Krishna began his instruction (in the 2nd chapter) with a distinct spiritual note. Along with it he also brought a strong philosophical message. He equally instilled into it a subtle, but pronounced, rational, yogic compulsion. But would all this be sufficient to make any message eternal and ever relevant, as Bhagavad Gita is acclaimed to be? To refuse to be ‘sectarian’ or merely ‘contemporary’ will not suffice to bestow the necessary sovereignty to make any gospel universal.
We are a greatly traditional people. The children of this land certainly imbibe from the mother’s breasts their strong religious leanings. Krishna’s words thus could not miss the sublime religious notes, in keeping with the culture of the land and its people.
Thus, he quotes Prajapati to make his call of yajna wholesome and authoritative, as yajna is the paramount prescription of the Vedas. He also equates detachment (asangata) with the lofty note of yajna, emphasizing such detachment to be a corollary of true (spiritual) enlightenment. All these he brought as additions to reinforce the strength and sublimity of his teachings. Krishna’s delineation of the sannyasa concept and ideal is also part of the same magnificence. You will constantly find in his instruction the repeated call to encompass all aspects of life and activity, as the means of wholesome sadhana and achieve the great expanse spiritual enrichment brings. It is through such beautiful amalgamation or blending of various cultural and refinemental notes that Krishna makes the message classical and eternal.
‘Equal vision’ of the Knower
But the most noteworthy part of the delineation is that Krishna, at times, definitely detaches his thoughts from all religio-philosophical moorings, making them stand sovereign with a solely worldly and secular front. This is the most exemplary note of Bhagavad Gita that should not be missed by anyone.
The nine verses in chapter V (18 to 26) that follow form such a distinct, independent set. Through them Krishna adorns spiritual sadhana with a completely secular framework – actional and interactional, interpersonal and behavioural, freed from all conventional religious and philosophical notes, making them rest solely upon routine, regular actions and involvement. Spirituality, he points out and assures, will still remain intact and the sadhaka will only get more and more enriched with the freedom and joy of true enlightenment. By this he absolves the true sadhaka from all religious injunctions and obligations.
Krishna cannot dissociate his yoga and spiritual exposition from its cardinal relevance, nay foundation, of samatva. He first made reference to it in the second chapter (2.48) while describing karma-yoga.
The Wise excel in looking with equanimity at the Brahmana endowed with learning and humility, the cow, the elephant, the dog as well as ‘the uncultured’.
The world is full of differences, variety, no doubt, in the sentient as well as the insentient. Our senses function merely to perceive the objects around and bring home their distinctions in all details and relevance. Otherwise the whole perceptional process will become meaningless and irrelevant. In such a background, Krishna pronounces a significant test for spiritual Wisdom – the endurance of equal vision.
Look at the seemingly most holy, endearing object. Look then at its full contrast, the most unholy detestable one. A cultured lofty brahmana on the one hand, and an uncultured, lowly person on the other. Or let it be the religiously worshipped cow or elephant, or the stray dog craving to eat faeces. The differences the eye brings, in all faithfulness and precision, should not invade the mind and heart. Deep inside, the unfailing note of sublime equalness (samatva) should reign in full splendour.
How is this possible? All bodies are without distinction, made of pancabhutas (five elements). In the elephant’s or in the dog’s body, as also in the brahmana and the lowly one, the composition is the same. The one Spirit has made all the bodies, with the panca-bhutas alone. So, bodywise there is no essential difference. Soul-wise also there is none. Wherefrom then come the differences at all? From the characteristic qualities, habits and behaviour! Are not all these a wholesome creation of sattva, rajas and tamas – the guna constituents of Nature? Thus in terms of the body as well as the Soul present in it, all beings are equal. And so far as the habits and ways are concerned, all are equally under the sway of gunas of prakrti. On which account then is one to be viewed differently from another?
The Wise-one thus see differences only in the sensory range. His mind and intelligence relentlessly bring forth their sublime note of oneness, uniformity or alikeness. This inner equalness reigns in parallel with the sensory vision, complementing it. It is like seeing the sun rising and setting, but knowing well it does not actually do so. We know it is a sensory perception due to earth’s rotation. Are not the two visions concurrent? Here too, the sensory external vision with its differences, and the inner perception of sameness reign without any mutual conflict or invalidation. This harmonious, non-conflicting samadarsana constitutes the essence and climax of true spiritual enlightenment and excellence.
The means for gaining this excellence depends solely upon interactional life. Do not allow the mind to be ruled by sensory differences. Instead, deny, overrule and sublimate them by proper introspection. The sensory interactions compel and facilitate such introspection. Thus the sadhana becomes more interactional than meditative or absorptional.
In such an interactional and sublimational enrichment is there any kind of religious ritual or ceremony? Is it not truly a comprehensive secular practice?
Krishna wants to emphasize this distinction, and by doing so, he is making the great spiritual teachings available to one and all, even to the ordinary worldly, non-religious people. That is why the gospel has ever since remained a universal one, with its unique appeal, inspiration and compulsion alike.
In the next verse Krishna goes a step forward and crowns samya as the pinnacle of spiritual, religious, philosophical and yogic life. The way he has worded his proposition makes it supremely adorable:
The entire worldliness stands conquered by those, whose mind is established in equalness. Brahman is taintless and equal. Therefore, by their attainment, they remain established in Brahman.
The sadhaka should think deeply as to what Krishna wants to add here to his earlier statement. The previous verse as well as this has to be studied closely, to get at their import.
Only two points are set forth in the first half of this verse. ‘Conquering or winning over worldly life or worldliness’ is one. ‘The mind dwelling in equalness’ is the other. If one is there, the other also will be, says Krishna. This makes the whole sadhana simple and easy. The complex spiritual life suddenly becomes clear, simple and wholesome.
The whole world has only one constant effect on the mind – to make it uneven. How does it do so? It arouses in the mind varieties of dvandvas. The external or internal cause or means of bringing these dvandvas may be assorted, but the net result or outcome of one and all is the same. In fact, every sensory organ by its perception of objects only adds to the dvandva-imprints in the mind. The dvandvas imply unevenness. Mind’s unevenness alone is at the back of desire, unrest, preference, prejudice, discontent and instability. Krishna gives so much importance to evenness that right from the beginning he has been stressing it from various angles:
Krishna wants everyone to understand without any ambiguity that the sole effort of human life must be to make the mind rest unshakably in ‘samya’. Earlier he had used ‘samatva’ and ‘sama’ to denote yogasadhana. Now he has used the word ‘samya’ – perhaps for the only time! Earlier he was referring to the sadhana. Now he specifies the siddhi (fruition). Do not think that samatva of the mind is just a routine discipline or practice; it is as well the fruition and fulfillment of the wisdom-pursuit.
When the mind is established in ‘samya’, it becomes stable, poised and unassailable. All agitations and torments, together with their causes, become extinct when the mind is enriched and sublimated by evenness.
This kind of mind-enrichment, mind-sublimation, cannot, by itself, be claimed as anything ‘religious’. On the other hand, it is wholly an ‘interactional’ refinement and hence forms a part of the usual vyavahara, activities, common to one and all. Is there any religious concept in this? But Krishna feels and speaks elaborately about it, giving it the status of spiritual and philosophical crowning.
So, he adds that ‘samya’, when adequately gained, becomes the true Brahmic state, Brahma-sthitih, the spirituo-Vedantic crowning of human life. Krishna also explains how this interactional samya entitles itself to be the zenith of Brahma-nishtha.It is this message that makes the gospel universal and eternal.
Brahman is non-dual. It is without a second. Nothing else can be there like Brahman. ‘Samam’ is another description of Brahman. Brahman is equally present in all. It cannot be missed anywhere. Nothing can be outside or besides Its ambit.
To be taintless (nirdosha) is the quality of Brahman alone. Everything in creation is subject to blemish and stain. Describing the Vedas as dealing with only the three gunas, did not Krishna exhort Arjuna to become “nistraigunyah” (to be transcending the three gunas)? What does it mean? Whatever even the holy Vedas have to give or promise still reigns within the realm of taint or blemish. Even the denizen of the highest of the heavens will have to fall. Where is that blemish-free or defect-free abode or existence?
Brahman alone has the quality and power to remain blemishless, defect-free. It is, in a way, like the deep sea, which is not tainted by the rivers that gush into it. What then should be the taintless nature of Brahman, the Supreme Reality? By adopting ‘samatva’ or ‘samya’, and by actualizing it in life and living, the mind becomes freed of all taints and sins – worldly, religious or otherwise.
Did not Krishna say earlier: “Make your response to happiness and unhappiness (sukha-duhkhe) equal; also in gain and loss, as well as victory and defeat”? He also said, “You will no more be a victim to sin then” (2.38). ‘Samatva’ or ‘samya’ alone has the power to insulate the mind from all kinds of impurities and sinfulness. Nirdoshatva (taint-freeness) goes only with Brahman. Naturally, if and when one’s mind is seated or established in ‘samya’, on that very account, it also finds its repose in Brahman. Hence the samya-sthitah becomes the Brahmasthitah as well.
After first dislodging the concept of spiritual sadhana from its religio-philosophical moorings, Krishna installs it in the day-to-day worldly activities. And in that very process, he brings the same lofty benefit and fruition which religious sadhana alone is held to fetch. He is quite particular in placing true sadhana as something practical, secular and interactional, so that it will have its universal appeal and compulsion. There are other occasions too, when Krishna defines sadhana as mind-based and intelligence-based, making one’s usual life and actions as the true arena to pursue it wholesomely and perfect it.
Do not be rapturous with delight on meeting anything pleasant, or be given to agitation on confronting the unpleasant. Free of doubt and delusion, firm in resolve, such a one becomes a Knower of Brahman, established or abiding in Brahman.
Here too Krishna makes a twin proposition and then integrates it to the ultimate spiritual attainment. He asks the seeker to stand firmly on his daily secular activities and interactions. The seeker has no need to search or woo any special kind of pursuit. His sadhana will remain allied with whatever he does otherwise day in and day out. He can still work his way up marvellously. His activities will help him bring all the refinement and elevation he aspires for.
All that the sadhaka has to do is to focus his attention on two important notes, priya and apriya – the pleasant and the unpleasant.For, the entire inputs from the world can produce only these two resultants. Thus the pleasant and unpleasant ‘fully’ represent, in the language and assessment of the mind, the whole world and all the effects it can bring about.
Krishna says, the seeker’s skill lies in meeting the ‘priya’ and ‘apriya’ with a uniform response, which should not be allowed to waver at any time. In this is his yogic cleverness. He should not give vent to any exultation over whatever pleasant meets him. Equally so, no perturbation should take over his mind when the unpleasant comes. The pleasant and unpleasant being repeatedly there, his attitudinal uniformity will also have to be persistent. In fact, Krishna is providing a very beautiful scope and compulsion to all earnest seekers to make their sadhana all-fold and ever-relevant. None can complain about lack of time or opportunity to do this sadhana, because, the sadhana becomes coeval with his day-to-day living.
The world goes on generating the pleasant-unpleasant duo. And the sadhaka goes on extending his uniform reception to it. Life puts on a new glow, splendour. There is no scope for staleness at all any time.
Here too, there is no particular religiosity! The usual run of life with its daily routine and behaviour is alone the basis. Nevertheless, along with these, the unfailing yoga-sadhana also reigns. Sadhana becomes concurrent with the mind, in all circumstances. Nothing additional is necessary to induce or strengthen the sadhana.
Having clearly grasped the truth that the world can produce only two effects – priya and apriya – in his mind, and therefore he need only have an attitude of ‘samatva’, and being of firm conviction, he becomes free of all doubts and vacillations of his mind forever. As a result, one becomes a sthira-buddhih – his intelligence becomes well-resolved. The ability of the world to shake or dislodge the mind stands terminated before such a samya enrichment. He becomes therefore, asammudhah.
These are the true qualities or embellishments that distinguish a Knower of Brahman (Brahma-vit). The enrichment will make him abide in Brahman, the Supreme Reality. To abide in Brahman is to preserve and manifest a natural ease and poise, this deep inward uniformity.
Krishna has something more to say about this kind of interactional, sublimational sadhana:
Whatever absorptional happiness is generated from the Self by detachment to sensory objects, the same happiness the seeker gets in interminable measure by being integrated with Brahmic identity and expanse.
Once the mind learns to be ‘equal’ towards the ‘pleasant and unpleasant’, the whole power of world objects to allure or repel the mind stands nullified. In place of delusion and attachment he had towards objects, he now gets filled with detachment and dispassion.
Such detachment necessarily results in withdrawing to the Self within, to get absorbed into its depths. It unfolds the unique unalloyed happiness – not the external, artificial and dependent ones, but the one that is natural, singular and self-born, where none or nothing besides himself is involved.
But can it mean the end of true sadhana or objective? It becomes limited and restricted by the fact of its absorptional character. Withdrawal can be there only when engrossment or involvement is first there. From interaction one goes into withdrawal and then absorption into the Self. Equally so, from there he will have to return to involvement and interaction again. The two are interdependent. What avail is his happiness if it is only through withdrawal or absorption? The limitation, even the fallacy of spiritual quest and sadhana, thus stands revealed before the seeker!
The seeker will have to think beyond ‘withdrawal and absorption’. As long as he does not do so, his problem will continue, as the interactions will bring new conflicting and hindering notes. So an expanse of the mind is necessary to embrace interactional life and sublimate it effectively. It is here that Krishna comes out with the concept “Brahma-yoga-yuktatma”. This implies generating necessary spiritual expanse, in vision as well as pursuit. He had highlighted such expanse in describing the sthitaprajna and sthitadhi earlier. Beginning with atma-sthitih (atmany-eva atmana tushtah), he ended with “brahmi sthitih”. He had also explained how the mind should be ‘even’ towards duhkhas and sukhas (duhkheshu anudvignamanah sukheshu vigata-sprhah – 2.56).
To take the sadhana away from mere inward absorption and to rest it on the expansive note is a characteristic of Krishna’s thoughts and instructions. Expanse, enlargement, both in vision and pursuit is what, accordingly, makes the sadhana and seeker distinguished, exemplary.
Sukham akshayam asnute – this phrase must drive home a great deal of import. Like taking food, the seeker ‘eats’ as it were endless sukha, says Krishna. It is not that sukha is available in trickles; it is pouring in like a heavy shower! The sadhana must become effortless, natural, and fulfilling. The secular note continues, but Krishna relates it cautiously with the religio-spiritual background and ideal. The means and modality may be anything, but the ultimate goal or objective cannot be different!
(From the Series Essential Concepts In Bhagavad Gita - Volume 3)