Theosophy | GĪTĀ YOGA – VI

 Every rivulet of discrimination enhances the active power of buddhi. Even if one merely has a few drops of the waters of devotion and humbly consecrates them at the inmost altar of Krishna, it is possible to negate in advance any attachment to consequences. Engaging in action in a sacrificial spirit, with pure joy and the willing acceptance of pain, the true devotee will certainly be delivered from a network of errors and miseries. In the progress of time he will surely experience tranquillity of thought. Dharma in Sanskrit has a very different connotation from any strenuous conceptions of duty, Calvinistic or Teutonic. There is instead a firm yet relaxed sense of obligation which is self-sustaining and also spontaneous. In Indian thought dharma is ascribed to fire, the sky, all objects in space, all phenomena in time, and the categories of selfhood. Dharma is that which upholds: anything which holds up a human being, anything which sustains him, anything which helps him to keep going, is rooted in his duty. If dharma upholds every person, anyone can regulate and refine dharma through buddhic discrimination. This is the sovereign talisman of every human being.

 All persons inherently possess godlike faculties of imagination, creativity, freedom and serenity. All are capable of exalted conceptions of calm, and can expand their perspectives and horizons while at the same time bringing a laser-like faculty of intense concentration to every task. The Great Teachers of mankind have always reminded the multitudes of the privilege of incarnation into a human form. Many people, however, are liable to be so rajasic at the moment of death that they will soon be propelled back into incarnation in circumstances they do not like. There are also those who are so receptive in life to the summerland of ghosts, demons and disintegrating entities, pishāchas and rākshasas, that at the moment of death they are drawn into the underworld of psychic corpses. Human beings are innately divine, but there are myriad degrees of differentiation in the manifestation of divine light. The light shines in all, but in all it does not shine forth equally. By using whatever in consciousness is an authentic mirroring of supernal light in the concrete contexts of daily obligations, one’s own light will grow. The rays of truth irradiate those who ardently desire to rescue the mind from the darkness of ignorance. It is critical for human beings to keep relighting themselves, to wipe out the ignorance that consolidates out of inertia and delusion in that pseudo-entity absolutized as the personal self. In the eyes of the Sages there are only rays of light accompanied by long shadows masquerading as personalities.

 Krishna speaks in the sixteenth chapter of those who are born with demoniac propensities, and provides a perfect portrait of the shadowy and dying culture of kali yuga. He also offers a compelling picture of the graces and excellences of those who evoke memories of the Golden Age. The demoniac qualities, resulting in spiritual inertia, are the product of misuse in previous lives. Everyone who abused any power must face the consequences in the future. For three or four lives he may find his will blunted, his faculties castrated, his potencies circumcised, until he can thoroughly learn the proper use of his powers. There is a compelling passage in The Dream of Ravan wherein we are given a graphic analogy between states of mind and diseases. All ailments are caused in the realm of the mind; all ailments are rooted in the subtler vestures. Sattva corresponds to the kārana sharīra, the causal body, comprising the most fundamental ideas of selfhood in relation to which one generates a sense of reality. There is a correspondence between rajas, the principle of chaotic desire, and the sūkshma sharīra, the astral form. When this is irradiated by the Light of the Logos, it can show a reflected radiance. In all human beings there are glimmerings of noble aspiration, the yearning to do good. This is the source of fellow-feeling, the kindness of a mother for her children, the solicitude of a doctor for a pregnant woman whose baby he is delivering. These are familiar intimations of that sattvic quality which can make a human being magnanimous, noble and free.

 Demoniac inertia, on the other hand, arises through a whole way of thinking that is false. If one thinks that this world exists for enjoyment only, that human beings are merely the ephemeral accidental product of the pleasure of a man and a woman, that everyone is in competition for wealth and fame and status, and if one ceaselessly caters to all such absurdities and stupidities, one develops an āsuric nature. Anyone who really wants to rise above this condition could do no better than to ponder upon the account in the seventeenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gītā of the philosophical nature of the three propensities, and the portraits given in the sixteenth chapter of the demoniac personality as well as the godlike being. A sensible person who wishes to travel on the road to true discipleship will find that simply by studying these chapters calmly, he could see clearly the convergence of attitudes and qualities which strengthen the demoniac or godlike nature in man. Instead of indulging in self-pity and self-contempt, the sincere seeker of Wisdom will allow his whole nature to become absorbed in contemplation on the godlike qualities.

 The whole of the Bhagavad Gītā is replete with magnificent portraits of Sages. The magic of meditation is such that by merely focussing upon them, they can release a light-energy which streams downward, freeing a person from the bondage of self-created illusions and self-destructive acts. Rid of the specious notion that he is somebody special, he can freely accept his cosmic potential as a point in space and joyously deliver himself with the dignity of man qua man. It is only when he is ready that Krishna confers upon Arjuna the exalted title of Nara (man), an individual ray of Divine Light. When a person can truly witness the divine in every human being, he can also see that every time anyone torments himself, he tortures Krishna. No one has such a right. One’s parents did not give a body simply for the sake of crucifying the Christos-Krishna within through self-indulgence or false asceticism. One has to free oneself from all obsessive identification with the shadow and salute the empyrean with the cool assurance of one who does not fear the light, one who is not threatened by the fact that other human beings exist, and one whose stance is firmly rooted in the Divine Ground that transcends the gunas and the playful polarities of purusha and prakriti.

 Every pilgrim soul who seeks to increase skill in action for the sake of increasing his or her capacity to add even a little to the sum of human good can benefit from the Teachings of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gītā. Taken as a whole, the Gītā is a treatise on yoga, the kingly science of the individual soul’s union with the universal Self. That union is, ontologically, ever existent. But owing to the māyā of manifestation and the descent of consciousness through vestures which seem to create a world of many selves and many forms, the human mind becomes alienated from the true inmost Self in which Ishvara resides. It becomes confined within time and space, within past, present and future, and it must struggle to overcome these illusions. Thus the Gītā is a summons and challenge to engage in that righteous warfare which every human soul must undertake. In the eighteenth chapter of the Gītā, Lord Krishna declares that if one will not voluntarily choose to engage in this righteous war, karmic necessity will compel one to do so. The wise are those who cooperate with cosmic necessity, with their own divine destiny, with their own sacrosanct duty or svadharma. The wisest are those who choose as firmly and as early as possible, making an irreversible and unconditional commitment, in the gracious manner and generous spirit of Lord Krishna. Without doubt or hesitation, they choose His path, His teaching and His prescribed mode of skill in action, rooted in buddhiyoga.

 In the second chapter of the Gītā, Krishna begins by affirming to Arjuna the eternal existence of one indivisible, inconsumable, inexhaustible source of all life, light and energy. Having dispelled the danger that Arjuna would abandon through fear the righteous battle and his svadharma, Krishna presents before Arjuna the talismanic teaching of buddhiyoga:

Verily, action is far inferior to the discipline of wisdom (buddhiyoga), O Dhanaṅjaya. In wisdom seek thou shelter. Pitiable are they whose motive is the fruit of works.

He who is yoked to wisdom (buddhiyukta) lets go both what is well done and what is ill done. Therefore, yearn for yoga. Yoga is skill in the performance of action.

Sages yoked to wisdom (buddhi) renounce the fruits of action, and thus freed from the bondage of births, attain to the state of stainless bliss.   (II.49-51)

 Buddhiyoga requires a fixity and steadfastness in intuitive intelligent determination which is superior to karmayoga, the yoga of works, as a means of gaining enlightenment. It involves an eye capable of recognizing essentials, which, once awakened, will give a decisiveness without wavering or wandering. Through this resolute intellect, one’s actions may become shadowless – nishchāya. Even though one may be obscured, as a member of the human family participating in the world’s pain, ignorance and turbulence, nonetheless one inwardly preserves the dignity of the power of choice. It is, therefore, possible to touch within oneself that level of absolute resolve which ensures that something essential will never be abandoned, diluted or doubted, never weakened by careless speech nor lost in the chaos of compulsive acts, but always protected from discursive and dissecting reasoning. Every human being enjoys such moments of assurance. Otherwise it would not be possible to survive. Even fools and knaves have a few moments of sushupti at night, inspiring them to awaken in the morning to greet another day. Were it not for this abiding sense of assurance about this minimum dignity within the core of one’s being, one could not go on.

 This sense of one’s distinct place in the total scheme of things is what Spinoza called the conatus, the urge or will to sustain rational and spiritual self-preservation. This is not merely an intellectual notion, but a biological fact. When a person begins to approach death, the anāhata vibration in the spiritual heart ceases to sound in the linga sharīra – the subtle astral vesture. The Sage or Seer can recognize this cessation of sound and a subtle alteration in the rate of breathing several months before the time of physical death. Throughout this period, the human being is engaged in a protracted review of the whole of his or her life, a review which is too often chaotic and confused, a jumble of recent memories and childhood events. Only at the time of separation from the physical body is the soul enabled to view in an orderly and rapid manner the complete film of an entire life. In the final preparation for this there is an ebbing of the connection between the sound vibration in the spiritual heart and the karana sharīra – the causal body and the vibration in the linga sharīra, and therefore also in the sthūla sharīra, or physical body. Once this ebbing begins, the person has begun to withdraw or die.

Raghavan Iyer
Concord House, November 1985

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