Power of maya robs one’s discretion
All are gripped by delusion in understanding the truth of creation as well as their own essence and identity, says Krishna:
The whole world is deluded by the mystic potential and display of the three gunas, and as a result, it fails to know Me, the central Presence that, transcending these gunas, remains Imperishable.
The guna-traya exposition in Bhagavad Gita is something unique. Guna-traya forms part of sankhya philosophy, attributed to Sage Kapila. But Krishna deals with it in a different manner. He began to posit the gunas right from the second chapter, which primarily exposes the Soul, the supreme transcendental Reality both in the human beings and in the world. This Soul is the crux of sankhya philosophy of Krishna.
Sattva, rajas and tamas are the three gunas. The gunas are a spiritual postulate, as mentioned earlier. Tamas causes ignorance, lethargy and inertia. Rajas keeps the whole creation vibrant, mobile and active. Sattva brings enlightenment, clarity and cheerfulness.
The whole creation is a result of the combined display of the three gunas. Remember how Krishna exhorted Arjuna in the 2nd chapter: “Even the entire Vedas deal only with the guna-traya. Arjuna, be indifferent to the gunas and rise above the pairs of opposites (dvandvas) created by them. By this you will have transcended the mind and lodged yourself in the transcendental Self (2.45)”.
In the 3rd chapter (3.27, 28), he speaks about the gunas being constantly at work, causing all activities. Deluded by the interplay of the gunas, says Krishna, each thinks that he is active. There is a basic confusion in knowing what really acts and how the Soul remains transcendental, untouched by all activities.
Spiritual enlightenment alone will rid one of such confusion and difficulties. The Knower perceives how the three gunas dominate the whole of creation, all actions and their outcome being attributable only to their interplay. Understanding the truth about all activities, he remains free, uninvolved inwardly. The Knower has no problem or bondage at all in this matter.
5th chapter brings the same point with greater clarity and force (5.8 and 9). The Knower of Truth carries the realization that he does not do anything at all, even while his body and its limbs are engaged in seeing, hearing, holding, walking or winking. This non-acting awareness keeps the Knower above all attachments and identifications – the root cause of all suffering in anyone.
The call for ascribing all activities to the three gunas of prakriti and perceiving the neutral impersonal Soul as beyond the gunas, features throughout the Bhagavad Gita dialogue.
The one aim of all spiritual expositions as well as pursuits, is to disseminate and attain true wisdom, and for that purpose to remove all delusions.
The transcendental dimension is in everybody. But it reigns deep within – not accessible to the senses. Through sharp, subtle and sincere introspection alone can the seeker access it. Many do not take to the Soul-introspection or the inner spiritual search. Krishna therefore describes the general plight of humanity, stressing how it can be redressed:
This illusion in the nature of the three gunas, caused by Me, is too hard to overcome. Those who take refuge in Me alone, can overcome its effects safely.
This illusion is something that the Creator himself causes and preserves. Being so, it will naturally be very difficult to overcome. What is the redress then?
Krishna says that one should take refuge implicitly under the supreme Reality. Although the refuge is the Supreme, this process of taking absolute refuge depends fully upon the seeker. Krishna’s emphasis on surrender and acceptance is not new. In fact, in spiritual and yogic life, this is the only watchword and objective.
Such exclusive surrender and restfulness has been focused in earlier chapters too. In asking for sensory control, Krishna did say, ‘yukta asita matpara:’, meaning the seeker must have implicit fondness for the Guru, the Almighty; and he must wholesomely rest on Him (2.61).
Likewise, spiritual resignation of the mind and abandonment of all actions was stressed by him in the third chapter (3.30), thereby bringing the same note of surrender and acceptance in all that the yogic seeker does. The last verse of the sixth chapter makes a reference to that yogi whose mind and heart are completely given to the Supreme. The inward surrender, dedication and acceptance are thus shown as the only way to ensure spiritual progress and fulfillment.
In devotional as well as spiritual life, what counts supreme is the depth of the mind in effecting total surrender. However inexorably maya enfolds all, the plight will be reversed if the seeker looks to that power which causes and preserves the illusion. And so there is no cause for alarm, assures Krishna. There is a full remedy for the powerful illusion enfolding all.
Such surrender, though simple and effective, does not occur to many. This is the deplorable part of human life. To surrender exclusively is to be instantly pure, desire-free and one-pointed. But, the influence of plurality is so powerful that people find it hard to shun it and get deliverance. Even if the pursuit of worship and devotion appeals to them, it will be far from being exclusive.
Maya robs the discretion of humans and makes all helpless in their choice and selection. Some even fall prey to demoniacal tendencies. But Krishna’s words in this context are more to inform and guide the seeker, than to discourage or subdue anyone.
Four kinds of virtuous people
Under the compulsions of nature, a seeker may find himself entrenched in this woeful class. But that should neither repel the seeker, nor make him diffident. The enlightening aspect of the enunciation is what Krishna emphasizes next. The possibility to find one’s way up and seek deliverance is sufficiently there in everyone. Thus he describes the nature and kind of seekers in general. This part of the exposition is quite unique. It extends relief, hope and strength to any aggrieved mind:
Four kinds of virtuous people worship Me – the afflicted, the enquiring, the one yearning for some worldly gain, and the Knower.
Of these four, the Knower with his exclusive devotion is unbrokenly united with Me. Such a one verily excels. To the Knower I am indeed dear, and he too is extremely dear to Me.
This should give devotees a clear insight into how they should shape their devotion and seeking.
Everyone is born into the world. And so the worldly needs and pressures are the first concern for everybody. Only when some insurmountable trouble or torment afflicts one, he looks to the supra-worldly cause or source, the supreme Lord, for redress. The afflicted thus constitute the first category of devotees any time in the world.
Krishna is not disparaging this type of devotion, but he merely states that turning to the Creator, the Supreme, may be compelled by affliction or distress. The devotional note in those moments will yet be quite wholesome and intense.
The second category consists of the jijnasu, the enquirer. In this case, the pressure of the intelligence is conspicuous and strong. Uddhava and Arjuna are examples in this category. When Krishna advised Uddhava to leave Dwaraka keeping Krishna in heart and looking at the whole creation as Godly, Uddhava found it impossible. It was then that he sought from Krishna a full instruction:
“O Lord, kindly instruct me efficiently, so that my mind will shed all its dross and wrong identifications, and I would be able to take to the lofty path of renunciation as advised by you.” This is a typical instance of the enquiring seeker.
The third category, Krishna states, consists of seekers of specific worldly gains, artharthi. When the heart is set on a certain objective or gain, and to win it, one seeks the Lord’s favour and blessing, he is called an artharthi.
The Knower and the Supreme are dear to each other
Krishna concludes this enunciation by placing the Knower, jnani, as the fourth kind, the best and the excellent. All the others aspire for something or the other. But the Knower has nothing to seek or gain. He has attained what he had wanted to. He finds nothing but the Lord’s Presence, everywhere. He cannot thus think of anything or anyone else for any purpose whatever. As a result, he is freed of all distractions and disruptions. His knowledge makes him one with the Supreme.
Krishna points out that such a Knower is incessantly united with him. In the Knower reigns the exclusiveness of devotion. Naturally such a one is extremely dear to Krishna, as is Krishna to him. Although all the four kinds are noble and pious, Krishna adds, “The Knower is my very Self. Remaining united, he attains the best of fruition and the most exalted abode.” For such a one, the Lord’s presence is neither concealed nor particular. Krishna here lifts all the distinctions and specializations he mentioned earlier (like punyo gandhah). This statement, like the few others, is a landmark of the gospel:
To perceive all as Vasudeva, the Lord, is very rare. The one who has reached this loftiness is verily a Mahatma, the High-souled.
To free the mind from the fetters of multiple worldly attractions, to make it pure and natural, one needs the help of distinctions and exclusions. Only when objects, ideas and propositions are distinguished as desirables and hence to be accepted, as against undesirables and hence to be rejected, one can accept the former and reject the latter. To enable this initial choice, division of matters into good and bad becomes necessary, even indispensable.
But as the mind grows through the mental and moral disciplines, and becomes clear and one-pointed, it has to shed and outlive all distinguishing barriers and reach the all-embracing level of perception. To gain purity is the goal of all selections and identifications. With purity, expansion results. And expansion brings felicity and naturalness. ‘Vasudevah sarvamiti’ marks the pinnacle of such devotional and spiritual expansion, where the seeker experiences ecstasy and freedom under all circumstances.
Every human life is enmeshed in the gunas of Nature. It is the supreme Reality, which alone unleashes the gunas as an institutional order in Creation. Yet there reigns ample scope for anyone to seek and realize freedom and joy. The affliction or bondage is a human perception. The remedy is also within the human. The redress consists in seeking the supreme Reality.
This seeking is not hard or difficult. Anyone is free to take it up from any angle. The options are many – as many as the causes for suffering and courting agitation in worldly life. Anyone of them can act as motivation for the mind to turn to the supreme Source for redress, strength or enlightenment.
By turning thus to the supreme Source, the mind is obliged to grow and expand, leading to illumination and the resultant ecstasy of freedom. The background and purpose of anyone of these devotees are never questioned; their pursuit alone is held in esteem. The path is safe and wholesome, while the rewards are inspiring and comprehensive. Where is then any cause for alarm or hindrance? Like friction, indispensable for movement, the guna-encirclement which Nature institutes and preserves, acts more as a facility than obstruction. Learn the lesson, be discreet, and find your way up, exhorts Krishna.
He also describes the state of fullness reached by the Knower, in which the supreme Reality alone shines for him everywhere, whereby the Knower discards the constrictions of the mind as well as the preferences of the intelligence.
True seeking is, in fact, the dedicated march towards such exquisite fullness of the mind and vision. Wisdom is verily the all-fold perception, where nothing proves disharmonious or out of place and debilitating. In it the inner being grows to full dimension, displaying its majesty and charm everywhere. In place of worldliness overpowering the mind, the mind’s fullness overwhelms the worldly life, making the mind spiritual, divine, devotional and sublime in every way. Every one, Krishna asserts, is a rightful heir to this fortune.
But alas, not all aspire for such a splendid fullness of vision and experience. And the reason is obvious! With the inherited flair for variety and choices, and impressed by what the senses report, unfamiliar with any superior quests or thoughts, people remain nonchalantly subdued by desires and passions. Often this leads them to seek respite in various superhuman powers called devatas. Without trying to evaluate where such a thoughtless clinging would finally lead to, they begin to worship devatas passionately. Faithfully adhering to the special dos and don’ts prescribed for each, they observe a host of ritualistic procedures (7.21).
True, they become victims to ill-founded devotion and its transitory fruition. But that is no cause for alarm or wrath from any quarters. Humanity is marked for its divergent ways. As is Nature abounding in plurality, so too is the human creation within it. Without thrusting the task of discrimination and the ultimate view and vision on anyone, Nature still works with its laws graciously, letting people’s addiction and preference to run their course.
That each has abundant devotion and piety in what he or she does is all that matters for consideration. All people have their pet views and motivations, differing from one another. But the Creator, under whose aegis everything and all thrive, cannot brook any grudge or reciprocal prejudices. Disharmony may prevail beneath, but it does not reign above. In the totality of Creation can there be any disharmony? All the options and predilections of the people are thus met uniformly with the same benign attitude and benediction.
So, affirms Krishna, the Supreme takes due note of every one’s ways; and measures are effected to strengthen devotion and piety in the heart of the devout. The results aimed at are attained, but behind every individual effort and fruition are the same unfailing laws of the Supreme.
Each worshipper of the devata of his choice may fondly believe he has attained his rewards due to the specific grace of the source he worships and relies upon; but the truth is different. There is, in fact, only one supreme Source. That alone expresses divergently everywhere. The preferential minds are not aware of this, but the fact is not altered because of their ignorance (7.22).
The question may then be asked: Is what the common worshippers do proper? Or does it call for refinement and sublimation?
This is where Krishna and Bhagavad Gita excel. Krishna pictures their common plights and their fates; but in the same strain he also gives his critical judgement together with the apt advice:
The results these short-sighted, indiscriminate people attain, are, alas, short-living, fleeting. Those that worship the lower deities go to them. But those that worship the Supreme attain the Supreme. For the short-sighted the end is trifling; for the other, it is permanent and Supreme.
What does Krishna emphasize by this? He shows how with the same effort and time the human has the chance of attaining the Supreme result. But many, despite the gifts of intelligence and discriminating power, woefully fall a pitiable victim to the lowly narrow path.
Krishna’s intention is to treat Arjuna’s confused mind and give it the clarity and vision for leading his life to its destined glory and fullness. The Bhagavad Gita dialogue is instructional, enlightenmental in nature. It exposes man to the Truth. All the rest depends upon the hearer and reader.
Nature does not restrict and bind man with any overpowering note. Unchangeable characteristics and habits are there only in the non-humans. Humans are supposed to be discreet in making their timely selections and following them assiduously to gain the resultant growth and refinement. The prerogative to use or not to use this sovereign right rests with the individual himself.
Krishna had stressed this point earlier too. Showing attraction (raga) and repulsion (dvesha) to be the stark enemies in the path of evolution (3.34) and exhorting every one to win over these with the majesty and power of the Soul (3.43), he had made the purpose of spirituality quite clear.
Any time in any religio-devotional effort, one should not pin the cause and its outcome on a source other than his own mind. In the mind alone lie all possibilities, probabilities, scope and effort to realize the ultimate source. This is the summary position Krishna conveys.
Krishna again impresses upon Arjuna that he speaks not alone as a timely instructor, but also carries an unrelenting identity with the Supreme, reflecting dimensions ascribed generally to the Almighty (7.25). It is this higher consciousness that makes him speak the way he does.
Delusion – the common plight
Unfortunately, most people are unable to understand and appreciate such words in the light in which they should be, because every person is under the spell of yoga-maya, the same inscrutable power he described earlier as guna-mayi maya. As a result, people remain deluded till they decide to shirk it themselves. Delusion as well as the will to eschew it is imbued into each person, be it man or woman. But humanity nevertheless prefers to permit the plight and suffer its impacts, as if they are helpless.
Krishna now makes a generalized reference as to how the delusion overpowers every one within the fold of creation, right from the time of birth. This statement, like some other similar verses, epitomizes the Bhagavad Gita teaching:
All beings in the world, O Bharata, are subjected to the delusion of duality arising from likes and dislikes. Those, who by virtuous deeds, get their sins attenuated, become freed from the delusion of duality and take to worshipping the Supreme with resoluteness.
Selective worship, blindly attaching to it specific ends, is not something unusual in the world. The minds of people are, by the very fact of worldliness, suffering from a delusion, which has its roots in the twin urges of likes and dislikes. This delusion works in all, as it is so designed by Nature Herself.
The only way out is to pursue virtuous thoughts and actions. When the pursuit grows strong, the dvandva-delusion will become weak and extinct. That will empower the mind and heart to take to exclusive worship of the Supreme. Such noble people will remain steadfast and wholesome in their new pursuit.
By this Krishna assures that the present nature or tendencies should not unsettle the devotee or the seeker. The spiritual mind must gain the insight into human nature in general and the manner in which it displays its multiple tendencies. The exposition on guna-mayi-maya enfolding and enveloping all, should enable the seeker develop an unbiased, unprejudiced, gentle and wise response to the assorted ways of people around.
So far as the seeker is concerned, Krishna is emphatic that he should get freed from the clutches of the inherited delusion. The potential for this effort rests in the individual and the choice to make it true is equally his. Spiritual sadhana is always individualistic.
The same point was highlighted earlier also. Only the related concepts were in a way different. For instance, the sarga, worldliness (creation), Krishna said, stands overcome if only the mind is established in samya (5.19). The factors to which this samya was related to were sukha-duhkhas, raga-dveshas and allied dvandvas – all of which surely breed instability and disharmony in the mind. This is all that the world can and will bring about to anyone anytime.
The one who can withstand the twin urges of passion and prejudice (kama and krodha) will, he again said, become the most happy and integrated (5.23). The emphasis and the message in both cases are quite obvious, unmistakable. The same instability and disharmony of the mind are what he refers to here as the iccha and dvesha delusion, which overtakes every one since birth (sarge).
The samya of the mind, highlighted earlier, is replaced here with unflinching devotion to the Supreme. Whether the seeker abides in the taintless Brahman or he rests devotionally in the supreme Lord, makes little difference. The attitude and relationship are alone perhaps different, but the effect and content of the outcome is the same.
Krishna now closes the chapter by briefly making a mention of the devotee, who, by taking to exclusive and all-fold devotion, qualifies for the highest wisdom about Creation, the Creator and the Self within. Devotion is not merely an emotional pursuit of the mind. In its wholesomeness, it also enlightens the intelligence most effectively.
(From Essential Concepts of Bhagavad Gita - Volume 4)