SVADHYAYA (Srimad-Bhagavad-Gita Study Camp 2019)

From 23rd September to 5th October 2019, Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC), Sri Aurobindo Society, conducted its third study camp on the Gita. The first one was conducted in the year 2013 and the second one in 2016. The purpose of this study camp was to cover, or rather uncover, the entire SrimadBhagavadGita, with word-by-word explanations and deeper exposition of the psychological insights contained in each of its chapters. Twenty-six participants from various parts of the country took part in this 13 day long study camp.

Day 1: Introduction

The first day Swadhyaya began with 26 participants, each one carrying an aspiration to understand and to live in the spirit of this Divine teaching.

Sampadananda Mishra, Director, SAFIC, started with an overview and background of the Gita, which lies in ancient scriptures like, Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads and Tantra. He explained two different kinds of truths, prevalent in all the scriptures: 1) universal / permanent truth, which is eternal and is relevant in all ages 2) temporal truth which belongs only to that particular age and over time it loses its value and relevance. He also mentioned that there are very few verses in Gita which are temporal, but those also lose their temporality in the strong universal nature of the Gita.

“In the Gita there is very little that is merely local or temporal and its spirit is so large, profound and universal that even this little can easily be universalised without the sense of the teaching suffering any diminution or violation; rather by giving an ampler scope to it than belonged to the country and epoch, the teaching gains in depth, truth and power” (Sri Aurobindo CWSA, Vol. 19, p. 6).

Through a brilliant discussion, Sampadananda ji brought out the significance of the relationship between Gita and Sri Krishna, Gita and Sri Aurobindo, and Sri Aurobindo and Sri Krishna. For example, many years after the war, one day Arjuna asks Sri Krishna to repeat the Gita as he had forgotten. What do you think Krishna’s reply was?! Did you know that in the Alipore jail Sri Krishna himself placed the Gita into Sri Aurobindo’s hand and Sri Aurobindo has said that, “His strength entered into me and I was able to do the sadhan of the Gita.” This culminated into his profound spiritual experience of ‘Vaasudevah Sarvamiti’, presence of Krishna everywhere and in everything.

Sampadananda ji then explained about the adhikaritva or the eligibility of studying the Gita, as described in the Gita itself which truly set the tone for approaching the Gita for the next 12 days. He explained that to truly study the Gita, or in fact to study any spiritual Shastra, the devotee or seeker has to be a real adhikari. An adhikari is one who has developed in himself a strong aspiration to know and realize the truth, silence, purity, sincerity, devotion are other qualities one must have to be enter into the spirit of any Shastra and gain true benefit from the svadhyaya of it. The Shastra is misunderstood in the hands of one who has not risen to this status of adhikari. Sri Krishna himself warns Arjuna in the last chapter of the Gita when he says not to reveal the secret teachings of the Gita to anyone who has no inner aspiration, no tapasya, and no sraddha (sincerity), bhakti (devotion) for the Lord. Tapas and Sraddha are thus the two fundamental conditions for the seeker to raise himself to the position of a true adhikari for the svadhyaya of the Gita.

Chapter 1: ArjunaVishaada Yoga – The Yoga of Dejection of Arjuna

We began the study of the first chapter with the importance of sthana (place), kaala (time) and Paatra (characters), of any great event.

Arjuna, (“the disciple who receives his initiation on the battlefield,.. the struggling human soul who has not yet received the knowledge, but has grown fit to receive it by action in the world in a close companionship and an increasing nearness to the higher and divine Self in humanity.”), is the representative Man of his time. Overcome with dejection and sorrow at the most critical moment of his life on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, he raises incidentally the whole question of human life and action: the whole exposition of the Gita revolves and completes its cycle around this original question of Arjuna. Led by the sense of utter disgust, dejection and revolt, he declares, “I shall not fight – na yotsye.”

Participants also asked questions regarding violence – non-violence, Jainism, Buddhism, and the legitimacy of Arjuna’s grief: all these were discussed during the first day sessions.

Day 2:
Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga – The Yoga of Discriminative Wisdom

The day two started with the study of the second chapter which begins with the rebuke of Arjuna by Krishna, pointing out delusion of his mind and about his dharma as a kshatriya. He gently rebukes Arjuna that he must not fall from the virility of the fighter and the hero, and that he must shake off this paltry faintheartedness and arise to do his given work, kartavayam karma.

Here in this chapter Krishna establishes not just buddhiyoga or the yoga of the intelligent will but also a new concept of Karma Yoga based on the buddhiyoga. He opens up the discussion regarding action, motive of action, desires, who is a Sthitaprajna or Atmastha (one who is or whose Buddhi / intelligence is settled in his own self). While explaining the importance of buddhiyoga to Arjun, Sri Krishna assures him saying that even a little of this Yoga brings deliverance to the sincere aspirant ‘svalpamapyasya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayaat: “When you have once set out on this path, you will find that no step is lost; every least movement will be a gain; you will find there no obstacle that can baulk you of your advance.”

In Chapter 2, one learns about the Gita’s unique ways of  unifying Sānkhya, Yoga and Vedanta. By teaching Arjuna, and through him, the entire humanity, Sri Krishna here speaks of the “first indispensable practical unity of knowledge and works with a hint already of the third crowning intensest element in the soul’s completeness, divine love and devotion.”

Day 3:
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga – The Yoga of Works

Day three started with each verse carefully unfolding the deeper meaning of Karma Yoga – of works done as a sacrifice to the Divine.

Desireless and unattached action, niṣkāmakarma, controlled by the liberated buddhi, done without subjection to sense and passion is the first secret of perfection, says Sri Krishna. The Gita thus speaks of the Yoga of the self-liberating intelligent will finding its full meaning by the Yoga of desireless work.

Here the Gita also teaches about the significance of pursuing the works according to one’s inner nature, one’s law of being, swadharma. It says, not the by the path of coercing and suppressing one’s true inner nature, but by the path of self-control with right use and right guidance, one must have control of the lower by the higher self. Such self-control successfully gives to one’s natural powers their right action and their maximum efficiency. Sri Krishna gives Arjuna a concrete advice: “Better is one’s own law of works, swadharma, though in itself faulty, than an alien law well-wrought out; death in one’s own law of being is better, perilous is it to follow an alien law.”

Arjuna is now curious to know that if one must follow one’s nature, what makes one act wrongly, in sin, even against one’s own struggling will. To this, Sri Krishna replies that the insatiable fire of desire and its companion wrath, the offspring of the Nature’s guna of Rajas, is the soul’s great enemy. This eternal enemy of knowledge, seated in senses, mind and intellect, envelops the knowledge and bewilders the embodied soul and leads the person to commit wrong action. By controlling one’s senses and slaying this destroyer of knowledge, one proceeds to live in the calm, clear, luminous truth of the Spirit. By awakening to the Highest, the Purusha in him, which is beyond the discerning mind, putting force on the self by the self to make it firm and still, Arjuna must slay the enemy in the form of desire and act.

The participants also discussed about bondages and attachments toward work and the desire for its fruits. Participants also shared stories of their own motive for wok, the actions originating from their own lower nature, for example, out of fear, out of duty, for the sake of building an image.

“The egoistic soul in a world of sacrifice is as if a thief or robber who takes what these Powers bring to him and has no mind to give in return. He misses the true meaning of life and, since he does not use life and works for the enlargement and elevation of his being through sacrifice, he lives in vain.” (p. 127).

Chapter 4: Jnana-karma-sannyasa Yoga – The Yoga of Knowledge and Renunciation of Action

The discussion started with the purpose of Avatarhood. The concept is not just confined to ‘killing or conquering bad people’ but to take the humanity to the next level of evolution. Each one of us has a potential of carrying oneself to the next level of consciousness. We also talked about the people during the times of Sri Krishna and Sri Rama. How these Godheads came down to the human level to carry them to the next stage of evolution. The whole concept of involution and evolution also opened the discussion regarding ‘creation’ or ‘why creation’?

The key points of the chapter on which we reflected at the end were:
1) The Possibility and Purpose of Avatarhood: The Divine Teacher, the Avatar, gives his own example, his own standard to Arjuna. In India the belief in the reality of the Avatar, the decent into form, the revelation of the Godhead in humanity, has existed and persisted as a logical outcome of the Vedantic view of life and taken firm root in the consciousness of the race.
2) The Divine Worker: Equality, non-attachment, peace, joy and freedom these are the signs which distinguish a divine worker; they are all profoundly subjective and do not lend themselves to evaluated through external observation.
3) The Significance of Sacrifice: The Gita brings out the inner meaning of the Vedic sacrifice, interpreting the secret symbolism of the ancient Vedic mystics.

The Gita emphatically says here that the liberated man has the relisation of entire unity of the Brahman. He knows that the Brahman is the doer, the deed and the object of works; the knower, the knowledge and the object of knowledge. It is into Brahman, the universal energy that all the action is poured, the very act of giving is also Brahman, the offering is some form of the Brahman, and the giver of the offering is also none other than the Brahman himself in man. The action, the work, the sacrifice is itself the Brahman in movement, in activity; the goal to be reached by sacrifice is also Brahman. It is with this knowledge the liberated man engages in action as sacrifice.

“In the ancient Vedic system there was always a double sense physical and psychological, outward and symbolic, the exterior form of the sacrifice and the inner meaning of all its circumstances… The food eaten as the leavings of the sacrifice is, it is explained, the nectar of immortality, amṛta, left over from the offering; and here we have still something of the old Vedic symbolism in which the Soma-wine was the physical symbol of the amṛta, the immortalising delight of the divine ecstasy won by the sacrifice, offered to the gods and drunk by men. The offering itself is whatever working of his energy, physical or psychological, is consecrated by him in action of body or action of mind to the gods or God, to the Self or to the universal powers, to one’s own higher Self or to the Self in mankind and in all existences.” (pp. 119-20)

He who has destroyed all doubt by knowledge and has by Yoga offered all works as sacrifice and is in possession of the Self is not bound by his works. Arjuna is guided to cut asunder with the sword of knowledge the doubt that has arisen out of ignorance and abides in his heart and resort to Yoga. This, in short is the message of this chapter.

Day 4
Chapter 5: Karma-sannyasa Yoga – The Yoga of Renunciation of Action

In this chapter the Gita primarily deals with renunciation of action. Karma, work, is to done in union with the Divine, not originating from the lower nature or ego bound. All the actions originated from the lower nature results in duality i.e. pain and pleasure, liking and disliking, etc. – as Sri Aurobindo puts it, “mind’s marriage with grief…”. Sri Krishna narrates who is a ‘yoga-yukta’: one who is pure, has control over all the senses, united with his/her higher Self, and equal to all creatures. That person has mastered all desires, has attained ‘Brahma Nirvana’, he sees Brahman in all around him. He is not involved in action even when fully engaged in it. He is free in and by the knowledge that all actions are truly Nature’s; he himself does not act but actions are done through him as part of the Nature’s cosmic activity. With his mind fixed in the Brahman – the Impersonal, he has no sense of doer-ship while seein, hearing, tasting, smelling, eating, moving, sleeping, breathing, speaking, taking, ejecting, opening or closing his eyes; he knows that it is only the senses acting upon the objects of the senses.

Sri Aurobindo explains it beautifully in the following passage with a cautionary note: “By itself the idea might lead to a doctrine of the mechanical determinism of Nature and the perfect aloofness and irresponsibility of the soul; but the Gita effectively avoids this fault of an insufficient thought by its illumining supertheistic idea of the Purushottama. It makes it clear that it is not in the end Nature which mechanically determines its own action; it is the will of the Supreme which inspires her; … The reposing of works in the Impersonal is a means of getting rid of the personal egoism of the doer, but the end is to give up all our actions to that great Lord of all.” (p. 186).

The idea of Nirvana expounded here means: “the extinction of the ego in the higher spiritual, inner Self, that which is for ever timeless, spaceless, not bound by the chain of cause and effect and the changes of the world-mutation, self-blissful, self-illumined and for ever at peace. The Yogin ceases to be the ego, the little person limited by the mind and the body; he becomes the Brahman; he is unified in consciousness with the immutable divinity of the eternal Self which is immanent in his natural being.” (p. 236). Being in this state of Nirvana the sages are always engaged with a large sense of equality in doing good to all creatures.

The chapter concludes by reiterating one of the great ideas of the Gita, the idea of the Purushottama, “the Divine who is there as the one self in our timeless immutable being, who is present too in the world, in all existences, in all activities, the master of the silence and the peace, the master of the power and the action, who is here incarnate as the divine charioteer of the stupendous conflict, the Transcendent, the Self, the All, the master of every individual being. He is the enjoyer of all sacrifice and of all tapasya, therefore shall the seeker of liberation do works as a sacrifice and as a tapasya; he is the lord of all the worlds, manifested in Nature and in these beings, therefore shall the liberated man still do works for the right government and leading on of the peoples in these worlds, loka-saṅgraha; he is the friend of all existences, therefore is the sage who has found Nirvana within him and all around, still and always occupied with the good of all creatures.” (p. 239). When a man has the knowledge of Purushottama as the Enjoyer of sacrifice and tapasya, the mighty lord of all the worlds, the friend of all creatures, he has the eternal peace and happiness settled in him.

Chapter 6: Atma-samyama Yoga – The Yoga of Self-Control

Recollecting the essence of 4th and 5th chapters, the study moved forward to the 6th chapter. Sri Krishna continues with the effects that duality of mind causes like, insult & praise or like & dislike, and emphasises that he who is equal in dualities, who can maintain equanimity, is the one who can finally be firmly seated in Divine Consciousness.

Sri Krishna guides Arjuna that he should deliver the self by the self, that is, by his inner power, and should not depress and cast down the self by self-indulgence or suppression; for the self is the friend of the self and the self is the enemy. For the man who has conquered his lower self (the ego-self or the desire-self) by the higher self, his self becomes a friend, but for him who is not in possession of his higher self, the lower self acts for him as an enemy.

Revealing the Raja Yoga practice in verse 11 to 14 for controlling the mind Sri Krishna explains beautifully the nature of mind. In the next verses Sri Krishna clarifies the doubts of Arjuna, “Can the mind which is so fickle be ever still and under control? What happens to the one who deosn’t achieve this? Doesn’t he loose both the net world and this world?” Arjuna raises a question whether a stable foundation for yogic equality is possible given the restless, vehement, strong and unconquerable nature of the mind, hard to control as the wind. Sri Krishna agrees that while the mind is indeed restless and difficult to restrain, but it may be controlled by constant practice (abhyāsa) and non-attachment (vairāgya). Sampadananda ji beautifully explained these two words saying that the word abhyāsa literally means to ‘place or keep something in front’ (of consciousness). So the idea of constant and regular practice is not limited to doing it at a specific time or a particular place, but rather keeping the object or aim of one’s practice always in front of one’s consciousness, to stay always immersed in that aim, in constant remembrance of the object. Similarly vairagya is not disgust but it is a state in which one is not affected by any thing, any being or any happening in the world, just like a lotus leaf in the water.

In this manner this whole chapter deals with ‘Nirvana and Works in the World’. This chapter is a full development of the idea of the closing verses of the 5th chapter.

“This peace of Nirvana is reached when all the mental consciousness is perfectly controlled and liberated from desire and remains still in the Self, when, motionless like the light of a lamp in a windless place, it ceases from its restless action, shut in from its outward motion, and by the silence and stillness of the mind the Self is seen within, not disfigured as in the mind, but in the Self,….Then the soul is satisfied and knows its own true and exceeding bliss, not that untranquil happiness which is the portion of the mind and the senses, but an inner and serene felicity in which it is safe from the mind’s perturbations and can no longer fall away from the spiritual truth of its being. Not even the fieriest assault of mental grief can disturb it; for mental grief comes to us from outside, is a reaction to external touches, and this is the inner, the self-existent happiness of those who no longer accept the slavery of the unstable mental reactions to external touches. It is the putting away of the contact with pain, the divorce of the mind’s marriage with grief, duḥkha-saṁyoga-viyogam. The firm winning of this inalienable spiritual bliss is Yoga, it is the divine union; it is the greatest of all gains and the treasure beside which all others lose their value. Therefore is this Yoga to be resolutely practised without yielding to any discouragement by difficulty or failure until the release, until the bliss of Nirvana is secured as an eternal possession.” (p. 242).

Day 5
Chapter 7: Jnana-vijnana Yoga – The Yoga of Essential and Comprehensive Knowledge

This Chapter deals mainly with two aspects:
1) The Two Natures: The Gita makes the distinction between the two Natures, the phenomenal and the higher spiritual nature.
2) The Synthesis of Devotion and Knowledge: The Gita is not a treatise of metaphysical philosophy. It seeks the highest truth because the highest truth has the highest and widest practical utility. Thus it turns the philosophic truth given in the opening section of this chapter into a first starting-point for the unification of works, knowledge and devotion.

It is because of the interplay of the gunas in the lower nature the whole world is bewildered and does not recognise the Supreme Imperishable beyond the perishable workings of the gunas. Sri Aurobindo gives valuable explanation of this point when he says: “This lower nature of the three gunas which creates so false a view of things and imparts to them an inferior character is a Maya, a power of illusion, by which it is not meant that it is all non-existent or deals with unrealities, but that it bewilders our knowledge, creates false values, envelops us in ego, mentality, sense, physicality, limited intelligence and there conceals from us the supreme truth of our existence. This illusive Maya hides from us the Divine that we are, the infinite and imperishable spirit…” (p. 276).

Those who are free from this illusive, the delusion of the dualities, are steadfast in their vow of self-consecration, who take refuge in and turn to Him in their spiritual effort towards release from age and death, come to know that Brahman and all the integrality of the spiritual nature and the entirety of Karma.

These jñānī-bhaktas having attained the integral knowledge of the nature of the Divine Being do not deviate from that knowledge even in the critical moment of their departure from physical existence. Therefore, at that moment their whole consciousness merges with the Purushottama.

Here one learns that Krishna, as Purushottama,has encompassed the whole universe with his existence and he is in both the ‘AparaPrakriti’ – lower nature or phenomenal nature as well as in ‘Para Prakriti’ – spiritual nature.

Sampadananda ji summarised that the seventh to the twelfth chapters lay down a large metaphysical statement of the nature of the Divine Being and on that foundation, closely relate and synthesise knowledge and devotion, just as the first part of the Gita synthesised works and knowledge.

Chapter 8: Akshara-Brahma Yoga – The Yoga of the Imperishable Brahman

We have here the first description of the Supreme Purusha – the Godhead who is even greater than the Immutable and to whom the Gita gives subsequently the name of Purushottama. The language in this chapter, at places, is taken bodily from the Upanishads.

Krishna says that this supreme Purusha is kavi (poet), the Seer who sees past, present, future, and he contains everything; he is subtler than the subtle, the master and ruler of all existence who places in his being all things that exist. His form is unthinkable, he is refulgent as the sun beyond the darkness. He is the upholder of all, and His form can’t be thought of by the mind. He is all dazzling like thousand Suns. He is beyond all that is.  The knowers of the Veda speak of Him as the immutable self-existent Brahman, for whom the tapasvins aspire by practicing self-control and into whom they enter having passed beyond the affections of the mind of mortality.

In this chapter of the Gita there is a great stress on the thought and state of mind at the time of death. Sri Aurobindo explains, “The body is abandoned, but the soul goes on its way. Much then depends on what he is at the critical moment of his departure. For whatever form of becoming his consciousness is fixed on at the time of death and has been full of that always in his mind and thought before death, to that form he must attain, since the Prakriti by Karma works out the soul’s thoughts and energies and that is in real fact her whole business. Therefore, if the soul in the human being desires to attain to the status of the Purushottama, there are two necessities, two conditions which must be satisfied before that can be possible. He must have moulded towards that ideal his whole inner life in his earthly living; and he must be faithful to his aspiration and will in his departing.” (pp. 294-95). Therefore, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna that he must fight remembering at all times only Him, the Divine and Supreme Being; because he who has his mind and consciousness always united with Him and given up to Him, surely attains to Him.

The secret of secrets that Krishna reveals here is how that Supreme Purusha can be attained. He emphasises the importance of one pointed devotion as the way to attain him.

Day 6
Chapter 9: Rajavidya-rajaguhya Yoga – The Yoga of Supreme Knowledge and Supreme Secret

Here Krishna talks about his Supra Cosmic Existence. Krishna tells Arjuna that I will tell you about Jnana and Vijnana, the Raja Vidya the masterly knowledge and the Raja Guhya the masterly secret.

He says that “All beings are in me in their seed form. I hold all the beings. Just as the space subtly pervades the wind, in same way I am all pervading. But nothing binds me. Not knowing my supreme form is ignorance.” According to Sri Aurobindo, “The growth of the god in man is man’s proper business; the steadfast turning of this lower Asuric and Rakshasic into the divine nature is the carefully hidden meaning of human life. As this growth increases, the veil falls and the soul comes to see the greater significance of action and the real truth of existence.” (p. 327). These great souls, united with and forever adoring the Divine Being, steadfast in spiritual endeavour, bowing down to him with devotion, worship him always. This is the manner of Integral Devotion.

Sri Krishna says that anything offered to him with love and devotion, he takes it. “Whatever you do, whatever you enjoy, whatever sacrifices, Tapasya, offer it unto me.” At the same time Sri Krishna makes us aware that the devotion should not be tamasic, as Duryodhana in his tamasic state of mind said, “Jaanaami dharmam na cha me pravritti”, meaning, “I know what is right, but have no inclination towards it.”

“Those who aspire in their human strength by effort of knowledge or effort of virtue or effort of laborious self-discipline, grow with much anxious difficulty towards the Eternal; but when the soul gives up its ego and its works to the Divine, God himself comes to us and takes up our burden. To the ignorant he brings the light of the divine knowledge, to the feeble the power of the divine will, to the sinner the liberation of the divine purity, to the suffering the infinite spiritual joy and Ananda.” (p. 335).

Then Krishna elaborates the ‘Path of Tapasya’ and ‘Path of Surrender’. Sampadji shared an eye opening and very practical story, that when a mother monkey is on the move, the baby monkey has to put its effort and hold on to her tightly by its own efforts – this akin to the path of Tapasya where we have to make our own efforts to reach the Almighty. But when a cat is on the move with her kitten, she lifts her kitten in her mouth and the kitten is absolutely fearless and faithful that he will be safe and will be taken to where he is supposed to – this is the path of Surrender.

The last verse of this chapter presents one of the key teachings of the Gita, that of the supreme unification of divine love and devotion, knowledge, and works. “To make the mind one with the divine consciousness, to make the whole of our emotional nature one love of God everywhere, to make all our works one sacrifice to the Lord of the worlds and all our worship and aspiration one adoration of him and self-surrender, to direct the whole self Godwards in an entire union is the way to rise out of a mundane into a divine existence.” (p. 336).

Day 7

Chapter 10: Vibhuti Yoga – The Yoga of the Divine in the Becoming

            We started the chapter differentiating Avatar and Vibhuti. Sampadananda ji gave the examples of Swami Vivekananda, Nepolean as Vibhutis. In this chapter Sri Krishna mentions about the different Vibhutis. He is representing in each aspect of the existence. For example, among the Aditya’s he is the Vishnu.. Among the Pandava’s he is Arjuna.. Among the rivers he is Ganges.. Among the Aksharas he is the sacred syllable OM.

In the light of Sri Aurobindo: for while we must identify ourselves impartially with the universal divine becoming, in all its extension, it’s good and evil, perfection and imperfection, light and darkness, we must at the same time realise that there is an ascending evolutionary part in it, an increasing intensity of its revelation in things, a hierarchy secret something that carries us upwards from the first counselling appearance through higher and higher forms towards the large ideal nature of the universal Godhead.

These are in a special sense Vibhutis. Yet the highest power and manifestation is only a very partial revelation of the infinite. There is no limit to His divine vibhutis. He is in all and he constitutes all, there is nothing else than He, nothing without Him. He is here in this world and everywhere, supporting this entire universe with an infinitesimal portion of His fathomless spirit. All these worlds are only sparks, partial revelations of the Infinite and Immeasurable Supreme. “Even the whole universe is informed by only one degree of his greatness, illumined by one ray of his splendour, glorious with a faint hint of his delight and beauty.” (p. 362).

The wise adore the Purushottama with an intense delight of love, they know him as the origin of everything and as one from whom all proceeds into development of action and movement. With their consciousness full of him, in a constant union with him, their life wholly given up to him, mutually talking about him, they live always in content and joy. From the moment that this inner state begins, even in the stage of imperfection, the Divine confirms it by granting them the perfect Yoga of the will and intelligence. He uplifts the blazing lamp of knowledge within them, destroys the ignorance of the separative mind and will, and stands revealed in the human spirit.

Day 8

Chapter 11: VishvarupaDarshana Yoga – The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Person

Can we imagine a form which holds the entire universe? All aspects in one place! Just like the face-book wall?  In this chapter because of Arjuna’s request Sri Krishna reveals his profound and supreme form. The description follows as many headed many mouthed, full of light, without any beginning, middle or end. He is the abode of all creature, all knower and eternal. He is one with whom the Sun and Moon shines.

The light of this body of God is such as if a thousand suns had risen at once in heaven. Arjuna sees all the worlds multitudinously divided and yet unified in this body of the God of Gods. Overcome with marvel and joy and fear he bows down and adores with words of awe and with clasped hands this tremendous vision. Arjuna is frightened to see his destructive form (kalarupa).

“Destruction, replies the Godhead, is the will of my workings with which I stand here on this field of Kurukshetra, the field of the working out of the Dharma, the field of human action… I have a foreseeing purpose which fulfills itself infallibly and no participation or abstention of any human being can prevent, alter or modify it; all is done by me already in my eternal eye of will before it can at all be done by man upon earth. I as Time have to destroy the old structures and to build up a new, mighty and splendid kingdom.” (p. 383).

Having seen the never-before-seen thousand-armed Universal Form of the Divine, Arjuna rejoices but his mind is also troubled with fear. He prays to Sri Krishna to show him that other form of His, the gracious four-armed form of divine Narayana with a crown and with His mace and discus, a humanised symbol of Godhead, the God who is so close to man and in man, the Charioteer of the battle and the journey.

The Gita again emphasises its teaching of the supremacy of bhakti. Only the rare highest souls can ever see the earlier Universal Form, says Sri Krishna. Neither the gods nor the ones performing Vedic rites, austerities, charity or sacrifice can see that form. It can be seen only by the bhakta who regards, adores and loves only the Supreme Divine in all things. “This vision can be reached only by the absolute adoration, the love, the intimate unity that crowns at their summit the fullness of works and knowledge. To know, to see, to enter into it, to be one with this supreme form of the Supreme becomes then possible, and it is that end which the Gita proposes for its Yoga.” (p. 394).

Day 9

Chapter 12: Bhakti Yoga – The Yoga of Devotion

The way and the bhakta – In the eleventh chapter the original object of the teaching has been achieved and brought up to certain completeness. What remains still to be said turn upon the difference between the current Vedantic view of spiritual liberation and the larger comprehensive freedom which the teaching of the Gita opens to the spirit. The twelfth chapter leads up to this remaining knowledge and the last six that follow develop it to a grand final conclusion.

Sri Krishna here gives many ways to reach to him.

Have you ever thought of Impersonal / Unmenifest form of the supreme – not limited to our own personal definition? Here we get to realise how we can have a glimpse of that Vast, unmanifest form which Arjuna has not experienced yet. The qualities we need to nurture to view the Lord in all the form is Adveshta, Daksha, Anapeksha, Aniketa. We were taken to a beautiful world on hearing the story of Parvati’stapasya. Also an important quality to be developed of living in the eternal silence of the psychic was illustrated with a story about the Buddha. Just imagine the bhava (feeling) of being totally united with the Krishna consciousness (being in me).

The Gita gives a beautiful description of the seeker whom the Divine, the Purushottama, holds as dear. One finds here the indispensable soul-qualities a seeker must develop to arrive at more perfect equality, faith and an inner freedom, the foundation for all perfection and liberation. He who has no egoism, no I-ness and my-ness, who is friendly and compassionate toward all beings and hates none, equal in pleasure and pain, patient and forgiving, always in control of the self with no desire, has a steady and unshakable will, resolve of the Yogin, and a love and devotion which gives up the whole mind and reason to the Divine, he is dear to the Divine. He by whom the world is not afflicted or troubled, who himself is not afflicted or troubled by the world, who is free from the agitated lower nature and from its waves of joy, fear, anxiety and resentment, he is held dear by the Divine.

He who desires nothing, is pure, skilful in all actions, indifferent to all that comes, not pained or afflicted by any happening, who has given up all initiative of action, he is dear to the Divine. He who neither desires the pleasant nor abhors the unpleasant, who feels neither joy for the pleasant outcome or sorrow for the unpleasant, who makes no distinction between fortunate and unfortunate happenings, he is dear to the Divine. He who is equal to friend and enemy, to honour and insult, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, grief and happiness, heat and cold, silent, content and well-satisfied with anything and everything, not attached to any person or thing, place or home, with mind firmly and constantly seated in the highest self and always fixed on the one divine object of his love and adoration, the Divine holds him dear.

The essence of Bhakti Yoga is given importance here floating in the river of Bhakti and attaining Him.  

Chapter 13: Kshetrakshetragnana-vibhag Yoga – The Yoga of The Field and its Knower

This chapter brings out the distinction between Purusha and Prakriti, Soul and Nature in the terms of the Sānkhya Philosophy. It is the basis on which the Gita rests its whole idea of the liberation and attaining conscious unity with the Divine. On the request of Arjuna, Sri Krishna teaches him what constitutes the Knower, the Known and the Knowledge.

Krishna beautifully describes that Kshetra literally means Field. Field consists of body, mind and Ahankara and the entire life. Field and kshetragna is the one who is known to the Kshetra.

Krishna elaborates his answer. The field consists of the one equal to likes and dislikes, pain and pleasure, who is above respect or insults and always forgiving and also always obsessed with desires, imbalanced/ restless in work, and in anything he does for selfish motive.

But the Adhyatma is the one who sees the Divine Reality behind the Kshetra. The Brahman has no beginning or end. He is All Pervading. He resides in every creature’s heart.

To answer the second question, Krishna explains how Prakriti is the sole reason for any action on the parts of the being. Who is the supporter of the true Prakriti? Prakriti acts according to the command of the Purusha. Because of prakriti there is a reason to act, pain and pleasure, and likes and dislikes.

There are two kinds of Prakriti, Para and Apara. Para is the prakriti transformed to the divine qualities while Apara is the lower nature consisting of desire, anger, pain and all the other dualities.

The Gita describes here the character, nature, source, deformations and powers of the Field. The indiscriminate unmanifest Energy; the five elemental states of matter; the ten senses and the one (mind), intelligence and ego; the five objects of the senses: these constitute the Field (kṣetram). Liking and disliking, pleasure and pain are the principal deformations of the Field.  Consciousness, collocation, persistence are the powers of the Field, common and universal powers at once of the mental, vital and physical Nature.

The imperishable supreme Self is without origin, is eternal and is not limited by the qualities, therefore, though seated in the body it does not act nor is affected by the action. As the all-pervading ether is not affected by reason of its subtlety, so the Self, seated everywhere in the body is not affected. As the one Sun illumines the entire earth, so the Lord of the Field, the supreme Self, illumines the entire Field. Perceiving with the eye of knowledge this difference between the Field and the Knower of the Field, and the by liberation of the embodied soul, the Purusha, from Prakriti, men attain to the Supreme.

Day 10
Chapter 14: Gunatraya-vibhaga Yoga – The yoga of The Three-fold Modes of Nature

We continued to the next chapter where the Gita now proceeds to work out its idea of the action of gunas (modes of nature), the ascension beyond the gunas and the culmination of the desireless work in Knowledge, where knowledge coalesces with Bhakti – knowledge, works and love made one – and it rises thence to its great finale, the supreme secret of self-surrender to the Master of Existence.

The imperishable dweller in the body is bound by the three gunas born of the Prakriti, sattwa, rajas and tamas. By its purity sattwa is a cause of light and illumination and produces no disease or suffering in the nature, but it binds by attachment to knowledge and attachment to happiness. The essence of rajas is attraction of liking and longing; it is a child of the soul’s attachment to the desire of objects, and therefore binds the embodied soul by attachment to works. Born of ignorance, tamas, deludes the embodied beings and binds by negligence, indolence and sleep. Sattwa attaches one to happiness, rajas to action, while tamas covers up the knowledge and attaches to negligence of error and inaction. Works done rightly lead to pure and sattwic outcome, pain results from rajasic works, and ignorance is the consequence of tamasic action.

These three gunas are present and active in all human beings, and none is free from any one of them. All men have these gunas in varying degrees and in variable combinations of their force, each subjecting them to its characteristic action and consequences. The three are also in a continual state of mutual interaction and impact – one having overpowered the others at any one time, another mode leading at another time.

To rise above the lower nature one must see these three modes or gunas of Nature as the whole cause and agency of our works, and one must know and turn to that which is above and beyond the gunas. The one who has transcended the three gunas has the following signs: no shrinking from the consequence of rising either of the three gunas nor any longing after them when they cease; remaining unshaken by the working of the gunas; standing apart from and above the motions of the gunas; regarding happiness and suffering alike; seeing gold and mud and stone as of equal value; seeing equally the pleasant and the unpleasant, praise and blame, honour and insult, friends and enemies; staying steadfast in a wise imperturbable and immutable inner calm and quietude; not initiating any action but leaving all works to be done by the gunas of Nature.

Sri Krishna says that one who loves and strives after Him, the Purushottama, with an undeviating love and adoration, also passes beyond the three gunas and is prepared for becoming the Brahman.

Chapter 15:PurushottamYoga

The Gita in this chapter brings us to its central thought, the idea of a triple consciousness, three and yet one, present in the whole scale of existence. After the silence, Sampadananda ji began the explanation of the beautiful image of the eternal and imperishable cosmic tree Ashwattha which has its original source above in the Eternal and its branches that extend both below in the material plane and above in the supraphysical planes. The real form and foundation of this cosmic tree, its beginning or its end cannot be perceived by us in this material world. The leaves of this tree are the hymns of the Veda, and one who knows this truth of existence is the Veda-knower.

By giving this beautiful analogy of Ashwattha, SriKrishna slowly guides Arjuna to his ultimate goal. He says that if with a strong sword of detachment he seeks the highest goal of uniting with the Brahman, he will not have a compulsion of returning to life again and again. He shows the steps how to be free from the lower nature (Maya), free from dualities of pain and pleasure, free of all desires and attachment and to be fixed in the pure spiritual consciousness. He also explains the Kshara form—the one who is all-pervading in all creatures, the perishable, and there is Akshara—the Immutable—who supports the Kshara for its play. But that is not all, there is One who is beyond Kshara and Akshara—The Purushottama, the Transcendental Lord, who can be attained by Bhakti.

The Divine Teacher declares here that an eternal portion of the Supreme Divine has become the Jiva in the world of living creatures, and it is that which cultivates the subjective powers of Prakriti, mind, and the five senses. This statement is of immense bearing and consequence, says Sri Aurobindo: “For it means that each soul, each being in its spiritual reality is the very Divine, however partial its actual manifestation of him in Nature. And it means too, if words have any sense, that each manifesting spirit, each of the many, is an eternal individual, an eternal unborn and undying power of the one Existence” (p. 445).

There is a twofold power of the Divine mystery in this world: the impersonal immutable and the personal mutable. The immutable or the Akshara Purusha is the eternal spirit which is always the same, never changed or affected by manifestation, the one, the stable and self-existent. This immutable stands above all in his immobility of eternal silence and calm. The mutable or Kshara Purusha is all the existences.

But beyond these two Purushas is the highest spirit called the supreme Self, the Purushottama, the imperishable Lord, who enters the three worlds and upbears them.

By knowing it and seizing it in mind one becomes perfected in transformed understanding, divinely satisfied in heart, and successful in the supreme sense and objective of all will and action and works.

Day 11

Chapter 16: Daivasursampadvibhaga Yoga

The Gita now proceeds to explain the psychological discipline by which our human and earthly nature can be transmuted. But first it prefaces the consideration of this enlightening movement by a distinction between two kinds of beings—the Devas and the Asuras. Sri Krishna bestowed lists of all the divine ‘divya’ qualities such as fearlessness, purity of temperament, calmness, absence of fault finding, compassion, absence of greed, etc., and after that he gave a long explanation of all the asuric qualities in humans. The entire psychology of human nature was beautifully and clearly explained in this part.

As Sampadananda ji started explaining the mindset of the asuric person, it revealed so much of the current mindset. Firstly, an asura thinks no one is more powerful than him, and with that temperament arises the sole goal of self-satisfaction at any cost. That leads to greed, violence, arrogance, hatred and wrath.

The Gita then speaks of the significance of organising and living one’s life as per the Shāstra. One who casts aside the rules of the Shāstra and instead follows the promptings of desire, does not attain to perfection, happiness and the highest soul-status. One must have Shāstra as the authority in determining what ought to be done or what ought not to be done.

Chapter 17: Shraddhatrayavibhaga Yoga

The Gita next gave an analysis of action in the light of the fundamental idea of the three gunas and the transcendence of them by a self-exceeding culmination of the highest sattwic discipline. In this chapter it lays special stress on Faith, shraddha, the will to believe and to be, know, live and enact the Truth as principal factor.

Continuing from the discussion of Chapter 16, Arjuna had a question regarding men with faith or nishtha in God when do not follow the rules of Shastra, what kind of faith drives them to action? Is it of Sattwic kind? Rajasic or Tamasic?

Sampadananda ji elucidated that the actions originated depended upon the faith each one carries within. Faith in each embodied soul carries all three gunas, with one or the other predominating. Sattwic faith is the one in which a man performs all his activities/duties with a balanced mind, without any desire of personal gains, and executed with the right principle. Sri Krishna explained even the kind of food sattwic, rajasic and tamasic person would choose to partake. Naturally the participants indulged in a lengthy discussion about kind of food that should be consumed. As Sri Krishna pointed out that tamasic people prefer cold, stale, and impure food as against sattwic men, who prefer the food which is fresh, simple and nourishing, some in the group wanted to know if refrigerated food would be considered tamasic? All of them had a good laugh about very tasty and fresh snacks they were getting during each session and how much food they devoured!

The discussion ended with the beautiful definition of shraddha given by Sampadananda ji: Shraddha, meaning holding on to what is true to one’s own inner aspiration. As shraddha is the central principle of our existence, the sacrifice or yajna, giving or dana and askesis or tapas done without it is a falsity and has no true meaning or true substance on earth or beyond, no reality, no power to endure or create in life here or after the mortal life in greater regions of our conscious spirit.

Day 12

Chapter 18 Mokshasannyasa Yoga

As Svadhyaya was approaching its finale, the participants looked forward to finding out the secret most (guhyatamam) knowledge being rendered by Sri Krishna in this chapter. It is one of the longest chapters, consisting of 78 verses (shlokas), fully explaining the philosophy, psychological analysis, teaching and the experience of the supreme consciousness. This chapter ultimately makes Arjuna ready to act according to the supreme will (Karishye Vachanam Tava).

The chapter starts again with Arjuna’s question of the difference between sanyasa and tyaga. Lord Krishna answered: Sanyasa means ‘an outer renunciation of the actions’, while Tyaga implies abandonment of all the attachment to action and detachment to the end results of one’s actions. The complete abandonment of any action is tamasic, giving up any action because it brings sorrow or difficulty is rajasic attitude, while performing an action because it has to be done without any attachment to the action or to the consequence of the action is a sattwic attitude.

He also continues explaining all the qualities, attitudes and mindset of a sattwic man, rajasic man and a tamasic man in detail. This immediately opened up the discussion of twisted and distorted mindset of humanity. After lengthy discussions, the group of participants concluded that each one carries within characteristics of all three attitudes, with one or two be predominant. It cleared lot of confusion and contradictions from the minds of the discussants.

Sri Krishna reinforced his teachings by saying that one should always perform all the actions in agreement of his/her nature. By performing all karma without attachment to the end result in all things, empty of desire, men attain a supreme perfection of Naishkarmya.

Following this teaching and by the God’s grace one passes safely through all the difficulties and dangers, but ignoring it simply because of one’s egoism brings a great fall, says Sri Krishna. “The refusal of Arjuna to persevere in his divinely appointed work proceeded from the ego sense in him, ahaṅkāra. …The spiritual consequences will be infinitely worse now than before, now that a higher truth and a greater way and spirit of action have been revealed to him, if yet persisting in his egoism he perseveres in a vain and impossible refusal. …He has been admitted to a higher consciousness, a new self-realisation, he has been shown the possibility of a divine instead of an egoistic action; the gates have been opened before him of a divine and spiritual in place of a merely intellectual, emotional, sensuous and vital life. He is called to be no longer a great blind instrument, but a conscious soul and an enlightened power and vessel of the Godhead.” (pp. 551-552).

The Teacher further speaks of the ‘secret of secrets’ for Arjuna’s highest good and also because Arjuna is the most dear, a chosen disciple. “For evidently, as had already been declared by the Upanishad, it is only the rare soul chosen by the Spirit for the revelation of his very body,…who can be admitted to this mystery, because he alone is near enough in heart and mind and life to the Godhead to respond truly to it in all his being and to make it a living practice.” (p. 555). This most secret teaching of Sri Krishna of the Gita, the Yogeshwar, the Purushottama, is this: “Become my-minded, my lover and adorer, a sacrificer to Me, surrender to Me, then to Me you shall come – this is my pledge and promise to you, for you are dear to Me. Abandon all dharmas and take refuge in Me alone, I will deliver you from all sin and evil, do not grieve.”

                        मन्मनाभवमद्भक्तोमद्याजीमांनमस्कुरु |

                        मामेवैष्यसिसत्यंतेप्रतिजानेप्रियोऽसिमे ||

                        सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्यमामेकंशरणंव्रज |

                        अहंत्वासर्वपापेभ्योमोक्षयिष्यामिमाशुचः ||

Sri Aurobindo expands on this mahavakya of the Gita: “…the Spirit and Godhead is an Infinite free from all dharmas and though he conducts the world according to fixed laws and leads man through his dharmas of ignorance and knowledge, sin and virtue, right and wrong, liking and disliking and indifference, pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow and the rejection of these opposites, through his physical and vital, intellectual, emotional, ethical and spiritual forms and rules and standards, yet the Spirit and Godhead transcends all these things, and if we too can cast away all dependence on dharmas, surrender ourselves to this free and eternal Spirit and, taking care only to keep ourselves absolutely and exclusively open to him, trust to the light and power and delight of the Divine in us and, unafraid and ungrieving, accept only his guidance, then that is the truest, the greatest release and that brings the absolute and inevitable perfection of our self and nature.” (pp. 558-59).

After telling these mantras to Arjuna, He says “I have never before, to anybody given this knowledge. He who will listen with full faith my saying will be liberated. Having heard this, has your delusion caused by ignorance been destroyed?”

Arjuna with an enlightened mind and heart said: “My delusion is destroyed, my memory is regained by your grace, I am firm, dispelled from all doubts. I am now ready to perform my duties in accordance with your word!”

Thus, the wonderful journey of Arjuna’s and the collective human consciousness culminated, with Sri Krishna leading patiently him and us along(with the patience of a mother, guru, and friend).

Yajna, Complete Bhagvad Gita Recitation and Concluding Session

On the last day of the Svadhyaya, with joy overflowing in our hearts and curiosity in our eyes, we started at 8 am from the Society House to Sharanam (A residential program venue of SAS situated 16 kilometers away from the city). As Sampadananda ji said a day before that whatever knowledge we had garnered in the previous 12 days, through this study camp, we would offer it in this yajna and pray to the Mother, Sri Aurobindo and Lord Krishna to enter our mind, fill our hearts with full devotion, and bless us with their presence during the yajna.

At Sharanam, workers were curious and yet helpful in setting up the hall for the yajna. For them all this ceremony was very welcome and wonderful as for the first time an auspicious event was taking place at their temple-like workplace.

After arranging the yajna samagree (articles) and decorating flowers and lighting the holy fire along with the mantras to invoke the Divine, Sampadananda ji began the recitation of mantras. Though the pronunciation and tone were not perfectly matching with Sampadanda ji, yet everybody seemed to be in bliss while joining him  in recitation. The whole atmosphere was vibrating with Gita chants and a sacred presence. After the completion of each chapter, one diya (earthen lamp) was lit. It was a beautiful view after completion of yajna to see those 18 diyas around the havana-kunda (the center of the ceremonial fire). Those were such enchanting hours that none of us could believe that in 2.5 hours the entire Bhagavad Gita recitation was done! Everyone experienced a deep-seated, profound happiness at that moment, and we were all in complete agreement that without Divine Grace the entire occasion couldn’t have been conducted and completed so smoothly. Thereafter, we offered purna-ahuti (final offering to the Divine) and pranam (salutation) to the yajna at the end, followed by a few moments of silent meditation and feeling of the vibrations of Gita.

It was lunch time! Basudev bhai and his team had arranged delicious and simple food and served it to all of us. After lunch we dispersed to meet again at 2 pm for concluding session. We all headed back to Pondicherry.

At the 2pm session, all participants were asked to raise their questions which they had in their minds. The discussion was much beneficial as it cleared a lot of doubts of the participants.

At the end of the session, Sampadananda ji recounted a beautiful story of Radha and Krishna.

Uddhava, a close friend of Krishna, was given the difficult task of conveying a message to Radha that Krishna is no more, that He has left His body. Uddhava goes to Vrindavan in deep sorrow and with much effort tells Radha that Krishna has left his earthly life. Hearing this from Uddhav, Radha laughs and laughs and finally says, “Who says Krishna is gone? I just met him today. He is here. He is everywhere.” Uddhava now understand the complete union of Krishna and Radha and also the intense love of Radha, in other words human for divine. She has already not just attained Krishna has become Krishna.

Report by SAFIC