Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Canto XVIII : The Way of Salvation

Yes, the Gita is a gospel of action. Krishna exhorts Arjuna to fight, to do his duty, to be a karma-yogi. But it is also a gospel of knowledge. No action is complete, or desirable, without knowing why, how and when to act. So Arjuna has to be jnana-yogi as well. Krishna places a vey high value on knowledge that crystallises into wisdom. But knowledge is not complete, or desirable, without shraddha, faith, spontaenous feeling, which in its best form becomes bhakti or devotion. Arjuna must learn to be a bhakti-yogi also.

So in the concluding Canto, the paths of action, knowledge and devotion merge in a single direction : moksha-samnyasa (which means salvation through self-surrender, or renunciation, and which is the title of the Canto).

'Act one must', says Krishna (shloka 11), but act only after learning from Samkhya philosophy that ' work is ruled by five causes : matter, agent, motive, motion, fate'. And finally, 'have faith in me : worship me' (madbhakto mam namaskuru). That is the secret, for that enables a person to discover true self-dharma : 'Own's own dharma, however imperfect, is a safer guide than the dharma of another, however perfect' (Shloka 47).

The key shloka, the final advice, is in number 63 : 'This is the subtle wisdom I give you. Think it over. You are free to choose' (yathecchasi tatha kuru). If the ultimate goal is freedom, the means too must be freedom to choose. 'Him whom I love, I would make free even from me'.

Arjuna said :

Tell me, Krishna, the truth about renunciation, and about self-surrender.

Krishna replied :

Renunciation means giving-up of desire-laden action; self-surrender means giving up fruits of action.

Some thinkers say all work should be renounced; others prefer not to renounce rituals, charity, and tapasy.

But let me tell you what I think -- giving-up is of three kinds.

Rituals, charity and tapasya should not be given up. They purify their performer.

But their fruits must always be given up. That is absolute.

Duties should not be given up. Only the tamasika give up duties.

Nor should fear of pain and injury be reason for giving up (as the rajasika do).

Duties performed without attachment or hope of reward are known as sattivika work.

The true renouncer, whose doubts have been dispelled, neither likes pleasant duty nor dislikes an unpleasant one.

Act one must --the body compels it -- true giving up is renunciation of fruits.

Action brings either pleasant, unpleasant, or mixed fruits after death. The true renouncer escapes them, the reward-seeker does not.

Learn from me Samkhya philosophy. All work is ruled by five causes --

Matter, agent, motive, motion, fate.

These five govern body, speech, and mind, whether right or wrong.

That is why the man who thinks the atman alone is the agent is blind -- he seen nothing.

But the man who transcends his ego -- though he destroys the worlds, destroys nothing -- for he is not tainted by his action.

Knowledge, known and knower are the causes of action. Instrument, object and agent are the nexus of action.

Knowledge, action, agent are of three kinds, say the Samkhya. Let me explain them to you.

Knowledge that sees Brahman everywhere, the one in the many, is sattvika.

Knowledge that sees difference everywhere, everywhere variety, is rajasika.

And that which sees only lies, pettiness and disunity, is tamasika.

Action performed without love or hate, without desire for its fruit, is sattvika.

Action performed with desire, pride, and struggle, is rajasika.

Action performed blindly, foolishly, and ruinously, is tamasika.

An agent free from attachment, unaffected by success or failure, is sattvika.

An agent who is passionate, ambitious and temperamental, is rajasika.

An agent unsteady, boorish, arrogant, dishonest, malicious, lazy, and despondent, is tamasika.

The mind is of three types too: so is discipline -- let me explain.

The mind that knows the difference between what should be done and should not be done, between right and wrong, bondage and liberation, fear and fearlessness, is sattvika.

The mind that is muddled on the meaning of dharma and adharma is rajasika

The dark mind that thinks vice is virtue, adharma is dharma, is tamasika.

The discipline that organises the mind, the life-breath, and the senses, is sattvika.

The discipline that leads to wealth, success, and honour, is rajasika.

And that which breeds sloth, fear, grief, worry, and conceit, is tamasika.

There are three types of joys. The joy which is first poison but in the end is nectar,

The joy enjoyed almost as a habit by the transparent mind, is sattvika.

The joy of sense pleasures, first nectar, then poison is rajasika.

The joy of self-delusion, bred by sloth and folly, is tamasika.

There is nothing on earth, nothing in heaven, that is not the product of the three gunas.

Then there are the four castes, with their different duties -- the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and the Shudras.

Duties for the Brahmin : control of the mind and senses, patience, honesty, knowledge, and belief in an after-life.

Duties for the Kshatriya : courage, bravery, cleverness, fearlessness, generosity, and knowing how to rule a kingdom.

Duties for the Vaishya : tilling the land, cattle-rearing, and trade. For the Shudra : service.

Each following his conscientious duty, each finds perfection. Let me explain how this happens.

Perfection is achieved when a man dedicates his work to Brahman whose breath is the universe.

One's own dharma, however imperfect, is a safer guide than the dharma of another, however perfect. Conscience is what matters.

Follow your duty, Arjuna, as your nature dictates it. All work fetters, as all fire gives smoke. Only selfless duty saves.

Detachment, discipline, desirelessness, renunciation -- these bring true freedom.

Let me tell you briefly how Brahman is achieved, Brahman, the end of all knowledge.

When the mind is pure and the intellect is subdued, when love and hate no longer affect a person;

A lonely spot is sought, little is eaten, meditation is practised, the ego surrendered;

'I' and 'mine' disappear, peach is attained. These are the preconditions for achieving Brahman.

Once Brahman is achieved, there is no more sorrow, no more desire, there is only serenity.

Then does the yogi really know my nature, what and who I am. He knows me, and becomes me.

And though he works, my grace makes him free. He works in the shadow of my grace.

Fix your mind on me, Arjuna. Surrender all deeds to me.

All problems will be solved by my grace. Selfishness can lead only to your moral ruin.

If, filled with pride, you say, 'I will not fight', it is all in vain, you are foolish. Fight you will, your nature will make you fight.

Your karma will make you fight. You are foolish. You will fight in spite of yourself.

Doesn't the world revolve like a magic wheel ? Isn't Brahman the hub of the heart ?

Take shelter in him, and find peace. His grace will give you eternal peace.

This is the subtle wisdom I give you. Think it over. You are free to choose.

Think only of me. Have faith in me. Worship me. You cannot fail to find me. I love you, so I promise you this.

Throw away your dharmas -- have faith in me, take refuge in me. And do not fear -- you will be saved.

And never repeat this wisdom to the cynical, the sensual, the blasphemous and the faithless.

The devoted teacher of this wisdom to faithful listeners will always come to me.

What sweeter service can there be than this ? None is dearer to me than he.

Whoever reads this dialogue of dharma offers me his knowledge. This is my belief.

Even the devoted listener will find the heaven where good me go. He too shall be saved.

Have you listened carefully, Arjuna ? Is your ignorance gone ? Are your doubts dispelled ?

Arjuna replied :

My doubts are gone, Krishna, thanks to your grace. I am not confused. I will do as you say.

Sanjaya reported :

I heard this wonderful dialogue between Krishna and mahatma Arjuna, and I horripilated.

By the grace of Vyasa did I hear this subtle wisdom, this yoga, straight from the lips of Krishna.

Your majesty, every time I recall this holy dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, I am thrilled, joy overcomes me.

Every time I recall Krishna's marvellous Multi-Revelation, I am wonderstruck -- joy overcomes me.

Where Krishna, lord of yoga, is, where Arjuna, wielder of the bow, is, are victory, success, prosperity, and law. I am convinced of this.

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