June 15, 2007

Gita XIX-The way of knowledge: Jnana Marga

We can reach the goal of perfection; attain the saving truth in three different ways, by knowledge of Reality or adoration and love (bhakti) of the Supreme Being or by the subjection of the will to the Divine purpose (karma). At the end, knowledge, love and action mingle together. God himself is reality, truth and bliss. To those who are seeking light, HE is Eternal Light, clear and radiant as the sun at noonday, in which there is no darkness; to those struggling for virtue, HE is Eternal Righteousness, steadfast and impartial; and to those emotionally inclined, HE is Eternal Love and Beauty of Holiness.

Even as God combines in Himself all these features, man aims at the integral life of spirit. Cognition, will and feeling, though logically distinguishable, are not separable I concrete life and unity of mind. They are different aspects of the one movement of the soul.

June 04, 2007

Gita XVIII-Jnana or Wisdom

If world is nothing but ebb and flow, continual becoming, it is due to action. At the human level, action is caused by desire or attachment, kama. The root cause of desire is avidya or ignorance of the nature of things. The roots of desire lie in the ignorant belief in the individual’s self-sufficiency, in the attribution reality and permanence to it. We have to get over this ignorance. Vidya or wisdom is the means of liberation from the chain of avidya-kama-karma.

Wisdom should not be confused with theoretical learning or correct beliefs, for ignorance is not intellectual error. It is spiritual blindness. To remove it, we must cleanse the soul of its defilement and kindle the spiritual vision. The fire of passion and the tumult of desire must be suppressed.* (IV, 39)The mind, inconstant and unstable, must be steadied to reflect wisdom from above.

Wisdom is direct experience, which occurs as soon as obstacles to its realization are removed. The effort of the seeker is directed to the elimination of the hindrances, to the removal of the obscuring tendencies of avidya. According to Advaita Vedanta, this wisdom is always present. It can only be revealed. Utter silence of the mind and the will, an emptying of the ego produces illumination, wisdom, the light by which we grow into our true being; this is eternal life, complete fulfilment of our capacity of love and knowledge, “the completely simultaneous and perfect possession of unlimited life at a single moment.”

Jnana and ajnana, wisdom and ignorance are opposed as light and darkness. With the dawning of wisdom, ignorance dies and evil is cut off from the root. The liberated soul overcomes the world. When we grow into this wisdom, we live in the Supreme. This consciousness is not an abstract one.

(to be contd.)

*(IV, 39) He who has faith, who is absorbed in it (i.e.wisdom) and who has subdued his senses gains wisdom and having gained wisdom, he attains quickly, the supreme peace.

May 27, 2007

Gita XVII---Yoga-Shastra

Derived from the word yuj (root), to bind together, yoga means binding one’s psychic powers, balancing and enhancing. By yoking together and harnessing our energies by the most intense concentration of personality, we force the passages from narrow ego to the transcendent personality. The spirit frees itself away from its prison and stands out of it to reach into its own innermost being.

Gita gives a comprehensive yoga-shastra, large, flexible and many sided, which includes various phases of the soul’s development and ascent into he divine. The different yogas are special applications of the inner discipline, which leads to the liberation of the soul and a new understanding of the unity and meaning of humankind. Everything related to this discipline is called yoga such as jnana yoga, way of knowledge, bhakti yoga, way of devotion, karma yoga or way of action.

Perfection at the human level is a task to be accomplished by conscious endeavour. The image of God operating in us produces a sense of insufficiency. Man has a hunting sense of vanity, the transience and precariousness of all human happiness.

If the divine truth, which is free for access to all humanity, is attained by only a few, it shows those few are willing to surrender to him. The invisible impulse to seek God produces the agony that inspires heroic idealism and human fulfilment. The image of God in us expresses itself in the indefinite capacity for self-transcendence.

March 12, 2007

Gita XVI----Karma and Destiny

Nature does not absolutely determine. Karma is a condition, not a destiny. It is only one of the five factors involved in the accomplishment of any act, which are adhisthana or the basis or centre from which we work, kartr or doer, Karana or the instrumentation of nature, chesta or effort and daiva or fate. The last is the power or powers of other than human, the cosmic principle which stands behind, modifying the work and disposing of its reward. There are certain factors in our lives which are determined for us forces beyond our control. We do not choose how or when or where and in what condition of life we are born. On the theory of rebirth even these are not chosen by us. It is part of our Karma that determines our ancestry, heredity and environment. But when we look from the stand point of this life, we can say that we were not consulted about our nationality, race, parentage or social status. But subject those limitations, we have freedom of choice. Life is like a game of bridge. We did not invent the game or design the cards. Our life is a mixture of necessity, and freedom, chance and choice. By exercising our choice properly, we can control steadily all the elements and eliminate altogether the determinism of nature. While the movements of matter, the growth of plants and acts of animals are controlled more completely, man has understanding which enables him to co-operate consciously with the work of the world. He can approve or disapprove, give or withhold his consent to certain acts. If he does not exercise his intelligent will, he is acting in a way contrary to his humanity. If he acts blindly according to his impulses and passions and passions, he acts more like an animal than a man. Being human he justifies his actions.

The individual should become transparent to himself and different elements should reach a fundamental integration for spontaneous or creative activity to be possible. It is mans duty to control his rajas (material desires) and tamas (physical desires) by means of his sattva (spiritual desire) nature which seeks for the truth of things and the right law of action. But even when we act under the influence or our sattva nature we are not entirely free. Sattva binds us as much as rajas and tamas. Only our desires for truth and virtue are nobler. The sense of ego is still operative. We must raise our ego and grow into the Supreme Self of which the ego is an expression. When we make our individual being into one with the Supreme, we rise above nature with its modes and freed from the bonds of the world.

March 01, 2007

Gita XV---Individual’s freedom of choice

Every act of self is a creative one, while all acts of the not self are truly passive. It is in our inner life that we confront primary reality, the deeps of being. The law of Karma holds in the realms of the not-self where heredity, biological and social holds, but in the subject is possibility of freedom, of triumph over the determinism of nature, over the compulsion of the world. Man, the subject, should gain mastery over man, the object. Object indicates determinism from without; subject means freedom, indeterminism. The ego in its self-confinement, in its automatism, psychical and social, is a distortion of the true subject. The law of karma can be overcome by the affirmation of the freedom of spirit. The Gita affirms that there is no radical dualism between the supernatural and the natural. Through struggle and suffering, man can pass from his freedom that abides in the steadfastly chosen good. Liberation is a return to inward being, to subjectivity; bondage is enslavement to the object world, to necessity, to dependence.

Neither nature nor society can invade our inner being without permission. Even God acts with a peculiar delicacy in regard to human beings. He woos out consent but never compels. Human individuals have distinctive beings of their development. The world is not fulfilling a prearranged plan in a mechanical way. We are asked to control our impulses, shake off our confusions and wanderings, rise above the current of nature and regulate our conduct by reference to buddhi or understanding, as otherwise, we will become the victims of ‘lust which the enemy of man on earth’. The Gita lays stress on the individual’s freedom of choice and the way he exercises it. Man’s struggles, his sense of frustration and self accusation are not to be dismissed as errors of the mortal mind or mere phases of a dialectic process. This would be to deny the moral urgency of life.

(to be contd.)

February 20, 2007

Gita XIV-----Freedom vs. Determinism

The problem facing man is the integration of his personality, the development of a divine existence in which a spiritual principle has the mastery over all the powers of soul and body. This integral life is created by the spirit. The distinction between soul and body which links man with the life of nature is not an ultimate one. It does not exist in radical sense in which Descartes affirmed it. The life of the soul permeates the life of the body, even as the bodily life has its effect on the soul. There is vital unity of soul and body in man. The real dualism is between spirit and nature, between freedom and necessity. In the integrated personality, we have the victory of the spirit over nature, of freedom over necessity. The Gita which looks upon both aspects of the supreme affirms that we can spiritualise nature and communicate another quality to it.

The problem of freedom vs. determinism has meaning only with human individuals. It has no application to the Absolute which is above all opposites or to the subhuman species of plants and animals. Man is possessor of freedom. The whole teaching of Gita requires man to choose the good and realize it conscious effort. There are however many impediments to this problem of choice. Man is complex multi-dimensional being, including within him different elements of matter, life, consciousness, intelligence and the divine spark. He is free when he acts from the highest level and uses the other elements for the realization of purpose. But when he is on the level of objective Universe, and feels that he is subjected to the necessities of nature, he is not without hope, for one spirit, operates at all levels of being. Even matter is a manifestation of the supreme. There is an element of spontaneity and creativity inexplicable in terms of mechanical forces even in the lowest forms of nature. Each plane of our being has its own consciousness, its habitual ways of feelings, thoughts and action. The ego should not persist in retaining its obscure and limited consciousness, which is a distortion of its true nature. The light of consciousness stands in its own nature empirical self with its shifting tides of experiences is controlled by buddhi (wisdom) in which the light of consciousness is reflected.

(to be contd.)

February 04, 2007

Gita XIII (addendum)—The Individual self

Our intellectual nature produces self-consciousness; it leads to the emergence of the human individual from its original solidarity with nature. Most of us, by finding our specific place in the social world, give a meaning to our life and gain a feeling of security, a sense of belonging. Any sense of satisfaction and security derived by submission to external authority is bought at the price of the integrity of the self. By developing our inner spiritual nature, we gain a new kind of relatedness to the world and grow into freedom, where the integrity of the self is not compromised. We then become aware of ourselves as active creative individuals, living, not by the discipline of external authority but by the inward rule of free devotion to truth.

The individual self is a portion of the Lord, a real, not an imaginary form of the supreme, a limited manifestation of God. The soul which derives from the Supreme Isvara is not so much an emanation as a member of the Supreme. The soul’s substantial existence springs from the Divine intellect and its expression in life is effected by virtue of its vision of Divine who is its father and its ever-present companion. Its distinctiveness is determined by the divine pattern and the context of the senses and the mind which it draws to itself. The universal is embodied in a limited context of mental-----vital-physical sheath. No individual is quite like another, no life repeats another’s and yet a single pattern runs through all of them. The essence of ego, the distinguishing characteristic of human personality is a certain creative unity, an inner purpose, a plan which has gradually shaped itself into an organic unity.