Who are You? The Deeper Meaning
Krishna has warned Arjuna that those who chase only after the gratification of the senses, live in vain (III.16). Lost in the myriad of holographic illusions, they fall under the influence of those who have partial and limited knowledge. Like attracts like. Ignorant of their true state, these lost souls are cut off from the bliss consciousness that is always waiting within.
They run from one sense object to the next, empty and desperate, always hoping that this money or that person, another possession or one more ambition, will bring the happiness that eludes them repeatedly.
Amrita: The ever-present Nectar
The feeling that is produced from the closeness, contact, and ineffable intimacy with the God within you is subtle. Yes, there are ecstatic moments and experiences that will change you forever; but the ever-present nectar (amrita) must be recognized over the glare of the five senses and this power filled sweetness requires a vigilant cultivation.
Krishna says that just as the contact of the senses on their objects initially seems like nectar, but in the end feels like poison - so it is that these subtle feelings of happiness (sattva) which, because they must be tenderly nourished and cherished through your devotion to disciplined practice, in the beginning feel like poison, but in the end become nectar (XVIII.37-38)
Suffused in the nectar of the God-within, we no longer feel compelled to grab for those external illusory desires to fill up our empty heart. We no longer need more - more money, more things, more lovers, more inebriation, more external gratification of the senses. Our compulsions subside and we understand that all our lives, we have been under the tyrannical sway of our own self-created guna-maya.
We are no longer ‘mounted on a machine’ and compelled by the perpetually revolving Yantra-Rudhani to act unconsciously. There is no longer any need to do anything nor is there any need to do nothing! Now we only act as the purposeful wholehearted expression of the God-within, and without any attachment or expectation (III.17-18).
We no longer need any other being to give us what we lack, because we lack nothing and therefore are truly not dependent on others for ‘any purpose whatsoever’ (Winthrop Sargeant; III.18). We cease to be needy. We transform from whining energy vampires, always trying to force others to give us what we need and live up to our expectations, into sovereign beings who emit the frequency of limitless peaceful power that quietly nurtures others.
This experience of realizing you no longer need anyone does not mean that you will be alone for the rest of your life. Once you are united with God, you are never alone. And there can be many people in your life, many relationships; but you will no longer be dependent on them for your happiness. Your happiness will come from within. You will be ‘contentented in the Self alone’ (III.17).
Why do anything?
So now that you have achieved the experience of union with the God-within and are Becoming accustomed to feeling and living with real Knowledge, the question is why do anything? Why not simply seek higher and higher states of bliss consciousness and isolated, live in various nirvana-like states for the rest of your life. This is an image that has been fed to us in the West as a kind of mystical ideal and one that I myself was actively pursuing until I read the scholar, Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair, who opened my heart to the deeper truth of Lord Krishna’s song.
Krishna tells Arjuna that if he, Krishna, did not perform actions, the universe itself would collapse (III.23-24). As God realized in man, there is no need for Krishna to do anything for himself. He certainly is not needy! But he understands that as an enlightened being he sets a powerful example and thus he acts without attachment to sustain the lokasamgraha, the welfare of the world (III.25). Abhinavagupta in his commentary points out that the enlightened must act because their inactivity will bring harm to those who have yet to become purified by Knowledge (Boris Marjanovic).
Think of it this way - we all are pieces of the Creator who manifested this universe for the purpose of enjoyment (bhoga) in the veiling and then revealing of our true being. It is clear that in spite of our current lack of consciousness and general tendency to depression, we love this world, we love the Earth and everything she affords us. Since we created this world for our own enjoyment, why would we abandon it to return and remain in the state of Bliss that is our eternal ‘normal’ state? Bliss consciousness is always there for us - always!
Once we have learned to access the power of the Bliss within, through knowledge and meditation, we then have access to the wisdom and authentic power to live in a way that will bring our beloved world back into alignment with Truth and a higher consciousness. We will regain the Knowledge of the now invisible workings of this universe and our relationship to it. We will relearn the ancient Wisdom Knowledge of those eternal primordial metaphysical principles that are always functioning to produce the four Cycles of Time, so that we may in human form enjoy our excursions into Time and Space.
Enlightenment is not escapism
As enlightened beings we do not abandon the world in some blissed-out state of meditative escape from our responsibilities. This has been perpetuated by gurus and those who misinterpreted Krishna’s words, and was a terrible legacy for my own generation who thought that ‘turn on and drop out’ was their highest purpose. Many of them perished in that confusion; some were ones I loved dearly.
In The Betrayal of Krishna, the Indian scholar Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair makes a clear case that Lord Krishna’s message in the Bhagavad Gita has been misunderstood. His book is a very precise and exact detailed study of those who followed in Krishna’s footsteps, from the court poets to Sankara and others.
We are not intended to abandon this world. Yes the universe is a temporal illusory hologram, but that does not mean that we abandon it or that it is our religious duty to escape back into that same Bliss consciousness from which we emerged to dive into multiplicity.
See God in Every Eye
Once you realize that the God that dwells within your heart is the very same God that is in every man, woman, and child on this planet - you will understand that whatever you do for them, you do for your Self. Your greatest happiness will lie in acts that serve the God within you and therefore the God within All.
Enlightenment is an ongoing movement, an always deepening and ever increasing state that never ends. God has no end. What you do as you Become more and more enlightened is totally up to you, and between you and the God within you. You will Know what your path is. It will feel right.
As enlightened men and women, we do not need to wear arcane and mysterious robes that set us apart from others. We need not display ourselves conspicuously in a public place, covered in crystals and feathers, our hair unkempt and matted, while we repetitiously chant inscrutable words. Nor do we engage in any other kind of behavior that isolates us in a kind of superior priestly pride, intrusively declaring - I know and you do not! This path is more comparable to say Superman disguised as Clark Kent and we are the secret agent of the God within, working unobtrusively and selflessly for the well being of the world (lokasamgraha).
Passion without attachment: We do nothing!
Krishna advocates a course of action that is no different in intensity and passionate dedication than those acts performed by the ignorant, who have not yet understood metaphysical truth and whose desires compel them to fulfill personal ambition. The difference lies in consciousness. Those who are enlightened act without attachment and for the good of the world (lokasamgraha), not merely for their own self-centered ego gratification (III.25).
As enlightened beings, we acquire the art of remaining in a state of non-attachment to whatever we do because we have realized that we, in fact, do nothing! Those who are deluded by the cyclical play of pleasure and pain (sukha-duhkha) in the external hologram imagine, ‘I am the doer!’ (kartaham iti manyate; III.27). The gunas are always working on and among the gunas - rajas shifting tamas, tamas pressing down on sattva, etc., etc. The wise know that all actions are only Prakriti's three gunas acting and interacting, propelled by the power of Maya’s creative illusion.
We learn to recognize that the Self (Atma), the God-within, is distinct from and remains eternally untouched by Prakriti’s guna-maya. Through an unrelenting vigilance, we must work to prevent our consciousness from being muddled and confused by the wild-horse whirlwind gunas of those who live and work around us. This includes the mass consciousness generated by the media on television and now through the computer.
Surrender all actions to God
Krishna gives Arjuna a method to achieve this state of acting in the hologram without attachment. He tells his dear friend, ‘Surrender all actions to me.’ In other words, to the God-within (III.30).
If you are worried that it might be impossibly arduous to think of God in every act you do, in every moment of your life, simply remember that God is Everything. There is nothing that is not God, therefore every action you take in each moment of time is in fact God. The distinction here is that you maintain conscious awareness of what is already true in any case, by surrendering whatever you do to the God-within you, the Self (Atma).
Maintaining your consciousness in this state requires the courage of a warrior. Abhinavagupta’s commentary suggests that our dedication to selfless acts without attachment may be compared to one who is fighting a war. Only when our consciousness is firmly established in the knowledge that we are not the ‘doer’ will be we free from the bondage that action performed with attachment creates, and we will no longer lose Remembrance of who we are in the temporal illusory hologram. Then we are Home!
The User’s Manual
Once you come to an understanding of the three gunas, you will begin to observe how they have controlled not only your own life, but the lives of everyone. Observing the mechanics of the gunas with a relentless and keenly critical intelligence is the key to understanding the Yoga of Knowledge (Samkhya), and in my view the reason why many western interpretations of eastern metaphysics fail when put into practice.
Until you read the user’s manual and fully comprehend the mechanics of consciousness, there is no way to finally liberate your being from the inexorable laws of Nature (Prakriti). You and every other living being acts according the perpetual fluctuations, set into motion through imbalance, of the gunas acting on the gunas (III.33).
Nature (Prakriti) is the Matrix of this universe and all beings are subject to her laws. This applies to the beings who live in the Myriad Realms, and therefore the so-called extraterrestrials or any other being in any other world. Even those who are enlightened in this world are subject to the gunas; but through self-critical observation and non-attachment to their actions, they learn to free themselves from the enslavement of the gunas’ compulsions and Become their Master.
‘Who will stop them?’
Prakriti is the Matrix of Power (Shakti) that sets creation into being and no one could possibly master her awesome forces without this knowledge. Those who remain in ignorance of their Real Self, and who are unaware of the gunas power to compel them here and there in the most unconscious manner, have no choice but to follow her laws. Nothing could restrain them (III.33), or as J.A.B van Buitenen puts it in a more colorful translation: ‘Who will stop them?’
सदृशं चेष्टते स्वस्याः प्रकृतेर्ज्ञानवानपि .
प्रकृतिं यान्ति भूतानि निग्रहः किं करिष्यति .. ३- ३३..
sadṛśaṃ ceṣṭate svasyāḥ prakṛter jñānavān api
prakṛtiṃ yānti bhūtāni nigrahaḥ kiṃ kariṣyati 3.33
Surely all of us at some time have tried in vain to convince another that the course they were on was wrong-headed and self-destructive. No matter how hard we tried to show them the error of their thinking, he or she remained unconvinced and stubbornly moved towards their own personal catastrophe.
I am equally certain that many of us have endeavored to stop our own behavior that we knew only brought us over and over to the same abyss of pain. And yet somehow again and again we forget, as though in some strange fog, lost in a miasma of amnesia, we do precisely what we have always done and end up cruelly in the same lonely empty place. As Krishna says, ‘Who will stop them?’
To Thine Own Self Be True
Krishna tells Arjuna that it is better to perform your own Dharma, even if you do so imperfectly, than to imitate the Dharma of another (III.35). This is similar to Shakespeare’s, ‘To thine own self be true.’ Dharma is a very subtle word that has multiple meanings. I interpret Dharma here as the Law of Being , a sort of personal blueprint, that we bring with us into every life and that is solely unique to us. Our Dharma is always changing and as the cumulative result of all our many lives, is reflected in the DNA of our current body. Part of our life’s purpose is to discover our own Dharma and to live it. Krishna says that death is better than attempting to live another’s Dharma. The door to our enlightenment lies in living our own Dharma.
One of the most destructive influences in our modern world is the epidemic need people have cultivated to be like the rich and the famous. From movies stars to moguls, in our worship of fame we have become a culture of fandom - and fandom is a very insidious and dangerous energy.
Nothing removes you from your Self quite so efficiently as fandom. The word itself is derived from fanatic, which the Oxford Etymological Dictionary defines as the religiously insane. Being a fan requires and implies that you are focused on some external being or value that only represents you in fantasy. Fandom is all about illusions and delusion. There are some interesting and rather frightening books about fandom; the internet has brought fandom to a new level.
I do understand loving someone who at least on the surface is gifted, beautiful, and blessed with good fortune. But the image of these people that is projected through the media is completely false. Image is all about money and based solely on the need of those parasites who benefit monetarily, and does not necessarily reflect the real nature of the person. Therefore fandom is from the beginning based in falsehood. Movie stars are particularly vulnerable to fandom because such a skewed perception of their lives has a tendency to distort their own sense of self and in the long run is often devastatingly injurious.
Fandom carries with it a kind of carnivore’s delight. The word for this is ‘Schadenfreude’ and means that we take pleasure in the misery of another. All who have been elevated by fame know how quickly the mood of their fans can change to hatred and derision. Anger at their own emptiness, and the sheer amount of time spent, makes fans feel that they have the right to rage and rant against the one who fails them. Fans place their ‘stars’ on pedestals and ruthlessly tear them down again.
Being a fan can prevent you from ever having to look into your own heart and mind, and discover who you might be. Wanting to be rich and famous like whoever you idolize will surely distract you from directing your attention to your own God-given talents, which require time, effort, and your tender care to grow and bloom.
This loss of Self also applies to advertising which thrives on herding people into product identification. You can only be cool if you buy the same products as this or that famous movie star or athlete. Does the media realize how thoroughly such subliminal indoctrination crushes the spirit and soul? Or are they just as caught up in the pernicious repercussions of this ubiquitous mendacity as the general public.
The Deeper Meaning: Who Are You?
Krishna says that death is better than trying to live another’s Dharma (III.35). I say that in many ways, our current times are a kind of living death. A million possessions, the latest electronic gizmos or whatever, will not open the door to your inner being and give you what we all of truly want. We all want and need meaning in our life.
Be true to yourself no matter what that may bring and you will find your way Home. Follow your own Path! Mimicking others will only bring you anger and frustration. Your Dharma is your path; it holds the key for you to your enlightenment.