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Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

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Articles for Saadhana

Krishna’s words about Pandita, an enlightened person, had a startling effect. By introducing the concept of  Pandita and Panditya, Krishna intensified Arjuna’s viveka- the primary quality of a spiritual seeker- by showing him his own basic ignorance and the imperative need to remove and transcend it forthwith. Naturally, Arjuna’s mind could not remain indifferent or inattentive. Viveka is the quality, which led Arjuna to seek Sreyas (the ultimate good) so openly, standing on the chariot in Kurukshetra. And now when Krishna attempts to strengthen it with timely response, Arjuna’s attention cannot but be pronounced and sharp.

Mind is the first factor in man to react to the sensory situations it perceives so readily every time. And it is its inevitable habit to come out with its lamenting and conflicting notes, unless intelligence, the higher faculty, intercepts the process and begins to be active with its superb notes. The discordance between intelligence and mind, between wisdom and emotional turbulence, alone is the chronic ill of mankind- the society as well as individuals.

The intelligence of man has not merely the role of probing into the constitution and behaviour of matter and materiality surrounding it. It has also the indispensable duty of looking into the behaviour of the subject mind, functioning closest to it within the body of man, and set right the irregularity in its behaviour by providing the right balance, vision and vigour. This behavioural propriety and sublimity is the first and last enrichment of the human, without which any learning and possession of mankind will surely become hollow and even harmful.

Mind’s lamentation and misbehaviour are a chronic problem of human life. But it goes uncared for, though not unnoticed. In the haste and hurry of sensory indulgences and their excess, the mind’s imbalances are allowed to prevail. Wrong responses and ceaseless behaviour continue to dominate man’s life, thereby ruining his welfare and decrying the benign role of the great wisdom, which he is gifted with. The singular emphasis of Sankhya is to make man realize this grave inefficiency, inattention and imbalance and address himself to the crisis sooner or later, in the most active environment if not in the peaceful and restful hours.

The truth about existence

Keep enlightenment in front, and match the mind’s moods and behaviour with it, says Krishna. From the Pandit level, Krishna elucidates what is the character of existence, and whether life and death give any clue to it at all.

If anything is to exist in truth, it must do so ever, changelessly. To be changeful will be to disprove the basic character of existence itself. Every one effortlessly feels, right from the beginning of his life, “I am present, I am alive, I exist”. This self-felt authority for existence cannot spring from the body as it is. For the body is constantly changeful.

As the body comes out of the mother’s womb in to the world outside, which marks the first transition in visible external life, it undergoes a number of transitions from that moment. Childhood first, boyhood or girlhood next, and then adolescence, youth etc. are transitions in a regular series befalling any born body on earth. Finally, there will one day occur the last visible transition, namely ‘fall of the body’. How can death, which denotes cessation, extinction and destruction, be ever described as the last outcome of embodiment? Death brings the notion of absence or disappearance. If such absence were to be verily true of whatever exists, then existence would itself be, in the first instance, not possible at all. Therefore, Krishna asks Arjuna to dispel all his doubts and fear about life: “There was no time when either I or you or yet these others around us here, including Bheeshma and Drona, were absent, non-existent. There will equally be no time, when any one will become non-existent. As I exist now, as all of us are existing now, we were existing earlier too, before the birth of the body, and we will be existing too, after the so-called death of the body.”

Existence cannot be, by any standard, something that comes to be at a time, and gone out at another time. Think clearly whether the body belongs to the level and kind of true existence. By being born and also by ceasing to be, it disproves existence, true existence. Yet the body is seen to be alive and express. Naturally, that is because of something other than the body, namely the Self. The Self, for him, is eternal. It was before the birth of the body, and it will also be after the body’s death.

This eternal Self is not readily perceived, true. In fact, our senses do not have the power to gain the full range of perception. They perceive only one part. The other part, the higher range of perception, is accessible to the inner faculties of man, namely mind and intelligence. In human life, both the sensory and the supra-sensory faculties are equally effective.

But senses do give the unmistakable clue to the Self. And the mind, intelligence and heart, together, are left to gain its perception. The Pandita excels in this. “It is because of the merits of enlightenment,” says Krishna, “that I speak about the eternality of existence before you.”

“Bheeshma and Drona do not doubt or lament like you,” adds Krishna, “because they are perceiving the eternal Self clearly and well. Self-perception is the real deficiency in you. Your fear, your doubt and indecision, will flee in the wake of Self-enlightenment. Think, Arjuna, about existence as being birthless and deathless, as eternal, and look for it attentively. The changeful body acts as a clue for the purpose.”

The constant changefulness in the body is, in fact, a display of the eternal Self. Like the burning power of fire, the flowing power of water, the drying power of wind, the transition of the body is the power and expression of the Self alone. The eternal Self has brought the body into life only to reveal its own non-transitory, eternal nature!

Arjuna’s fear and doubt had no basis at all in the light of what Krishna stated about enlightenment and existence. To feel grief about death is sheer delusion. The Wise will not be so deluded, for the death to him is but a natural transition- Dheerah tatra na muhyati.

The truth about life

What is now left then? If death can no more be a cause for fear about the loss of life, then life and living alone can be a subject for anxiety. Life is the duration between the birth of the body and its fall. What should be the right point of view about the duration called life, Arjuna wonders. How should one think of life so that, as in the case of death, the delusion will be shed and clarity will dawn?

It is in response to this that Krishna explains the nature of life and how one should face it with a proper insight. Krishna’s explanation is unique and wholesome in every way. In merely four letters, Krishna defines life as ‘Mātrā-sparśaḥ’, to bring out what all it means and implies. 

 

मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय शीतोष्णसुखदुःखदाः ।
आगमापायिनोऽनित्यास्तांस्तितिक्षस्व भारत ।। १४ ।।
 
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya śītoṣṇa-sukha-duḥkhadāḥ |
āgamāpāyino'nityās-tāḿs-titikṣasva bhārata ||

Life is a ceaseless course of experience. In this process, the world around us is one component and the senses in man are the other components. Interactions between the two- man’s own senses and the objects of the world- are what constitute life, experience. As long as the eyes interact with objects of colour, the ear with objects of sound, the nose with those of smell, the skin with objects of touch or the tongue with those of taste- the process is bound to bring about sukha and dukha. It will not be all sukha or even all dukha, but sukha and dukha alternately. The alternation between sukha and dukha cannot be avoided, as long as man has his five senses and the world around him consists of objects for these senses to perceive and interact with.

If thus sukha-dukhas are something inevitable in the context of sense-object interactions, what is a man of viveka to do? He should understand their place well and forbear them, meet them with an unfailing and ready acceptance. In forbearing them, what is the vision of the Wise that will help or strengthen the mind?

Krishna points out that the sukha-dukhas, which constantly result from sense-object interactions, are transitory. They always come and go. To come and then to leave is the very nature of these resultants. If they are so, what is the trouble in forbearing these? In allowing them to do so? Neither does the sukha endure nor does the dukha. Both will emerge only to subside. They enter only to exit.

They being transitory by nature, to expect them to behave differently is futile. Anything will have its nature. The sensory interactions will have their nature too. And so, the sukha-dukhas have their inevitable place. Towards them, the only attitude called for is one of forbearance or tolerance. This forbearance is called titiksha. 

Krishna tells Arjuna, “tān titikṣasva bhārata – Forbear them, O Bharata.”

Titiksha is one of the merits or qualifications that should necessarily grace a seeker of Truth. Krishna imbues Arjuna too with the same quality, giving his own definition, place and purpose for it. The point is very significant.

In the name of titiksha, many take to various kinds of adventurous acts. Some lie on hot sand-beds, while others immerse themselves in ice-cold water. Undue fasting, inflicting indiscrete torture on the body, wearing rags, living in unclean places- thus go the variety of self- persecutions. In the context of Self-enlightenment, are all these called for? Krishna’s answer is precise and comprehensive.

Titiksha is a quality of the mind and buddhi. Tolerance and intolerance are inward and mental in nature. Forbearance must be towards the fleeting sukha and dukha that senses constantly bring forth when they interact with the world objects around them. The mind will gain the ability and readiness to forbear sukha-dukhas only when their nature, inevitability and transitoriness are clearly grasped. If sukha and dukha are both unavoidable in the context of life, and these are by their very nature quite fleeting, then why resent their incidence. Develop a note of harmony, reconciliation, with them. As the world objects have their place, the senses on the body have theirs too, so also the sukha-dukha resultants have theirs. Reinforcing the mind with the strength of viveka, a sense of forbearance must be cultivated constantly. When delusion drops and wisdom dawns, then itself will the intolerance also leave.

(From the series Essential-Concepts-In-Bhagavad-Gita)

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