowledge we call him a
jnanayogi. If we ask anyone to fetch water he fetches it in a tumbler. Do we object
and ask him why he brought the tumbler also when we had merely asked him for
water? How can water be fetched at all except in a vessel? Similarly knowledge
cannot manifest itself except through action. As the medium of the body is
necessary for the soul to reveal itself so also there is no expression of knowledge
except through action. If knowledge without action is lame, action without
knowledge is blind. Without a confluence of both, life will never be perfectly
beautiful. Be he a jnanayogi or a karmayogi, be he a jnani or an ajnani, all have to
perform action in this world. Eschewing action completely is not only impracticable
but also detrimental, says the Gita.

27. Death in a proper pursuit is worthy:

tatkiM karmaNi ghore maaM niyojayasi keshava | III-1


Arjuna's question, 'If knowledge is superior to action then why are you goading me
into terrible action?' still remains unanswered. "When there is a better method of
jnanayoga followed by Sanaka and others, why should I follow the terrible path of
action and engage myself in warfare? Why can't I proceed to a forest and spend
my days peacefully in prayer and meditation?" The Gita answers this question
thus: diverse paths are open to each one of us. But the consummation of one's life
lies in identifying the pursuit proper to oneself and following it. The duties
bestowed on each vary according to his individual nature (svabhaava) and fitness.
We should determine the kind of our duty suitable to our individual identity. Shuka

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and Sanaka followed the path of juana while Manu and Janaka followed the path of
karma, each one according to his proper disposition based on his personal identity.
Arjuna, too, by his very nature is born for karma yoga. He is not meant to lead the
predominantly peaceful life of a mendicant. He belongs to the superior category of
souls (aadhikaaraka's). Putting down the unrighteous and wicked people and
protecting good people is the activity which belongs to him as a qualified soul. If he
shuns his proper pursuit and leads a life not appointed for him, he cannot
accomplish his full development. Thus in the case of each and every person, the
path of pursuit is determined by the special individuality of each.

Similarly we should follow strictly the duties that accrue to us by social obligation,
according to the ways of life laid down on the basis of 'varna' and 'ashrama' .As
one determines one's individual duty by examining the nature of one's self, he
should also follow the duties entrusted to him by the particularity of the varna-
division to which he belongs and thus discharge his responsibility to the society.
Since the individual way and the way of the particular varna both belong to one's
proper pursuit (svadharma) Arjuna has to accept, from his twin-responsibility, the
way of kshatriya, shunning the way of a sannyasi. Sannyasa or vanaprastha
(entering the forest) may be superior but having been destined to bear the
responsibility of destroying eyil and protecting the good, it is not proper for Arjuna
to abdicate his responsibility and become a sannyasi or retire into a forest. There
are many officers in the Government. Each has duties and responsibilities allotted
to him. If he neglects his duties and engages himself in other work however useful
it may be, he will not be considered as a good officer. There are soldiers and
administrators. During office hours if they engage themselves, thinking it to be
holy, either in the study of scriptures or in meditation, that would not be dharma.
Only by doing the allotted work in all sincerity can a man achieve his fullest
personality. A man's dignity and worth cannot be judged merely by looking at the
work he is engaged in.

In the same way, the course of action to be followed varies with the peculiar
situation and context of that action. Suppose you are sitting on a river bank
engaged in meditation and you see a man drowning in the river in front of you. It is
but proper that you throw off your meditation and try and save the drowning man.
Meditation is no doubt meritorious but not under such circumstances. Going to the
temple is good in itself, but boys should not miss their classes and go to the
temple for that matter. That is not proper. If ladies neglect their husbands, and
children and household duties and engage themselves in what is called 'social
work' outside their home, it would not be proper.

In Mahabharata there is a parable illustrating the importance of every individual


performing his rightful duty. A young Brahmin boy, the only son of his old parents,
forsakes them and retires to the forest and performs penance for a number of
years and acquires great spiritual powers. Once while sitting under the shade of a
tree, a bird drops its filth on him. The Brahmin gets wild and stares at the bird and
the bird at once gets reduced to ashes. He is proud of his spiritual powers.
Roaming from village to village and begging for alms, the Brahmin comes to a

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house and stands in front of the gate. The lady of the house is a very noble person.
Just as she is about to give alms to the Brahmin, she sees her husband coming in
from outside, tired. Forgetting the guest, she engages herself in caring for her tired
husband and looking after his comforts. After some time she remembers the guest
and taking the alms runs towards him. The Brahmin gets into a rage and however
much she may implore, he does not cool down. Finally the lady says: "I am not that
bird which you reduced to ashes in the forest." The Brahmin is stunned, and then is
cooled down and implores the lady to tell him how she came to know about the
incident of the bird. She then directs him to a butcher Dharmavyadha. The
Brahmin hesitates to go near him. Dharmavyadha himself asks him: "Are you the
Brahmin sent by the lady?" He is again stunned and asks him how did he come to
know about the lady. Dharmavyadha then explains the secret of his strength. He
describes the principles on which he runs his business and shows him actually how
he has been serving his old parents. This butcher and this lady who were serving
their old parents and husband whilst still engaged in their day-to-day work earned
greater merit than this Brahmin, Forsaking one's duty cast upon him by virtue of
his station in life and caste will not earn any merit even if he is engaged in other
noble duties. The Brahmin in the parable of the Dharmavyadha is a good
illustration of this principle.

svadharme nidhana.m shreyaH paradharmo bhayaavahaH || III - 35


(It is worthier to die following one's own proper pursuit; an alien pursuit is
perilous.)

Arjuna's personality is that of a karmayogi. He belongs to the kshatriya varna


ordained to carry the burden of protecting others. He has to take part in the holy
war and he has no right to retire to a forest to perform penance. Milk is no doubt
superior to water. But if a fish is put in milk instead of water, it will die. Similarly
every man should determine the duties entrusted to him by considering his
individual nature, the varna status and the context of action.

One can pick and choose a wife. If he does not like her, he may even divorce her.
But can he choose his mother? Can he ever discard his mother as ugly and take on
another? When we are born, the mother is there already. We have to accept her as
our mother and perform our duties and responsibilities as a son, and there is no
choice. The same is the case with dharma or duty. When we are born, this question
as to what duty we have to perform is decided for us. We should not try to change
it. Whatever duty is given to us we should discharge it sincerely and to the best of
our ability. We should not commit the impertinence of venturing to change it.
Sincere adherence to the given dharma itself is termed as "varna dharma."

28. The special virtues of the caste system:

Why have our forefathers created this caste system and what is its significance?
Should each and every individual be free to choose his own profession or should
the Government interfere in this and regulate? Those who uphold individual liberty

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advocate the former view. But such individual liberty may be harmful for the
country as a whole. All might rush into profitable business only and other less
profitable business may be completely neglected. If farmers grow only the
lucrative crops like tobacco at the expense of rice and wheat there will be an all-
round food scarcity. The equilibrium between the various professions will be lost
and society will be lopsided. This will give rise to cut-throat competition. Some
professions will be overcrowded while others will be neglected. Now-a-days there is
a great rush for admission into medical and engineering colleges and not the arts
and science colleges. We should ensure balanced and all-round development of the
whole nation. Hence there is the other school of men who argue that we should
force people to take up stipulated professions. Work should be distributed among
all people and it should be got done, if need be, by force. Individual liberty should
be curbed in the larger interests of the state. In some countries with dictatorial
Governments such compulsion is resorted to and people are put to forced labour.
When a man is grown up and his likes and dislikes are already well set, it is cruel to
force him to do some work against his will. He will not be able to adjust himself to
his new task for which he has neither the inclination nor aptitude. Also, while
distributing work, there is scope for partiality, favouritism and nepotism. By such
enforcement there will be scope for the suppression of the individuality of persons.

It is better to catch one young and mould him into whatever profession you want
him to follow in later life. When he grows he will naturally embrace the profession
which is waiting for him. There is no need for any coercion. There is neither
competition nor compulsion. The question who should be trained in which
profession is thus solved quite easily. Depending upon his aptitude and the
environment in which he is growing, he has to select his profession. The hereditary
traits flow in the family. He will naturally show an aptitude in the particular
profession of his forefathers. He also grows up in the same environment and so the
training for such a profession is given to him from his childhood in the ideal
atmosphere of his home. A cobbler's son learns his father's profession much more
easily than an outsider. Hereditary traits and environment are two powerful factors
in deciding the aptitude of any individual. For any profession, education should
start from childhood itself. By this way, enough people are allocated to each and
every profession and there is no room for a cut-throat competition, and an all-
round progress of the whole society is ensured. All these are achieved by the caste
system which has been practised by our worthy ancestors. It is not narrow-
mindedness that is at the back of the caste system. On the other hand, it is with
the highest motive of material and spiritual advancement of the whole society that
this caste system has been instituted. Whoever performs his caste duty for which
he has aptitude and training, with the greatest devotion to God, earns the highest
merit. No man is great by virtue of his caste alone. Devotion, knowledge and good
nature are not the exclusive property or prerogative of any one caste. In fact, these
are open to people of all castes, whoever can acquire them. On the other hand, to
whatever caste one may belong, if he performs his allotted duties with sincerity
and devotion, he is considered great.

svavihita vR^ittyaa bhaktyaa bhagavadaaraadhana.mparamodharmaH |


Gita Bhashya

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(The loftiest dharma lies in serving God with his proper pursuit and devotion.)

Man's greatness is measured by the yardstick of his devotion to God, good nature
and right conduct. The butcher and the noble lady in the parable are worthier than
the Brahmin saint. The merchant Tuladhara becomes a master to Jabali Rishi.

svakarmaNaa tamachyarcya.m siddhi.m vi.mdati maanavaH | XVIII - 46


(A man accomplishes his final goal by worshipping God, practising actions proper
to him.)

Performing actions according to our hereditary caste system in itself is a worship of


God. If you neglect this, God will not be pleased even if you worship him in
manifold ways. To put down the enemies of God and wicked men like Duryodhana
is the supreme duty of a person born in the kshatriya caste. Arjuna being a
kshatriya and a karmayogi, it behoves him to fight in this holy war and rid the
world of evil forces. Thus has Sri Krishna advised Arjuna and rid him of his doubts.

29. Desire, the arch-enemy of the soul:

Even if we know what is right and what is wrong and even if we know that it is bad
to commit sin, why are we forced into it? What is that drags us into sin in spite of
ourselves.
athakena prayukto.aya.m paapa.m carati puuruShaH | III-36
Arjuna asks the above question on behalf of all of us. If we critically examine the
forces which drag us into sin and identify the enemy, we might be able to
overcome them gradually. Sri Krishna says that 'desire' (kaama) is that enemy.
Desire and its concomitant 'anger' (krodha) are the cause of all sinful deeds in this
world. Man is impelled by a great desire to amass wealth and enjoy himself. To
achieve this he commits sin. If there are any obstructions for the fulfilment of his
desire, he gets angry and even commits violence and murder. Desire is at the root
of all evil deeds. All good men should try to conquer this enemy.

Suppressed desire gives rise to anger and so Krishna even calls desire by the name
of anger itself.
kaama eSha krodha eSha … … … III-37
Desire is never sated by the enjoyment of the objects of desire. Instead, it grows
more as the fire does with fuel,
mahaashano mahaapaapmaa | III-37
It is a terrible glutton and a monstrous source of sin. Is it possible to quench fire
with fuel?
na jaatu kaamaH kaamaanaamupabhogena shaamyati |
(Manu 2, 94) (Mahabharata, Adi Parva)

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This is the lesson learnt by King Yayati. Even when he grew old, his desire for sex
was not satiated and he became young again and enjoyed and he realised that
sexual desire was never abated but became ever stronger. Then wisdom dawned
on him when he realised that we can keep desire under control not by serving but
by subjugating it.

Some time ago in Bombay a young couple committed suicide, The husband had a
good job, a Fiat and a decent salary. But because they could not afford an air-
conditioner in their bedroom, the couple committed suicide. The more gadgets we
have, the more do we hanker after them and make ourselves wretched. This
suicide episode gives an inkling into the mentality of the twentieth century people.
In the west there was a king. He was a gourmet. However much he ate he was not
satisfied and felt like eating more. The stomach revolted, no doubt. It is said that
soon after eating he used to take some medicine to vomit whatever he had eaten
and start all over again. It is a pity that he became a slave to his tongue. There is a
famous saying: "At first we drink liquor. Later on, liquor drinks us." Desire is thus
insatiable. The more you enjoy and yield to your desire, the more powerful does it
become and it holds you completely in its grip. We may satiate hunger but not
desire. The Gita describes it as

duShpuureNaanalenaca … … … III-39
"An insatiable fire"

30. The way desire invades man:

dhuumenaavriyate vahniryathaadarsho malena ca |


yatholbenaavR^ito garbhastathaa tenedamaavR^itam.h || III-38
(Just as fire is covered by smoke, mirror by dust and the embryo by the foetus, so
is everyone enveloped in desire.)

All men are subject to this force of desire; only, some more, and others less. Desire
envelopes some in the same way as the smoke envelopes fire. The glow of the fire
is no doubt seen through the smoke but not so well. Some others are covered by
desire in the way a mirror is covered by dust. You may still see your reflection
through the mirror, ever so dimly. But in some others the desire completely covers
them like the amnion covers the embryo. Thus desire wields its sway on all
mankind in one way or the other.

dhuumenaavriyate vahni… … III-38

When desire envelopes us, it hides the beauty of God from us. God is not affected
by it. It is only we who are denied the sight of God by this desire. The cloud covers
the sun. The sun is not affected by it but glows ever so brightly. While smoke
covers fire, the fire itself burns brightly; only we are not able to see it. Similarly,
desire does not affect God but only prevents us from having His full and

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uninterrupted view.
yathaadarsho malena ca | III-38
Desire pollutes our heart. It thus cannot reveal the true nature of the objects we
perceive. A dirty mirror cannot reflect objects properly.
Similarly, when covered by desire, our inner equipment cannot function properly.
yathaalbenaavR^ito garbhaH III-38

The soul in the grip of desire becomes helpless. Because of the embryonic cover,
the child inside is cribbed and confined and cannot stretch its legs properly. The
soul also, being in the clutches of desire, becomes cribbed and confined and
cannot achieve anything worthwhile. This stanza illustrates beautifully how desire
affects different strata of people and how in the same individual it affects the
sense of his identity, the heart and the perception of God.
viddhayenamihavairiNam.h III-37

(Know that in the matter of realization, desire is the sole enemy.) It should be our
primary concern to overcome this internal enemy.

31. Knowledge is the means to overcome desire:

Desire and anger attack us from the citadels of the senses and the mind. Therefore
to overcome desire and anger, we have first to control our senses. In this spiritual
warfare against desire and anger, knowledge will be our most potent weapon.
Acquiring spiritual knowledge, we realise our own potentialities, our duties and
responsibilities and thus become able to control our senses step by step. The
intellect excites the mind; the mind excites the senses; from the senses rise desire
and anger, and their consequences. If we get to know the presiding deities of these
senses, mind and the intellect then we can proceed further to get to know the
supreme Power controlling these deities and then it will become but child's play to
control our senses. Only when the scientists had discovered the fundamental laws
governing matter and energy were they able to control nature and utilise it for
their purpose. Similarly, by understanding nature and the fundamental forces
animating the senses, we will be eminently able to control them and use them to
our advantage. There is so much of constructive energy latent in nature as well as
in senses. Even like the natural waste, the abuse of the power of our senses is a
great national loss. It can be tapped and used for constructive and nation-building
purposes. All the waters of the river which go waste could be stored in huge
reservoirs and used profitably either for irrigation or power generation. In fact it
has been done in many places. Similarly the human energy can also be utilised
constructively by controlling the senses. Such a constructive use of physical and
mental energy is possible only if we lead a disciplined life with full control over our
senses, mind and reason.

There are two animating powers which dwell in every insentient object, which
enable it to function variously in accordance with its inherent nature. The two

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principles, or rather the agents, are the deity presiding (abhimaanidevataa) over
that particular object and the Supreme Lord. The deities are those who, under the
control of the Supreme Lord, activate different objects; the indwelling controller
(a.mtaryaami) the omnipresent God is Sri Narayana who moves and sustains the
presiding deities and both the animate jeevas and the inanimate things. By
understanding these two principles, the individual presiding deities and the
Universal Lord, we can control all matter and energy. We should understand the
nature and power of the presiding deities like Chandra, Surya, Varuna, Yama, Indra,
Shiva, Vayu and Brahma and the gradations among them and the way the higher
divinity controls the lower. This gradation itself is called (devataa taaratamya).
The physical and chemical nature of objects are derived from their presiding deities
and the differences in the power and potency of the presiding deities account for
the different chemical and physical properties of objects. To discipline our lives we
should also understand both the Supreme Power and the presiding deity of our
senses, mind and reason, all residing within us, propitiate them and obtain their
grace. The reason will not then excite the mind and the mind will not ruffle the
senses. It is only with the help and grace of these spiritual powers within us that
we can over come the evil and demonic forces of desire and anger. The knowledge
of these 'Para' (The Supreme Lord) and 'Apara' (the presiding deities) spiritual
agents will be the most potent weapon for us for suppressing our enemies like
desire and anger. The knowledge of and devotion to the Supreme Power controlling
all material universe will gradually increase our soul force and sense of duty. When
we are armed with such power and integrity, how can internal enemies like desire
and anger dare attack us? On the other hand, if we do not believe in God and if we
do not propitiate God and earn His Grace and if we do not lead a good, clean and
moral life, naturally we fall a prey to our own internal enemies such as desire and
anger.

eva.m buddheH para.m buddhvaa sa.mstabhyaatmaanamaatmanaa |


jahi shatru.m mahaabaaho kaamaruupa.m duraasadam.h || III-43

(Understanding the Lord to be superior to the deity of intellect, controlling the


mind with the superior intellect, destroy the enemy in the shape of desire, who is
all but invincible,)

Thus, in the third chapter, the Lord has stated that with the knowledge of the
Supreme God and other deities we should conquer our internal enemies and
understand our prescribed duties and perform them selflessly in a spirit of
dedication to God.

32. The antiquity of the Gita dharma:

Some people are under the impression that this philosophy of karmayoga was
newly preached by Sri Krishna and that it was not in existence earlier. They also
believe that Vedas advocate karma alone while the Upanishads, the jnana alone,

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and that the Gita advocates yet another path different from both. But this is wrong.
Sri Krishna says:
sa evaaya.m mayaate.adya yogaH proktaH puraatanaH | IV-3
(I am preaching to you the ancient message of karmayoga.)
In fact karmayoga with its twin principles of devotion and disinterestedness has
been handed down from generation to generation from the Almighty Lord to Surya,
from Surya to Manu, from Manu to Ikshvaku, and so on. There is nothing new in it.
The Gita only reiterates the principles already laid down in the ancient Vedas and
the Upanishads.
kurvanneveha karmaaNi jijiiviShecChata.m samaaH |
eva.m tvayi naanyatheto.asti na karma lipyate nare || Isavasya 2
The Isavasyopanishad in the above sloka, tells us in brief how to perform action
without any bondage. The Gita only elaborates this point. This teaching which has
come from the Sun and Manu should be honoured and followed by us, who are the
descendants of Manu. The first man, Manu himself, to whose family we belong,
showed us the path of karmayoga. Hence there is no doubt that in the interest of
general welfare and social justice, it is absolutely essential for one and all to follow
this ancient path of karmayoga.

33. The incarnation of God and its purpose:

Sri Krishna says that He preached this karmayoga to the Sun God at the beginning
of creation. How could Krishna of Dwapara Age preach this to the Sun of an earlier
age at the very beginning of creation? Sri Krishna explains this paradox.

Just as the individual soul has many births, the Lord has many incarnations. We
should not think that we have only one life. Even when we are leading a righteous
life, we face many hardships and sufferings. On the other hand, immoral and sinful
people are seen leading happy and luxurious lives. Hence a doubt arises as to why
we should lead the difficult and moral life? This doubt arises because we think of
only one life. Even a thief may enjoy a grand life for one or two days after theft. A
sick man may not find any improvement in his health after taking medicine only for
one or two days. The experience of only a few days is too short to enable us to
judge the ultimate result. We have to wait for quite some time to get the result of
our actions. The same applies in the case of spiritual life also. In the extensive
existence of the soul, a single life is but like a day. From. the results seen in one
day we cannot judge the true effects of dharma and karma. From a partial and one-
sided view of our life and from the transient happiness and sorrow, we cannot draw
any conclusion of lasting value. A half-finished painting or sculpture looks
grotesque. Similarly from the unfinished and partial life we cannot judge the far-
reaching results of morality and action. The scriptures say that the soul is eternal
and our life is but a single fragment of its eternity. If we remember this we shall not
be perturbed by temporary setbacks and pleasures and it will give us the courage
to pursue our lives on sound moral principles.

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Like the soul, the Lord also takes on many incarnations. He is not ordered or
compelled by anything to take these forms. He does it out of His own free will and
sweet desires. We do not know about our past and future lives but God knows all
about His past and future incarnations. That is the difference between the
individual soul and the Supreme Soul: taanyaha.m veda sarvaaNi na tva.m vettha
para.mtapa | IV-5 Sri Krishna now proceeds to explain the purpose of His
incarnations. We enter into activity for the fulfilment of some desire. But in God
there is no unfulfilled desire. He is not wanting in anything. Hence His incarnation
is not for any personal satisfaction or fulfilment. He is all-merciful. Out of
compassion for the suffering humanity He takes on His incarnations. In our case,
even when we are helping others, in our heart of hearts we may have some selfish
motives. In ordinary people, the motive may be purely selfish, and in great men
and holy men, the motive may be to acquire merit, and obtain the grace of God.
Hence all people, big or small, have some motive, high or low, in performing
action. If there is anybody in the universe who performs action. solely for the good
of others without any selfish interests it is the all-merciful God alone. His creation
and playful incarnations are all motivated by extreme compassion for suffering
humanity. There is no selfish motive in Him. There are different categories of soul,
pure (saatvika) impure (taamasa) and passionately active (raajasa). God takes
incarnation for the glory of the pure souls.

yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanirbhavati vhaarata


| abhyutthaanamadharmasya tadaatmaana.m sR^ijaamyaha.m ||
paritraaNaaya saadhuunaa.m vinaashaaya ca duShkR^itaam.h |
dharmasa.msthaapanaarthaaya sa.mbhavaami yuge yuge || IV-7, 8

(Whenever righteousness lies prostrate and unrighteousness becomes rampant


then to destroy the wicked and protect the good and to establish the rule of law
and dharma, I incarnate myself in every such age.)

God is Almighty. He need not descend to earth. Sitting in His own place He can
destroy the wicked. Still He takes on a human form and lives like a man in this
world just to set an example for mankind. The mother can take the child in her
arms and walk fast. But she prefers to walk slowly and lead the child by holding its
hands and teach it to walk. So also, God in his mercy descends on earth, takes a
human form and lives with men like men, and shows us the way to lead an ideal
life. The purpose of God's incarnation is to teach us to live well. The Bhagavata
says:
martyaavataara stviha martya shikShaNa.m |
Why does the Lord kill wicked people in His incarnations? He is totally free from
desire and anger and so, why does He indulge in such violence? Ordinary mortals
have attachment of their physical bodies and so are subject to emotions like desire
and anger. The king rewards those who praise him, he punishes those who criticise
him and these are quite natural. But God is beyond these worldly things and He is
not affected by any such feelings. Therefore would it be right if He, like ordinary
kings and men, favour His devotees and punish His enemies? There is an answer to
this question in the Bhagavata, Seventh Skanda.

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sarvaatmanaH samadR^isho hyadvayasthaanaha.mkR^iteH |
tatkR^ita.mmativaiShamya.mniravadyasya na kvacit.h ||
For the Lord who is beyond all worldly nature, there is no touch of any emotion like
desire and anger. He is not perturbed by praise or blame. He is not overjoyed by
any praise of Him, neither is He depressed by any blame. He is not moved by these
passions when He punishes the wicked. The people who know the Truth and tread
the path of righteousness are his devotees. The tamasa and rajasa souls spurn this
truth, tread the path of unrighteousness and bring disorder in this world. They are
the enemies of God. God protects the deities and His devotees and thus
strengthens the satvik force; when He destroys the demons He only curbs the rajas
and tamas spirit. His punishment or reward are not for any personal benefit which
He has none and has no need. It is just to help the process of creation and
evolution of the universe in the right direction that He strengthens the satvik
forces and puts down the destructive forces, and this, in fact, is the noble purpose
of His incarnation. Where is the scope for any emotions like desire and anger in this
scheme of things? There is no room for any selfishness in His actions. In Bhagavata
it is said:
satva.msuraaniikamivaidha yatyajaH |
rajastamaskaan.h prahiNotyurukramaH ||
Seen from this point of view we cannot attribute any partiality or nepotism to God.
Some people, acquiring dictatorial powers by their might, bring death and
destruction on a mass scale and shake the very foundation of the just social order.
If there is cancerous growth in any part of the body, the whole body suffers the
pain. Similarly such wicked people with demonic forces cause suffering for the
whole world. Suppression of such evil forces is absolutely necessary to save the
world from catastrophe. When there is a tumor in the body it has to be removed by
surgical operation. Similarly, destruction of such monsters who torment the people
is not considered as violence but as a surgical operation to save the world. When
we understand the difference between violence caused for selfish ends due to our
own personal desire, and the destruction of the evil forces wrought by God for the
protection of the good people and the establishment of the world in good, then all
our doubts regarding the purpose of God's incarnation will disappear.

Thus the religion of the Bhagavad Gita is not something novel preached during the
Krishna incarnation for the first time but it is only reiteration of an ancient and
eternal religion preached by God Himself from the beginning of creation. Thus by
dispelling all the doubts the Lord creates firm faith in and liking for karmayoga.

34. The difference between the individual soul and the Universal Soul:

This part of the Gita explains clearly the difference between the individual soul and
the Universal Soul, the God. Even though the soul has spent many lives, man is not
aware of these. Even in this life, he experiences pleasure and pain but he has no
control over these. But God's incarnations are quite different. God takes
incarnations of His own free will. He is not affected either by pain or pleasure. His
incarnation is purely for the welfare of the world. In this activity, there is no loss of

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His knowledge, bliss and other auspicious qualities. From these fundamental
differences we can easily see that the two are not identical. This difference has
been emphasised in the Gita. Sri Krishna says that if we realise this difference and
acquire true knowledge of His greatness and true Nature, then we can attain
salvation.
viitaraagabhayakrodhaa manmayaa maamupaashritaaH |
bahavo gyaanatapasaa puutaa madbhaavam aagataaH || IV-10
(Devoid of attachment, fear and anger, full of Me and finding their refuge in Me,
many, having purified themselves through knowledge and asceticism, have
attained a place in Me.)

Here the jnanis are called "manmaya" or "Bhagavanmaya". "Manmaya" does not
mean those who are identical with God. In the very next half of the line there is the
word (maamupaashritaaH) that is, "those that take shelter in me." This shows the
difference between the jnani and Paramatma. One is the soul that seeks shelter
and the other is the supreme soul that gives shelter. Those that give Him the
highest place in their lives and those who see His function in the motion and
existence of everything, are the true devotees (Bhagavanmayas).
shaaravattanmayo bhavet.h |
The above is a quotation from an Upanishad. Just as an arrow penetrates into and
sticks to its target, so alone our mind should penetrate and stick to God. When we
say we are "Bhagavanmaya", full of God, we only mean we are established in Him.
By this sort of establishment in God, we should get salvation which is but finding a
firm foundation in God.

35. Jnanis and Traividyas:

The Gita now proceeds to describe the difference between those who have full
knowledge of karmayoga and others. Jnanis worship the Supreme Lord with
undistracted devotion. These have no desire for any worldly rewards. They do not
pray to the lesser deities for worldly happiness. With the knowledge that there is
one sole Supreme Lord of the whole universe, they just surrender themselves to
Him whole-heartedly. Such people are known as Bhagavatas. Sri Bhimasena is
unique among such Bhagavatas. We can see in his life the supreme embodiment of
unwavering devotion to God. Archery did not interest Bhimasena. The archers have
to invoke deities like Agni, Vayu etc. for the potency of their weapons, for the
selfish gains of killing enemies. Bhimasena did not like this. For his personal gains
he did not wish to beg of anybody - not even God. Therefore he took to his mace as
a weapon whose potency depends only upon his physical strength and valour. In
the village of Ekachakra, whereas the other Pandavas were begging alms,
Bhimasena did not join them. He thought that those who lived by the Bhagavata
dharma should not lead an undignified life. Those who did their God-ordained duty
have automatically right over the society to demand what they needed:

bhikShaaTana.m shca hu.mkaaraat.h

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karavat.h vaishyato.agrahiit.h |

(He demanded his (bhikShaa) with a thundering voice as a king demands his taxes
from the (vaishya))

Just as the kings received the offerings by the subject as their right, Bhimasena
also got his daily needs from the people without any anxiety or begging or losing
any self-respect. Thus he never begged of either people or the gods for any of his
personal needs. He bows only before the Supreme God. Thus does Bhimasena
exemplify the principle that a Bhagavata should never lead a life of humiliation for
the satisfaction of selfish desires.

Even before God, Bhimasena will not bow his head and ask for any worldly favours.
In the Mahabharata war, after Dronacharya was killed, his son Ashwathama sent
up his Narayanastra which was more potent than any held in the Pandava army. No
one was able to stop it. It has the power to kill every one coming in its way. If any
body keeps down his weapon and bows to this and pays homage, it would not
harm him. As advised by Sri Krishna the whole of the Pandava army bowed before
this arrow and thus saved themselves. It was the arrow bearing the name of God
Narayana and since there is nothing demeaning for a king in bowing before the
Supreme Lord Narayana, Bhimasena was also advised likewise. But Bhimasena was
not prepared to bow even to God's own weapon just to save his life. He would not
ask the Lord any favours barring spiritual knowledge, devotion and grace. He did
not want to disarm himself and beg of the Lord to save his life. He had never asked
anybody for any personal favours. Thus Bhimasena is regarded as an ideal
personality who has completely assimilated the Bhagavata dharma to himself.

One may not go to the same extent as Bhimasena. But even if one gives up the
worship of lesser gods for small favours and prays to the Supreme God for its own
sake, even then he will be considered as a true follower of the Bhagavata dharma.

We see several who even if they know God to be supreme, have not realised Him
as the omnipresent regulator from within and the prime doer. They pray to God
only occasionally, and that too, for some petty rewards. Such people are called
'Trai-vidyas' (i.e. those who know only the superficial meaning of the three Vedas).
They have some devotion but they do not have full knowledge of the greatness of
God. They have not inculcated this devotion to God in their lives. Whenever they
perform any deeds they forget the supreme doership of God and act under the
illusion that they are the doers and that the petty gods reward them with fruits and
that both are independent their hearts are stirred by desires for immediate fruits.

The Supreme Lord's ways of issuing rewards to the Bhagavatas and Trai-vidyas
differ. The Bhagavatas worship God devotedly with full knowledge of His power and
greatness. Whatever you may do and to whatever god you may pray, it all reaches
the Supreme God Vishnu who is inside each and everything in this Universe.

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sarva deva namaskaaraH keshava.mpratigacchati |

Whichever god you may worship, the Supreme giver of rewards, however trivial the
reward may be, is still the Lord Himself. There is only one God and He is inside all
other Gods bearing their very names and forms. He is the prime mover behind all
our actions. Whosoever you may worship, ultimately it reaches the Supreme God.

But poor Trai-vidyas are not aware of this. Due to ignorance of the all-
pervasiveness of the Supreme God, they run after different deities for small
favours and even when they are worshipping the great God Himself they are not
aware which God in fact they are propitiating.
mama vartmaanu vartante manuShyaaH paartha sarvashaH || IV-11
(They are all but treading my (own) path.)

But these aspirants too are on the right path to God. They are not aware that what
they are worshipping is nothing but the Supreme God itself. God is fulfilling their
petty desires also and rewarding them although not to the same extent as He is
doing in the case of Bhagavatas.
ye yathaa maa.m prapadyante taa.m stathaiva bhajaamyaham.h | IV-11
"I reward people according to their kind of devotion," says the Lord.

There is another category of devotees who do not go to lesser gods but


nevertheless go to the Supreme God Himself, for personal favours. These people
may not get liberation in this very life but they are on the right road to it. It is in
any case better than leading a sinful life. For personal favours, instead of begging
the rich and the mighty, is it not better to beg God Himself?
mama vartmaanu vartante manuShyaaH paartha sarvashaH || IV-11
(Even the people performing desire-prompted action also tread the path which
ultimately lead to Me.)

Being unable to bear the insult of his stepmother, the young boy Dhruvaraj
proceeded to a forest, did penance and obtained the vision of God. So God exalts
us if we turn to Him with the urges of desire. Dhruvaraj no doubt had God's vision
and he enjoyed all the worldly and kingly pleasures but that did not satisfy him. He
weeps for his folly of asking God for worldly pleasures instead of heavenly bliss.
When God was capable of taking him completely out of the cycle of birth and death
and open the very floodgates of His grace and benediction, Dhruva asked Him only
for fleeting and momentary worldly pleasures. He therefore repents and spends the
rest of his life in pure devotion and desireless action and ultimately reaches the
goal. Hence aspiring souls, even if they turn towards God prompted by any desire,
ultimately change their attitude and go in the right path toward God.

Therefore the Upanishads proclaim:


"hriyaadeya.m" "bhiyaadeya.m"

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(Give, out of shame; give out of fear.)

At least out of shame, on seeing others give alms and donations, you also do it.
Give away your wealth at least out of shame that while others are giving you are
not; give at least out of fear of danger to happiness in this world and the other.
This is what the Upanishads insist: do good deeds, be it out of shame or even with
a desire for fame and prestige. It is better to do so, than do nothing at all.

Some people offer huge donations and perform religious ceremonies on a very
grand scale. Others who are jealous of such people call this as exhibitionism. But
even if it be for show, these people spend their hoarded wealth and distribute it
among the poor. Is it not far better than the critics who do not have any generosity
and only find fault in others who have? In short, the Gita says that any life which
leads towards God is better than the one which takes one the other way.

36. The fourfold varna system as depicted by the Gita:

The cause for gradation in devotion and religious practices (anuShThaana) lies in
God's own system of creation in consonance with the intrinsic nature and
individuality of souls. God has not invented this difference or gradation. The
individual qualities are natural and eternal; and it is but natural that there should
be difference in the quality of aspirants in God's creation, which is based on a set
of facts like intrinsic difference of souls.
caaturvarNya mayaa sR^iShTa.m guNakarmavibhaagashaH | IV-13

Sri Krishna says that He has Himself brought about this caste system in conformity
with the nature and aptitude for work of the individual only. The superficial
meaning of the above stanza is quite confusing. There is no reason for Sri Krishna
to talk about caste system when he is describing the difference between people
who perform action under the urge of desire and others who do it desirelessly. It is
irrelevant, at this point, whether the society is divided into castes by birth or by
qualities. So, we should not take the fourfold pattern to be wholly identical with the
current caste system.

Besides, it is contrary to fact to assert that individual qualities and ways depend on
the caste division. Serenity of mind and discipline of the body are not the exclusive
prerogative of any one caste. They may be found in people belonging to all the
four castes. It is quite possible to find a higher sense of devotion and good conduct
in a Vaishya or a Shudra than in a so-called high-caste Brahmin. There is no total
consistency between the classification of souls on the basis of intrinsic virtues
mentioned in the Gita and the present caste system. And it would be unrealistic to
forge a new system of castes on the basis of the intrinsic qualities and ways. One
and the same person may behave in different ways in entirely different
circumstances. In such a situation, it would be impracticable to go on changing the
caste system from moment to moment, as the system is based on specialised
cultivation, occupation and pursuit. Besides, it is also possible that much friction

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would be generated while determining the existence or absence of spiritual
qualities. It may be possible to make use of the peculiar radiance of individual
virtues while determining a person's attainment. If we try to restructure society on
the basis of individual assessment, we are but courting perpetual conflict. Hence it
is clear that we can not divide a community into different social classes and castes
on the basis of individual nature. Nor is it possible to adjust the classification by
qualities with the present caste system. For example, a Brahmin is supposed to
possess some virtues. But we see in every day life instances in which such virtues
as are lacking in Brahmins are amply found in Non-Brahmins. How can we say that
these virtues are the prerogatives of only those who are born in a Brahmin family
and not of others? It would be a sheer contradiction of fact. Hence we must
examine carefully the exact import of Sri Krishna's reference to the caste system.

Sri Madhvacharya has explained this point clearly in his commentary on the Gita.
He has explained that the four divisions of the caste system do not belong to the
human body but to the soul; the souls are categorised into four groups depending
upon their nature, quality and propensities. The good souls which are worthy of
salvation are classified into four divisions. All these have a preponderance of the
(sattvaguNa) the differentia among them is due to the permutations of the
qualities of (rajoguNa) and (tamoguNa) only, and on the basis of this difference of
combination only they are classified fourfold. Devotion to God (shamo-
bhagavanniShThataa) and control over the senses (dama) are basic to all. They are
divided into four classes only on the basis of the degree of the two great qualities
possessed by each. Such is the fourfold system, based on the intrinsic nature of
the soul, propounded in the Gita.
svaabhaaviko brahmaNaadiH shamaadairevabhidyate |
yonibheda kR^itobhedaH j~neya aoupaadhikastvayam.h ||
(The natural differentiation into castes like Brahmins and others is according to the
qualities of devotion to God etc. while the classification according to birth is
conditioned by external factors.)

We can resolve the society into four classes like Brahmin, Kshatriya,
Vaishya and Shudra in two ways. One is by birth, and the other by the inner
qualities of the soul. The former classification is conditional or artificial while the
latter is intrinsic. It is not proper to judge a man only by the accident of his birth.
We should judge him by his behaviour, deed and character. The latter method of
classification appears to be more natural and more enduring, as it is based on the
essential nature of the soul and not on the physical attributes.

If categorisation into castes by birth is useful for social organisation and for the
observance of religious ceremonies according to the prescriptions of the shastras,
the division on the basis of the intrinsic nature of the souls is foundational being
based on matters of spiritual practice and meditation.
adhikashceta guNaH shuudre brahmaNadiH saucyateH |
brahmaNopyalpa guNakaH shuudraevetikiirtitaH ||

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Even though by birth one is a Shudra, if he is rich in noble qualities like self-control
and serenity of mind he is verily a Brahmin from the point of view of the soul. On
the other hand, even if he is a Brahmin by birth, if he is poor in these qualities, he
is verily a Shudra. Thus an individual should not be measured by his caste and
birth only. We should assess him on the basis of his conduct, his intensity of
devotion and intrinsic virtues.

The physical body may be of a high caste Brahmin but it does not follow that the
soul it covers is necessarily qualitatively superior. The import of the Gita is that the
greatness of the soul is to be measured by the yardstick of virtues reflected in his
good deeds and good nature. Therefore in the Bhagavata it is said:
vipraadi Sha~NguNa yutaadaravindanaat.h |
paadaaravindavimukhaat.h shvapaca.mvariShTham.h ||

A Pariah who is a devotee of God is far better than even a Brahmin if he is ungodly.
In the Mahabharata parable of Dharmavyadha also it is stated:

yastushuudro damesatye dharmecasatatotyitaH |


ta.mbrahmaNamaha.mmanye vR^ittenahi bhavedvijaH ||

A Shudra with noble qualities like self-control and truthfulness is indeed a Brahmin;
a man is to be identified as a Brahmin only by his noble deeds. In answering a
question by Yaksha, it is stated that virtuous character alone is the distinguishing
cause of being a Brahmin. All this is not written to cry down the present caste
system. Its main purpose is to highlight the importance of good character and
conduct in identifying noble souls.

This does not mean the physical caste system in spite of its conditioning factors,
laid down in our scriptures, is superfluous. It is most essential for determining the
duties and responsibilities of each person and for religious pursuits. But we cannot
determine the worthiness or otherwise of a soul for salvation just by considering
his birth and caste. Even if we classify religious rituals and pursuits on the basis of
the external attributes of caste and birth, we cannot determine the worthiness for
salvation on that basis. We cannot also decide about the spiritual qualifications like
devotion, prayerfulness etc. and the genuine honesty of a person on the basis of
birth or caste. The one born as a Brahmin does not automatically possess great
virtues like devotion and discipline. We have to assess a man only on the basis of
right conduct and the particular combination of the three gunas. Good qualities
and good nature should be discovered and honoured wherever and in whatever
caste they are found. It is to enable us to identify this fundamental good nature
among men that the Gita has laid down this categorisation. The caste system
referred to in the Gita is not a classification based on accidental attributes of birth
but a classification of good souls in our society. Such a classification which depends
upon the essential, deeper qualities will bring about harmony among the members
of the different communities for the good of the society as a whole, compensating
for the gaps. left by the caste system based on accidental features.

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According to the Gita, the caste system is nothing but a community of noble souls.
To them God has given physical bodies and other accessories and brought them
into this world. Hence, He has helped us more than our parents and teacher. We
should not forget such a Being and run after others inferior to Him for our worldly
rewards. Hence all good souls are to be devoted entirely to the Supreme Lord of
the Universe who is full of all the auspicious qualities. Forgetting Him we should
not run after lesser deities, spirits or other persons for any worldly rewards. The
Supreme Lord is one and only one. In Him we should have faith, confidence and
devotion. We should not pervert our minds by worshipping a multitude of lesser
deities. Hinduism does not cynically propound a polytheistic religion with a plurality
of supreme gods as some think. It is clear that monotheism alone is the supreme
import of the Gita. In the ninth chapter, this has been clearly explained.
ye.apyanyadevataa bhaktaa yajante shraddhayaa.anvitaaH |
te.api maameva kaunteya yajantyavidhipuurvakam.h ||23||
aha.m hi sarvayaj~naanaa.m bhoktaa ca prabhureva ca |
na tu maamabhijaananti tattvenaatashcyavanti te ||24||
yaanti devavrataa devaan.h pitR^Inyaanti pitR^ivrataaH |
bhuutaani yaanti bhuutejyaa yaanti madyaajino.api maam.h ||25|| IX - 23, 24, 25
(Even those who worship other deities and sacrifice to them with faith in their
hearts, are really worshipping Me, though with a mistaken approach. For I am the
only enjoyer and the only God of all sacrifices. Nevertheless such men must return
to life on earth, because they do not recognise Me in my true nature. Those who
sacrifice to the various deities, will go to those deities. The ancestor worshippers
will go to their ancestors. Those who worship elemental powers and spirits will go
to them. So also, My devotees will come to Me.)

Who are the other deities and who is the Supreme Lord, are explained here. By
using the words maa.m and madyaajinaH Sri Krishna reveals that He Himself is the
Supreme Lord. From this it is clear that Sri Krishna is the Lord of all deities and
receiver of all sacrificial offerings. If you worship lesser deities, you naturally get
smaller rewards; even if the smaller deities are worshipped, these sacrificial
offerings are received by the Supreme Lord Himself who is immanent in these
deities and it is He who rewards the devotees; if He Himself is directly worshipped
as the Supreme Lord Himself, the devotee will be crowned with the highest fruit of
salvation.

37. Action and inaction:

The Gita gives the quintessence of karmayoga, discussed so far, so pithily in the following verse:
karmaNyakarma yaH pashyedakarmaNi ca karma yaH |
sa buddhimaanmanuShyeShu sa yuktaH kR^itsnakarmakR^it.h || IV-18
"One should perceive inaction in action, and action in inaction" is the apparent
meaning and it appears like a riddle. But the lines propound the essence of
karmayoga in a nutshell. Whenever we perform action, the egoism that we are the

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doers of action is always with us. Even pious people who otherwise know that God
is the doer of all deeds seem to forget, for a moment, that God is the prime mover.
It is the forgetfulness of this aspect of God's activity that is the cause of man's
egoism. Hence these actions become binding. Therefore when we perform any
action, we should always remember that we are not doing these actions
independently but it is the great work of the Lord functioning in these actions. If we
remember God, there will be no room for attachment and egoism. That is what is
meant by the idea that in action we should see 'inaction'. Even as we are engaged
in physical activity our attitude should be that it is not our activity but God's. We
should not only realise our own limitations but also see the hand of God in all the
worldly activity. a means God. Hence akarma means God's work. For every activity
in this universe there are two beings responsible: the individual soul and the
Supreme Soul. A father takes hold of his son's hand and makes him write the
alphabets. Here the mind and efforts of both the persons are involved. We have
seen in everyday life joint efforts being put by two persons. The unseen hand of
God is behind each one of our activities and we derive all Our energy and
inspiration from Him only. Thus in each one of our activities, both our efforts and
God's power are combined, but with this difference, that God does not depend
upon anything else for His powers whereas we are for ever dependent on Him for
whatever we do. He is the object and we are His image. Unless the object moves,
the image cannot move at all. Hence the source of all of our activities is God
Himself.
viShNorevakarma—naahaMchit.hpratibiMbaH ki~ncatkaromi | — Gita Bhashya
Because we are not independent, even though we are actively engaged in any
work, we are called inactive. But God is independent and for His activity he does
not depend upon us. He is the real source of power behind all the states of our
existence. Even when we are fast asleep or in a dream state, God's activity within
us continues. In dream we see objects just as we see pictures in a movie. Who
creates this dream world for us? We have no hand in it. God's work is behind all
these and His activity is quite independent of us akarmaNicakarmaya. Even in the
state of our inactivity, God's activity is ever continuing and keeps the Universe
moving. Thus God's power perpetually works by itself without an ulterior
dependence. The answer to the riddle of action and inaction lies in realising the
weakness of the individual and the Lord's incessant activity and unfettered
independence.

The same ideas can be derived by looking at the stanza in another way. Only the
individual soul, who is governed by duties and responsibilities, is bound by the
obligation of action. The soul who is bound by action is called 'Karma'. But the
Supreme Lord who is beyond all action is called 'Akarma'. It is significant that God
is called 'Akarma' since he is not bound by any rules and regulations and he is
beyond all action. Even if any individual performs any action, he does it not by his
own ability. Since he has no capacity for independent action in anything, it is said
that the soul performs no action. All action is reposed in God who is beyond
everything. He is the prime mover and He is the force and the energy behind every
action in this whole universe.

na tratetvat.hkriyatekiMcinaare | Rigveda — 10-113-9

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(Without God nothing moves in the Universe.)
akarmaNicakarmayaH | IV-18
implies the independence and omnipotence of the Supreme God. This stanza asks
us to remember always that we are utterly dependent upon God. God alone is the
Independent Reality.

Many people have interpreted this stanza in their own way according to their fancy.
"Doing action or not doing action are both an illusion. Even when we are doing
action, that action is not real. Even when we think that we are not doing action,
there will be action in us. Hence both action and inaction are not real. When we
travel in a train, the distant trees and buildings seem to run in the opposite
direction. But in reality they do not move. Similarly even if some activity is seen in
us it must be deemed as unreal. A person at a great distance seems to be
stationary even though he may be walking. We may be thinking that he is not
walking but he is walking. Similarly we may be thinking that we are inactive but
these imaginary actions crop up within us. Even though action may be unreal, we
are never bothered by it." Even when the world of action always clings to us they
say it is all unreal and imaginary. But we feel this to be a strange interpretation.
How can we believe that when Krishna has been consistently advising Arjuna to
perform his duty and in the rest of the discourse too he is insisting on the same
theme, He could ever, at this stage, defying all consistency, give Arjuna a
philosophy which denies the very world of action? If all that we do is as unreal as a
dream then why indulge in it with faith and perseverance? If, after doing all this
action with supreme effort, the whole fuss of action comes to nought, then will not
one feel that it is better to keep mum? If Krishna had told Arjuna that both action
and inaction are imaginary, it would have confused him further instead of goading
him into action. We cannot expect such an irrelevant action from God Himself.
tyaktvaa karmaphalaasa~NgaM nityatR^ipto niraashrayaH |
karmaNyabhipravR^itto.api naiva kiMcitkaroti saH || IV-20
This stanza explains the means of finding inaction in action. This stanza says that
he who performs action without caring for the fruit of action, without any ego, is
deemed as one who has not performed action.

Inaction does not mean forsaking action. Nor does it mean treating all action as
illusory. The author of the Gita has clearly laid down here that performing duty
without attachment or egoism itself is 'non-action'. If only we noticed this stanza
which immediately follows, while interpreting karmaNyakarmayaH pashyet.h we
can easily grasp the meaning of the riddle-like stanza.

The Gita never propounds anywhere that either the world or the actions that we
see are unreal. In fact such an interpretation is utterly contrary to the philosophy of
karmayoga propounded by the Gita at every step. Everyone acknowledges that the
Gita prescribes performance of action even to those who have attained God-
realisation. The blessed Lord offers Himself as an example and says that everyone
has to perform the duties entrusted to him.
kuryaadvi dvaan.h tathaa.asaktaH |

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The Gita clearly lays down that even the illumined soul should perform actions with
detachment. Even Sri Sankaracharya who otherwise advocates the illusoriness of
action and non-performance of action by all jnanis admits that this stanza (IV-20)
imposes performance of action by a Brahma Jnani. There is thus no dispute about
the fact that the Gita advocates performance of action even after the attainment of
realisation. If action itself is illusory, how can the Gita advocate performance of
action by a jnani? If action is illusory, there cannot be any illusion for a jnani and
hence there cannot be any action for a jnani. A rope can be mistaken for a snake
only till its true identity is revealed and not afterwards. If the world and the actions
are unreal and illusory, they will disappear the moment real wisdom dawns.
Whatever that remains even after wisdom is attained can never be untrue. If a
jnani also performs some action in this world, then it is clear that both the world
and the action are not unreal. The Gita advocates that the world of action which is
performed even by those who have attained the knowledge of Brahman and the
world itself which is the field of action, are real. Therefore, if anybody says that the
sloka
karmaNyalarmayaH pashyet.h
advocates unreality of action, he contradicts the basic contention of the Gita.

38. Different kinds of sacrifice:

Action that is performed as a sacred duty and as a dedication to God who is


independent, all-powerful and omnipotent, alone is true action. Such an action
which is performed as a sacrifice does not conduce to bondage. There are many
ways of performing sacrifice and Sri Krishna describes these in the fourth chapter.
dravyayaj~naastapoyaj~naa yogayaj~naastathaapare |
svaa dhyaaya j~naanayaj~naashca yatayaH saMshita-vrataaH || IV-28
evaM bahuvidhaa yaj~naa vitataa brahmaNo mukhe |
karmajaanviddhi taansarvaanevaM j~naatvaa vimokShyase || IV-32
Actions performed with the sole purpose of pleasing God without desire and
attachment, themselves are sacrifices. The sannyasis are not supposed to offer
oblation to fire and perform sacrifice. But the sacrifice advocated in the Gita is
open to all persons. The intense devotion of yogis, the sense-control and breath-
control practised by the yogic aspirants and the intense study and lesson of the
pundits are all sacrifices in one form or the other. Even the sense delights enjoyed
by the organs are a form of sactifice.
shabdaadiinviShayaananya indriyaagniShu juhvati | IV-26
(Some sacrifice the objects of sense, such as sound, etc. into the fire of the
senses.)

Even our physical frame is a means for serving God and for that the body should
be kept in a fit condition by partaking of good and wholesome food and thus, even
eating without attachment becomes a form of sacrifice. As a mechanic oils the
machine in order to make it work well, in the same way the jnani thinks of his body
as a machine and feeds it with conducive food. In this case there is no scope for

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excitement or perversion of the mind. Eating food or any other routine activities of
life done in such a healthy frame of mind are counted by the Gita as but versions
of sacrifice.

In the Chandogya Upanishad the whole life is called a sacrifice. A holy person's life,
in which all the activities of life are dedicated to God, is itself a supreme yajna.
Wherever there is selflessness, wherever there is dedication, there is the essence
of a yajna. It is but natural to call a holy person's life yajna since the very texture
of his life is woven with such dedication. There is an important place for dakshina
in a yajna. Without it, the yajna is not complete. In a true sort of life, truth, mercy
and compassion are dakshina, says the Upanishad. Because of these virtues our
life becomes full and consummate. The Upanishad describes death as
avabhR^itha, culminating holy bath, The real jnani engaged in perforAing these
duties, is not afraid of death. He welcomes it with open arms as a great boon. The
karmayogis joyously embrace death to fulfil the supreme perfection of life even as
a person performing yajna spiritedly yearns for the avabhR^itha bath.

Thus the Gita has shown us the true import and significance of sacrifice in its most
comprehensive meaningfulness. The Gita has taught us by diverting us from the
voluptuous life and the narrow circle of life described by a sense of 'I' and 'mind, to
live a life for the sake of others and in a spirit of dedication to the indwelling Lord
of the world. To the ignorant people who think that yajna means pouring ghee into
the sacrificial fire to attain worldly pleasures, wealth and even heaven svarga, the
Gita has given a wider significance to the term. Even as Sri Krishna has revealed
his infinite form to Arjuna during this discourse, the Gita has shown us here the
infinite dimensions of yajna. In the usual yajna an animal is sacrificed. But in the
sacrifice preached in the Gita, what we have to sacrifice is our beastly egoism and
selfishness. Like the sacrificial goat the selfish man goes on crying me me "mine,
mine". Our life has become a grazing ground for such a beast.
idamadya mayaa labdhamidaM praapsye manoratham.h XVI-13
(I have gained this today; I will again gain another later.)
ihante kaamabhogaarthamanyaayenaartha s~ncayaan.h XVI-12
(They try to gain lots of money through unfair means to satisfy their sense
desires.)

They always hanker after whatever they see in the world and they want to possess
everything they see around them. "Today I have this, tomorrow I must have that.
That is how it goes on." They multiply their wants. They stick to their positions of
power by hook or by crook and for this they do not hesitate to commit even the
worst of crimes. We see such deplorable people all around us. Unless we adhere to
the teachings of the Gita in our day-to-day life we cannot cleanse this dirt from our
body politic. Sacrifice your selfishness, dedicate all that you possess to God and
perform your action as a worship for the good of mankind. This is the sacred
sacrifice. This is true worship.
praataH prabhR^itisaayaaMta saayaadipraataraM tathaa |

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yatkaromi jagannaathatadastu tava puujanaM || — Pancha Ratra

Whatever we do from dawn to dusk is nothing but a form of worship of God. Gita
does not advocate our going to church or temple once a week or once a day just
for a short time and then for the rest of the day carrying on our sinful activities.
Religion should pervade our whole life. Religion should not only be treated as a
part of life but as its very soul animating all its aspects. The day-to-day, mundane
life should not be isolated from the spiritual and moral life. The day-to-day life, led
in a spirit of dedicated service to God in honesty and with a desire to do good to
others, itself can become religion.

The story of Tuladhara narrated in the Mahabharata is a fitting illustration of this


point. The Brahmin boy Jabali was puffed up with pride because of his learning and
spirituality. He heard a voice from heaven taunting him that the merchant
Tuladhara was superior to him. He then went to Tuladhara and found him sitting in
an unpretentious way in front of his pair of scales. Even while he was hesitating to
seek his advice, Tuladhara himself explained the reason for Jabali's coming over
there. Jabali, utterly surprised, enquired of him the secret of his great insight. Then
Tuladhara said: "I am an ignorant man devoid of learning or any occult powers. The
scale which I hold in my hand every day is my teacher. In my business I do not
cheat anybody. It treats all customers alike, be he a child or an old man, be he a
relative or a stranger. It is due to my honesty even like that of the scale that I have
acquired this spiritual power."
adroheNaiva bhuutaanaaM alpadrohenavaapunaH |

Without enmity for creatures, or with very little of it, Tuladhara explains his honest
efforts to carry on his business without harming, as far as possible, anybody. In this
life everybody has to engage himself in some business or the other but he could
perform it with a sense of fairness and justice, is the great lesson we derive from
the example of Tuladhara. This parable is one of my most favourite parables. The
story contains the total truth and ideal of life. The story best exemplifies how
religion can permeate every day life and how straightforward and practicable
religion is. A spirit of sacrifice and dedication to God are the twin principles which
will elevate our mundane activities into a form of sacrifice. That we should sanctify
our lives by such activities is the central teaching of the Gita.

39. Knowledge itself is the Fruit of Sacrifice:

What is the purpose of such a sacrifice? What is the ultimate benefit of works
performed in a spirit of sacrifice. Devotion and sacrifice become instruments of a
higher purpose; they turn life into a pilgrimage to God. The final aim of all such
works is the gift of the vision of God through a purification of the heart.
sarvaM karmaakhilaM paartha j~naane parisamaapyate | IV-33
(All action culminates in knowledge.)

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Among the various forms of sacrifice, jnana yajna has a special significance. Jnana
yajna is nothing but a special effort to get the knowledge of God. Even if you are
engaged in public service, it is necessary to set apart at least soma time every day
for it. When all the yajnas are performed with a view to acquiring knowledge, we
should not neglect the activity of God-knowledge and resort only to a life of
(knowledgeless) actions.
shreyaandravyamayaadyaj~naajj~naanayaj~naH paraMtapa | IV-33
(The jnana yajna, - i.e., the yajna performed for the realisation of God -
is far superior to the yajna in the form of sacrificing material wealth)

The yajna in the form of shravaNa and manana is immensely superior to the yajna
performed with worldly wealth. Without this jnana or wisdom, we will falter even in
the discharge of our ordinary duties. Since, bereft of knowledge, we are likely to be
led into delusion for lack of an awareness of the rightness or otherwise of our
actions, we will have to depend solely on knowledge for the pursuit of even our
daily actions.
svaadhyaayapravacane eveti naako maud.hgalyaH |
taddhi tapastaddhi tapaH |
In the Taittiriyopanishad it is stated that acquiring jnana or wisdom is a great form
of penance. We find it difficult to concentrate our mind on God as we sit for
meditation or worship. But when we are engaged in the reading or study of a book
it is possible for us to forget everything else and get absorbed in it. Hence for
acquiring a complete meditativeness the process of knowledge is an easier and
more convenient means than any other.

If that were so, would it not suffice to pursue only the path of knowledge shunning
the life of action? Why should we waste our time performing the various types of
yajna spoken of in the Gita. Even if knowledge is the ultimate goal and even if the
path of knowledge is supreme, we must remember that we can not reach that goal
without the help of action. When it is said that the path of knowledge is the
highest, we should not construe that it immediately follows that there is no need of
the fruits of action. Reaping a good harvest is the ultimate aim of every farmer. For
that he sows the seeds and grows the crops. But can he ever reap a harvest
without cultivating the field and just planting the seedlings. He has to plough,
water and do several other things and only by doing so can he get the fruit of his
labour: Similarly we have to perform many actions, karmayaj~na before we have
reached God-realisation

. tatsvayaM yogasaMsiddhaH kaalenaatmani vindati || IV-38

(Thus does the Illumined soul, cultivated by karmayoga, gets to God in due
course.)
Since the Gita says that the one who has attained perfection in karmayoga alone
will be worthy of knowledge, it is absolutely necessary to perform actions.

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Thus, with rightful action and janana yajna in the form of shravaNa, manana and
dhyaana, we achieve the interior cultivation which leads to the direct vision of God.
Such a realisation rids us of all our sins which bind us down to the cycle of birth
and death. Wittingly or unwittingly we commit a host of sins in our daily lives and
our heart is soiled by it. The direct vision of God is the immortal stream that
washes away all these sins and purifies us. Even if there is an unending pile of sins,
it can be destroyed by the weapon of j~naana. However deep the river may be, we
can cross it with a small boat; however big a firewood pile may be would it ever be
laborious for fire to burn it? Jnana is such a boat which ferries us across an ocean of
sins and the fire which can reduce to ashes a whole pile of sins.
na hi j~naanena sadR^ishaM pavitramiha vidyate | IV-38
(There is nothing here which is holier than knowledge.)

Is there anything in this world which is holier than jnana? We call pure water holy.
The waters of the Ganges are considered supremely holy. They can only wash away
the dirt that sticks to our body and mind. But even after the holy bath the body
and the mind get soiled again. Even after a dip in the holy Ganges people commit
sins and again pollute their minds. But the power of the direct vision of God is
unique. It not only sweeps clean our past sins but also makes us immune from
future sins
tadadhigama uttarapuurvaaghayorashleShavinaashau tad.h-vyapadeshaat.h |
The Brahmasutra, quoted above, states that jnana not only eradicates the past
sins but has the miraculous power of rendering us incapable of any future sins.
Jnana plucks out the very root. The jnani will not be tainted by sin. That is why
jnana is the holiest of the holies.

40. The doubter perishes:

To acquire such wisdom we should surrender ourselves to the guru who leads us on
the path of knowledge. By service and inquiry with him we acquire such
knowledge. Then by manana (deeper study) and nididhyaasana (meditation) we
can hope to reach realisation. For this, faith and devotion to truth are absolutely
necessary. Where there is faith, doubts and defects can never raise their ugly
heads. Faith does not mean blind belief. We could be said to be full of faith only if
there is a congruence between the knowledge acquired through careful pondering
with the deeds that we perform. When Nachiketa sees his father giving away as
daana cows which are famished and useless,
taM shraddhA vivesha -Katha Upanishad
(Faith indeed entered him.)
faith enters him. He at once protests against his father's miserly acts. Once true
faith or devotion to truth is awakened, the attitude of revolt against injustice and
misdeeds naturally emerges in a man. A man of faith has no room for blind,
superstitious obedience to the elders, Faith is nothing but the indomitable
enthusiasm to work out a correspondence between one's own life and the
philosophy one has acquired.

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The Gita has expounded the significance of firmness in faith and knowledge by
pointing out that a man given to doubt and contradiction and who looks upon
everything, throughout his life, with doubt and suspicion can never achieve the
supreme knowledge of God. It is necessary to base our devotion and religious
practices on the foundation of faith. We can not get the true fruit if we do our
religious meditation and shape our conduct with a vacillating mind. We spend a lot
of effort and money for a good cause. But if it is devoid of faith, and done with
snobbery we cannot reap the full spiritual benefit. On the contrary, it leads to mere
waste of money and effort and mental anguish.

naayaM loko.asti na paro na sukhaM saMshayaatmanaH || IV-40


(For the doubter, there is neither this world, nor the next, nor any happiness
whatsoever.)

In the Mahabharata on several occasions Sri Krishna preaches to Dharmaraja, after


an analysis of truth and untruth, that that action which conduces to goodness and
beneficial to humanity alone is truth. Even if you tell a lie to save innocent people
from the hands of dacoits it is but truth. Once some people hid themselves from
dacoits who were chasing them. The dacoits asked a Brahmin, Kaushik, the
whereabouts of these people. The Brahmin knew the hiding place and he blurted
out the truth. For this he had to go to hell. In the interest of public welfare and of
dharma even if you tell a lie, it has been sanctioned by Sastras as belonging to the
rank of truth. Sri Krishna advises Dharmaraja to tell a lie in order to kill Drona.
Dharmaraja was not fully in favour of this. Neither was he bold enough to discard
the advice of Sri Krishna. So he slowly murmurs: "Ashwathama is dead" with great
difficulty. For betraying a lack of faith in the advice offered by Sri Krishna,
Dharmaraja has to suffer the sight of hell soon after his death.
nacaati visrambha aasiittava kR^iShNavaakye | Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya
Dharmaraja had to reap the bitter fruit of his action performed with a shaky mind.

One could cite a story in this connection. Kumarila Bhatta, believed in the Vedas
and so he was opposed to the followers of Buddha (who disbelieved in the Vedas).
Once, his enemies pushed him down from the balcony of the first floor. He fell
down saying, "If the Vedas are an authority I shall not die." Fortunately he didn't
die but he lost an eye. Kuntatila, no doubt, believed in the Vedas but there was
some grain of doubt in his belief. By saying "If Vedas are an authority," he betrayed
his lack of absolute faith in the Vedas. He did not say: "I believe in the Vedas and
so, I am certain, no harm will come to me." If he had such certainty, nothing would
have happened to him. He had to pay the bitter price of an eye for his infirmness.
All good deeds must be backed by unflinching faith. We should see that the winds
of doubt and contradiction do not get released. Actions performed under any
delusion or with half-heartedness do not produce full results. With unflinching
devotion and faith in God all obstacles will be overcome.
rakShatiityevavishvaasaH tadiiyo.ahamiti smR^itiH | Bhagavata Tatparya
(The faith that He does certainly protect, the sense that I am His.)

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By a critical study of the scriptures we must first acquire faith and then find our
duties and carry them out with determination. Arjuna was tormented by doubt and
despair and had grown confused about his duty. It is to rid him of these and give
him confidence that the Lord has elaborated on the destructive efforts of doubt
and contradiction. He directs him to perform his rightful duties with faith,
determination and purposefulness, rooting out confusion and delusion.
tasmaadaj~naanasambhuutaM hR^itsthaM j~naanaasinaatmanaH |
chittvainaM saMshayaM yogamaatiShThottiShTha bhaarata || IV-42
(Therefore cut off, with the sword of knowledge, this doubt born of ignorance, take
shelter in the karmayoga and stand up and fight, 0 Bharata)

That is why the importance of true knowledge is specially described towards the
end of the fourth chapter.

41. Renunciation and Karmayoga:

Sri Krishna has mainly advocated two important principles: controlling one's
personal weakness like desire and anger, and performance of one's duties in a
spirit of dedication to God. That is the substance of the teaching so far. But Arjuna
is eager to know which is the better of the two. If eradicating desire and anger is
better, why not practise that alone and escape from the entanglement of war
which is a hotbed of both desire and anger. One and the same person cannot
practise both. Renunciation is prescribed to the mendicant and performance of
action is enjoined on the family man. Arjuna is anxious to know which he should
choose between the mutually conflicting ways of renunciation and karmayoga.

The Lord replies: Renunciation and action are not mutually contradictory but
mutually complementary. The words "sanyasa" and "karmayoga" do not really
denote the duties and responsibilities of the mendicant and the family man:
renunciation is nothing but giving up human weaknesses like desire, hatred and
attachment which are embedded in the mind. That is preliminary to karmayoga. If
one does not sow the seeds of holy actions after rooting out desire and hatred,
would not all the work hitherto done, go to waste? Even if you take out the weeds
and prepare the ground but do not farm, the efforts are in vain. The renunciation
preached in the Gita is nothing but an instrument for the cultivation of the heart,
by discarding desire and hatred.
j~neyaH sa nityasaMnyaasii yo na dveShTi na kaa~NakShati | V-3
tayostu karmasaMnyaasaatkarmayogo vishiShyate || V-2
He is a true sanyasi who treats pleasure and pain alike and who is not influenced
either by affection or aversion. The ochre dress and monastic staff do not make a
sanyasi. All can strive to cultivate an attitude of renunciation even in the thick of
family life or society. We should not regard the eradication of the weakness of the
mind or heart alone can reach us to the goal. We need also to bear in mind that
this is only preliminary to the final divine pursuit. In fact the renunciation spoken of

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here is good only for cleansing the heart and there is a total development only if
we continue to do our duties in a spirit of dedication to God. Thus as sanyasa and
karmayoga are mutually complementary, one should not be content with merely
discarding feelings like desire, etc.; we should bring fullness to our effort by
performing actions in a spirit of dedication. In the stanza
tayostu karmasaMnyaasaatkarmayogo vishiShyate || V-2
there is greater importance given to karmayoga than sanyasa. By failing to grasp
the full significance of these two words, 'renunciation' and 'action', many
commentators have become victims of confusion. They have tried to explain the
statement in a complicated way. Their problem was: If jnana is superior to action,
and if jnanayoga is attained by performing desireless action and if jnanayoga is
synonymous with sanyasa, then sanyasa should be superior to karmayoga. How
then could karmayoga be superior to sanyasa? Karma sanyasa (renunciation of
action) does not mean the stage of knowledge which surpasses karmayoga; nor
does it mean the path, where knowledge is predominant, followed by the great
rishis like Sanaka. In neither is there any scope for renunciation of action. In fact till
the final release there is need for right action. Thus, at any stage, there is no room
for abandoning action. What has been emphasised here is the abandonment of
attachment and hatred as a prelude to rightful action. Karmayoga is superior to the
act of renunciation of attachment and desire, which but forms a background for the
karmayoga; there is no scope for any confusion when we understand that our
efforts should not merely end at the achievement of renunciation of attachment
but continue till the ultimate consummation. Sri Madhvacharya thus does not allow
any room for complication and has explained the simple meaning and the real
import of the Gita.

Sri Sankaracharya argues: "Renunciation is abandonment of all action.


Abandonment of action and performance of action however desireless it may be
(as in karmayoga) are both contradictory. Both can never coexist. As soon as true
knowledge is acquired, the illusory world dissolves away and a jnani does not have
any world of action. Where then is the scope for such a man to perform any action
in this world? Thus, for the jnani, there is scope only for the renunciation of action
and karmayoga has no relevance for him; there is no sense, as far as he is
concerned, in calling karmayoga superior to renunciation. We can choose between
the two only if we are given the choice and call one superior and the other inferior.
When for a jnani there is no relevance of action, it is not proper to tell him that
karmayoga is better than renunciation, Hence the reference here must be to the
person who has not yet acquired true knowledge. For him action should be better
than renunciation, says the Gita."

Sri Sankaracharya, one is afraid, has attempted to twist the Gita to serve his own
point of view. When the teaching of the Gita is applicable to all persons, it is wrong
to restrict it to the ignorant alone. As there is no irrelevance of karmayoga to the
jnanis so also there is no relevance of renunciation of action for the jnanis and no
renunciation for the ajnanis. All action is to be performed by the ajnanis only and
all renunciation is to be practised by jnanis only, and hence the question as to
which is better, action or renunciation, does not arise at all and the stanza in the
Gita appears to be redundant. Therefore the simple and straightforward meaning

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explained by Sri Madhvacharya is more appropriate. Renunciation and performance
of action are not contradictory terms; both can coexist and should be practised by
one and the same person. Renunciation does not mean abandonment of action.
Abandonment of desire is the essence of renunciation as seen from the following
quotations.
j~neyaH sa nityasaMnyaasii yo na dveShTi na kaa~NakShati |
V-3
kaamyaanaaM karmaNaaM nyaasaM saMnyaasaM kavayo viduH | XVIII-2
(Those who know understand that renunciation is the abandonment of desire-
prompted actions.)

Also, in the sixth chapter it has been clearly explained that renunciation and action
can coexist.
sa saMnyaasii ca yogii ca ... ... | VI-1
(He himself is the sanyasi and the karmayogi.)

In the light of this explanation, it becomes clear that abandonment of desire and
performance of action in a spirit of dedicated service are the prerequisites for the
attainment of true knowledge. In fact the two together constitute the karmayoga.
Since the abandonment of attachment forms the first half and dedication to God,
the latter half, and the harmonisation of the two alone makes for an integral
karmayoga, the question as to which is better does not arise at all. For a house
both the foundation and the superstructure are necessary and the house is not
complete if either is missing.
saMyaasastu mahaabaaho duHkhamaaptumayogataH | V-6
(It is very difficult to achieve renunciation, Oh, the brave one, without karmayoga.)

Renunciation of desire and anger is a very difficult exercise like erecting the pillars
of a bridge. Performance of action thereafter is like putting the bridge on these
pillars. If rightful action is not continued after renunciation, it will be as futile as
erecting the pillars without constructing the bridge. Mere renunciation without
action is like a barren garden without trees and plants. Hence out of the two the
latter part namely the dedication of action has been considered as more important
than renunciation. Mere renunciation without action is like a body without head and
it is not only incomplete but a source of misery.

42. Knowledge and Action are not contrary:

Here a question arises how renunciation of attachment and anger, and


performance of action could coexist and form one composite spiritual exercise. One
supports knowledge, and the other, opposes it. Renunciation of worldly desire
leads to true knowledge. So long as there is attachment to worldly desire in a
person, all attempts to preach him divine knowledge are useless. It is like trying to
set fire to wet fuel. Therefore renunciation of worldly desire is the first stage in the

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spiritual exercise of acquiring true knowledge. But in our religious literature such
as the Upanishads and the Bhagavata we find statements that performance of
action is harmful to the acquisition of true knowledge. People engaged in the
performance of yajnas are ridiculed as 'Agnimugdha' (fondly attached to the
yajna), 'Dhumatanta' (afflicted by the smoke of the yajna) and 'Dhumaratmas'
(with the conscious covered by smoke from the yajnas). If that is so, how can
action be Superior to renunciation? This has been explained in the Gita:

saMkhyayogau pR^ithagbaalaaH pravadanti na paNDitaaH | V-4


(The ignorant (baalaaH), and not those who know, alone say that the path of knowledge is different from the path
of action.)

What has been ridiculed by the Bhagavata and the Upanishads is not the desireless
action preached by the Gita but only the desire-prompted action which is
performed by the people. The Gita also condemns such desire-prompted action.
Desireless action preached by the Gita is the highest type of Bhagavata Dharma
and cannot but lead to spiritual knowledge. It purifies the mind and kindles
spiritual knowledge and leads us to the supreme and final liberation. Hence there
is no impropriety in putting renunciation and desireless action together. Some hold
that sanyasis are jnanayogis and they need not perform any action; similarly,
householders are karmayogis and they have no right to practise sankhya or
jnanayoga. But they are mistaken. The two cannot be separated into mutually
exclusive compartments:
ekaM saaMkhyaM ca yogaM ca yaH pashyati sa pashyati || V-5
(One who sees jnanayoga and karmayoga as identical alone sees rightly.)

In a spiritual aspirant both knowledge and action coexist. But there may be a
difference in proportion only, in which these two ingredients are combined. In a
jnanayogi there is preponderance of jnana, and in the karma-yogi there is a
preponderance of karma. Both are essential for attaining liberation. Spiritual
knowledge and desireless action both have the same goal:
ekamapyaasthitaH samyagubhayorvindate phalam.h | V-4
(If one is settled in either way gets the fruit of both.)

Even if one has to devote oneself entirely to one path, one has to achieve the final
fruit through a synthesis of both. Thus, in all spiritual exercises both renunciation
and desireless action are essential and inseparable constituents.

43. The Non-attachment of a Karmayogi:

The karmayogi no doubt carries on his usual worldly activities like all others but
with this distinction that he has renounced attachment and anger and none of his
actions is prompted by any desire. In addition, he does all these actions as a
service dedicated to God. At no moment of action does he presume to think that
he is the doer. He is aware every moment that he is only an instrument in the

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hands of God and all his actions are governed by God's will.

His life is permeated by this attitude even while he is engaged in the day-to-day
activities. Hence, even while he is entangled in family affairs he is said to be
detached. Since there is in him the purity of intention and philosophic attitude, he
is not contaminated by even an iota of sin caused by the worldly activities:
padmapatramivaambhasaa V-10
(He is untainted by sin like the lotus leaf by water.)

Even when the lotus is in the very midst of ample water and is seeded and grown
in water itself, its leaf is not wetted by water. When dipped in water, a piece of
cloth becomes wet and the wetness spreads throughout; even if you dip a lotus
leaf into water, not a drop sticks to it. This great secret is hidden in desireless
action. One can participate in the affairs of the world without being tainted by sin.

There was a king who was a karmayogi. A friend visited him and out of curiosity
asked him how he was called a karmayogi in the midst of all temptations and
worldly pleasures. The king replied: "I shall tell you the secret leisurely. Meanwhile
you please go round my palace, see every nook and corner and have a look at all
my art treasures. The place is dark. You take a wick lamp in your hand but be
careful that the light is not put out." The friend did likewise, and on his return the
king enquired of him as to what he saw and how the works of art were. The friend
replied: "Oh king, because you asked me to take care of the light, all my attention
was concentrated on that alone. Since all my mind was focused on the light only,
even if I saw the palace, I have as good as not seen it at all." The king replied: "Oh
friend, this is the secret of my life. Even though I am immersed in the worldly
pleasures and daily politics, I take care to see that the spiritual light within me is
not put out. My attention is always riveted on the inner light. So even if I perform
all my daily duties I remain as if I have not done anything. This detachment and
this interior spiritual alertness is at the basis of my success in life." The
karmayogi's life is vividly illustrated by this tiny and effective story.

44. A jnani is not averse to the world:

sarvalarmaaNi manasaa sannyasyaaste sukhaM vashii | V-13


(The self-controlled yogi is always happy dedicating all actions to God.)

Some are of the opinion that a jnanayogi has no truck with action. They say
"karmayoga is but an aspirant's preparatory phase while jnanayoga is, the ultimate
one; both cannot be in him simultaneously. His action, its relation to the fruit of
action and the world which is a ground of either are all illusory. As the delusive
romance of the kingdom of dream vanishes in a second from a person who has
woken up from sleep, so also to the one who has attained jnana this world is but a
dream. In dim light a traveler might mistake a rope for a snake but the moment he
realises that it is a rope and not a snake, he will not see the snake again. Similarly

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the world appears to be what it is because of Maya and when true wisdom dawns,
the Maya or the illusory world disappears. How then could he perform any
actions?" From this, it follows that yajnas are meant for only those who are
struggling in ignorance. The one who has attained the knowledge of Brahma has
the sanction only for knowledge and renunciation of action. He performs only those
actions which are necessary to keep his body and soul together. All other actions,
social and religious, are a taboo to him, according to Sankaracharya and his
followers.

sarvakarmaaNi manasaa sannyasyaaste sukhaM vashii | V-13


(The self-controlled man is in bliss by dedicating all his actions to God.)
na kartR^itvaM na karmaaNi V-14
(No doership and no doing.)
naiva kurvanna kaarayan.h | V-13
(Not doing and getting done.)
shaariiraM kevalaM karma IV-21
(Actions merely by the body.)

They quote the above stanzas in support of their thesis. But when we examine
these slokas it becomes clear to us that renunciation of action is not what is
preached by the Gita. What is preached is only the 'mental renunciation and not
the physical renunciation of actual action.' The real import of the statement
sarvakarmaaNi manasaa sannyasya is that we should not have in our mind a
desire for the fruits of action, and there should not be any assumption in our mind
of any utterly free and independent action. The word is very significant.
pashya~nshR^iNvanspR^isha~njighrannashnangacChansvapanshvasan || V-8
pralapanvisR^ijangR^ihNannunmiShannimiShannapi | V-9
(The karmayogi who knows God never thinks that he is independently doing
anything even while he is seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving,
breathing, sleeping, crying, leaving, talking, functioning with his breath etc.)

It lays down the performance of actions for the jnani. Since he does all his actions
in a spirit of dedication to God and with an unfailing sense of His supremely
independent power of action, it is clear that the Gita does not propose the rejection
of bodily action. The 'mental giving up of action' only means 'the abandoning of
egoism and the desire for fruit.' Giving up desire-prompted actions is true
renunciation; giving up worldly rewards is true sacrifice, and this is explained in the
eighteenth chapter of the Gita, If this world does not exist for a true jnani, how can
he engage himself in day-to-day activities essential to keep himself alive? Even his
body and articles of food should disappear with the world. So we have to presume
that foodstuff alone is real in so far as it keeps him alive where as the rest of the
world is illusory. This is absurd. Besides it is meaningless to restrict his activities
only to the daily round of routine. It is nothing but debasing the jnani if we set
aside the vast and excellent duties like uplifting the world and self-enrichment and
restrict his activities to the necessitous activity of filling his belly. To say that a
Brahmajnani, with all nobility and infinite capacity, sees only his body and its

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activities in the world and the rest of the world as non-existent, is an absurd
statement. By saying that a Brahmajnani does not see the world because it is
illusory, one is cutting off the very link between the world and the realm of spirit.
But we have seen that many saints who had a vision of God have appeared in this
world from time to time and have shown us the path of God. If the world does not
exist for a jnani, how can he preach religion. Saints and the messiahs are the link
between God and man. If we deny their existence on this earth, then our scriptures
which contain the sacred thoughts of Rishis must be considered as but the babble
of the ignorant. The Gita preaches unequivocally that both the jnanis and ajnanis
have to perform duties relevant to their status and position in life.
brahmaNyaadhaaya karmaaNi saN^gaM tyaktvaa karoti yaH | V-10
(One who performs actions with detachment and dedicating them to the Lord.)

The above stanza states that we should realise that jnanis perform action but they
do it without any attachment and as a dedication to God, and we too should try to
follow in their footsteps.

45. The Jnani's identical Vision:

The jnanis who are able to see the hand of God behind every activity of the world
are capable of experiencing divine joy even in the perception of the things of the
world. They see God in each and every object and hence their contact with the
world. They can see the divine principle underlying the learned and cultured as
well as the uncultured and the wicked alike. Even if this world is full of internal
difference and diversity the indwelling and controlling power that is full of God, is
one and the same. He who sees this principle in his everyday life, is not disturbed
by the sight of the ups and downs, chaos and order in the external world. The yogi
who sees the blissful and sentient God and the marvelous sport of His power
everywhere experience joy in every object of the world. When Sri Madhvacharya
was leaving his house to embrace sanyasa, he bowed to all the trees and fields and
the relatives around wondered at the strange behaviour and asked him about it. He
asked them back how he could desist from bowing down to the beloved object he
saw everywhere. Thus the jnanis who see His auspicious presence everywhere and
experience endless bliss every moment are not scared by the world which is
terrible, disgusting and ridden with contraries.

The spirit of God flows through all objects in this world. Just as even when
electricity flows alike everywhere the light emitted by each bulb depends upon its
candle power so also the selfsame God manifests Himself differently according to
the medium, the intrinsic worthiness of the objects or persons. The spark of
divinity in the wicked is not normally seen by the ordinary people as it gets
covered by their cruelty and egoism; but a jnani has the great privilege of seeing
the oneness of God in both good and bad persons alike. Even if God permeates
alike in all, the division into the good and the wicked is based on the individual
nature and fundamental inclinations. Just because God happens to be in both the
good and the bad we cannot say that they are similar and travesty the meaning of

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the word 'similar' or 'same.'
paNDitaaH samadarshinaH V-18
(The jnanis perceive sameness.)

There have been attempts to twist the above statement. If every person gets
honour and recognition in society according to the services rendered by him, then
the society will develop along healthy lines. No one desires the 'equality' that
treats good and evil forces alike. Only when the learned and the ignorant, the
dynamic and the lazy, the good and the evil, each is given honour and recognition
in society according to his merit, it can be real equality. If children and adults are
given food in the same quantity, it is not equality. Real impartiality lies in
differentiating individuals according to their wisdom, character and nobility. If we
pay wages to workers according to their skill and industry none can charge us with
partiality. If both a clever student and an idiot get the same percentage of marks in
the examination, it can really be described as partiality and discrimination. Even in
the political field there will be utter chaos in law and order if no sifting is made
between the good and the wicked, We should. interpret the word 'equality' taking
all these into consideration. The spark of divinity runs, no doubt, through all, the
good and the bad. Even though the same! electricity flows through all the
machines, their performance depends upon the nature and shape of the machine.
Similarly the distinctions in this world, based on the peculiarities of each individual,
are inevitable. Even God who is immanent in all objects does not alter the activities
which arise out of their inherent nature.
svabhaavastu pravartate V-14
(Move according to nature - God alone acts independently.)

Since for all activities in this world both God as well as the individual nature of the
object are responsible, we cannot complain against the individual peculiarities of
behaviour in a world created by the impartial God.
tatrartatrasthitoviShNu
stattacChaktiiH pravodhayan.h | Sutra Bhashya
(Subsisting in each object Vishnu stimulates the powers of each.)

God's plan is only to activate whatever capacity lies latent within each object
according to its nature. With the same care, manuring and watering, if different
seeds of the same fruit give rise to fruits of different tastes, can we hold the
gardener responsible for it? Similarly, in this world we observe diverse objects with
diverse natures and all these arise because of the inherent difference in their
natures. We cannot blame God for the diversity of things

. naadatte kasyacitpaapaM na caiva sukR^itaM vibhuH | V-15


(The Lord is not tainted by merit or demerit.)

Since the omniscient and omnipresent almighty God activates the world according
to a certain principle he cannot be charged with partiality. He is also not touched

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by the results arising out of their good and evil deeds. The results of these good
and evil deeds do not affect in the least the purity and the greatness of the God
within. Even though divinity may be manifest in diverse ways depending upon the
individual nature of the object, God is not in the least affected by being in contact
with these objects. Hence the Upanishads describe Him as asaMga (asanga).
viShameShvapijiiveShu samoviShNuH sadaivatu | Gita Tatparya
(Vishnu is the selfsame within the diversity of beings.)

In this diverse world of animate and inanimate objects there runs one transcendent
Spirit which is immutable and changeless and which is all-powerful and full of
auspicious qualities. That Spirit is called God or Parabrahma. He who realises this
immutable supreme principle enjoys incomparable bliss. This happiness, acquired
by overcoming the cycle of birth and death, is unlimited and irreducible.

46. Excellence of Spiritual Happiness:

The divine joy that we get from self-realisation is greater and purer than any other
we may get from other things in the life. The joy we get from the renunciation of
sensuous things is far greater than the scanty joy we derive from the enjoyment of
the things of the world. The taste of the joy derived from renunciation is sweeter
than that we get from enjoyment. We no doubt derive pleasure by enjoying things
which belong to us. It is the usual material joy which ordinary beings get. The joy
that one gets from robbing other's of their things is diabolic or tamasic. But the joy
which we get by suppressing our desires and giving our favourite things to others
is the most sophisticated pure joy. Sri Madhvacharya says that we experience the
original dynamic bliss itself in the bliss of renunciation.

But even if such a bliss is enjoyed by renunciation of sensuous joys and subtle
desires, it can be stabilised in us only if it is accompanied by a deep devotion to
God. Even if we may get pure joy by renunciation, we get a steady and endless joy
only by the habit of concentrating our mind in the practice of meditation
(dhyaanayoga).

There is a gulf of difference between worldly happiness and spiritual happiness.


The former generates selfishness and attachment; the mind craves for it and soon
gets fed up with it. It may give momentary happiness as by scratching an ulcer;
but ultimately it leads to misery. Likewise, the enjoyment of sensuous delights,
despite its apparent or immediate happiness, finally leads to wretchedness.
kaNDuuyanenakarayoriva duHkha duHkham.h | Bhagavata
(It is wretched like the scratching of an inflammation.)

The spiritual happiness is quite different. To achieve it one has to go through a very
difficult exercise of renunciation and meditation but the happiness and
contentment are incomparable. Before this bliss all worldly enjoyments are

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contemptible and artificial. Our life's main aim should be to make efforts to attain
the spiritual perfection by which we reach, though beginning in toil and reluctance,
ultimately the experience of fullness.
baahyasparsheShvasaktaatmaa vindatyaatmani yatsukham.h |
sa brahmayogayuktaatmaa sukhamakShayamashnute || V-21
(The yogi who is not engaged in the objects of the senses and seeks joy within
himself, enjoys imperishable bliss, united to God through dhyana.)
ye hi saMsparshajaa bhogaa suHkhayonaya eva te | V-22
(The pleasures of the sense are only originative of misery.)

Thus in this fifth chapter of the Gita it is preached that man should attain spiritual
happiness by imbibing renunciation and karmayoga and following the path of
meditation.

47. From Karmayoga to Dhyanayoga:

For self-realisation there are two chief means. One is through action and the other
through meditation. The science of action has been explained at length so far. In
this sixth chapter the science of meditation is expounded.

Only after having practised karmayoga, the constituents of which are renunciation
of desire and right action, and become a yogi and a sanyasi should a person take
to the practice of meditation (dhyaanayoga). Our pursuit is complete only when we
have achieved a state of steadiness through karmayoga and then the direct vision
of God. Karmayoga is the chief instrument for the purification of the heart which is
necessary for dhyanayoga, prior to God-realisation. Without practising desireless
action and acquiring purity of heart we cannot jump at once to meditation. We
should go step by step. If we try to jump across too many steps in one leap we may
trip and fall. That is why every aspirant should try to inculcate karma-yoga which is
preparatory to meditation and realisation. The spiritual attitude which neglects
service and duty is least helpful to our progress.

48. Social Service Is Indispensable for a Karmayogi:

We are under the impression that performance of daily ritual and prayer and other
obligations according to the varNaashramadharma are the only duties enjoined on
an aspirant. Besides the duties like the study of scriptures and others enjoined
specially on each caste (varNa), there is another duty that is required to be
performed by one and all, irrespective of the caste to which one belongs. That is
social service. One of the important duties to be performed by an aspirant is the
service of humanity in several ways. Our heart should be moved by the sorry sight
of hunger, misery and sickness, wherever they may exist. God is within everyone
of us and if we perform social service unselfishly remembering the indwelling God,

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He will be pleased.
tasya praapyupakaareNa priito bhavati keshavaH | Gita Tatparya
(The Lord Keshav is pleased by the good he does to living beings.)

An aspirant should carry on this social service side by side with his devotion and
prayers till his enlightenment. Performance of social service is not optional but
mandatory. This duty is as inescapable in our spiritual life as payment of taxes in
our mundane life. This is the tax we pay to the Almighty. One who evades taxes is
not a worthy citizen. So also, if we evade social service to the poor and the sick we
shall be avoiding the payment of the taxes to the Supreme Lord of this world.
Could we ever hope to be the worthy citizens of this creation if we do not serve the
One Lord by serving the needy and the poor?
naanaa janasya shushruuShaa kartavyaakaravatmiteH | Gita Tatparya
(We should serve all, as an obligation like the payment of taxes.)

Sri Madhvacharya has pointed out in the above sloka of the Gita Tatparya the
indispensability of social service and the holy significance behind it. This is the
statement of an ideal favourite with me. There are many people who perform
meticulously the duties prescribed for them by their caste but they are completely
indifferent to their social obligations. They think that taking part in social activities
only diverts one's attention from God and that an aspirant should not waste his
time in such things but spend his whole time in prayers and meditation. They have
restricted the message of karma by limiting it to the professions passed on to them
from the caste system and the activities of telling the beads and other daily rituals.
According to Sri Madhvacharya the Gita emphasises that individual prayers and
meditation should be performed side by side with service to humanity. Vedanta
does not teach us to turn our face away from society; on the other hand, we should
realise how it lays down a constructive programme which, if performed in the true
spirit, paves the way to individual as well as social advancement.

There are two categories of people in the world. To the first category belong the
people who spend all their time in prayer and meditation and do not care for
society. To the other category belong people who are fully engaged in social
welfare activities but have no time for God at all. The lives of both these types of
people are incomplete and imperfect. Prayer without social service does not make
for true religiousness while social service without a prayerful attitude is not service
in the true sense of the term. Both are aspects of one and the same thing. Both are
in fact complementary like two faces of a coin. If we do not realise this we shall be
like the proverbial blind men who touch only the tail of the elephant and say that
the whole elephant is like a rope. Religious leaders should realise the importance of
social service and social workers should perform their duties selflessly in a
prayerful attitude as a dedication to God.

Once upon a time a group of Sadhu pilgrims were returning from Benaras and as
usual they were carrying the holy Ganga water with them. They were supposed to
carry the holy water to Rameshwaram and pour it there. On their way they had to

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pass through the Rajasthan desert and there they found one thirsty camel on the
verge of death. The Sadhus no doubt felt compassion and pity for the dying animal
but the thought they were helpless as they had to carry their holy water to
Rameshwaram. But one of them thoughtfully poured the holy water he was
carrying into its mouth and saved its life when the others objected to his wasting
the holy water meant to be poured at Rameshwaram. But the Sadhu replied that
he saw God in this camel and the pouring of the water into this camel's mouth and
saving its life was the greatest worship of God. God is not far away from us. He is
in side each and every creature ready to receive our offering. Prahlada has
preached in the Bhagavata that a special kind of worship lies in identifying Him
inside all the fellow-beings and serving Him through them.

We should not forget God when we are engaged in social service either. There is a
goal behind everyone of our activities. This goal should be the worship of God who
is immanent in all the creatures. If this goal is not there, then various worldly and
selfish motives find their way and goad us to do social service either for fame or
prestige and make our service artificial. All activities which are not performed as a
dedication to God yield only temporary results, however seemingly beneficial they
may be to society.
UddharedaatmanaatmaanaM VI-5
(One should try to redeem oneself by oneself (or by the grace of God).)

According to the Gita only he who is engaged in karmayoga or selfless action is


eligible for dhyanayoga or meditation. Meditation leads to God-perception and that
in turn leads to liberation. Thus the key to our salvation is in our own hands.

The soul is our precious possession and it is our primary duty to take it out of the
cycle of birth and death which is full of misery, and make it enjoy eternal
happiness. This must be achieved by our own efforts of the mind.
manayeva manuShyaaNaaM kaaraNaM baMdhamokShayoH |
(Man's mind alone is the cause of his bondage or release.)

Our mind is the instrument of our rise or fall; it can be our dearest friend or foe.
With one and the same key we can either lock the box or open it. Similarly the
mind can lead either to bondage or to liberation. If the key to our salvation is in our
own hands, then why can't we work for it with all enthusiasm. But the mind is like a
huge elephant. If it is properly trained it can work wonders; if it is untrained it can
easily crush us. If we have control over our mind, it is our greatest asset. But an
untrained and uncontrolled mind can become our greatest enemy and throw us
into the whirlpool of life. We must be very careful in this respect.

Our friend and foe are both within us. Thinking that our enemies are outside, we
unnecessarily look at them with hatred and jealousy. Once upon a time a selfish
devotee prayed to God: "Oh God, let your arrows shower on my enemies."
Immediately he found these arrows piercing him all round. He got perplexed and

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asked God again; "Oh God, I only asked that your arrows be showered on my
enemies and not on me. Please do not miss your target." God said: "My aim is
correct. Your greatest enemy is within yourself. In answer to your prayers I am
destroying your enemy. This parable shows that our enemy is within us and we
should conquer it first before we can think of turning our hatred towards others
around us and thus waste our energy. Our primary duty therefore is to control our
mind and work for spiritual advancement.

To achieve liberation through meditation, mere control of mind is not sufficient.


God's grace is also necessary. If' we pray to God with great devotion and perform
our prescribed duties, the act bestows on us the strength of mind necessary for
concentration and meditation. Without His grace we can achieve neither
meditation nor realisation.
yamevaiSha vR^iNute tena labhyaH | Kathopanishad 2:23
(We can realise God only if He chooses us.)

If God is pleased by our devotion and righteous actions He gives us liberation. On


the other hand if we displease Him by our unrighteous action and unsocial
behaviour, He will punish us. Therefore to please God we should lead a disciplined
life, following the rules and regulations laid down by Him. Such a life is necessary
for the progress of the soul. A deep-rooted persistence in duty, control of mind and
God's grace, with these three we should start treading the path of dhyanayoga.

49. The Theory and Practice of Meditation:

Selecting a secluded place conducive to the cheerfulness of mind and fixing a


suitable seat made of dried grass, deerskin and cloth and sitting on it with the
body erect, controlling the senses and fixing the vision on the tip of the nose, one
should begin meditation by focusing the mind on God. The mind begins to waver if
the body is unstable. Proper attention should be given to physical fitness as an aid
to meditation. Severe austerities, detrimental to yoga and tortuous to the body
should be avoided. Overeating is not good; nor should one get feeble by under-
eating. A futile abstinence from sleep or oversleeping is also injurious to the
practice of yoga. A right measure of food, sleep or recreation and disciplined life
leads to a state of the body, which is helpful to yoga. It is the contact of the senses
with the worldly pleasures that makes the mind flicker like a flame exposed to
wind. The mind of a yogi freed from sense-desires is like a steady flame in still air.
A yogi does not perceive anything except God. The yogi who meditates on God
alone with an inflexible mind, gets the highest ecstasy, which is only to be
experienced and is beyond the sensuous. He does not get anywhere in the world a
joy which surpasses this ecstasy. If the joy of renunciation is greater than the joy of
enjoyment of worldly pleasures, the bliss of yoga lends to it the beauty of fullness
and is the pinnacle of bliss.

Our mind is like a pot with a number of holes from which all water leaks out

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without our knowing. All worthy thoughts flash for a while in the mind but vanish
immediately. But a yogi plugs these holes and fills his mind with the nectar of God-
knowledge. He also sees that nothing leaks out of it.
yato yato nishcarati manashca~ncalamasthiram.h |
tatastato niyamyaitadaatmanyeva vashaM nayet.h || VI-26
(Wherever the fickle mind wanders uncertainly, there only should it be checked
and led to the pursuit of God.)

By constant and vigilant practice, he is able to fix the image of God in his mind. By
uninterrupted meditation alone gradually he achieves a direct vision of God. This
direct perception is the most invaluable reward of this life. He sees everything in
God and God in everything. God supports everything in this universe. God as a
foundation pervades everything from outside and dwells with in everything,
controlling and animating.
tadantarasya sarvasya tadu sarvasyaasya baahyataH || Isa 5
(He sports within everything, He rules everything from outside)

A yogi established in meditation sees nothing but God, both inside and outside
everything in this universe. He swims like fish in the immortal sea of Godliness.

yo maaM pashyati sarvatra sarvaM ca mayi pashyati | VI-30


(He who sees Me everywhere and everything within Me.)

To rejoice in the realisation of God as the support and the indwelling principle of
this world is the ultimate stage of devotion, and dhyanayoga is the chief means of
attaining this stage.

What we see during meditation is not the real God. Under the guidance of the
guru, we acquire a clear knowledge of God. At the time of meditation we see the
picture of God we develop with the pigments of that knowledge. But we should not
think that this image which is the creation of our mind is the real God, whose
nature is but bliss and knowledge. As the stone idol is but an image of God and not
God Himself, so also should we think that the picture of God which looms on the
mind during meditation is only an image. We should contemplate on the real form
of God which is other than the image and is of absolute knowledge.
nedaM yadid??mupaasate Talavakara Upanishad
(Not this (image) which he worships.)

The picture in our mind during meditation is not God. So we do not see God during
meditation. In such a state we perceive the mind-created image but remember
God as pure consciousness and bliss also. Only when a yogi has reached this
height of meditation, does he see God face to face, Who is of the essence of pure
consciousness and bliss. Dhyana is but the ultimate reach of 'indirect' (parokSha)
knowledge and he experiences a peculiar and extraordinary bliss in the

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concentrated act of unbroken contemplation. He will have the great reward of the
direct vision (aparokSha j~naana) of the excellent person of God Himself. The great
fruit of dhyana is but the direct vision of God.

During meditation he should be aware of nothing but God. Meditation, thus, is


nothing but pure and intense concentration of mind on God. Once the master-
archer Dronacharya asked his disciples to shoot the eye of a dummy pigeon fixed
on a branch of a distant tree. He asked each one of his pupils what he saw in front
of him.

Almost all of them described the forest, tree, the branches and the whole pigeon.
But Arjuna alone is said to have told that he saw nothing but the eye of the pigeon
which was his target. During meditation, we should cultivate such intense
concentration. In meditation, he who can keep the image of God in his mind's eye,
and hold it there and concentrate on it alone succeeds, like the archer who never
wavered his gaze from the target.
When we sit in meditation, the image of God in the mind's eye flickers and
even disappears, even as from one who intends to paint Ganapati but ends up by
painting a monkey. During meditation, instead of God, perverted and distorted
figures dance on the mind's stage. We should achieve such concentration of mind
as to enthrone none but God in our heart.
praNavodhanuH sharohyaatmaa brahmatallakShyamucyate |
apramattenaveddhavyaM sharavattanmayo bhavet.h ||
Atharvana Upanishad
(Pranava (Om) is the bow; the soul is the arrow; Brahman is the target. One should
strike it with undeviated attention; be steeped in Brahman like the arrow in the
target.)

Our mind is like an arrow and we should shoot it straight towards God. Without the
bow, the arrow cannot reach its target; it will drop off halfway. With the help of the
bow alone it acquires speed. Similarly the mind gets its speed from the study of
the Vedas. The Vedas are the bow. Enriched by such a study the mind dissociated
from everything else, should dart straight towards God without any distraction or
deviation.

50. The Path of Meditation is difficult but harmless.

The practice of meditation in daily life, as explained in the Gita and the
Upanishads, is not easy. The mind is a veritable monkey; it is difficult to
concentrate it for long on any object just as it is difficult to keep compressed air in
open space. Try as much as we can, we find it hard to focus the mind on God for
long. This fickleness of mind has utterly enfeebled us for the practice of
dhyanayoga. This is the ancient problem which has been teasing us. Arjuna poses
this problem before God on behalf of all mankind.

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ca~ncalaM hi manaH kR^iShNa pramaathi balavad.h dR^iDham.h | VI-34
(The mind indeed is fickle, provocative of the body and the senses and prone to
evil thoughts.)

Sri Krishna gives two ways to face this mischief. One is constant practice and the
other is non-attachment to worldly desires. The mind is full of foul desires and
there is no place for God in it. First of all, as a preliminary step, we must cleanse
the mind of all such desires and make the place clean and fit for God to come in.
As long as the love for the objects of sense remains, the love of God cannot dawn.
Even if we try to remember God, we easily forget Him. On the other hand, however
much we may try to oust the thoughts of worldly pleasures from our mind, they
keep on knocking at the door. The love of things has struck deep roots in us. It is
difficult to uproot the desires from our mind. The constant pressure of worldly
desires and lack of love of God, are the main reasons for our utter failure in the
practice of meditation. We are more fond of our wife and children, our house and
mansion than of God. How can we concentrate the mind on God unless we love
Him intensely? In our day-to-day life and even in our dream we think of our dear
and near ones. Why can't we think of God even for a few moments? The springs of
devotion have dried up in our hearts. We have no real devotion, we only make a
show of it. Once a certain lady was absorbed in the thought of her husband and
was rushing towards him. On the way she failed to notice the king sitting in
meditation of God and tripped over him. The king flew into a rage and called for
her to question her. She smilingly replied: "Oh King, I was absorbed in the thought
of my husband who is a mere mortal and I was not aware of your presence and I
did not even notice that I tripped over you. But you were absorbed in the
meditation of Almighty God. How then could you know that I tripped over you? Is
not your love for God at least as much as my love for my husband?" This is a real
question. We do not love God even half as much as we love our family and
property. No wonder we are unable to fix the image of God in our mind. We can do
this only by intense love of God and total absence of worldly desires.

yatato.api hareH padasaMsmaraNe


sakalaM hyadhamaashuMlayaM vrajati | Dvadashastotra
(Even when an effort is made to remember the Lord's feet, all sins soon vanish.)

As Sri Madhvacharya has stated, even if we make an honest attempt to remember


the Lord's feet, that will cleanse our mind of all sins.

Arjuna asks the Lord whether a failed yogi is bereft of happiness both of this world
and the other. Krishna resolved his doubt by saying:

na hi kalyaaNakR^itkashcid.h durgatiM taata gacChati | VI-40


(Arjuna, the one who has practised in the path of meditation will never suffer
debasement.)

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One who undertakes good works will not meet with harmful consequences, even if
he has left them halfway. Worthy reward is reserved for a good act performed with
an honest effort. This assurance of the Lord is not empty like that given by persons
like ministers and officers. God sees to it that the path we pursued now, but left
halfway, would be resumed in a different life. We should perform our spiritual
practice with a firm faith in the providential design of God. I am not provoking you
with a call for meditation. Let everybody honestly undertake a spiritual practice
which suits him most. Let everyone achieve exaltation of self at least by
performing such simple and religiously sanctioned practices like the 'sandhya'. By
an elementary beginning he will certainly and easily see his way ahead.

51. Devotion and Knowledge of God's Greatness:

For true meditation on God one requires a background of devotion or bhakti. The
essential nature of devotion will be described in the seventh chapter of the Gita.
Two elements constitute devotion (bhakti) -- knowledge and love. The harmonious
fusion of knowledge with love is devotion. Devotion is nothing but an incessant
flow of love for God, born of a knowledge of His greatness. If we love a man
without being aware of his greatness it is mere indulgence. We indulge in love for
our children and other family members. Whether they possess good qualities or
not we love them all the same only because they happen to be related to us. If we
love God without knowing His greatness, it becomes blind faith. The more we
become aware of His greatness, the purer will be our devotion. That is why all the
Vedas praise the glory of God. Even in the Gita, God's greatness is described to
strengthen our sense of devotion.

If we just cast a glance on the world, we soon become aware of the marvellous
power of God. No other evidence or proof of the existence of God is necessary than
the visible universe itself. The universe proclaims the existence of God. The
evolution of the universe is not haphazard. It is created with a clear plan. In the
creation and the growth of every phenomenon or object of this universe we see the
concatenation of hundreds of natural forces. The complexities of our anatomy, the
physiological and biochemical processes of digestion, and breathing, the
movement of planets and evolution of stars, to mention only a few, reveal the
grand purposeful design of the Master Creator. If it had been an isolated instance
or two, we could have brushed it aside as mere accident. But when we see
myriad's of objects obeying lakhs of natural laws and when we see a perfect
coordination between a multitude of forces in the creation and evolution of the
world, how could we ever say that it is all mere accident? If we go on joining blindly
even for years together the letters of the alphabet at random, we cannot produce
by chance even a single stanza of Kalidasa's Shakuntala. When such is the case,
we can never prove that this vast and well-designed universe is a mere product of
natural forces without any hand of the living power of God behind it. The great
scientist Einstein is of the opinion that this well-structured universe is the
handiwork of a Being with a supreme intellect. The more we see of this world and
the mysteries of nature, the more convinced do we be come of the existence of the

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Supreme Creator, God.

"How can we believe in something we cannot see?" is a question asked by


Svetaketu to his father Uddalaka. The father asked him to get a jug of water and
put some salt into it and asked him to taste the water. The water was salty
whatever part he tasted. The father asked his son to show the salt in the water. Of
course the salt could not be seen because it had dissolved and pervaded every
part of the water in the jug. Similarly though invisible to the naked eye, God
pervades every particle in the universe. God may be invisible to the eye but his
presence is felt inside each and every object of the universe.

mayi sarvamida.m prota.m suutre maNigaNaa iva || -- VII-7


(Everything in this world is woven within me as a series of pearls is held by the
string.)

The universe is like a garland of beads and not a litter of beads scattered all over.
The fine thread which runs through all the beads and holds them together and
makes them into a garland is God. But for this thread, the beads would be
scattered all over. The one support on which all these beads hang and the one
power by which all the elements in the universe function is the Almighty God. He is
the support and the power behind all activities in the universe. God creates the
whole universe through the medium of inert matter, earth, water, air, heat, ether
and sentient spirit. God does not create the universe in the same way as a potter
does a pot. The potter makes the pot out of clay but has no control over the
properties of clay. The potter sits apart from the material and makes the pot. God
is not like that. God does not sit in a corner and create the universe. He gets into
and pervades every particle of the material universe, endows it With its natural
properties and makes it function. Just as electricity flows through the electric
motor, the Godhead flows through each and every atom in the universe and is
responsible for the unique composition of everything as the efficient cause and the
indwelling controller.

The omniscience and the omnipotence behind the creation of this vast and
splendid universe transcend our conception. The omniscient, omnipotent Almighty
God of infinite auspicious qualities alone is capable of creating this entire universe.
The more we explore the universe and delve into its mysteries, the more do we
become aware of the greatness and the majesty of its creator.

52. Varieties of Devotion:

We are aware of His greatness. We are deeply indebted to Him every second of our
life for whatever bounties we receive from Him. Because of these our devotion
upsurges. There are different categories of devotees. Burdened by miseries and
hardships some run to Him and cry for succour. Some pray to Him for wealth and
pomp. Of course begging God even for worldly pleasures is much better than

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either committing crime or cringing before people for the fulfilment of their worldly
desires. These people who go to Him but do not ask for any worldly favours but
only for His knowledge and direct vision are unique devotees. One who has already
realised God makes an excellent devotee. He has had a glimpse of the Supreme
God and has deeply fallen in love with Him; he is a perfect devotee. When we hear
about something we form a mental picture. But when we see it with our eyes, the
impression it creates and the emotion it generates are of a superior kind. God does
not present Himself to ordinary devotees who ask for worldly rewards. We get our
knowledge of God either from the scriptures or from preceptors, and our devotion
to God is quite ordinary. But a devotee who is actually seeing and experiencing
God can attain the highest pinnacle of devotion.
priyo hi j~naanino.atyarthamaha.m sa ca mama priyaH || -- VII-17
(I am extremely dear to the jnani; and so is he to Me.)
The God and his devotees are dear to each other. An aspirant can obtain the grace
of God only by true devotion.

53. Non-dualism and Devotion:


Some argue that there is scope for devotion only till we acquire spiritual knowledge
and when once we attain wisdom or jnana, the distinction between the individual
soul and the Supreme Soul disappears and a jnani cannot therefore practise
devotion. During the phase of devotion, the awareness of God's greatness and the
knowledge that He is the Lord and we are His servants is imperative. This is
against the non-dualistic philosophy because if a jnani also happens to be a
devotee, it has to be accepted that there is a sense of dualism in him. The
knowledge possessed by a jnani is true and infallible. In a jnani who has
experienced God, where is the room for doubt and confusion? Hence, we have to
believe whatever a jnani has seen and experienced. If a jnani worships God in
devotion, we have to accept his sense of dualism as true and free from errors. For
fear that their whole edifice of non-dualistic philosophy might crumble, the
Advaitins argue that there is scope and necessity for devotion only till one achieves
wisdom and thereafter, a jnani cannot remain a devotee at all. They say that they
are dualists as long as they are enveloped by Maya or illusion and when once they
gain true knowledge, all this distinction between God and individual soul
disappears.

dehadR^iShTvaatudaaso.aha.m aatmadR^iShTathaatvamevaaha.m |
(From the point of view of the body, I am your servant; from the soul's I am your
very self.)
Such an argument reduces the conception of devotion to absurdity. According to
them, devotion is a false and illusive experience. If we think that there is no God
distinct from and superior to us, how can we have sincere devotion to Him in our
hearts? From the sincere practice of a devotion which is based on a fiction how can
we ever attain salvation?
asadupasanayaa aatmahanaH | -- Bhagavata
(The destroyer of self through the worship of the unreal.)
When our shastras have severely rejected the pursuit of the non-real why did they

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give such a high place for devotion if it is to be practised only by the ignorant
people?
bhaktyaa tvananyayaa shakya ahameva.m vidho.arjuna |
j~naatu.m draShTu.m ca tattvena praveShTu.m ca paraMtapa ||
(I am to be really known, seen and attained (by the liberated) only through
undivided devotion.)
Thus, in hundreds of places, the Gita has reiterated that for the direct vision of God
and attaining salvation, practice of devotion is absolutely necessary. In his
concluding remarks in the Gita, Sri Krishna says: "Oh Arjuna, because you are near
and dear to Me, I vouchsafe to you this highest secret. Always think of Me, be My
sincere devotee, worship Me with faith, I promise, you will certainly attain Me.
Since you happen to be dear to Me, I am advising you; so listen to the words of
Mine which are a supreme secret. Since you are certainly dear to Me, I am telling
you that which is efficacious. Let your mind be full of Me, be devoted to Me,
sacrifice for Me, salute Me; you will certainly get Me since you are dear to Me.

sarvaguhyatama.m bhuuyaH shR^iNu me parama.m vacaH |


iShTo.asi me dR^iDhamiti tato vakShyaami te hitam.h || -- XVIII-64

manmanaa bhava madbhakto madyaajii maa.m namaskuru |


maamevaiShyasi satya.m te pratijaane priyo.asi me || -- XVIII-65
When the Gita clearly gives such a high place to devotion and preaches that true
devotion is the only means of attaining salvation, it is not proper to denigrate it as
something unreal and illusory. Even the Gita which preaches the message of Bhakti
would lose its importance if it were to preach such a falsehood. There will be
nothing more ridiculous and more self-deceptive than the practice of devotion and
worship of God, even after knowing fully well that God and the visible world are
really not what they seem to be. We cannot believe for a moment that our
scriptures preach such an absurd and inconsistent theory regarding the ultimate
goal of life and the means of attaining that sacred goal.
The Gita has stated that of all the devotees, a jnani is the best devotee. This shows
clearly that devotion is not for the ignorant only. If among the four different classes
of devotees, a jnani is the best devotee, it becomes evident that spiritual
knowledge and pure devotion can coexist. Even after the realisation of God if there
is scope for devotion and the notion of dualism, then the theory that devotion is
meant only for the ignorant people crumbles down. Devotion is not a mere toy of
the ignorant people; on the other hand, it is the staff on which one leans, the sole
support of one and all. Thus devotion, which is essential both before and after the
dawn of spiritual wisdom, cannot itself be born of illusion or invention "of the mind.
The conception of devotion is based on philosophic truths like the fundamental
difference between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, the supremacy,
omnipotence and the primacy of God. From such a conception arises an
unwavering faith and supreme love for God, and that is called devotion. From the
realisation of the truth there will be a further blooming and enriching of this
devotion only and we can never believe that the sun of knowledge would ever
wither up the lotus of devotion.

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54. Spirit of Worship is an Indivisible Part of Devotion:

There is another theory regarding devotion. They say that as a background for
devotion, there is no need for dualism. Devotion does not rest on the foundation of
either a master-servant relationship or the spiritual awareness of the greatness of
God. Devotion is the true knowledge of the self. The self and the God are one and
the same. This is the true knowledge of the self. One who is aware of the identity of
God and the self is a perfect devotee. Hence there is no contradiction between
devotion and non-dualism. There is a greater scope for devotion in non-dualism
than in dualism. Nobody loves others more than one's own self. Instead of taking
Brahman as some other person, if you take Him as yourself, you will certainly love
Him intensely as you love yourself. Thus even in non-dualism there is ample scope
for devotion.

Such a description of devotion is contrary to what is described in the Gita.


manmanaa bhava madbhakto madyaajii maa.m namaskuru | -- XVIII-65
(Be My devotee, prostrate before Me, do your duties in a worshipful attitude.)
Thus has the Lord indicated what devotion is and what duties are attached to it. If
a devotee has to have a sense of worshipful attitude and sense of surrender, how
can the idea of non-dualism lead him to devotion? Wherever Bhakti or devotion is
described, emphasis has been laid on the essential ingredients of devotion such as
the spirit of humility, a sense of service, a firm awareness of His overlordship and
spirit of obedience to His laws, etc..

tameva sharaNa.m gacCha | -- XVIII-62,


maameka.m sharaNa.m vraja | -- XVIII-66
("Surrender to Him alone." "Surrender yourself to preached the lesson of Me
alone." Thus the Lord has preached the lesson of "surrender" to his devotees.)

aha.m tvaa.m sarvapaapebhyo mokShayiShyaami | -- XVIII-66


yogakShema.m vahaamyaha.m | -- IX-22
(Surrender yourself completely to Me and I shall free you from all yours sins ... "I
will look after you.")
When the Lord gives such an absolute assurance to the devotee one can easily see
how dualism forms the very warp and woof of devotion. It is natural for anyone to
love himself. But if he can love his country and fellow men more than himself and if
he can devote himself to their service, then he will be considered as above the
ordinary. But the best and the noblest attitude is to love God more than oneself,
sacrifice everything and surrender oneself completely at the feet of the Lord
Almighty Who is the creator and sustainer of the whole cosmos. Selfish love shown
to one's own kith and kin cannot be called true devotion. Even when one loves God
if one does so thinking God is nothing but one's own self then that love becomes
narrow selfishness and can never be called devotion. It is natural for everyone to
love himself but that is not devotion. Transcending the self, knowing that God is
different from and infinitely superior to one's own self, and being emotionally

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aware of His greatness to the point of a trance of ecstasy and offer of love to Him,
could be described as true adoration. Where is the room for non-dualism in such an
attitude? Thus devotion and non-dualism are two mutually opposing concepts.
Since we are to follow one of them only, we should take to the devotion advocated
by the Gita based on the spirit of worship and surrender, and progress further in
the spiritual path.

55. Devotion and self-growth:

Some more objections have been raised against the practice of bhakti. One is that
the practice leads to an inferiority complex; the faith that God is the Lord and we
are His humble servants will help only generate a sense of humiliation which leads
to the debasement of the self. By this very bhakti-cult India has been subjected to
slavery. As long as we have this feeling we can never expect our dignity and
virtues to develop. If even after liberation we are going to be under the Lordship of
God what happiness is there in such a subjection? The bhakti-cult, with its
concomitant slavish mentality, is thus detrimental to the progress of both the
individual and the state. This indeed is an absurd argument. Even Swami
Vivekananda subscribed to this view. In his lectures he has stated that disgust for
the bhakti-cult alone was responsible for the ushering in of Buddhism in India; it
has been argued that the genesis of Buddhism lay in the belief that the nullification
of self is preferable to a salvation which means slavery to God.

There is very little substance in such an argument. It is not that bhakti-cult is


peculiar to the religions of India only. Even in Christianity and Islam a prominent
place has been given to bhakti or devotion. History is full of facts to testify that the
followers of these two religions by the vehemence of their faith, conquered vast
peoples and ruled over them for hundreds of years. Hence it is not right to say that
India had to suffer subjection as she held bhakti in high regard.

The Almighty God is full of infinite auspicious qualities. There is no difference


between God and His attributes. It is not possible to differentiate the flame from its
light, sugar from its sweetness. God is but a mine of good qualities. He is the ideal
for all individual souls. Casting off our inert conditioning body and shining in the
intrinsically virtuous self itself is our sole aim; this fruition itself is salvation. If we
become a devotee of God and become his slave, it is as good as becoming a slave
of His infinitely auspicious qualities. If we surrender ourselves to infinite goodness,
where is the room for the degradation of our personality? There is a greater self-
respect in becoming a slave of noble ideals and leading a disciplined life than in
being a slave of selfishness, avarice and lust and leading a life of wanton wilfulness
and ruining oneself. Does owing allegiance to the constitution of one's country and
being bound by its laws and regulations ever become derogatory to the self-
respect of any law-abiding citizen? Similarly being a devotee of God and obeying
the laws laid down by Him for the ordered functioning of the Universe is not
derogatory to the self-respect of any individual; on the other hand, he experiences
a greater self-respect in this obedience.

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daaso.aha.m kosalendrasya | -- Ramayana
(I am the servant of Kosalendra - Lord Rama.)
Hanuman has this excellence when he boasts of being a servant of Sri
Ramachandra. A devotee wedded to high ideals does not fall a prey to temptations
and is not led astray. The one who has an unbroken faith in the sole Lord and Ideal
of the Universe, the very embodiment of precious virtues, alone is competent to
express the latent virtues in Him. Thus, devotion is the chief instrument of self-
expression and development of precious qualities; it stimulates a proper sense of
duty by driving away the possible vicious impulses of the mind. For the welfare of
the people and the orderly progress of the society God has laid down some laws
and a devotee naturally obeys these laws in all sincerity. An ordinary person leads
a disciplined and moral life and keeps himself away from sin out of fear of
consequences in this world and also in the other; but a devotee leads an ideal life
of absolute obedience by an unwavering love of God for its own sake and of his
own accord.

kurvanneveha karmaaNi jijiiviShecChata.m samaaH | -- Isopanishad 2


(One should live for a hundred years always performing one's duties and
obligations only.)
If we believe that God is everywhere and that He is omnipotent, we cannot but
lead a disciplined and moral life and we shall never indulge in any antisocial,
immoral or ungodly activities. When our mind is steeped in the love of God, there
will be no room for crooked and evil thoughts. Devotion will give us the indomitable
strength and moral courage to overcome temptations and lead a dedicated,
virtuous and disciplined life, and enables us to progress with enthusiasm in the
path of self-evolution. Devotion is a veritable elixir in the battle of life. It alone can
remove all the wounds and crookedness of our personality and make us upright
and noble. If we spurn devotion it is like banging the great door leading to self-
perfection. Devotion is the source of all noble deeds and we should ensure that
such a source is not weakened.
It is with the help of this devotion that we can realise God Who is of infinite
auspicious qualities and Who is of the essence of Truth, Consciousness and Bliss
and bring out all the good qualities hidden in our personality. If we also should
possess a personality as beautiful as that of God, we should serve God with intense
devotion, faith and love and there is no other way. Even a piece of iron, buried in
the earth for a long time, loses its hardness and takes up the properties of the
earth. Similarly, if we bury ourselves in constant meditation on God's auspicious
qualities we too can acquire a handsome self, mirroring the lovely form of God.

kiiTaH peshaskR^itaaruddhaH kuDayeyaantamanusmarat.h |


sa.mra.mbha bhayayogena vi.mdate tatsaruupataam.h || -- Bhagavata
How can devotion which enables us to rediscover our hidden divine and
magnificent self and is the cause of our total fullness, could ever be responsible for
our downfall? On the other hand, devotion is the great vehicle which takes us from
pettiness to eternal magnificence.

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56. In Hinduism there is only One Supreme God:

We have to consider what should be the focus of our devotion. In our religion there
are thousands of gods. Which god are we to worship? That is the problem before
the aspirants. Followers of other religions make fun of us. If there are thirty crores
of Hindus, they have thirty-three crores of gods! Christians and Muslims have only
one God each and when in difficulty they pray to their God and save themselves.
But Hindus are bereft of this one-pointed faith. In times of difficulty hundreds of
gods appear in their minds. They will be confused and they are at a loss to know
which god to pray and which to reject and they cannot pray intensely and thus
they cannot devote themselves one-pointedly. Since the Hindus believe in a
multitude of gods, bereft of true faith, they cannot derive the right benefits from
their prayers. This is one of the objections to Hinduism.
But if we critically examine the Vedas, Upanishads and Brahmasutras we find that
there is no room for such a criticism. In Hinduism, even though there is a
multiplicity of gods, there is only one Supreme God. In the Vedas and the Puranas
it is mentioned in some places that Indra, Agni and Rudra are all supreme gods,
but it must be interpreted that all these different names refer only to the one
Supreme God. The Apaurusheya Vedas cannot be said to follow the usual eulogistic
method of praising each god as supreme as it suits its opportunity. It accepts a
multiplicity of gods who are subject to the sovereignty of one sole Lord. It accepts
the God Who is the swayer of all these gods and Who is implied by the same words
which describe them, Who is sovereign and one without a second. The Vedas
accept this idea of hierarchy of gods and the existence of the one and only
Supreme God described by all these words, Who is the Chief of all the other deities
and Who is the Lord of the whole universe.

bhiiShaa.asmaadvaataH pavate | bhiiShodeti suuryaH | -- Taittiriyopanishad 2:8:1


(The wind blows out of fear for Him; the sun rises out of fear for Him.)
In the Upanishads it is stated that gods are subservient to this Supreme God and at
the same time in some other places it is stated that the Supreme God is called as
Indra, Agni and Shiva.
sabrahmaa sashivaH sendraH -- Narayanopanishad
When we critically examine the scriptures, it is seen that Hinduism accepts only
one Supreme God Who is the Lord-of the whole universe and there are a host of
lesser gods, each entrusted with some limited tasks which they carry out under the
overlordship of one Supreme God, and distinct from Him.

amii hi tvaa.m surasa~NghaaH vishanti


kecidbhiitaaH praa~njaliyogR^iNanti | -- XI-21
(The hosts of gods enter you; others praise you with folded hands with fearful
reverence.)
In the Gita also it is stated that all the lesser gods pray to the Supreme God in
great respect with folded hands.
vaayuryamo.agnirvaruNaH shashaa~NkaH

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prajaapatistva.m prapitaamahashca | -- XI-39
Thus does the Gita state that the Supreme God is called by the name of Vayu,
Yama, Agni, Varuna, Chandra etc. Hence there is no truth in the criticism that
Hinduism is nothing but polytheism and that there is no scope for intense
meditation and devotion in this religion.

57. Sri Krishna is the Supreme God:

If it is established that there is one Supreme God, who is He? How can we find Him
among the multitude of gods described in the Vedas and Puranas? There is a
possibility of confusion in identifying this Supreme Godhead. The Gita has clearly
stated who that Supreme God is and solved our difficulties.

antavattu phala.m teShaa.m tadbhavatyalpamedhasaam.h |


devaandevayajo yaanti madbhaktaayaanti maamapi || -- VII-23
(By worshipping lesser gods you obtain perishable fruits. By worshipping Me you
obtain permanent bliss.) So says Lord Krishna, From this, it is clear that Vishnu
does not belong to the category of lesser gods and that He alone is capable of
giving liberation to the aspiring souls and that He is the Supreme Lord of the whole
universe. In the Gita, in many places, clear distinction is made between the
worship of lesser gods and the worship of Lord Krishna and it is said that devotion
to Lord Krishna alone leads to salvation and eternal bliss. From this it is clear that
Sri Krishna or Sri Hari is the Supreme God. In the eleventh chapter of the Gita, it is
said that Sri Krishna is Himself Vayu, Yama, Agni and Varuna and it is clear from
this that these different names are nothing but the names of the Supreme God
Himself. The Godhead Who is the creator of the whole universe, Who is full of
auspicious qualities, Who is free from all blemishes and Who is independent is the
Supreme God.

ato.asheShaguNonnaddha.mnirdoSha.myaavadevahi |
taavadeveshvaronaamaH
(The One who is replete with infinite virtuous qualities and free from blemishes
Himself is called the Supreme Lord.)
Thus does Sri Madhvacharya describe God. There is one Supreme God and under
His orders all the other gods carry out their respective, allotted duties. This
Godhead permeates all objects in a similar and sentient form and is thus
responsible for the inherent nature and behaviour of objects and it is because of
this all names and forms are considered existing in the Supreme God Himself. We
can contemplate God in whatever name and form we like provided we do not
forget the basic principle that God is infinite and full of auspicious qualities. In
Hinduism there is no room for confusion in the multiplicity of names and forms of
the Supreme God as to Who is the Lord of all gods, Who pervades the whole
universe and still stands beyond it; all names and forms are merged and He can be
described by any name and in any form. Such an all-inclusive conception of the
One Supreme God is found in Hinduism and by sincerely praying to such a God one
should pursue his salvation.

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58. An Aspirant should Know the Fundamental Principles:

In the seventh chapter of the Gita the fundamental principles underlying the
various entities like Brahma, Adhyatma, Karma, Adhibuta, Adhidaiva and Adhiyajna
have been mentioned. Sri Krishna describes these entities in the eighth chapter of
the Gita. The God Who is infinite, immutable and immortal is Parabrahma. He is
'Adhiyajna.' In the form of Adhiyajna He is inside every body controlling and
motivating all its activities. Parabrahma and Adhiyajna are one and the same. Sri
Vishnu in the macrocosmic form is called Parabrahma and the same Vishnu Who is
in a microcosmic form in all bodies is called 'Adhiyajna.' The individual soul is
called Adhyatma. It is different from both the Supreme Lord and inert matter. This
distinction should be understood by every aspirant. 'Karma' is not merely the petty
activities we are engaged in; the stupendous activities of God in the whole cosmos,
the soul of which is the Supreme Himself, are Karma and the knowledge of such a
hand of God inside each and every activity in the creation gives us bliss and peace
of mind. The good deeds done by noble souls in a spirit of Yajna for the orderly
development of the society can also be called Karma. The body, the senses, the
five elements, and all other gross matter which are required by individuals for the
spiritual upliftment of their souls is called Adhibuta. There are a host of gods under
the Supreme Lord, who are conducting the day-to-day affairs of the universe and
the foremost among them is Chaturmukha Brahma and He is known as 'Adhidaiva'.
By knowing all these things and their functions an aspirant can work for his
spiritual emancipation.

59. Spiritual exercise are meant for now

People are rather reluctant to undertake spiritual exercises. They say piety and
spiritual exercise are meant for the old and retired people, and young men in the
prime of youth and in the midst of enjoyment should not be bothered about these
things.
But it is not right to put off the practice of such spiritual exercise to an indefinite
date in the future. We shall be doing a great disservice to ourselves if, when we are
hale and healthy and full of vitality, we do not utilise it to uplift our soul but
dissipate that energy in fleeting pleasures. It is ridiculous on our part to allow the
torrents of water during the monsoon of our youth to go waste and undertake to
cultivate the soul in the dry summer of old age.

kaumaara aacaret.h praaj~no dharmaan.h bhaagavataaniha | -- Bhagavata


(The godly way of life should be pursued in (from) boyhood by those who know.)
Hence Prahlada gives a clarion call to all youth to come forward and practise piety.
I have seen parents discouraging children doing their daily worship of God and
periodic fasting on Ekadashi days and saying that they are too young for it. We
should not nip in the bud the surging spiritual enthusiasm in the minds of the
youth. On the other hand, it is our duty as elders to encourage such propensities in
the young so that they may take firm root in their minds when they grow old.

gR^ihiita ivakesheShumR^ityunaa dharmamaacaret.h |

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(We should practise religion (expeditiously) as though we have been seized by the
forelocks by Death.)
Good deeds must be performed instantly and without delay as though the jaws of
death are yawning before us. We must always possess the enthusiastic readiness
to face death when it comes. When a Brahmin came to Dharmaraja for help he
turned him back asking him to come the next day. Since he was badly in need of
money he went to Bhimasena who immediately parted with his gold bangle.
Immediately Bhima ordered the beating of drums in the city proclaiming the good
news. Dharmaraja asked his brother Bhimasena what the good news was.
Bhimasena replied: "Oh brother, you asked the Brahmin to come tomorrow. That
means you are sure you are going to live ill tomorrow. Such exceptional knowledge
of the future possessed by you is worth proclaiming to the world." At his,
Dharmaraja realised his folly. This humorous parable brings home to us the utter
folly of postponing performance of good deeds.

60. Thinking of God at the Moment of Death:

The eighth chapter of the Gita emphasises in the context of spiritual cultivation
that aspirants should remember God at the moment of death. We should not
misconstrue this statement by supposing that we need not think of God at other
times and could be steeped in worldly pleasures. The thought of God does not
come to us magically as it were at the last moment. We may have the unique
fortune of remembering him at the last moment only if we have pursued the
practice throughout our life and absorbed godliness. The whole life should be a
preparation if we are to remember Him at the last moment. In whatever activity we
have spent our greatest time and energy during our lifetime and whichever
experience had left the deepest impression in our mind, that experience alone
comes to our mind easily at the time of our death. There is a story of a miser. He
spent his whole lifetime n a miserly way. While on his deathbed he noticed the
wick-lamp burning rather too brightly, and soon he instructed his children to make
it less bright and save oil. Whatever one has practised throughout one's whole
lifetime, that alone would show up at the time of death. One who has spent his
whole lifetime in prayers and meditation on God can alone think of God at the time
of his death. It is vain to hope that after one has wasted one's whole lifetime in
chasing carnal pleasures one would be able to think of God at the time of his
death. Sri Madhvacharya says:

saMtataM cintayenantamantakaalevisheShataH | -- Dwadasa Stotra


(One should always think of God, but specially at the last moment.)
If you practise meditation in your whole lifetime there is hope of your remembering
God in your deathbed. We do many things during the course of the day but when
we sleep we do not remember them. But we can easily remember those incidents
which have left a deep impression On our mind. One who has spent his whole
lifetime in prayers and contemplation of God, can easily think of God on his
deathbed. When the Gita says that we should think of God on our deathbed it gives
the exceptional message that we must practise godly life throughout our lifetime.
Thus, our death must be full of holiness. For this we should purify our whole life by

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good thoughts and good deeds and should be able to see it echoed at the moment
of death. Our death is the very consummation of our whole life. From any one's
holy memory of God at the moment of death we can identify the fulfilment of a
whole life of purity. That our whole life must be purified by a sense of God is the
central message of the eighth chapter of the Gita.
Just as one's deathbed experience is the reflection of a whole lifetime, it is also
suggestive of what is going to happen in our next life. The kind of thinking we have
at the moment of death has a special influence on the life after. There is the story
of Bharata. Even though he had forsaken his kingdom and was living in a forest as
a saint he could not get over his attachment to his pet animal and at the time of
his death he thought of this only and so, in his next life, he had to face the tragic
consequence of being born as a deer. Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu had in their
minds the fierce forms of Varaha (wild boar) and Narasimha (man-lion) respectively
at the time of their death and they were born again in the fierce forms of
Rakshasas. Those who saw the Kshatriya Rama at the time of their death were
born as Kshatriyas in their subsequent life. Those who meditated on the lovely
form of Krishna as God at the time of death, died to accomplish the sarupya
(similar in form) Mukti. We get in our next life whatever the name and form we
think on our deathbed. If we shed our mortal coils in the contemplation of the
Almighty God of infinite auspicious qualities who is of the essence of pure
consciousness and bliss, then we too shall get rid of our mortal bodies and shine as
pure spirits of consciousness and bliss. We are shackled to the material body now.
We identify our soul with this body of inert matter and carry on our activities. We
should be liberated from such a state. In essence we are the true image of God.
The qualities and form of God are inherent in our soul also but they are lying latent.
Since it is our life's endeavour to bring out these hidden latent qualities, we will be
gifted with the great chance of experiencing the soul's deathless and native bliss
only if we cultivate our whole life with holy thoughts and the whole consequent
culture of the soul is reflected in the moment of death.

61. Journey during the Dark and the White Halves of the Month:

At the end of the eighth chapter of the Gita a reference is made to the journey
during the dark and the white halves of the month. This has confused many. The
apparent meaning of this stanza is that if anybody dies during daytime, the white
half of the month and the 'uttarayana' he attains salvation and if he dies at night,
during the dark half of the month and in 'dakshinayana' he is caught in the whirl of
birth and death. No doubt the proper time and good circumstances of death may
be indicative of good things; but it is wrong to conclude a particular death to be
holy or sinful on the basis of physical time. In this section of the Gita, only the path
through which the yogi's soul journeys after death is discussed. The yogis who
journey in the path presided over by the deities ruling over the brighter half of the
month and the 'uttarayana' go to God. Those yogis that perform severe penance
and holy sacrifice in expectation of rewards follows a different path, presided over
by the deities ruling over the darker half of the month and the 'dakshinayana.'
Thus the reference deals only with the spiritual path followed by the soul of yogis
after death and this is a subject falling within the scope of yogasastra. The popular
notion that the statements deal with the description of the physical time of death,

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is ill-conceived.

At the time of death our minds should not be covered by ignorance like a cloudy
and dark night of the darker half of the month in the dakshinayana. Neither should
it be polluted like the air in a room full of smoke. Our ignorance and attachment to
worldly things, like the cloud and darkness, dim our souls. These should be cleared
from our heart and should be filled with the purest moon-rays of godliness. Our
heart should be as pure and cloudless as the uttarayana day and as clear as the
full moon night. At the time of death the mind should be free from ignorance and
sin and be active and bright, like a burning flame. Hence we may also understand
that the description is but a metaphor for the interior situation of the soul at the
moment of physical death.

62. The Relationship between the World and the God:

In the ninth chapter of the Gita again there is an account of the greatness of the
Almighty God. This description is helpful for inspiring us with the spirit of devotion.
The more we think of His greatness the more does our mind surrender at His feet.
He is the support of every being. He is the Energy behind all activity in the whole
universe. He is the Supreme, Independent Lord. Even when He is the support of the
universe, the universe is as nothing to Him. He has nothing to get from it. He is full.
He is perfect. He is eternal and He need not de pend upon the universe for
anything because He has no wants and no unfulfilled desires.

matsthaani sarvabhuutaani na caaha.m teShvavasthitaH | -- IX-4


(All have a refuge in Me. But I do not take my refuge in them.)
But the second line of this stanza has given rise to some confusion. Having said in
the first line that all creatures depend upon Him the following line appears to say
that no creatures depend on Him. Thus these two statements appear to be
contradictory.

matsthaani sarvabhuutaani -- IX-4 (All beings are within Me)


na ca matsthaani bhuutaani -- IX-5 (The beings are not in Me)
After making these apparently contradictory statements, He says:
pashya me yogamaishvaram.h | -- IX-5.
"Even though all creatures are in Me, they appear not to be in Me. Look at this
miracle of Mine," says Sri Krishna. It is a little difficult to get to the true meaning of
this stanza. Some people have so interpreted this as to say that the world is an
illusion. If you say that an object is there and in the next breath say that it is not
there, it means that the object is not really there but it only appears to be there.
An imaginary object may exist only in imagination, but it is actually not there. We
may mistake a rope for a snake. But really the snake is not there. Some people say
the sloka means what is real is Brahman and even though we see the world it is
only an illusion and an imaginary superimposition.
But if we examine this stanza more critically we see that such an interpretation is

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erroneous. The clue to the correct interpretation of this apparent contradiction is
given in the next statement in the Gita itself. Even though the air and ether come
in contact with the objects of nature, they do not acquire any of their
characteristics. Similarly God comes in contact with all objects of nature but none
of their properties stick to Him. He is the unattached. Hence even though God is
the support of all the objects in the universe He is not affected by them and in that
sense we can say that they are not in Him. Even the commentators following the
Advaita school of thought accept that this analogy has been given to illustrate the
non-affectability of God by these objects of nature. This analogy does not support
the interpretation that the world is unreal. No philosopher believed that the wind
blowing in space is an illusion like the snake in the rope. God is in the universe but
He is not affected by its qualities in the same way as ether, wind and other objects
of nature are unaffected by each other even if they are together. This example
brings out the hidden meaning of the seemingly contradictory ideas in the stanza
in the Gita.

pashya me yogamaishvaram.h | -- IX-5. (Look at My lordly power.)


Even though the universe is within Him, it is as though it is not there. That is the
power of his lordliness, says Sri Krishna. If the world is not real and if it is only an
illusion, there is no need of a miracle by God to show that it is not in Him. Illusion
arises out of Some defect in our senses. To mistake a rope for a snake which arises
out of our ignorance or defect in our senses, God's miracle is not necessary. The
very fact that God says that it is His miracle shows that the world is not unreal.
Even though He pervades every object in the universe He is not in the least
affected by their qualities due to His divinity. This is the contextual meaning of the
stanza.

63. Is Hatred of God also a Means to Salvation?

There is a theory that complete utter hatred of God also leads to salvation as does
intense devotion.
dveShaacyai dyaadaponR^ipaaH
In support of this theory they quote Bhagavata wherein it is said that Shishupala
and others attained salvation by their hatred of Krishna. Salvation is the
manifestation of the true nature of a soul which is similar to God's own nature.
Intense meditation on God is the only means of attaining such manifestation. Some
say that intense hatred of God is as conducive as intense love to the contemplation
of God. We always think of things dear to us. Similarly we never forget the object
of our hatred and unity. Both love and hatred alike help us to a state of
concentration. Intense God-haters like Shishupala and Kamsa had the thought of
Sri Krishna always in their minds and thus could they obtain liberation. Hence they
argue that we can choose either of the two paths, intense love or intense hatred of
God.
This is a very dangerous interpretation, detrimental to the welfare of the entire
organised society. It would not be proper to say that a true devotee who abides by
the command of God, submitting himself to discipline and cooperating with the
movement and progress of the creation; and the wanton self-willed man, turned

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away from God and violating the fundamental principles of the universe are both
on par as they have a similar one-pointed attention to God and thus share equally
the bliss of salvation. It is easier to hate a man and harm him than love a person
and sacrifice everything for him. In the former there is no sacrifice or penance
involved. So people may be inclined to take to the easier path of God-hatred,
immorality and wantonness if that also could lead them to liberation. This will only
lead to utter chaos and degradation.
We cannot get liberation simply by concentrating on God. We can get salvation
only if we are able to contemplate upon his auspicious qualities. If the soul is to
unfold its own self of auspicious qualities, we must contemplate on the good
qualities of the Almighty God. Only when we have love and devotion can we think
uninterruptedly of the good qualities of God. Is it possible to remember them if the
mind and heart are corrupted by hatred? Hatred always looks for bad qualities. The
chief aim of the enemy of God is to brood on the shortcomings of God and this
constant gloating on God against the background of hatred cannot help in any way
the blossoming of the virtuous beauty of the soul.

avajaananti maa.m muuDhaa maanuShi.m tanumaashritam | -- IX-11


(The stupid despise Me by judging Me by the human form i.e. not knowing Me as
the Supreme Lord.)

moghaashaa moghakarmaaNo moghaj~naana vicetasaH |


raakShasiimaasurii.m caiva prakR^iti.m mohinii.m sritaaH || -- IX-12
(Such are of futile hope, futile actions, futile knowledge, perverted minds and rest
either in the Rakshasi or the Asuri, delusive nature.)
That is why such demonical activities have been condemned in the Gita. The Gita
has clearly stated that the final release is not within the reach of those who hate
God and who lead an ungodly and wanton life. The Gita has clearly laid down that
hatred and devotion are two diametrically opposed paths. By some demonical
inspiration, even though noble souls like Shishupala (Jaya, Vijaya ...) and others
hated Sri Krishna intensely, they had deep within them intense devotion for God.
That revealed itself in the end at the vision of the Lord Himself and they obtained
their final salvation. This is the opinion of Bhagavata also. Such incidents shows us
how the Lord discovers true devotion even in His enemies and showers His grace
on them and liberates them. The only royal road to salvation is pure devotion. The
Gita points out that we should not be after the daydreams of easily wresting
salvation by following the wicked paths.

64. I Will Look After You:

The Lord bears the full burden of his devotees' welfare. Sri Krishna has solemnly
promised in the Gita that He will look after the welfare of all His devotees sincerely
engaged in His worship and meditation. Why should we despair in our struggle of
life when we have an assurance which inspires us with confidence and courage,
from the Lord Himself? We can engage ourselves with firm determination in raising
the massive edifice of life on the sure basis of devotion to God. In His incarnation
as Rama the Lord has stated that He has vowed that He would protect the

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devotees who have surrendered themselves with prayer to Him.

sakR^idevaprapannoyaH tavaasmiiticayaayate |
abhayaMsarva bhuutebhyaH dadaamyetad.hvrataMmama ||
(It is My obligation to give an assurance of perfect safety to all those who beseech
Me even once saying "I am Yours".)
In His incarnation as Krishna the Lord once again has given similar assurance.

ananyaashcintayanto maa.m ye janaaH paryupaasate |


teShaa.m nityaabhiyuktaanaa.m yogakShema.m vahaamyaham.h || -- IX-22
(I will look after those who surrender themselves totally to Me and think of Me
without being distracted by other gods.)

kaunteya pratijaaniihi na me bhaktaH praNashyati || -- IX-31


Arjuna, take an oath that my devotee shall not perish.
The Lord proclaims that no harm will come to a person treading the path of
devotion. When such clear assurances by God are there it pains me much to see
some persons propagating the immature and inconsistent notions like the identity
between the Supreme God and the individual soul and thereby preach a path
inimical to devotion and confuse them. When God Himself has praised the lofty
path of the bhakti cult as supreme, pure and free from danger, then why have
reservations or hesitation to follow it? It is understandable why some people
denounce this method as meant for the ignorant only. Instead of wasting one's
time in such irrelevant argument, it is proper to embrace the bhakti-cult without
any hesitation or reservation.

kaunteya pratijaaniihi na me bhaktaH praNashyati || -- IX-31


In this statement Sri Krishna gets Arjuna to swear that God's devotees would never
perish. Why does He do so? One's own oaths may, sometimes, turn into lies; but
Krishna intends to show that the oaths of His devotees would never turn into lies.

svaniyama mapahaaya matpratij~naam.h


R^itamadhikartumavaplutorayasyaH |
dhR^itaratha caraNo.abhyayaaccaladhuH
hariritahaMtumimaMgatottariiyaH || -- Bhagavata

Bhishma says: "How can I forget the gracious lovely face of Sri Krishna Who is
ready to break His vow by wearing the disc (cakra) for the sake of the devotees,
only to see that His devotees' oaths are kept?" Sri Krishna had vowed not to take
up any arms during the Mahabharata war. But Bhishma had vowed that he would
make Sri Krishna wear arms. Just to make His devotee's words come true, He
pretends that He is afflicted by the arrows of Bhishma, and breaking His own vow,
He takes to his disc. Some have interestingly glossed the statement by saying that
the Lord Who treats His devotees' words as worthier than His own, has made His
dearest devotee Arjuna take the oath that 'My devotee will not perish' in order to
create a greater faith in us.

65. Offering Work to God:


The Lord Who has shouldered the burden of the protection of His devotees does
not expect much from them in return. He is pleased with our spirit of renunciation
if we sacrifice whatever we have in His services instead of using them for our

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selfish ends. We should have neither a sense of ownership of the things we possess
nor the egoism that we are the doers of our actions. If we have the idea that God is
the real inspirer of all action and the real doer, all our actions become an offering
to God. When behind all our activities there is a desire to please God, all our works
are but His worship. God is pleased if our individual actions lead to social welfare.
We should lead a disciplined and godly life; then only it becomes worship.

If thus we transform all our actions in life into the acts of worship and we have a
constant sense that He alone is the Independent Lord, it is nothing but the offering
of all actions to Him. The Gita says the same thing.
yatkaroShi yadashnaasi yajjuhoShi dadaasi yat.h |
yattapasyasi kaunteya tatkuruShva madarpaNam.h || -- IX-27
(Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever sacrifices you perform, whatever
you give (acts of charity), whatever penance you undertake, Arjuna, offer it to Me.)

66. Worship of God is Easy:

If our equipment, the body and the organs, the material wealth, etc. are harnessed
to activities that please God, it is also an act of offering to God. Our material of
worship may be small; but it should not be used to serve our selfish ends but for
the things which please Him. God does not mind the magnitude but the depth and
intensity of feeling behind the material of our worship.
patra.m puShpa.m phala.m toya.m yo me bhaktyaa prayacChati | -- IX-26
(He who gives with devotion, a leaf, a flower, a fruit or some water.)
However small the object may be, it grows great by the excellence of devotion.
God expects from His devotee a spirit of renunciation and dedication. By this spirit
there will not only be the evolution of the individual personality but also the
progress of the whole nation. The spiritual perfection which the Chola king could
not accomplish with all the pomp of gold ornaments, was attained by Vishnudasa
who worshipped God with the Tulsi leaves. When the crocodile caught hold of a leg
of the elephant king (Gajendra) it could not get itself free from its clutches by
pulling with all its might; at last it lifted a lotus flower in its trunk and wailed before
God and God eagerly rushed to rescue the devotee. Shabari waited in her hut for
years for the arrival of Lord Rama and when He actually turned up, she offered only
a few fruits gathered from the forest and earned His grace. There is a story of King
Rantideva. He fasted for a number of days. Finally when he was about to break the
fast he saw at his door some hungry huntsmen and he gave his food to them.
When he tried to drink water to quench his thirst he saw a dog dying of thirst and
with open mouth begging for some water to quench its thirst. He gave that water
to the dog as a service to the God inside and said: “Oh Lord, I do not desire worldly
happiness, kingdom or even salvation, give me only the power to be inside
everybody and suffer all their pains and sorrows. If I can wipe their tears I shall be
happy.” Here is a noble example of renunciation and self-sacrifice. Vishnudasa,
Gajendra, Shabari, Rantideva are shining models of those who could worship with
leaves, flowers, fruits and even water.
ChaMdaaMsi yasya parNaani | -- XV-1
(The Vedas are its leaves.)
There is another meaning for this stanza. The world is compared to a huge tree and

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Vedas are its leaves. If you study the Vedas and if you collect the honey from its
flowers and share it with others, it is a form of worship with leaves.
ahiMsaaprathamaMpuShpa.m puShpamindriyanigrahaH |
(Ahimsa is the first flower, control of senses is verily a flower.) Non-violence, self-
control, compassion, truth, knowledge, penance, action and meditation are
described as its eight interior flowers. To practise these in one’s life is the greatest
floral offering to God. Performing good deeds and not expecting any reward is the
offering of fruit. The shedding of tears of joy due to surge of devotional ecstasy on
hearing the story of God or during prayers could be the offering of water. Singing
songs filled with the essence of devotion is a form of offering of water. This
beautiful stanza indicates how we can offer our prayers with devotion and fullness
of heart even if we do not have pomp and show.

[The sloka ‘apichet sudurAchArO...’ is generally misrepresented as pointed out by


our writer. Some people are prone to give the example of Ajamila in support of
their interpretation. To understand the correct interpretation of this sloka, we have
take recourse to GitaBhashya and related works. I shall give translations of the
same.
1. Gita sloka-kannada translation by Haridasa Bhatt (my translation): Even if a
devotee of the Lord ,who is a ‘Devata’ or ‘Rihsi’ becomes a great sinner by the will
of God, but still, without considering any devata as supreme ,maintains that ‘I’am
supreme and is devoted to me, then he should be considered as a true devotee of
mine, because he is having the right knowledge of the supremacy of the Lord(over
all devatas).
2.GitaBhashya of Srimadacharya: A devotee of the Lord ,will not possibly indulge in
misdeeds. Even in case he does so because of his having acquired excess Punya
beyond his Yogyata and does some wrongful acts :such a person should still be
considered as His devotee.
3.Gita vivritti;The devotee is praised by ‘Apiceth etc.’. Even if a devotee of the lord
and who has the ‘amsa’ of a deavata or rashi ,by God’s will, indulges in sinful
actions for the reduction of his punya beyond his ability (yogyata) and is not
wilfully devoted to any other god ,but being a sattvic soul ,is devoted to me he
should be considered as a sattvic soul (my devotee). This is because persons who
are born with the ‘amsa’ of Surya , Chandra etc. are good souls who have the right
knowledge regarding the Lord. While this is the meaning of this sloka, Sri
Raghavendraru reads this with the next sloka by connecting the two. Sloka #1,ch9
reads:
Kshipram bhavati dharmatma shashvat shAntim nigachhati. Kounteya pratijaneehi na mE
bhaktah pranashyati’
Gita vivritti: Why should a person doing wrongful deeds but has the right
knowledge be considered as a devotee? This is answered by the sloka ‘Kshipram..’.
This is because such a person will be basically having his mind fixed on Dharma.
So he will definitely qualify for Moksha and will attain it. So, Arjuna, my devotees
will never perish, that is, will never suffer in hell. Sri Raghavendra concludes this
with saying’ This(what is stated in these two stanzas) is a matter regarding GODS
AND persons born with their AMSA and RISHIS ONLY.’
4.The translation of GItaBhashya by Sri BNK Sharma also gives similar

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explanation.One point given there is worth mentioning. ”other persons guilty of
grave misconduct, even if they put on the outward characteristics of true devotees
of the Lord are to be rated as IMPOSTERS”.. We must therefore understand that
this verse does speak of ordinary mortals, who, for their sins have to suffer for it.
The ordinary Jivas, only if they are Sattvic, after attaining ‘Aparoksha Jnana’ ,that is
those who are blessed by the Lord with His vision,(yamaivesha vrinute tena
labhyah) will not be affected by any sins they may commit thereafter . In their case
such acts may reduce the quantum of their Ananda in Moksha.
With best wishes,
Bannur.R BANNUR@aol.com ]

67. Conduct and Devotion:

There are many who misinterpret this bhakti-cult to their own advantage. They say
that one need not bother about one’s character and conduct if only one has
devotion; we need not pay any importance to conduct, character or righteousness.
They say that if only one has devotion within him, even if one misbehaves
outwardly, one gets salvation, taking the support of statements like:
api cetsuduraacaaro bhajate maamananyabhaak.h | saadhureva sa mantavyaH
samyagvyavasito hi saH || -- IX-30
(Even if he utterly misbehaves, if he is devoted to Me single-mindedly, he is
reckoned to be a good man.)
‘Even if one is loose, if he happens to be a devotee he is good’—if one understands
the statement in this way, one is apt to feel that the bhaktimarga throws all doors
open to misconduct and viciousness.
naavirato dushcaritaannaashaanto ... ... |
... ... praj~naanenainamaapnuyaat.h || -- Kathopanishad (II-24)
(The one who has not given up evil ways cannot obtain His grace by mere
knowledge.)
It is said in the Upanishad that only a person who keeps himself away from evil
deeds is fit for salvation; devotion thus inseparably goes with righteous living. How
could one who had developed love of God and is detached, descend to base acts
induced by anger and attachment? How could the devotee who has been won over
by the love of God and is pleased to be under the laws of God governing the
universe, ever perform deeds which have no relation to himself? Hence devotion
and righteous living remain always inseparable. But do we not see people who call
themselves devotees, wearing all the symbols of a devotee and spending hours
together in counting their beads, occupied with base things? Those who keep a
pretence of religious practices outside, but are busy with deception and dishonest
deeds, cannot be ranked with devotees. They are, like actors who play sad and
wretched roles, only enacting parts. It is mere pose without the passion of
devotion.
Daambhikatvena so.anumeyaH |
(A man who is steeped in evil acts should be counted a hypocrite even if he bears
the external symbols of devotion.)
Our Acharya has severely criticised such persons in his Gita Bhashya. A true

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devotee is pure both within as well as without. A devotee is quite aware that
Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, pervades every nook and corner of the
universe and therefore he would never stoop to sinful activities. Righteous
behaviour is but a product of true devotion and righteous living always go hand in
hand. Hence, if we say that it is sufficient if one has devotion in his heart whatever
his conduct and character, it is both unscriptural and unscientific. We have to
measure the degree of inner devotion by outward conduct and behaviour. The true
import of the Gita is: A man may be a sinner to start with but if he repents and
changes his life for the better we should certainly accept him without despising
him for his past but honour him for what he is. A sinner has a chance to clear his
sins away with devotion to God. Devotion is the light of hope which brightens the
heart of one who is steeped in despair. One who has tasted the nectar of devotion
will not fall again into the whirlpool of temptation and sin.
We see around us in this world rampant dishonesty and there is no better solution
for this than the practice of devotion to God. We cannot bring in social reform by
legislation. Laws are ineffective because there is no change of heart in the people.
If any law is promulgated people will find ways and means of side-tracking it.
Legislation is the child of social reform and cannot be its mother. We can institute
successful laws only through a reformed heart but we cannot reform the world
through laws. The chief task of social reconstruction of today is the creation of
basically right psychological attitude. We should make great and vigorous efforts to
stimulate this sense of devotion among the educated which alone can inspire them
with right conduct and virtues.

68. The Superior Manifestations of the Lord:

There is an elaborate description of the various manifestations of God in the tenth


chapter of the Gita. Only because God pervades each and every atom in this
universe, various movements and modes become possible. Even if he is rooted in
everything, there is a greater plenitude of His presence in some of them. God is
more richly present in things which are more powerful, holier and more efficacious
to the world. As the sound performance of a radio-set depends upon the strength
of its components, similarly the intensity of the presence of God is greater in
certain things, depending on the degree of difference among persons. Realising the
special richness of God in excellent things itself is Vibhuti Darshan. There is a story
in the Upanishad. Once the gods were looking for an image suitable for their
worship of God. They were not looking for a stone image. They were looking for
some divine cosmic spirit free from blemishes for their worship. A good image is
seen only in a clean mirror; only in a pure and unblemished being the Supreme
God could be fully present, and so they thought that such a being alone could be
the proper image for God. However much they examined, they saw every person a
home of blemishes and weakness. The demonic powers had somehow entered into
the hearts of these persons and corrupted them. Finally they found that God Vayu
alone had a heart which had no room for these evil forces. The demonic forces had
tried their best to break the fortress of his heart and gain entrance but they had
themselves been shattered like clods dashed against a wall of rock. They identified
Lord Vayu as the only one who had smashed the proud citadels of devilish power
with the invincible armour of pure virtue and chose him, as the one image with
total abundance of the presence of God. The tenth chapter gives us the principle

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that wherever there is greater beauty and power, there is the special focus of
divinity. After giving examples of excellence in each group and the specially divine
presence in it, the chapter sums up by saying:
yadyadvibhuutimatsattvam shriimaduurjitameva vaa |
tattadevaavagacCha tva.m mama tejoM.ashasaMbhavam.h || -- X-41
(Know that the object which is the most excellent of its species, the most intensely
rich or abundant, is invested with My splendour.)
[There is no reason for confusion regarding the implications of ch.10. In fact this
point of God’s presence in every object and His special presence in the beauty of
objects and their specific nature has been brought in ch.7 in the verse
‘rasOhamapsu Kounteya ....’(ch.7-verse8) itself.. This principle has been described
in more detail in ch.10. This does not, in any way affect principle of the duality of
the universe. The bhashya of Srimadacharya makes it quite clear in the
introductory passage which states: ’this adhyaya deals with the Lord’s Vibhutis for
purposes of meditation on them by higher orders of Adhikarins and His having
endowed certain Tattvas like Buddhi and Jnana and the patiarchs like the Manus
and the saptarshis with super excellent powers.’. (Translation by BNK SHARMA).
I wish suggest to our members that they should try to study translations of such
works like the Gita by Dvaita scholars only to avoid possible misconceptions which
may take root in them .
May Srimadacharya bestow the right knowledge on us.
With best wishes.
Bannur.R]

69. The Teaching of the “Vibhuti Yoga”:

We are to realise from the tenth chapter that we should endeavour to see that our
heart becomes a seat of God’s excellence. If God is to dance in our hearts we
should decorate the place with our virtues. If we have good sweets and attractive
toys with us, children will naturally be attracted to us. A dirty place breeds insects
and bacteria. If our virtuous heart can be the playground for the child Krishna, the
same place, if infested with vices, could become a horrible funeral ground for the
macabre dance of the devils. Let us decorate our hearts with our good thoughts
and good conduct to make it a place for the young Gopal to dance. Our good deeds
themselves are the invaluable daily offering to God.
R^itaMpibantau sukR^itasya loke—Katha 3-1
(He drinks the essentially good portion, dwelling in the cave of the heart, in the
body earned by good deeds.)
shubhaMpibatsau nitya.m naashubhaMsahariH pibet.h | -- Brahma Sutra Bhashya
(He always drinks the auspicious; He does not drink the inauspicious.)
The Almighty God who resides within us accepts only our good deeds and blesses
us. He comes running to our hearts to accept our offerings of good deeds. We have
been dispelling Him away from us by Our bad deeds. Parvati asks her husband
Shiva why he did not get up to honour her father Daksha Prajapati who was an
elderly person. The reply by Lord Shiva is significant. He says: “By standing up and
bowing we honour not the mortal body but the God who is within. This should be

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understood both by the giver and the receiver of the salutations. The power-drunk
Daksha Prajapati was not aware of this. His heart was full of pride and ego; I could
not see Godhead within him however much I looked for it. Why should I bow down
to an emaciated and soiled image which has lost the very presence of God?” By
our untruth and unrighteousness, we are dismantling the sanctum sanctorum in
our heart. We must keep away from engaging ourselves in such heinous crime
which is going to ruin our whole life. Instead, we must welcome the opportunities
of performing good deeds which manifest divinity and ennoble our life. This is the
teaching of the tenth chapter of the Gita.

70. Vision of the Cosmic Form:

Having listened at length to the greatness of the Almighty God, Arjuna gets an
intense desire to have direct vision of the Lord’s Cosmic Form which supports this
vast universe. The Lord obliges him, grants him a divine sight and blesses him with
the vision of His Cosmic Form. Hundreds of tiny particles move about under our
very nose but we are not able to see them. But with the help of a microscope all
these particles become visible. Similarly, we are not able to see with our gross
eyes the spirit of God which flows through each and every particle in this vast
universe. That is why the Lord had to endow Arjuna with a superhuman eyesight.
On an earlier occasion Sri Krishna had granted such an eyesight and such a vision
of His Cosmic Form to the blind Dhritarashtra. When He went to the Kauravas on
his peace mission as an emissary of Pandavas, Duryodhana tried to arrest him and
at that time the Lord revealed His Cosmic Form to the worthy souls like Bhishma
and Dhritarashtra. Seeing the wonderful auspicious form of the Lord, Dhritarashtra
was thrilled with joy and exclaimed: “Oh Lord, when You withdraw this supernatural
eyesight, please make me blind once again. Having seen Your auspicious Cosmic
Form, I do not wish to see the ugly world any more. I shall be glad to be blind
again.” In my opinion Dhritarashtra, the blind devotee, is the luckiest person
because he saw in his life only God’s Form arid nothing else, even once, of this
sinful world.
On seeing the Cosmic Form of Lord Krishna Arjuna is overjoyed. There is scattered
all around the massive brightness as at the sudden and simultaneous rising of a
thousand suns. He sees the Almighty Lord’s face all around him. The Lord’s eyes
are watching each and every particle in the universe. His thousands of legs and
hands are reaching the whole cosmos. In the God with the universal eyes and the
infinite faces Arjuna sees the past, the present and the future. The world of infinite
variety is summed up within Him.
tatraikastha.m jagatkR^itsna.m pravibhaktamanekadhaa | -- XI-13
He saw the myriad fragments of the world in a corner of the universal body of God.
Arjuna sees the whole universe in the body of the Lord’s Cosmic Form. He sees the
gods Vayu, Yama, Agni, Brahma and Rudra in His body, all under His control. He is
the abode for all these gods, for all living and non living creatures in the universe
and He takes different forms to activate them. Seeing all these things Arjuna is
awe-struck and in a state of devotional ecstasy bursts into a hymn of praise.

71. Is God Formless?


Some people may feel surprised at the description that God has thousand faces

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and thousands of eyes. Can God have eyes, ears and limbs like us? If He has also
the same sort of body and organs as we have, how could He remain God then? He
too has to belong to the category of human beings. Some others argue that such a
body and limbs are but a figment of man’s own imagination according to his
capacity, and not a real description. Between God’s form and our physical body
there is a gulf of difference and only because they do not understand this they
deny form to God as described in the Vedas and the Upanishads. The mere word
‘body’ need not shock us as dirty and unholy.
There is a world of difference between our body of five elements stinking with
filth, and the sweet-scented body and form of the Lord which is made of mere
consciousness and bliss. If one is an earthen pot, the other is a golden one. The
two are entirely different and they have different characteristics. Just because both
have a similar shape and form we cannot put them on par. Sweets are made in
different forms resembling various animals. But do not children eat them with
relish? Even though the forms are different, they are all sweet being made of
sugar. Just as there is a great difference between the beasts and the sweetmeat
animals, there is an infinite difference between our body and God’s. By conceding
a body and form made of consciousness and bliss to the Supreme Lord we do not
pull Him down to the level of the human beings. It is with this view that the Vedas
and Puranas describe the Lord as formless. If in some places it is stated that God is
formless, in many others, in the same scriptures, the wonderful and beautiful body
and form of the God have been extensively described. We should examine these
critically and reconcile them. Since God does not have an inert body made of five
elements like ours, He is described as formless by the Srutis and Puranas; He has a
supernatural body composed of truth, consciousness and bliss, and this lovely
auspicious body is the cause of describing His form. We can remove this apparent
contradiction in our scriptures only if we agree that God has a supernatural form.
We can look at this problem from another angle. Every object in the universe, living
or non-living, is just an image of the Almighty God. God is responsible for its very
existence and activity. God pervades every object and activates it. Because of God
there is activity in the universe. God is the object and everything else in the
universe is His image. The various objects in the universe have diverse forms only
because God pervades all these objects and gives them their individual forms.
Unless the object has shape, its image cannot have any shape. The image may be
dark or even distorted but there is some similarity in form between the two. There
is a great difference between the Supreme God and the myriads of living and non
living entities in the universe in their characteristics, but because of the object-
image relationship, there must be some internal similarity in form.
Different atoms join together and become different objects having different forms.
For these atoms to join together into particular shapes, the infinite forms of God
who is immanent in all objects in nature alone are responsible.

tat.h sR^iShTavaa | tadevaanupraavishat.h |


tadanupravishya | saccatyaccaabhavat.h | -- Taittiriyopanishad 2:6
(Having created the world, He entered in it, having entered it He was called by its
very name sat and sat and became its foundation and controller.)

The Upanishad says that nature takes different forms so pleasing to the eye only

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because of the presence of God inside every object in the universe. As the same
water filled in different pots with different shapes takes up different forms, so also
the same Godhead entering into different living and non living entities in the
universe takes different forms. Only because God has form, nature could be
endowed with so many forms and so much variety and beauty. It is better to
describe Him as having infinite forms rather than describe Him as formless as He is
the object for all the images, and all-pervading. Arjuna saw with his supernatural
eyesight such a God of infinite shapes and forms, of infinite auspicious qualities,
made of the essence of consciousness and bliss, taking the same form as the
image He pervades and at the same time not being affected or touched by its
physical characteristics.

Some people are of the view that the form and shape of the Almighty Lord
described in the Vedas and Puranas are purely imaginary and not at all real. We
have accepted the Vedas and Puranas as the supreme authorities in spiritual
matters in our Hindu religion. How then could we ever contradict ourselves and say
that they preach false and imaginary ideas about God and thus misguide and
confuse the people? How could the lovely form of God seen after several years of
severe penance and meditation by the supreme devotees like Dhruva be utterly
imaginary? What we see by our physical eyesight may sometimes be illusory. But
how could the things seen by Arjuna with a divine sight, specially endowed by God,
be untrue? Illusory objects have no existence in reality. Arjuna has seen with his
own eyes the Almighty God’s infinite forms. He has also seen the lesser gods like
Brahma and Rudra offering prayers in devotion to God. This shows that not only
whatever is mentioned in the epics regarding the other worlds are not the figments
of their authors’ imagination but, also, whatever of the physical world we see with
our eye is also true and real. If the world were unreal, as some believe, Arjuna
could not have seen with the divine sight the earth and the heavens under the
providence of the Supreme Lord. Thus it is undoubtedly true that whatever Arjuna
has seen in the Cosmic Form of the Supreme Soul, the individual soul and the
physical world are all real and mutually distinct.

72. The Awareness of the Cosmic Vision in our day-today life:

We should learn a lesson from what Arjuna had seen in the Lord’s Cosmic Form and
put it into practice in our day-to-day life. God has infinite forms. He pervades each
and every object. There is the pure sentient form of God in everything we see. The
sense that He sees what is going on in the whole universe by His thousands of
faces and thousands of eyes encourages alertness and good conduct in us. We can
deceive the Government and sidetrack the laws but when the sense that God is
looking at us with his infinite faces and eyes is awakened in us and we cannot
evade his look, our life then would become blissfully holy. Once a banana was
given to Sri Kanakadasa and he was asked to eat it in secret. But he could not find
such a place. Wherever he went he saw God. One who sees God everywhere does
not find an opportunity to commit sin and cover it up. His life becomes as pure as
an open book.

na raanya.m na ca raajaasiit.h na daNDo na ca daaNDikaH |


dharmeNaiva prajaaH sarvaaH rakShanti sma paraspar.m || -- Mahabharata

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(There was neither kingdom nor king, neither punishment nor the punisher; people
protected each other with dharma itself.)
In the ‘Krita’ age the citizens were law-abiding of their own will and lived a life of
holy discipline without the need of law or officers. Character is to be built in the
hearts of men. If it is not there as a foundation, the whole superstructure of the
state will collapse. The present-day society is a glaring example of this. The
philosophy of the Cosmic Form of God as explained in the eleventh chapter of the
Gita must be the guiding principle in our day-today life if society is to be built on a
sure foundation.

73. The Worship of the ‘Shree’ (Lakshmi) Principle:

It has been clear from the exposition of bhaktiyoga so far that devotion to and
service of God is the only way for salvation. Presiding over all the material objects
of the universe is the Goddess Lakshmi who is the mother of all creatures and who
is the consort of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. Can we obtain salvation by Her worship
also? Both the Lord and His consort equally pervade the whole universe and both
are eternally free. One is tempted to feel that worship of either should be
conducive to salvation. Between the two one may feel, it is easier to please the
Mother and obtain Her favours and grace than the Father of the universe. Hence
one will be tempted to ask why we should not follow the easier path and obtain
release by worshipping the Goddess Lakshmi alone. Arjuna also gets the same
doubt in his mind and asks the Lord:
eva.m satatayuktaa ye bhaktaastvaa.m paryupaasate |
ye caapyakSharamavyakta.m teShaa.m ke yogavittamaaH || -- XII-1
(Who are the better yogis—between those who devotedly worship You with
meditation and those who worship Lakshmi, called akshara and who presides over
the principle of ‘Prakriti’?)
Even if you worship Lakshmi, you cannot obtain salvation without the grace of God.
If you do not propitiate the Lord, even His consort will not be pleased. It may be
easier to approach God through His consort but you cannot obtain salvation
without His very grace. Instead of going through the indirect path that lies through
Her, one should follow the direct path of worshipping the Lord, advises Sri Krishna:
klesho.adhikataras.h teSaa.m avyaktaasakta-cetasam.h | -- XII-5
(Those whose minds are steeped in the Lakshmi principle experience a greater
difficulty and affliction.)
The Lord and His consort are the Father and the Mother of every creature in the
universe and the easiest path is to endeavour to obtain release from our mortal
existence by worshipping Him, Lord of Lakshmi, with all our devotion. In a sense,
all of us are worshippers of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. Forgetting God we
have engaged ourselves in brooding over money alone. But will His consort favour
us in any way if we forget God and are engrossed in thoughts of wealth? Naturally
She too will keep away from us, since we have left Her Lord.
viShNunaa sahitaa dhyaataa saahituShTiparaaMvrajet.h | -- Gita Tatparya
(She will be supremely pleased only when She is worshipped along with Vishnu).
She is absolutely pleased only if the Lord is worshipped. If we forget God and

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worship riches only throughout our life, then we will lose both God and wealth.
Thus the purport of this section is that the supreme means of salvation is the
worship of Lakshminarayana rather than Lakshmi alone.

74. Is the Unmanifest (avyakta) Nirguna Brahma?

Some people confuse the issue by bringing in the conception of Saguna and
Nirguna Brahma. They define the Brahma possessed of knowledge, power and
activity as Saguna Brahma and the indivisible spirit devoid of all these qualities as
the Nirguna Brahma. Since the worship of Nirguna Brahma, though the most
excellent, is the most difficult, Krishna preaches, in the Gita, the easy path of
worshipping Saguna Brahma, they say. It is not proper to bifurcate the Supreme
Brahma into the Nirguna and the Saguna, calling the one as the ultimately Real
and the other, fictitious. Nowhere do the Upanishads divide Him in this manner.
There is only one Brahman and He is both Saguna and Nirguna. The Lord who is
free from the three gross gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and who is full
knowledge, bliss and energy Himself is called both Nirguna and Saguna. He is
Saguna so far as He possesses the supra natural qualities and is Nirguna in so far
as He is devoid of the gross ones.
eko devaH sarvabhuuteShu guuDaH
sarvavyaapii sarvabhuutaantaraatmaa |
karmaadhyakShaH sarvabhuutaadhivaasaH
saakShii cetaa kevalo nirguNashca || -- Svetasvataropanishad 6-11
(The one Lord is immanent in all beings. He permeates everything, indwelling and
controlling all from within. He presides over all the actions, lives in all the worlds.
He is the supreme witness, the spirit, the unmixed and free from the gross
qualities.)
The Upanishad calls the Saguna Brahma who is omnipresent, omnipotent and who
permeates the whole Himself as Nirguna Brahma. When such is the evidence, it
would be nothing but a travesty of truth to fragment Him into two different entities
like Saguna and Nirguna and treat as illusory the Saguna Brahma who is the
Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the Universe and Omniscient and Omnipotent.
When Arjuna asks Sri Krishna as to who is superior, the worshipper of the
Unmanifest Prakriti or God Himself, Sri Krishna says clearly:
mayyaaveShya mano ye maaM nityayuktaa upaasate | shraddhayaa parayopetaaste me
yuktatamaa mataaH || -- XII-2
(I consider those as the greatest yogis who worship Me with their mind perpetually
steeped in Me and who are possessed of the supreme faith.)
Sri Krishna replies that those who worship Him are better than those that worship
the unmanifest. How could the words of Krishna that the worshippers of His Saguna
Self are the greatest yogis, have any consistency if Nirguna Brahma alone was the
ultimate Reality? It is known to all that Sri Krishna is not a Nirguna principle but is
full of auspicious qualities, omniscient and the Purushottama.
ye tvakSaaramanirdeshyamavyaktaM paryupaasate | -- XII-3
te praapnuvantimaameva sarvabhuutahiterataaH || -- XII-4
From the above the statement that the worshippers of the unmanifest also reach

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Him it is impossible to equate the worship of the unmanifest with the Nirguna
Brahma. How could the worshippers of Nirguna Brahma attain Sri Krishna who is
Saguna Brahma? Advaita philosophy does not accept the attainment of Saguna as
the consummation of the worship of Nirguna Brahma; the one who pursues the
Nirguna path, attains Brahma Himself. Thus when we examine the fruit of the
worship of the Unmanifest and see the superior place given to the worship of the
Lord as Manifest as against the pursuit of the Unmanifest, it is clear that what is
referred to in this context is not the Saguna and Nirguna aspects of the Supreme
Lord but the worship of Sri Lakshmi and the Lord Himself.
[I think the terms Avyaktam and anirdeshyam in ch12-3 need to be explained in
this context for a clear understanding of the term ‘unmanifest’. Otherwise the
readers are likely to take unmanifest as the opposite of manifest as is done by the
advaitns. To get a correct understanding, I am giving here an extract from Dr. BNK
Sharma’s translation of the Bhashya (Srimadacharya’s Bhashya);
The Bhagavata purana refers to Maya (and it’s Abhimani) by these epithets (by the
power of) ‘that which is inaccessible to inference’(apratrkya) and is difficult to be
fully defined ‘(anirdeshya).
From this it should be understood that the terms refer to Maya or the durga form of
Prakriti (it’s abhimani devata Laxmi) which, therefore, gives the interpretation that
Arjuna ‘s question is not regarding the worship of ‘saguna’ and ‘nirguna’ brahma,
but regarding the difference in the worship of Sri Krishna and Sri Laxmi,the
abhimani devata of Prakriti.
Srimadacharya makes it clear in the beginning of his commentary on ch.12 by
saying that the discussion is regarding the sruti: ‘Sriyam vasana amitatvamanan....
Bannur.R
Vyavasayatmikabuddih ekeha kurunandana bahushakahyanatashcha buddhayo
avyavasayinam gita ch2-41.
The right interpretation of the shastras by the Jnanis is only one. Persons who have
no right knowledge interpret in too many ways(which are confusing and incorrect).
Let us, therefore, follow the only right interpretation, and that is of
Srimadanandatirtha Bhagavatpadacharya.
Bannur.R]

75. Worship of Saguna Brahma is acceptable to all:

There is one more point to be borne in mind by all. Some people may think of
Nirguna Brahma as the Supreme Reality, the undivided spirit which is beyond the
Saguna. Whatever may be the truth, these people themselves concede that final
redemption can be obtained by the worship of the Saguna Brahma and that such a
worship is the easiest path for salvation.
na ca punaraavartate, na ca punaraavarte (And he does not return and verily does not
return (to the world of birth and death) once he attains salvation.)
Even Sri Sankaracharya has accepted in his commentary on the Brahma Sutra:
aum anaavR^ittishashabdaat.h anaavR^ittishashabdaat.h aum
referred to above that by worshipping the Saguna Brahma it is possible to attain

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the release from which there is no return.
tatohyasya bandhaviparyayau (From His will alone are both bondage and release.)

Once again, while commenting on the above Brahma Sutra, Sankaracharya has
glossed that the release from the ancient bondage is possible only through the
grace of God who is omniscient and omnipotent. When it is clear that the final
consummation of life can be obtained by the devoted worship of Saguna Brahma
and there is absolutely no danger in following this path, why should we then give
up the indisputably royal path, free from confusion and harm, and tread the other
highly disputed path of the soul-self identity and the Nirguna Brahma? Instead of
creating confusion among the simple men by raising the disputed ideas in their
minds, it is very much proper to lead them on the broad royal road of the
universally accepted worship of the Saguna Brahma.

[ I think this is what Sri Ramadas has presented which is quite logical.
1. Present the Purvapaksha view of Nirguna brahma (for doing this one has to
talk about Nirguna brahma).
2. Then completely reject such a view saying there is only one brahma and His
nirgunatva only means that He is not controlled by the three gunas (sattva, rajas
and tamas) .
“sarva guna sampUrnaH sarva doshha vivarjitaH prIyatAm prIta evAlam
vishhNurme paramaH suhR^t.h”
meaning “Lord Vishnu, who is complete with all the auspicious qualities and who is
totally flawless, is most dear to me and closest to my heart”.
Also Srimad.h Acharya says
“triguNAtItavidhAraka parito dehi subhaktim.h |
karuNApUrNavarapradacharitaM GYApaya me te || 5||”—Dvadasha stotra X-5
which clearly expresses that Lord is beyond the three gunAs.
3. Then Sri Ramadas wrote from Gita Saroddhara “Instead of creating confusion
among the simple men by raising the disputed ideas in their minds, it is very much
proper to lead them on the broad royal road of the universally accepted worship of
the Saguna Brahma.” So here the classification is among men—a.who are simple
(not having ability to understand complicated logical analysis) and b. who can and
like to follow the logical rejecting of Purvapaksha.
For the first kind the common ground is suggested (worship of sarvaguna
sampUrNa). For the second kind, a logical approach removing the wrong notion is
presented.
In tattvavada, there is no place to such a thought as “nirgunopasna” (worshipping
God in attributeless form). So it was clarified that “avyaktopasana” means worship
of Sri Laxmi and not “nirgunopasana”.
OM Sri Hari Vayu Gurubhyo namaH
Keshava Rao]

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76. Stages on the Path of Meditation:

It is not possible for ordinary people to undertake sustained meditation upon God
with intense devotion for self-realisation and the attainment of ultimate release.
Even if we are unable to undertake unbroken devotion, since we lack the necessary
devotion, moral strength, spirit of renunciation and non-attachment, we should at
least make an eager attempt at practising these. We may see only smoke and no
fire in a burning firewood. It is only the dry wick dipped in ghee that can burn.
Soaked in worldly pleasures, our heart is full of the smoke of desires and
attachments and there is no room for the spark of knowledge. Only in a heart
purified by penance and good deeds and bathed in the ghee of devotion, the flame
of knowledge can glow. Hence we should make an immediate and incessant
endeavour to cultivate and increase non-attachment to worldly pleasures and
devotion to God.
atha cittaM samadhaatuM na shaknoShi mayi sthiram.h |
abhyaasayogena tato maamicChaaptuM dhana~njaya || -- XII-9
abhyaase.apyasamartho.asi matkarmaparamo bhava | -- XII-10
(Arjuna, if you are not able to repose your mind fully in Me try to know Me by
means of steady application; if application is not possible, perform actions for My
sake (in dedication.)
If we have not yet attained mental tranquillity to undertake such an exercise, we
should at least have attained the readiness to perform actions without hoping for
its rewards and with the sole purpose of pleasing God. Such action increases our
soul force and prepares us to undertake the more difficult exercise of
contemplation on God. If even this is not possible, at least while engaged in our
day-to-day activities steeped in manifold desires, we must think of God again and
again and cultivate the spirit of dedication to God. Even if we do not succeed in
keeping the spirit of detachment and dedication to God throughout the tenure of
our action, we may at least think of God in between and if there is room for such
intermittent light a deeper darkness will not envelope our life. Even if it is not
possible to see the omnipresence of God in all that we do, why should we not make
even these tiny attempts at establishing our relationship with God? Thus the Gita
has revealed to us the means of divine realisation at different levels and within our
reach. Thus, establishing communion with God, performing action in a detached
spirit, intense effort at meditation upon God, unbroken contemplation upon God,
are the four stages preached in the Gita; we should climb them step by step and
try to elevate ourselves spiritually.

77. Desireless Devotion:


There are two kinds of devotion, one is desire-prompted and another desireless.
The routine and the special rituals may be performed both ways, with or without
desire for reward. There are people who do penance for attaining some goal,
Dhruva for example. There are other people who do penance for its own sake just
to please God and without expecting any reward. This is the highest type of
penance. Those that usually perform action without any hope of reward are the
people who will succeed in this perfect penance and achieve their consummation
by pleasing God with pure meditation.

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There is a story of a sage who worshipped a goddess for a number of years. The
goddess appeared before him and offered to grant him any boon he desired, be it
the joys of the entire earth or even of the heaven. The saint refused saying: “Oh
Goddess, I want neither the pleasures of the heaven nor of the earth. Kindly give
me Your grace so that I may continue in my penance in this very body without any
hindrance.” By the grace of the goddess his penance continued uninterruptedly.
Once the Ikshvaku king happened to pass that way. He saw the sage in penance
and implored him to accept some gift from him. The saint said that he did not
accept anything even from God and what could he ever get by asking an ordinary
king. On the contrary, he asked the king to accept something from him. Being a
Kshatriya he hesitated to ask anything from a Brahmin but he finally asked for the
entire merit earned him by his penance. What an awful request! What an
unimaginable thing it is to give away the fruit of the strife of a whole lifetime! The
saint wavered for a moment and offered to give half of it. The king was
thunderstruck by his magnificent generosity and utter selflessness. The king
hesitated to accept it and asked the sage what the extent of that merit was. To this
the sage replied: “Oh king! you asked me for the whole fruit of my penance and I
have given. I know neither its nature nor its extent. I did this penance without any
hope of reward and hence how can I tell you the worth of that fruit?” The king then
said: “Oh sage! without knowing its nature and its value, how can I accept it?” So
he refused the offer. The sage insisted that a king should stick to his word and not
go back from it. To settle this dispute the gods themselves gathered there in large
numbers. This story is beautifully narrated in ‘Japakopakhyana’ of the
Mahabharata. This is the highest example of Desireless Devotion. The sage
performed severe penance for a lifetime and he did not know how much merit he
had accumulated; the sage’s detachment is amazing as he did not hesitate to part
with it. After practising desireless action, every aspirant should strive to reach this
stage of desireless devotion.

[Dear Members,
I am very pleased to read the letter written by Mr Ramadas, Re: Desireless
devotion and the beautiful story of the Sage who did the penance without knowing
its reward.
This story reminded me of another story from Mahabharatha. I did not know his
story, but believe it or not, it was told by a gentleman from India who belongs to
another religion, in the heartland of which I happen to work now. Many of you
might know this story and it goes like this :-
Just after Draupadi was rescued from the embarrassment of the
vasthrapaharana,in the court of Duryodana, Krishna came to her and said that He
was very moved and impressed by her devotion and prayer and asked her that He
would grant anything to release her from all the troubles and difficulties that she
was facing.
For this Draupadi said “Krishna, give me more trouble and difficulties”.
For this Krishna was surprised and asked “Why do you want more trouble and
difficulties, you have already suffered enough”.
For this she said “ Oh Krishna, if You release me from all the troubles and
difficulties, then in the joy of my freedom, I might forget to remember You at all.
Therefore give me more difficulties all the time so that I can keep on praying and

Gita Saroddhara Page 107 of 140


meditating upon You all the time, otherwise I might forget You”.
This is an example of prayer and penance without expecting any selfish desire.
Yours sincerely, Rajaram Cavale. rajcaval.kkh@zajil.net]

78. Character Development in the Aspirant:


Along with the performance of desireless action, renunciation and practice of
meditation, every aspirant should also strive towards the development of his
virtues. This is essential for God-realisation. The aspirant souls, fit for salvation, are
indeed intrinsically virtuous. The unfoldment of the intrinsic virtuousness and
beauty of the soul itself is salvation according to the scriptures. All our activities in
this world should thus either help in the unveiling of the true virtuousness of the
soul or be conducive to it. Truth, knowledge, compassion, sacrifice are the natural
qualities of the soul and if in our lives, we indulge in activities contrary to these,
our souls would be still more enveloped in deeper ignorance. Untruth, violence,
cruelty and deceit are the dire enemies of the good soul. If we encourage such evil
forces in our lives, we would be suppressing the virtues of the soul and aggravating
the conditions of ignorance and grossness.
If the evil inclinations start abounding we would be losing the very capacity for
meditating upon and realising God who is the soul of infinite goodness. If all our
daily activities are corrupted by vice and misbehaviour how would we ever be
worthy of salvation which is nothing but the attainment of likeness with God who is
the infinite soul of virtue? Thus we should not give any scope for the forces which
are utterly inimical to the proper and intrinsic nature of our soul and the precious
qualities of God who is our final consummation. If we do, we would be creating a
tragic situation of remaining farther from God and impediments to God-realisation.
Therefore our conduct and character in this life should be exemplary if we want to
realise God and shine with the intrinsic glory of our own soul’s identity. All our
dealings should be honest. The principles which an aspirant should inculcate in his
day-to-day life are enumerated in the slokas like the following at the end of the
twelfth chapter of the Gita.
adveShTaa sarvabhuutaanaaM maitraH karuNa eva ca | -- XII-13 (Non-enmity for all
creatures, friendship in need and compassion ...)
Non-hatred, friendship, compassion, freedom from egoism and pride of possession,
patience, contentedness are some of the qualities which we should try to inculcate
in ourselves. The Lord declares that such a devotee is the dearest to Him. Such a
person is never inflamed by any activity of the world and carries out his duties
without any fear. Nor does he excite others with fear, harm or disturbance. Being
bold himself he infuses confidence in others and thus creates an atmosphere of
ease. He keeps himself away from all selfish activities which are not pleasing to
God. He looks on pain and pleasure alike. He welcomes pain as much as pleasure.
He is eager to burn with pain as an atonement for his sins. With eagerness he
welcomes pain as a purifier of his soul and even creates such occasions of
painfulness. Similarly a devotee looks at pleasure also disinterestedly. Pleasure is
as painful to him as misery! For a bit of pleasure, how much humiliation does one
suffer! A devotee attaches the same value to both sense-pleasures and worldly
sorrows. He spurns both of them. He is not moved either by praise or slander. This
unaffectedness is an extraordinary virtue. There are very few good people who are
not affected by praise or slander. Even saints and selfless servants of society

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unfortunately fall a prey to praise. When others praise their sense of sacrifice and
service to others, even the faces of saints cheer up. But for a devotee who has
carried on his work as a part of his sacred duty and as a service to God, both praise
and calumny are the same. If every aspirant should try to cultivate these noble and
everlasting qualities, there is no delay in attaining the spiritual treasure.
ye tu dharmyaamR^itamidaM yathoktaM paryupaasate | -- XII-20 (Those who take to
performing these means which are instruments of dharma and salvation.)
These qualities are profoundly religious and immortal.

79. Who is the kshetrajna?:

In this chapter there is a description of the field (kshetra) and the knower of the
field (kshetrajna). The entire universe of gross matter (Prakriti) and all
modifications of it is the field. Generally, whatever that has been pervaded by the
Lord is called the ‘kshetra’ and since He pervades the whole universe, the entire
creation is the ‘kshetra’. The universe stands like a body to God. He is its soul as it
were. As it is necessary for every activity of the body to spring from the soul, all
activities of the cosmos are possible since the Lord enters into each of them.
idaM shariiraM kaunteya kShetramityabhidhiiyate | -- XIII-1
kShetraj~naM caapi maaM viddhi sarvakShetreShu bhaarata | -- XIII-2 (This body, Arjuna,
is called the kshetra; understand that I am the knower of the kshetra.)
The whole universe which is like the body of the Lord is called the kshetra. God
who knows everything thoroughly of this universe, the omniscient, is called the
‘knower of the field’. He is God and Sri Krishna says that He is Himself the
incarnation of that Supreme God. Some people say that our body is the field and
our soul is the knower of the field and that there is no difference between our soul
and the Supreme Soul. When we critically look at the meaning of the word ‘field’ as
given in the Gita itself, it is clear that we cannot limit the word to mean our body
only.
mahaabhuutaanyahaMkaaro buddhiravyaktameva ca | -- XIII-5
etatkShetraM samaasena savikaaramudaahR^itam.h || -- XIII-6 (The five elements, the
intellect and the principle of Prakriti—these in short are called the field which is
subject to modifications.) It is explained here that the word ‘field’ extensively
embraces nature, the ahamkara principle, the fire and all the several modifications
of the gross matter, elements, the entire movable and the immovable creation.
One who pervades the whole universe as its indwelling controller and knows the
ins and outs of the whole cosmos alone is the Supreme God and He alone can be
the ‘knower of the field.’ It is obvious that the individual soul, poor thing, which
does not know fully its own body could never be called the ‘knower of the field.’
The Bhagavata also says:
kShetraj~na aatmaa puruShaH puraaNaH
saakShaat.h svayaMjyotirajaHpareshaH |
naaraayaNo bhagavaan.h vaasudevaH
svamaayayaa.a.atmanyavadhiiyamaanaH ||
(The omniscient Lord is the kshetrajna ... ... ... ) In unequivocal terms, the Lord
Narayana who is omniscient and is different from the individual soul, alone is the
‘knower of the field.’

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80. The Knower, the Thing to be Known and their Characteristics:

After expounding the nature of the field and the knower of the field, the Gita turns
to the exposition of the things to be known and the qualities required in the knower
who is worthy of the knowledge.
The all-pervading soul of the whole cosmos, the Supreme Lord is the ‘thing to be
known.’ He is the one and the only entity to be chiefly known. After spending
twelve years in the Guru’s house, Shvetaketu returns home but his father Uddalaka
does not see any sign of knowledge beaming on his face. Instead he becomes
sorry to find in his son conceit and egoism, and in dejection asks him: uta
tamaadeshamapraakShyaH | | yenaaM shruta.m shrutaM bhavatyamataM
matamavij~naataM vij~naata.m | --
Chandogya Upanishad 6:1:2-3
(He verily asked him: “What is it that by knowing which the unheard becomes
heard, the unknown becomes known and the understood understood? Have you
studied that, which when known makes everything else also known.”)
Shvetaketu could not answer this question. Such a question itself appeared like a
riddle to him. The father enlightens his son: “Such is the knowledge of the
Supreme God. Knowing Him, we know the whole universe. One who eats a mango
need not eat its stone and skin. Sucking its juice is as good as eating the whole
mango. If you get the knowledge of the Almighty Lord who is the essence of
everything in this universe, is there any need to know the rest separately? You
have not acquired the knowledge of the Lord who is the ultimate essence of the
universe. Having acquired some knowledge of the contemptible world which is but
like that of the stone and the skin of the mango, you have grown proud. That
humility which flowers from true knowledge is missing in your face.” Thus does the
father open the eyes of the son. From these words of Uddalaka, we understand
that the thing to be known in the whole universe is the supreme Godhead. Our aim
in life should be to acquire the knowledge of the Supreme God who pervades every
object in the universe with his organs transcending the gross ones, who knows the
ins and outs of every object, who covers the whole cosmos and still extends
beyond it, who, though far from us, is still very close to us, who is beyond nature
and its qualities, who is of infinite auspicious qualities and has a cosmic form.
To acquire this knowledge we must specially bear in mind the necessity of certain
basic requirements. We must eschew self-praise, violence and hypocrisy from our
lives and cultivate forgiveness, integrity, service to the Guru, purity, self-control,
non-attachment to worldly pleasures, humility, critical insight into what is good and
bad, mental equilibrium and undivided devotion to God. These are some of the
virtues which must be developed if we wish to discover such knowledge of the
Lord. By his uprightness and integrity alone, the guru identified Satyakama Jabali’s
deservedness for knowledge. Nachiketa was offered enjoyment of all worldly
pleasures by Yama. But he spurned it as trash and asked only for true knowledge of
God. Yama was amazed by the renunciation and spirit of sacrifice of the young
aspirant and taught him, thoroughly pleased, the highest knowledge of God. Aruni
and Upamanyu served their teacher sincerely and with great obedience, enduring
all hardship and humiliation, and then acquired knowledge. In the modern system

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of education, there is utterly no place or sanctity for Guru-worship. In the present
university environment the teachers are in mortal fear of the students. There is
only a commercial relationship between the teacher and the taught. It would not
be far from right if we compare their relationship to that between the management
and the workers in a factory.
The purity which is one of the characteristics to be developed is not of the body
only. Inner purity is the chief concern. However much a person may dip in water
wash his body, purify it with the soil, unless the mind is purified he will not be fit to
receive the knowledge of God. Uttanka, the disciple of Baidara, is the best example
of self-control. Baidara had a beautiful and young wife. When Baidara was away on
tour, the disciple Uttanka was never fascinated by her alluring beauty and by his
great self-control earned the gratitude and blessings of his Guru. Vanity and
egoism are the mortal enemies of knowledge. Water never climbs up a higher
level; it always flows to a lower level. Knowledge does not climb the heights of
pride. It flows rapidly into the heart deepened by humility. Hypocrisy is in posing
superior to one’s ability. We see such artificial life all around us. An individual’s
face in solitariness differs from the face he puts up before the society. But the real
face perhaps is different from both! Thus, under the name of selfishness or
prestigious living the kingdom of hypocrisy and deceit has been reigning
everywhere in our society. Only by fighting these aberrations of the mind, tooth
and nail, and continuously, and by developing our real virtues can we ever hope to
be worthy of reaching the final goal of humanity, the ultimate knowledge.

81. The Study of Fundamental Principles:

Sri Krishna now analyses the various fundamental principles governing the
universe in order to facilitate a decisive knowledge. There are two eternal
fundamental principles. One is inert matter (jaDaprakR^iti) and another, individual
soul (jiivaasa). The former, even though eternal, undergoes modifications. This
material universe is a product of this substance. While matter is the basis of all
modifications, the individual soul is the being which partakes of pleasure and pain
which proceed from matter.
kaaryakaraNa kartR^itve ketuH prakR^itirucyate | puruShaH sukhaduHkhaanaaM
bhoktR^itve heturucyate || -- XIII-20 (Prakriti is said to be the cause of the body and
the organs; the Lord said to be the cause of the experience of joy and sorrow)
There is another Great Being who is higher than both and who is beyond these two
entities. He is the Supreme Lord. In Him there are no changes as in the inert matter
and no joy or grief as in individual souls. Changeless and eternally blissful, the
Supreme Lord, quite different from inert matter and individual souls, pervades both
the human body and the great universe.
paramaatmeti capyukto dehe.asmin.h puruShaH paraH || -- XIII-22 (The one who dwells
in the body, the Supreme Person, is called the Paramatma.)
There is another inside our body, who is different both from matter and individual
soul and who moves all the actions of the body. He is the Supreme Soul. Like the
ether He is unaffected by anything He comes in contact with. Just as the whole
world is illumined by the sun, the whole universe is made visible to us by His
power. It is therefore clear that these are the three sole principles, the inert matter,

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the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. Based on this division only, Sri
Madhvacharya has propounded his theory of five types of mutual differences.
Some people do not see any cause to analyse things philosophically. They ask, in
our practical life, what do we get out of mere philosophic discussion as to the
number of fundamental principles ruling the world and whether a particular
principle is fundamental or not? Such a discussion would be as useless an exercise
as counting the sand particles on the seashore under the scorching sun. It is
enough if we preach good conduct in men which is necessary for the orderly
development of society. The more we keep away from dry logic and philosophy
better it is, they think. There is a story narrated by Lord Buddha which can be cited
in this connection. A disciple, tired of family life, came to the Buddha for some
spiritual lessons and asked him some questions on the relationship between the
individual soul and inert matter and insisted on an answer. For this Gautama
Buddha gave him a parable. A poisoned arrow pierced a person and suffering with
unbearable pain he ran to a doctor. Instead of submitting to his treatment and
swallowing the medicine given to him by the doctor, the patient put forward a
number of questions such as, what was the shape and colour of the arrow, what
was it made of and told him that he must get the answers to these questions
before he took the medicine. The Buddha’s lesson is that philosophic discussion is
as irrelevant in our day-to-day life as the queries of the patient. There are many,
even now, who subscribe to this view. But the very same people admit the
necessity of deep inquiry in economic and political matters before attempting any
solution. Everyone accepts that a solution, without a thorough analysis of the basic
problems, might lead to an opposite consequence. No patient would approach a
doctor who is not familiar with anatomy and physiology and the chemical
composition and potency of the medicine. When we are eager to consider all the
pros and cons even in trivial matters, do we feel it irrelevant to critically examine
the true meaning and significance of our existence? Only by considering the reality
behind our life and the world around us shall we able to know how to shape our
lives. We will come to know wherein lies the root of our misery in life. There is a
world of difference between the life shaped in the light of the realisation of God’s
existence, and the life lived without faith in God and materialistically. It is not
proper to scorn the philosophical analysis which can give new values to our
existence. Man must have an opportunity and freedom to follow a determined path
after a critical analysis of the whole foundation of human existence. That is why
there is room in India for several independent philosophical systems. It is from this
point of view that Sri Krishna has described with his comprehensive vision the true
nature of matter, the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, the mutual difference
and also the relationship between them.

82. The Root of Bondage

Among the three classes, namely, the individual soul, matter and Supreme Soul,
only the individual soul is subject to the cycle of birth and death in this world. God
is perfect and full of happiness. Inert matter is lifeless. In both there is no chance
of any misery, illusion or ignorance. It is only the individual soul which is caught in
this cycle of life and death, which is immersed in the misery of family life and
which is ever striving for liberation. The soul by its very nature is full of knowledge

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and bliss. How is it then that it is affected by ignorance and misery contrary to its
true nature? All souls ultimately aspire to reach a stage similar to that of God and
how is it then that the soul is tormented by contrary qualities like ignorance and
misery? A critical study of this question is essential for remedying this sorry state.
Even if dynamism and bliss are inherent in every soul, these are hidden under the
thick cover of inert matter. The soul, under the spell of the mighty forces of matter,
is in a wretched and forlorn state in this life. It loses its individuality and splendour,
covered as it is by matter. Since the inert matter is as eternal as the soul, from the
very beginning the soul is under the influence of matter. The glow of the soul is
completely eclipsed, so to say, by matter. The three constituents of matter namely,
sattva, rajas as and tamas cover the proper self of the soul and disfigure it. The
cloth may be white, but when it is soiled, it appears black. Similarly being soiled by
matter, the soul puts on extraneous deformations. Thus bondage is due to no other
cause but the soul’s being under the influence of matter. By the grace of the
Supreme Lord alone, Who is beyond both, can the soul achieve liberation from this
vicious cycle.
In this eternal life cycle of the soul, thus are the roles played by matter and the
Supreme God. If the contact with matter gives a soul happiness and misery born
out of these three qualities, the contact with God helps it overcome these
deformations and reach to its proper state which is beyond the three qualities. The
nature of matter and God and the reaction in the individual soul by contact with
these two have been explained so far. The one ties us down to the cycle of birth
and death; the other liberates us from this cycle. We should exert ourselves and
carry on our spiritual exercise till the soul once again shines with its natural,
inherent glory, realising our true nature, which is different from both inert matter
and Godhead. By devotion and His grace, we should come out of the influence of
inert matter and get into the immortal sphere of God’s influence.

83 The Influence of Three Gunas on our Life:

The influence of matter on the souls varies with the three forces of matter. If the
predominance of tamas leads to indolence, heedlessness and delusion, that of the
rajas leads to a life excited by desire, anxiety, anger and disturbance. Sattva,
which is a fount of knowledge, judgment and goodness, lights up the path of our
life, like a torch, towards the fullness of consummation which is beyond the three
gunas. One who can trample down both rajas and tamas alone can reach the
height of sattva. While by tamas one takes to indifference towards the execution of
one’s duties, under the influence of rajas one performs actions, becoming a prey to
petty desire and delusion. It is only by sattva that one can perform one’s allotted
duties without hoping for any reward. We should understand the effect of these
three forces of matter on life and then make efforts to use this Prakriti as a bridge
to take us towards God. If we use the Prakriti dexterously, the release from the
bondage of Prakriti becomes easier.
We see all around us predominances of tamas and rajas. We may divide mankind
into two classes; the Ravana class and the Kumbhakarna class. People who crave
for wealth and power remind us of Ravana himself. Ravana wanted to possess all
the beautiful and extraordinary things of the three worlds. He went on exerting all
his brutal force perpetually to achieve his end. We see all around us people trying

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to stick to power and office by hook or crook. In every field there is an unethical
competition due to the preponderance of the rajas. As against these Ravanas of
passionate qualities, there are Kumbhakarnas who are embodiments of indolence
and inactivity. The so-called purists and conservative religionists may be put in this
category. When there is such an onslaught on the traditional religious life of the
whole community, these people live with indifference and all by themselves,
forgetting their duty to mend the situation. Indolence is the root of all vices. The
emperor Nala due to his carelessness neglected to wash his feet properly and on
this score, Kali could get access into his otherwise pure and spotless life. Kali had
been waiting for a long time to find an opportunity to sneak into his life. Then he
occupied the whole life and personality of the king. With the slightest opportunity
for indolence. Kali sneaks in and in his train all other bad qualities follow. In the
kingdom of Ravana and Kumbhakarna, there is hardly any room for sattvik quality
like that of Vibhishana. The main task ahead of us is the conquest of these rajas
and tamas qualities and establishment of the reign of the sattvik quality. Even if
matter is a force of bondage, one should take the best advantage of the sattvik
force which is its constituent and undertake the adventurous pilgrimage to God
from across the sattvik bridge. The fourteenth chapter thus analyses the effects of
the three gunas on the soul, explains the interrelationship of the soul with Prakriti
and shows the way of the sattva guna which transcends the power of the Prakriti
and leads it to the final perfection.

84. The Nature of the Tree of Life:

Hitherto the world has been described analytically. In chapter fifteen, the world is
described in a synthetic way. Of the three constituents of the cosmos, the matter,
the soul and the God, the last one is the Supreme entity in the whole universe.
While the highest among the category of beings is the Lakshmi principle, Prakriti is
the chiefest in the category of non-beings. The whole universe is based on these
three fundamental entities and the whole world is created out of these. While the
inert matter (jaDaprakR^iti) is the substance out of which the world is made,
Lakshmi, the citprakR^iti as the presiding deity in the universe, and the Supreme
God, of course, pervading everything as the controlling power, are the creators of
this universe. The Gita has compared the whole universe to a huge tree and calls
these three entities, God, Lakshmi, and Nature as its roots. The five elements and
their presiding deities are the branches and twigs of this tree. It is only by the
adoration of God, there will be happiness and advancement of this world. We are
foolishly engaged in watering the branches instead of the roots of this tree.
Forgetting the supreme entity, God, we engage ourselves in worshipping the five
elements and the lesser deities. If we water the roots of the tree, the whole tree
will blossom out and yield fruits. Similarly if we worship the Supreme Lord, all the
deities and all the elements will be propitiated.
yathaahi skandhashaakhaataaMtaromuuMlaavasecana.m | evamaaraa dhanaMvishNoH
sarveShaamaatmana shcahi || -- Bhagavata (Just as the trunk and the branches are fed
if the root of the tree is watered, so also all the souls (goods) are satisfied if Vishnu
is adored.) The worldly pleasures are the budding leaves of this tree of life and
Vedas are its bigger leaves. By their tenderness and different colours the budding
things of worldly pleasures tempt us but they are not sweet or wholesome. Those

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who want to reap the best fruits, if they abuse the budding twigs of sensuous
pleasures, would be deprived of sweet fruits later. The philosophy of the Vedas,
which are like the grown up leaves, alone can yield the highest fruits of life.
ChandaaMsi yasya parNaani ... ... ... | -- XV-1 (Whose leaves are the Vedic slokas.)
We cannot expect any fruits from a leafless, withered tree. How can we see the
immortal fruit of salvation in a barren life, bereft of the Vedic philosophy? We
should closely examine the variegated world which is a complex of the instruments
of pleasures and means of perfection. We are amazed by the extraordinary
vegetation of the other-worldly universe permeating the created and the uncreated
universe. It is not possible for us to see its beginning, middle and end or to gauge
its vastness. It is only when we critically analyse, we are able to get the knowledge
recognising the fundamental entities of matter, the soul and God involved in this
universe. When we thus go deep and analyse the world with the help of the sharp
knife of knowledge, we see the presence of the Almighty Lord pervading every
corner of even the minutest particle. Our intellect and knowledge have been
blunted by contact with worldly pleasure and we have lost the power of analysis
and discernment. With a mind free from attachment to worldly pleasures and with
true know ledge we should analyse all the objects of the universe mentally and get
at the Supreme Spirit which is hidden within. Just as butter lies hidden in milk, gold
in its ore, the Godhead permeates this visible universe in an unmanifest way. The
mind and the spirit find fulfilment only in searching for this Godhead secretly
permeating the universe. Where is the fullness of knowledge which does not see
God as the ground of the tree of the universe permeating every leaf and branch
and nourishing it? The skill and the insight that discovers gold in its ore can enable
us to search for God who is in the universe. We can have permanent relief from a
life of eternal struggle, trouble and mutability only if we have a vision of God who
abounds in auspicious qualities and is omnipotent. Only by reaching Him we would
be accomplishing the goal of our life’s pilgrimage.

85. mamaivaaMshojiivaloke—The Jiva is verily similar to Myself:

The essence of this Tree of the Universe is the Supreme Lord; and without Him, it
has no being and movement. His qualities and powers are unfathomed and infinite.
The whole cosmos is only a spark before His effulgence of infinite suns.
paado.asyavishvaa bhuutaani ... ... ... | -- Purusha Sukta (The universe of beings is but
an iota of His self.)
If His knowledge and qualities are an infinite ocean, the individual soul is just a
drop in it.
mamaivaaMsho jiivaloke jiivabhuutaH sanaatanaH | -- XV-7
(The jiva who indwells the bodies of persons is similar to My radiant Self.)
There is an infinite gulf of difference between Brahman and the world, between the
individual soul and the Lord. From the perspective of God’s infinitude, the
individual soul is but an infinitesimal. Before His perfection, the imperfection of the
individual soul and the world stand exposed. Some people are of the opinion that
the soul is but a part of God. How could a troubled individual soul, in the grip of
misery, ignorance and delusion be a part of Infinite God who transcends all matter?
If imperfect and mutable souls could be fragments of the Supreme Lord, it would

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mean bundling up His very perfection and immutability. We shall be denying the
very principle of the Supreme Indivisible Godhead if we accept a multiplicity of His
fragments and subject them to the tyranny of matter. Before the infinite mass of
the Almighty’s qualities, the individual soul is but a speck, and, in this sense, it is
described as a fragment of the Supreme God. When one says that one’s wealth is
but a fraction of a millionaire’s wealth, it does not mean that fraction of the
millionaire’s money itself has been transferred from his treasury into the other
man’s pocket. The word (Amsa) fraction is used only to suggest an idea of the
quantum of the wealth possessed by a person in relation to that of a millionaire. It
is in this sense that we must interpret the statement, that the jiva is a fragment of
the Supreme Lord. Such a soul caught in the grip of powerful nature must take
refuge, in order to be released from bondage, in the Supreme Lord who is the
summit of all power. Instead of running after worldly pleasures we must seek and
run after God alone. Even if God is always with us in all our actions, a perpetual
companion, an unfailing steersman, our unbaked mind has no capacity to see Him.
yatanto.apya kR^itaatmaano nainaM pashyantyacetasaH | -- XV-11 (The mindless and
impure of heart cannot see Him even if they try hard.) One whose heart has been
cultivated by karmayoga and bhaktiyoga alone has the great fortune to see God.
From a syrup only a scientist can crystallise and take out sugar. A layman cannot
do it. Even though God is always with us, our eyes do not discern Him.
paraaMci khaani vyatR^iNat svayaMbhuu-stasmaat paraa~N.hpashyati naantaraatman | --
Kathopanishad 4-1 (The Creator Brahma shaped the senses to be extrovertial;
therefore do they look outwards into the objects of sense and do not turn inwards
towards the soul.)
As all our sense organs are projecting outwards, our vision is outward-oriented.
Men have lagged behind in the practice of developing the inward-look. Only the
bold soul who can swim counter to the outward-flowing current of sense-organs
can succeed in accomplishing the inward vision. Thus we who have been dwelling
in this tree of life should thoroughly understand it and make efforts to know the
root which sustains the whole tree in order to achieve the consummation of our
life.

86. The Yoga of the Supreme Self—puruShottamayoga

Just as the universe is analysed into its three fundamental entities, the individual
soul, matter and the Supreme Soul for a clearer understanding of the mutual
relationship between God and the individual soul, another classification is made
towards the end of the fifteenth chapter. Among the animate beings there are
three categories, the Ksharapurushas, the Aksharapurusha and the
Purushottamma. All living creatures possessing material, perishable bodies, subject
to the cycle of birth and death, are Ksharapurushas. Lakshmi, the consort of
Vishnu, who is free from the cycle of birth and death, who has an imperishable
body made of pure energy, who is the presiding deity of all elemental nature, and
who is constantly cooperating with Her Lord in the affairs of the cosmic, is called
the Aksharapurusha. One who is superior to both these is Purushottama, the
Supreme God:
dvaavimau puruShau loke kSarashcaakSara eva ca |

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kSaraH sarvaaNi bhuutaani kuuTastho..akSara ucyate || -- XV-16
uttama puruShastvanyaH paramaatmetyudaahR^itaH | -- XV-17 Vishnu and His consort
Lakshmi (the Chitprakriti) are the father and the mother, and all living creatures in
the universe are their children.
satrailokyakuTuMbapaalanaparaH | -- Mangalashtaka
(He is engaged in looking after the family of the three worlds.) The whole cosmos is
the one vast family of the Supreme Lord. We are members of this family. One who
protects all of us is the Supreme Lord. All those who accept the overlordship of the
Supreme God are brothers and we should carry on our activities in this world in this
brotherly spirit. Some people think that Kshara and Akshara refer to non-living and
living entities in this universe. But when we consider the word ‘Purusha’, we clearly
feel that the categories belong to the living beings only. However, it is here made
clear that Sri Krishna the Supreme Lord is different from and far superior to both
the living and non-living entities in the cosmos.
uttama puruShastvanyaH ... ... ... | -- XV-17
ato.asmi loke vede ca prathitaH puruShottamaH || -- XV-18
(That is why I am reputed to be Purushottama both in the Smriti and the Shruti.)
The above slokas not only indicate that the Supreme Self is superior to all other
living creatures but also establish that the Supreme Self is none other than the
Lord Sri Krishna Himself. Some people argue that Sri Krishna is not the Supreme
Self, the Overlord of the living and the non-living. The Supreme Lord according to
them is without any qualities and Sri Krishna, who is full of qualities, cannot be the
Supreme Lord. They say that He is the creature of the Maya of the Brahman. But
the unambiguous statement in the Gita that Lord Sri Krishna is the Supreme Lord
of the Universe and there is none else equal to or superior to Him clearly proves
that such an argument is untenable. This part of the Gita which upholds the
supremacy of the Lord Sri Krishna is the quintessence of the whole Gita. This is the
favourite part of Sri Madhvacharya. Based on this alone Sri Madhvacharya has
propounded his philosophy of the supremacy of Sri Hari. This part of the Gita states
in unambiguous terms the relationship between the individual soul and the
Supreme Soul and the lordship of the Supreme Soul over both the living and non-
living entities in the universe. Even Sri Sankaracharya has accepted this portion as
the sum and substance of all the holy scriptures:
sarvohi giitaashaastraayoM.asminnadhyaaye sammsenoktaH | na kevalaM giitaa
shaastraartha eva kintu sarva shcavedaartha iha parisamaaptaH | (The whole science of
the Gita has been summed up in this chapter, not only the science of the Gita but
the whole meaning of the Vedas has been summed up conclusively here.)
As explained here, the whole universe is but the kingdom of God and Sri Hari is its
Supreme Lord; the one undisputed path lies in behaving like disciplined subjects of
His kingdom, without forgetting His supremacy.

[> 86. The Yoga of the Supreme Self—puruShottamayoga


[...]

> dvaavimau puruShau loke kSarashcaakSara eva ca |


> kSaraH sarvaaNi bhuutaani kuuTastho..akSara ucyate || -- XV-16
>

Gita Saroddhara Page 117 of 140


> uttama puruShastvanyaH paramaatmetyudaahR^itaH | -- XV-17
> Vishnu and His consort Lakshmi (the Chitprakriti) are the father and the
> mother, and all living creatures in the universe are their children.

One interesting thing to observe is that Srimad Acharya never seems to quote the
‘dvAvimau purushhau’ verse by itself, or with the next one(s) partially as has been
done here. For him, it is always the group of five verses BG XV-16 through 20,
quoted as a set (see the VTVN, the MBTN, the MK, several Upanishad
commentaries, etc.).
Sri Jayatiirtha’s commentary on these five verses in the VTVN-TIkA is
available in the archive at
http://www.dvaita.org/list/list_07/msg00122.html
Regards,
Shrisha Rao]

87. Divine and Diabolic Tendencies:


In the sixteenth chapter there is a description of the divine daivii and diabolic
aasurii tendencies. Qualities which uplift man such as truth, non-violence,
renunciation, austerity, charity and compassion, are called divine tendencies.
Qualities utterly contrary to these and which lead to one’s downfall are diabolic
tendencies. Some of these are hypocrisy, arrogance, conceit and ignorance. The
effects of these diabolic tendencies on society have been described in detail in the
sixteenth chapter. Only when we become aware of the tragic consequences of such
diabolic tendencies upon society, will our mind naturally turn towards the divine
tendencies. Unless we suffer from darkness we cannot appreciate the efficacy of
light. This is why the Gita has harrowingly painted the deadly consequences of
diabolic tendencies in this chapter. The description in the Gita of the diabolic
tendencies brings to our mind the present-day society itself. If denying the reality
of the world and turning their faces from duty to the society is a kind of dark
tendency, the denial of the existence of the Almighty God Himself and leading an
undisciplined and wanton life throwing all ethics to the winds is another sort:
asatyamapratiShThaM te jagadaahuraniishvaram.h | XVI-8
(They say that the world is unreal and baseless and is without the Lord.) If the
sense of the unreality of the world leads them to inactivity, the denial of God gives
them an open access to an immoral and undisciplined life. The philosophies
denying the reality of the world which stares us in the face and denying the
existence of God who is the Lord of this universe, have caused confusion and led to
people shirking their duty and living a wanton life. The one who says that the world
is unreal will lose the very enthusiastic eagerness to relieve the misery of a
troubled people or the pains of an afflicted man. To him the world is made of a stuff
of dreams. If we place the real world on par with the dream world all our individual
and social responsibilities scatter away. Denying the existence of Almighty God
who is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient is still more detrimental. If some
people accept the reality of the world and deny only the existence of God, others
dismiss the world as imaginary and the Lord of the world as but a creature of the
Maya.

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88. The Evil of Atheism:

Just as the planets


The atheistic philosophy cuts at the very root of the progress of the world.
revolve round the sun, all good qualities in man revolve round the central idea of
his faith in God. If you deny God and super-sensory (atiiNdriya) entities like
righteousness (dharma) then you would not attach any importance to the world-
sustaining qualities like truth, compassion and non-violence. Why should we speak
the truth alone? Why should we not cheat and deceive people if it is going to give
us wealth and happiness? Is not the sense of sacrifice, which scorns one's own
comfort for the good of others, an utter madness? How would a mere materialist
answer these questions? For him man is a mere machine like a radio, for example.
The materialist does not show any concern for others grief, affliction and
oppression. He is not bothered by fear or suspicion regarding the dangerous
consequences of his evil deeds in the future life. If he can get something in this life
by deceiving others, why should he hesitate to do it? Thus, to gain some selfish
ends the materialist would get ready to commit any heinous crime. Only the sense
of righteousness and the sense of God could give rise to a better way of life by
warning him of the far-reaching consequences of his evil deeds. Such a sense
alone can control the licentiousness of man and keep him from stepping into the
abyss of destruction. The man who forsakes the sense of God and tries to sustain
himself with the mere materialism of science is like a vehicle without a brake, or a
horse without a rein. if we can enjoy to our fill by misdeeds and dishonesty, why
should we not enjoy our short life in such happiness? Why should we fall a prey to
sentiments like charity, goodness to others, non-violence and deny ourselves
moments of happiness? Atheism brings in only such arguments to enmesh men
and lead them into a path of utter wickedness. Only because godliness and a sense
of righteousness are firmly rooted in the mind of man do we see at least the dim
twinkling of honesty and virtue in the otherwise dark atmosphere of deceit and
insincerity. Whether they believe in God or not, all believe in goodness, morality
and character at least. They have realised that it is necessary to cultivate them in
our daily life. Even when he commits a crime, almost everyone is conscious that he
is committing a sin and he feels a sense of guilt in himself. There are very few who
so not hear the inner voice that the wrong he is committing is improper.
Even when one ignores this voice of conscience due to momentary passion and
commits the crime, the sense of having been improper will always haunt him.
>From this we can understand how deep-rooted spirituality and culture are in the
collective conscience of the people. The atheist and the undaunted materialist can
trample on this culture of the conscience. He would not budge to root out and
throw away such fine feelings as blind superstitions when they impede his life of
pleasure. From his materialistic point of view there is no basis for such moral
principles. He may call them as mere prejudices formed out of a frenzy of faith and
throw all these moral principles overboard by what he calls his independent critical
outlook. The consequences of such an attitude are obvious. It is horrifying even to
conceive of a world from which spirituality and moral principles have faded away
completely. Shri Madhvacharya has stated in his Vishnu Tatwa Nirnaya that in such
an event the world would be turned into a hotbed of strife, insecurity and
disorganisation.

etaaM dR^iShTimavaShTabhya naShTaatmaano.alpabuddhayaH |

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prabhavantyugrakarmaaNaH kShayaaya jagato.ahitaaH || -- XVI-9
(Taking recourse to false knowledge the inimical, lost and narrow souls are born,
full of cruel deeds, for the destruction of the world.) The selfish atheists will lead
the world to destruction by their horrid deeds.

kaamopabhoga paramaa etaavaditi nishcitaH || -- XVI-11


(Those who set the highest value on the enjoyment of sensual pleasures, who are
sure that this fruit alone is real ....) The people with the diabolic tendencies
steeped in worldly activities, indulge in the enjoyment of worldly pleasures as the
supreme goal of life. Nowadays this has become the individual and national ideal
for many people. There is a fierce competition among people in earning money and
possessing the means of luxury. A man's fulfilment and success in life is measured
by the money he has earned, by the number of mansions he has erected, and by
the number of luxury articles he has been enjoying. The culture and civilisation of
the nation is measured by the number of luxury goods one is consuming and not
by gentleness and goodness. We have been despising a society which has no
exhibitionism and fashion parades, as backward. Thus, today we have a desire and
appetite-oriented civilisation. What can be the outcome of this Godlessness and
worship of the Mammon?

ihante kaama bhogaarthamanyaayenaarthasa~ncayaan.h | -- XVI-12


(For the sake of their pleasures they desire to amass money in unjust ways.) To
lead a luxurious life people will take recourse to the attitude of earning money by
crooked means. We see the macabre dance of this attitude in the various forms in
our society: corruption, blackmarketing, adulteration, tax-evasion, misappropriation
and misuse of public money. Sometimes we feel that the Gita has depicted in this
section the prevailing situation in our country itself as it were.

idamastiidamapi me bhaviShyati punardhanam.h || -- XVI-13

aaDhyo.abhijanavaanasmi ko.anyo.asti sadR^isho mayaa | -- XVI-15


( "I have this property; this money will again be mine I am rich, born in a high
family; who is there equal to me?" "I have earned so much money today. Tomorrow
I shall earn more." "I am powerful, I can do anything I like." ) We see all around us a
veritable sway of greed and vanity. The only way to escape from the evil
consequences of the diabolic forces is by developing the divine tendencies. If the
sense of God becomes deep-rooted in a society, people will naturally follow the
path of righteousness and obligations laid down by God for the welfare of the
whole world and the individual as well. There will be scope for crime to diminish.
Devotion to God and faith in God's justice which punishes the wicked and upholds
the righteous will deter us from stooping to any sinful activity. God who is
Providence will certainly punish us squarely for our misdeeds. The awareness that
there is a Superior Power which can look into our deeds will guard us from sin and
unjust works.

89. The Need for Faith in God:

Is there no law and order in countries which are irreligious and atheistic? They have
not lagged behind in the organisation of their countries as compared with those
who believe in God. Hence for a good social order a belief in God is not

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indispensable, some may argue. True, in the matter of law and order, much
difference may not be found between countries which are theistic and those which
are not. The whole mankind is under the influence of ancient culture which says
that we must cultivate honesty and goodness in our lives. Nobody seems to have
freely inquired into the origin of this culture, or why we should stick to moral
principles. If we go empirically or by mere logic, these customs or culture suffer by
mutilation or dissection. Even if several countries are able to maintain law and
order they cannot last long in the absence of faith in God. By the atrocities of a
vicious logic the culture may go to bits leading to a collapse of the social system.
The order which is not based on faith in God is impermanent and we should not be
under the impression that it is firmly rooted. It may crumble like a house of sand
any time. That is why the Gita declares that faith in God alone should be the
foundation of our life. There is another theme which crops up: It cannot be said
that if we have faith and devotion in God everything will run smoothly. There are
many religious persons who are engaged in misdeeds. We see many, for all the
name of God in their mouth, who are steeped in evil practices. There are not a few
examples of people who spend considerable time in prayers and worship of God,
but deceive and amass wealth by dishonest means. When that is the case how can
we accept that theism contributes to social betterment?
This complaint is genuine. But it is not proper to question the necessity of religion
from the instances of the hypocrites. These mockeries have happened only
because of lack of true faith. A true devotee will never stoop to contemptible
deeds. We cannot judge one’s devotion and righteousness by his external actions.
From chanting of hymns and counting of beads we cannot gauge the depth of his
interior devotion. It has really become difficult to distinguish and identify the
genuine servants of religion when they are found in a world teeming with the fake
ones who are trying to cloak their sins with the garb of religion. In some societies
people cry loudly when somebody dies. Since it has become a custom they hire
mourners for crying, feeding them fully. The crying does not come from the heart.
Some people practise religion in the same way. Like hired mourning or forced
smile, it is but a mockery of religion. We should not deem this to be genuine
religion. One whose life is permeated by a religious sense, like warp and woof, is
pure and virtuous. Even when we believe in the existence of God, we see the
wantonness of atheism in our life because faith has not taken deep roots in our
inmost selves. If the genuine spirit of devotion spreads among people there will be
undoubtedly a revolutionary change in the behaviour-pattern of the people. The
little devotion that exists in our mind has been greatly helpful in curbing the
vehemence of the diabolic tendency in our mind by a sense of ethical values.
If one develops this spirit of devotion and enriches it with sincerity and firmness,
people will see only its good fruits. The Lord depicts the sorry state of those who
defy God and disrupt the social organisation.
aasuriiM yonimaapannaa muuDho janmani janmani | maamapraapyaiva kaunteya tato
yaantyadhamaaM gatim.h || -- XVI-20 (The deluded, who are born diabolically, life
after life, go down into darkness, without finding Me.)
The crime takes them further away from God along the slippery road leading to
destruction where they lose completely the very possibilities of attaining God. They
hurl their souls away into abysmal darkness. Just as the diabolic-minded get to the
farthest bottom of darkness by incurring the displeasure of God, those who have

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cultivated the divine qualities in themselves rise higher and higher on the spiritual
ladder and finally get infinite bliss of salvation in the glorious home of God. Thus
the difference of paths and goals attained by the good souls and the bad, and the
law of punishment for misdeeds and the law of assurance and reward of grace for
good deeds in the bar of God’s unshakeable justice, have put a check on man’s
materialistic tendencies and desires, and by devising ways which are conducive to
the progress and movement of the world, have chalked out a programme and plan
of life which is well controlled and well organised.

90. Therefore let Scriptures be your Guide:

How are we to get this spiritual outlook which is to change the very direction of our
life? How are we to understand things such as God, righteousness and sin which
are beyond the grasp of direct sense experience? Even if we may realise the
existence of God, to some extent through the exercise of logic, we cannot know
him deeply through direct sense experience. God’s form, qualities, potency and His
ways of creation and design are inscrutable and we cannot know them through
logic. Which are the good deeds and which are the bad ones? What is the
difference between these? Which deeds are responsible for one’s downfall? Such
subjects cannot be determined by logic. If we enter the deep wilderness of logic,
there is a greater possibility of our losing the way in the confusion of logic and
counter-logic. It is not difficult to turn every subject upside down by the power of
logic. A seeker who treads only the path of logic becomes a greater prey to
scepticism and cynicism. Then, how can we know the spiritual principles? How to
discriminate our obligation to do things from those which we should not? These
questions remain to be answered. Lord Krishna shows a way out.
tasmaacChaastraM pramaaNaMtekaaryaakaaryavyavasthitau | -- XVI-24 (Therefore the
scriptures should be your guide to determine the course of what you should and
should not do.)
The scriptures are the only infallible means of knowing supersensuous things. The
senses cannot grasp everything. Their power is limited. They can grasp only
certain kinds of forms and objects. The ear grasps sound which the eye cannot
grasp. Thus all the senses have a limited capacity to grasp, those too of a certain
sort. From this, it would be ridiculous to say in this vast creation, that there do not
exist things which the senses cannot grasp. When the scientists are unearthing
more and more mysteries of Nature every day they expose the worthlessness of
the theory which holds that there are no objects which the senses cannot perceive.
If we say that whatever we have perceived with our senses alone is real, we should
realise that we have known very little in this vast creation. We can infer the
existence of a supersensuous world from the words of self-realised saints who have
attained the mystery-piercing divine eye through meditation, yoga and penance.
By powerful microscopes and telescopes the scientists see objects which are not
normally visible to our naked eye and we believe in their existence from the words
of the scientists. Similarly, the sages by their devotion and constant practice have
acquired powers to see these supersensuous entities invisible to us. Do we deny
what the scientist has found out by his deep researches and sensitive instruments,
since we do not see them with our own eyes? If we want to contradict the scientist
we can do it only by conducting more accurate experiments with more powerful

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instruments and not by sitting idle and merely charging him with untruth since we
do not see the things. Our ancient saints by rigorous yogic practice and deep
concentration of mind have discovered this supersensuous world; unless we
acquire such yogic powers and concentration of mind, is there any sense on the
basis of our gross observations, in denying what they have said? When we are sick
we go to a doctor and take medicines prescribed by him without getting into any
argument with him. Our actual experience and logic have no business there. If we
ignore the doctor’s advice we shall be in for more trouble. Similarly, in matters like
righteousness we have to follow the advice of ancient sages who have realised
these things by virtue of their supersensuous powers. If we resort to mere logic in
these matters, we have nothing but confusion, waste of time and noise. By
reasoning we may achieve some idea of the supersensuous matters but the
clearest realisation of those things is beyond the reach of sense-perfection and
logic. How can we determine our way of life without the know ledge of the deeper
and hidden principles of the creation and on the basis of our imperfect
understanding? For that we must take refuge in the scriptures alone.
When we say so it does not mean that we should dispense with logic altogether.
Reasoning has an extraordinary place in our philosophy. Our Vedanta is but a
perfectly logical exposition.
yastarkeNaanusandhattesadhamaM vedanetaraH |
(Only he who understands logically knows dharma and none else.) The preceptors
have opined that the one who does not use his logical intellect can never
understand dharma fully. But if he depends only on logic for decisive
understanding of a thing the seeker is more confused than possessed of definite
knowledge. Logic can never be the great vehicle which takes us on the pilgrimage
of knowledge; it is just an instrument useful for a better running of the vehicle.
Scriptures alone are the great vehicle for the pilgrimage and logic is just a helping
factor. Even if logical intellect has a definite role in our decision-making, there is a
limit to its scope. We let the child play within the four walls of our compound and
we do not let it go out into the streets. Our main intention is that the child should
not come to harm. We can give logic a free rein within the framework of
pratyakSha (sense perception) and the scriptures. But if we allow it to move
beyond these limits, there is a possibility of more harm than good. That is why we
should not use logic unrestrainedly in the realm of supersensuous knowledge. The
train will run safely and reach its destination only if its wheels are on the rails. If
there is any derailment it is doomed for accident. Similarly, for the train of logic the
sensible world and the scriptures are the two rails. The train should go on its high
journey without outstripping the rails and reach the destination, There is a story
that in Panchavati when Lakshmana went out in search of his brother Rama, he
drew a line and warned Sita not to overstep it. As ill-luck would have it, in the
excitement of giving alms to Ravana in the disguise of a sadhu, she overstepped
this line and Ravana was able to snatch her away. If our reasoning is confined to its
limits of perception and scriptures there is no harm. Then there is a great scope for
a healthy developing of philosophy. That is why tarko.apratiShThaH (logic has no
basis) and kaamaacyaanaanamaanaapekSha (logic should not be used as
pleasure). Such statements have been vividly made to convince us that we cannot
decide any question by logic alone. Questions which are beyond the pale of
perception and logic should be decided with the help of scriptures only. If we ignore

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the scriptures and take to our own independent decision, we would only be landing
into trouble. The life that is guided by the scriptures saves us from wantonness. We
can get the message of spiritual richness only through the scriptures is the
substance of this section of the Gita. The Vedas, Upanishads and other holy works
based on these constitute the scriptures. The Vedas are perennial and authorless.
If they had been composed by an author, there would have been a possibility of
their being tainted by limitations and defects of his intellect. Since the Vedas are
not written by any author, utterly untainted by any human defects or weaknesses
and are imperishable, we should shape our lives on the basis of their perennial
message. These Vedas alone can give us the true knowledge of God and other
supersensuous entities of this world. I am not going to dilate on the subject of the
authorlessness of the Vedas because it is a vast subject by itself. However, the
Vedas and the Upanishads are our scriptures and to this category may be added
the other works which are in consonance with the Vedas. These scriptures not only
reveal to us the true goal of life but also, like the lodestone, help us in our march
towards this goal.

91. Righteousness and the day-to-day affairs:

The influence of the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas in our day-to-day
dealings has been described in the Seventeenth Chapter of the Gita. There is a
difference in our behaviour depending upon the inherent quality of our soul.

sattvaanurupaa sarvasya shraddhaa bhavati bhaarata | -- XVII-3


(Each one's faith depends on his intrinsic substance.)
The individuality of the soul is the source of our external attitudes, behaviour and
beliefs. All our dealings are vitiated by our rajas and tamas impulses. The three
qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas can impinge on both our spiritual and temporal
activities. Worldly affairs permeated by spirituality become righteous acts. Even
righteous acts, if polluted by rajas and tamas impulses, become unrighteous.
The dealings of Tuladhara and Dharmavyadha are holy whereas even the
austerities of Ravana and Jarasandha are unrighteous acts.
dharmobhavatya dharmo.api kR^ito bhaktai stavaacyuta |
paapaM bhavati dharmo.apiyonabhaktai kR^itohareH | -- Sadacharasmriti
(Even the unrighteous acts performed by your devotees become righteous acts, Oh
Achyuta. The righteous acts performed by those who are not Hari's devotees
become sinful.) If the sort of business done by persons like Tuladhara is dharma on
the one hand, the greedy trading of today's merchants is adharma on the other.
The food that we eat and acts we do like almsgiving, penance and sacrifice vary
according to the three forces of sattva, rajas and tamas. Man shares the instincts
of hunger, sleep and lust with the beast. He cannot give them up also. To be good
and honest there is no need to abandon them. The beasts are not bound by any
moral restrictions in the matter of their food and sleep. When the affairs are
combined with discipline and restraint, we start living religiously. Dharma does not
imply abandoning the daily affairs. We grow human when we bring spirituality and
ethics to them. Scientists like Darwin hold the view that the animals evolve into
human beings; but today, we see the reverse process of man descending to the

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level and playing monkey-tricks all around us in the world.

92. Food:
We should not drink liquor and eat meat. We should restrict our diet to a few items
which are tasty, whole some and nutritious both to the body and mind. We should
have the food at certain regulated hours. Food should first be offered to God and
when we eat it after God's prasad, it becomes a sattvik meal. Even our sleep and
our carnal activities become pure if practised in moderation and in self-discipline.
The food that we take is turned into our heart and intellect:

annamashitaM tredhaa bhavati |


The food that we eat is divided into three categories of substances. It is stated in
the Chandogya Upanishad that a subtle portion of our food gets transformed into
our mind. The mind's cultivation or perversion depends upon the kind of food we
take. Some ask why we should not eat non-vegetarian food which is quite
nutritious. Such food may, of course, puff up the body, but the soul and the heart
shrink up completely. As the body grows under such food, cruelty, wantonness and
licentiousness develop equally rapidly in our mind. Pure food makes for a pure
mind. Earning livelihood in a righteous way and eating pure and wholesome food
after offering it to God is the mode of the sattvik eating. By this the mind and the
body get purified. The effect of food upon our body is beautifully illustrated in a
nice story from Mahabharata. After the Bharata war, Bhishma lay on his bed of
arrows and preached long sermons on righteousness to Dharmaraja for consoling
him. Hearing this Draupadi asks Bhishma a question: "You give such long sermons
on righteousness now. Why did you sit quiet when Duryodhana and Dushyasana
attempted an outrage on my modesty? Why didn't you oppose them then? Where
was your conscience then?" To this Bhishma replies: "0 Draupadi, then I was eating
the food given by Duryodhana. The sinful food fattened the body and gave no
room for a sense of righteousness. The voice of conscience was completely
drowned by vanity and inertia arising out of eating impure food. But in the war due
to the piercing arrows of Arjuna, all my blood has flown out. The blood my body
produced out of Duryodhana's food has drained out and I just have my skeleton
which is pure. The body thus does not have any of the perversions worked by bad
food. Since my native sense of righteousness has awakened now, I have been able
to give such an extensive message." Hence, in our Hindu culture, great importance
is given to the type of food to be eaten. Foreigners are surprised at seeing us
Indians sticking to vegetarian food for generations together. Our centuries old food
habits have become a part of our culture. This is indeed a miracle. If sacrifice,
giving of alms and austerity are performed out of bad intentions, desire for reward,
showiness, contemptible egoism, there is sure likelihood of harm to the world. The
religious works motivated by rajas and tamas are reckoned unrighteous only. We
see increasingly such ugly distortion of righteousness in our modern society.

93. Alms giving:

Alms giving is the greatest gift given by God to mankind. There is a story in the
Upanishad: Gods, demons and men were given the lesson of 'da'. While the gods,

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stricken with haughtiness got the lesson of mada or self-control from this, the
violent demons hardened with cruelty took the lesson of dayaa or compassion;
men, smitten with greed took the lesson of daana or alms giving from the advice.
We should learn the habit of sacrificing whatever we have for the uplift of our
society as a service to God and try to become ideal men. In the sphere of alms
giving also there could be the influence of the three qualities of sattva, rajas and
tamas. Alms given with a hope of return or with a small mind lose their sanctity;
when we give under pressure with much difficulty also, the giving is debased. The
vicious aid given by the advanced countries to establish their power and obligation
to the developing countries is quite notorious now. One also very well knows the
method of extracting money from rich people by the use of position and power.
Thus do we see the travesty of charity all around us these days. We see
everywhere the unholy spectacle of such charity. Aid given out of pure human
compassion, selflessness and without any hope of return or reward is the highest
one; it has been a rare commodity these days.

There is a story in the Mahabharata regarding the Emperor Shibi. Once, the sage
Narada was discussing a philosophic question with kings like Shibi, Vasumanta,
Pratardana and Ashtaka and the problem arose as to who out of the five would be
forced to return to the earth half way in their journey to heaven. Narada said that
Ashtaka would return first. "Ashtaka has no doubt acquired a lot of merit and fame
by alms giving. Once on a walk I saw hundreds of cows grazing and I asked him to
whom all those belonged. He replied proudly that those were cows given away by
him to the Brahmins. Since his alms giving is tainted with vanity and pride, he
would be the first to come down." The next to descend according to Narada was
Pratardana. "Once Pratardana was riding on his chariot and a Brahmin begged for
alms. The king said that he would give later but the Brahmin insisted on immediate
fulfilment. The king gave him one of the horses of the chariot. Thus, part by part,
he stripped his chariot and gave away to Brahmins and sadhus so much so that
there was nothing left of the chariot. He then said tauntingly of the sadhus that
there was nothing left with him for the sadhus to ask. Even if the king gave away
everything generously, since he uttered these mocking words regarding the
sadhus, he would return to earth." Narada further remarked that the next person to
return was Vasumanta: "Once the king got made a beautiful chariot and during its
inauguration a Brahmin praised it and the king gave it to him generously. Then he
got another chariot made and a Brahmin praised it and the king gave it away to
him. This repeated itself the third time also, and the king spoke tauntingly of the
Brahmin and because of this he would return." Of the remaining two, Narada said
that he himself would return first and Emperor Shibi would not: "Before the pure-
hearted giving of Shibi, everyone else is small-minded. The Emperor Shibi gave
protection to the dove that sought his refuge and he surrendered his life itself for
saving the bird. Before such a king who was utterly free from selfishness and
attachment and was the very embodiment of humility and sacrifice, I accept my
defeat. It is impossible to detect any spots in his absolute purity." Thus Narada
fullthroatedly praised the true spirit of renunciation of King Shibi. There may be
many who give alms and aid in this world. But it is very difficult to find a generosity
which is not tainted with vanity, mockery, or even deceit and is full of humility and
holiness.

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94. Austerity:

Aspirants attach great importance to austerity also. We cannot reach our highest
bliss by mere worship of the body. If we worship the sugarcane we do not get its
juice. Only when we crash it and squeeze it do we get the juice. Similarly we do not
get the nectar of life by an elaborate worship of the body. Only when we practise
austerity both in body and mind can we see knowledge and happiness sweetly
flowing through our lives. We must purify our thought, word and deed with the
practice of austerity. Our words must always be sweet, gentle and truthful and not
causing annoyance to anybody.
smita puurvaabhi bhaaShiica |
Thus are the traits of Sri Ramachandra described in the Ramayana. Sri Rama
always used to capture the hearts of his people by his smiles and soft-spoken
words. The words must be filled with beauty and courtesy. Harsh and cruel words
must not be used. This is the austerity of speech. Study and discussion of
scriptures are also described likewise. While good conduct, control of the senses,
non-violence, the service of elders are described as the austerities of the body,
self-control and purity of heart and mind are austerities of the mind. Even here, if
these are tainted in the least by vanity and pride, they lose their purity and
sanctity.

95. Knowledge:

Thus all our physical and mental activities can be classified into the three
categories: sattvik, rajas and tamas depending upon the state of our mind and its
tendencies. By a habit of such a classification we develop the power of
discrimination which weighs good and evil things not by their physical dimensions
but by their interior purity. We may perform noble deeds but they may be tainted
due to our many shortcomings and the Gita helps us understand this phenomenon
by means of this exposition.
Our knowledge becomes pure only when it can understand and comprehend the
fundamental principles on which the universe is based. That knowledge is sattvik
or pure when we are able to see the permeation of the Supreme God in every
object in this universe.
sarvabhuuteShu yenaikaM bhaavamavyayamiikShate |
avibhaktaM vibhakteShu tajj~naanaM viddhi saattvikam.h || -- XVIII-20
(That knowledge is sattvik which perceives the one imperishable form in all beings,
the undivided among the fragmented.)
Some people have argued in explaining this stanza that non-dualistic knowledge
alone is sattvik knowledge and the dualistic knowledge comes under the category
of rajas and tamas. The statement, avibhaktaM vibhakteShu does not lead to
confusion, if we closely examine it.
There are many objects in this universe and one is different from the other. There
is a lot of mutual difference between living and non-living objects in the universe.
But God alone is the one Person who harmonises all these disparate things. The
indwelling God is not fragmented, variegated by the difference and modification of

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things. He is not subject to any modification. The souls in different bodies may be
different from each other but we cannot divide the Godhead which dwells
controlling each on the basis of the division of objects. It is unbroken, all-pervading
and one without a second. Such a knowledge is called sattvik knowledge. The
multiplicity of objects has been described clearly by the term “Vibhakteshu” and
the knowledge of the avibhakta undivided form of the Godhead has been called
sattvik.
The knowledge which grasps the difference and variety of things but is indifferent
to and confused about the Godhead which is immanent in all these objects is called
‘rajasik’ knowledge. There is a tremendous increase in the rajasik knowledge with
the advance of science. Even if the sense of truth is growing with research and an
intense study of all things in the universe is going at a fast pace, importance is
being given to the knowledge of material things only neglecting the prime truth
that is God. This is a manifestation of the ‘rajasik’ tendency.
Then there are those who accept only the product that is the visible universe but
deny its cause, God. Such atheistic knowledge belongs to the ‘tamasa’ category.
yattu kR^itsnavadekasmin.h kaarye saktamahaitukam.h | -- XVIII-22
(Those who mistake a part for the whole are engrossed in the effect neglecting the
cause; or those who see Brahman (kR^itaja) as it were the individual soul or the
world, go contrary to reason.) They mistake a part of the universe for the whole
and deny the rest. Such partial knowledge which leads us astray is called tamasik.
Accepting the existence of souls alone and denying the existence of God as
different from those, accepting only the visible universe as true and denying the
existence of its Creator, accepting only the existence of God and declaring the
visible universe as illusory, mistaking a part for the whole, all such are but different
forms of tamasik knowledge.

96. Happiness:

There are many categories of happiness also. They depend upon the means we
employ to get that happiness. The enjoyment of worldly pleasures gives
momentary happiness as, for example, the pleasure we feel when scratching an
ulcer, but it leads to misery in the end. Such worldly pleasures are classed as
‘rajasik’ pleasures. There is a perverted pleasure which throws our soul into
oblivion, as in nefarious activities like murder, loot and rape. All these belong to
the ‘tamasa’ category. The sattvik happiness is that which perhaps begins in
difficulty but ends in permanent bliss and unfailing cheerfulness. This can be
obtained only by the knowledge of God, contemplation and His grace. People give
up this true joy and instead, mistaking the artificial sensuous pleasures to be more
permanent, get anxious about them. Ashwathama, born of poor parents, had never
tasted genuine milk in his lifetime. He asked his mother for milk. Being poor she
could not procure cow’s milk and she had no desire either to disappoint her son.
She therefore mixed flour in water and gave it to her son as milk. The boy jumped
in joy that he too had tasted milk. Such is the state of most of us. We do not know
the natural happiness inherent in our own soul but hanker after the alluring and
adulterated happiness from worldly pleasures.
There is a beautiful story in the Mahabharata to illustrate the folly of the people

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who consider worldly pleasures as the supreme happiness and the summum-
bonum of life. A man who was walking in a dense forest suddenly found a tiger
charging on him. He ran for his life but fell into a dry well, head downwards. The
well was full of shrubs and so he was caught midway by these shrubs and was kept
suspended head downwards. Down below there was the deep yawning well. Up
above, the tiger was waiting for him. A serpent was also climbing up to bite him.
The shrubs were slowly giving way under his weight. While he was dropping he had
disturbed a beehive and the bees swarmed stinging him all around. In the midst of
all those, when a few drops of honey started dripping into his mouth, he greedily
began licking it, enjoying it foolishly oblivious of the host of dangers. Such is our
state in this world and we are equally foolish Old age and death are waiting for us
like the tiger and the serpent in the story; the thread of life is growing thinner and
thinner every minute and family troubles are stinging us all around like the bees.
Still, we are manifesting the folly of licking the few drops of honey of worldly
pleasures, quite oblivious of dangers awaiting us. Eschewing the glamour of the
rajasik and tamasik pleasures we should concentrate on the highest type of bliss
which can be obtained only by the contemplation and vision of God.

97. Sacrifice and Renunciation:

The more we examine critically our actions in the light of these three tendencies,
the more shall we able to penetrate into the soul of our actions, and subject it also
to critical examination.
na tadasti pR^ithivyaaM vaa divi deveShu vaa punaH | -- XVIII-4O
(There is nothing either on the earth or the heaven, or again among the gods,
(which is not touched by them)
Everyone in the universe is subject to the influence of these three qualities. We
carry on our activities in this world utterly unaware of what distorted forms they
take under these three tendencies. When we see the perversions worked by rajas
and tamas even in our religious practices, we may feel like dispensing with them in
utter disgust. However much care we may take, owing to the influence of the
gunas: taints creep into our acts. There is a possibility of our feeling that it is better
to avoid completely the performance of actions than do these with blemishes.
tyaajyaM doShavadityeke karma praahurmaniiShiNaH | -- XVIII-3
(Some thinkers say that actions should be shunned as they lead to bondage while
others think that sacrifice, alms and austerities should not be shunned.)
While some people say that we should not perform actions as they are tainted,
there are others who say that for one’s own spiritual upliftment duties like
sacrifice, almsgiving and austerity should not be given up.
Which should we choose is the question before us:
na hi dehabhR^itaa shakyaM tyaktuM karmaaNyasheShataH | -- XVIII-11
(It is not at all possible for mortals to give up actions altogether.) Is it possible for
mortals to give up duties entirely? None can give up actions like eating etc. The
desire to give up action since it is tainted ends up only in giving up acts like bath,
sandhya, worship of God and social services. As for the activities useful for our
routine life, it is impossible to give them up even if we have a mind to. The easiest

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things to be abandoned are the holy activities which conduce to the upliftment of
the soul. what sense is there in performing all the activities of feeding the senses
and forsaking only the religious practices? Our mind thus vacillates between the
renunciation of action and performance of action. The Gita has a simple solution to
this problem. It has reconciled the conflicting positions. Renunciation of action
means performing it in a way untouched by blemish, that is giving up attachment
and desire for reward. If average people perform actions with an eye on both
action and the fruit of action, concentrating on action alone and abandoning the
thought of reward leads to the reconciliation of renunciation of action with
performance of actions. If we bring in an attitude of detachment or renunciation in
the performance of actions, we do not become victims of any taint or bondage.
We are to analyse the difference between non-attachment (tyaaga) and
renunciation (sanyaasa). If you perform action and expect results not for your sake
but for the sake of others there is the spirit of non-attachment or sacrifice. If you
perform action and expect results neither for yourself nor for others and if you
perform action only for acquiring true knowledge, devotion and grace of God there
is the spirit of sanyaasa or renunciation. But in both cases performance of action is
indispensable. Even if there is greatness in the sense of non-attachment in a
karmayogi who performs actions out of sheer compassion and freedom from selfish
fulfilment, there is a sublimer worth in the attitude of the sanyasi who desires the
spiritual upliftment of others as ardently as for his own self. The actions of both of
these transcend the taints of action. In the divinely delicious food of action cooked
by means of sacrifice and devotion, there is no bitter or bad smell found in the
stinking actions performed with attachment and desire. Such an action is called by
the Gita, a ‘sattvik’ action.

98 The Difference between Desireless and Desire-prompted Action:

Desire-prompted action is like the service rendered to the child by a hired nurse.
What a difference is there between the nursing done by the hired women and the
tender care taken by the mother out of a pure, disinterested affection for the child!
Outwardly, the service done by the two might appear similar, but at the heart of
these there is a difference. The sweetmeat-seller prepares a large number of
sweets; but those from the shop do not have the worth and purity of the things
that the mother prepares out of love at home. The shopkeeper prepares them with
the desire of return; his intention is to make maximum money. What a holiness is
there in the intention of the mother! There is no selfishness in it; hers is desireless
service. Action performed desirelessly is perfect and is more beneficial to the
society. Everybody agrees that home food is cleaner, healthier and more
nourishing than the hotel food. If we perform action with a selfish motive, we shall
be more anxious about the result than the action itself. Hence there will be more
short comings in our action, which is detrimental to the society. If any one performs
action desirelessly his attention is on the action alone. He performs the action with
devotion and sincerity and it becomes perfect. Such a perfect action alone is
efficacious to the world. By proposing this method of performing the sattvik deeds,
the Gita has reconciled neatly the two opposing ideas of action and inaction.
All people cannot perform sattvik action in the form of desireless action. The one
who has given up attachment and egoism alone can perform such actions.

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Attachment and egoism crop up when a person proudly assumes that he himself is
the doer. God alone is independent and He alone is the real doer. We usurp His
doership and behave proudly. Even while we talk about dualism and devotion to
God, all our actions smack of Advaita. Forgetting God and thinking that we are the
independent doers is itself a form of Advaita sense. Appropriating to ourselves
falsely the stance of independence and power possessed by God itself is a variety
of non-dualism. Under this false sense of independence, we get an attachment to
our body and things connected with it and we start performing actions vitiated by
selfish desires. We forget God’s omnipotence and overlordship of the whole
universe and divide the world into small working kingdoms in the name of
independence and fight with each other. This very notion of independence which is
responsible for so much fiction and clash in the world should be uprooted from the
mind of man: tatraivaM sati kartaaramaatmaanaM kevalaM tu yaH | -- XVIII-16
(One who thinks that he is the only doer, even if there are several causes for an
action, does not see the truth as his mind, unpurified by the shastras, is tainted.)
There are many causes for any particular effect. Nature, the individual soul and the
Supreme Soul, all join together to produce an ‘effect’. We always function with the
aid of several factors which are not under our control. Without realising this we
start acting proudly presuming that we are the sole agents, that there is no need of
cooperation from any other object beyond our control, that we are masters of our
body etc. But if we realise the part played by other living and non living entities in
this world, in whatever we do, we shall be more modest and there will be less room
for vanity and attachment. God is omnipotent and independent, man is dependent
and of limited powers; if we know this and the capacity and limitations of our body,
the senses and other elements, we will not be affected by conceit and vanity and
be able to perform our duty without any attachment or desire for reward.
yasya naahaMkR^ito bhaavo buddhiryasya na lipyate | -- XVIII-17
(One who does not think that he is the doer, whose intellect is not tamed (does not
kill, even if he kills).)
Non-egotism and non-attachment are the very foundation of desireless action.
iishvaraH sarvabhuutaanaaM hR^iddeshe.arjuna tiShThati |
bhraamyan.h sarvabhuutaani yantraaruuDhaani maayayaa || -- XVIII-61
(The Lord dwells in the heart of all the beings, Arjuna, moving all beings, mounted
on the machine of the body with his Maya.) God is immanent in the hearts of all
and moves this world. As we set children on the merry-go-round and sport with
them, God moves the wheel of the world. One who is aware of the omnipresence
and omnipotence of God, and knows the vastness of his field of action will not
claim mastery or authority over anything in the world. When we realise that
everything belongs to God and all activity emanates from Him, all the conceit and
vanity disappears. The proud Shvetaketu is converted to humility when he hears
about the greatness of God. The deities once won a war. In their hour of glory they
forgot that if Almighty God had not endowed them with power they would not have
achieved anything: Only when they realised their mistake wisdom dawned on them
and they got true knowledge. The complete knowledge of human dependence and
divine independence is the chief aid in the performance of desireless action.
[Dear friends,
The question about the apparent conflict between “Desireless Action” - Nishkama

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Karma and desire for Moksha, which propels one to perfrom Sadhanas needs a
more detailed answer. I am trying to condense and explain in simple language the
detailed meaning of Chapter No. 5 of Geetha as explained by sri Ragahvendra
Swamiji in Geetha Vivruthi. If the expression of the ideas loses it’s clarity by virtue
of my efforts to condense them, it will be necessary to elaborate them further and
go to the source texts themselves.
Arjuna asks a similar question to krishna - You are asking me to give up all desires
and accept what ever fate gives, but you are also asking me to perform my “duty”
with a view to please God. These appear to be contradictory to each other. Please
tell me which is better and direct me to do it.
Krishna explains that Sannyasa is not abadoning one’s duties and Yoga is not just
going through actions. There is no conflict between them and there is nothing like
choosing one or the other as better. In fact both should simultaneously be present
in one individual, when they will propel him towards Mukthi. Giving up desire really
means giving up our attachment to worldy objects and goals. All action is binding -
in the form of sin and merit etc the results of which have perforce to be gone
through. It is never possible to hope to consume the results of previous Karmas, as
the rate at which they are accumalated is far more than the rate at which they can
be consumed. As Karmas are Anadi, being infinite in extent with the Anadi Jiva, the
only possible way by which a Jiva can hope to get out of their bondage is obviously
to reduce or stop their future incidence, and try to get through the accumalated
stock as fast as possible. The first part is achieved by Nishkama Karma - when one
peforms only prescribed actions with no desire for the conventional results - (read
money, pleasure, power etc), but with one and only one objective - that it is our
duty as we have been ordained by God to do so and it will please Him by such
actions. This objective is not as impractical or difficult as it may appear at first
sight - For example - Imagine a fond mother preparing her son’s favourite dish and
watching with happiness, when he eats it all, without leaving even a small portion
for her. She is just wanting her son’s happiness. We can imagine our trying to do
some such thing for God, as we should be fonder of Him than the Mother for the
son. The Nishkama Karma also serves another important purpose - it purifies the
mind, as all attachment is removed to worldly objects, thus freeing it of the things
most of us do all the time - plotting, scheming, thinking about them. We have no
longer such evils like greed, jealousy and hatred. The mental peace achieved
coupled with genuine desire to please God will enable one to study Him with full
concentration and facility. Full self control and control of the mind is attained -
giving concentration and clarity. It facilitates what Acharya Madhva has said -
“Santhatham chinthayeth Anantham”. Our mind can not concentrate on several
objectives at the same time. It has to be either God or worldly objects.
The second part of trying to exhaust the undesired stock of karmas, is again by the
grace of God. When we perform Puja, do meditation. recite Ashtakshara, listen to
sacred texts or do any thing with the sole objective of pleasing God, God who
controls the results of our actions - reduces the burden. This is the meaning of
texts, Devaranamas etc where it is said that mountains of sins are destroyed by
performance of such actions. It should not be imagined that it is like using soap to
remove dirt - not a mechanical process, but the very act of ours in sincerity and
total faith in Him, which will make Him decide - “Yenam Mochayaami” - I will free
this soul. This will lead to enormous attrition of the Karma burden - by several

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methods - destroying some of them entirely, some will become less effective and
in any case all will be so deployed to lead the aspirant in the right direction. We
should remember that the central idea is to please God and follow His directions -
as He is both the Jailer and the Redeemer.
There is nothing repugnant in this scheme of things to desire the good and sacred
things of life - one should desire Moksha, God’s grace leading to it and to perform
all the different steps prescribed for it. Sri Purandara dasaru has put it succinctly -
“Eesabeku iddu jaisabeku, hesigeya samsaardalli aase lesha maadadhaange”. We
have only to be conscious of another important element - that we are not
independent - “Naaham Karthaa, Harih Karthaa” should also be constantly kept in
mind. An attitiude of total subordination of our personality to the Supreme being,
accepting without any reservation the fact of His control over us, a deliberate and
well thought out decision for God and against worldly objectives, the
consciousness that we belong to Him and He will definitely release us from
bondage and patience and faith in accepting what ever is given to us - as the best
possible and in our best interest - all these will make us better qualified both as
aspirants for God’s blessings and even as residents of the mundane world.
NAPSRao napsrao@bgl.vsnl.net.in
---Raja R Cavale <rajcaval.kkh@zajil.net> wrote:
[snip]
> I am not questioning the statement, but my small
> mind sees this as a desire to get Moksha. How can we
> reconcile this with the Githa as explained by Mr
> Ramadas?

We see that in the fourth chapter, verse 15 Krishna says:


evaM j~nAtvA kR^itaM pUrvairapi mumuxubhiH |
kuru karmaiva tasmAtvaM pUrvaiH pUrvataraM kR^itam.h
“Thus knowing Me mumuxu-s (those desiring liberation/moxa) have previously
performed karma. Therefore you should perform karma just as it was performed by
the ancients.”
In the seventeenth chapter, verse 25 He says:
tadityanabhisa.ndhAya phalaM yaj~natapaH kriyAH |
dAnakriyAshcha vividhAH kriyante moxakAN^xibhiH ||
“With a view of acquiring the grace of ‘tat’ who is Brahman all-pervading, the
various acts of sacrifice, austerity and charity are performed without any desire for
rewards (like even svarga) by the seers of God, desirous of liberation ‘moxa.’”
• this translation is by K.Venkata Rao

In both the above verses we see the usage of the word mumuxu by the Lord which
implies that the people about whom He is discussing are indeed desiring liberation
and working towards that goal.
Another example would be that of one desirous of pleasing the Lord. How can one
consider oneself a vaishnava if (s)he thinks that desiring so would result in not
performing desireless action. If it so happens that being liberated will increase

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one’s devotion for the Lord to one’s full capacity (svarUpayogyata), then why
should not liberation be desired. If it is the case that attaining ‘nirantara prema
pravAha’ (continuous flow of devotion) towards the Lord is equivalent to attaining
moxa then why should not liberation be desired.
Hence, kings like Janaka etc., have performed karma for attaining liberation and
the Lord instructs Arjuna to follow their footsteps.
--
Anand Ravipati aravipati@rocketmail.com
The word ‘desire’ may be equated to ‘kama’ or ‘Apeksha’ or ‘AAkanksha’. Let us
take the word ‘kama’. It can mean any one of these in different contexts. In the BG
it is used in ‘KAma Esha krOdha Esha rajOguna samudbhava:h’ as desire
unsatisfied leading to anger, which further leads to destruction of the person. In
‘KAmAtmanah swargaparAh...’(BG2-43) it is said to mean desire for earthly
happiness ( more in the sense of’apeksha’)
In Veda it is said ‘swarga kamo yajeta’ to mean one who desires for heaven and
the pleasures of it. But the purpose of studying the ‘shastras’ is none of these
desires;because these desires can give a happiness short-lived. Even one who gets
‘swarga’ will have to come to earth once his ‘punya’ for it is expended as stated in
the Gita. So, the ‘shastras’ say we should desire for the ultimate purushartha
called ‘moxa’, which leads the Jiva to the place where there is no misery and from
where there is no return. Such a person should do his duties according to his
‘varnashrama’ and/or any acts of his from morning to night as service to God. This
is the main injunction of the Gita-shastra.
This has been excellently brought out in the ‘pratah sankalpa gadya’ of Sri Guru
Raghavendra ,which I quote:
SRI Mukhya PrAnEna prErita:hsan TvatsamsmritipUrvakam shayanatsamutthitAya
adyatanam svavarnAshramOchitam dEshakalavasthOchitam nitya naimittika kAmya
bhedEna trividha tvatpUjatmakam karma yathAshakti yathAgnyapti yathAvaibhavam
karishyE madagynAkAribhi:h vidyA sambandibhi:h dehasambandibhishcha tvadIyaih
ashEshairjanai:h tvatsarva kartrutva karayitrutvadi anusandhAnapUrvakam karishyE
kArayishyE cha.
According to this we should be taking a oath each morning as under:
Being prompted by ‘Sri Mukhyaprana’,and with my mind thinking of you,my Lord
Sitapate Sri ramachandra, I shall undertake all my duties according to my
‘Varvashrama’ and according to the needs of the place and time I am placed in and
perform them with the concept of the three types of ‘karma’,namely.’nitya’
‘nainittika’ and ‘kamya’ to the best of my capacities as would be
ordered(ordained0 by you as sincerely as I can, treating all acts as ‘Your worship”. I
shall do all acts and get all acts done as required {,the acts being connected with
those following my orders or those ordering me, or with those whose relationship
with me is due my study or my teaching, or with my family members, all these
people being Your own(that isbeing under Your control)}, with the concept that YOU
are the performer of all acts and the ONE getting them performed.
This is what is implied in:
KarmanyEvAdhikArastE mAphalEshu KadAchana—Bhag.Gita and
Kuru bhuxva cha karma nijam niyatam HaripAda vinamradhiyA satatam

Gita Saroddhara Page 134 of 140


• Dvadasa stotra With best wishes’ Bannur.R ]

99. Is the Individual a (Free) Doer?:

The notion of the omnipotence and the supreme independence of God has
produced some undesirable and unexpected consequences. Some people think
that because we have no free will and independence, we are mere playthings of
God and hence, have no responsibility for any of our actions, good or bad. God
alone, who is the mover of the world, is responsible for everything. Hence, we need
not perform any action. Since everything goes according to His will, we need not
intrude on Him! Hence we have no duties and responsibilities and we need not
perform any action. There is a possibility of such inactivity arising out of these
ideas. Some people complain that theism leads to passivity in the world.
But this is a misunderstanding of the part played by God in His creation. God
creates the universe but for everything that is happening in the universe, He is not
the doer. He is one of the causes. For our misery and happiness we are also the
cause in addition to God. The material equipment, God’s powers, our will and our
inclinations and movements, all together produce an action or consequence.
Without the loom, the weaver cannot weave cloth. When there are many causes
for an effect, we should not expect anything to happen without a combination of all
the factors. Even if God is a cause of our good or ill, He alone is not the cause. God
moves on the basis of our will and inclination only. Thus our desire and attitude are
as much a cause as God’s will and power in producing good or ill; it is not proper
on our part to remain indifferent and inactive leaving everything to be done by God
alone.
Our desire and activity also must originate from God, you may say. Our desire and
propensity in this life are based upon our desire and propensity in the previous life
and so on. Since our intrinsic dynamism and inclination as individuals are finally
the basis of all our various actions, the final responsibilities for our good or ill falls
upon us only. If we turn away from our duties, since God alone is the all-doer, it
would be a tamasik tendency. Such people put forward this kind of logic only in
religious and social matters. The logic does not present itself to them when they
are having their delicious meals. They do not reduce their activity for fending for
themselves, thinking that God would do it for them. Do they have the indomitable
courage of putting the daily routine on the shoulders of God, firmly believing that
God alone would do it? Only to cover their sloth, they put on the garb of Vedanta.
Vedanta comes pat to such people. Those who point to God only in matters of
spiritual responsibilities and remain unmoved following an equivocal policy are said
by Sri Madhvacharya to have a tamasik tendency:
iishvaro yadisarvasyakaarakaH kaarayiitamaa.m | ityaivaMvaadinaM bruuyaat.h
sadaa.adhoyaasyasiitiha || -- Gita Bhashya
(Those who put forward the pretext that if God is the all-doer, let Him get all things
done by us, would never progress in any way but are always doomed.)
If the pride that ‘I am the doer of everything’ leads to wanton self-willedness, and
eventually cuts at the root of our spiritual progress, the fatalism that “I am not the
doer, God is the doer and I need not do anything” is a big stumbling block to our
spiritual advancement. Since an action could be performed only when God and our

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efforts work together, it is not proper to dispense with one of them and hold on to
the other. As both the wheels are necessary for the movement of a chariot, both
God and human initiative are necessary for the chariot of life. The Mahabharata
describes the sentiment, ‘let there be work without human effort,’ as amounting to
saying ‘let the lamp glow without oil.’ Sri Madhvacharya has declared that only
with the fusion of strong faith, great effort and God’s grace is there a possibility of
a man’s upliftment. According to the scriptures, even though God is an
independent doer, man also is a doer.
kartaa shaastraarthavattvaat.h | -- Brahmasutra, II-iii-33
(Man is also the doer; only if he is so, the statements of the shastras about rules of
action are worthwhile; otherwise they are meaningless.) For whom have the Vedas
laid down commandments and prohibitions? Certainly not for inert matter, and not
for God who is perfect. All are meant for the individual alone. If man has no free
will and doership all these injunctions would be meaningless chatter. Brahmasutras
support the view that man has a free will. For every act both are doers. If the soul
stops its desire and activity, the action must come to a standstill. Every factor
must play its respective part before an act is accomplished. As the arrogant feeling
that you are the sole doer and God’s intervention is not necessary is untenable, so
also, the indifference to action on one’s part thinking that God will do everything in
this universe, is condemnable:
aj~naH pratyakShaM tvapahaayaivadaivaM | matvaakartR^i svaatmakarma prajaahyaat.h
| -- Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya
(He who ignores the actual and expects everything to be accomplished by God and
neglects his duties is an ignorant man.)
vidvaanniivaM viShNuvasheviditvaH | karotikartavyamajasrameva || -- Mahabharata
Tatparya Nirnaya
(The wise man surrenders himself to God and knowing his duties performs them
with enthusiasm and sincerity without conceit and vanity.) Not forgetting the
overlordship of God in everything in this universe and not neglecting one’s duties
under the pretext that God does everything, everyone must discharge his duties
and responsibilities without conceit and vanity strictly according to the injunctions
laid down in the scriptures. This is the unanimous message of the Vedas, the
Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita has thus shown us the golden mean
between the two extremes of a totally free will and fatalism.
[On Fri, 23 Jul 1999, Ramadas wrote:
> 99. Is the Individual a (Free) Doer?:

The bhAshhya quoted above is from the sixteenth chapter, which is a little odd,
although I guess one could say Swamiji is not going exactly in sequence chapter-
by-chapter.
It may be worth looking at the actual verse and the commentary, so here it is:
ahaN^kAraM balaM darpaM kAmaM krodhaM cha saMshritAH |
mAmAtmaparadeheshhu pradvishhanto.abhyasUyakAH || 23 ||
These [evildoers] take recourse to vanity, brute strength, arrogance, lust, and
anger; and hate Me, who Am resident in their bodies and in those of others, while
falsely accusing [Me of their sins].

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bhAshhya—
‘mAmAtmaparadeheshhu’ iti -- ‘na kasyachit.h vishhNuH kArayitA; yadi
syAnmAmapIdAnIM kArayatu’, ityAdi |
‘Ishvaro yadi sarvasya kArakaH kArayIta mAm.h |
adyeti vAdinaM brUyAt.h sadA.adho yAsyasIti tu ||’

• iti sAmavede yAskashrutiH ||

‘mAmAtmaparadeheshhu’, thus: “Vishnu is not the Doer of anything; for if He were,


then let Him make me do this,” etc. [is the manner in which evildoers express their
hate for Him who resides in their and others’ bodies].
“If the Lord is the Doer of all action, then let Him make me do
[something righteous that I refuse to do]; the proponents of such
a theory do certainly reach an everlasting damnation,”
thus says the ‘yAska-shruti’ of the Sama Veda.
prameya-dIpikA—
‘bhagavaddveshhasyA.atmaparadehAdhikaraNatvaM katham.h ?’ ityata Aha -- ‘mAm.h’ iti |
kuto na -- kArayitA yadi syAt.h tarhi idAnIM akurvANaM mAmapi kArayatu ? kurvANaM cha
nivArayatu ?
• ityarthaH | sadA.agho nityanarakam.h |

“So how is hatred of the Lord to be related to the bodies of one’s self and
others?”—to answer this, it is said, ‘mAm.h’, thus | Why not—“If there is a
Doer, then let Him make me, the idle, do this [righteous thing]? And let Him
stop me from doing this [unrighteous thing]?”—thus is the purport.
‘sadA.adho’ (in the bhAshhya) stands for ‘nitya-naraka’ (eternal hell).
Regards,
Shrisha Rao]

100. Surrender:

From this long discourse, Arjuna has received satisfactory answers for all his
doubts and questions. The nature of the individual soul, the Supreme Soul, the
inert matter and the relationship between these three and the potency and the
part played by each of these have been well explained. From this, we have well
understood the role of each individual in this vast universe. The contact of soul
with matter has been from time immemorial, and likewise soul is also bound by
matter. Whether we like it or not as long as there is this bondage, the soul will be
subject to its influence. To get over this bondage is our goal in life and as long as
we are in this world we should utilise all our energy and resources in the direction
of our goal. We do not achieve anything if we grow inactive out of sheer hatred for
the worries and troubles of the world, owing to the bondage of Prakriti. We should
realise that we are bound by nature and so lead our lives under discipline and self-
control and try to extricate ourselves from this prison. If on the other hand we hate
the Prakriti and keep aloof from all its activities, we would but be impeding our
spiritual progress. If we ardently desire to cross the ocean of life what is the use of
sitting on this shore of Prakriti and simply wasting our time vacillating between

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whether we should get into water or not? We have to dive boldly into this ocean of
life.
iisabeku iddujausabeku—Purandaradasa
(We should swim, live and conquer.)
The Gita has shown us the skill by which even if we get into the water, we do not
drown but cross over. If we get down into the stream of life bound with the ropes of
desire and attachment, we shall never be able to come out of it. If we perform our
allotted duties without attachment we shall not be swept by the stream of karma
even in the midst of the current and we shall be able to swim across smoothly.
No amount of precaution is sufficient to see that the tangle of the world is not too
fast, that we are not swept off. We should think of the means of getting completely
out of this bondage. Getting out of this ancient bondage is almost beyond our
reach. If we had the power and the capacity to get out of this bondage and the
inner light to set it at naught, we would not have been subjected to all these
hardships. For this, the only refuge will be the supreme power of the Lord who is
above all souls and inert matter.
tameva sharaNaM gacCha sarvabhaavena bhaarata | -- XVIII-62
(Surrender to Him alone, completely, Arjuna.)
Unless we surrender ourselves to Him and pray to Him with great devotion we
cannot reach our goal. It is true that we have the treasure of our blessedness in our
hands like the sweet in the hands of a child. Can the child peel the skin off and eat
the fruit? The mother has to peel the skin and give the fruit to the child. Similarly
the natural glory of our soul is covered by a skin of matter and thus even if we
have the soul of bliss, it is as though we don’t. Only God, with a mother’s heart
should peel off the outer skin.
aj~naanaaM j~naanadoviShNuH j~naaninaaMmokShadashcasaH | -- Anu Vyakhyana
(Vishnu is the giver of realisation to the unrealised; He is also the moksha-giver to
the realised.)
We have to look to God for our liberation from bond age and ignorance. He is
responsible for all that happens in our lives. Knowing that but for His power and
grace we cannot do anything, we should surrender ourselves to Him with utter
devotion and carry on our allotted duties. Devotion is the essence of action. Piles
and piles of action, devoid of devotion, are inert and inconsequential.
sarvadharmaanparityajya maamekaM sharaNaM vraja | -- XVIII-66
(Giving up all the ways of the other gods or actions, surrender yourself to Me
alone.)
All ungodly acts and those which do not take us to wards God are useless. We
should give them up. Only godly acts should be performed. That is the meaning of
the phrase that all ways should be eschewed. Or we may even interpret it to mean
that we should give up the desire for fruit.
yastu karmaphalatyaagii sa tyaagiityabhidhiiyate || -- XVIII-11
(He is the tyaagii who gives up the fruit of action.)
Some people have twisted the meaning of this stanza to suit their own school of
thought.
Hitherto great importance was given to the performance of action with devotion to

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God. They interpret this stanza in complete contradiction to what has been said so
far by the Lord. They say that this stanza implies that we should give up all actions
and feel that we ourselves are nothing but God. Non-dualism and abject surrender
to the will of God are poles apart. In the previous stanza only Sri Krishna calls
Arjuna as his favourite and vouchsafes to him a great secret:
manmanaa bhava madbhakto madyaajii maaM namaskuru | -- XVIII-65
(Be full of Me, be devoted to Me, offer your sacrifices to Me, bow down to Me.)
He tells Arjuna to perform his actions with devotion to please God and all such
actions are the means to the highest fulfilment, and it is utterly inconsistent for Sri
Krishna to give a completely contradictory advice in the next sloka. Sri
Madhusudhana Saraswati, the author of ‘Advaita Siddhi’ has clearly stated that
such an interpretation is far-fetched and inapt. Here actually Sri Krishna has
preached total surrender alone, which is the highest stage of devotion.
Surrendering ourselves to God completely and performing our duties with utmost
devotion is the only way to cross over the sea of difficulties. The spirit of surrender
should permeate every act of ours.
kuru bhu~NkShva ca karma nijaM niyataM haripaadavinamradhiyaa satata.m | -- Dwadasa
Stotra, III
(Do your proper duties, enjoy yourself bowing down always humbly to the feet of
God.)
The memory of God should always be present in our minds both in performing
action and enjoying its fruits. Since to live it is necessary for us that life flows in
every sinew of our physical body, similarly the sense of devotion should flow
uninterrupted through all our activities for us to attain God-realisation. This
message, which comes at the end as it is the ultimate and the most significant, is
the quintessential message of the Gita.

101. Conclusion:

svavihita vR^ittyaa bhaktyaa bhagavadaaraadhanaM paramodharmaH | -- Gita Bhashya


(The service and worship of God through devotion and pursuit proper to oneself is
the supreme dharma.)
In this one statement Sri Madhvacharya has summed up the entire message of the
Gita: ‘Man’s great dharma is to worship God through a vocation proper to oneself
and devotion.’ This is the only means by which one can escape the bondage of
Prakriti and the cycle of birth and death. If we give up our duties either by fear of
Prakriti or by indifference, we shall not achieve any fulfilment. On the other hand if
we indulge in actions smitten with desire for the sake of pleasure with selfish ends,
the very sensuality will devour us.
svakarmaNaa tamabhyarcya siddhiM vindati maanavaH | -- XVIII-46
(Man achieves his consummation by worshipping Him through one’s own vocation.)
We should perform our duties as a sacred worship of God without any selfish
desires. We can achieve this if we develop a sense of detachment and aversion to
worldly pleasures. If devotion to God and non-attachment to carnal pleasures
become the ingredients of our action we can fearlessly march forward in the world
without being swept off by the flood of adversity. We can swim across the ocean of

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life and vanquish it without exhaustion. We should not be too much involved in life
nor should we turn our face away from it completely. If we see callous inertia and
irresponsibilities in performing one’s duties at one end, at the other, we see too
much involvement in selfish activity out of greed for power and wealth. If there is
total inactivity among souls under the pretext that the world is an illusion and
leading to bondage, there are others indulging in worldly activities for carnal
pleasures utterly ignoring or forgetting the existence of God. Both these attitudes
are detrimental to our spiritual advancement. We do not want life which is devoid
of righteousness; nor do we want righteousness which is anti-life. We should shape
for ourselves a noble life based on devotion and righteousness. We should not bow
down to the forces of tamas and rajas. We can achieve our loftiest fulfilment if we
perform our allotted duties against the deep background of devotion to God. This is
the great lesson preached by the Gita for the whole mankind.
By this nectar-like advice out of the mouth of the Lord, all doubt and ignorance
were washed away from the mind and conscience of Arjuna. The knowledge which
was lying dormant within him sprouted up and blossomed:
naShTo mohaH smR^itirlabdhaa tvatprasaadaanmayaa.acyuta | sthito.asmi gatasandehaH
kariShye vacanaM tava || -- XVIII-73
(With Your grace, 0 Lord, my delusions are eradicated; I have regained the
awareness of dharma; I stand weaned of doubt. I shall do as You say.) “My mind
has been disabused of delusion. I have recovered, by Your grace, my knowledge
which I had lost temporarily under delusion. All my doubts and problems are
cleared. At Your command I shall now straightway plunge into my field of duty,”
says Arjuna to God out of absolute cheerfulness, devotion and enthusiasm. The
situation encountered by Arjuna is faced by us everyday in our lives, The lesson of
the Gita is not confined to Arjuna alone. It wards off the confusion and turmoil of
the whole mankind and inspires it with a sense of duty. In the Mahabharata war, in
the same chariot, the Lord of the universe is seated side by side with Arjuna and
guides him at every step and inspires him to activity. If Arjuna is ‘Nara’, Sri Krishna
is ‘Narayana’; where the two are together, there is goodness and peace, triumph
and glory:
yatra yogeshvaraH kR^iShNo yatra paartho dhanurdharaH | tatra shriirvijayo
bhuutirdhruvaa niitirmatirmama || -- XVIII-78
(Where there is the Lord of Yoga, Krishna and where there is full-armed Arjuna,
there are sure to be the wealth of kingdoms, victory, lordliness and justice, that is
my conviction.)
Even in the battle of life, Narayana alone should be the charioteer of the Naras.
Only because Narayana has been separated from Nara in our life there has been
immorality, need and misery everywhere around us. In our lives there should be a
union of Nara and Narayana. We must choose the Lord as our charioteer, guide and
inspirer. Only then will our whole life be a treasure house of spiritual wealth.

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