Krishna emphasized that spiritual seeking is primarily a knowledge orientation process, which has its first impact on the intelligence and through that on the mind and senses. It is a very subtle inner process, transforming one drastically when rightly grasped and pursued. The outcome it brings about is tremendous and can be instantaneous too.
It has the power to exterminate psychological and psychic shackles like delusion, bondage and torment, thereby making the mind and intelligence peaceful, stable and poised. The process is so deep and wholesome that it liberates the seeker completely from the fear of death and rebirth. Can the subtle process of spiritual knowledge mean so much? Yes, says Krishna, like every other spiritual Master.
Meditational, introspectional and interactional sadhana
Spiritual knowledge relates exclusively to the One Subject, in contrast to the knowledge we have of the multitude of objects surrounding us. It calls for devout reflection and introspection resulting in intense contemplation. As a result the seeker is naturally led to outlive his flair for worldly-activity and prefer solitude and meditation, leading to inner absorption and stillness.
This fundamental fact of spiritual life has engendered the culture of meditation, which came to be regarded as an inevitable part of spiritual seeking. Krishna has already discussed the subject of meditation, showing the two distinct phases of the practice – one associated with bodily pose, breath-regulation (6.11-15) and the other resting solely upon intelligence, leading to mind’s withdrawal from the senses to get absorbed in the Self (6.24 – 28).
Krishna therefore describes meditation as a wholesome spiritual process. He also lists two more methods alongside:
Some people perceive the Self in themselves by exclusive meditation. Whereas some others do so by the vicara-yoga (sankhya), while some others accomplish the goal by taking to karmayoga.
Whether one studies the subject beforehand from the Scriptures or not, it is the Self, the inmost entity in oneself, that is to be known and realized. If that be so, then the only means is to get there straightaway. This means to leave all active and interactive involvement – sensory, vocal or bodily – and focus the mind on its own inmost essence. That would be to court exclusive and ceaseless meditation.
In meditation, mind alone is at work and that too to get absorbed in the Self. That is why many people woo meditation as an intense austerity. It has become a very strong tradition and culture in this land. How many ascetics are there given to various styles and standards of meditation! The culture is so strong and appealing that even the illiterate, poor and simple take to it zealously. It is very surprising how such a deep-rooted affinity has come to be in vogue in the society!
A mind given to constant meditation should sooner or later drop all its functions, modifications. Once this happens, the mind’s own substance will inevitably shine forth with its own brilliance. It is that grand fruition when the Subject begins to shine, to the exclusion of all object linkage. On this account, meditation itself, says Krishna, becomes a full-fledged sadhana.
Another, he says, is sankhya, meaning the subtle, exclusive investigation, introspection, like the one Krishna instills in Arjuna in Kurukshetra. This is what Suka-muni took up for King Pareekshit during the short span of 7 days on the bank of Ganga. In fact, the entire Upanishadic tuition is conducted in this manner. Hearing and reflection constitute the sadhana in sankhya.
The third, says Krishna, is the karma-yoga, where the seeker tries to look for his imperfections and seeks to redress them during the course of his karmic involvement itself. How through the pursuit of karma, the buddhi becomes Yoga oriented and the process takes one to the sthitaprajnata has already been discussed in the second (2.48-71) and succeeding chapters.
In an interaction like what transpired in Kurukshetra between Arjuna, the seeker and Krishna, the Knower, the knowledge process alone can work and that is what Krishna instills all along.
Sadhana through listening (sravana)
Krishna adds that even listening to the Scriptural texts would be a full pursuit by itself:
There are yet others who, not having enough knowledge, take to their sadhana after listening to others’ exposition. Such seekers, given assiduously to listening, too transcend mortality.
It may appear to be a unique addition. But on reflection, you will find that listening has a very important role in spiritual life. In fact, the entire Vedanta rests upon sravana, manana and nididhyasana. The first in these is attentive hearing or listening.
The seeker has to go to the Knower and get exposed to the Truth attentively. Only when he does this first part, which needs the presence of a Wise Teacher, the other two, manana and nididhyasana, can follow. Even reflection and meditation thus succeed hearing alone.
Hearing is so inspiring, enlightening and forceful that it has come to be a great culture in this land. Discourses on Ramayana, Mahabharata, árimad Bhagavatam and similar Texts have played an important role in the religious as well as spiritual life of our people for ages. In recent years Bhagavadgita also has become a fond subject for regular discourses. How is it that so many come to listen to Bhagavadgita exposition? Most of the listeners may not take up further links of spiritual pursuit. But they will not like to miss their listening, whenever there is an opportunity.
Bhagavata Saptahas have come in vogue like this. To listen to Srimad Bhagavatam there is a regular crowd. For hours together, they listen to the rendering of the Text and its stories. The session lasts for 7 days. How can so many men and women piously listen to the narration? Most of them cannot read the Sanskrit text themselves and understand. Yet they love to listen to the narration.
Krishna says, even that kind of listening is good, effective and fulfilling. Such devout listeners will in due time, by their sheer intimacy and intensity, be able to transcend worldliness. After years of listening, they become oriented towards sadhana and that bestows purity and sublimation.
Transcending differential vision
Krishna then summarizes the kshetra and kshetrajna discussion:
Whatever mobile and immobile existence emerges, understand all that as a result of conjunction of kshetra and kshetrajna (materiality and Consciousness).
The whole world consists of mobile and immobile creation, existence. The panca-bhutas (five elements) are there either in their pure form or as their derivatives in the endless panca-bhautika creation.
Whatever their form may be, the kshetra and kshetrajna (material existence and Consciousness) are present everywhere. In other words, all forms of existence and expression are a conjunction of kshetra and kshetrajna.
Why should Krishna say this? Where does he take Arjuna or any other seeker to by this statement? There is no doubt that to free the mind and intelligence from the clutches of multiplicity, plurality – the one factor causing delusion and perpetuating bondage – is the goal of spiritual wisdom. Krishna’s dialogue should at every stage succeed in fulfilling this mission.
To consider existence as two-fold, sentient and insentient, one totally distinct and disconnected from the other, is a sheer habit of the mind and intelligence. Unless this habit is replaced by the higher vision, delusion and bondage will not attenuate at all. To help this process, Krishna posits that every form of existence, no matter whether it is mobile or immobile, is a conjunction of kshetrajna, the sentient, and the kshetra, the insentient.
The popular distinction the senses make in this regard is to be set right. The higher evaluation should guide the seeker. For normal interaction we accept the sentient-insentient categories. But, as seeking progresses, the higher spiritual perception should replace this duo, for this is the supreme Truth. To help this process, Krishna states, as the first step, that in all existences one has to find both sentience and insentience.
This means sentience or Consciousness, the supreme Reality, is all-permeating. It interpenetrates everything in the world. The seeker should focus his mind on this fact. Only then he will be able to rise above the delusion of plurality and get to the supreme Truth of oneness. Was not Krishna emphasizing this point right from the beginning? For instance, words like yena sarvam idam tatam (2.17), dehi nityam avadhyo’yam dehe sarvasya bharata (2.30), tasmat sarvagatam brahma (3.15), ... clearly exhort the seeker to reflect upon the all-pervading Presence, the supreme Reality. In fact, this alone is the foundation as well as the goal of true spiritual life.
In chapter 6, Krishna has explained clearly: sarva-bhutastham-atmanam sarva-bhutani catmani ikshate yoga-yuktatma sarvatra sama-darsanah (6.29). Again: yo mam pasyati sarvatra sarvam ca mayi pasyati (6.30). In fact, the one theme of Bhagavad Gita is this kind of expansion of the mind and intelligence, shedding all the habitual constrictions, to arrive at the all-pervading Self.
Krishna’s call is for an unconditional transcendence of all plural notions and getting focussed on Oneness. That alone will refine and sublimate the mind to facilitate benevolent interactions in the world. Anything contrary is not acceptable.
The supreme Lord is established in all beings equally. He is the real Seer who ceaselessly perceives this imperishable Reality in all perishable things around.
Perceiving the supreme Reality everywhere and in all alike, such a one does not destroy the Self by the self, and hence attains the supreme spiritual state.
The entire discussion on kshetra and kshetrajna aims at facilitating interactions, removing all contradictions and afflictions from them. When analyzed properly, mind’s distress is grief and intelligence’s is ignorance or delusion. The sole purpose of spiritual Wisdom is to redress both and make one a sthita-prajna and sthita-dhi.
The usual notes of social morality, ethics, with their allied disciplines and restraints, are incomplete or inadequate for fulfilling man’s spiritual aspirations. They are limited in their scope, generating and preserving a strong note of partiality or duality. To safeguard against such constraints and lead the mind to its full expanse, making interactions broad and widely benevolent, spiritual enquiry and introspection are indispensable. They alone can dissolve and bestow clarity and expansion.
Each sense has its limited role of revealing a specific aspect of objects. Thus eyes can reveal only colours and shapes, ears decipher the sounds, and so on. By this, the senses only implant differences, giving rise to various constrictions. To raise the mind from this differential vision and the consequent plural muddle, a higher agency is necessary. Thus comes the intelligence with its distinct power to act on the mind. To employ the intelligence for this subtle mission of refining the mind and clear its plural trap, it must first of all be made to investigate into the sensory plight. To help and guide the process is the introspection about the jneya (The One to be known), the Subject, as Krishna explains. Herein lies the salvation.
Viewed by the senses, everything in the world is perishable. The atom is perishable, the earth and the other heavenly bodies are also alike. Can the perishables by themselves exist for long? Naturally they must surely have something to make them abide. Krishna says it is the Imperishable content that sustains their perishability. He calls the Imperishable the supreme Reality. It is the omnipresence of the Supreme that makes the perishable world exist.
Any perishable existence must instantly drive us to think of an Imperishable essence or substratum. As the senses bring the notion of the perishables to the mind, so too should the intelligence reflect the Imperishable interpenetrating all of them. The sensory report and inner perception thus complement each other, making a beautiful alliance, assuaging the mind and showering peace and harmony.
How such a harmonious duo helps ease and facilitate interactions with the world is what Krishna discusses mostly throughout the dialogue.
The Knower, perceiving supreme Reality as equally present in all, neither hurts anyone nor gets hurt by anyone. Thoughts and imaginations of duality and plurality, along with their resultant conflicts drop from the mind. Such an enlightened one ascends to the supreme Spiritual Beatitude.
In describing the sthita-prajna and sthita-dhi, did not Krishna state: apuryamanam acala-pratishtham (2.70), followed by vihaya kaman yah sarvan pumamscarati..... (2.71)? What about the message on the Knower of Truth being freed of his sanga and living freely (3.27-28)? Verses 3.18 – 3.23 picture the lofty state of expansion and freedom the mind of a Knower reaches.
As spirituality gets more and more established, the interactions become easy and natural. In fact, this interactional message is what the dialogue has been highlighting throughout.
(From Essential Concepts in Bhagavad Gita - Volume 5)