When you develop your power of discrimination and become fully awake to the indwelling divinity, you will not suffer sorrow nor be subjected to fear. But as long as you have attachment to the body and attachment to objects, fear and suffering will be with you. Therefore, Krishna told Arjuna to develop his discrimination and rid himself of body consciousness. He told him that once he was free of body consciousness he would be able to develop integral vision.
Embodiments of Love,
Mankind today has three types of vision. The first is body oriented vision, which is totally superficial. When you have this kind of vision you see only the external appearance of others, such as the clothes and the ornaments they wear, their facial features, their body characteristics, their peculiarities of speech, etc. This type of vision is oriented only towards the phenomenal world.
The second kind of vision is insightful vision. Instead of focusing on the external characteristics of others, you focus on their inner feelings, particularly as it is reflected in their behavior and expressions. You gauge the thoughts in another's mind and the feelings in their hearts by carefully watching what they say and do. When you have this kind of vision, you become concerned primarily with the deeper feelings and motivations of the other person.
The third kind of vision is integral vision. With this kind of vision, you do not concentrate on another's external features or even their inner feelings. When you have integral vision you see the divine consciousness that pervades everyone, the inner unity that prevails everywhere despite body differences and differences in expression and emotional makeup. You realize that feelings, thoughts and behavioral characteristics all undergo change and transformation. But, you are not interested in characteristics that change with time. With integral vision you are wholly oriented towards the unchanging, indwelling divinity. Such a deep inner vision is a sacred vision. When you have this you are in the hands of God. More than that, not only are you in the hands of God, but verily you become God himself.
The truly wise say that one who knows God becomes God. As you perceive so you become. Therefore, when you gain integral vision, you take on the sacred nature of the divinity itself. To become a person of the highest wisdom, you must develop integral vision. You must steadily abide in the inner unity that is at the core of all the outer diversity. It is for this reason that Krishna commanded Arjuna to steadily turn his vision towards his highest self, and to maintain that vision at all times, under all circumstances.
In India, there has been a tradition from ancient days for temples in villages and towns to conduct chariot festivals. During these festivities the idol of the deity installed in that temple is taken in procession. First, a huge chariot is constructed for this purpose. Then the chariot is elaborately decorated and a beautiful seat is provided therein for the deity. On the auspicious day, the deity is transferred from the temple to the chariot with appropriate rituals and incantations. The chariot is then taken through the streets in a colorful procession pulled by devotees and preceded by groups of dancers, musicians and singers. Along the course of the procession, many people offer worship to the deity by lighting sacred lamps and waving them as the chariot comes by.
During these festivals thousands of people gather, coming from all the surrounding villages. Three kinds of people come. The first kind, which constitutes the bulk of the people present for the festival, concentrate all their attention on the chariot and its external appearance. Then there are others who concentrate mostly on the sacred feelings generated by the procession, such as the fervent piety of those who are pulling the chariot, the ecstatic joy of the dancers and singers, and the reverence of the priests and devotees who are offering worship. Thirdly, there are a few who recognize the real purpose for which this festival has been arranged. Only this small handful cares to have a vision of the indweller, the sacred person who is seated in the chariot.
Of course, the festival is being celebrated for the purpose of installing the image of God in the chariot. Without the representation of God, the festival would have no meaning. This sacred figure inside the chariot represents the indweller, who is God himself. But only the rare individual will turn his full attention towards that divinity. Most people will see only the physical appearance of the chariot, its decorations and other such things as the fine raiment put on the sacred image inside, the costumes worn by the dancers and musicians, and all the sound and color of the festivities. The largest number will concentrate only on these external things. But there will also be some people who concentrate their attention on the rituals of worship and the offerings being made, such as the breaking of coconuts, the waving of lamps and incense, and the devotion expressed through these rituals. The number of people with this kind of vision and interest will be much smaller than those who concentrate on the decorations, the dances and dramas and all the external paraphernalia associated with the festival.
But the divine person who has been installed in this chariot, who is driving this chariot and who is the resident of this chariot will be seen by only a very small number of intensely-devoted people who yearn to have the sacred vision of the divinity. In the huge throng turning out for the festival, such people may be counted on the fingers of one's hand. For them, all the outer trappings and all the sound and excitement of the procession will only get in the way of their having a real vision of God. All they long for is to see and be with their beautiful Lord, whose representation is seated in the chariot.
What is the deeper meaning of this chariot? How many such chariots are there? The chariot that is being spoken of here is the human body. So there is not just one chariot but millions upon millions of chariots. Every day, these chariots move from street to street and house to house, taking the indwelling resident in procession. You have been developing your vision in such a way that you see only the body and its external features or the expressions arising from various feelings and emotional states, but you have not learned to develop the internal vision, the vision which perceives the indwelling person in this chariot of the body, and understands who he really is. It is a very rare individual who attempts to look deeper, beyond the external and superficial aspect of the body, and beyond the emotional and mental traits of the individual, to try to discover the sacred divine principle which is there inside.
The bodies of human beings are not the only chariots. The bodies of animals like dogs or tigers or elephants are also chariots. In fact, the body of every being is a chariot. For example, Lord Shiva is depicted as riding on Nandi, the bull. The bullock is Shiva's chariot. Yet, when you see a bullock, you do not think of Lord Shiva; still he will be seated there. When you see a rat, you will not be thinking of Ganesha, the elephant god, who represents the aspects of protection and wisdom in the divinity. Lord Ganesha will be there, riding on that rat. The rat is his vehicle, so it is also a chariot in which God is installed. In a similar way, lions, crows, dogs, snakes, eagles and so many other animals and birds are used as vehicles for the many different aspects of God. In truth, every living being is a chariot taking God in procession.
These days you are developing the vision that sees only the chariot. You are focusing all your concentration on the external decorations. In this age, almost your entire time is spent on adorning the chariot and seeing to the comforts and pleasures of the body. As a result, you are paying attention only to the external differences and you are not spending any time trying to see the indweller.
"Therefore, Arjuna," said Krishna, "know that all these people about whom you are so concerned, are only chariots. They may be grandfathers, they may be brothers, they may be cousins, whoever they may be, they are only chariots. In truth, you are seeing only chariots in the form of these various relatives and teachers. You have been keeping your vision clouded by seeing only the body. But a sacred person like you should not care so much for externals. You must concentrate your mind on the indweller who is seated in every human body. Then only will your vision become sacred. Such sacred vision alone can provide the basis for your victory.
"Only a person who has sacred vision can achieve success in great undertakings. Arjuna, people are giving the same value to the shadow as they give to that which is casting the shadow; they are giving the same value to the reflection as they give to the one whose reflection they are seeing. But that is not correct. The unchanging, sacred principle which has given rise to all these shadows and reflections is the eternal self. It is the atma. Its value is unlimited and beyond all measure. On the other hand, the external beauties of these bodies and all the thoughts and feelings and behaviors that are being manifested in these bodies, are all just images. They are only shadows or reflections without any real substance or lasting value."
When Arjuna gave so much value to mere reflections, he was displaying his ignorance. His was not a worldly type of ignorance, but ignorance related to the spirit. Arjuna had not developed his inner vision. He was not yet able to discriminate between that which is real and that which is unreal. In order to save him from all the misunderstandings and confusion which would inevitably arise when there is a lack of inner vision, Krishna undertook to teach Arjuna the sacred knowledge of the eternal self. Krishna instructed Arjuna in the spiritual exercises which had to be practiced in order to attain this highest wisdom.
Before a farmer can raise a crop in his field, he has to do a great deal of preparation. Before the seeds can be sown, the land must be cleared of brush, stones and weeds, and then it has to be softened by plowing and irrigation. The farmer must determine what particular types of seeds will grow best on that land, and what kind of nutrients would be required to fertilize the soil. When all these preparations are completed, he finally sows the seeds. Therefore, before a crop can be raised, the entire field has to be made ready for cultivation. Stones and weeds have to be dug out and thrown away. Only then can the appropriate seeds be sown to assure a good crop.
In a similar way, a spiritual aspirant must also carefully prepare the field of his heart. The same principles of cultivation apply to that field. First, one has to remove from the heart all undesirable thoughts and useless habits. They have to be dug up and cleaned out. After that, you have to irrigate the entire field of the heart with the waters of love. These waters of love make the heart soft and cultivatable. With the help of spiritual practices, you have to plow the field of your heart and spread the fertilizer of faith in order to make the soil rich and nutritious for the seeds to grow well there. Only when all this has been done will the entire field of the heart be ready for sowing. When the heart is covered with bad weeds of base thoughts, when it is barren, hard and dry and infertile, how can good seeds grow there and have any chance of maturing into a bountiful crop?
It is in this connection that Krishna said to Arjuna, "Arjuna, you must cultivate and transform the field of your heart. You must root out your external vision. Develop a pure and strong flow of love for God. Sow the seeds of God's name in your heart and you will raise a rich harvest of unity consciousness there, for that is what grows best in that field. That is its very nature. Then you will become a man of steady wisdom and attain your spiritual goal. In the garden of your heart you will be able to enjoy the sacred fruit of liberation. Once you have that, fear can never again trouble you.
When you have steady faith and an integral vision, and when you constantly think of the indwelling divinity, you will not become elated by joy nor shrink away from sorrow. It is only then that you will become completely fearless. Fearlessness does not mean the absence of fear. True fearlessness completely transcends fear. It is altogether different and much higher than the mere removal of fear. The latter is a momentary experience; it comes and it goes. For example, if you happen to see a rope lying on the ground after dusk, you might think, in the failing light, that it was a snake. Fearing that the snake might harm you, you would switch on your flashlight to get a better look at it and see if it is a poisonous snake. But as soon as the light shines on it you realize that it is not a snake at all but a piece of rope, and with this realization your fear disappears instantly. Here you were subjected to fear and then you became free of fear; both were just transitory experiences.
Fear is only a delusion created by the mind; lack of fear is also a delusion created by the mind. Mistaking one thing for another leads to fear; recognizing the mistake and rectifying it leads to the removal of that fear. But, true fearlessness is not associated with these two at all. Fearlessness is a permanent state where there is no question of ever experiencing any fear. When you are imbued with fearlessness you are continuously aware of your own reality. At that point, it would be impossible for you to become subject to fear. You should not consider this quality of fearlessness as just the absence of fear. When you are truly fearless you will not be aware of any second entity, at all. You can have fear only when there exists a second object who evokes the fear in you. But, fearlessness is always associated with unity consciousness. It refers to non-duality, where there can be no two but always just one. Only in the state of non-duality will you be truly fearless.
When you forget your true self you will suffer from fear. When you remember only the world and not God, you will suffer from fear. When you are filled with desires and attachments, you will suffer from fear. When you are deluded by objects, you will suffer from fear. On the other hand, when you are immersed in the transcendental reality, you will be totally free from fear; you will never be afraid of anything. Then you will be truly fearless.
Krishna said, "Arjuna, there is only one thing you will have to develop. You need not develop further your vision of the phenomenal world; nor do you need to further develop your mind. You need only to develop the vision of the one existing everywhere in everyone. If you know it, and if you remember it, then you will not be subject to this constant cycling between fear and its removal. So long as you have the deluded perspective that the world is real and made up of separate objects, your vision will be clouded and you will be subject to fear. But when you recognize the truth of the unity of the whole creation, you will be forever fearless. A person like you should become wise and never again experience fear."
You will have to control your tendency to look outwards towards the body and its deeds and towards the mind with its thoughts and feelings. Instead, develop the inward vision of the sacred self. This is the true vision, the integral vision. There is a fine example of this in the ancient spiritual classic called the Bhagavatam. It is the story of Gajendra, an elephant who was caught by a crocodile. This elephant, Gajendra, had a strong ego and he was convinced that with his great strength he would be able to fight and free himself from the crocodile. But here two facts must be known; elephants are very powerful on land, crocodiles are very powerful in the water. When an elephant enters the water he will not have so much strength, and when a crocodile comes out on land he will also be less mighty than in his natural habitat, the water. In this case, because the crocodile was in the water he was able to exercise all his great strength. But the elephant, Gajendra, was very arrogant; he was blown up with ego and felt that no crocodile could ever be equal to an elephant, who was the lord of the forest. He did not know that a crocodile in the water would be more than a match for any elephant away from land.
For a long time they fought relentlessly. Finally the elephant got tired and lost all his physical as well as mental strength. He had placed all his confidence in his physical and mental prowess, but having exhausted all that, he began praying to the Lord. As long as his vision had been directed to his body he did not look towards God. As long as he had confidence in his own bodily and mental strength, the thought of God did not arise and the Lord's grace did not descend. When the elephant lost his physical and mental power and turned towards God, immediately Lord Vishnu hurled his sacred discus, and freed Gajendra from the catastrophe that had overtaken him. Now, the discus spoken of here does not refer to a mere weapon used by the Lord; but it refers to his grace. You evoke God's grace by turning your vision towards God. Then God turns his vision towards you.
When will you acquire God's vision that will forever keep you in his grace? Only when you renounce all your egocentric beliefs in your own strength of body and mind. You gain God's grace when you turn your vision towards God, put yourself wholly in his hands and, just as the elephant Gajendra did, surrender yourself completely to his will. When you turn your vision towards the teacher you love, the teacher will turn towards you. Even if the teacher's vision were to fall on you, if you had not at the same time turned your vision towards your teacher, you would not have been able to experience the teacher's beneficent gaze. Now, all your vision is concentrated on the body. The effulgence of the shining sun may be all around you but its light will not have entered the room where you are staying. What is the reason for this? You have put curtains and shutters on the windows and kept the warm rays of sunlight out. Only when you break open these dark curtains and shutters will the effulgence of the sun enter your inner apartment.
In the same way, you have covered your vision with shutters of doubt and ego and thick curtains of body-consciousness, and so the rays of grace are not able to penetrate through and enter your heart. You might say, "I have not been able to get the grace of God." But how will you be able to get it if you do not turn your gaze on him?
When you do not look to God, then surely you will not be able to see God. If I am standing directly in front of you and you are standing directly in front of me, and we are looking at each other, what is it that we will see? Who will you see in my eyes and who will I see in your eyes? We will see each other, in each other's eyes. When we stand face to face, I can see my vision in you and you can see your vision in me. But if you stand behind or turn away, how can I see my vision in you, or you see your vision in me? It would be impossible. In the same way, if you want your eyes to meet the eyes of God, you must come and be directly in front of him and concentrate your vision on him. When you do, he will turn his benevolent gaze upon you, and you will see a vision of your higher self.
When the sight of the elephant, Gajendra, was turned towards God, God's sight met with it, because God's sight then turned towards him. Once that happened, all problems were automatically solved.
Who is this elephant? This proud elephant is arrogance and pride. When a man is full of arrogance and pride, he develops desire. Desire may be compared to thirst. When this proud man develops thirst, he goes to the waters of the world to drink. Even before he enters these waters completely, attachment catches hold of him. Attachment and possessiveness are the powerful crocodile that robs you of all your strength and makes you cry so pitifully. Before entering the waters of the world, before having gained so many attachments, you will have only rarely cried. For example, before marriage, a young man will feel free and unencumbered. But after marriage there will be a continuous growth of attachments. Then one has to take care of wife, children, parents, in-laws and quite a few other relatives, and soon it feels like the whole world has laid hold of him and is pulling him down under the waters.
Once you develop egoism and pride then desires follow. Soon attachments come, and from attachments all these bonds develop. When bonds develop, you will be so distracted you will not be able to turn towards God and see him. Only when you look towards God will you be able to see him. Then he will look towards you, and you will be able to perceive your own true image. "Therefore," Krishna cautioned, "do not become a victim of this bondage, Arjuna. Keep your mind clear and pure. Always look towards the immortal self, the universal principle. It is the one divinity existing in all things. Cultivate such sacred vision in your mind. Do not allow the weeds and shrubs of ego and body-consciousness to develop in your heart. Instead, grow the tree of God's grace in your heart. Turn your sight towards God. Let this be your objective. Make that your goal."
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