The world is filled with God. Saturated as it is with the divinity, the world is also filled with karma or action. Karma is the power of creation, the power of life; it is a power directly derived from God. You come into human birth in order to reap the fruits of your previous actions. In that way, actions lead to rebirth and then to more actions, thereby, keeping you bound to the cycle of birth and death. To free yourself from this bondage, should you engage in actions or should you abstain from actions? The Gita makes the answer clear. The path to liberation is through karma, through action. But it enjoins you to turn all your actions into karma yoga, sacred action which will take you towards union with God.
When the power of life takes on manifestation, it becomes a body. Life, which wears these various bodies, has also been called karma. The Sanskrit word karma means work or action; but karma refers not only to the action itself but also to the cycle of action and reaction, of work and its resulting fruits. Your body is formed on the basis of the karma or actions that you performed in an earlier birth. You get this human body and this life in order to enjoy or suffer the consequences of actions that you were engaged in during another life.
The body is directly associated with karma; it has no meaning outside of karma. Body means karma, and karma means body. It is through the body that every conceivable kind of action is performed. The place and the time where these actions occur are within nature or the world. When actions become sacred and righteous, when they are selfless and of the highest purity, and when they have been offered to God, then they become yoga; they lead to union with God. So, you can see, that in action God, man and nature all come together.
Everything in the world is the result of karma. That is why the ancient wisdom teachings have declared, 'Offer your prostrations to karma'. Whatever happens is the consequence of some previous action, in other words, the result of karma. And, be they good or bad, be they virtuous or evil, all karmas, all actions are derived from the powers of God. The expression may be different but in the deepest sense, everything comes from God. That is the reason why a yogi, without caring whether it is favorable or unfavorable, accepts everything that happens to him as the will of the Lord, and considers the performance of righteous action as his primary duty.
The purpose for which you should be performing all your actions is to sanctify your life. It is only through God's grace that you gain the privilege to engage in righteous actions. It is through the teachings of the Lord that you get this sacred opportunity and direction. It is for that reason that this holy scripture is called the Gita. Gita means song. It is the song of the Lord. All those who listen to this song will be able to overcome grief and sorrow. Whether it be on the battlefield or on some other field, wherever this sacred song is sung, grief and sorrow will be dispelled.
When actions are performed as offerings to God, they become yoga. This is revealed in the prayer given by a great saint who sang,
O beloved Lord. You are the atma, my very self. My body is your house. All my daily duties are my offerings to you. My life's breath is your praise. Wherever I walk I am circumambulating you. Whatever word I utter is a mantra in adoration of you. Every karma I perform is done as worship unto you.
This saint had purified every action performed by his sense organs and offered these actions to the Lord; thereby; all his deeds became acts of worship. When you transform your actions into sacred actions, suitable as offerings to God, then your actions will bring you into alignment with God; they will become yoga. You need to recognize the greatness inherent in such yoga and strive to purify every act you perform and offer it to the Lord. On the eve of the great war, Krishna commanded Arjuna, "Arjuna you must fight this war. But while doing so, think continuously of me and make every action pure and offer it to me. That is what pleases me." Obeying the commands of the Lord, Arjuna fought on the battlefield to preserve righteousness, keeping Krishna steadily in his mind.
To reach your spiritual goals, you need to obtain God's love. In fact, for a devotee, pleasing the Lord is itself the goal. It becomes your most important duty. You must make sure that every act you perform will satisfy the Lord. Krishna taught, 'Obey my commands and perform your duty.' In obeying the commands of the Lord and fighting in the war, Arjuna's actions became a sacred yagna, a sacrificial ritual which exalts the divinity and immerses one in the divine flow of grace. In contrast, there is a story in one of the epics of Daksha who wanted to perform a yagna, a ritual sacrifice. However, he disobeyed and disrespected Lord Shiva, and he also violated the commands of the holy sages. With a sense of egoism and attachment, he commenced the sacrifice. His egoism converted that sacrifice into a war.
You see that because Arjuna obeyed the Lord's commands and fought in the war, his battle became a sacred sacrifice. But for Daksha, who performed his sacrifice in violation of the Lord's commands, his sacrifice became a battle. What is a war and what is a sacrifice? All actions that are pure and selfless, and performed as an offering to the Lord, become a sacrifice. But actions which are undertaken in violation of the Lord's command, which are contrary to the scriptures and which are performed with a sense of egoism and pomposity, undertaken only for the purpose of promoting one's desires or hatreds ...all such actions become a war, even though the nature of the action may be that of a sacrifice. When the anguish and hatred in a person takes form in words, and these words, in turn, lead to argument and counter argument, then a battle will soon ensue. The root of all this is attachment and desire, arising from identification with the body.
Krishna said, "Arjuna, obey my commands. Give up body consciousness. Give it up completely. Stop identifying yourself with your body. The body is full of mucus and filth. You are not this body; it is only temporary and transient. You are the witness, the indweller, the atma inside this body. This six-foot frame is not you. You are the cosmic personality; you are boundless. This body is subject to birth and death. You, however, are the atma which is birthless and deathless. You are not a limited individual, subject to the passage of time. You are that most effulgent form which has conquered and mastered time itself. Discriminate between the permanent and the impermanent! Inquire into wisdom and ignorance! Distinguish between truth and untruth!"
Krishna continued, "Arjuna, recognize your real nature! Censure and praise are associated with the body; they are not permanent. Profit and loss are also associated with the body. They are a result of activity, of karma, but they are not characteristics of your essence, the atma. Be indifferent to all these polarities. Treat joy and sorrow equally. Only when you develop this kind of equal-mindedness, will you be able to realize true fulfillment and become a truly wise being." In this way, Krishna taught Arjuna the highest wisdom, the discrimination between truth and untruth, the recognition of that which is permanent behind all that which is impermanent.
God is everywhere. He is all-knowing, he is all-pervasive, he is all-powerful. He is not limited to the body. His power is not limited to the karma performed through bodies. The divinity is not just a particular body called Rama, born in a particular age, or another body called Krishna, born in another age. Those incarnations served as exemplary models for mankind to follow. But, the principle of divinity is not limited to any given body. The divinity is omnipresent and omniscient.
Again and again this truth has been taught to mankind. Krishna spoke of this to Arjuna. He said, "Arjuna, in remote antiquity, in many ages gone by, I have taught this Gita to the sun god. Then others in a long lineage of sacred beings came to know of the Gita when the sun god passed it on to the many great sages of those times. But thereafter, slowly and gradually, this knowledge became hidden and was finally lost. But it is this same ancient, sacred knowledge that I am now teaching to you here today."
When Arjuna heard this, a number of doubts entered his mind. He began thinking, "The sun god is a very ancient entity. Krishna was born only recently in this present age. How could Krishna have taught the sun god who is so ancient?" As soon as Arjuna had these thoughts, Krishna, who knows all minds and all hearts, spoke up immediately. He said, "Well, Arjuna, I know your doubts." With a smile on his lips, he continued, "You see, Arjuna, I am not this particular body. I am the one who has no birth. I transcend all time and space. I am not limited by circumstance. I exist in all ages, in all times. Basing your conception of me on my body, you are thinking that I belong to this particular age. But all these ages and all these eons are within me. Do not try to limit me to this body and to a given time. Bodies change but I never change. I take on different bodies, at different times, in order to perform karma and to fulfill a particular mission." The moment Arjuna heard this, spiritual understanding dawned within him and he recognized the timeless, unchanging principle of divinity.
All people will not be able to understand the omniscience of God. Even spiritually-minded people will base their view only on the visible outward actions of the Lord, thinking of him as an individual entity associated with a given form. Since they identify themselves with their own bodies, so they also identify the Lord with a particular body. They speculate on the future of this particular divine incarnation and fail to recognize the omnipresence and omniscience of the divinity. But this is not right. Krishna commanded Arjuna, "Develop a broad mind and expand your vision. You can start with the concept of the individual personality; but do not get stuck there. Do not waste your entire life thinking only of individuals.
"From the individual, you must move on to the concept of the society, which transcends the individual. Individuality and personality are associated with a limited name and form, but let your mind soar beyond name and form. Reach and experience that divine principle which is your very essence. You are still viewing everything in the framework of duality, and so your life is manifesting only duality. You are caught up in name and form, in subject and object. Make the effort to travel from duality and illusion to complete oneness with the divinity, constantly keeping this highest wisdom of pure non-duality as your goal. Make an effort to see the same divine principle everywhere and in everything, until you realize the ultimate truth that only the atma, which is your very self, is real and that it alone exists."
Buddha taught the same great truth, although he may not have made reference to the Vedas or used Vedantic terms. Nevertheless, he experienced and demonstrated the essential spirit of the Vedas. First he said buddham sharanam gacchami, meaning, 'I take refuge in the buddhi, my power of discrimination.' This deals with the individual; it speaks of the limited personality. Gradually, he added sangham sharanam gacchami, meaning, 'I take refuge in the community, I take refuge in the extended family of spiritually minded beings.' He recognized that feelings associated with individual and personal considerations are selfish and narrow, and cannot take you very far.
You should not consider this individual self as everything; it is only a drop in the ocean. Along these lines, Krishna also directed, "Arjuna, expand your heart and become broad-minded. Include the entire human society within your scope." Society does not have any particular form; it is made up of individuals. When a large number of individuals join together, they become a society. Baba often says, "Expansion is my life." When you expand individual life to infinity it becomes divinity; that is to say, let yourself as an individual multiply and broaden to see the divinity in all, and you will reach divinity. Therefore, Krishna told Arjuna, "Live in society, serve the society, and develop broad-mindedness. Recognize the divinity to be present everywhere, in everyone."
The expansion from the individual to the society does not mean merely shifting your loyalties to a particular group, kinfolk, region, community or country. This is the first step, but you must go beyond that. These will still limit you and not take you all the way to the divinity that is your own truth. Therefore, Buddha added one more step, dharmam sharanam gacchami, meaning, 'I take refuge in dharma, I take shelter in truth and righteousness.'
Dharma, as used here, has a very broad connotation; it refers to the one who supports the entire world. When you investigate the general meaning of the word dharma, you find that it relates to the basic nature of a thing, its essential truth. It refers to the immortal atma, the indwelling divinity. Therefore, the deeper meaning of dharma is found in the true nature of everything, which is divinity. To take refuge in dharma is to become one with all the attributes of divinity. It has been said that maya or illusion is the body of God, but it is more correct to say that dharma is the body of God. It is his very form. That is why Krishna announced, "For establishing dharma I have come again and again." Dharma reveals the broad nature of the divinity in all its glorious aspects.
Krishna directed Arjuna, "Move beyond this short-sighted feeling of individuality. Do not keep this body as the entire basis of your life. It is only a covering, an instrument. It is what you see through your mortal eyes. Broaden your vision. Develop your insight; acquire God-vision. When your vision is filled with God, then the entire creation becomes God for you. Make dharma your vision and your vision will become God-vision; then you will see the entire creation as God."
Krishna continued, elucidating the correct means for practicing dharma, "As an individual you are a prince, belonging to the warrior class. Fighting to protect righteousness and organizing for battle is your duty, your dharma. It would not be right for you to go out and incite a war, but in this case, your evil cousins have declared war against you. My direction to you is that you honor your duty, and while performing your duty, remember me and follow my commands. In that way, all your actions will become suffused with dharma."
In instructing Arjuna, Krishna revealed the essential form of dharma. "Arjuna, it is the very nature of fire to burn; if it does not have the power to burn, then it is not fire. Similarly, ice has the nature of coolness. If it is not cold, you cannot call it ice. And sweetness is the very nature of sugar. If sweetness is not there, the substance may look like sugar, but it may be salt or it may be flour, but it is not sugar. In the very same way, death is natural for every human body. When the human body moves on to its natural conclusion, why should anyone worry about it?
"Just as burning is natural for fire, coolness is natural for ice and sweetness is natural for sugar, so also death is natural for every human body. Without concerning yourself about the bodies of your relatives, fight this war; but do so keeping the attributes of a truly wise being in mind. If you want to obtain peace, then you must destroy your ego and attachments. And you must also give up your delusions. But do not give up God! He is within you. He is the very source of your being. Attune yourself to him and obey all his commands, and you will recognize the true nature of humanity."
Dharma, the divine quality which is natural to and inherent in man, will itself destroy maya, the illusion of world, individuality and separateness. Previously it was mentioned that the letters in the word man, where by man is meant a true human being regardless of gender, the letter m stands for 'maya removed', the letter a stands for 'atma seen' and the letter n stands for 'nirvana attained'. In other words, remove the ego I, have the vision of the inner Lord and merge in the joy of your immortal divine self, the atma... this is what makes up dharma; this is the essential duty of man. Repeatedly, again and again, you should contemplate on this.
Peace is not an object which is available in the market place. It is not a thing which can be bought and won, along with a kingdom. It is not a gift which can be given to you by your relatives. Peace is inherent in your own nature; it is within you. Only when you search for it within yourself will you be able to find it. Therefore, get rid of your outward vision and develop inward vision. Outward vision is appropriate to an animal, not a human being. A true human being has inward vision. "Therefore," Krishna commanded Arjuna, "sanctify your life by developing this unique potential of the human beings to turn their minds inwards."
The story has been told of how early in the career of the sage Narada, he was continuously having one type of worry after another. Now, Narada had learned quite a few things. He was a master of all 64 types of learning and had practiced all 64 human skills; and yet he felt no inner peace. He began thinking to himself, 'What is the reason for all this worry, this lack of peace that I am feeling? I have mastered all types of learning, I understand all fields of human knowledge; still, I have not been able to remove my sorrow.' He went to a great sage and asked him to explain the reason for his worries and lack of peace.
The first thing the sage asked Narada was, "What are your qualifications?" Narada replied, "I have learned and mastered every type of education; there is no field of human knowledge which I have not learned." The sage then said, "Well, that is very good. Then you must have learned the knowledge of the self?" Narada replied, "No, except for self-knowledge I have had every kind of education." The sage told Narada, "You can get peace of mind only with the knowledge of the atma. Only when you have learned that supreme knowledge by which you will know everything else, can you be called educated. Otherwise, you remain ignorant, no matter how many fields you have mastered. What is the use of learning so many things without understanding the one thing which is truly essential?" Here is a small example.
In a small village there was to be a marriage. The lady of the home where the marriage was to be celebrated, told the neighboring lady, "Dear friend, we are planning to celebrate a marriage at our house in a grand way. We have invited a famous Bombay band. We have also invited a number of noted singers. Several highly gifted cooks will come to prepare food for the occasion. We are planning to put up a very big marriage tent. It will be a truly grand affair. Please come. You will greatly enjoy this marriage. It will be a unique celebration." After hearing all these things, the neighbor lady said, "O, how wonderful. I certainly will come." Then she inquired, "Please tell me, who is the bridegroom?" At this the lady replied, "Well, that has not yet been decided."
For a marriage, the bridegroom is a very important person. If the bridegroom has not been selected, who will be married in the marriage tent? What good is the fine band and cooks and singers and priests when there is no one to be married? First the bridegroom must be chosen, then all these other things take on value. In the same way, if there is no peace of mind, what is the use of having learned so many things? The wise sage told Narada, "Only by acquiring atmic knowledge can you obtain peace of mind."
Today's man is an easy prey for attachment and hatred. He is overwhelmed by the possessive nature and filled with ego. Just look at the state he is in and what he is doing! He considers himself to be the most important being in the world. He deludes himself with the feeling that there is no one greater than he. Because of this delusion he has lost his power of discrimination, and so he has not even been able to reflect on his own confused state. He considers that it is he who is doing everything. He thinks that he can hire the whole world and do with it as he pleases. But it is not he who is running the world. He does not have that power, neither for good nor for evil. The one who is the creator of this world, the one who is the protector of this world, the one who is the father of this world, the one who is the mother of this world, the one who is the Lord of this world... only he has the power and the authority to run it. For this entire moveable and immovable world, there is only one master. This is an all important truth that every human being must recognize.
Do not give in to temporary excitements and anger, and thereby lose your peace of mind. Sorrow, loss, pain, worries are all tests to help you rid yourself of your weaknesses. They reveal whether or not you have developed firm faith and patience to endure hardships, and be unaffected by them. There is no use in merely passing examinations conducted by educational institutions. You must pass the examinations presented to you by life itself. It has been said, 'After acquiring all types of education, it is only a fool who doesn't know his own mind.' Whatever learning he might have acquired, a mean person will not acquire any good qualities from it. Then what is the use of all his education? After acquiring a lot of useless knowledge, he has only achieved the faculty for engaging in arguments and counter-arguments.
Why study so many things which have no value at all? Instead, make every effort to learn about that which has no death; that is the education which has lasting value. What is the knowledge which enables you to know that which has no death? That knowledge is the knowledge of atma, and that education is the atmic education. The one who has no death has no birth either. Everything which is born, which has come into existence, undergoes modifications and will eventually die, and thereby lose its form. The entire world and everything in it has a particular form. As it has form, it will undergo change. You should try to reach the state where there is no change at all. To do so you must gain self-knowledge, you must realize the atma.
There once was an old, ignorant villager, who left his native place to set off on a long journey. He had never traveled by train before; in fact, in all his life he had never even had a chance to see a train. Now he had come to the railway station and was waiting for the train to arrive. A train made up of many wagons drew into the station. The villager was completely awed by this train. 'It has so many carriages,' he thought to himself, 'and it goes so fast. Look at how easily it balances on those narrow rails that a human being can hardly even walk on.'
Hundreds of passengers were waiting to board the train. The amount of luggage which most of these passengers had brought was very large. The villager sat brooding, thinking to himself, 'How is this train going to be able to carry so many passengers and so much luggage? Why do these people have so much luggage anyway?' Along with the others, the villager entered the train. Putting their luggage on the racks overhead or leaving it on the floor, the passengers took their seats and began chatting and relaxing.
The villager thought to himself, 'How cruel all these people are! Why are they giving so much burden to this poor train by throwing their luggage down in the compartment and relaxing?' So, this old man sat down, keeping all his luggage on his head. It was enough that the train was carrying him; the least he could do was to carry his own luggage and not place any further burden on this heavily-loaded train! A co-passenger asked him, "Sir, why are you carrying your luggage on your head? Why not put it down and be comfortable?" The old man replied, "When the train is carrying so much luggage already, I do not want to add my own luggage also. So I have put it on my head and will carry it myself."
Whatever you do with your luggage, the train will still be carrying both you and your luggage. By keeping the luggage on your head you are not helping the train at all. So you might as well put it down and enjoy your journey. Now, this naive old man had kindness and compassion, but he did not have much intelligence and discrimination.
Krishna told Arjuna, "Though you are highly educated, though you have sense control, though you have accomplished great feats and have developed many skills, you are, nevertheless, experiencing many difficulties. This is because you have not been able to understand the divinity. As long as you do not understand the divinity, you cannot be free from sorrow. If you want to free yourself from sorrow and earn the grace of the Lord, you must obey my commands.
"First of all, remember that you are not the body. These sense organs have no connection with you; they are associated with the body. Use the body for doing work, but do not identify yourself with the body or the work. You have taken birth in this body as the result of your past actions, your karma, and you must use this body for performing karma. So, get up! Arise, Arjuna! Do your duty. Perform actions and offer them all to me. Let me have the consequences of your actions. Shun selfishness, uphold justice, be fixed in faith! That is the dharma from age to age. If you obey my commands, I will take care of you."
Krishna continued, "I want to tell you one other thing, the blind father of these evil cousins of yours had 100 sons, yet in the end there was not even one of them left to perform his funeral rites. What is the reason for this? All these sons were the children of God, but the blind king considered them as his. Arjuna, you are also becoming a brother to him. You are deluding yourself with the idea that this body is yours when it really is not yours, at all. By thinking that you are the body, you are developing the same blind outlook. That is complete ignorance. Unless you drive away this ignorance, you will not be able to realize wisdom. You have to develop discrimination and self-inquiry in order for wisdom to enter into you.
"Within your body is the spiritual heart, and within that heart is God. Also in your body is the individual soul. These two, God and the individual, appearing to live separately inside the body, are playing together, acting out their parts in a grand drama. They come together and go apart again, as directed by the author who has written this play. He assigns all the separate roles of good and bad, virtue and sin. But, in truth, there is only the one divinity that plays all these parts.
"From the standpoint of the body, there is the individualized soul manifested as this particular person of body and mind, and there is God who is the indweller of the heart. As long as you have the delusion of the body, these two, God and the soul remain separate entities enjoying their play with each other. As soon as the delusion disappears, they merge into the one all-pervasive divine principle. When you remove the false delusion of body consciousness, you bring about the union of the individual and God. Then you are established in divine consciousness and enjoy eternal bliss."
Teaching in this way, Krishna was able to impart to Arjuna the knowledge for becoming a wise being and the means for reaching the bliss of non-duality. He said, "Arjuna, always have the sense that everything which exists is one and the same entity. Do not allow the senses to pull you away from this feeling of unity and equanimity. Let your heart be free from sorrow and elation, attachment and hatred. Be unaffected by censure or praise. Treat all people equally."
Krishna told Arjuna, "When you firmly believe that everything in this creation is the manifestation of divinity, then you will become steeped in wisdom and freed from illusion. Then you will have realized the true purpose for which you have been born as a human being. Arjuna! Carry out my commands! See me everywhere! Know me to be your very self, the atma! Realize the atma and be forever free!"
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