Rama's Lectures on the Bhagavad Gita
|Alice Christensen's Guru Rama was a great student of the Bhagavad Gita and in the early years of his practice used to recite the entire book every day. On one of his trips to the United States in the late 1960s he gave a series of lectures on the Gita. These were recently collected into a volume which will be excerpted here weekly.|
Part 5: The Gita: Chapter Two - Part 2
Sthita-prajna, or Illumined Soul
Arjuna was listening to all that was being said. It sounded good to him. However, he thought that it was impossible to be a Karma Yogi as described by Lord Krishna. He was wondering whether anybody could do it. Now he asked Krishna, "Lord Krishna, is there anyone who is really a Sthita-prajna; anyone who is deeply rooted in the Self with his intellect, one with the Supreme? How can we recognize him? How does he speak? How does he sit? How does he walk? Does he behave as most of us do? Or has he a special technique of living? Please tell me about such a person."
In reply, Lord Krishna narrates the characteristics of a Sthita-prajna in eighteen verses (55 72). A free rendering of these verses in English is given below:
1. He is neither pleased nor pained by good or evil, because he is not attached to anything anywhere.
2. He has now mastered the art of withdrawing his organs at will from the sense objects, just like a tortoise. The tortoise is endowed with a strong shell on its back. It swims and plays in the water. The moment it senses some danger, it withdraws its legs and neck and takes shelter under its protective covering. When there is no danger, the tortoise stretches out its limbs and starts moving freely.
Similarly, a Sthita-prajna always has the protective shell of the Soul. He moves about in the world. He does his duty. He eats. He drinks. He plays. He laughs. But he remains aware of the Divine during all these activities. In case there is some danger of slipping away from and forgetting the Divine, by falling into the region of ego or diversity, he immediately withdraws his sense organs. He takes refuge under the benevolent protective umbrella of God. He chants the mantra, remembers his guru, or practices austerities and regains his composure. Then he comes out from under his Divine umbrella, continues his work, and starts playing his game or part again. It may sound easier to give up the world and go to the jungle, but that is not as desirable.
One should put to use the organs of actions and organs of sense given by God only along the right paths. One should have control over them. One should be able to withdraw them at will and thus avoid being carried away. Thus, if one always remains under the Divine roof and carefully moves around in the world, he will never lose his balance as he is firmly rooted in the Divine. This means one has to be always alert and watchful while moving around. One may suggest that it would be wise to remain away from the sense objects instead of getting into such spiritual acrobatics. This aspect is discussed in the next verse.
3. If one decides not to entertain any sense objects, they go away from him. If one honestly renounces the worldly objects, they will not have any more appeal for him. That is true. However, the secret longing or hankering does not vanish. Those subtle desires that remain hidden in the deep recesses of the causal body will finally disappear only when one merges into the Divine. Hence, there is no point in running away from the sense objects. One should face them. One should freely and boldly move with them. One should always try to get a firm footing in the Divine and thus obliterate all lower instincts and become Sthita-prajna.
This line of thought sounds good. This is the only way to attain Self-realization. But the organs of action and organs of senses are like unbridled horses. What to do about them? This situation is analyzed below.
4. It is a fact that the organs of action and organs of senses are very powerful. They are very turbulent. Even the wise men who practice austerities for a long time find it difficult to control them. They forcibly drag and carry away the mind. It is really a difficult job.
5. However, there is no other alternative. One has to have complete faith in God. He should contemplate all the time on the Divine attributes of the Supreme Self. Thus, he should gradually gain control over all his organs. Only then his mind will become steady and he can be called Sthita-prajna.
Arjuna now feels happy about the method of gaining control over one's self. He agrees with the technique suggested by Lord Krishna. He now wonders how and why at all, one becomes a slave of these organs whereas he legitimately should be their master. Lord Krishna describes the steps through which one loses control over ones Self in the next two verses (62 and 63).
The downfall starts when one begins to ponder over the sense objects. The posters, advertisements, television, cinema houses, and behavior of people around, etc. all these create some sort of brain wave which soon gains strength and results in a strong liking or attachment of the sense objects. Attachment breeds desire to get or possess. If this desire or lust is not fulfilled, anger follows. When one loses his temper, he comes under delusion, which then leads to loss of reason. Once you lose all reason, you have lost your intellect, your capacity to think and to judge consistently. Then that person is lost altogether. He may resort to drugs or alcohol. But in any case, he is to be written off.
If one really wants to avoid such a danger, Lord Krishna advises (Verses 64 and 65), "One should have full control over his mind. The organs should be free from greed and hatred. He can now play with the sense objects. He will now attain peace and tranquility. When he is firmly established in peace, the worldly ups and downs or pains do not affect him anymore. He is always happy. He is blessed with peace, plenty, and bliss. This state is known as Prasada. Such a person is endowed with a balanced state of mind. He is a Sthita-prajna.
"If one is not composed" says Krishna (Verses 66,-67,-and 68), "then he will never have a clear and balanced intellect. Nor can he dwell or meditate upon the Self. Where there is no meditation, how can there be peace? Without peace, how can one be happy? Please remember, these sense organs are very slippery. Take care! Suppose the mind is lenient towards one organ, suppose it has a weakness for one sense object. In the long run, or in some weak moment, that sense organ drags him away and leads him astray. Such a person gets caught in the trap and becomes completely helpless. He is like a ship hit by a storm in the middle of the ocean. He is tossed between life and-death.
"That is why, O Arjuna,"-Lord Krishna continues, "I want you to have full control of your mind and body, of all your limbs and organs. Once you attain that mastery, you are one with the Divine inside."
Verse 69 speaks of the difference between a worldly man and a Yogi. Lord Krishna says, "A person with self-control remains awake when everybody else is asleep, whereas he looks upon that as the night wherein everybody else is active."
The reference here is to the superconscious state which is unknown and beyond the reach of a common man. He is ignorant about it. He looks upon the world and sense objects as the ultimate truth. So he struggles very hard to come up in this material world. As far as the Divine or the superconscious state is concerned, he is in the dark. However, a Sthita-prajna has full control over himself. He is firmly rooted in the Divine. He knows that this world is a creation of the Self, a projection of the Self, by the Self, and for the Self. He does not hanker after the worldly objects. He is busy strengthening his footing on the Divine plane and hence does not bother much about the world. Hence, that area of activity in which an ignorant man struggles all his life is dark or night for him. The Sthita-prajna has realized the Self and knows his duties. He is not affected or motivated by anger, hatred, etc. which are the driving forces of the lower world. In other words, the realized Soul sleeps in that region or time.
The second chapter of Gita is summed up in the last three verses (70, 71, and 72). Lord Krishna cites the example of the ocean. "The ocean is always full. It has a firm base. Hundreds and thousands of streams and rivers are pouring in millions and millions of gallons of water into the ocean every minute. However, the ocean never overflows; it remains unperturbed. Similarly, a man should remain calm and unmoved even though the desires, lust, greed, and sense objects continue to pour into him from all sides. He can attain peace, plenty, and bliss if he remains unperturbed and undisturbed. However, if one is tossed up and down by these material things, he will never be at peace."
What is true of the material world is also true of spiritual evolution. Many times a seeker is elated if he has a good dream or a pleasant vision in meditation. There are moments when one feels blocked up on the path and that leads to depression. Many aspirants struggle very hard for many years expecting some power or results. When they fail to achieve what they think to be the right status, they are frustrated. They curse themselves and God, and give up everything. They are doomed for life.
It is necessary for an aspirant to be alert and avoid such a situation. The spiritual evolution or progress in the path of Yoga should be slow, gradual, and painless, like the opening of a bud. The good dreams and pleasant visions should be the guiding signs on the road. They should not elate or puff up the aspirant beyond a limit. Sickness, failures, etc. should not lead to dejection. The aspirant should take all these things in his stride. He should remain unperturbed like the ocean.
There is no need to disturb the lifestyle or pattern. One should continue to be what he is ordained to be, should do his best and play his role in the Divine plan. At the same time, one should not lose control over oneself. Many persons look upon odd patterns of behavior as spiritual actions. This is undesirable. There is no need to put on an odd-looking dress. It is not necessary to remain dirty and unclean. Shedding of tears in the name of God, with a view to impress the public, etc. is no good. Just as Lord Krishna led the life of a Yogi inside and did his part in the external world, without creating a commotion, so also, an aspirant should remain unmoved by gain or loss in the material or spiritual worlds.
This attitude of detachment toward the world and its objects definitely eliminates all ego. He no longer thinks of "I" or "mine" or "you" or "yours." He is thus qualified for that eternal peace, plenty, and bliss. This is the superconscious state. When one is finally established in it, he is liberated once and for all from the cycle of births and deaths. He now merges into the Divine. There is no delusion for him anymore. He is one with the Supreme bliss/consciousness/love which is the true nature of the Self in all beings.
The word Anta-kale need not necessarily mean "at the time of death." According to Shri Vidyaranya, it means "that moment when Avidya, or misunderstanding, ends." It may also mean "all through the life or finally."
To read more about Rama, click here.
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