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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



From Grief to Renunciation

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Sometimes I wonder why Shri Krishna had to give to Arjuna, after a long discourse running into eighteen chapters of the Geeta, what all was available to the Gopis right from the beginning. For an answer to this question, again I turn to the Geeta itself. I find that Arjuna does not accept any thing blindly. He reasons out, argues, puts questions and being an intellectual, has his own philosophy which makes him evaluate everything before accepting it. He grieves sometimes and sometimes he is perplexed and he is always in doubt about what should or what should not be done. The first chapter of the Geeta is, therefore, appropriately named as ‘Despondency or grief of Arjuna’. Because of this grief he drops down his famous bow, the ‘Gandiva’ and declares that he is not going to fight. It takes a long discourse running into nine chapters of the Geeta, from the second to the tenth, to dispel his doubt and remove his illusion. This admission of his illusion having been wiped off he makes for the first time at the beginning of chapter eleventh. He says that he has begun seeing the truth. The only thing that remained for him to see was the grandeur of the Lord and to fathom his vastness. After getting a taste of all this and on knowing some more important and salient secrets, he fully realises that he is on the right track as his memory is back and the veil of delusion is removed. He admits at the end that all his doubts have been cleared and, therefore he was prepared to act according to the directions of the Lord. In other words he surrenders completely before Sri Krishna and resigns unto Him just as the Gopis had from day one. One would like to recall that when Udhava approaches Gopis, at the instance of Shri Krishna, to educate them with spiritual knowledge, the Gopis tell him, ‘Nobody is endowed with multiple hearts, we too had only one each and that has been taken away by our Beloved. Now bereft of any heart how are we to follow what you are trying to preach?’

Well Arjuna cannot be faulted for the way he behaved or for the position he took on various matters, spiritual and mundane, that came up under consideration during his dialogue with the Lord. He was a man of intellect and wisdom and such a person is bound to weigh the pros and cons of his actions as also the advice he gets from any quarter. It takes a full study of Shastras, the guidance of a self-realised preceptor and a lifetime of experience to be convinced about the fact that reason and logic lead one up to a point only. Even Dharma as a means is essential up to a point and up to a stage, just as a boat is to ferry across the waters. But once the shore is reached, even the boat has to be abandoned. Thereafter, it is the Divine grace alone that helps to experience the unexplainable, the indescribable and the unknown. In order to bring home this fact the discourse of the Geeta, the quintessence of the Upanishads, was necessary for Arjuna. The culmination is in the last chapter when the Lord reveals the secret of secrets which is ‘complete resignation unto Him.’ In short Arjuna is advised to become a Gopi.

During the entire discourse at every step it has been stated that Brahman is the whole and sole of the universe as also its soul and seed. This point has been explained in chapter 4 with the help of a beautiful metaphor, ‘ I am the sacrificial fire, the oblation, the giver and taker of the oblation and indeed the act itself.’ Elsewhere in chapter 7 it has been stated that rare are those knowledgeable persons who see God in everything. Again in chapter 9 the Lord makes it clear that He is the father, the mother, the Vedas, the sacred syllable Pranava, the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer of the entire universe. In the next chapter He describes himself as the fountainhead of everything created.

In a beautiful and an appropriate simile the Lord likens Himself, in relation to the universe, to a string running through the beads of a rosary. In the last chapter He again emphasises that He is seated in everybody’s heart. Arjuna gets a glimpse of all this when he sees the Majestic Universal Form of Vasudeva, seeing which he trembles and shivers. In the end a spontaneous resolve is made by him when he says, ‘I shall do as You command.’ Thus he gives up actions for desired objects and undertakes only detached ones to be presented to the Lord as an offering, which corresponds to the definition of renunciation given in the last chapter. Thus the study of the Geeta, in effect, covers a journey of the mind from the position of grief to the position of renunciation.

Each one of us has to and must undertake this journey. Many a milestone is reached during this journey where we get answers to our questions, clarification to our doubts and thereby our blurred vision gets cleared and we reach a stage where we also say, ‘everything here, verily is the Divine only,’ and then we surrender unto Him. Now let us examine some of these milestones met by all of us during this journey. The important most of these is the detailed analysis of the ‘body and its in-dweller,’ the former is liable to decay and death but the latter is immortal. The death itself is only a stage in one’s life after the three stages of childhood, youth and old- age. The in-dweller can; therefore, neither kill nor get killed.

Another important topic is that relating to poise and equanimity that one should maintain in one’s life. In fact one of the two definitions of Yoga given in the Geeta is poise, ‘Samatvam yoga uchyate.’ The other definition is excellence in one’s deeds, ‘yogah karmasu kaushalam.’ We are advised to be unruffled in grief and detached from pleasure. We are required to maintain equilibrium in opposite situations of gain and loss, victory and defeat, respect and disrespect and joy and sorrow.

Of the different types of yogas, the yoga of action has been given prominence in the Geeta. Yoga of action is nothing but doing one’s deeds without an eye on the reward or the result. In fact it has been explicitly made clear that doing a deed alone is within our authority and the reward or result is outside our jurisdiction. Care should, however, be taken to distinguish between a reward and a purpose. A detached action does not constitute a purpose-less action committed like a mad man. When a mother breast-feeds her baby, she has a purpose - health and well being of the baby. She does not have any reward in view, which she may expect from the baby. So as true ‘karma yogis’ we should do our deeds efficiently with noble purpose and leave the reward in the hands of the Lord. The Lord has said that those who have unflinching faith in Him need not worry either for their ‘yoga’, i.e.; the things they lack, or for their ‘kshema’, i.e.; security for what they already have.

In reply to a query from Arjuna about the attributes of a steadfast person, Shri Krishna says that such a person should have a number of qualities. He should shun all desires and be ever satisfied in himself. He should have poise, detachment and should be devoid of anger and fear. He should neither get elated nor depressed in favourable and unfavourable circumstances. Just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs, a person with firm intellect withdraws his senses from all sense objects. The Geeta says that if the senses are not so withdrawn from their objects, one is bound to think of these objects all the time. This leads to attachment with the objects, which in turn creates desires. Desires give rise to anger. Anger generates stupefaction, which causes loss of memory. The loss of memory about the truth blurs the vision of wisdom. Once the wisdom is gone, it spells doom. Thus the root cause of the spiritual disaster is constant thinking about the sense objects and that is why we are advised to withdraw our senses from these objects. This necessitates our becoming a yogi in the true sense. In other words we have to transcend the three characters of Sattva, the light, Rajas, the fire and Tamas, the darkness. We have to see the Divine in every one and every one in the Divine. We have to see everything in ourselves and ourselves in everything. This makes us immortal and able to perceive the Immortal.

The question what these three characters are and how one is to rise above these to transcend them has been lucidly explained in chapter 14. The Geeta says that the three have three different results. Sattva gives light, Rajas rouses fire of passion and Tamas envelops one in darkness. One who is unmindful about these results, whose mind does not dwindle and who has the same attitude be it comfort or discomfort, love or hatred, friend or foe, respect or disrespect, is said to have transcended these characters. Such a state of mind is essential for emancipation and liberation. Even if one is not fully successful in rising above these yet one must guard against falling into their trap. Even the moderate character of Rajas leads to sin for according to the Geeta both desire and anger are the progeny of the rajoguna only. These can never be satisfied or curbed and they induce us to commit sins. They should, therefore, be viewed as our enemies. They thrive in our senses, our mind and our intellect, put a veil around our wisdom and knowledge, bewitch us and thus hinder our spiritual advancement.

The Geeta has shown us the way to attain an exalted position. The first step is the control of ‘manas’, loosely translated as the mind. To control the mind is indeed difficult but the constant practice and a detached attitude make it possible to control it. But then there is another way, easier and faster and that is ‘resignation before the Lord.’ Shri Krishna says in chapter 9; ‘whatever you give and all your austerity should be an offering unto Me. You should concentrate on Me, be my devout, worship Me and salute Me. Thus getting attached to Me, you shall certainly attain Me.’ Chapter after chapter important and relevant questions are raised, sometimes by Arjuna, and sometimes by Shri Krishna. Clear, convincing and cogent answers are provided to these questions in simple words that carry a depth of meaning and connotation. A thorough study of all these chapters, not once but repeatedly, helps us undertake this journey from brief to renunciation, as did Arjuna. It enables us to transform the Arjuna in us to a Gopi, bathed in the nectar of the eternal love for Shri Krishna.

Before concluding, however, let us also consider the qualities we need to imbibe in order to endear ourselves to the Lord. These are enumerated in chapter 12 as under: ‘no hatred towards any one, friendship and goodwill for everyone, compassion, detachment, no ego, equanimity in pleasure and pain, satisfied always, firm resolve, concentrating mind and intellect on the Divine, conducting one’s self in such a way that one is not a cause for grief for others and others are not a cause for grief to him, devoid of happiness and sorrow, fear or favour, satisfied in whatever one gets, pure, efficient, neutral neither grieving nor rejoicing, worrying not about the result or reward, no covet, balanced attitude towards friend and foe, respect and disrespect, heat and cold, pleasure and pain. These qualities lead us to drink deep in the nectar of this sacred discourse of the Lord, act as He dictates, and develop an unflinching faith in Him. Let us imbibe these qualities to justify our existence and our faith in the Lord, as also our firm trust in the scriptures.

If we want to cross the ocean of grief we have to know ourselves, our true nature and the subtle elements in us beyond our gross body. The Veda says that one who knows one’s self only is able to cross the ocean of grief, ‘tarati shokam atmavit.’ Let us cross this ocean with the help of the message given by the Geeta, the Divine Song of the Lord.

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles


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