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Chapter 23


Limit Desires, Be Ever Content and You Will Be Dear to God


Whatever is born passes through six stages of life, namely, birth, growth, maturity, decline, degeneration and death. But, what is never born, never dies. For it these stages do not apply.


Embodiments of Love,


The second chapter of the Gita relates to the path of wisdom. The principle that underlies the wisdom teachings is that whatever is born must die, but what was never born, can never die. What is never born and will never die? The atma. Atma has neither birth nor death. It never undergoes any kind of modifications. Atma is permanent. It is immutable. It is everlasting. It is attributeless. It is your own true nature. The body is born and the body experiences the various phases of life and dies, but the indweller of the body remains unaffected by all these bodily changes. This indweller is the atma. It is free of illusion, devoid of maya. Once you understand this divine principle you will recognize it as the only thing of true value, the only thing worth knowing. Everything else is ephemeral and impermanent. You must make every effort to acquire the knowledge of atma and thereby gain lasting joy.


Be Satisfied, Do Not Chase After Desires


Do not encourage the multiplication of desires. Be satisfied with whatever you have been given. In the chapter on devotion, Krishna enumerated the 26 noble qualities which endear a devotee to the Lord. Of these, contentment stands out as one of the most important characteristics of a devotee. It means not running after worldly enjoyments. You have enjoyed so many luxuries and so many sensual things in your life but you have not gained peace and fulfillment from them. Give up chasing after them and you will gain contentment.


The heart of a person who does not have contentment is like a bamboo basket riddled with holes. If you try to draw water out of a well using such a basket, by the time it comes up, all the water will have leaked out. There will not even be a drop of water left to quench your thirst. Similarly, when you are suffering from pangs of desire and greed, all your contentment leaks away before you even have a chance to fulfill your desires. When contentment leaves your heart, discontent remains behind to take its place.


Desire breeds more desire. A person who does not have anything at all may feel very happy and contented when he gets 100 rupees. But once he gets the 100 rupees, he thinks how nice it would be if he could get 1000 rupees. If by chance he gets the 1000 rupees, he desires to have a million rupees. Then he would aspire to become a major property owner. From a property owner he would want to become a legislator and then a minister and then the prime minister. Finally, he would want to use all his status and wealth to attain the God-state. But you can never reach divinity with the help of power and wealth. As the person's desires cross all limits, he becomes discontented and his wealth gains him no inner peace at all. You must learn how to gain contentment from whatever you have, being satisfied with whatever wealth you have been given. Your responsibility is to take care of the possessions you have received through the grace of God, and be happy.


You Must Win God's Love


You all praise God, but it is far more important that God praises you. You declare your love for God, but you have to find out if God has declared his love for you. You believe that God is yours, but has God told you that you are his? Suppose you send a registered letter to someone. You will gain full satisfaction only after you receive an acknowledgment from the addressee that the letter has been received and read. Declaring your love for God and declaring that God is great can be compared to sending a registered letter. But that alone will not satisfy you. You experience the deepest contentment only when you get the positive acknowledgment from God that you have his love and that he considers you great also. It is only when he says, "You are my very own. You are most dear to Me!" that you attain total fulfillment.


Arjuna got such an assurance from the Lord after he said to Lord Krishna, "Swami, you are my all, I am yours! I surrender everything to you!" Previously, Arjuna had a number of desires, but when he surrendered fully to the Lord he renounced all his wants and desires. Then he earned the declaration from the Lord, "Dear one, you are mine!" To gain this result you have to engage yourself in spiritual practice. The hope and fruit of all spiritual practice is to get this declaration from the Lord that you are his. This becomes your greatest treasure, the consummation of your life.


Even if you are highly educated, even if you occupy a very high position in life, even if you are very wealthy, whatever be your station in life, when you go abroad you must have a passport to travel in a foreign land. A person may say, "I'm highly educated. I'm very wealthy. I have vast land holdings. I would like to have a passport." But just by saying that he will not get the passport. All these things may be personal attainments and accomplishments, but if you want to go to another country there is a particular procedure that you must follow. This procedure cannot be different for educated people and for uneducated people, for wealthy ones and for poor ones.


Even in such a small thing as going somewhere by bus or train or plane, no one will care to know your position and accomplishments. As long as you have a ticket with you, no one will ask you if you are a wealthy person or an educated one and what position you are holding. They will be satisfied to know that you have a ticket, and they will take you to your destination. If you do not have the ticket you will be left behind, no matter what your credentials are.


In the same way, if you want to gain entry into the kingdom of liberation, you need to have the grace of God. That is required for entry. The grace of God is your passport. But even a passport is not enough. If you merely have a passport, then there may still be some objections and problems. You should also have a visa; that gives you the right to enter your place of destination. In addition to the grace of God you must also have the merit of your spiritual efforts and yearnings.


The giver may be ready to give the gift, but the receiver must also be ready to receive it. God is prepared to give, but you must have the capacity to receive. Through your surrender and spiritual efforts you become ready to receive God's grace. Therefore, to enter into the kingdom of liberation you must have God's love and you must also have the merit of your own spiritual efforts. When these two come together you will be able to gain liberation.


Contentment is the Real Wealth


The Gita taught that if you want to enter the kingdom of liberation there are 26 noble qualities that you should acquire. But, truly, it is enough if you have gained just one virtuous quality. That will be sufficient to qualify you for entry. Of all of the virtuous qualities given in the Gita chapter on devotion one of the most important is contentment. Only the one who has contentment can be considered great. Swami asks quite often, "Who is the greatest human being in this world?" The answer is, "The one who is always satisfied." Therefore, develop this contentment in yourself.


Do not get lost in the world aspiring for impermanent joys, impermanent wealth, impermanent position and luxuries. There is no objection to your enjoying the happiness which comes your way. But never forget that the world is made up only of the five elements. It has no eternal value. Your body also consists only of the five elements. As long as you consider this world real, you will tend to have attachments to the body and to a given place. It is best if you do not waste your time caught up with these attachments. Instead, always remember the goal. Here is a small example.


There was a wealthy man who had traveled the world over. He resolved to build a palatial mansion without equal anywhere. It was to be a house of such extraordinary grandeur that it would be beyond the imagination of anyone. He resolved to construct this unique structure even if it cost him tens of millions of rupees. A number of engineers and architects were called from various countries for this purpose. Ultimately he completed his beautiful mansion, and he now had a house which satisfied people from all points of view and different cultural backgrounds. Tens of thousands of people came to look at it. This wealthy man made all the arrangements for a grand inauguration of his unique place. Before the inauguration, he called a number of experts and asked them, "Do you find any defects, any faults in this building anywhere, even in the smallest detail?" They could find none. It seemed to be perfect.


He invited all kinds of people to the function, including many wealthy citizens and high officials. He also invited great sages to gain their blessings. Among the invited guests there were a number of truly wise men. All elaborate arrangements were made for their stay. After they were assembled, he prayed to them, "I humbly ask you to let me know if there are any defects, any shortcomings in this structure?" The engineers who had constructed the building echoed his sentiments and also asked the assembled crowd, "Who can come forward and just point out a single flaw in this beautiful building? We feel that it is absolutely flawless and magnificent. It is totally unique and modern, perfect in every detail."


At this point, a yogi who was standing in the corner, stepped out and addressed the wealthy man who was hosting the affair. The yogi said, "Esteemed sir, I see two major flaws in this building." All the people assembled there were greatly surprised. The engineers and architects were shocked. Everyone was most curious to know what these defects were. The wealthy man, whose house it was, folded his hands in supplication and said to the great sage, "Swami, please tell me what those defects are that you have spotted. Everyone is anxiously awaiting your answer."


The yogi said, "O rich man, these are faults for which you are not to blame, nor your engineers or architects or workmen. These defects are not within your reach or anyone else's to correct. One defect is that with the passage of time this building, and everything that is now standing here, will fall down and be reduced to rubble. This is a defect that cannot be changed. The second failing is that the person who built this structure will also perish and be forgotten. This too cannot be changed. Even though these conclusions may be delayed for a short period of time, they will both come to pass. Not realizing this truth you think that you have accomplished something flawless and great, that your achievement will be permanent. But it is not so. These defects that I have mentioned will always prevail in the end."


Such is the state of affairs for people who forget death and think that they, or their works or reputation, will be permanent. Only when you keep your focus on the atma will you be filled with contentment and feel unending joy and bliss. When you have such everlasting peace and contentment, you will be established in a mansion that can never perish, for then you are abiding in the atma, your unchanging permanent self. It alone has lasting value. There is nothing that can be compared with that dwelling place. Unlike the mansions you find in the world, it is perfect and permanent, free from all defects. Therefore, you have to recognize the truth that in this mundane world everything is impermanent. Keep your sight and concentration on the permanent atma. Constantly engage yourself in spiritual practice in order to achieve this inner vision and remain ever contented, undisturbed by worldly affairs.


Atma is Never Born, Atma Never Dies


To dispel Arjuna's confusion about his outer role and his true identity, Krishna said, "Arjuna, you are disturbed because you think you are going to kill some people. You have lost sight of the truth that underlies all beings. Know that you are the immortal self and your kinsmen, though they have been engaged in evil deeds, are in essence the very same immortal self. Then who is going to die and who will be engaged in killing? You who are the atma do not kill and your kinsmen who are the same atma will not be slain by you. Death relates to the physical body, not to the true self. Atma cannot be killed. Atma is never born. Atma never dies. It is only when you understand and practice this truth that you will be following the wisdom teachings and performing your duty, unaffected by outcomes. Recognize the immortality of atma and fight to uphold righteousness. Then you will act in harmony with divine will and even in the thick of battle you will be immersed in inner peace. When you recognize the principle of the atma, realizing its permanent nature, you will know that there can be no defect or flaw of any kind in it. Then no disturbance can come into your mind and no doubts will ever becloud you."


All this must be understood in its deeper meaning. These statements that one does not kill and that one is not going to be killed, are quickly accepted at face value by most people who read the Gita. But they make no attempt to understand the deeper significance of these declarations, which are based on the principle of the immortal and unchanging nature of the atma. If you look about to see how people are practicing this teaching you will see that they are not practicing it at all, although they will freely repeat all the verses and even give lectures on them to others. Here is a small example of this.


There was a certain hunter, a very bad man who had killed a great number of animals. His killing soon spread to include human beings. He began murdering all the people who passed through the forest and came his way, in order to strip them of whatever possessions they were carrying. When he was caught and convicted, the judge decided to sentence him to death by hanging as punishment for all the horrible crimes he had committed. It was announced that the judgment would be read in court the next day. When he was led into court for sentencing, this criminal brought with him a copy of the Gita, which he kept in his pocket. The judge declared that by 7 o'clock the following morning, he would be hanged. But now, quite boldly, the criminal spoke up, declaring, "Sir, why are you inflicting such a drastic punishment on me?" The judge replied, "This sentence is being given because you have murdered so many innocent people."


At this point the convict took out the Gita from his pocket. He showed it to the judge and said, "According to this holy scripture, Sir, I am neither the killer of those people nor have they been killed!" And he brazenly added, "How can you deny these statements made by God himself?" Well, the judge was equal in cleverness to this man. Without a moment's hesitation, the judge said, "Yes, it is certainly true that you have not killed, nor have those people been killed. Similarly, as pertains to my judgment, I am not killing you nor will you be killed. Nevertheless, the hanging will take place at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning."


Reduce Your Desires and Remember the Atma


You cannot use the Gita to change the circumstances to suit your convenience. You have to practice the truths that are contained in the great statements made in the Gita after realizing their inner significance. The Gita has not just been taught to Arjuna. This sacred teaching has been given to all people born on earth. The Gita has been given to the entire world with Arjuna as the medium. Arjuna stands as the representative of all mankind. These teachings which have been given to the representative of humanity are applicable to humanity as a whole.


To follow these teachings you have to gradually reduce your desires and wants, and gain an understanding of the principle of the atma. That will bring you to a permanent state of contentment. Examine your life to see if you are practicing these teachings in your day-to-day activities. Just by memorizing the 700 verses of the Gita you will not be able to experience the great truths that are hidden there. These deeper truths will reveal themselves in the circumstances of your daily life. It is there in everyday situations that you will be able to experience these truths directly. You have to clearly understand the qualities that have to be practiced while discharging your duties. You have to recognize how each of these 26 qualities will help you reach your goal; and then you have to apply them in your daily life.


Therefore, keep your desires and your greed under control and be ever content. This will earn for you the love of God. Your profession of love for God is not enough. That you love God is not of much use unless you get His love directed towards you. You have to learn how to earn His love and grace. There is no point in shouting and saying that God is yours. You have to aspire to hear from God the declaration that you are His. That is the most important thing you must achieve in this life.


From this moment on, develop the sacred qualities which will evoke this priceless declaration of love from the Lord, and thereby sanctify your life.


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