Revelations of The Gita
Revelations of The Gita
Enlightment in the battlefield? A paradoxical proposition indeed! In this paradox lies the key to the supreme secret.
The Gita, through the ages, has been the greatest single source of spiritual knowledge for the people of this subcontinent. Although presented by Vyasa as a part of the Mahabharata, it is spoken by Krishna and is looked upon as a complete work of scripture.
For many it has been a support in the moments of distress, for many it has been the light or the guide for attaining a higher consciousness. Like a mother dispensing to children food according to their capacity to absorb, the Gita has revealed the Truth to the seekers according to the maturity of their understanding. It has failed none.
It might appear surprising that a spiritual message of such untold importance should be delivered in the battlefield, on the eve of a terrible war, just when two camps are ready to pounce on each other. Could not Providence have chosen a more suitable situation for the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna?
But in this situation itself is hidden a clue to the far-reaching significance of the Gita: There is no situation, no moment, which the Grace cannot turn into an opportunity for a momentous spiritual revelation. Nothing in life is outside the scope of the transforming power of the Divine. (And, of course, time is a relative experience.)
The next question that might rise in the mind of one who is yet to study the Gita is, “How is it that Krishna, the incarnation of God, is urging upon Arjuna to fight, when the latter is reluctant to do so? Is peace not preferable to war? Is non-violence not preferable to violence? If Arjuna is ready to go without such gains of the war like power and wealth, should he not be given a pat on the back and encouraged in his attitude?
The Gita contains the answers to this question, but in order to appreciate the answers, one has to be aware of the complexity of human nature. Man is not a single entity. He is a composition of several elements such as his body, life, mind and the soul. Often a battle goes on within himself when two emotions or two attractions pull him in opposite directions or when the body desires to have something while the mind refuses to support it, or when one sense of duty conflicts with another. Also there is a battle going on within a conscious man between the elements of greed, ignorant attachment, lust, etc. on one hand and the elements that uplift him-his aspirations to lead a lofty and truthful life, on the other hand.
The battle that goes on outside one’s self is obvious- the battle between the forces of falsehood and those of truth. In the collective life it often expresses itself through a physical conflict between two camps. This does not mean that the camp that champions the cause of truth is made up of all pure individuals and the camp representing the falsehood is made up of those entirely evil. However, if love and regard for a higher ideal dominate a camp, that camp receives the support of the Divine, while those dominated in their blind passion by falsehood receive the support of the darker forces. This is a universal law. That is the way leading to the ultimate triumph of Light. The mythology describes this conflict as the battle between the Devas and the Asuras.
The Mahabharata War, the backdrop of the Gita, too represents this conflict. Krishna supports the Pandavas who champion the ideals of Dharma, against the Kauravas who have become the channels for the hostile Asuric powers craving to possess the world.
To establish the order of Dharma for the collective humanity is Krishna’s mission, but that is not the sole purpose of his incarnation. To enlighten individuals who are ready within with lofty divine secrets, is the other purpose. Arjuna is fit enough to receive the secret. And for thousands of years such souls who are developed enough have also been initiated to the secrets thought the message that was delivered to Arjuna, but became the property of humanity.
What is the essence of that message?
Life is not meant to be spent as a plaything of Nature, Prakriti, to be tossed about like a tiny ball on the violent waves of passions, hopes and frustrations; the laws of birth, procreation and death. Life has an ultimate purpose-realising the Divine.
As long as one does not know this, one lives a life by superficial standards, guided by values that are dubious or unreal. It is through numerous shocks of disillusionment that awakening comes to one. One’s inner being, the Purusha, continues to guide him through the vicissitudes of life, towards the ultimate goal of life.
Ordinarily, one identifies oneself with one’s body, mind or life, or with a clumsy assortment of these three, but not with soul, whereas one’s true self is one’s soul. It is this false identification, resulting in what is termed as the ego, that works as the agent of ignorance. One feels proud, angry, offended, revengeful- all with a false self as the centre. The process for the discovery of the true self continues to operate along with the seeker’s efforts to combat his illusory self, the ego.
This is not an easy combat, Prakriti, through its three modes, Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, can prove infinitely crafty and tricky. In a thousand ways it can cloud the consciousness, delude the seeker and make him forget whatever light he had seen, and lure him back to the old grooves he thought he had left far behind. Yet, the path to his destination lies through these-either through a gradual rejection of lower values for higher values contained in Nature itself or through a decisive jump out of Nature’s spell. It is only a determined self-giving to the Divine, a continuous offering of all one does, all one thinks, all one is, to the Divine, that can ensure the seeker’s continuation on the right track.
This continuous offering—the Yajna or “Sacrifice”, is of untold importance. When one is established in this habit, one is no longer a slave of his ego. When one is no longer a slave of his ego, one is liberated from the influence of Nature. He goes beyond even the Sattva, the highest mode of Nature which inspires one to be ethical and moral. No ideal made by mind, however great and lofty, can bind him any longer. His only ideal is the Supreme Lord. The seeker lives for Him, works for Him, gathers knowledge for Him. Work, knowledge, devotion, love—the seeker cultivates all only for His sake. To the Lord he dedicates all. His entire life becomes the Yoga—the process of union with Him. Needless to say, a seeker living and working in this spirit expects no fruit from his action as an ordinary man does. Not only the fruits of his work belong to the Divine, but also he is above the idea that he is the worker. He is only an instrument of the Divine; if a worker, a totally detached worker. A question arises; can one continue with one’s work when one is bereft of all desires? Accustomed as we are (in our egoistic way) to expect results from our actions—a desired result making us happy and an undesirable result making us unhappy—-the doubt becomes formidable.
But the Gita assures us that egoless action is always possible. Work in a spirit of equanimity, bliss and with full surrender to the Divine can become a way of life with the seeker. As Sri Aurobindo puts the message of Krishna: “I demand of you not a passive consent to a mechanical movement of Nature from which in yourself you are wholly separated, indifferent and aloof, but action complete and Divine, done for God in you and others and for the good of the world… Action is part of the integral knowledge of God and of his greater mysterious truth and of an entire living in the Divine; action can and should be continued even after perfection and freedom are won.”
It is true that as it is, the world is full of obscurity and falsehood. It is not unusual for the seekers of truth, out of their disgust for the world, to take Sannyas—to embrace asceticism. But according to the Gita the world is as much, if not more, a fit place for tapasya, the askesis, as a situation that is aloof from the world. What really matters is Tyaga, the inner renunciation, not Sannyas, an outer asceticism.
Once the seeker has conquered his ego and has discovered his soul, he will know what is required of him, the path he should take, the work he should accomplish. In other words, he will know what his Swadharma is. No other moral, social, ethical or religious duty can then be greater to him than the need to follow his Swadharma. This is one of the cardinal doctrines of the Gita. For there are duties and duties. To be devoted to one’s family is a duty. To sacrifice the needs or the family for the sake of the community or the country too is a duty. To be faithful to a friend is a duty; to be faithful to an ideology which the friend opposed could also be yet another duty. To state the facts is an obligation; to suppress the facts and thereby save some worthy lives could be yet another obligation.
The mind does not know what truth according to the highest is—the divine—design of things. Hence it is not by a mental decision, but by the dictate of the inner voice—the voice of Swadharma—that the seeker must choose his course of action.
For a while Arjuna’s consciousness has been clouded by his egoistic promptings which appear moral and ideal—that he is willing to forgo the promised trophies of victory for sake of peace. But that is not the voice of his Swadharma. To fight is not his duty simply because he is a Kshatriya Dedicated to the right cause, but because his soul has chosen the Divine or has been chosen by the Divine to act in a certain role. He is blessed that the Divine Guide is available to him. All his mental doubts about the prevailing systems of Yoga and Samkhya, about the concept of duty, questions about fate and freewill, are answered. Over and above that his true self is discovered to him.
By and by the Divine Guide leads Arjuna to the Supreme Secret:”Abandon all dharmas and take refuge in Me alone. I will deliver thee from all sin and evil, do not grieve.”
This is an advice that could not have been imparted to a lesser man. A social or religious or moral code of conduct is necessary for an average man so that he does not run amok with an anarchic exercise of his impulses. But for the seeker in whom the process of a conscious growth is in operation, level after level of codes of conduct lose their relevance. He transcends them all. Ultimately all but the Divine’s Will is a zero for him.
So, Arjuna must fight, on one hand for the triumph of a cause that has the sanction of the Divine, and on the other hand for realising the possibility of acting without any attachment for a certain result. It is true that war or any action that breathes violence will be superfluous in an age when human nature would have undergone a fundamental change. But as long as the forces of violence are alive and active, to refrain from combating them at their own plane will amount to granting them a license for causing greater havoc. The Gita shows how even such crude-most physical situations and pragmatic issues can be tackled with a spiritual consciousness.