Only Wisdom Will Save the World
In Book II Krishna has explained to Arjuna the essential value of the Knowledge of Wisdom. In Book III Arjuna is confused and asks why, if intelligent enlightenment is the better path, must he go to war against his own family and beloved teachers, Bhishma & Drona, and engage in terrible acts (III.1). Like any practical warrior or business man with a keen interest in efficiency, Arjuna demands that Krishna tell him ‘once and for all’ the correct way to reach the supreme good (III.2).
Krishna explains the two inseparable ancient paths to freedom (moksha) which have been taught by him, as the God within us all, throughout the Cycles of Time. One is Samkhya, the Yoga of Knowledge as Wisdom (jnana-yoga), and the other is Karma Yoga, the Yoga of Action (III.3). In Abhinagupta’s commentary, the great Kashmir Saivite reminds us that knowledge and action are integral; they merge and fuse to operate as one coalescing system.
Krishna then makes the conspicuous point that no human being can remain for one single moment without being forced to perform some act, even if it is against our will (karyate hyavasah karma). We are all subject to the perpetually shifting gunas born of Prakriti, our material nature (III.5). How often we say, “Oh, that is just my nature!” when we need to excuse our behavior.
It is hypocritical (mithyacaras) of us to sit unmoving in some stunning yogic posture, pretending to be lost in nirvana, while thoughts of our suppressed desires are churning around the objects of the senses.
Prakriti’s Three Gunas: Sattva, Rajas, & Tamas
The gunas are the three forces of Nature (Prakriti). In Sanskrit, guna means ‘cord’ – as in a rope, that which binds, or as a bowstring that creates tension to compress waveforms. The gunas are forces that serve to distinguish you as an individual piece of God and therefore purposively ‘limit’ you from the infinite and immutable immensity.
In the first Cycle of Time, the Satya Yuga or Golden Age, the gunas would have served us well as instruments of exploration in time and space. But as the cycles move further into density and the solidification of the world, the gunas become – at least to my mind – more like goons! The Hindi word for thug, or the mafia guy who beats up the suckers, is ‘goonda’ and I can’t help amusing myself by associating these two words. These days the gunas compel more often than they serve.
Disconnected from our Source, as we are here in the Kali Yuga, the gunas have become those polarity limitations we all falsely identify as ‘who & what’ we are. Our gunas are those endlessly multiplying and repeating downward cycles of the same-old-same-old and by now, very boring experiences inevitably leading you to that infamous brick wall. There hopefully, you are at long last forced to think, to rethink, and confront the in-your-face factoid that you are in a heinous rut that is growing progressively more unpleasant.
Your pain is a warning, an alarm, and you must confront the delusion – for it is delusional to imagine that you, as the small identity ego-self, can affect anything! As long as you believe and ‘think’ that you are separate from the God-within, the Self-Atma, then you have no power to control the wild-horse gunas – yours or anyone else’s! The gunas are on automatic.
The three GUNAS are:
SATTVA – illuminating, binds the souls by means of an attachment to joy and an attachment to knowledge.
RAJAS – are characterized by passion, arises from an attachment to craving and binds the soul by an attachment to action (activity, restlessness, enterprise and greed).
TAMAS – arises from ignorance and deludes the embodied souls and binds through absentmindedness, sloth, and sleep (obscurity, indolence, neglect and delusion arise when ‘tamas’ prevails). My intuition tells me that ‘tamas’ is the waveform generated by the EMFs coming off our TVs, which reportedly place most in a depressed state within 15 minutes!
For those of you who understand astrology, SATTVA is correlated to the mutable signs, RAJAS to the cardinal, and TAMAS to the fixed. The four elements of air (touch), fire (sight), water (taste), and earth (smell) play through the GUNAS in a multiplicity of variations. A fifth element, ETHER, pervades the other four, and corresponds to hearing and sound; thus the universe is emitted from sound as pulsating waveforms.
Yantra-Rudhani: Mounted on a Machine
The gunas are described as being like a machine - the Yantra-Rudhani (XVIII.61). As a function of Prakriti, they have been set into motion through imbalance. Their current configuration is a composite blueprint for this life and the result of our previous thoughts, which produced the events (acts) of our many lives.
Our individual human nature is said to be the result, in particular, of our thoughts just before we die - which are most likely to reflect the cumulative essence of whatever was of primal importance to us in that life. This metaphysical knowledge provides us with a reasonable encouragement to practice disciplining the mind while we are healthy and not in distracting terminal pain.
We all are compelled to engage in actions. We have to eat and exercise, however moderately, to maintain the body and the mind is a category-five hurricane difficult to subdue. No one can escape the power of the gunas. They are created by God to veil Its Self in Time and Matter. They have to be powerful in order to make the God-within imagine that It is limited and identify with the small personal self as you and me.
In this Twilight of the Kali Yuga, as you may have noticed, the small identity ego-self you falsely imagine you are, is not in control of these gunas - which are in fact generating your temporal illusory hologram. Until you reconnect with the God-within you, the real Self-Atma, you will never control the gunas or Become the master of your thoughts, actions, and being.
Krishna tells us that no matter what we think we are doing, we in fact do nothing (V.9). Our perception of reality is only the reception of the impulse waveforms of the five senses operating on their objects. It is not a matter of a judgment call of right or wrong when it comes to being attached to the results or fruits of your actions. It is delusional! It is delusional to believe that the small ego-self is the ‘doer’ and such a belief will draw your consciousness further down into density. The wise Know they do nothing! The only ‘Doer’ is the God-within, the Self-Atma.
Yajna: Sacrifice as Altruism & the Regard for Others
The wise learn to control the gunas’ five senses with the mind and practice non-attachment. Krishna tells Arjuna that Yajna, meaning sacrifice, is the only act that does not bind us in the hologram (III.9-10). The Indian scholar, Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair, interprets Yajna as altruism, meaning the regard for others that produces acts of selfless sacrifice, no matter how small, which are ‘free from narrowly personal attachment’ and carry no desire for reward or recognition (The Betrayal of Krishna). I like this understanding of the word Yajna - and in any case, it is certainly more applicable in our own times.
There is in Hinduism the subtle, enlightening, and intriguing thought that this universe is itself God’s Sacrifice. Everything is God, and God permeates All, therefore we are in effect breathing, eating, and standing on God. The universe is holographic and there is no thing that is not God. Through the wonderfully illusive power of Maya, the Creator has transformed Its Oneness into Multiplicity in what must be the ultimate supernal altruism.
Perhaps it is true, as some have suggested, that God not only sacrifices Its Self into form for the enjoyment (bhoga) of experiencing Time and Space - perhaps God also in some deeply mysterious way needs us, you and me!
What brings us happiness ...
Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair carries this ideal of sacrifice as altruism further by translating Krishna’s words (III.11-12) to mean that altruistic behavior to both deity and our fellow human beings will bring us the highest welfare (sreyas; also means bliss and happiness). We do however have the freedom to deny this ideal way of living, which Krishna plainly states will bring us the greatest happiness, and we may choose to behave selfishly. But if we make the choice to act altruistically in partnership with God, not only will we benefit, but the entire world will also share in the higher consciousness we Become.
My experience is that God loves surprise and when we work in an altruistic way, the God-within works with us in those, often quoted, mysterious ways. ‘Deity fulfills himself only when creation is helped to evolve to perfection, and this needs partnership and reciprocal support of both man and deity.’ (Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair)
The hologram generated by such altruistic sacrificial acts is free from the sin of attachment. However your freedom to reject the tender offer of ‘partnership’ and live only for your own selfish needs, out of fear and greed, will lead you on the path of the adventure of delusion. In the illusion of separation, you slip further into unconsciousness, ignorance of your true nature, and bondage to your desires (III.13). That’s simply the way this universe, the mechanistic yantra-rudhana, and Prakriti’s gunas are programmed. Those are the rules.
Do as you please ...
My understanding is that in the same way no one would ever want to force another to fall in love with them, God would never make any of the pieces of Its Self return to their Source before they make the choice for themselves. It is always up to you. The choice to Remember who you are is always waiting, and there is an intimately sweet dance between hard spiritual work and Divine Grace.
The God within you never abandons you. If the God within you left, your soul would have left your current body and you would be dead. God is always patiently waiting for Its bits of Self, you and me as apparent multiplicity, to turn and recognize our own divinity and come Home. This is our freedom. We always have this freedom to choose, no matter how low we go.
Later on in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna will tell Arjuna that he must reflect upon and evaluate what he has been told for himself, come to his own decision - and then ‘do as you are pleased to do’ (J.A.B.van Buitenen, XVIII.63).
इति ते ज्ञानमाख्यातं गुह्याद्गुह्यतरं मया .
विमृश्यैतदशेषेण यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु .. १८- ६३..
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṃ guhyād guhyataraṃ mayā
vimṛśyaitad aśeṣeṇa yathecchasi tathā kuru 18.63
This is a far cry from the finger-waging dogma and endless rules that threaten the excruciating torments of hell. In their unreasonable tyranny, these rigid and dire dictates have little lasting effect, beyond making us wonder in bewilderment if God is a being one would want to be with! Krishna is telling Arjuna to think for himself.
An Ecological Axiom
Beings live from food and food is produced from rain, rain from sacrifice and sacrifice from action (III.14). Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair reads this verse as ‘the grand teleology of the natural processes that sustain life.’ Teleology means that all things in Nature have a purpose and happen because of that.
Krishna’s words might be interpreted as an ecological axiom in the sense that the right and balanced use of Earth’s resources is necessarily based on a considered intelligence that emerges out the regard for others living on the planet. Without this regard for the future needs of all, without acts of altruism, the thoughtless and selfish shortsighted consumption of our world’s precious natural resources is leading us to the brink of possible extinction.
God is perpetually ‘sacrificing’ Its Being, in the sense of transforming Its Oneness into multiplicity, to create the holographic universe - therefore the all pervading (sarvagatam) One remains ever in Yajna. God has set a precedence for us to emulate and Krishna tells Arjuna in no uncertain terms (III.16) that the one who does not contribute to the turning of the wheel, the ‘work of sustaining the world’ (Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair), who lives only for his own pleasure and the sense-delights (indriyaramas), lives a useless life - lives in vain.
Running from your Dharma ...
After the catastrophic 18 day war is over, Arjuna’s brother, Yudhisthira, is overwhelmed by grief and a sense of deep regret. The battlefield is covered with the rotting dead, including his beloved teachers, Bhishma and Drona; and king Yudhisthira has learned for the first time that Karna, who was killed by Arjuna, was in fact his older brother and as Kunti’s first born son, had the legitimate right to the throne. Yudhisthira vows to abandon everything and go to the forest. His kingdom and wealth are bitter rewards to him now. He will become a beggar, a mendicant, and taking a vow of silence, ‘walk in the way pointed out by Knowledge’ (Shanti Parva; M.N. Dutt).
‘Like a person reluctant to forgive an insult,’ Arjuna tries to conceal his anger with a false smile and accuses his brother of ‘fickleness of heart.’ He reminds Yudhisthira that if he should abandon his duties as king, ‘dishonest men will despoil sacrifices’ and ‘That sin will certainly contaminate you.’
With the understanding of ‘sacrifice’ as altruism and a regard for others (Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair), we can clearly identify what has become epidemic in our own time. When those with a sincere dedication to integrity do not take part in government, the ones motivated by their own personal self-interest and ego move in and take over. Like thieves rushing into an unguarded treasury, the egotistical crass and greedy prevail.
The further implication of Arjuna’s admonishment of Yudhisthira, which hopefully he learned from Krishna’s Gita, is - ‘That sin will certainly contaminate you.’ Those who are gifted with the ability to govern, to mediate in crisis, to inspire others through their integrity, and yet who run from the responsibility of their Dharma are as harmed as those they abandon. This applies, in my view, to all God-given talents and is the reason Krishna urges us all to live fully our own Dharma, meaning the metaphysical Law we are born to. There is a similarity here to one of my favorite teachings of Jesus, the Parable of the Talents.
The Universe is Desire/Kama - Not Suffering
This universe - and there are many others - was not created so that we might endure endless suffering. Life is not only suffering. God is not so cruel and heartless as to give us only one life and on the basis of that one life, condemn us to an eternity of hell, or despite the disparity of the circumstances of birth, reward us with eternal heaven. The universe is a product of Desire/Kama.
Near the end of the Mahabharata (The Ashvamedhika Parva; M.N. Dutt), Krishna reveals again the way to liberation; this time to Yudhisthira. Krishna explains that it is Desire (Kama) that motivates all acts. Without desire there would be no actions, no will towards accomplishment, no motivation to perform deeds. This is the piece of the hologram that consumer capitalism has fully grasped; but its shallow understanding is skewed because it is partial and ultimately not based in metaphysical reality. This world can only return to the Satya Yuga when human consciousness is rooted in primordial metaphysics.
Krishna cites an ancient verse, the Kama Gita, to Yudhisthira. Kama, the entity, describes how amazingly powerful he is and how he is able to take any form to deceive those who seek to destroy him. To delude, he can appear as the ‘most virtuous creature’ or take the form of ‘asceticism in the mind’ or insinuate himself in our thoughts in subtle and imperceptible ways so that his presence is not perceived. Kama says that he is ‘the everlasting one without an equal, whom no creature can kill or destroy.’
Krishna ‘accepts that abiding nature of desire as the prior-existing dynamic of all action’ (Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair). Desire motivates all acts.
Omniscient all-pervading God veils Its Self in the temporal illusory hologram through the powers of Kama (Desire) and Maya (creative illusion), to enjoy (bhoga) the adventure of Remembrance, Self Realization, and Becoming in Mankind. The small personal identity self ego cannot overwhelm these powers, for Desire is ‘the limbs of the mind.’ However you can realize that your desires are a function of the Veil and not the real you. Reconnecting to the Real, the God within you through the experience of Union (Yoga), you will master the control of your mind, your thoughts and desires, and acquire the skill of action without attachment.
Lokasamgraha: The Well-Being of the World
Our current world is desperate for men and women of integrity who understand sacrifice as the concern for others, and because they have realized that the Self within them is the very same Self that dwells within all beings (sarvabhutatma-bhutatma; V.7), they would find their greatest happiness in working for the well-being of the world (lokasamgraha). Such men and women would rejoice in the welfare of all creatures (sarvabhutathite ratah; XII.4), and the world would begin to heal and flourish once again.