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TEACHINGS OF DNYANESHWARI
CHAPTER 2 - THE PATH OF KNOWLEDGE
Shri Krishna tries to remove the impression in Arjuna’s mind that all these people would be killed by his (Arjuna’s) hands. He tells him that by the design of the natural laws all these people are already dead; that Arjuna was merely an instrument for their actual death. Arjuna was bound, as a Kshatriya, to do his righteous duty (Dharma) of fighting and kill the enemy if necessary in order to defeat him. Shri Krishna then explains certain aspects of the Yoga of Knowledge (Jnanayoga) of the Sankhyas.
YOGA OF KNOWLEDGE (JNANAYOGA) OF THE SANKHYAS
Shri Krishna explains:
- Birth and death have been natural and inevitable occurrences from time immemorial. What is born must die and is reborn again.
- An individual is not just his body as he thinks but the Soul or the Self, that resides in the body. In death, only the body dies but the soul does not. The individual is subsequently reborn in another body.
- This world is pervaded by Maya (the power that is responsible for creation of the material world) but there is a basic mysterious underlying principle in the world that is called the Brahman (which is the same as the Self or the Soul). The Soul or Brahman which does not die, is permanent and fundamental, while whatever is impermanent (like a body) and delusive is inconsequential. The body that an individual occupies between the birth and the death is the projection (an illusive image) of Brahman created by Maya.
- This permanent, eternal Soul is pure, without birth and without form. It is indestructible. Weapons cannot cut it, even flood waters cannot drown it, fire cannot burn it and wind cannot suck it. It totally pervades everything.
- One cannot understand it by reasoning. It can be experienced only through meditation. This infinite unbounded supreme entity is inaccessible to the mind and is unobtainable through implements or techniques. It is without the three attributes (Sattva, Raja and Tama), timeless, beyond shape and form and all encompassing.
- The all-pervading indestructible Brahman that exists within everybody is the cause of birth and death of every creature (through Maya).
- The realisation that “I am not the body but really the Soul” is called Self-realisation. One may know this as an information, but Self-realisation is actually an experience of one’s unity with the Brahman. A person who seeks freedom (moksha) from the birth-death cycles is called a seeker or a mumukshu. Self-realisation destroys all worldly sorrows. A person who has achieved Self-realisation is free from the birth-death cycles and is not reborn.
- The feeling that “this is born” or “that has died” is a delusion created because of Maya (illusion). People do not realise this because man is a slave to the senses, which are part of the body functions. The senses cause the feelings of happiness and sorrow with reference to sense objects. (E.g. comfortable heat and bitter cold, softness of pillow and hardness of stone, an enchanting music and unbearable noise etc.). These feelings make a person get involved with sense objects through his liking for pleasure and dislike for pain. He then gets attached to the sense objects and through them to the body. Thus, the truth that the individual is the imperishable soul and not the perishable body gets shadowed behind these attachments to the body. However, pleasure and pain do not touch a person who is not influenced by the sense objects. He does not have to go through rebirth.
- Some seekers desirous of experiencing their real self often lead a secluded, austere life. Concentrating on that pure Self and not thinking any more about the material world, some become detached and dispassionate towards sense-objects and develop steadiness of mind. “I am the body” feeling leaves some of them while some others become one with the Self. Just as the river flow merging into the ocean does not revert, similarly, superior yogis, once their intellect merges with the Soul (i.e. Brahman) become one with it and they are not reborn.
1. It has been mentioned above and also elsewhere in Dnyaneshwari that the soul is permanent and the body is impermanent. This impermanence refers to the decay of the body after death. But most people are not aware that the body constituents themselves are impermanent. To a person watching a river from the bank the river itself does not appear to change but the water he sees from one moment to another is not the same because of the flow. Similarly, though the body appears the same as it was a moment ago, there is a change in the constituent tissues. Individual organs are completely renewed over certain time periods as follows: Stomach lining is completely renewed every five days, liver every two months, skin every six weeks. Ninety-eight percent of the atoms of your body are replaced in one year. This non-stop chemical replacement is a sure sign of life. Once the body dies there is no replacement because there is no life and no metabolism; there is only decay.
2. All worldly things, concrete or abstract are qualified by three attributes Sattva, Raja and Tama in different proportions. These attributes carry the following characteristics with them.
- Sattva is the attribute of stability, purity, wakefulness, clarity and light;
- Raja represents dynamic movement and causes sensations, feelings and emotions;
SWADHARAMA ANG KARMAYOGA
- Tama is the tendency towards inertia, darkness, ignorance and heaviness. It is responsible for lethargy, deep sleep and confusion].
So far, Shri Krishna talked about the Jnanayoga of the Sankhya philosophy, which recommends meditation for Self-realisation. Shri Krishna now introduces Swadharma or the code of righteous actions for an individual, as the basis of karmayoga or the path of actions.
Not every seeker however, need lead a hermit’s or an austere life (and meditate) in order to realise the Self. If his day-to-day behaviour and actions are guided by his own Dharma i.e. Swadharma (Swa = own and dharma = Code of righteous conduct or duty), then it leads to the fulfilment of all desires and removes all sins. Swadharma should never be given up under any circumstances. The actions must however be done without desire for fruits thereof (Nishkama Karmayoga), even though they are as prescribed according to Swadhama. He who is endowed with this attitude of performing his duties without the desire of the fruits thereof becomes immediately free of all encumbrances (of birth and death).
While acting according to Swadharma, one should not feel ecstasy by happiness nor feel aggrieved by sorrow. Nor should one think about gains and losses but accept whatever comes to one’s lot. Actions performed with this attitude of equanimity do not lead to any blemish.
YOGA OF INTELLECT (BUDDHIYOGA)
Having so far talked about Jnanayoga of the Sankhyas, and having introduced the idea of swadharma, Shri Krishna gives further advice based on Buddhiyoga i.e. the yoga of intellect (of Karmayogis). By following this yoga of intellect together with the path of action, one does not miss the worldly pleasures and at the same time, one is also assured of liberation. The opening of this advice was already made earlier under Path of knowledge.
- The first thing is to adopt the attitude of desirelessness. One should perform one’s duties but without bothering about the fruits of his actions (as in the case of Swadharma).
- Next thing is to have desireless intellect. It is the desire that leads to worry about sin and merit (which are related to the attainment of heavenly pleasures). By virtue of the merit of earlier births, one may have an intellect that is not touched by the thoughts of sin or merit, is extremely subtle and steady and is not stained by the three attributes Sattva, Raja and Tama. If such a desireless intellect illuminates the mind even slightly it destroys the fear of the material world. Desireless intellect is the righteous intellect.
- This righteous intellect, even when it occurs slightly, is the one that results in reaching God and is very rare (because it requires the merit from the earlier births). It has no other goal than attainment of God. All other types of intellect are corrupted intellects affected by passions that enrapture persons who do not possess discrimination. Such persons may attain heaven, earth or hell but never the bliss of the Self.
- Persons with corrupted intellect perform Vedic rituals like yajna but with the desire of fruits like the pleasures of heaven. Unfortunately, by keeping heaven as the goal, they forget the very God in whose name they conduct the rituals. Effectively, they sell the Dharma for the benefit of pleasure.
- Vedas, which comprise of Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads, are definitely associated with the three attributes Sattva, Raja and Tama. The attributes of various components of the Vedas are as follows:
Upanishads and other philosophical works - Sattva (because they tell about Brahman and its realisation).Samhitas, Brahmanas, and Aranyakas - Raja and Tama attributes, because they discuss rituals and other exercises for attainment of heaven.
Though Vedas tell many things and suggest many rituals, one should choose only those that are beneficial for him.
[NOTE: A person possesses both mind and intellect. These are explained later in Ch 13. For the time being, we may consider mind, which is considered as the eleventh organ of the body, to be the place where all the experiences are stored and various thoughts, desires, emotions arise and feelings of pleasure and pain are generated. Mind links sense organs to the intellect. Intellect analyses and interprets the information from sense organs, the thoughts, emotions etc. in the light of the experiences stored in the memory and classifies them as pleasant or painful, good or bad, pure or impure etc. It decides which action gives pleasure and which gives pain. Mind then decides to do or not to do actions. Thus, the mind and intellect work together in practice and often people do not distinguish between the two.
- A balanced attitude of mind towards both successful and unsuccessful actions is hailed as the best state of Yoga. Equanimity of mind, where mind and intellect work together, is the essence of yoga (Buddhiyoga). A task, even if it remains unfulfilled (incomplete), becomes automatically complete when its offering is made to God.
Discrimination is a quality of the intellect and therefore it is possible to increase the Sattva attribute in a person through the intellect by doing only righteous actions with desirelwess attitude and thus go towards Self-realisation. Meditation stills the mind by silencing the thoughts, emotions, desires etc. Desireless mind also leads to desireless intellect which can lead to oneness with the Brahman.
The Jnanayoga of the Sankhyas does not refer to the Sankhya philosophy given in Ch 13].
KARMAYOGA (THE PATH OF ACTIONS)
Though on the surface, the path of action appears to be inferior to the yoga of intellect (Buddhiyoga), actually the latter is achieved only through path of actions with the actions performed with a desireless attitude. This is because the negation of the actions (by offering them to God) leads naturally to the state of yoga (unity with the Brahman) and steadiness of the mind. (The term Buddhiyoga seem to have been used interchangeably with Karmayoga). The stages in which a seeker can attain the state of yoga are as follows:
- First, give up the delusion that “I am the body”.
- Then the very pure mystical Knowledge will rise within him.
- Then his mind will automatically become dispassionate. In this state, the thoughts of gaining more knowledge or remembering whatever was learnt in the past do not arise.
When it becomes steady, he will reach a state of samadhi, the steady, quiet bliss and only then he will attain the state of yoga.
- The intellect that was led astray by the sense organs easily steadies itself in the Supreme Soul (God).
STABLE INSIGHT AND STABLE INTELLECT
Now that Shri Krishna has mentioned steadiness of intellect and the state of samadhi associated with it, Arjuna asks three questions:
- Who should be called a person of stable insight (Sthitapradnya) and how to recognise him.
- What are the characteristics of a person of stable intellect (Sthirabuddhi)?
[NOTE. Pradnya is the power of deep understanding (intuition or insight) while Buddhi is the faculty by which one analyses using logic and the memory of past knowledge and experiences].
- How to recognise a person who perpetually enjoys the state of samadhi?
Shri Krishna replies:
- A person of stable insight (Sthitapradnya) is one who is always contented and permanently rid of sense pleasures. He is neither enthralled by happiness nor disheartened by sorrow. He always remains immersed in the bliss of the Supreme Self. Such a person always has an unchanging and impartial attitude towards all.
[NOTE: Both Sthitapradnya and Sthirabuddhi are persons who have attained Self-realisation and are in complete control of their sense organs. In some interpretations, Sthitapradnya is considered the same as Sthirabuddhi, but others make a subtle difference between the two. The difference seems to be that a Sthitapradnya has an attitude of equality towards all and also towards happiness and sorrow, while a Sthirabuddhi remains unperturbed in the face of distress, is not lured by pleasure and his mind is free from Desire and Anger. Sthitapradnya seems to be the stage after attaining Sthirabuddhi].
- A person of stable intellect (Sthirabuddhi) is one who is in complete control of his sense organs, remains unperturbed in the face of distress and is not lured by pleasure, with his mind free from Desire and Anger. Having reached a state of perfection, he is totally free of fear, and being free of these restraints, has reached oneness with the Brahman.
Attaining these states requires control of sense organs. Shri Krishna explains:
- Controlling Sense organs is essential for a seeker of Self-realisation. But even after attaining Self-realisation he must continue to control them because if he pampers them then he can be trapped in the sorrowful consequences of the material world.
- These organs cannot be brought under control by any external means (like rituals and fasting) but only by internal means like meditation.
- The sense organs are so powerful that they can make even yogis deviate from their path by enticing them to use the Siddhis gained by them for the benefit of sense-pleasures.
- Out of all the sense organs the tongue especially is very difficult to control because our life depends upon food. One can get entangled through the tongue into other kinds of sense-pleasures. However, when a seeker attains Self-realisation, the tongue naturally gets controlled and since the “I am the body” feeling has left him, he forgets all sense-pleasures. Such a person alone is worthy of the trust set by yoga i.e. the steadiness of intellect. He has the knowledge of the Self and never forgets God.
- On the other hand, he who outwardly gives up sense-objects but keeps on thinking about them must be considered as involved only in the materialistic world. A slightest memory of desires lingering in the mind destroys discretion and can raise passions. Passion leads to anger. Anger leads to thoughtlessness. Thoughtlessness leads to loss of memory. The ignorance then engulfs the intellect, which loses direction and leads to destruction of all knowledge. Thus, even occasional memory of the sense-pleasures can lead to one’s downfall.
But a person in whose mind the thoughts of Buddhiyoga do not take root, gets entangled in the trap of sense objects. The intellect of such person is never stable nor does he desire it to be stable. Because of lack of stability, he cannot attain peace and therefore happiness either. Instability of mind is the cause for sorrow. Therefore, it is best to control the sense organs.
- Anger and hate are automatically destroyed when sense-pleasures are totally removed from the mind. And then, even when the organs become engaged in the sense-pleasures, they do no harm because of the detachment towards sense-objects. Free of desire and anger, he remains engrossed in the bliss of the Self and may be considered without doubt to have a stable intellect. The heart of such a person is always cheerful and his mind remains naturally focused on God. Like a flame in windless air, that person with stable intellect achieves the yogic state and becomes united with the Brahman.
A PERSON OF PERFECTION
A person of perfection, a yogi is ever wakeful towards the Brahman while everyone else is oblivious to it. On the other hand, he does not bother about the (material) things for which everyone else struggles. Such a person should be recognised as a great sage, free of attachments. He is not bothered about whether or not he has achieved the Riddhi-Siddhis (Occult powers). Satiated with Self-realisation he moves about while remaining in the state of bliss of the Self, bereft of ego and desires. Recognise him as truly a person of stable insight. This state is what is called the extreme state of the Brahman that the dispassionate people experience and effortlessly become one with it. By virtue of this state a man of stable insight does not suffer any disturbance of the mind at the time of physical death and oneness with the Brahman.
[NOTES: The jnanayoga (yoga of knowledge) mentioned above and in the next chapter refers to the Sankhya philosophy supposed to have been propounded by Rishi Kapil (16th century BC). This philosophy of the structure of the universe seems to have been well influenced the thinkers and with some modifications has been accepted by Vedanta philosophers. Rishi Kapil is considered as an avatar of Vishnu therefore it is not surprising that this philosophy finds its place in the Gita (and hence in the Dnyaneshwari). It may be noted that the concept of avatar is mainly among the followers of Vishnu. Gautam Buddha is also considered as an avatar of Vishnu but the Busddhists do not like it for they consider Buddha to be like Brahman, the Ultimate, beyond everything. Many great persons have been considered as avatars of Vishnu. In contrast avatars of Shiva or Durga or other deities are hardly mentioned anywhere.
Though Gita mentions the path of Jnanayoga¸ detailed guidance about how to follow it has not been given. What Shri Krishna tells in Dnyaneshwari in this context is:
In this world which pervaded by Maya, there is a mysterious principle about which all philosophers agree. (2:126). When a man of Knowledge ponders over what is universe etc., matters related to the material world get eliminated and what remains for him to think about is only that principle which is the Self (or soul). Having come to a definite conclusion about what is truth and what is untruth, he is oblivious to an impermanent thing like the body. Careful thinking leads to a conclusion that whatever is impermanent and delusive is inconsequential and what is permanent is fundamental. He who created this universe is devoid of attributes like colour or form. He is all-pervading and beyond birth and death. (2:125-135): Gita Shlokas 16,17.
This suggests that Jnanayoga is the yoga of the philosopher and thinker who ponders over what the universe is, who created it, how it is sustained, mystery of birth, death and purpose of life, who created it etc. This contemplation may be supported by the study of classical texts such as the Vedas, Upanishads, the six Darshanas viz. Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya, Yoga, Karma-mimamsa and Vedanta, the Puranas as well as study of the works of mediaeval and modern philosophers. Such study and discussions with his Guru and other sages can help him to go beyond the visible, material reality to the absolute reality of the Brahman with which he ultimately attains unity. His Guru may clear some of his doubts and even enhance his insight and intuition by touch, but he has to contemplate by himself and experience also by himself. Readers may have noted that jnanayoga mentioned by Shri Krishna here specifically refers to the Sankhya philosophy which is one of the six Darshanas mentioned above.
Throughout this process, a jnanayogi is expected to practice detachment, dispassion and discernment, not get entangled with worldly pleasures. Gita warns about the pride that a seeker may develop from his learning. This pride can come in the way of his Self-realisation].
CH: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18
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