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Articles from Pre-1998 Issues 

From Grief to Renunciation

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Sometimes I wonder why Sri Krishna had to give to Arjuna after a long discourse running into 18 Chapters of the Bhagwad Geeta, what was available to the Gopies from the very outset. For an answer to this question I again turn to the Geeta. I find Arjuna does not accept any thing blindly. He reasons out, argues, puts counter questions and, being an intellectual, has his own philosophy. Therefore, sometimes he grieves, sometimes is perplexed and is always full of doubts. The first chapter is appropriately named as the chapter of Arjuna's grief. Because of this grief he drops down his Gandiva, the famous bow. It takes Nine chapters of Sri Geeta from 2nd to 10th to remove his illusion and in the first sloka of chapter 11 he admits for the first time that his illusion is wiped off and he has begun seeing the Truth. The only thing that remained for him to do was to see the grandeur of the Lord and fathom its vastness. After getting a taste of all this in the subsequent chapters and on knowing some more important and salient secrets from Sri Krishna, he finally realizes fully that he is on the rails, as his memory is back and his attachment is gone. All his doubts are cleared. That is how in Chapter 18 sloka 73, he tells Krishna that he would act according to His directions. In other words he resigns unto the Lord, which was the position of the Gopis from day one. It is noteworthy that when Udhav comes to teach them and give them spiritual knowledge, they flatly say, "no one has a number of hearts, but one. We too had one each which Shyam has taken away with him. Bereft of any heart how are we to follow what you preach?"

Well Arjuna cannot be faulted for the way be behaved or for the position he took. He was a man of intellect and wisdom and such a person is bound to weigh pros and cons of his actions. It takes a full study of the Shastras, guidance of a self-realised preceptor and a life- time of experience to be convinced that argument and reason lead one upto a point only. Even Dharma is essential upto a point and upto a stage just as a boat is to cross the waters. But once the shores are reached even the boat has to be abandoned. Thereafter it is the Divine Grace alone that helps one to experience the unexplainable, the indescribable and the unknown. In order to bring home this fact, the discourse of the Geeta, the quint-essence of the Upanishads, was necessary for Arjuna. And it culminates in slokas 65 & 66 of Chapter 18 which Sri Krishna calls the Secret of Secrets, stressing 'complete resignation unto Him' In short Arjuna is advised to become a Gopi.

During the entire discourse, at every step, Sri Krishna has hinted at the supreme fact that He is the whole and sole as also the soul of the universe. In chapter 4 sloka 84 he explains this through a metaphor that Brahma is the holy sacrificial Fire, the oblation, the giver and taker of these and indeed the act itself. In sloka 19 of chapter 7 He says that a knowledgeable person who perceives God in every thing is really rare to find. In chapter 9 slokas 17-18 He makes it clear that He is the Father, the Mother, the Vedas, the Pranav, the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer of the entire universe. Again in chapter 10 sloka 8 He desribes himself as the Fountain-head of every thing created. Earlier He likens himself, in relation to the creation, to a string within the beads of a rosary. In chapter 18 sloka 61 He says that He is in everybody's heart. But all this Arjuna realizes only when he sees the Majestic Universal Form of Vasudeva, seeing which he trembles and shivers. That is why the resolve "I shall do as you say." escape involuntarily and spontaneously from his mouth. In other words, he gives up actions which are undertaken only for the described objects and this precisely is the definition of 'Renunciation' given in sloka 2 of the last chapter, named aptly as Sanyas Yoga. Thus the study of the Geeta in effect covers a journey from Grief to Renunciation.

This journey each one of us has to undertake and must undertake. 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 'vasudev sarvmiti'. Everything here verily is Krishna only. And then we surrender upto Him.

Now let us examine some of these milestones met during this journey. The most popular and oft-repeated is the detailed analysis of the Body and the Soul- one is perishable and the other is immortal but then death itself is only a stage in one's life just as child hood, youth and old age are. So the Soul can neither kill nor get killed.

Another important topic is that relating to poise and balance that one should maintain in one's life. In fact one of the two definitions of Yoga given in the Bhagwad Geeta is 'poise', the other being efficiency in one's deeds. We are advised to be unruffled in grief and unattached in pleasure. We should maintain equilibrium in opposite situations of gain and loss, victory and defeat, happiness and sorrow.

In chapter 5 it has clearly been stated that of all the types of Yoga, Karma Yoga is, supreme (sloka 2). Karma Yoga is nothing but doing ones, deeds without an eye on the reward or the result. In fact it has been made explicitly clear in chapter 2 that doing a deed alone is our concern and the reward and result are outside our jurisdiction. Here one has to make a distinction between a reward and a purpose. When a mother breast-feeds her baby she has a purpose, the health and well-being of the baby; She does not have any reward in view which she would get from the babe. So, as a true Karma Yogi according to Sri Geeta, we should do our deeds with purpose, efflciently and leave the reward in the hands of the Lord. For Bhagwan Krishna says that those who have unflinching faith in Him need not worry either for their 'yog' or for their 'kshame' ('yog' means getting what one does not have and 'kshame' means protecting what already one has.)

In reply to a query from Arjuna about the attributes of a person with firm intellect Sri Krishna says that in order to be a 'sthit prajh' one should have the following qualities: He should shun all desires and be self-satisfied. He should have poise and equilibrium. Unattached he should be devoid of anger and fear. He should neither get elated nor depressed in favourable and unfavourable circumstances, respectively. This person of perfection is likened to a tortoise. Just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs, the person with firm intellect withdraws his senses from the sense-objects.

The Geeta says if the senses are not so withdrawn from their objects, a person is bound to think of these objects all the time. This leads to attachment with the objects, that in turn creates desires. Desires give rise to anger and anger generates delusion. Delusion results in the loss of memory of the Truth and this loss of memory brings about destruction of discriminative intelligence. Once this intelligence is gone, it spells a man's doom. Thus the root cause of spiritual disaster is the constant thought of sense-objects and it is because of this that we are told to withdraw our senses from these objects. For this one has to be a yogi-who is above the three attributes of Sat, Raj and Tam; who has a balanced approach to life, who sees God in everyone and everyone in God; who sees himself in every thing and every thing in himself. Such a person is the indestructible Yogi who is able to see the indestructible Truth (Chapter 6, slokas 29 et seq).

The question as to what these attributes are and how one rises above them has been beautifully answered in Chapter 14. The Geeta says that the three attributes have three different results. Satwagun gives light (clarification), Rajogun habit (Inclination) and Tamogun illusion (fascination). One who does not bother getting or losing these results, whose Mana does not dwindle, who has the same attitude towards comfort and discomfort, who loves nor hates and takes both praise and comment in their stride, treats friend and foe, respect and disrespect alike, is said to have risen above these attributes and this state is essential for liberation and emancipation.

Even if one is not fully successful in rising above these, still one must guard against falling into their trap. Even Rajogun, the moderate attribute, leads to sin. Sloka 37 of chapter 3 explains that both Desire and Anger are the progeny of Rajoguna. These are never satiated and therefore, induce us to committing sins. Thus they should be viewed as enemies. They thrive in the senses, Mana and the intellect. They put a veil around knowledge, bewitch a person and thus hinder his spiritual advancement.

The first step towards attaining the exalted position according to Sri Geeta (chapter 6, sloka 35 et seq.) is to control the Mana (loosely translated as Mind.) it is difficult indeed but constant practice and detached attitude make it possible to control it. But then there is an easier method, that of Resignation. In sloka 27 of chapter 9 Sri Krishna says, "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you sacrifice, whatever you give away and all your penance should be offered to me." This is further elaborated in sloka 34 which reads. "Concentrate on me, be my Devout, worship me, salute me. Thus getting attached to me and fully dependent on me you shall certainly attain me."

In chapter after chapter, relevant and important questions are raised, sometimes by Arjuna and some times by Sri Krishna himself. Lucid answers are provided to these questions in simple words but with depth of meaning and connotation. A thorough study helps us to cover this journey from Grief to Renunciation as Arjuna did and enables us transform ourselves from Arjuna - a groping seeker into a Gopi all purified through the nectar of the eternal Love of Krishna.

Before we conclude, however, let us also know the qualities that the Bhagwad Geeta says will endear us to Sri Krishna. these are enumerated in Chapter 12 (Sloka 13-20). These are: "No hatred: Friendship unto all; compassion; no attachment; no ego; poise in pleasure and pain; always satisfied; firmness in resolves; concentrating Mind and Intellect on Him; moulding one's self in such a way that one is not a cause of grief for others and others are not a cause of grief for him; devoid of happiness and sorrow, fear or favour; satisfied in whatever one gets; pure; efficient neutral; one who does not grieve; one who acts without worrying about results or reward; one who covets not; one whose attitude to friend and foe, respect and disrespect, heat and cold and pleasure and pain is the same; one who drinks deep the nectar of Sri Krishna's Upadesha, acts as He dictates and has unflinching faith in Him". Let us imbibe these Qualities to justify our own existence and our faith in the Lord as also our trust in the scriptures.

If we want to cross the ocean of Grief let us know ourselves. As stated in the Vedas, it is the knower of Self only who crosses this ocean.
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