Sunday, June 21, 2009

Geetha and Values – Swami Paramarthananda


On this auspicious occasion of the eighth anniversary of Geetha Study Centre, I will say few words on the Geetha. If you happened to study Geetha, you will find that Geetha discusses many topics dealing with spirituality, like the topics of Karma Yoga, Bhakthi, Jnanam, Values, Pranayama, Japa, moderation in food etc.

As so many things are discussed in Geetha, one can get a doubt: What is the centre theme of Geetha? Here alone, we get the help from commentators like Sankaracharya. Sankaracharya, after thoroughly analysing the Geetha, establishes that Geetha is a 'Moksha Shastra'. Geetha is a Shastram which is dealing primarily with the topic of Moksha or freedom. There may be other topics like Japa, Pranayama or social harmony. But none of them is the central theme. The central theme is Moksha or freedom.

Naturally, the question comes 'Freedom from what'? That has been clearly given in the first chapter of the Geetha. We find Arjuna facing a particular problem, which we call 'Samsara'. The problem of 'Samsara' discussed in the I chapter is the problem of every human being. Moksha means freedom from this universal problem of 'Samsara'. What is the problem of Samsara? To put in brief, we can say the problem is Raga, Shoka and Moha. Raga means dependence, attachment. Shoka means grief, sorrow. Moha means conflict, confusion by Raga, we mean depending on external things or people or situations to be happy. As long as I depend upon people to be happy, my happiness is always in danger. Any time, that person may go away from me or die causing sorrow. Similarly, if I depend upon objects, as long as the objects are there with me, I am fine. The moment the objects go away, I am upset. Similar is the dependence upon situation, neighbourhood, surroundings etc. This tendency is called Raga. We find that Arjuna has dependence on Bhishma, Drona etc. We have our dependence upon various people around. And therefore everybody is suffering from the problem of Raga. Raga will necessarily cause shoka, sorrow. We find that situations are not under our control. The thing we depend upon deserts us. It may be money, it may be job, it may be people. If anything is not available, I become depressed. The problem of shoka is also universal.

Then comes the problem of Moha - conflict of what to do and what not to do, what is right and what is wrong, what is Dharma and what is Adharma. These three problems, we find in the first chapter of the Geetha. It is the problem of every human being at all times. This we call as 'Samsara'. The entire Geetha Shastram is meant to remove this fundamental problem and this 'Samsara Nivrithi', removal of the dependence, is the purpose of Geetha and that is called 'moksha'. That means I must be happy irrespective of the presence or absence of people. The presence or absence of things, conducive situation or non-conducive situation. If I can be so, I am called independent, muktha purusha. This is the topic of Geetha. So, the first point I would like to emphasize is that Geetha is a Moksha Shastra.

Then, what is the method that Krishna is prescribing to get rid of 'Samsara', i.e., to attain moksha or independence? Here, there are lot of controversies, some people say Bhakthi, some say Jnanam, some say Yoga. Krishna says in the beginning itself.

'Asocyaananvasocastvam pragnavaadaamsca bhaashase |

gatasunagataasumsca naanusocanti panditaah ||'

"A wise person does not grieve in life". This is a beautiful statement of Lord Krishna worth remembering in life. From this, it is very clear that if we want to avoid grief, we should become wise. So, becoming wise is the only method of removing grief. To put it in another language, wisdom is the only way of getting rid of grief. Through knowledge alone, one gets moksha or freedom. From this, we can derive another information. If knowledge is the means of freedom from grief, what should be the cause of grief? Ignorance, geetha says ignorance causes grief, wisdom removes grief and the whole Geetha teaching is meant to remove this ignorance through wisdom.

Krishna talks about many other disciplines like moderation in diet, speaking the truth, Japa
Parayanam, Yoga etc. But Krishna does not present any one of them as the means of liberation but as a preparation for Jnanam. Thus, Puja, Japa Parayanam, Yoga, social service and other disciplines are meant for preparation for knowledge. Generally we call them 'Yoga Shastram' and all of them make a person ready for knowledge. Then, second and final step is Jnanam which give Moksha. Brahma Vidya is the means of liberation and Yoga Shastra is the means of preparation.

Krishna talked about many preparatory disciplines. But one thing Krishna emphasizes is the refinement of mind. In the thirteenth chapter, the Lord talks about a series of virtues like humility, forbearance, steadiness, sense - control, absence of egoism, etc. Even though these virtues are preparation for knowledge, Krishna calls these virtues themselves as Jnanam, because if these virtues are there, knowledge or wisdom is not far off. On the other hand, if these virtues are absent, any amount of efforts including the study of spiritual literature will not give any benefit at all. The Lord emphasizes these virtues again in the fourteenth chapter as Satwa Guna and in the sixteenth chapter as Daivee Sampath. What is the role of virtues in Jnanam? It is like preparing the ground before sowing the seed. Guru is sowing the seed of wisdom. Our mind is like the ground. The seed is not defective. The seed can bear the fruit. But our problem is the land is barren, not cultivated, not tilled, pesticide etc. have not been used. Kama - pest, Krodha - pest, Lobha - pest etc. are there. In such a land, sowing the seeds does not give any benefit at all. Therefore, a person has to take care of his mental preparation by cultivating virtues, which Krishna calls as Jnanam or Satwaguna Daivee Sampath. What are all the virtues? Countless virtues are mentioned all over the Geetha, which makes the Geetha unique. I shall discuss two virtues which Krishna emphasizes often. They are Nishkamatvam (freedom from desire) and Nishkrodhatvam (freedom from anger). One who knows to handle the two problems of Kama and Krodha alone will be able to benefit from the study of this scriptures. How to get over Kama? Krishna gives the solution in the third chapter. Kama means desire, Raga. Attachment or desire towards material things of life, is called Kama.

Krishna says that a person can get over this problem only if he knows its source. If you know that, you can easily get rid of that. The Lord points out that there are three sources or centres which are responsible for the origination of Kama. They are sense organs, mind and intellect. How do the sense organs contribute to Kama? The sense organs are like the doors through which all the objects enter our mind. So, when I open my senses varieties of attractive forms enter my mind. Similarly varieties of attractive sounds, smells, etc. enter. And the moment they enter, I am attracted, carried away by them. Therefore, the sense organs create Kama by putting things inside the mind. The second source that Krishna mentions is the mind. Even when an attractive thing enters the mind, it does not become a powerful desire at once, it is only a seed of desire. Even though the sense organs put the seed of desire, it is not that much harmful. But the mind will not allow that feeble desire to remain there. The mind goes on repeating that "It is nice, it is nice." This mental repetition of thought also contributes to kama. The third source that contributes to Kama is the intellect. The intellect's job is false-judgement. The intellect has got a false notion, a misconception that the external things can give permanent happiness, permanent peace, permanent security. This expectation of permanent happiness, peace and security is born out of a false judgement on the part of intellect. That is why, until we possess a thing, it is attractive. After we possess, we find its value goes down. It was only a fake peace, a fake happiness that it was able to create. Without understanding the fakeness or falsity of the charm, the intellect thinks that it is real. This is the false judgement of the intellect. Because of these three, Kama develops, Krishna says.

How to conquer Kama? Krishna says that we have to take care of these three sources. How to take care of? The sense organs must be alert. We should not allow anything and everything to enter. This is called sense control. Even if some disturbing things enter the mind through the senses, still I can save myself. How? Here the second part has to be taken care of. The mind which repeats it again and again, has to be stopped in the beginning itself. This is control of the mind. Not repeating it again and again is mind-control. The third one is Bhuddhi (intellect) which has made a false judgement. The intellect has to understand very clearly that if a particular thing can give permanent happiness, all the people who possess that thing should be permanently happy. But that is not so. The idea is that a house can give shelter, but not fulfilment. Thus by proper enquiry, we should clearly understand that fullness, peace, security, happiness, etc., cannot come from those things. Therefore, I should not depend on them for peace, security, happiness. This is Viveka. Therefore, control at the level of intellect is right judgement. Thus, three disciplines are required for removing Kama. They are sense-control, mind-control and right judgement.

Regarding anger, Krishna does not say much. Krishna feels that Kama is taken care of, Krodha also is taken care of. Desire converted alone is anger. If there is an obstruction for the fulfilment of a desire, the very same desire is converted into anger. And the anger is directly proportional to the desire. Therefore, if desire is taken care of anger is taken of. Hence, Krishna does not separately deal with anger. Still, by using our common sense, we can find out some methods for getting out of anger-problem. The first step in conquering anger is clearly knowing that anger is not a good thing at all. To understand that anger is not good, we can take the example of a powerful drug. There are some powerful medicines which the doctors will use only in emergency cases and the moment you take the medicine, you get relief. Naturally, you will feel like asking the doctor to give it again and again. Then the doctor will say, "no doubt the medicine is effective but it has got some problems". What are they? No. 1: When you take the powerful drug, even though you are getting relief, the side effects are serious. Sometimes, it is worse than the disease itself. No. 2: Once you take the powerful drug and the pain goes away, your tendency will be to use it again and again. This is human weakness. No. 3: If you take the drug again and again, its effect will become lesser and lesser like sleeping pills.

Anger is also like a powerful drug. How do we say so? No. 1: Anger may work, but the side effects on the person getting anger and the person on the other side, are very harmful. The damage done is more than the benefit achieved. So, the first problem with anger is its serious side effect. No.2: Once you find that anger works, you tend to get angry repeatedly. It becomes a weakness or addiction. No.3: just as a drug loses its efficiency on you with repeated usage, anger also loses its efficiency after repeated usage. You keep shouting. Others will say that you are generally like that and will ignore you.

Hence, anger has to be handled very carefully by observing the following principles:

  1. Avoid repeated use of anger however much efficacious it may appear to be.
  2. Patiently try all other peaceful methods including warning, before using anger as a last resort. In fact, you will find anger is not required in most cases.
  3. Under any circumstance, anger as a reaction is evil. When you use anger as an action, you will be able to stop it or postpone it at will.

Thus, by leading an alert life, it is possible to deal with Kama and Krodha. Without handling: them, Jnanam will not take place. Even if it takes place, it will not be fruitful.

May the Lord bless us all to attain mental refinement and knowledge so that we will find fulfilment in this life itself. OM TAT