Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Canto VII : the Yoga of Knowledge

Some truths have to be accepted by the novice in yoga as self-evident : selfishness harms, selflessness improves; there is a lower, pulling-down tendency in man's make-up, and there is a higher, raising-up movement as well; an invisible divine shakti holds the universes of the cosmos together, like pearls hanging on a string; life is an ambivalent mix of delight and disgust, right and wrong, high and low, progress and regress.

Though self-evident, these truths can be, and have to be, learnt, acquired, accepted, divined, taken on trust, gained by experience, intuition or symbiosis. Whichever way they come is fine, for they make special and precious the person who knows them. The key shloka of Canto VII is number 17 : 'He is dear to me' (sa cha mama priyah). Of the four kinds of good people, the sorrowing, the seeker after truth, the seeker of bliss, and the wise -- the wise is the best. The suffering person wishes to end his sorrow, the truth seeker wishes to gain enlightenment, the seeker of bliss (some translate this into 'wealth') wants salvation. All are using talent and skill as a means to an end. Only the wise man is secure in the knowledge that wisdom is an end in itself. He has seen through the myriad fruit-offering seductions of maya. He is not deceived by the dangling carrots of sex, fame, money, and power; by the dazzling interplay of cause and effect. He knows that wisdom's lamp is self-glowing, self-secure, self-charging.

It is wisdom, says Krishna, to know the Adhyatman, the Adhibhuta, the Adhidaiva, and the Adhiyajna.

Krishna continued :

Listen, Arjuna, to how you can come to me, by sheltering in me, and practising Yoga.

I will tell you all knowledge, all realisation; after knowing which, there is nothing more to know.

Out of thousands one perhaps strives for perfection, and one perhaps out of those who strive actually finds me.

Earth, water, fire, air, ether ; mind, intellect, and egoism -- these eight constituents make up Nature.

This is the lower Nature but different from this is the higher nature -- the principle of life which sustains the worlds.

These two, womb of all life, are in my power; I am the birth and dissolution of this universe.

There is nothing superior to me, Arjuna : the worlds depend on me as pearls hang on a string.

I am the salt of the ocean, the brilliance of the moon and the sun, I am AUM in the Vedas, and sound in the sky, and manliness in man.

I am the fragrance in the earth, and brightness in fire: I am life in all, and penance in the pure ones.

Consider me the undying seed of all life: the glory of the glorious, the wisdom of the wise.

I am the pure and selfless strength of the strong : I am desire too, desire that does not transgress dharma.

They are all mine, the states of sattva, and rajas, and tamas; I am not in them : they are in me.

These three manifestations of the three gunas deceive the world, and it fails to recognise me, because I am beyond them.

It is difficult indeed to pierce this divine maya of the gunas. But the faithful are able to pierce it.

The ill-minded and the ignorant are victims of maya, and do not worship me.

There are four types of good men who worship me, Arjuna : the sorrowing, the truth-seeker, the seeker of bliss, and the wise man.

The wise man, steadfast, devoted to me, is the best among these. I love the wise, Arjuna, and he is dear to me.

They are all good, but the wise man is my own self : his mind is balanced, he is devoted to me as the supreme goal.

After many births, the wise man reposes in me, convinced that I am all : such a pure soul is difficult to come across.

There are others, made blind by various desires, who adhere to various rites, prostrate themselves before various gods, according to their natures.

I make firm the devotion of any worshipper, no matter what his form of worship is.

And with that devotion he progresses in worship, and obtains his desires, which I alone offer.

But the reward for men of small intelligence is small. The worshippers of the gods go to the gods; who loves me comes to me.

I am the formless, but the foolish think I have form. They do not understand my real nature.

I am covered by maya, and all do not see me. I am birthless and deathless, this world of illusion does not understand me.

I know what is, what was, and what will be; but none knows me.

The play of ambivalence, of disgust and delight, flings all beings into delusion.

But holy men free themselves from extremes, and become my devoted worshippers.

They strive for salvation from death and old age, they shelter in me; they understand Brahman and the nature of karma.

They continue in knowledge till the time of death, for they are firm of reason : they know the Adhibhuta, the Adhidaiva, the Adhiyajna, and the Ahyatman

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