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TEACHINGS OF DNYANESHWARI
CHAPTER 3 - PATH OF ACTIONS
ARJUNA HAS A DOUBT
Arjuna mistakenly thinks that Shri Krishna was against actions and asks why in that case he was advising him to fight. Shri Krishna explains:
JNANAYOGA AND KARMAYOGA - BOTH HAVE COMMON GOAL
- Both Jnanayoga and Karmayoga have the same goal, namely liberation (Moksha) through Self-realisation. However,
- Through the practice of Jnyanayoga, (the Yoga of knowledge) of the Sankhyas a seeker attains Self-realisation and becomes one with him immediately.
- Karmayoga (Yoga of Action) is a slow-speed path in which a seeker diligently continues doing actions according to Swadharma and attains liberation at an appropriate time.
Dnyaneshwar Maharaj compares these two paths to a fruit (Self-realisation) on a tree, which a bird (Jnanayogi) can fly and eat directly while a human being (Karmayogi) has to laboriously climb the tree, branch after branch, to get at it.
- Both paths, though outwardly different, lead to the same result. But which path to follow depends upon the capability of the seeker. (See Introduction)
ACTION AND NON-ACTION
Abandoning action is not non-action
It was mentioned in the previous chapter that an Action does not bind (i.e, it becomes a Non-action by not being added to the aggregate of one’s karmas) if it is done without desire for the fruits thereof and offering them to God.
- Non-action does not mean not doing any action or duties. Actions cannot be avoided as long as one is in his body and has desires.
- Duties naturally come with the body i.e. as soon as a person is born. Certain natural duties cannot be avoided as long as one lives, e.g. earning livelihood, preparation of food, having progeny etc. Even if one stops doing one's duties, the organs have to continue with their natural duties like breathing, eating etc.
- It is Maya that controls the material universe. Therefore, a person under the control of Maya or nature (i.e. one who has not achieved Self-realisation) cannot give up actions.
- One who wants to achieve non-action should never give up the prescribed actions but understand that actions become non-actions when one is ceaselessly content i.e. there are no desires.
- One may pretend outwardly to have abandoned actions, but as long as thoughts about actions continue to occupy one’s mind non-action cannot be achieved.
- Performance of actions with desireless attitude as per Swadharma (i.e. as per the directions laid down for the four caste system – see note below) is equivalent to performing a ceaseless Yajna. It prevents sins from entering one’s mind and leads to his liberation.
Even desireless actions are relevant only until one attains Self-realisation. A person always engrossed in the Self, even while going about doing his duties, does not get bound by the actions because he is satiated with the knowledge of the Self and with that he has finished the duties of his lifetime. Therefore, he does not get loaded by his actions (karmas).
- Since worldly duties cannot be abandoned, indulging in prohibited actions is not justified. One who prefers improper actions (against Swadharma) gets bound to the worldly birth and death cycles.
(NOTE. Today, Swadharma is mistakenly interpreted as the Hindu religion. In the days of Sauti (~450 BC), Swadharma was defined as the righteous behaviour prescribed for members of each caste in the then prevalent four-caste system. This custom continued even after the British conquered India. It progressively changed with the new socio-economic situation brought about by the new regime, especially the clerical jobs which required a routine not quite compatible with the classical Hindu routine. The education and learning, confined earlier to the study of the Vedas and scriptures, was extended to the study of foreign languages, sociology, history, geography, science, engineering and modern mathematics. This was opened to all castes. Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas entered the professions in the field of engineering and technology earlier practiced by the Shudras. Opening of the services as well as education to all castes and religions contributed to weakening the caste system as far as jobs were concerned. However, the caste system still remains deep-rooted in the minds of people at least as far as social interactions like marriages are concerned especially in rural areas. What the new Swadharma would be under these conditions is not well defined but it is reasonable to assume that it would have an ethical base and would imply compliance with the national and international laws which are all well codified. Of course, since Sauti’s time many religions like Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist have been founded and all try to assert their own superiority).
Characteristics of a Desireless Person
Outwardly, a Desireless Person may appear to behave like others, but internally he is steady, always absorbed in meditation on the Supreme Self. Being in control of his sense organs he is not afraid of sense-objects and nor does he avoid his duties. While he lets his action-organs do their task he is not affected by the resultant feelings (of pleasure or pain or the ego that he is the doer). He is not influenced by temptations or by lust. His inner state is not apparent to others since outwardly he behaves like the rest. Such a person may be considered as liberated and should be specifically called a yogi. (Shri Krishna advises Arjuna to be one].
Brahmadeo's Advice on Behaviour
Shri Krishna told Arjuna the following old legend:
When Brahmadeo created this world and with it the humans, he also created the code of behaviour of actions (Dharma) for them. But the code, being subtle, could not be understood, so they asked Brahmadeo what the basis of their existence in the world was.
Brahmadeo replied that:
- They should be guided by the code of actions depending upon the caste of each person.
- They need not trouble their bodies by Vratas, penance, pilgrimage, techniques like yoga, mantra and tantra techniques with desire in mind or worship other deities.
Brahmadeo also warned that,
- They need perform only the natural yajna of doing actions as per the code and the actions will become successful. The deities will be pleased and fulfil their desires and sustain them. This will result in the development of a mutual love between the deity and man.
- if any person, after thus gaining wealth given to him by the deities for worshipping God, became lusty and behaved by the tendencies of the sense objects,
- did not give offerings to Fire and donate food,
then he would face many calamities, lose his wealth without being able to enjoy it.
- did not show devotion to his Guru,
- did not welcome guests and satisfy his community,
He who forsakes the code loses his liberty. Fate punishes him considering him a thief and snatches everything from him. Even if he asks for mercy he is not set free until the end of time. Therefore, one should always be alert and follow one's code.
Brahmadeo further advised that,
- he who, with desireless mind spends his wealth for the duties prescribed by Swadharma,
- worships Guru, well-wishers and Fire, and
Shri Krishna then states that,
- after performing Shraddha of forefathers and other yajna rituals through the hands of brahmins, partakes of the remaining food along with his family, gets his sins washed and becomes free of all blemishes. Therefore, wealth earned by actions according to Swadharma should be spent according to Swadharma and whatever remains should be enjoyed with satisfaction.
- all wealth is a means of yajna in the form of Swadharma-based actions and should be offered to God with this attitude;
Shri Krishna further warns that,
- one should practice one's own Dharma, even if it is painful and difficult to practice, because it is what makes one's afterlife happy. Even if one has to sacrifice one’s life while practising Swadharma, it is good because it will establish one’s greatness in both the worlds.
- Persons who think mistakenly that they are only the body and not the soul, who consider the sense-objects as merely means of enjoyment, and instead of considering their earned wealth as the material for yajna, use it selfishly for their own pleasures, prepare tasty food and consume it themselves, actually consume sin.
- Therefore, a proud and arrogant person who does not behave properly as per Swadharma and instead spends time in physical pleasures is a sinner and a burden to this earth. His life and actions are wasted being fruitless.
- Particularly, people who have attained Self-realisation and reached a perfectly desireless state should perform duties for the guidance of others because others note and follow their example thinking their actions to be the prescribed actions and would thereby be saved from pitfalls.
- Even an avatar like Shri Krishna himself has to follow the path of actions only because all creatures are dependent on him. If he were to remain engrossed in the Self and people emulated him in that condition, the entire world will stop functioning.
JNANAYOGA NOT TO BE TOLD TO THE UNFIT
- Therefore, particularly a capable person who has attained Knowledge should not abandon actions. It is essential that the society be protected in every way and one should never show that he is different from the others.
Shri Krishna then advises Arjuna,
- Never to tell about the path of knowledge (non-action) to a person who is fit only for path of action. Such a person should be guided only towards the path of actions by setting him an example by own behaviour.
- Also, not to tell about this profound spiritual path to an ignorant person who, ignoring the fact that all actions are caused by Maya, thinks that he is the doer because of the ego and narrow thinking.
- Maya, the creator of all actions is absent in a Self-realised person (because he has attained Brahman which is beyond Maya). Actions of such persons do not bind them because they give up the I-am-the-body ego, understand the unique relation between the attributes (Sattva, Rajas and Tama) and actions and live with uninvolved attitude.
- Only such persons as are under the influence of the attributes and act with a worldly attitude are affected by actions. This is because such a person claims to be the doer of the actions done by his organs, which behave according to their nature and under the influence of the attributes.
- Therefore, one should not harbour an ego like “This is action, I am its doer and I am going to do it.” One should not go after this body, should shed all desires and enjoy or endure whatever comes to your lot.
DESIRE AND ANGER OBSTRUCT LIBERATION
- The desire for sense-pleasures causes anger and destroys the intellect. Desire and anger are both extremely dangerous therefore one should stay away from them.
Shri Krishna further elaborated on the influence of desire and anger as,
- Desire and anger are the two merciless culprits who are capable of distorting the thinking of even persons of knowledge and make them go astray. They keep people away from Knowledge and devotion. They are generated from the Rajas (action) attribute in the mind, thrive on ignorance and are the root of wickedness. Though they arise from Raja attribute, they are favourites of Tama attribute, which is the main constituent of indiscrimination and delusion. They operate through hope and delusion.
- Desire and anger are closely connected with ego and temptation. Because of them falsehood and hypocrisy have prevailed over truth. They have caused the minds of even saints to be polluted by destroying peace and by the importance given to worldly matters. They destroy the sense of discrimination and dispassion and prevent control over senses. They destroy happiness by destroying Knowledge and subject people to the three forms of torture (personal, external and elemental).
- Desire and anger are attached to the physical body after birth. They reside in the mind and therefore even Brahmadeo cannot discover them.
- Desire and anger ruin the personality of even a person of Knowledge and are difficult to control. Knowledge is always associated with desire and anger and is veiled by them. Therefore, one should first conquer them before attaining knowledge.
- It is however very difficult to do so because more one tries more it helps them to strengthen their hold and because of this, even Hathayogis are defeated.
Once a person loses anger and desire, he will realise Brahman and enjoy its bliss.
- There is only one method of bringing them under control and that is to exercise control on the sense organs, their original residence. This will restrain the mind from the pleasure-seeking tendency. It will free the intellect and thus they will lose their support.
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