Having shown clearly how paramount and fulfilling the place and purpose of Yajña is in human life, Krishna pronounces a clear warning on this account. This is powerful enough to make any sādhaka think seriously about his position in the world. It will also oblige him to examine and evaluate whatever claims he has about his yoga sādhana or spiritual pursuit. Krishna's words are verily a touchstone:
The whole existence and more particularly the various life-forms on this earth taken together, constitute a profound cyclic process. Like a huge wheel revolving on its axle, the whole creation moves in a complex cycle. Every living being has its place in this creational wheel. Each must preserve its place, adhering to its role in the revolutionary course. If any one tends to flout the all-inclusive harmony and purpose, he is guilty of 'spiritual crime'. Krishna calls such a defaulter as sinful (aghāyuh). The sinful becomes so due to an excessive flair for sensory thrills and delights. Indriyārāmah is the word Krishna uses to describe such a negligent, careless one. Such a one, warns Krishna, makes his life wasteful; he but lives in vain. What more condemnation can be there?
In front of such severe denouncements, the choice of the discreet sādhaka to heed and fulfil the call of yajña becomes compulsive. This kind of critical evaluation about sensory delights can be found elsewhere also. In fact, the discipline Bhagavadgītā lays down repeatedly for man is not based on the usual other-worldly considerations. It clearly relates to the facts and needs of this life. It has always its direct relevance to the life and interactions here and now:
The first verse explains how the delight or thrill produced by the sense-object contacts (saṃ-sparśajā bhogāh) are, when closely studied, sure wombs of misery (duhkha-yonaya eva te). They only cause affliction and agitation to the mind. For, such thrills and delights have always their clear beginning and end (adyantavantah). To the body, which already has its Janma (birth or beginning) and mrtyu (end or death), the sensory delights will only enhance and strengthen the plight. The discreet man will not indulge in such fleeting delights.
The senses may again and again induce one to court the objects. But the mind must prevail with its timely reflection. In fact, such spiritual introspection alone can provide the constant balance and check necessary for one's life and behaviour. Knowledge alone holds the power to correct and elevate man.
The second verse also drives home the same truth, but in different words. within every object of the senses lurk the powers of attraction and repulsion (raga and dvesha). The yogic seeker should make sure that he does not come under their sway, warns Krishna. Raga and dvesha, which the sensory objects constantly host, are the stark enemies of the seeker. With cautious discretion, sharp discrimination, he should persistently contend and sublimate them.
A question becomes quite relevant here: In front of such warning and caution, what should one think about his life in the world? Should he start doubting and fearing the world? Is it impossible for a well-meaning individual to live with his body and senses? What exactly is the message of Krishna in these words of denunciation?
It is true that we have the senses, which are susceptible to the allurements of objects. With these senses alone one can interact with the world and the objects around. It is the senses which bring the knowledge about the objects and their mutual relationships, usefulness and the like. In fact, the very knowledge process is based upon our external perceptions. All the words that we have evolved, together with the ideas they convey, are derived from the object sphere alone. Sensory interactions with the object sphere alone make this possible. But these interactions alone with the resultant knowledge should become a vital part in shaping our values and ideals in the manner in which Krishna discusses them. Rather than getting blinded by the thrills and delights of the senses, the interactional experiences must form the basis for deeper thinking and evaluation. In the name of sensory delights and thrills, no infatuation or lack of timely restraint and moderation should be allowed. For this, proper Viveka (discrimination) should be fostered right beforehand. Or else human life will merely descend to the level of animals.
In employing the senses for whatever purposes they are meant, neither the dignity of human life, as envisaged by Nature or the Creator, nor its wholesome purpose, should be led to degenerate. With the feeling heart and the knowing intelligence, we should not the least lack in preserving our timely wisdom, with adequate caution and safeguards to avoid undue pitfalls or degeneration.
Remember, unlike animals, mankind has sovereign access to the inner horizon, the sphere of Consciousness. This inner sphere is far greater and more profound than the external counterpart surrounding the senses. The Subject consciousness, by dint of which alone the endless world of objects is perceived and interacted with, is always the supreme. It is the majesty and magnificence of the Subject that enables and empowers the objective variety and endlessness. When Krishna, right in the beginning, exposed Arjuna to the Immortal Soul in contrast to the mortal body in the second chapter, he was in fact leading Arjuna to grasp the inward magnitude and potential of man!
To be blinded by what the senses see, is to neglect this superior inward potential accessible to us. External allurements, if not checked and sublimated, will surely drive man to pitiable degeneration and doom. History has recorded the extinction of some great civilizations in the hands of moral, ethical and spiritual decay. Lack of spiritual insight and the restraints and moderation such insight dictates, have alone been the cause of such downfall. If and when people fail to heed the message of inner life and its compulsions, the fate cannot but be the woeful attempt to climb two feet only to slip down by twenty. That is why Krishna, through his yajña enunciation and the warnings following it, gives us the necessary forethought and resolve.
The only right course is to employ the senses (as mentioned in verse 3.7) with sufficient regulation and moderation. If this is ensured, life will get enriched every time. In fact, the whole of our personality - consisting of the senses, mind, intelligence and ego - will become beautifully integrated if it becomes oriented and empowered by spiritual wisdom and strength. Like friction helping motion, every part of our personality will help and strengthen us consistently.
The great poet Bhartṛhari, in his famous composition Vairāgyaśaṭaka (hundred verses on dispassion) has extolled the senses and the objects, giving obeisance to them in the last verse in his own inimitable style:
"It is by your close association that I have been able to attain inward purity, expanse and sublimity. Being freed from blindness and delusion, I have been able to rejoice at my own supreme inwardness, transparence and endlessness. Obeisance to you all – earth, water, fire, air and akasa – and equally to the senses by which alone I have been able to experience all and turn back to my own unbounded inner dimension."
The way Krishna has highlighted the concept and role of Yajña makes adherence to them inevitable. Naturally a doubt arises: So far Krishna's exhortation has been to get to the immortal Self, and to take up yoga pursuit for the purpose. Yoga pursuit calls for a life of reflection, introspection and contemplation. Will it allow any deflection or digression? Even resorting to the call of Yajña will mean a diversion to the exclusiveness of Yoga pursuit. Krishna had already pointed out earlier (verse 2.41) how vyavasāyātmika buddhih (exclusive application of intelligence) becomes supreme for the yogic seeker. The seeker has to exclusively focus his mind on the Self.
Will there thus be any conflict between the pursuit of yoga and that of Yajña? Has not Krishna also said that for one who knows the Immortal Self, there cannot be any question of doing anything or causing anyone to do anything - kam ghātayati hanti kam? In gaining Self-knowledge human life becomes fulfilled.
Foreseeing these questions, Krishna clarifies the subject by showing how lofty and full is the state of the knower:
The pedestal of the Self-knower, and hence of Self-knowledge itself, is quite supreme and sovereign. It cannot be compared to that of the ordinary people and their thoughts and actions. The seeker of the Self is not to seek anything from the outside world. Thus all desires and possessions lose their significance to the Self-knower. In such intense inwardness, can any rule or procedure relating to the outside world and interactions apply?
Jijñāsur-api yogasya śabdabrahmātivartate, says Krishna in verse 6.44. Even a mere enquirer of Yoga pursuit rises, by dint of that pursuit, above all Vedic injunctions and prohibitions.
In fact, Self-pursuit is the most refined form of all religious pursuits. One who takes to such a spiritual pursuit does, by the very dint of it, rise above all religious prescriptions. What spiritual pursuit imbues him with is far beyond what religious observances can bestow. Spiritual sādhanā is thus self-supporting, self-enriching and self-sublimating.
Self-knower is one who embodies in abundant measure such inward enrichment and sublimation. this puts him above board in all matters. Only for one who expects something from the world, the world can think of laying down its rules or demands. Given to non-expectation, the mind outlives all considerations resulting from religious dos and donts. Whatever delight or contentment worldly gains can bring about, much more does the Knower enjoy from freeing his mind from worldly constraints and embracing the Self within. Desire or expectation of any kind will only tend to constrict and weaken the mind. It is antagonistic to the very freedom Self-knowledge bestows.
Krishna describes the Self-Knower as Ātma-ratih, meaning one who constantly rejoices in his own Self. He further adds that the Knower is an Ātma-tṛptah, signifying that he is fully content with his own within. In him there can be no feeling of any kind of want or absence. Krishna also emphasizes that such a one is Ātmani eva ca santuśṭah, meaning that the Knower finds his supreme delight in his own Self, within himself. When thus everything that one looks for either from this world or from those beyond is gained by the Knower from his Self-knowledge alone, what a great state of loftiness and fullness will that be !
In verse 22 of chapter 6 Krishna has described this inward fullness very effectively :
"On gaining which, one does not aspire for anything else." The Self and its Knowledge become the sole supreme gain for him, which dismisses all needs and desires for anything else. To seek the Self is to gain phychological sufficiency. When the mind outlives all its wants and yearnings and hence is freed from the resulting shackles and botherations caused by ego and possessiveness, it achieves a sense of sufficiency. Equally so, when the intelligence is relieved from all its quests and contradictions, there results a deep spiritual fullness and transparence. Self-Knower has both the excellences in ample measure.
In such a state of inward sovereignty and profusion, can there be any relevance for a sense of duty or obligation at all? It is true that Scriptures enjoin several duties and obligations, but they do not apply to such a Knower. The Knower's fullness makes him rise above all kinds of duty, enjoined by anyone or anything whatsoever. The sense of duty will have its meaning and relevance only when one suffers from the characteristic notes of doership, enjoyership and sufferership. When these tripple notions subside and become extinct, how can any motivation or urge ever reign?
The Knower's within is like space, which surrounds and penetrates everything visible and perceptible. Does space ever actively involve itself in any of the movements or forces that the heavenly bodies orginate and display? yet, is not space the mother and source of all?
The inward fullness and majesty of the Self-knower will be somewhat similar, although this will still be only an approximate illustration. One can say that the Knower is like the invisible and all-pervasive God. Everything revolves around God, but God as such does not do anything specifically. The Knower too, by his own inward magnificence and sublimity, will be a constant source of welfare. In one way or another, his presence will imply salutary effects all around. Think of what happened when the great Agastya Maharshi stepped into Dandakaranya. The Sage's heart was immensely touched by the pitiable desert he saw around. He instantly sat there communing with the surroundings. Before long, the sky shed profusely making the whole land fertile and green. The whole sequence was natural, spontaneous.
In the case of Knowers, this is what always results, wherever they are and whatever they seem to be doing. The creativity and effectiveness of the human becomes the best and most sublime when he elevates himself to the supreme loftiness of the Self, effacing his ego and all its possessiveness. Words will always fail to describe such a crowning fruition of human life on earth !
In verse 18 of chapter 4, in the words karmaṇyakarma yah paṣyet.........sa yuktah kṛtsna-karmakṛt, Krishna beautifully shows how the lofty vision of the Knower carries with it the potential of supreme effectiveness and creativity. The Knower's perception is such that it embodies the merit of all actions. It makes man an all-performer.
The final message of Krishna in this discussion is that the call and compulsion of Yajña are relevant to all of mankind; but the Self-knower stands as the singular exception, meaning that his life itself becomes a full-fledged Yajña. Whatever is true of the Knower is also relevant to the true seekers who exclusively take to this supreme spiritual path of Bhagavadgītā. Such an assurance or confirmation is necessary to enable seekers to confidently pursue the path of wisdom and yoga, as laid down by Krishna.
(From the Series Essential Concepts In Bhagavad Gita)
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