karmendriyāṃ sanyamya ya āste manasā smaran,
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate (3.6)
3.6 -“That deluded man is a dissembler who apparently restrains his senses by violence but whose mind continues to be preoccupied with objects of their gratification.”
Such ignorant men who dwell upon sensual objects while restraining the senses outwardly by hath yog are false men and not men of wisdom at all. It is evident that such practices were prevalent in the age of Sri Krishn, too. There were some who, instead of practicing what ought to be practiced just restrained their senses by unnatural means and claimed that they were wise and perfect. But according to Sri Krishn such people are cunning liars. Whether our preference is the Way of Discrimination or the Way of Selfless Action, work has to be undertaken for each of them.
yas tv indriyāṇi manasā niyamyā rabhate’rjuna,
karmendriyaiḥ karmayogam asaktaḥ sa viśiṣyate (3.7)
3.7 – “And, O Arjun, that man is meritorious who restrains his senses with his mind and employs his organs of action to do selfless work in a spirit of complete detachment.”
He is a superior man who exerts inner (rather than external) control over his senses, so that his mind is freed from passions, and who does his duty in a state of total desirelessness. Now, although we have known that work has to be done, the difficulty is that we do not yet understand the precise nature of this work. That is also Arjun’s problem and Sri Krishn now proceeds to resolve it.
niyatam kuru karma tvam karma jyāyo hy akarmaṇaḥ,
śarīrayātrā’pi ca te na prasidhyed akarmaṇaḥ (3.8)
3.8 -“You ought to do your prescribed action as enjoined by scripture, for doing work is better than not doing any, and in the absence of it even the journey of your body may not be completed.”
Arjun is prompted to do prescribed action-the ordained task-which is distinct from all other kinds of work. Performance of this action is preferable to inaction, because if we do it and traverse even a small part of our way, it can rescue us from great fear of birth and death. Performance of one’s spiritual duty – the ordained action- is, therefore, the better course. By not doing it we cannot even complete journey of our Soul through different bodies. This journey is usually interpreted as “sustenance of the physical body.” But what kind of sustenance is this? Are we a physical body? This Soul, the embodied Self, that we know by the name of Purush-what else has he been doing except making his physical journey through endless lives? When clothes are worn out, we change them and put on new ones. Just so, this whole world, from lowest creatures to most highly evolved, from Brahma to its most distant limits, is mutable. Through births, low and high, this Soul has been making his physical journey since an unknown beginning. Action is something that completes this journey. If there is yet to be another birth, the journey is still incomplete. The seeker is still on his way, travelling through bodies. A journey is complete only when the destination is reached.
After being dissolved in God, Self does not have to travel any further through physical births. The chain of the Self’s rejection of old bodies and assumption of new ones is now broken. So action is something that frees the Self, the Purush, from the necessity of journeying through bodies.Sri Krishn tells Arjun in the sixteenth verse of Chapter 4:“By this action you shall be freed from the evil that binds the world.” So action, as used in the Geeta, is something that liberates from the bondage of world.
yajñārthāt karmaṇo’nyatra loko’yam karmabhandhanaḥ,
tadartham karma kaunteya muktasangaḥ samācara (3.9)
3.9 – “Since the conduct of yagya is the only action and all other business in which people are engaged are only forms of worldly bondage, O son of Kunti, be unattached and do your duty to God well.”
Contemplation of God is the only real action. That conduct is action which enables the mind to concentrate on God. It is a prescribed act and, according to Sri Krishn, tasks other than this are only forms of worldly bondage. Anything other than performance of this yagya is a form of slavery rather than action. It is important to remind ourselves once more of Sri Krishn’s injunction to Arjun that he shall be freed from evils of this world only by doing the one real work. The accomplishment of this work, of yagya, is action; and Arjun is urged to do it well in a spirit of detachment. It cannot be performed without disinterest in the world and its objects.
So conduct of yagya is action. But another question that now arises is what this worthwhile act of yagya is. Before answering this question, however,Sri Krishn first gives a brief account of the origin of yagya, as also of what it has to offer. It is only in Chapter 4 that it is clarified what that yagya is-the doing of which is action. It is evident from this that it is Sri Krishn’s way that he first describes the characteristic features of the subject he has to elucidate in order to create a respectful attitude towards it, then points out the precautions that have to be observed in the course of its performance, and only finally expounds main principle.
Before we proceed, let us recall what Sri Krishn has said of another aspect of action: that it is a prescribed ordained conduct and that what is usually done in its name is not true action.
The term “action” was first used in Chapter 2.Its characteristic traits as well as the precautions needed for it were pointed out. But the nature of this action has remained unspecified. In Chapter 3,Sri Krishn has so far said that no one can live without action. Since man lives in nature, he must act. Nevertheless there are people who restrain their sense organs by use of force, but whose minds are still occupied with objects of the senses. Such people are arrogant and their efforts are vain. So Arjun is told to restrain his senses to perform the ordained action. But the question yet remains: what action should he perform? He is told that the accomplishment of yagya is action.But according to Sri Krishn, they simply are not what he means by action. Whatever other than yagya is done is only a form of worldly bondage, not true action. The performance of yagya is the only real action. True that yagya is action; but what is yagya? In the present chapter Sri Krishn only points out the origin and special features of yagya, and it is only in Chapter 4 that he will elaborate the concept of the action which is fit to be done.
A proper understanding of this definition of action is the key to our comprehension of the Geeta. All men are engaged in some work or the other, but that is different from true action. Some of them do farming, while others are engaged in trade and commerce. Some hold positions of power, while others; are just servants. Some profess that they are intellectuals, while others earn their living by manual labour. Some take up social service, while others serve the country. And for all these activities people have also invented contexts of selfishness and selflessness. But according to Sri Krishn, they simply are not what he means by action. Whatever other than yagya is done is only a form of worldly bondage, not true action. The performance of yagya is the only real action.
sahayajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā puro’vāca prajāptiḥ,
anena prasaviṣyadhvam eṣa vo’stv iṣṭakāmadhuk (3.10)
3.10 -“At the beginning of kalp-the course of self-realization Prajapati Brahma shaped yagya along with mankind and enjoined on them to ascend by yagya which could give them what their hearts aspired to.”
Prajapati Brahma, the god presiding over creation, made mankind along with yagya at the beginning and told men to progress through yagya. This yagya, wholly propitious, was prescribed or ordained as the action which would satisfy their hunger for realization of the eternal God.
Who was the creator of mankind along with yagya? Was it Brahma and who is he? Is he, as it is believed, the God with four heads and eight eyes? According to Sri Krishn there are no beings like gods. The sage who has realized and become one with the Supreme Spirit, the fountainhead from which all mankind has arisen, is “prajapati.” Wisdom that results from knowledge of God is itself Brahma. At the moment of this realization the mind becomes a mere instrument. It is God himself who then speaks through the voice of the sage.
There is constant growth of wisdom after the commencement of spiritual adoration, or worship. Since at the beginning this wisdom is endowed With knowledge of God, it is called brahmvitt. Gradually, as evil impulses are subdued and the knowledge of God is enriched, this wisdom is said to be brahmvidwar. As it ascends yet higher and gets more refined, it comes to be known as brahmvidwariyan.At this stage, the sage who is blessed with knowledge of God also achieves the capacity to bring others on to the way of spiritual growth.
The highest point of wisdom is brahmvidwarisht, that state of divine inundation in which the spirit of God flows through it like a crystal current.
Men who have attained to this state enter into and dwell in the Supreme Spirit from whom all mankind is born. The minds of such sages are mere instruments and it is they who are called “prajapati.” By dissociating themselves from the contradictions of nature, they create the Self who is yet unaware of the process of meditation or God’s worship. Conferring perfection which is in accordance with the spirit of yagya is the creation of mankind. Prior to this human society is unconscious and chaotic. Creation has no beginning. Sanskar has always been there: but before the sages conferred perfection on it, it was deformed and in a state of anarchy. To shape it in accordance with the requirements of yagya is the act of refining and adorning.
Some such accomplished sage or sages created yagya besides creating mankind at the beginning of kalp, the course of Self-realization. The word ‘‘kalp,” however, also means cure of sickness. Physicians effect such cures and there are some who even rejuvenate us. But their remedies are only for ephemeral bodies. The true cure is that which provides liberation from the general malady of the world. The beginning of worship or adoration is the commencement of this remedy. When meditation is complete, we are wholly cured.
Thus sages with their beings in the Supreme Spirit gave a proper shape to spiritual excellence and yagya, and instructed men that they would prosper through the observance of yagya. By this prosperity they did not mean that clay houses would change into brick-and-plaster mansions. Neither did they promise that men would begin to make more money. They rather wished men to know that yagya would fulfil their God-inclined aspirations.
[As expounded by most revered Gurudev Swami Adgadanand Paramhans]
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