Friday, June 19, 2009

Bhagavad Gita in Daily Life - 1

Om Namo Narayanaya

BG in Daily Life is the topic of our discussion here for a few weeks. First, let us look at what is meant by ‘daily life’ and then see how Bg is relevant in our daily life.

What is Daily life The daily life of human beings is characterised by actions. Actions are performed by all beings. But there is a difference between actions performed by human being and other than human beings. We find that other creatures act according to their instincts. They are programmed to respond to situations in a certain way. Like humans, they have certain basic instincts of hunger, thirst, self-preservation and sense-gratification.

However other beings act instinctively in response to situations. They do not have a choice in responding to a situation other than the the way they are programmed. A cow has no choice but eating grass. It does not have this kind of question , should I eat grass or should I eat meat. A dog will bark if it feels like. A donkey will kick if it feels like and kick its owner too

A human being on the other hand has a choice. When we go for a buffet – should I eat this or that, or this and that. In ashram we have choice of food with spices, food without spices. So many people who say we will tke food without chilly and then they find they haveto mix! Choices are always there.

Action determined by choice, deliberate action, premeditated action - is what is special about human beings. So we have choice, a freedom of not performing action. I have a choice of not doing something even if I feel like it. That is our privilege – kartum shakyam, akartum shakyam, anyatha va kartum shakyam meaning to do or not to do or to do it differently ( do it as I please)! CLAP YOUR HANDS!....

Summarising So this is what our daily life is – the performance of various actions as determined by our choice..

What determines choice
Behind our choice of action there is ALWAYS a PURPOSE. Our actions are not just random and purposeless – we perform purposeful action. Purpose above beyond, just satisfying hunger and thirst, which are the natural instincts. As I said earlier, these natural instincts are also shared by humans and other creatures also. We also have hunger and thirst, self-preservation and sense-gratification. But over and above above fulfilling these instincts, we have some other kind of a need also and it is that need which motivates many of our actions. What is that need?

The need to be happy, the need to be free.

When is that we have a need? Analyse and you will find that we have a need for something when either
1. We really do not have that which we need
2. Or we conclude that we do not have it.

So if you analyse the need to be happy, the need to be secure, the need to be free – you find that behind the need is the conclusion that I am not happy or that I am not as happy as I like to be, I am not as free as I like to be, I am not as secure as I would like to be.

There is therefore a desire on my part to be happier than what I am, or to be more free than what I am, or to be more secure than what I am.

Thus I find my actions are prompted by desire. To perform desire prompted actions is the privilege of a human being. And this what we may call the daily life of a human being.

The various activities that we do from morning to night are prompted by our various desires.. Everybody has desires. A poor person also has desire. A rich person also has desires. A young person has desires and a old person also has desires. And in the past thousands of years ago people had desires and in future also people will have desires.

Thus I find myself a desiring person. I desire security, I desire pleasure, I desire adequacy, I desire long life, I desire condusive situations for myself, I desire freedom. These various desires prompt my actions and that is what my daily living is all about.

‘Desire’ - an expression of discomfort

So why do we need Bhagavad-Gita in this.

Well if I was happy and comfortable with this daily living, there would be no need for Bhagavad-Gita.


All our daily activities are for the sake of gaining happiness. We already saw that. We have a DESIRE TO BE HAPPY, DESIRE TO BE SECURE and it is to FULFILL THESE DESIRES that we do our daily activities. When we analyse what is behind the DESIRE, we find that it is the CONCLUSION that “I do not have happiness now. I do not have secirty now. I am not happy. I am not secure.”

When do I have a desire for security? When I have concluded that I am not secure. When do I have a desire for adequacy? When I have concluded that I am not adequate. I CAN HAVE A DESIRE FOR SOMETHING ONLY WHEN I HAVE CONCLUDED THAT I DO NOT HAVE THAT.

So behind my desires is the niggling ever-present sense that “all is not well with me”. It is like a woman with high-heeled shoes who has a pebble in her shoe. Can she rest until she gets rid of it? She may try to ignore it – but finally she has to bend and remove that pebble.

So too there is the ever-present sense of “I am wanting”. It makes one restless, uncomfortable with oneself. I cannot be happy with myself and it expresses itself as the constant sruti “I want… I want…. I want…”. I think I need something outside of myself to become comfortable and so there is this constant seeking to make myself comfortable through various sitautions and objects in the external world.

I think that my discomfort is caused by the things and beings around me. But really if I look at it I find that I am basically uncomfortable with my own self. It is that discomfort with myself, not recognised by me, makes me conclude that my discomfort is because of other people, other things and other people.

Therefore I am not comfortable because
1. my income is not adequate enough.
2. my house not big enough.
3. my car is not expensive enough.
4. because .. whatever .. house children, family, friends are not quite what I want them to be.
I have concluded that my discomfort is on account of these things around me and therefore I keep on trying to re-arrange them all the time. I make re-arrangements in in my place of work. I make re-arrangemnets in my home. I make rearrangements in the family. I make re-arrangements in my place of work, in my friends and even my furniture!. So when you go to someone’s house, the furniture is also newly arranged. TV is in a diff place, carpet is changed, some deck has been added. You find that now he is having moustache, after 6 months he does not have it. And now his hair is long, and then it is short – all these changes happen!! And every season there are new kinds of clothes.

Self-Consciousness the cause of discomfort with oneself
Why do I have this sense of discomfort? Becauuse I am a self-conscious being – I am aware of myself. I am a self-conscious being. Conscious of myself and conscious of the world around me. We say ‘he is a very self-conscious person’. Some people are always aware – they sit very carefully, as though posing for a photo. Some people are very careful that their shadow also should not look ugly.

{Illustrations of animals not having self-consciousness} Buffaloes and cow are not aware of themselves – they are aware of themselves in some way –but not like we are aware of ourselves. Buffaloes don’t feel a sense of injustice. Cows are worshipped and gives very little milk and very little used. – buffaloes gives a lot of milk. So buffalo should feel that I am doing so much and nobody respects me –and this cow is wandering all day in the field and does not give anything and is considered to be worshipped! Buffalo does not seem to feel a sense of rejection. A buffalo does have awareness in the sense it relates to another buffalo in a certain way, and to a dog in a certain way. But the feeling that a bigger buffalo, a smaller buffalo, a more important buffalo, less important, more respected one, less respected one – they don’t seem to have.

As for me, I am always conscious of myself. I am always aware of who I am and that is where the discomfort comes, because I find that I am not quite what I like to be.

The discomfort is centered on “I”
Being essentially dissatisfied with myself, I have various desires, fulfilling which which I think will make me comfortable. My desires keep on being satisfied one after the other but still the desirer does not seem to go. And one desire seems to be replaced by another desire.

So I have desire for a house – it gets satisfied when I get a house. Then I have desire for a car – it gets satisfied when I have a car. I have another desire for something and I spend all my energy getting it satisfied. And one thing remains constant – it never goes – that is the desiror. The desirer seems to remain. Who is the desiror? The one who has concluded that “I AM WANTING .. I AM LACKING”.

A wise person also has desires. The wise person abides in his own fullness and so a wise person’s desires are not from the wanting self and therefore not binding.
But generally speaking, a desire is from a sense of lack or discomfort.

Pravritti and Nivritti
Desire prompted activities can be looked at as having a two-fold nature –called in Sanskrit as pravritti ( acquiring something) and nivritti- (getting rid of something). Pravrriti means seeking out something. Nivritti means getting rid of something. So this is what I do. Acquiring something that I think will make me more comfortable than what I am, or getting rid of something which I think makes me uncomfortable. Acquiring and getting rid of. Every body does both. As Swamiji says, what one fellow gets rid of, another fellow acquires.

Mostly people think that this is what life is all about. Afterall this is what everyone seems to be doing. So they also continue to do without giving it a thought. As long as I don’t give a thought so long I don’t come to Vedanta.

It is only when a person finds that somehow this is not leading me anywhere. What’s going on? What for all this is meant?. What for is this life? They ask ‘is there a purpose in life’. They have not found a purpose to what they are the doing, the way they are doing. Is there a purpose? Only when this question arises, and we happen to be in the right place, the whole direction can change.

Enquiry because understands that pravritti and nivritti does not solve the problem
And so Mundoko Upansihad says – parikshya lokan karmacitaan braahmana nirvedam aayaat nasti akr tkrtena

A brahmana, a contemplative person, a thinking person (parikshyalokan) enquiring into, analysing into all the achivements that he has made in his life. Analysing achievement, taking stock of my life. And there are of course many things to be proud of in my achivemnets. But still he thinks “now I have more education than what I had before, I am wealthier than before, more respected than what I was, better known than what I was – no doubt better than what I was before.

But in terms of the sense of comfort or with myself or the sense of lack I carry around with myself am I any better than what I was before? Am I better in terms of the wanting self, the inadeqaucy, the discomfort with myself, am I any better than what I was before?”

This is pariiksha, the enquiry. Although the Upanishad says he deliberates on his achievements, really speaking he deliberates on himself.

Usually we equate ourselves with our achievements and so there seems to be an equation in my head – that the more I have the more I am. My idea of success up to now has been this, to be successful, I should have more.
I equate myself in terms of what I have, what I do. Yet that equation maybe shaken when I ask myself questions that in terms of the person that I am, am I a more content person, am I a better person, a more compassionate, a more giving, more sharing, more forgiving person than I was before - am I better off than before as a person or have I remained the same person inspite of various achievements.

Vedanta is not against achievement
The section in the Vedas on Self-knowledge is called as Vedanta. Vedanta has nothing against achievement. Vedanta only asks is for us to understand for ourselves the nature of achievements, what is behind our pursuits of our various activities. Vedanta only asks us to understand ourselves.

However usually this does not happen easily, because generally we are extremely preoccupied with the things, situations and people around us and so there is almost no desire to understand myself. That I need to understand myself, that kind of a thought also does not occur to me. I just take it for granted that this is what life is for. After all everybody is leading the same life and so this is what life is all about – making money, having more and more things for myself, getting married, having children, having grandchildren, having a few hobbies so I spread my basket of interests as it were.

When I start questioning the purpose of my life, only then I may come to Vedanta, or for a class on Bhagavad-Gita in Daily Life.

Vedanta questions our conclusions.

What our scriptures point out is that our conclusions about ourselves have been formed without proper enquiry. I am not what my wealth is, I am not what my house is, I am not what my car is. I am not what my job is. I am not what my name and fame is.

Pariikshya lokkan karma citaan brahmana nirvedam aayaat Naasti akrta krtena. When this person in fact inquires into the conclusion about himself he asks himself
‘Has my conclusion about myself changed inspite of all the achievements in my life? I have no doubt all these achievements to my credit. But do the conclusions about myself go inspite of all my achievements? My conclusions that I am an inadequate person, a wanting person – has it gone from me, inspite of all my achievements? Will my conclusions about myself change if I go to heaven or I become the President of America?”

Swamini, why should these conclusions go? If they went there would be no progress at all. Because we feel dissatisfied with ourselves, we are able to progress. Forget about progress. Let us worry about ourself.

Am I happy being inadequate? Is anybody ever happy being sad? Do we ever congrajulate a person who is sad – Go up to him and say “Congrajulations! It is wonderful to see you so sad”. Never. We know what it is to be sad and so we sympathise with another person who is sad. Again we never console a person who is happy saying “I am so sad that you are happy”.

Unhappiness is nothing but a discomfort with myself. When I am uncomfortable with myself, I just want to get rid of it, I cannot bear to have it. I have to get rid of it. I cannot be comfortable with my own sense of want, or need, of discomfort. It is like a live, healthy, active bug with wings that enters my ears. Can I be comfortable with it there? Like a speck of dust in my eyes. I cannot be comfortable with it – so too I can never be comfortable, I can never be happy, with the sense of lack

This desire to be free of the sense of dissatisfaction with myself is really behind all our desires for wealth, for fame, prestige, power, money. It is behind my needs from relationships too. I want the approval of people because I don’t approve myself. I need relationships where I can get love from people because I have not loved my self. Through the fulfillment of various desires I want to see myself as different – as the satisfied me, the pleased me.

Nasti akrta kritena - and really speaking no achievement has made me comfortable with myself. It has given me some ego nourishment but has not made my discomfort go away and made me the a satisfied person that I want to be.

Whatever I wanted and I achieved, thinking it will make the sense of lack around myself go away – I still find myself lacking, I still find an emptiness in myself. Now this man understands, no action, no achievement seems to make me happy, make me secure with myself and so nirvedam ayaat – he becomes indifferent to that mode of achievement.

If this is recognised, direction of one’s life changes. This how Bhagavad-Gita begins.

The problem of conflict, of insecurity and inadequacy is as old as humankind. It is the problem faced by Arjuna, in the Gita. Arjuna was a warrior-hero of fantastic achievements and a disciplined intellect, who was nevertheless overwhelmed by personal conflict and a feeling of helplessness. Lord Krishna taught him to recognise the adequate self and when he did all his conflict and sorrow were resolved.)

The Gita is not meant for any one person, or creed or nation; it is meant for humanity. It speaks to a mind that is dissatisfied with constant want, that is alert and thinking, that has fought in life.

Om Tat Sat