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ASSOCIATES OF MAHATMA GANDHI > VINOBA BHAVE > TALKS ON THE GITA > The Teaching in brief : Self-knowledge and Equanimity
 

02. The Teaching In Brief: Self-Knowledge And Equanimity

5. The Gita’s Terminology

  1. Brothers, last week we discussed Arjunas state of despondency (vishad). Whenever there is Arjuna-like honesty, straightforwardness and total surrender to God, even a state of despondency attains the character of yoga.1  It is the churning of heart which brings this about. The First Chapter of the Gita has been called Arjuna-vishad-yoga. I prefer to call it simply Vishad-yoga, as Arjuna provided only an occasion for the discourse. The Lord did not take the form of Pandurang for the sake of Pundalik2 alone. Pundalik provided only a pretext for His descent on earth. We see that the Lord is standing for thousands of years at Pandharpur to redeem us all, ignorant creatures as we are, held captive by the bonds of this-worldliness. Similarly, although Arjuna provided an immediate cause for the overflowing of the Lords compassion in the form of the Gita, it is really intended for all of us. That is why the general term vishad-yoga is more befitting for the Gita’s First Chapter. Beginning from this vishad-yoga the Gita’s teaching keeps on growing like a magnificent tree, finally bearing the fruit of prasad-yoga (Gods grace) in the concluding Chapter. God willing, we too would reach that destination during the term of our imprisonment.

  2. The Gitas teaching begins from the Second Chapter. At the very outset, the Lord enunciates the cardinal principles of life. The idea is that once the fundamental principles, which are to form the foundation of life, are well-grasped, the way ahead would be clear. In my view, the term sankhya-buddhi3 in the Second Chapter stands for the basic principles of life. We have now to take up the consideration of these principles. But before that, it is better to have a clear understanding of the Gita's terminology.

The Gita has a penchant for using old philosophical terms in new senses. Grafting new meanings on to old terms is a non-violent process of bringing about revolution in thinking. Vyasa is adept in this process. This is the secret of the great potency and strength of the language of the Gita and its ever-freshness and vitality. Different thinkers could therefore read different meanings in the terms used by it in the light of their experiences and according to their needs. In my view, all those interpretations could be taken as valid from their respective standpoints and yet we can have a different interpretation of our own without ruling out any of them.

  1. There is a beautiful story in an Upanishad which is worth recounting here. Once gods, demons and human beings went to Prajapati (the Creator) for advice. Prajapati gave all of them only one word of advice: the single syllable (da). The gods said, We are given to passions and sensual pleasures. So, Prajapati has advised us daman (दमन) (subduing and conquering them). The demons said, ‘‘We are given to anger and cruelty. So, Prajapati has advised us to cultivate daya (दया) (compassion). The human beings said, We are greedy and are always hankering after possessions. So, Prajapati has advised us to practise dan (दान) (charity and sharing).4  Prajapati approved all these interpretations, as all of them had arrived at their interpretations through their own experiences. We should bear in mind this story while interpreting the Gita’s terminology.


6. Performance Of Swadharma Through The Body

  1. Three cardinal principles have been enunciated in the Second Chapter—

        (i) The atman (the Self) is deathless and indivisible.

        (ii) The body is insignificant and transient.

        (iii) Swadharma must be followed.

Out of these, Swadharma is in the nature of duty to be performed while the other two principles are those that need to be understood.

I have already said something about swadharma. For each of us, swadharma is given.’ It comes to us naturally; we do not have to go out looking for it. We did not drop from the sky but were born into a stream of existence. Society, parents, neighbours, all existed before we were born. To serve the parents who gave me life, to serve the society that succored me is my natural dharma. Our swadharma thus takes birth along with us; it can even be said that it is already there for us before our birth. In fact, fulfillment of swadharma is the very purpose behind our birth. Some people say that swadharma is like one’s wife and say that the bond of swadharma is as inviolable and indissoluble as the bond of marriage.5  But I do not think that this simile is quite apposite. I would rather say that swadharma, like one’s mother, is not chosen but pre-determined. No matter what sort of person she is, there is no denying her motherhood. This is precisely the case with swadharma. In this world we have nothing else to rely on. To disown one’s swadharma is to disown oneself, to commit suicide. Only in harmony with it can we move forward. That is why we should never lose sight of it.

  1. Swadharma should, in fact, come easily and naturally. But because of several temptations and delusions this does not happen or becomes extremely difficult. Even if it is practised, the practice gets vitiated. The temptations and delusions which strew with thorns the path of swadharma have various forms. However, on analysis, we find only one thing at the bottom of it all: a restricted and shallow identification of oneself with one’s body. I, and those related to me through the body, set the limits of my expansion. Those outside the circle are strangers or enemies. Besides, the attachment is restricted to only the physical bodies of the I and mine’. Caught in this double trap, we start putting up all sorts of little walls. Almost everyone does this. One man’s enclosure may be larger than another’s but all surround themselves with a wall. It is no thicker than their skin. One man’s enclosure is the family, another’s the nation. One wall divides the so-called upper and lower castes, another divides the people on the basis of religions. Wherever you turn you see nothing but walls. Even in this jail, we differentiate between ordinary convicts and political prisoners. It is as if we cannot live without such walls. But what does this result into? This has only one result—multiplication of the germs of mean and vicious thoughts and destruction of the healthy state of swadharma.


7. Awareness Of The Self That Transcends The Body

  1. In this situation, commitment to swadharma is not enough. Constant awareness of two other principles is necessary. One of them is: I am not this feeble and mortal physical body; the body is only the outer covering. The other is: I am the Self that is imperishable, indivisible and all-pervading. These two together constitute a whole philosophy of life.

The Gita values this philosophy so much that it enunciates it at the very outset and only thereafter brings in the concept of swadharma. Some people wonder why such abstruse philosophical theorems are there at the very beginning. But I think that if there are any verses in the Gita whose place cannot at all be changed, then these are such verses.

If this philosophy is imprinted on the mind, the practice of swadharma will not appear difficult. In fact, it will be difficult not to practise it. It is not difficult to comprehend that the Self is eternal and indivisible and the body is worthless and transient, as these are the truths. But we should reflect over them, ruminate constantly over them. We should train ourselves to belittle the body and exalt the Self.

  1. Look! This body is for ever changing, caught in the cycle of childhood, youth and old age. Modern scientists say that every seven years it is renewed and not a drop of old blood remains. Our ancestors believed that this takes twelve years. That is why they prescribed a period of twelve years for study, penance, atonement of sins or wrongdoings etc. We often hear that mothers failed to recognise their own sons after years of separation. The body changes every moment, dies every moment. Is this body you? Twenty four hours a day its sewers operate, and despite indefatigable scavenging it remains unclean. Is this body you?  No, the body is dirty; it is you who wash it. It gets ill; it is you who treat it with medicine. It fills three and a half cubits of space; you are free to roam in the whole of the cosmos. It changes endlessly; you observe those changes. It is open to death; you accept it. When the distinction between your body and yourself is so clear, why do you say that only that which relates to the body belongs to you?  And why do you grieve for the death of the body?  The Lord asks: Is the destruction of the body a cause for grief?

  2. The body is, in fact, like a garment we wear. We can put on a new garment as the old one fortunately gets worn out. Had one and the same body stuck to the Self for ever, the Self would really have been in a sad plight. That would have stopped all growth, extinguished all joy and dimmed the illuminating power of knowledge and wisdom. Hence, perishing of the body is not a thing to grieve over. Had the Self been perishable, that would indeed have been a cause for grief. But the Self is imperishable. The eternal Self clothes itself in a succession of bodies. That is why it is utterly wrong to get attached to a particular body and its relations and grieve over their loss; and it is also wrong to consider some as kin and others as aliens. The universe is a beautifully woven whole. Were we to cut up the undivided Self, immanent in the whole universe, into bits of separate selves using the body as a pair of scissors like a child who willfully cuts a whole piece of cloth with a pair of scissors, would it not be the height of childish folly, and moreover, an act of extreme violence?

It is really a pity that India, the land where Brahmavidya (the science of realising the Brahman6) was born, is now teeming with innumerable incongruent groups and castes. We are so much afraid of death that one wonders whether such fear has any parallel anywhere else in the world. No doubt, it is a consequence of a long period of subjection; but then one must not forget that it is also one of the causes of that subjection.

  1. We hate the word death’. It is considered inauspicious. Jnanadeva had to write regretfully: अगा मर हा बोल न साहती । आणि मेलिया तरी रडती ।।(They cannot bear the word death and cry over death.) If someone dies, what tears!  What wailing!  Why, we think all this is our duty!  People go to the extent of hiring professional mourners!7 Even when death is imminent, we do not tell the patient. He is kept in the dark even when a doctor has told us that the patient cannot live. Even doctors do not speak plainly to the patients and go on pouring medicines down their throats till the last moment. If, instead, the doctor were to tell the patient the truth, give him courage and direct his thoughts towards God, what a help that would be!  But it is feared that this little pot might crack of shock before its time. But can death ever come before the right moment?  Besides, even if it comes a little earlier, what does it matter?  We should certainly not be loveless and hard-hearted; but attachment to the body is not love. On the contrary, unless attachment to the body is overcome, true love does not emerge.

When we are freed of that attachment, we would realise that the body is an instrument for service; and then the body would gain its true dignity. But today we regard pampering of the body as the sole purpose of our lives. We have totally forgotten that life is to be lived for the fulfillment of swadharma and to do this one has to look after the body. It should be given proper nourishment; but there is no need to indulge the palate. It is all the same to a ladle whether you use it to serve shrikhand (a sweet dessert) or plain curry; it feels neither happy nor unhappy. The same should be the case with our tongue. It should, of course, be able to distinguish between different tastes, but should not feel any pleasure or repulsion. The body is to be paid its due hire, and nothing more. A spinning wheel has to be oiled regularly to keep it in working condition; in the same way we should provide fuel to the body so that we can take work from it. If that is our approach, the body, although having little intrinsic worth, would become worthy and valuable and gain true dignity.

  1. But, instead of using the body as an instrument, we lose ourselves in it and stunt our spirit whereby the body, which has little intrinsic worth, is made of less worth. That is why the saints vehemently say, देह आणि देहसंबंधें निंदावी।  इतरें वंदावी श्वानसूकरें।(One should censure the narrow confinement to the body and the blood-relations and venerate others, even the pigs and the dogs!) Do not, therefore, worship the body and its ties all the time. Learn to relate to others as well. The saints are thus exhorting us to broaden our horizon. Do we ever open our hearts to others outside our narrow circle of friends and relatives?  Do we ever try to identify ourselves with others?  Do we let our swan-Self—the bird of the spirit—escape from the cage of the body and breathe freedom?  Does it ever occur to us that we should widen the circle of our friends continually so as to ultimately encompass the whole world and feel that the whole world is ours and that we belong to the whole world?  We write letters to our relatives from the jail. What is special about it?  But would you write to a thief convict—not a political prisoner—whom you have befriended here, after his release?

  2. The soul is ever restless to reach out to others. It longs to embrace the whole world.  But we shut it up in a cell. We have imprisoned the soul and are not even conscious of it.  From morning till evening, we are busy minding the body. Day and night we worry about how fat or thin we are. One would think that there was no other joy in the world. But even beasts experience the pleasures of the senses. Will you not like to taste the joy of giving, the joy of controlling the palate?  What joy there is in giving away your full plate of food though you too suffer from hunger?  A mother, when she works hard for the sake of her child, knows something of this joy. In fact, even when one draws a small circle around the I and the mine’, one is unconsciously striving to experience the joy in the enlargement of the self. Thereby the self, otherwise encased in the body, is released to a limited extent and for a little while.  But what sort of a release is this?  It is like a prisoner coming out of his cell into the prison courtyard. This hardly satisfies the selfs aspirations. It wants the joy of unbounded freedom.

  3. In short, (i) a seeker after truth should avoid the by-lanes of adharma (un-righteousness) and paradharma (the dharma which is not his own) and take to the natural and straight path of swadharma. He should follow it steadfastly. (ii) Bearing in mind that the body is transient, it should be used for the sake of the performance of swadharma and should be given up for its sake when the need arises (iii) Remaining ever aware of the eternal and all-pervading nature of the Self, the distinction of mine and thine should be removed from the mind. The Lord has expounded these three principles of life. One who follows them would undoubtedly have, some day or the other, the experience of नरदेहाचेनि साधनें, सच्चिदानंदपदवि घेणें।  (using the human body as an instrument, one can reach the exalted state of sat-chit-ananda.8).


8. The Way To Harmonise The Two Principles: Renunciation Of The Fruit Of Actions

  1. The Lord has no doubt enunciated the principles of life. But this, in itself, does not serve the purpose. These principles were already there in the Upanishads and the Smritis. To restate them is not the Gitas unique contribution; that lies in its explaining how these principles are to be translated into practice. It is in solving this great problem that the ingenuity of the Gita lies.

Yoga means nothing but the art of translating the principles of life into practice. The word sankhya means principles or science while yoga means art of translating it into practice. Jnanadevas saying, योगियां साधली जीवनकळा।(The yogis have mastered the art of living), proclaims this as an experiential fact. The Gita includes both sankhya and yoga, the science and art respectively; and has thus achieved completeness and perfection. When science and art unite, the beauty of life blossoms into its fullness. Science, by itself, remains on an abstract level. One may know the theory of music, but only when one has mastered the art of singing, the many-splendoured beauty of nad-brahma (the Supreme Truth revealed in the sound of music) comes to life. That is why the Lord has taught not only the principles, but also the art of applying them to life. What then is this art—the art of practising swadharma and realising that the body is of little worth and that the Self is imperishable and indivisible?

Behind a man’s action there are generally two types of attitude. One of them is: ‘If I do something, I shall definitely enjoy the fruit of my actions; I am entitled to it.’ The second attitude is: ‘I shall not act at all if I am not going to enjoy the fruit of my actions. The Gita prescribes an altogether different attitude. It says: You must, of course, act; but do not have any claim over the fruit of your actions’. One who acts is certainly entitled to enjoy the fruit of one’s actions, but one should voluntarily give up that right. Rajas9 says, I shall act only if I am going to enjoy the fruit of my actions. Tamas says, If I am not going to enjoy the fruit, I shall not act at all.These attitudes are like two sides of the same coin; there is nothing to choose between them. One should go beyond both of them and adopt pure sattva; one should act and then relinquish the fruits of actions; and act without any claim over them. The desire for the fruit should never be there, either before or after the action.

  1. The Gita, while asking us not to have any desire for the fruit of actions, insists that the work must, however, be perfect. The work of a desireless doer can rightfully be expected to be better than that of one driven by desire for the fruit. The reason is that, because of attachment to the fruit, the latter is bound to waste at least some time and energy in day-dreaming about it. On the other hand, every moment of the desireless doer’s life and every bit of his energy would be spent in the work in hand. A river knows no respite; wind takes no rest; the sun shines for ever. Likewise, a desireless doer is ever engaged in unremitting service. Who else can then achieve perfection in work, if not he?  Secondly, mental poise, the equanimity of mind is a great quality; and the desireless doer has this quality in his own right. When equanimity of mind is combined with the skill of the hands, even an ordinary work of an artisan is bound to be better and more beautiful. Moreover, the difference between the outlook of a desireless doer and of one with attachment to desires is also conducive in making the former’s work better. A man having an eye on securing the fruits looks at the work from a selfish point of view. In his view, the action as well as its fruits are exclusively his own. Therefore, he does not feel that any negligence in the work is a moral lapse. For him, it may, at the most, cause the output to be defective. But a desireless doer has a moral sense of duty towards his work. He is, therefore, extremely alert to avoid any shortcomings therein. Hence his work is bound to be more flawless. Thus, from whatever angle one may see, falatyaga (renunciation of the fruits of actions) proves to be a sound and effective principle. That is why it could be called a sort of yoga or the art of living.

  2. Leaving aside the matter of desireless action, there is in the action itself a joy which you cannot find in the fruit. Total absorption in one’s own work is an everlasting spring of joy. Were you to offer any amount of money to an artist for refraining from painting, would he agree?  Certainly not. If you tell a farmer not go to the field, not to graze the cattle or draw water from the well, and offer him as much grains as he wants, he would certainly not agree to it if he were a true farmer. A farmer goes to the field in the early morning. There the Sun-god welcomes him. Birds sing for him. Cattle gather around him. He caresses them with affection, casts a loving glance at the plants. There is a sattvik, sublime joy in all this. This joy, in fact, is the true and main reward of his work. Compared to it, the material fruit of action is secondary.

When the Gita takes a mans attention away from the fruit of his actions, it increases hundredfold his concentration in his work through this ingenuity. When the doer’s mind is free from the desire for the fruit, his absorption in his work attains the character of samadhi. Hence his joy is also hundred times more than that of others. Looked at from this angle, it is clear that the desireless action is itself a great reward. Jnanadeva has rightly asked, The tree bears fruits, but what fruit could the fruit bear? When the body is used for the desireless pursuit of swadharma, such pursuit itself is the beautiful fruit that the body bears. Why then look for any other fruit?  Why should a farmer who has sown wheat, sell it and eat a bread of millets?  Why should one not eat what he grows?  But the ways of the world are strange.  The Gita asks us to refrain from such behaviour. It asks us to relish work, to rejoice in it, to be fully absorbed in it and draw life-blood from it. To act itself is everything. A child plays for the joy of playing. He does get the benefit of exercise thereby, but he does not think of this benefit. His joy is in playing only.


9. Renunciation Of The Fruit Of Action: Two Examples

  1. The saints have demonstrated this in their lives. Shivaji, the king, had great respect for saint Tukaram because of the latter’s exemplary devotion to the Lord. Once he thought of honouring him and sent a palanquin to fetch him. But Tukaram was deeply distressed by the arrangements made to honour him. He thought to himself, Is this the reward for my devotion to the Lord?  Is it for this that I worship Him?  He felt that the Lord, by placing this fruit of the worldly honour in his hands, was pushing him away from Him, and said,

जाणोनि अंतर ।  टाळिसील करकर ।
तुज लागली हे खोडी । पांडुरंगा बहु कुडी ।।

O, Lord! This prank on your part is not good. You may be trying to push me away from you by offering this little bribe. You may be thinking of getting rid of me this way. But I am not so naive as to be taken in by this. I shall cling firmly to your feet.’

Devotion (Bhakti) is the swadharma of the devotee (Bhakta). His art of living’ lies in ensuring that the devotion does not get distracted by the lure of other worldly gains.

  1. The life of Pundalik shows us an even more profound ideal of renunciation of the fruit of actions. Pundalik was devoted to the service of his parents. Pleased with this, Lord Pandurang rushed to meet him. Pundalik refused to give up his duty to welcome the Lord. The service of the parents was, for him, a form of worship of the Lord. He was not taken in even by the great temptation offered by the Lord. Someone may rob others to provide comforts to his parents; or a patriot may seek the prosperity and glory of his own country at the cost of other countries. Such worship’ of one’s parents or one’s country is nothing but selfish attachment; it is not true worship. Pundalik was not trapped in such attachment. It was indeed true that the Lord Himself was standing in front of him; but was that His only form?  Was the whole creation lifeless like a corpse before He appeared in that form?  Pundalik told the Lord, O, Lord! I fully understand that you have come to bless me. But I believe in the doctrine of ‘this also.’ I do not think that you alone are God. You certainly are God; but my parents too are God to me. And since I am engaged in their service, I am not in a position to pay attention to you. Please, therefore, forgive me.” Saying this, he pushed a brick for the Lord to stand on, and again became engrossed in his work. Saint Tukaram refers to this with loving admiration in a lighter vein—

कां रे प्रेमें मातलासी ।  उभें केलें विठ्ठलासी । 
ऐसा कैसा रे तूं धीट ।  मागें भिरकाविली वीट ।।

(Why have you become so presumptuous in Love?  You made Lord Pandurang stand at your door! How have you become so audacious as to throw a brick to Him to stand on!’)

  1. The doctrine of this also’ which Pundalik applied is a part of the ingenuity in the renunciation of the fruit of actions. A man who renounces the fruits of actions is totally absorbed in his work and his outlook is broad, tolerant and balanced. He does not, therefore, get entangled in the web of abstruse academic arguments and remains firm on his own standpoint. He does not argue that not that, this alone is true.’ He holds, humbly but firmly, that this also is and that also is, but for me, this alone is’—that he should stick to his own swadharma.

A householder once went to a sage and asked him, Must one leave his home—that is, give up one’s worldly duties and responsibilities as a householder—in order to attain moksha ?  The sage said, Certainly not. King Janaka attained moksha while living in the palace, fulfilling his duties as a king; then where is the need for you to leave your home?  Later, another man went to the sage and asked him,Sir, can one attain moksha without leaving the home?  The sage replied, Who says so?  Had it been possible, were persons like Shuka10 fools to renounce their homes—that is, this-worldly attachments—for the sake of moksha?  Later, they met each other and a dispute arose. While one asserted that the sage was in favour of leaving the home, the other said that the sage had advised him against it. They again came to the sage. He explained, Both the advices are correct. What is important is to become detached. Then one can follow different ways in accordance with ones disposition. The answer depends on the way the question is posed. It is true that one need not leave the home for moksha and it is equally true that one has to leave one’s home for attaining it. This is what the doctrine of this also’ means.

  1. Pundaliks example shows the extent to which one can renounce the fruits of actions. The temptation that the Lord offered to Pundalik was certainly much more alluring than that offered to Tukaram. Still, Pundalik was not carried away by that. Had he succumbed to that temptation, it would have spelled his ruin. Once a certain path (for God-realisation) is chosen for oneself after due deliberation, then it must be pursued till the end. Even if the Lord Himself appears before you, you should not be tempted to leave that path. As long as one is in a body, it is ones duty to follow the chosen path. Seeing the Lord face to face is then in ones hands; His vision is always there for the asking. Why should then one bother about it?  सर्वात्मकपण माझें हिरोनि नेतो कोण?’ (Who can deprive me of my oneness with the whole creation?)  मनीं भक्तीची आवडी  (The heart longs for the Lord.). The very purpose of this birth is to fulfill that longing. When the Gita says, मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि (Let there not be any attachment to akarma11) the meaning of this extends thus far that while doing desireless work, one must not have desire even for the ultimate freedom from action, i.e., moksha. Moksha means nothing but freedom from all desires. Why should there be desire for it?  When the renunciation of the fruit of actions reaches this point, the art of living attains perfection like the full moon.


10. The Ideal Teacher

  1. Thus the science and the art have been explained. Still the whole picture does not stand clearly before our eyes. Science is nirguna (attributeless). Art is saguna (one with attributes). But even saguna cannot become manifest until it assumes concrete form. Formless saguna can be as abstract and elusive as nirguna. The remedy is to see somebody who is the personification of a particular quality. That is why Arjuna says, O, Lord!  You have told me the basic principles of life and explained the art of translating them into practice. Still the picture is not clear to me. Please, therefore, tell me the characteristics of one whose intellect and mind are fully anchored in the basic principles of life and who has fully assimilated the yoga of renunciation of the fruit of actions. Tell me about such a person who demonstrates the limit upto which the fruit of actions could be renounced, who is steadfast in the contemplation of the Lord while working and who is firm like a rock in his settled conviction—a person who can be called a sthitaprajna.12  How does he speak, how does he sit, how does he walk?  In short, how does he live his daily worldly life, and how can one recognise him?

  2. In response to this entreaty the Lord has portrayed, in eighteen verses at the end of the Second Chapter, the noble and exalted character of the sthitaprajna. These eighteen verses can be said to contain the essence of the eighteen Chapters of the Gita. Sthitaprajna is the ideal that the Gita puts before us. In fact, it is the Gita which has coined the word sthitaprajna. Later the Gita describes the jivanmukta (the liberated one) in the Fifth Chapter, the bhakta (the devotee) in the twelfth, the  gunateeta (one who has transcended the three gunas) in the Fourteenth and the jnananishtha (one steadfastly committed to knowledge) in the Eighteenth Chapter, but the description of the sthitaprajna is much more elaborate and lucid than theirs. This description highlights the characteristics of both the siddha (a realised soul, one who has attained liberation) and the sadhaka (the spiritual seeker). Thousands of satyagrahi13 men and women regularly recite these verses during their evening prayers. If these verses could be taken to every home in every village, what a happy thing it would be! But then, they would spread of their own accord if they are first imprinted on our own minds. If the daily recitation becomes mechanical, it would not get imprinted on the mind; it could rather have an opposite effect. But it would not be the fault of regular recitation; it is the lack of accompanying reflection over them that is to be blamed for this. Regular recitation must be accompanied with constant reflection and soul-searching.

  3. Sthitaprajna, as the term itself tells, means one having steadfast wisdom. But how could there be steadfast wisdom without subduing the senses?  Hence the sthitaprajna has been described as the embodiment of restraint. Restraint implies that the intellect is anchored in the Self and the mind and the organs are under the control of the intellect. The Sthitaprajna reins in all his organs and uses them in desireless and selfless action. Just as a farmer uses bullocks for ploughing, the sthitaprajna uses his organs for the desireless pursuit of swadharma. His every breath is used in the highest pursuit—the spiritual quest.

  4. Reining in the organs is certainly not easy. It is, in a way, easier to stop using them altogether. Things like fasting, observing silence etc. are not really very difficult. On the other hand, as is quite evident, is not everybody giving free rein to his organs?  But it is most difficult to practise restraint like a tortoise. It draws in its limbs completely in its shell whenever it senses danger and uses them whenever it is safe to do so. Likewise, one should refrain from using the organs for sensual pleasures and make proper use of them in the spiritual pursuit. This is extremely difficult and requires herculean efforts, and also wisdom. Even then, one may not always succeed. Are we then to despair?  Certainly not. A spiritual seeker should never lose hope. He should try everything in his capacity, use all his ingenuity; and when he reaches the end of his tether, he should seek the love of the Lord—supplement his efforts with devotion. This is the valuable advice the Lord has given while describing the attributes of sthitaprajna. This advice is given in just a few words, but these few words are far more valuable than volumes of sermons; for, the element of devotion has been introduced precisely where it is needed. We shall not here go into a detailed discussion of the attributes of the sthitaprajna. My intention is to draw your attention to the exact place of devotion in the spiritual pursuit lest we should forget it. God alone knows who could reach the ideal of the perfect sthitaprajna; but the figure of Pundalik is ever in my mind as an example of the sthitaprajna who is completely dedicated to service.

  5. The Second Chapter ends with the description of the sthitaprajnas qualities.

We can summarise this by the formula—

It is bound to lead to brahmanirvana, or moksha, i.e. liberation of the Self and its union with the Brahman. What else could be the final result?

(28.2.32)


References:

  1. Yoga means union or integration.  It entails detachment from suffering and perverse propensities and, in fact, from all outside interests and integration with the Divine.  Different types of yoga are different means or processes to achieve such integration or, in other words, spiritual liberation.  Yoga can also be defined as the art of practising the fundamental truths of life for this purpose.

  2. The story of Pundalik has been described in detail in 9.17 of this Chapter.

  3. It means the wisdom in accordance with the Sankhya.  Sankhya is one of the six systems of the Indian philosophy.  (Please also see Chap. 2.13 and the footnote in Chap. 7.2).  However, the Gita uses the term here in a different sense.

  4. The words daman (दमन), daya (दया) and dan (दान), all begin with the Nagari syllable .

  5. In the Hindu tradition, marriage is not considered a mere civil contract that could be annulled at will.  It is rather a sacred obligation.

  6. Brahman is the Absolute—the Supreme Truth, the Ultimate reality.  The concept is, in fact, too grand for conceptualization and description.  the Upanishad had, therefore, to speak of the Brahman in negative terms:  'The Real is not this, the Real is not that.'  Brahman is the Supreme Principle that is the root cause of the generation, evolution and extinction of the world.  It pervades everything and transcends everything.  It is the Supreme Self.  The lower self is a part of the Brahman and the consummation of its development and evolution lies in merging with it, that is, attaining spiritual liberation.

  7. This is a custom prevalent in some communities in India, particularly in Rajasthan.

  8. The Supreme Truth or the Brahman, is said to have three aspects—sat, chit and anandaSat means being, that which really exists.  It also means abiding, actual, right, self-existent essence.  Chit means perception, knowledge or consciousness, while ananda means bliss.

  9. Gunas, according to the Sankhya philosophy, mean basic elements.  Prakriti, or the Nature, is constituted of three gunas, which can be called essential qualities or modes:  Sattva is the principle of equilibrium and harmony; rajas is the principle of passion, restlessness, endeavour and initiation; and tamas is the principle of ignorance and inertia.  Human nature and action is determined by the proportion of these gunas therein and their interaction.

  10. Shukha, son of sage Vyasa, is said to have left his home immediately after his birth to attain moksha.  (Moksha means the liberation of Self from bondage, from the cycle of births and deaths, whereby the Self unites with the Brahman, the Supreme Self.  It is believed to be the ultimate goal of human life for which everybody should aspire and strive for.  It is often translated in English as 'salvation'.

  11. Please refer Chapter 4.4 to 9

  12. Sthitaprajna means one who has attained 'steadfast wisdom', whose intellect is settled in a state of union with the Divine as a result of assimilating the fundamental principles of life and mastering the art of living in accordance with them.  Vinoba was particularly fond of the eighteen verses in the Gita describing the ideal of the sthitaprajna and gave discourses on them during his incarceration in 1944.  They have been published in the form of a book titled 'Sthitaprajna-darshan' (The Steadfast Wisdom).

  13. Participants in the satyagraha campaigns led by Mahatma Gandhi against the British imperialism.  Satyagraha means holding steadfastly to the truth one has perceived.