Krishna reassures Arjuna in this way: ‘The birthright of the divine nature leads to liberation. The birthright of the demonic nature leads to greater bondage. But you need not fear, Arjuna, your birthright is divine.’
He explains: ‘Hell has three doors: lust, rage and greed. These lead to man’s ruin. Therefore he must avoid them all. He who passes by these three dark doors has achieved his own salvation. He will reach the highest goal at last.’
Bear in mind the age of the Bhagavad Gita as you read this. How far has mankind come?
Krishna says: ‘ Men of demonic nature know neither what they ought to do, nor what they should refrain from doing. There is no truth in them, or purity, or right conduct. They maintain that the scriptures are a lie, and that the universe is not based upon a moral law, but godless, conceived in lust and created by copulation, without any other cause. Because they believe this in the darkness of their little minds, these degraded creatures do horrible deeds, attempting to destroy the world. They are enemies of mankind. Their lust can never be appeased. They are arrogant, and vain, and drunk with pride. They run blindly after what is evil. The ends they work for are unclean. They are sure that life has only one purpose: gratification of the senses. And so they are plagued by innumerable cares, from which death alone can release them. Anxiety binds them with a hundred chains, delivering them over to lust and wrath. They are ceaselessly busy, piling up dishonest gains to satisfy their cravings. They say: “I wanted this and today I got it. I want that, I shall get it tomorrow. All these riches are now mine, soon I shall have more. I have killed this enemy. I will kill all the rest. I am a ruler of men. I enjoy the things of this world. I am successful, strong and happy. Who is my equal? I am so wealthy and so nobly born. I will sacrifice to the gods. I will give alms. I will make merry.” That is what they say to themselves, in the blindness of their ignorance.’
Our world still reflects the divine and the demonic tendencies…
The start of Chapter 16 in the Gita descibes the difference between the man who is born with divine tendencies, and the man who is born with demonic tendencies: ‘A man who is born with tendencies towards the Divine is fearless and pure in heart. He perseveres in that path to union with Brahman which the scriptures and his teacher have taught him. He is charitable. He can control his passions. He studies the scriptures regularly, and obeys their directions.He practises spiritual disciplines. He is straightforward, truthful and of an even temper. He harms no one. He renounces the things of the world. He has a tranquil mind and an unmalicious tongue. He is compassionate toward all. He is not greedy. He is gentle and modest. he abstains from useless activity. he has faith in the strength of his higher nature. He can forgive and endure. He is clean in thought and act. He is free from hatred and pride. Such qualities are his birthright.’
See how this description overlaps with the teachings of Patanjali in the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
‘There are two kinds of personality in this world, the mortal and the immortal. The personality of all creatures is mortal. The personality of God is said to be immortal. It is the same for ever. But there is one other than these; the Impersonal being who is called the supreme Atman. He is the unchanging Lord who pervades and supports the three worlds’.
Krishna repeatedly explains to us that we contain a divine spark. Our soul is part of Brahman. This is the eternal in us. We talk about having a soul-mate, someone with whom we can be truly ourselves. Someone who ‘gets us’. You see the Atman in one another. You see only the God, the goodness, and your relationship, therefore, is light-filled and spiritual.
The Gita tells us: ‘Yogis who have gained tranquillity through the practice of spiritual disciplines, behold him (Brahman) in their own consciousness. But those who lack tranquillity and discernment will not find him, even though they may try hard to do so.’
As one of my wise teachers once said: ‘The only trouble with yoga is that you have to do it!’
So, we’re biting off, chewing and digesting manageable amounts of the Bhagavad Gita.
Krishna continues his explanation of the Gunas: ‘ A man is said to have transcended the gunas when he does not hate the light of sattwa, or the activity of rajas, or even the delusion of tamas, while these prevail; and yet does not long for them after they have ceased. He is like one who sits unconcerned, and is not disturbed by the gunas. He knows that they are the doers of all action, and never loses this power of discrimination.He rests in the inner calm of the Atman, regarding happiness and suffering as one. Gold, mud and stone are of equal value to him. The pleasant and the unpleasant are alike. He has true discernment. He pays no attention to praise or blame. his behaviour is the same when he is honoured and when he is insulted.’
That’s quite a tall order, isn’t it? Yet we can see what Krishna means. I feel sure that the Dalai Lama has mastered this. To ‘pay no attention to praise or blame’ and to behave the same whether ‘honoured or insulted’ is going to take some chewing and digesting!
We’ve met the Gunas before, but this is the way that Krishna explains them: ‘ From Prakriti the gunas come forth, Sattwa, Rajas, Tamas: these are the bonds that bind the undying dweller imprisoned in the body. Sattwa the shining can show the Atman by its pure light: yet sattwa will bind you to search for happiness, longing for knowledge. Rajas the passionate will make you thirsty for pleasure and possession: rajas will bind you to hunger for action. Tamas the ignorant bewilders all men: tamas will bind you with bonds of delusion, sluggishness, stupor.’
So, these three energies govern all activity in the Universe. They are entwined, like a rope. We need all three states, yet we need to be aware of all three states. Notice. Be alert and curious about which sdtate is governing you at this moment.
Krishna continues: ‘Let the wise man know these gunas alone as the doers of every action; let him learn to know That which is beyond them, also: Thus he will reach my oneness. When the dweller in the body has overcome the gunas that cause this body, then he is made free from birth and death, from pain and decay: he becomes immortal.’
I just love that word ‘oneness’. One love to you all…
‘Know this, O Prince: of things created all are come forth from the seeming union of Field and Knower, Prakriti (matter) with Brahman. Who sees his Lord within every creature, deathlessly dwelling amidst the mortal: that man sees truly. Thus ever aware of the Omnipresent always about him, he offers no outrage to his own Atman, hides the face of God beneath ego no longer: therefore he reaches that bliss which is highest.’
The bliss that Krishna refers to here is Samadhi, the eighth limb of yoga. These words are meant to be read out loud. The Gita would have been enacted by travelling groups, and passed down by teacher to student.
Krishna says: ‘By the single sun this whole world is illumined: by its one Knower the Field is illumined. Who thus perceives with the eye of wisdom in what manner the Field is distinct from its Knower, how men are made free from the toils of Prakriti: his aim is accomplished, he enters the Highest.’
And so, by clever rhetoric and repetition, we understand the difference between the physical world and the spiritual world. We understand that Brahman is the Supreme Being, and that Atman is the divine spark within each and every one of us.
In answer to Arjuna’s question about the Field and its Knower, Krishna says: ‘This body is called the Field, because a man sows seeds of action in it, and reaps their fruits. Wise men say that the Knower of the Field is he who watches what takes place within this body. Recognise me as the Knower of the Field in every body. I regard discrimination between Field and Knower as the highest kind of knowledge.’
Krishna gives us this information in Chapter 13 of the Gita. The ‘Knower of the Field’ is what we often describe in yoga as the observer, the onlooker or the silent witness.
Krishna tells us, ‘A man should not hate any living creature. Let him be friendly and compassionate to all. He must free himself from the delusion of ‘I’ and ‘mine’. He must accept pleasure and pain with equal tranquillity. He must be forgiving, ever-contented, self-controlled, united constantly with me in his meditation. His resolve must be unshakeable. He must be dedicated to me in intellect and in mind. Such a devotee is dear to me. He neither molests his fellow men, nor allows himself to become disturbed by the world. He is no longer swayed by joy and envy, anxiety and fear. Therefore he is dear to me. He is pure, and independent of the body’s desire. he is able to deal with the unexpected: prepared for everything, unperturbed by anything. He is neither vain nor anxious about the results of his actions. Such a devotee is dear to me.’
This illustrates so well the detachment that we talk about in yoga. How wonderful to have no concern about the results of your actions! Because you lead a yogic way of life, because you walk in goodness, because you trust, worries of outcomes no longer concern you.
And there, in the first line, is the reference to the first rule of yoga – AHIMSA, non-violence.