The Wisdom Of The Gita, Bhagavatam And The Vedas – 7

In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna speaks of himself as the true well-wisher of all living beings, but he also identifies himself with time and with death: I come as time and destroy all the worlds. As death, I take away all.

The Vedanta Sutras begin by saying that amidst all the words we talk, real talking begins when we inquire about the Absolute, or the source of everything. The Bhagavatam says that this one absolute is realised in three phases: the impersonal all-pervading reality, the Supersoul – the indwelling presence of God within one’s heart and finally, the Personality of Godhead, the supreme reality in a divine personal form.

The Bhagavatam further distinguishes between words that are empty and useless and those that have substantial value. It says:

na yad vacaś citra-padaṁ harer yaśo
jagat-pavitraṁ pragṛṇīta karhicit
tad vāyasaṁ tīrtham uśanti mānasā
na yatra haṁsā niramanty uśikkṣayāḥ

Those words which do not describe the glories of the Lord, who alone can sanctify the atmosphere of the whole universe, are considered by saintly persons to be like unto a place of pilgrimage for crows. Since the all-perfect persons are inhabitants of the transcendental abode, they do not derive any pleasure there.

tad-vāg-visargo janatāgha-viplavo
yasmin prati-ślokam abaddhavaty api
nāmāny anantasya yaśo ‘ṅkitāni yat
śṛṇvanti gāyanti gṛṇanti sādhavaḥ

On the other hand, that literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, forms, pastimes, etc., of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest.

In the Bhagavatam, the young king Parikshit, when cursed to die within seven days, left everything and went to the bank of the Ganges. There, he asked Sukadeva, the great sage: What is that a man should do in this life, and especially a man about to die? In a sense, everybody is going to die and most usually do not know when. Hence this question is most appropriate. The sage said: This is the most apt question. However, most people do not ask this question. Blind to the truth of the self, they spend their time engrossed in sleeping, mating or looking for money. They rely on people and things who are definitely going to be gone – body, children, spouse, friends, relatives, career, home etc, all of them fallible and temporary. One who wants to be free of all fear should hear about, speak about and remember the Personality of Godhead, the Supersoul, who takes all miseries and illusions away. Whether by understanding of matter and spirit, by practice of mystic yoga, or by doing whatever one is meant to do, the highest perfection to be gained in human life is to remember the Personality of Godhead at the end. The Personality of Godhead includes the impersonal all-pervading truth and the Supersoul within each and is beyond this and all other realities as a supremely attractive divine and transcendent Person. So one should think of Krishna as the divine person at all times and this is to turn from darkness to good, unreal to the real and from death to immortality.

The Bhagavatam says: After many, many births one achieves this rare human form, and though not permanent it can enable one to attain the highest perfection, Therefore, one should strive for the ultimate perfection and not just sense gratification, which can be had in any species. Death is not the end, as the Gita says: Just as the embodied soul continually passes, in the present body, from childhood to youth to old age, the soul passes into another body at death. So one should not be afraid of death but rather utilise this opportunity in a human body to go back to Krishna, to the Divine.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks Krishna to take him to the middle of the battlefield and look at both the armies. On seeing his teachers and relative on the opposite side, he despairs and says that rather than fight with them, he would rather accept defeat. He does not know what to do and hence he turns toward Krishna for advice, and Krishna first says: You are mourning for what is not worthy of grief and then goes on the speak the Bhagavad Gita, at the end of which, Arjuna understand the reality and agrees to fight.

The Bhagavad Gita says that from anger, bewilderment arises and this leads to illusion and ultimately misery. The Bhagavatam says: As the world is now, so it was in the past and so it will be in the future. Birth, death, disease and old age exist. Hence true wisdom is to get out of this state  and return to freedom, to our natural spiritual state.

The Vedic literature says that one should gain wisdom as an inheritance passed down from previous generations, from teacher to student, from master to disciple. The Bhagavad Gita says: Just try to learn the truth by approaching a genuine, self-realized spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth. Krishna says: I originally spoke this imperishable science of yoga to the lord of the sun who in turn imparted it to Manu and Manu imparted it to Ikshvaaku. Thus the knowledge of yoga was received in a line of succession and sagacious kings understood it this way.

The Bhagavatam says the human beings who simply live to prolong their lives, to go on breathing, to eat and have sex are hardly better than animals, because they do the same as animals do, only a bit more refined. True wisdom is to understand the ultimate source of everything, or the ultimate refuge of everything. The source of everything is ultimately the Supreme. This Supreme is the impersonal all-pervading truth, the Supersoul within each and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. Krishna encompasses everything else and is therefore the ultimate Source or Refuge of everything.  Everything else is just his energy.

The Bhagavad Gita says: This material world is a crooked version of the spiritual world like a banyan tree whose roots are upwards and branches below. This material world is an imperfect reflection of the spiritual world. We cannot find perfection here. So we need to be detached. The Bhagavad Gita says that this means one should not rejoice when one obtains what is pleasing or be disturbed when things go the other way. Rather, with steady intelligence one should remember one’s identity as an eternal part of the Supreme and not be bewildered by falsely identifying oneself with the temporary material body. Those who in this way see themselves in relationship with the Supreme are already situated in transcendence. Detached from outward happiness and distress, they enjoy happiness from within, and because they connect themselves with the Supreme, the happiness they enjoy is without limits. If we try to want we become bewildered. As Bhishma says in the Bhagavatam: No one can know the plan of the Lord. Even though great philosophers inquire exhaustively, they are bewildered.

The Wisdom Of The Gita, Bhagavatam And The Vedas – 6

The Vedic sages say that although one may have abundant wisdom, one is bewildered and illusioned, because he does not know who he is – or, rather, because he thinks he is something he is not. The question of who we are is a question we have to ask. It is fundamental.

Krishna says that the seers of truth who have turned their minds to the question of who we are, have seen two categories in existence – that which changes and that which endures. That which changes comes and goes, that which endures stays the same. Our bodies constantly change but our consciousness – not the content of our consciousness, but the fact of our consciousness – remains the same. My body changes, my mind changes, but the same conscious “I”, the same conscious self keeps living on. Therefore the sages conclude that I am not my body, not my mind, but the conscious self within. This self is joy itself and this joy does not come and go like vapour but endures, the way sunlight forever stays with the sun. One who realises this self, who identifies with this self, at once becomes joyful. He has nothing to desire and nothing to lament about. He is equal in all circumstances, and so he dedicates himself not to pursuing material enjoyment but to reviving his relationship with the Supreme Self, or God, the complete eternal whole of whom he realises to be a small eternal part. Thus he enters the world of bhakti, the world of eternal happiness and knowledge in the service of the Supreme.

One who laments over the body, whether it be alive or dead, ” grieves for what is not worthy of grief.”

The self is eternal and can never be destroyed. The body is always destroyed. So the Bhagavatam says: Of what use is a long life that is wasted, with years in this world, but no power to understand what one sees? Better a moment of full awareness, because that gives one a start in searching for one’s supreme interest.

The Srimad Bhagavatam says:

yan maithunādi-gṛhamedhi-sukhaṁ hi tucchaṁ
kaṇḍūyanena karayor iva duḥkha-duḥkham
tṛpyanti neha kṛpaṇā bahu-duḥkha-bhājaḥ
kaṇḍūtivan manasijaṁ viṣaheta dhīraḥ

Meager is the happiness of those who hope to enjoy a happy life at home through pleasures of which the leading one is sex. Worse than meager, such happiness is like that of scratching an itch, in which the more one scratches the more the itch grows and the more the trouble. Instead of becoming satisfied, the miserable soul just multiplies his miseries. And so the thoughtful, serious person, having learned what itching is, tolerates the itch, knowing that the supposed happiness of scratching is merely a figment of the mind.

The Bhagavad Gita advises that rather than work hard our whole lives to satisfy ever-growing desires that can never be fulfilled, better to treat the demands of the senses with thoughtful indifference and be content with whatever comes to us by nature’s own way. The Gita says: A person undisturbed by the incessant flow of desires – that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still – can alone achieve peace, and not one who tries to satisfy such desires. Therefore one should be satisfied with whatever moderate happiness that comes of its own accord. This is possible, when one experiences a higher taste in relationship with the Supreme. Therefore, rather than pursuing material enjoyment, one should pursue spiritual realisation, by which one can find unlimited enjoyment, in touch with the Supreme.

The Bhagavatam says:

yasya yad daiva-vihitaṁ sa tena sukha-duḥkhayoḥ
ātmānaṁ toṣayan dehī tamasaḥ pāram ṛcchati

One who is satisfied with that which comes by destiny, by the will of the Divine, whether it be happiness or distress, can cross beyond the darkness of nescience.

Krishna says: For one who has been born, death is certain. And in between, practically everything in our life, great and small is controlled by the workings of nature, although we may egotistically think, ” I am the one who makes it happen.”

Our independence is tiny. The Supreme is absolutely independent. All living beings are part of the Supreme. So we have the same qualities of the Supreme. Hence we also have some independence, but this independence is infinitesimal. What does this tiny independence consist of? It consists of the freedom to turn toward the Supreme or away from the Supreme, toward the Divinity or away, toward spirit or toward matter, toward reality or toward illusion. When we turn away from the Supreme, we place ourselves in the illusion that we are free and independent, that we can do whatever we set our minds on, that we can control and enjoy what the world has to offer. And in this way, we become bewildered. We come into contact with the three modes of nature-goodness, passion and ignorance and we get entangled in the material world, forgetting our relationship with the Supreme. Seeking freedom, we are enslaved…this is what the Gita calls as maya.

We need to turn away from the illusion of enjoying matter and toward our original connection with the Supreme to be restored to our natural condition. Krishna says in the Gita, that the forces of nature are divinely empowered and are His power and insurmountable. But one who surrenders to him, Krishna says, crosses beyond them. By surrendering to the Divine, we use our independence rightly and become free.

The Wisdom Of The Gita, Bhagavatam And The Vedas – 5

The Srimad Bhagavatam says:

vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate

Those who know that Absolute Truth say that it is nondual knowledge, expressed as the impersonal ultimate reality, as the supreme guide within the heart of all beings, and finally as the Personality of Godhead.According to this idea, in the beginning one could realise the all-pervading impersonal aspect of the Supreme. Then one can realize the Supreme within one’s heart and finally realise Him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just like one can know the sun as the sunshine, the sun orb and the sun-god, one can know God as the impersonal force, the God that exists in each one’e heart and the transcendent Supreme Personality, Krishna.

The Vedic view is that from lifetime to lifetime we can spiritually progress, accruing a kind of “spiritual credit” that never diminishes but we can add to. When we live in the mode of “goodness”, not violating the laws of nature, living in harmony with them, purifying our life so that we act beneficially, uplifting ourselves and others, then, the Bhagavad Gita says, we can be freed from duality and illusion and so progress with determination in reviving our relationship with the Supreme.

Both the lowest of fools and the person transcendental to all intelligence enjoy happiness, whereas persons between them suffer the material pangs: Srimad Bhagavatam. Until we go beyond material intelligence and attain a direct experience of the Supreme, an experience that now seems beyond our reach, we will still have to contend with the troubles and perplexities of the material world.

The Srimad Bhagavatam says that in the present age, the heads of state will be hardly better than plunderers. By taxes, bribes, embezzlement and fraud, by collusive manipulation of the banks and the markets, and ultimately by armed force, networks of politicians will loot, and the head of politicians will be but a leader of thieves. In this age, the Bhagavatam says, law and justice will stand only with those who wield power.

All living beings live on food grains: Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita. With food you can live, without it you can die – simple as that. And so the plowed field is the basic unit of prosperity.

In the Vedic society, the duty of the farmer was to care for the land and for such valuable animals such as the cows and the bulls. Krishna himself was a cowherd and is known as Govinda( source of pleasure for the cows) and Gopala ( the cows’ protector). A greedy and grossly ignorant society poisons Mother Earth with chemicals and slaughters the mother cow. How can such a society ever expect happiness and peace?

The Bhagavatam says: The miser is never satisfied. Ever thoroughly disturbed are the thoughts of those who grasp at the unreal. The word unreal here means that which is only temporary-home, family, job, bank balance, even your body.

The gift of maya, of illusion, of bewilderment is the gift awarded to one who wants to enjoy at the cost of losing the power to see what is what. Maya – literally, that which is not – is the energy divinely empowered by God to give us what we may want but what doesn’t exist: rather than be part of the whole, of the Supreme and serve Him, we want to be the whole, the Supreme. We want to lord over our small world but it can never happen as this world never lasts and is full of miseries. We can only enjoy under a spell of illusion, by which we can live in a dream of happiness and imagine it will go on and on. Maya has the power to cloud and cover our vision so that even though we see, we don’t see. It does this through the three modes of goodness, passion and ignorance.

As in one lifetime an embodied living being, in the body in which it lives, passes from childhood to youth to old age, so at the time of death, the Bhagavad Gita says, the living being  passes on to another lifetime, in another body altogether. And by the law of cause and effect, what we do in the present life brings on what happens to us in the next. And so our present life, too, is a consequence of what we did in our previous lives.

The results of one’s karma are arranged not directly by God but by nature’s laws, both the obvious and the subtle. God is the ultimate cause, the cause of all causes. So nature acts under His direction. God has “nothing to do” since he delegates all his work to his energies. He can get involved and intervene directly, but usually He does not.

The Wisdom Of The Gita, Bhagavatam And The Vedas – 4

The Bhagavad Gita says that a person in godly consciousness will naturally feel sympathy and compassion for others. The sufferings of others he will feel like his own. The Gita, however extends this ideal of compassion not only for one’s fellow humans but for all living beings. The person in true spiritual consciousness sees all living beings with equal vision. Although seeing the outward differences between the physical forms of women, men, animals, fish, insects, trees and so on, the self-realized person sees that within each dwells  an eternal atma, a spiritual spark of consciousness, and that the atma within all living beings is of the same nature. Not that there is one kind of atma within the butterfly, another within the horse, a third within a human being. The bodies, of course, are entirely different, but the atma – the spark of consciousness is the same.

Our desires send us running after enjoyment; whatever enjoyment we find, we become attached to; and our attachments pull us forward into another round of birth and death. The Bhagavad Gita says:

puruṣaḥ prakṛti-stho hi bhuṅkte prakṛti-jān guṇān
kāraṇaṁ guṇa-saṅgo ’sya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu

” When a living being standing in the world of matter tries to enjoy the qualities to which matter gives rise, this quest becomes the cause of his clinging to those qualities in birth after birth, higher or lower.”

ye hi saṁsparśa-jā bhogā duḥkha-yonaya eva te
ādy-antavantaḥ kaunteya na teṣu ramate budhaḥ

” Enjoyments born of the contacts of senses with their objects are themselves the very sources of distress. Not knowing this – being in ignorance – we try to enjoy and so bring suffering upon ourselves.

Both the Buddha and the Gita say that we need to become free from desires and ignorance to become free from miseries. But the Gita points towards purification of self, while the Buddha rejects the self. According to the Gita, I am covered with ignorance and afflicted with material desires, but by self-purification I can attain spiritual knowledge and transform my desires from material to spiritual. But the Buddha says that “I” is illusory. The “I” is an ever-changing assemblage of body, sensation, perception, mental formation and consciousness. And nirvana is the cessation of “I”. In fact ” I” never exists according to the Buddha, we falsely think “I” exists and once we realise “I” does not exist, then suffering ceases. Furthermore, according to the Buddha, nothing exists independently. If “I” does not exist, then what gets reborn? The solution that the Gita offers is better: The way to freedom from ignorance and material desires is not to negate or cancel out or obliterate the self or to suppose that it never existed but rather to purify and enlighten the self. As long as I – the self – falsely identifies with the material body, race, financial status, physical stature, age or whatever, I am ignoring my spiritual nature, and so I will drift about in material desires. But when I realize my eternal nature as a spiritual being, and especially when I realize my relationship with the supreme living being, or Krishna, my thoughts and desires become spiritual. To do that, the Vedas recommend chanting of spiritual mantras that redirect and purify the mind.

Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: One cannot even maintain one’s body without work. But how we work matters. If we do not work properly, we will never get anything done. This is the mode of ignorance. If we work with desire, we get embroiled in greed and fear, happiness and sadness. This is the mode of passion. If we work, free from attachment to the results of his work, and he works without false ego, understanding that he alone cannot determine the outcome of his work, that everything ultimately depends on higher arrangement, on the will of the Divine. And so neither success or failure affects him, he works unchanged among both. This is the mode of goodness and knowledge develops when we work in this way.

The senses will never be satisfied, no matter how much you give them. Such is the opinion of the Vedic sages.

The three material qualities are likened to a triple cord that binds a living being to the world of lifeless matter. The quality of goodness, Krishna says, binds one to happiness, the quality of passion binds one to work, and the quality of darkness, covering one’s knowledge, binds one to madness. We keep shifting between the various modes and these three qualities bind spirit to matter, strap spiritual living beings to material minds and bodies, enforcing the illusion that these are the self, and imprison us so tightly that we have no way to escape. Krishna says: By the states of being brought on by these three modes, the whole world is bewildered. Illusioned by these three, we don’t know who we are, we can’t make head or tails of the world we live in, let aside understanding God. Krishna then says: So the world fails to understand Me, who stand above these three modes as supreme and inexhaustible.

The three modes are supernaturally powerful because they are the energies of the Divine. For souls who turn their gaze from reality to illusion, from spirit to matter, from the eternal to the temporary, these three modes of maya are insurmountable. But Krishna says: One who surrenders to Me can easily cross beyond them. The various methods of Yoga are ultimately meant, therefore, to bring one to the point of surrender to Krishna, or the Supreme.

According to Vedic civilization, it is essential for the king to be guided by learned and saintly advisers. The king provides executive power, and the advisers provide clear vision, both practical and spiritual. Power without vision will be aimless, misdirected and dangerous; vision without power will be ineffective and merely theoretical. The right combination: strong power, with pure and intelligent guidance.

It is important to listen, to hear. A student gains knowledge by carefully hearing from the qualified teacher, and this is true both in ordinary education and on the spiritual path. The Vedanta Sutras say: anavrittih sabdat anavrittih sabdat: By sound one becomes liberated. By sound one becomes liberated. One can become free from illusion by hearing from the self-realised soul. One then acts in compliance not with the binding force of material motives but with the liberating wisdom of spiritual sound.

That God can express his divinity in more than one role at once, that he can simultaneously rule as a king and play as a cowherd, or teach as a sage, or meditate as an ascetic, or even adopt extraordinary guises in forms other than those of a human being or, moreover, that he can appear diffuse as an all-pervading presence while at the same time dwelling within everyone’s heart and yet all the while live personally beyond the universe in a specific and definite locale – all this is part of the Vedic understanding of God.

The Wisdom Of The Gita, Bhagavatam And The Vedas – 3

The Vedic tradition advises that we should not become excessively attached to what we have nor accumulate more than we need. When we have more than needed we should distribute it, give it away, and not let it burden us down. And we should keep in mind that the ultimate time to lose is the time of death, when one is forced to lose everything.

The Bhagavad Gita says that so long as we try to exploit and enjoy the resources of the world as though they were ours to do with as we like, we can never have peace, individually or collectively. Only when a sincere search for truth brings us to acknowledge the higher owner of all the planets of the universe, the higher enjoyer of all that the world provides, the higher friend of all living beings – only then can we have a time of peace, within the world or at least within our own selves. Perhaps for you and me, if we’re serious and sincere, the time is not too late.

According to Vedic teachings, we all have four defects: imperfect senses, a tendency to make mistakes, a tendency to get carried away by illusion, and a tendency to cheat. Despite our imperfect senses, our proneness to make mistakes and get bewildered, we come on like we’ve figured it all out. Isn’t that cheating?
Direct experience and inductive reasoning may be fine within limits, but when we come to the ultimate questions these methods fail, and so we ” cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Even if we think that there is no God, that nature runs on its own course, we cannot be sure of either. Nor figure out how or why existence pops into existence, nor where it’s finally headed or why. Finally whatever we think and however much we think, the secret remains secret. As we find in the epic Mahabharata, acintyaa khalu ye bhaavaa na taams tarkena yojayet: ” That which lies beyond the power of thought cannot be understood by logic.”

The Bhagavatam refers to material pleasures of eating, drinking, accumulating, sex as “chewing the chewed again and again.” We try something and extract a little joy, and then try the same thing again, with diminished results, and then try it yet again. Soon whatever we are trying becomes dry, tasteless, and frustrating, but for lack of anything better we keep trying, “chewing the chewed,” imagining there’s still more joy to be had from it.

The Vedic sages advise that one not work for happiness at all. Happiness, they say will come of its own accord. After all, no one seeks misery – no one works for it or stands in line for it – yet misery comes anyway, on its own. Then why not happiness as well? By nature’s way, each time a living being is born his physical embodiment brings along with it a certain quota of happiness and distress. Both will find us, in whatever measure we are destined to receive. The Srimad Bhagavatam therefore advises the one work only to keep body and soul together, for the sake of the true human project of spiritual inquiry. That alone should be the purpose of one’s work.
This, the Bhagavatam says, is the actual gift given by God for a human being: the ability to inquire about our purpose for existing, about ultimate meaning. But if that’s not the gift we want, God( or nature, if you will) has others to offer – in essence, the same gifts offered to other creatures; some food, something to drink, some sex. And for such rewards a life of hard work.

Enjoyments born of stimulation for the senses are themselves the very source of misery. they have a beginning and an end, and one who is wise does not delight in them: says, Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

Some may think a virtuous or religious life is worthwhile because it will bring us prosperity, which will enable us to enjoy in this earth or in heaven after death.But this is materially motivated and therefore spiritual fraud. The Bhagavatam rejects such fraudulent dharma and invites us to discriminate between reality and illusion for the sake of our ultimate welfare and the attainment of the highest truth.

Prana can be called the vital or living force. It is a force common to all living beings. And it is something other than an immortal spirit or soul. Prana is related with respiration, and yet it is different from mere air. It is more subtle. According to the Upanishads, the tiny atma, or spark of consciousness, rests on five kinds of prana, or the air of life moving in five subtle ways – moving upward and downward, shrinking and expanding, and so on. Pranayama is an exercise meant to control the movements of the inner prana in such a way so as to liberate one’s consciousness from all material contact. True pranayama is very difficult to practise. At death, the prana leaves the body and the body returns to dust for all living beings. So in life and in death many things are common to all living beings. The special feature of human beings is dharma, spirituality. Without this, the human being and the animal are the same. A human being devoid of dharma is no better than a beast.

For the Vedic tradition, the first topic of inquiry is: Who am I? The I is the spark of consciousness resting on the prana. The Mundaka Upanishad says, esho ‘nur aatmaa cetasaa veditavya: This tiny atma can be known by intelligence. That is, by sharp discrimination.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna speaks to Arjuna about the nature of the atma. He says:
The knowers of the truth have studied two kinds of entities – the non existent( that which does not endure, is temporary) and the existent( that which endures, is eternal).
The one that endures is the atma which is indestructible and imperishable. There is never birth or death for that. It never comes into being: it always exists, birthless, deathless, permanent.
Life and matter are different, one conscious and eternal, the other temporary and unconscious. Life here means the atma. We can see that the person remains the same from birth to death though his body changes, his mind changes. Similarly when the body dies, this park moves to another body, another birth, another lifetime. Just like we change clothes but we are still the same.
The atma cannot be pierced by weapons, or burned by fire, or moistened by water or withered by the wind. Some see it as amazing, some speak of it as amazing, some hear of it as amazing, and some, despite having heard of it, just do not know what it is.

The Vedic literature, when speaking of the miseries we suffer in this world, under the sun, groups them into three: First come those caused by the great forces of nature: droughts, floods, typhoons, snow-storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, scorching heat, freezing cold and similar natural afflictions and disasters. Then there are miseries caused by our own bodies and minds: our myriad of physical troubles and diseases and the countless doubts, burdens, distresses, upheavals, embarrassments, confusions, and agonies the ind forces us to endure. And finally there are miseries caused by other living beings: flies, rats,
mosquitoes, viruses, poisonous plants, howling dogs and worst of all, our fellow human beings.

The Wisdom Of The Gita, Bhagavatam And The Vedas – 2

The Bhagavatam tells of a king who late in life, about to hand over his kingdom, instructs his sons,

nāyaṁ deho deha-bhājāṁ nṛloke
kaṣṭān kāmān arhate viḍ-bhujāṁ ye

” Of all the living beings granted bodies in this world, one given this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which can be had even by the hogs that eat stool.”

The Vedic sages say that we each have, as it were, two bodies: a gross body(the physical one we see) and a subtle body( the “body” of mind and intelligence). And just as the gross body has senses that crave gratification – the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and sense of touch, so the mind and intellect are “senses” for the subtle body,  and they too crave to be gratified. Just as on the grosser level one might delight in physical pleasures, on the more subtle level one may delight in the higher, more rarefied pleasures of the intellect and the mind.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna grants Arjuna the spiritual eyes to see him in a cosmic “universal” form, in which Arjuna can see, as if in one place, all that exists in the universe. That wondrous form having limitless arms and legs and faces, dazzling like thousands of suns, and filling earth and sky in all directions – encompassing all rivers and mountains and seas, all people and all planets, all creatures and all creations – inspires in Arjuna an overwhelming awe.
Yet soon that form assumes a fierce aspect, all-devouring, cataclysmic, into whose blazing mouths Arjuna sees all beings, wave upon wave, rushing to destruction, like moths into a fire.
When Arjuna asks: Who are you?, the dreadful form replies: I am time and I have come to destroy all. Krishna soon withdraws the vision and resumes his congenial human form. But now Arjuna has seen God in the form of time, the supreme controlling force and ultimately the destroyer of all.
The Vedic literature speaks of God as having different aspects, beginning with an aspect that is all-pervading, silent, impersonal and invisible. That impersonal feature of God as time exquisitely governs every moment of existence. And it both creates and destroys, builds up and tears down.

The Srimad Bhagavatam points out that, despite caring and attentive parents a child may die, despite an expert physician a patient may succumb to disease, and despite a strong boat a voyager may drown.

The Bhagavad Gita says:

prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah
ahankara-vimudhatma kartaham iti manyate

All acts are carried out dint of the qualities of nature. Yet a soul bewildered by false ego thinks, “I am the doer.” Just as the laws of the nature control the movements of the planets, those laws also control the movements of all living beings. All this lies beyond our control. We can no more halt or reverse this course. We are born, we live, we grow old and we die. This cannot be changed. A boy cannot make himself old, nor can an old man make himself young. This we know. Even things we take for granted we are doing are in fact carried out by the machinery of nature which compels us. We eat, sleep, love and defend ourselves because the bodies we live in tell us to do so. We have no choice but to obey. We are strapped to the machinery. The acts we think we do are in fact done by force of the modes of nature.
These are the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance.We act calmly and thoughtfully in goodness, strive and endeavour in passion and decline into lethargy, foolishness and delusion in ignorance. A living being, though by nature pure, becomes coloured by these three qualities, as pure water might be coloured by minerals with which it comes in touch. We think sometimes that we have free choice, but in reality, the particular modes we are coloured by lock us into a ceratin karmic trajectory, a certain  destiny, a certain fate.
One can go beyond that destiny, even beyond goodness, only by true knowledge, where one sees everything in its natural relationship with God or the Divine, and so one gets free from false ego and sees oneself as a spiritual being, beyond material qualities, sharing instead in the qualities of God, as a part shares the qualities of the whole. This is the sublime and pure transcendental knowledge and one can realize this when one is mature in devotion to the truth, or mature in God consciousness.

Even if all acts are carried out by the modes of nature, nature allows us this tiny freedom: if we so choose, we can follow higher guidance, the guidance given by sages who know more than we. Then we can elevate ourselves from ignorance, passion and goodness to transcendence or we may take a direct path to transcendence, like one might skip the stairs and take the elevator.

The Vedic sages say that a first step toward elevation to goodness is to place oneself in harmony with nature’s laws or God’s laws and this implies knowing what to do at what times.

The Srimad Bhagavatam advises that we should waste our life trying to stave off sorrow and boost our joy, but rather accept them both as they come and stay focused on the real purpose of life: spiritual realisation.

The Srimad Bhagavatam says that having sex whenever one feels like it and there is an attractive opportunity is like the sexual congress of monkeys who follow a similar principle. Sex, like all human activity is meant to be divinely purposeful. Sri Krishna says that he is ” sex not contrary to dharma” – not contrary to right action, to responsibility, to spiritual principles for advancement in human life. The right time and context is within marriage. And even in marriage, the focus of life is not on sex but on spirituality.

The time to seek spiritual understanding is now. The first sutra of the Vedanta Sutras says: athato brahma jijnasa- Now is the time for inquiring into the Absolute. The atma or the soul has travelled through many bodies just like we change clothes and now has arrived in the human body. We should use this opportunity and enquire into the Absolute. We don’t know when such a time and opportunity will come to us again.

The Wisdom Of The Gita, Bhagavatam And The Vedas – 1

With every rising and setting of the sun, the Srimad Bhagavatam says, another day is gone from our life. And each time the sun completes its full annual circuit, gone forever is another of our years.

The Srimad Bhagavatam speaks of the entire world as “the world of names”. Names are ultimately of no more significance than the babble of sea waves. The great kings, leaders and soldiers fight with one another to perpetuate their names in history. They are forgotten in due course of time, and they make place for another era in history. The world’s history and historical persons are useless products of flickering time. They will not be remembered, nor shall we.

Maya, or illusion would recede only in the presence of truth – Absolute Truth, as darkness would recede only in the presence of light.

The word karma actually refers to right or proper meritorious acts that conform to religious principles or higher law and are therefore materially uplifting. The path of karma, then, is the path by which one strives from material enjoyment but does so rightly, even nobly. Enjoyment pursued recklessly, irresponsibly is vikarma, wrongful action, action that is lawless or harmful, and ultimately self-destructive.

In the Gita’s analysis what we do with our life and what we think and feel, reflect a mixture of three modes, or qualities: goodness, passion and ignorance. Goodness is marked by purity, calmness and knowledge, passion by intense endeavour and desire, and ignorance by darkness, inertia, madness and illusion. In the human heart these qualities mix in various proportions, yielding a palette of subtly different temperaments, much as the three primary colours yellow, blue and red blend to form countless colours, tints and shades. Sometimes one main quality -one primary colour prevails in the mix, sometimes another.

When we see great material aspirations and desires, strong endeavours, and attachment to what one has gained or achived, the main colour is passion. It is passion that moves one along on the path of karma, in which one’s pleasure is to work and achieve and to enjoy what has gained.

The Iso Upanishad says:

ishavasyam idam sarvam
yat kinca jagatyam jagat
tena tyaktena bhunjitha
ma grdhah kasya svid dhanam

Whether alive or dull, all within this universe belongs to its controller, the Lord. What you may enjoy is only what he has set aside for you as your portion. One should not strive for other things, knowing well to whom they belong.

From the union of the senses with the objects of desire comes a happiness at first like nectar but at the end like poison. Such is happiness in the mode of passion. And happiness in ignorance, with which passion is so often mixed, is still more dismal: Delusion from beginning to end, arising from sleep, indolence and madness – such is happiness in the mode of ignorance. Happiness in goodness is superior. Though for that happiness one might have to undergo the trouble of self-restraint, of forgoing what might seem like enjoyment, one eventually finds tranquility, serenity, and joy. ” At first like poison but at the end like nectar – such is happiness in the mode of goodness, born of the satisfaction of knowing oneself.”

Desires are ” coming forth from the mind” and ” born of some notion in the heart.” The Gita also speaks of ‘one who desires to desire.” That is, we get some notion in our mind, some thought of enjoyment, and we start ruminating on it, thinking about it, picturing it, letting our imagination run with it, pumping it up, and so the notion grows. This is the process of ” agitating the mind for sense gratification,” stimulating the mind with thoughts of what we imagine our senses might enjoy. The Gita says this can never lead to peace. Our minds agitated with thoughts of enjoyment, we work hard to fulfill our desires – and wind up with nothing.

The Vedic “path of karma” is where one works honestly for the sake of the resulting pleasures one hopes the God one worships will grant one to enjoy. The Srimad Bhagavatam however suggests that living merely to eat, drink and enjoy is a waste of one’s human life because human life has a higher purpose. The Bhagavatam says:Not for pleasing of the senses should one’s desires be aimed but only for gaining what one needs to live, because human life is meant for inquiry into the ultimate truth. Nothing else should be the goal of one’s work.

kāmasya nendriya-prītir lābho jīveta yāvatā
jīvasya tattva-jijñāsā nārtho yaś ceha karmabhiḥ