Article by Dr. Rajvir Singh
Dharma and Religion:
”Dharma” is that fundamental element out of which anything comes into existence; conversely, if this element is not present, the existence of everything comes to an end. The soul is the fundamental essence of the body and therefore, the soul is the ‘dharma’ of the body. Nothing can be separated from its ‘dharma’. In other words, ‘dharma’ is intrinsic part in any object, animate or inanimate. This is a fact of life and existence; unchanging, and completely unchangeable and transcending the influence and effect of time. For example, if there is humanity, there are human beings; if one tills the land, one is a farmer and so on. Here humanity is the ‘dharma’ of a human being just as agriculture is the ‘dharma’ of a farmer. To make this simpler, we may cite the example of a fan, whose existence is for circulating air. If a fan does not circulate air, there is no purpose of its existence and it ceases to be a fan, i.e., loses its existence. Therefore, circulating air is a fan’s ‘dharma’. Every object, animate or inanimate, visible or concealed, has its own ‘dharma’, which in fact, is the axis of its very being. Just as a wheel cannot function if its axle is damaged, so too, any being that does not adhere to ‘dharma’ becomes directionless. In order to regulate individuals and societies, and make them function smoothly, there are innumerable customs and traditions, norms of living, food habits, tastes, healthcare, systems of law, penal codes and jurisprudence, economic systems and other material systems codified in different languages. These can vary according to environment, both geographical and human. Societies are also organized on regional and national lines. Gradually, over a period of time, these customs, traditions and systems acquire the status of belief and religion. The lexicon of a language is also a barometer of the progress it has made. Languages differ according to different societies and communities and thus, the same object or meaning can be expressed or conveyed in different words. ‘Water’ in English is called ‘jal’ in Hindi and ‘alma’ in Arabic, though all of them mean the same liquid. Similarly, for the same sun, we have the word ‘soorya’ in Hindi, ‘sun’ in English and ‘shams’ in Arabic. On the other hand, certain words and alphabets are present in certain languages while being absent in others. Beliefs gradually morph into civilization and culture. The maturity of the civilization and culture of any society is revealed through its language. India’s culture is a highly developed and refined culture, but because of our own ignorance, we are unable to utilize it properly. There is no harm in properly using any language, but imbibing its culture and norms of living should be done only after careful thought. This is because it is very difficult to remain detached from the culture of a language that one uses. Civilization, culture and religion owe their existence to individuals and societies, and not the other way around. Civilization, culture and religion also show changes in keeping with time. Thus, the Hindu or other faiths do not fall under the category of the ‘Dharma’ of individual beings or groups.
Dharma and Action (Karma):
‘Dharma’ arises from ‘Karma’ means Action (The Gita; Chapter 2: shlok – 31, 32 and 33). The state in which any object or individual exists determines its duty and to faithfully abide by that duty takes on the form of the ‘Dharma’ of that individual or object. To explain this in simple terms, when water provides coolness, its state of being is cool and when it provides heat, it is hot in that state of being. Here, coolness and heat are the different ‘Dharma’s of water in its different state of being. Arjun was a Kshatriya. The duty of a Kshatriya is to gain expertise in the science of warfare, demonstrate courage, do deeds of valour, administer one’s subjects, donate generously and protect one’s nation and people. In the Shrimad Bhagwadgita, the Lord advised Arjun to sincerely perform these duties devoid of attachment, greed, doubt and with a sense of detachment towards the eventual outcome; in other words, rising above the considerations of loss or gain, happiness or grief, victory or defeat so that Arjun could abide by his own ‘dharma’ and avoid the sin of forsaking it. If on the other hand, had Arjun not taken up arms in accordance with ‘Dharma’ and had taken to Sanyas (the path of renunciation) and begged for alms for a living, he would become a directionless soul, losing his inner peace and would also have been ridiculed and condemned in the world (Gita; Chapter 3: shlok-16) and would have lost his existence as a Kshatriya. If he went to war, as is the ‘Dharma’ enjoined for a Kshatriya, against those tyrants who poisoned others, attacked the defenceless with weapons, robbed others’ wealth and grabbed their land, molested women belonging to others, and slew such elements, then Arjun would be worthy of fame and enjoy material benefits, if, in the adherence of his ‘Dharma’, Arjun were to be slain in battle then he would certainly have attained heaven (Gita; Chapter 2: shlok – 37). Times have changed and the Arjun of today may be deployed at the frontiers or employed in any office. Whatever be the circumstances, we have to do our duty like Arjun. This is what the Gita teaches us. Trees, plants, earth, the sun etc., all constantly perform their respective ‘Dharma’s. It is only human beings who have to be constantly reminded of and explained their ‘Dharma’ in each age, neglecting which they also have to endure the censure of the Lord (Gita; Chapter 4: shlok – 7, 8).
Atma (Soul) and Jiva (Being), Nature (‘Prakrti’) and Body:
The Shrimad Bhagwadgita is the metaphysical science of the soul and the being (Jiva) (Gita; Chapter 8: shlok – 3), transcending the religious faith of individuals or societies. The being is not mere physical body. For example, a person having a Maruti car must have certainly purchased it from the Maruti Company. He calls the vehicle his own and utilizes it the way he wants to. Suppose, if the company had not made the Maruti car, would the person have been able to purchase a Maruti car? The answer would certainly be a ‘no’. Therefore, in the true sense, the vehicle is of the company’s and the privilege to use or misuse it is acquired by the individual only because he has purchased it. Just as a car manufacturer makes a vehicle using different parts, so too a being, on account of the fruits of its actions, through its soul, in conjunction with the five elements attains different physical forms and can only use or misuse its current physical existence. Put in simple words, the body is of the soul and not the other way round. When the being takes on a body, it becomes manifest in the material sense and the person is identified and addressed by a particular name. The individual undergoes various circumstances that nature gives rise to. The soul is beyond gain or loss, cold and heat, happiness or grief, fear, desire, rancor, etc. The Shrimad Bhagwadgita teaches the being to remain in equanimity in different circumstances or conditions. The ultimate purpose of every being is to free itself of the cycle of births and deaths, which is clearly enunciated in the Shrimad Bhagwadgita. Therefore, this divine knowledge is for everyone. Nature is of two kinds (Gita; Chapter 8: shlok – 4,5 and 6). Inanimate, material or inert, which includes the earth, water, air, fire, the sky, the mind, intellect and the ego (Gita; Chapter 7: shlok – 4). On the other hand is the being, sentient and animate (Gita; Chapter 7: shlok – 5). The being is part, but separate from ‘Paramatma’ or the Supreme Being and is therefore, called ‘Jivatma’. Both the material and spiritual represent the perpetual powers of the Supreme One, without a beginning, middle or end and He alone is their Master. Nature too is subject to the ‘Paramatman’ and engages in the act of creation and its actions (Gita; Chapter 7: shlok – 6 & 7). The reason for the myriad forms in creation is ‘Maya’ (the three ‘gunas’ or characteristic traits of ‘sattva’, raja’ and ‘tama’). The ‘Parmatman’ or the Supreme One, though being the origin and abode of all powers and energies, is Himself not attached to or bound by them. He, therefore, is beyond dualism or non-dualism. Thus, apart from the being, there is another divine entity residing inside the body, which is God, the Supreme master, the witness of all actions and present in the form of the One who governs (Gita; Chapter 13: shlok – 23). As the soul or ‘atma’ is beyond the mind or speech, it cannot be defined. The ‘atma’ or soul is shapeless, absolute and beyond ordinary human senses (Gita; Chapter 13: shlok – 32), but is the origin of all senses. The ‘atma’ is limitless, endless and an ocean of all qualities, to analyze which is simple yet impossible. Plain water is not salty, while seawater is, which is why we call seawater salty. But every particle of this universe is pervaded by the Supreme Being and owes its existence to Him. Nothing exists without Him. Therefore, it is impossible to describe the ‘atma’, much less the Parmatma, in material terms. But just as every particle is because of the ‘atma’ (Gita; Chapter 7: shlok – 6), the physical body too arises of the soul. Therefore, it is essential to look within oneself, or in other words, become spiritual, in order to realize the soul. It is the soul that gives rise to creation, sustains it and finally destroys it to create anew (Gita; Chapter 13: shlok – 17). Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the three forms of the Parmatman (Gita; Chapter 10: shlok- 23, 21 & 33) and (Gita; Chapter 11: shlok – 15). The ‘atma’ or soul is an ocean of knowledge (Gita; Chapter 10: shlok-10) and also the friend and guru of the being (Gita; Chapter 10: shlok – 10 & 11). When the being, under the influence of the five senses indulges in any wrongdoing, it is the ‘atma’ (soul) that restrains the being (Jiva) through its inner voice (Gita; Chapter 13: shlok -23). The individual being (Jiva) feels this, but because it is so attached to desire and its pull, ignores the soul’s inner voice and separates itself from the soul’s innate goodness due to fear, desire or attachment. Because the relation between the ‘atma’ (soul) and ‘jiva’ (being) is like that of a guru (teacher) and shishya (disciple), the ‘atma’ tries to rectify the ‘jiva’s’ ways over many lives. The ‘atma’ is also a boundless ocean of kindness. When the ‘jiva’ (being) is committed to the ‘atma’, the latter imparts the ‘jiva’ its own qualities; in other words, makes it immortal, free from birth and death (Gita; Chapter 14: shlok -19). But the ‘atma’ helps only those beings (Jivas) that are desirous of their own welfare. Therefore, for its own good, the ‘jiva’ or being must surrender itself a guru, sadguru, ‘atma’ or Parmatma, i.e., Loard Shri Krishna (Gita; Chapter 10: shlok – 8). Whoever attains this knowledge frees himself from worldly attachments and is also cleansed of all sins (Gita; Chapter 10: shlok – 3). All objects, manifest or concealed, owe their existence to the ‘atma’; in other words, they are of the ‘atma’ (Gita; Chapter 10: shlok – 39). If the ‘jiva’ or being, under the influence of desire, attachment, selfishness, greed or ego, attempts to exercise its control over anything, the ‘atma’ makes it suffer pangs. If, on the other hand, if the ‘jiva’ goes about its actions in a totally detached manner, or without any attachment to the outcome of its actions and concentrates only on the performance of its karma, which is its duty, then the ‘atma’ showers its benignity on the ‘jiva’. This is the true companionship of the ‘atma’ towards the ‘jiva’. In other words, whatever the ‘jiva’ or being sees, consumes, feels or perceives is all due to the ‘atma’ and is regulated by the latter. If the ‘jiva’ brings in the feeling of ‘I’ or ‘mine’ into any of its ‘karma’, it would only create dissatisfaction and grief for itself. Therefore, it must abide by the ‘atma’ or soul and perform its inherent ‘karma’, which alone is the path of wisdom. For instance, a daily-wage labourer engaged in the task of digging for roads has to either obtain tools like the spade or pickaxe from his contractor, or get them on hire or pay for them from his own pocket. If he uses these tools carefully, considering whether they belong to the contractor, are on hire or are purchased, in the task of digging roads, he can receive his remuneration and be happy. If however, he uses his tools in a careless manner or misuses them, his remuneration will be in doubt and he will end up as an unhappy man. Similar is the case with the being or ‘jiva’. It can use or misuse the physical body given by the ‘atma’. Just, as the labourer takes his labour with him, the ‘karmas’ of the ‘jiva’, which take on the form of its innate nature, go with it when it sheds its physical existence. Nothing else of the material world goes with it. This is why the Shrimad Bhagwadgita teaches the ‘jiva’ or being to perform its ‘karma’ with a spirit of detachment (Gita; Chapter 2: shlok – 39). The ‘jiva’ or being itself is a very minute form of the incomprehensible power of the ‘Paramatman’. In other words, the ‘jiva’ is part of the sentient nature of the ‘Paramatman’, which is perpetual, without beginning or end and full of ‘atma’ (Gita; Chapter 13: shlok – 7). ‘Atma’ is beyond the confines of ‘Maya’ and is not enveloped in ‘karmas’ (Gita; Chapter 13: shlok – 14 & 15). The ‘jiva’ on the other hand, comprises the senses and is therefore, enveloped by both ‘Maya’ and ‘karma’ (Gita; Chapter 13: shlok – 22). Just as any object is illuminated when the sun’s rays fall on it, the various beings, upon coming in contact with ‘atma’, assume different physical forms (Gita; Chapter 7: shlok – 6). The physical body is a temporary material object, which can also be called the arena of the ‘jiva’s (being’s) ‘karma’ (Gita; Chapter 13: shlok – 5). The body comprises the five elements (earth, water, air, fire and the sky); five organs of feeling (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin); five organs of action (speech, anus, hands, feet and upasth); the mind (inner sense); ego; intellect; the objects of senses (form, feeling, sound, touch and smell) and the three latent qualities (‘sattva’, ‘raj’ and ‘tama’), which are filled with desire, rancour, happiness, grief, fortitude, impact and signs of life (Gita; Chapter 13: shlok – 5 & 6). Based on its past ‘karmas’ and their fruits, the ‘atma’ binds the ‘jiva’ (being) into myriad physical forms and bodies (Gita; Chapter 9: shlokas – 7, 8, 9 & 10) and residing in the heart (Gita; Chapter 7: shlok – 21; Gita; Chapter 10: shlokas 20) regulates the body through the power of ‘Maya’ (‘sattva’, ‘raj’ and ‘tama’) (Gita; Chapter 7: shlokas 12). The ‘jiva’ is filled devotion (‘Shradha’) that is found in the inner self. Devotion is begotten of the confluence of the three latent qualities of ‘sattva’, ‘raj’ and ‘tama’ (Gita; Chapter 17: shlok – 2). These three qualities arise from nature (Gita; Chapter 14: shlok – 5) and blossom on a tree called devotion (‘Shradha’) (Gita; Chapter 17: shlok – 3). One’s nature takes the shape of one’s devotion (‘Shradha’). These three latent qualities struggle for ascendancy and the quality that is able to exert more influence one’s devotion and belief (Gita; Chapter 14: shlok – 10) also determines the kind of nature the ‘jiva’ or being is made of (Gita; Chapter 17: shlok – 3). Self-realization, non-manifest or manifest, everything is of thee ‘atma’ and is regulated and governed by it. When the ‘jiva’ or being knows this and is engaged in the pursuit of selfless action ‘Nishkam Karma’ and ‘Bhakti’ (devotion), in other words. Seeks refuge in the ‘atma’, it is able to change its nature. It is the nature of the ‘jiva’ (being) that determines its action (‘karma’). The state in which the ‘jiva’ resides gives rise to the scope and nature of its ‘karma’. When the being or ‘jiva’ sheds its physical body, it is this feeling that it remembers in its final moments and weigh on it (Gita; Chapter 8: shlok – 6). The ‘atma’ which is a companion of ‘jiva’ controls the ‘jiva’, which is like a horse, and takes it to its goal (Gita; Chapter 9: shlokas – 18 & 7). The ‘jiva’ therefore, is the determinant of its own birth and the course of action it will take. The nature ( Swabhav) of the ‘jiva’ or being is also of two kinds, called ‘daivee’ or benignant and ‘aasuree’ or malignant (Gita; Chapter 16: shlokas 6). Simplicity, fearlessness self-purification, the act of giving, forgiveness, the pursuit of spiritual knowledge, nonviolence, truth, purity, compassion to all beings, modesty, lustre, kindness, and an self free from the feelings of slight, gratification or jealousy are the ‘daivee’ or benignant qualities that lead the ‘jiva’ or being on the path of ‘moksha’ or liberation (Gita; Chapter 16: shlokas – 1, 2 & 3). On the contrary, pride, anger, harshness, ignorance, gratification and being a slave of attachments are ‘aasuree’ or malignant qualities which put the ‘jiva’ into more bondage (Gita; Chapter 16: shlokas – 4 & 5). Those who possess an ‘aasuree’ or malignant nature do not know what they should do and what they should not. Purity, proper conduct or truth is not to be found in them. For them, the whole world is false, without any basis and is not created by God but runs according to sheer sensual desire. For them, sensual gratification alone is the purpose of human civilization. Such beings are wrapped in endless worry and tribulations till they die and bound in the web of desires, sensuous pursuits and anger arising of frustration, take to illicit ways to hoard material wealth and satisfy their never-ending desires. Such a being considers himself to be the only owner of all things, its inheritor, possessor, partaker and all-powerful. Such illusion binds them further and further to attachment and they fall into hell. Such elements also condemn the Almighty and ‘’dharma’’ that is ever present in them. The ‘atma’ throws them into malignant physical forms and a cycle of many lives (Gita; Chapter 16: shlokas – 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 & 19). Lust anger and greed are the three doors of hell that lead to the ruin of the self. The individual who shuns these pathways to hell becomes worthy of self-realization (Gita; Chapter 16: shlok – 21 & 22).
Element of Value (‘Bhav’) and Relation between ‘Jiva’ and ‘Atma’:
The element of value (‘Bhav’) is very important in life. Every object has its own value and anything devoid of it is ultimately imparted value. For example, if you go to the market to purchase vegetables, those of higher quality will be priced higher, the medium-quality ones will fetch lesser price and low quality ones will be rejected, or will be available at throwaway prices. The value of the vegetable depends on its quality, which people purchase according to their capacity. So too is the case with land, stones, bricks, wood, cattle and human beings too. Therefore, humans should be engaged in service to others, be truthful, happy, compassionate, enthusiastic, and pursue human welfare in general. They should imbibe these highest values so that they may become the best human beings and the ‘jiva’ may attain the highest realms after leaving the mortal world. What one’s values are, one develops according to them, perceives everything thus, attains likewise and is treated likewise. The reason is the ‘jiva’s’ values determine the ‘atma’s own value towards the ‘jiva’ and those very values are converted into ‘karma’ or action by the ‘atma’ (Gita; Chapter 4: shlok – 11). Simply put, if someone envies others, he will get the same attitude in return; love, in turn, begets love. Anyone can experience this in one’s life. Objects change their form over a period of time, not their existence; in other words, what is there today will also be there tomorrow, though in a different form. Change alone is constant in life, a process that we call life. When the ‘jiva’ or being leaves its mortal body, its new body is obtained on the basis of its inner senses, which have accumulated both value and ‘karma’. Air accumulates a foul odour from an unclean place but fragrance from a fragrant place. Similarly, the ‘jiva’ or being accumulates ‘karma’ from its domain of action with values from its inner senses and attains a new body based on them (Gita; Chapter 15: shlok – 8 & 9). For example, a newborn infant, of any living being, begins eating or sucking milk, because this is its nature from its past birth. Other values and consciousness too are connected to earlier lives. If the ‘jiva’ or being conducts itself in equanimity in gain or loss, happiness or grief, victory or defeat, amity or enmity, respect or slight, wealth or want, remains unperturbed in all circumstances, it transcends the three qualities of nature. In other words, it conquers its senses and crosses the web of Maya (Gita; Chapter 14: shlok – 22, 23, 24 & 25). Maintaining such equanimity, if the ‘jiva’ is devoted to the path of ‘bhakti’ it attains the status of ‘Brahman’ (Gita; Chapter 8: shlok – 3). In other words, apart from attaining immortality, it also attains the refuge of the Parambramha or Paramatman (The Supreme One), or the Ultimate Abode (Gita; Chapter 14: shlok – 26 & 27). If the ‘jiva’ shuns worldly desires as though they were poison, its consciousness becomes devoid of desires and it becomes detached. Turning to ‘bhakti’ with such devotion,, its actions or ‘karma’ too become filled with devotion, which cleanses it of all sin. When this happens, the ‘Paramatma’ takes the ‘jiva’ into His refuge. If the ‘jiva’ does not take to ‘bhakti’ there is every danger of it becoming entangled in the three attributes of nature and falling into the cycle of the mortal world once again. Normally, the individual strives for physical gratification due to the consciousness of his mortal frame. Building a dwelling for oneself, begetting progeny, arranging for their material needs, indulging in worldly struggles and conflicts in pursuit of one’s desires are all part of such a mortal and material existence. This becomes its domain of ‘karma’ and pushes it towards an animal-like existence for it and next birth (Gita; Chapter 14: shlok – 15). Certain material desires corrupt the mind and owing to limited knowledge or ignorance of, start worshipping human beings like their elders or ancestors, or lesser deities. They take recourse to worship, rituals, giving alms, pilgrimages, which transfixes their devotion to the elders, ancestors or deities they worship, which does bestow some benefit on them through ‘Atma’(Gita; Chapter 7: shlok – 21 & 22). But such benefits or successes are limited and short-lived (Gita; Chapter 7: shlok – 23). Benefits gained from humans end with the end of one’s existence while those gotten from ancestors or celestial deities enable the ‘jiva’ to reach the ‘pitrlok’ (abode of ancestors) or ‘devlok’ (heaven). After their merit is exhausted, the ‘jiva’ has to return to the mortal world (Gita; Chapter: shlok – 25). Embracing an animal-like existence, if an individual believes it can attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death through rituals, study, austerities, pursuit of worldly knowledge, pilgrimages etc., this can only be said to be ignorance on its part. The ‘jiva’ is given to ‘karma’ (actions) by its nature. ‘Karma’ arises from the value consciousness of the ‘jiva’ whereas, ‘bhakti’ is necessary in order to orient the ‘jiva’ in the proper direction. Therefore, in order to attain liberation from birth and death and to achieve true happiness, the proper way of ‘karma’ or ‘karma yoga’ or ‘bhakti yoga’ is extremely important. The ‘jiva’ or being is free to perform ‘karma’ or actions. The latent attributes of nature (sattva, raj and tama) nurture values, which are in turn, directed by the five senses (form, feeling, smell, wound and touch; Gita; Chapter 3: shlok – 5). The senses drive the mind, which, in turn, drives the ‘jiva’ (being) and its intellect. When the ‘jiva’ becomes attached to its ‘karma’, the foundation for action is laid, in which the senses are the ink and pen and the ‘jiva’ becomes the slate on which the text is written. Every action leaves its imprint on the ‘jiva’, which can be perceived at any time on the mirror called intellect. The ‘atma’ regulates every action; in other words, it is a witness (Gita; Chapter 13; shlok – 23). The ‘atma’ being the guru or teacher, determines the fruits of action (Gita; Chapter 10: shlok – 37 & 38). If the ‘jiva’ looks at its karmas in this mirror called intellect, it can also glimpse the fruit of its action. For example, if someone snatches wealth, the reverse would happen to him in a mirror; if someone picks a weapon to strike, the mirror would show the reverse. The same is the case for other transgressions like deceiving others or doing them harm, or inversely, doing good to others. Simply put, the behaviour of a being towards other beings determines the treatment of that being by the ‘atma’. If the being is kind, the ‘atma’ is kind towards it; if it is filled with hate for others, the ‘atma’ holds the same feeling for the ‘jiva’. In other words, you shall be treated the way you treat others, as the ‘jiva’ is surrounded on all sides by the ‘atma’s’ wall of Maya. Just as sound dashes against a wall and comes back as an echo, whatever karma the ‘jiva’ performs, strike against this wall of Maya and come back to the ‘jiva’ in the form of their fruits. Thus, the ‘jiva’ can enjoy the good fruit of its good ‘karma’, but also has to endure the painful fruit of its bad ‘karma’. The endurance of the benign and malign outcomes of its ‘karma’ traps the being in the seemingly endless cycle of birth and death. As against this, if we produce a sound in the opposite direction of the wall, the sound does not return as an echo. Similarly, if ‘karmas’ (actions) being done are devoted to the ‘atma’, such ‘karmas’ do not attach themselves to the ‘jiva’. If the ‘jiva’ does not surrender to the ‘atma’ and harbours a feeling of ‘I’ or ‘mine’ and considers itself to be the sole doer, it remains trapped in its own illusion. It undergoes continuous trial and tribulation and it keeps wandering from place to place, from one state to another. If the subordinate of an official were to consider himself the official and behave accordingly, one can imagine his fate at the hands of the superior official. The import of this is that in this world, everything, including the ‘jiva’ is of the ‘atma’ and is contained within it. The ‘jiva’ is dependent on the ‘atma’ in every way. If the ‘jiva’ surrenders itself to the ‘atma’, the latter frees it of all sins by withdrawing the wall of ‘Maya’ and granting its divine refuge to the ‘jiva’. By surrendering itself to the ‘atma’, the ‘jiva’ attains self-realization, which in turn, leads to knowledge of true ‘karma’. This means the knowledge of performing one’s ‘karma’ in a detached manner without hankering after its fruits, dedicating them to the ‘atma’. This frees it from the fruits of those actions and the ‘jiva’ ultimately attains liberation (Gita; Chapter 18: shlok – 65 & 66). Every ‘karma’ has its fruit; one begets as one does, which is true for all time, with only the time of fruit being difficult to determine.
The mind has an important role in the performance of ‘karma’. It is necessary to analyze every action thoroughly with the help of one’s intellect before actually doing it. One must direct the mind to perform an action by keeping a control over one’s mind with steady intellect; in other words, one must not let one’s mind do as it pleases. Ordinarily, it is extremely difficult to tame the wild mind, but through genuine detachment, i.e., withdrawing from worldly desires, not yielding to continuous gratification of the senses or action performed with a desire to enjoy its fruits, one can control one’s mind (Gita; Chapter 6: shlok – 35). If the mind is controlled, it becomes your best friend and if not, it becomes your worst enemy (Gita; Chapter 6: shlok – 6). For example, if one is addicted to liquor, one’s mind is continuously drawn to it and one is unable to give up the addiction despite efforts. Similarly, if the ‘jiva’ inculcates the habit of detachment from the outcome of its actions, its mind propels it in that very direction and forces it to do detached ‘karma’. In other words, all the ‘jiva’ needs to do is to inculcate the habit of forsaking material desires. Habits, whether good or bad, draw the mind towards it, the senses and their objects influence the mind and the ‘karmas’ cast their influence on the ‘jiva’ or being.
Devotion (Bhakti) and Path of Renunciation (‘Sanyas’):
The root cause for the distance between the ‘jiva’ and ‘atma’ is the influence of the senses. It is because of the senses that the ‘jiva’ incurs the contact of ‘Maya’ and its influence and takes birth different bodies and thus keeps wandering for many lives. The simplest way to escape this cycle is the path of ‘bhakti’ or devotion (Gita; Chapter 11: shlok – 55). ‘Bhakti’ arises only when one is ready to forgo the fruits of one’s actions or ‘karmas’. By detaching oneself from the outcomes of one’s actions, one attains peace and knowledge, i.e., all attachments vanish and a state of equanimity develops. Gradually, the peace and knowledge accumulated assume the form of meditation and this leads to ‘bhakti’ becoming firm (Gita; Chapter 12: shlok – 8). In ‘bhakti, one has to perform all actions with one’s mind, intellect and dedication to the ‘Parmatman’ (Gita; Chapter 18: shlok – 57) who is ever present in all beings equally, also in the form of ‘’dharma’’ in ‘karma’ (Gita; Chapter 3: shlok – 15). Through this path, the ‘jivatma’ is freed of sins and finds refuge in the ‘Parmatma’ (Gita; Chapter 18: shlok – 66, 55 and 56). To explain things simply, all ‘karmas’ must be in accordance with ‘dharma’. In this path, all ‘karmas’ must be done with detachment, meaning done without attachment to their eventual outcome. By this, the burden of the results of those actions is removed, though the fruits of the actions themselves remain present. In other words, the ‘jiva’ is not bound by the fruits of its actions. Those actions become the nature of the ‘jiva’ or being, meaning, the ‘jiva’ becomes self-realized. During its final moments in its physical body, the ‘jiva’ obtains the refuge of the ‘atma’. Another name for ‘bhakti’ is Affection, which has no place for material desire or the fruits of one’s actions. The ‘atma’ is all-powerful and also the origin of the senses (Gita; Chapter 13: shlok – 15). As such, the being or ‘jiva’ cannot cut itself off from action, as it is bound to perform them. The ‘jiva’s success lies in performing its ‘karmas’ effectively. If the ‘jiva’ is self-realized, dedicates all its ‘karmas’ and their results to the ‘atma’ and sees only the ‘atma’ everywhere, the latter bestows it with knowledge, meditation and devotion. These three steps become one for the ‘jiva’ as what the ‘jiva’ gives the ‘atma’ is returned by the ‘atma’ in the same way (Gita; Chapter 4: shlok – 11). Another way of reducing the chasm between the ‘jiva’ and ‘atma’ is ‘sanyas’ or the path of renunciation, also called ‘Sankhya Yog’ or ‘Gyan Yog’. In renunciation, the ‘jiva’ renounces all the results of actions arising out of material desires (Gita; Chapter 18: shlok 2). Such a being neither hates the results of actions nor has any desire for them. Through meditation and contemplation, it is engaged in the quest for the ‘atma’ and finally takes refuge in the ‘atma’. But controlling one’s senses through this method is indeed very difficult because it is the ‘atma’ that is the origin of the senses. It is also impossible for any being that dwells in a physical body to renounce all ‘karmas’ (Gita; Chapter 18: shlok – 11). Even if a ‘jiva’ were to shun all ‘karmas’, it cannot escape the phenomenon of being the doer. Therefore, this is a difficult path and compared to the path of ‘Sanyas’ or total renunciation of ‘karma’, the path of ‘bhakti’ or dedication of the fruits of one ‘karma’ to the Almighty is a much simpler path (Gita; Chapter 5: shlok – 2). For self-realization, it is necessary for the ‘jiva’ or being to become a seer. An individual becomes a seer when he is able to see the ‘atma’ in celestial deities, humans, birds and animals and in all living beings in an equal manner and realizes that everything is regulated by the ‘atma’. For becoming worthy of self-realization, an individual must become a seer, not a mere onlooker or an image himself.
Types of Human Being (‘Varnas’):
In the Shrimad Bhagwadgita, human society is categorized according to its nature that develops on the basis of its past and accumulated ‘karmas’, into the four varnas (groups) of ‘Brahmins’, ‘Kshatriyas’, ‘Vaishyas’ and ‘Shudras’ (Gita; Chapter 18: shlok – 41). Irrespective of whichever family one takes birth in, one’s ‘varna’ is determined according to one’s actions and value orientation, in which caste by birth has no place (Gita; Chapter 4: shlok – 13). The ‘jiva’ can perform its ‘karma’ only when it acquires human birth. In other living forms, it can only bear the results of the fruits of the ‘karma’ it has earned in its past human births. This applies to birds, animals, insects and even celestials, who can only enjoy or suffer the results of the ‘karma’ they had done when they has appeared as human beings. Therefore, the human life and the value of human ‘karmas’ are both very important, which have been explained very lucidly in the ‘Gita’. Happiness and Grief: The ultimate truth in every object and subject is the same, but the ‘jiva’ on account of its inherent shortcomings and opulent consciousness of its physical self, analyzes it differently. Owing to its physical consciousness, the being or ‘jiva’ is divided into caste, creed, community, family, relations, material property, religions, regions, nations, pelf, various organizations and affinities, and is constantly engaged in conflict, warfare, strife, pursuit of narrow self-interests and attachments, which arise out of desire and rancour (Gita; Chapter 7: shlok – 27) and lead to further suffering and misery in the world. If any ‘karma’ is performed with attachment, i.e., devoid of ‘dharma’, its purpose generally is the pursuit of one’s selfish motive and ends up in accumulating sin. On the contrary, if any ‘karma’ is done in accordance with ‘dharma’, it yields virtue to oneself. Both sin and virtue do not leave the ‘jiva’. When they will manifest themselves as happiness or grief, in which birth, is indeed very difficult to predict, but it is certain that the ‘jiva’ cannot escape them at all. Happiness and grief are conditions of the mind and till the ‘jiva’ considers itself as only body, these feelings will endure. These are two aspects of life and keep coming and going. They are the result of the ‘jiva’s’ earlier ‘karmas’ and their root is in the senses (Gita; Chapter 2: shlok – 14). The ‘Gita’, therefore, teaches humankind to remain equanimous in both joy and sorrow (Gita; Chapter 2: shlok – 38).
Three types of Nature (Teen Prakar):
Wisdom, intellect, penance, giving, ‘karma’, the doer, sacrificial rituals, food, etc., are all based on the three characteristics of ‘sattva’, ‘raj’ and ‘tama’ and are themselves of the three categories of ‘saatvic’, ‘rajasi’ and ‘tamasi’ ‘karmas’. The wisdom that enables one to see celestials, humans, birds, animals, living beings, etc., as one is called ‘saatvic’ wisdom. Perceiving beings as different is ‘rajasi’ knowledge and the consciousness that is narrowly limited to only one’s physical existence is termed as ‘tamasi’ (Gita; Chapter 18: shlok – 10, 11 & 12). Intellect, penance, the act of giving, ‘karma’, the doer, sacrificial rituals, etc., too are analyzed on the basis of these characteristics. Similarly, ‘saatvic’ food provides and purifies one’s existence, provides strength, health and happiness, and is also liked by a human of ‘saatvic’ disposition. Such food comprises items like fruits, milk, vegetable and wholesome grains, etc. Food that is hot, spicy and bitter, producing a tingling sensation is liked by people of ‘rajasi’ disposition and includes items like curd, salted and spicy bitter items, which cause excitement and also grief later on. Food that is stale, foul odour and tasteless is ‘tamasi’ food and is liked by people of ‘tamasi’ disposition (Gita; Chapter 17: shlokas – 8, 9 & 10). In other words, anything being good or bad depends upon its qualities of being ‘saatvic’, ‘rajasi’ or ‘tamasi’. If a being has ‘saatvic’ qualities, it is detached and engaged in doing good to others. If it is ‘rajasi’ it is selfish and full of attachments. Simply out, if any ‘karma’ or action is done with a selfish motive, it may give momentary happiness, but its end result will always be bad, a fact that is borne out by the pages of history. The ‘jiva’ or being can wash away the malignant effects of worldly desires and actions only by through self-realization (Gita; Chapter 2: shlok – 45). Self-realization helps the ‘jiva’ to transcend the narrow feelings of attachments, I, me, yours, selfishness, greed and other ills. It then becomes conscious of its actual duty of what ‘karma’ to perform and what to avoid, i.e., gaining true knowledge of ‘karma’. Self-realization leads to the virtues of the ‘atma’ entering the ‘jiva’, which then becomes one with the ‘atma’ (Gita; Chapter 2: shlok – 50). This oneness also makes the ‘karmas’ of the ‘jiva’ filled with ‘bhakti’ (Gita; Chapter 2: shlok – 51). Therefore, the study of the ‘Gita’ is essential for making our worldly life successful, too.
Solutions of all Worldly Evils:
The Shriamd Bhagwadgita is beyond the narrow confines of caste, creed, family, class, society. Civilization, culture, religion and other confines, as well as any material order. It is also higher than the disciplines of sociology, economics, political science, psychology, etc., and is replete with metaphysical knowledge. In order to end corruption, terrorism, crime and social ills, every class or group of people will have to perform its inherent duty in accordance with the intrinsic ‘dharma’ of that duty or action. Therefore, any society or nation that wishes to solve the menace of corruption, terrorism, crime and other social ills has no other option than to embrace the study of the Bhagwadgita.
Dr. Rajvir Singh
All India Institute of Medical Sciences,
Ansari Nagar, New Delhi-110029, India