What are the indications that spiritual practices are in progress in an individual?
After consistent spiritual practice one can experience the reduction of likes & dislikes and all negative tendencies, emotions like anger, jealousy, hatred, animosity. The foremost if the elimination of fear leading to an experience of inner peace no matter what happens around that person with a sense of complete fulfillment and contentment on a continuous basis, Such a person is not perturbed at all by any situation or person for that one is not leaning on anything by himself. This can only be experienced. (‘He’ simply means any human without any gender reference).
Explain action and inaction as explained in Chapter 4 of Gita
In Sanskrit, karma is action, akarma is inaction. A realized person sees it differently than an ordinary person.
Karma is of prakriti, everything in this universe including body and mind has to always act due to the three gunas, called sattvic, rajasic or tamasic state throughout their existence. Beings just cannot be without action or else they would only be a corpse.
Whereas akarma is of the ‘presence’ in each body, a witness and its reflection on the intellect gives the inert body & mind the power to act. Atma or the presence animates the body & mind.
Gita gives the example of a moving train when the tree appear to be moving when in reality is stationary. This is seeing karma in akarma, action in inaction, due to the ignorance. Atman is compared to the tree and the body & mind to the train.
Another example would the sun and the moon, which are stationary, appears to be moving, due to the rotation of the earth. We say the sun rises and sets. This is also an example of seeing the karma in akarma, action in inaction.
That’s why when people say ‘I am doing this or that’. This ‘I’ here refers to the body and not the ‘presence’ that activates the inert body and mind, when in fact the real ‘I’, presence or Self, atman is still as a witness. The ignorant mis-identify themselves with the active body and mind. This is an example of seeing karma in akarma, action in inaction.
Another example would be seeing a ship in a far of distance as stationary when it is really moving. This is seeing akarma in karma, action in inaction.
We tend to say that the body and mind are resting though the activities are in fact happening all the time. Even when they seem to be at rest, both & mind are still functioning (karmic) and they cannot be without action due to the gunas. This is seeing akarma in karma, inaction in action.
We often say we’re sitting in the living room resting, not doing anything, when in reality there’s a constant movement due to the rotation of the earth. That’s seeing akarma in karma.
Even if one is sitting without acting, as long as the doership & the ego is present
When I travel in a plane from point A to point B, you say, ‘I flew and and I am tired’ this is because of your identification with the body. Your ‘presence’ did not perform anything. The plane was moving. Whatever this body & mind were doing does not affect the atman. This is seeing the karma in akarma, action in inaction.
During the mahabharata war, Sri Krishna is riding the chariot for Arjuna, and presents Gita when Arjuna refuses to fight. Here though Arjuna refuses to fight, he is still in action, agitated. Given a chance he will run away from the warfront or with more guidance he will fight. We can see karma in akarma, action in inaction. Sri Krishna on the contrary is riding, advising and appears to be karmic when in reality we can see Him being calm & composed, a state of akarmic/inaction, for he is not affected by the results of his discourse whether Arjuna listens to him or not.
How does an individual transform with the scriptural studies leading to Self knowledge?
Competition ~ rivalry for supremacy ~ Ex: “I want t be the best’, ‘I want to be the first’ Jealousy ~ resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another’s success or advantage itself ~ Ex: “I don’t like see you being better than me’, ‘I don’t like the fact that you are making more money than me, or you live in America while I am in India, or You are happy with your family, while my family is struggling’ Envy ~ a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc ~ ” I would like to be as slim as you are or I want to be like you in power, position or authority or I wonder why I can do what you can’.
In competition, one puts forth efforts to come up or keep up or overtake another. A jealous person pulls down the other and an envious person neither makes efforts to go up or try to pull down the successful person. His is a feeling of discontent. These are normal in people.
Whereas a realized person has realized that he is not the doer and therefore is also not attracted to the material world. He neither compares nor competes. He has no attachment or anxiety about the results of the actions which he performs for, he is not leaning on anything outside of him in the ephemeral life. Therefore he is equanimous in any situation. Thus a person with in the spiritual path transforms from a person of likes & dislikes to a person with equanimous state of mind.
Explain Sadhanas, their importance with examples.
Sadanas are spiritual practices, these are the means to purify the mind of negativity, identification of jivan, and its existence, clarity in thinking to understand the real and unreal.
For Ex: we can see the reflection of sun in the pond or lake only when it is clear. If the lake is not clear or moving, then the reflection is either multiple with bits & pieces or vague. Only very clear water body can reflect AS IS.
A clear, fine tuned mind is absolutely needed for worldly success and particularly necessary for spiritual growth. Gita ch 4 verse 26-30 offer a variety of sadanas to be in that state of mind. To name a few… puja (idol/ideal behind the idol worship), prarthana (prayers), parayana (reading scriptures), tirtha yatra (pilgrimage or visiting holy places), japa (repetition of mantras). All these spiritual practices must be performed with devotion and consistency to attain that state. The consistent practice of these yogas help an individual to be ready for jnana yoga, the highest of yogas..
Describe spiritual knowledge for a novice.
Spiritual knowledge is very different than secular knowledge like Physics, Chemistry or Biology. One can understand these subjects by reading and experimenting.
Spiritual knowledge is beyond, reading. This needs to be listened to with complete dedication, willingness to learn, commitment to practice what is learnt and be able to ask questions to clarify any doubt.
One cannot win it by logical and analytical thinking for It is beyond thinking and it is beyond the intellect. One cannot assume, infer, conclude, deduce or extrapolate. There is a strong possibility that the scriptures could be misunderstood and not understood at all. That’s why a guru is absolutely necessary to the seeker of spiritual knowledge. Literal meaning could be very different than what is intended for, in scriptures and needs explanation.
There is a quote, ‘When the student is ready the teacher appears’. When one sincerely seeks this spiritual knowledge, the guru comes in one’s life. This guru would be sincere, well versed in scriptures & rooted in the spiritual knowledge. This guru is a realized soul. The seeker should proceed to the guru with humbleness and a surrendering attitude with intense faith that the guru knows the best. If one is not satisfied with a particular guru, can move on until one is comfortable with the answers.
It is important to ask question to understand than challenge the knowledge of the guru. Consistent interaction and asking questions to clarify doubts is possible only with a guru as a guide, mentor.
How is it that a realized master’s “doing” and “not doing” are both considered ‘inaction’?
This is a very important concept in the study of Vedanta, in fact this is the foundation for a strong building.
Ch 4 verse 18 mentions this and verse 19-24 explains the concept in detail.
When we are sitting in a moving train the trees appear to be moving when in fact they are stationary, This is an example of seeing the action in inaction. (seeing karma in akarma). On the contrary, when we stand in the oceanfront and see the ship far away from us, it appears to be stationary when in fact, it is moving. (this is seeing akarma in karma or inaction in action). We don’t perceive the universe AS IS.
Similarly, the Realized master may appear to be active in the transactional world but he is not perturbed from within. He is ‘shanta swaroobi’, meaning in peace from within for he knows he is only the witness of everything that is happening around him. His body maybe doing activities but he is still inactive from inside. He acts for the benefit of others, without expecting anything for himself. He is contented in his own Self and his inner peace does not lean on anything outside of himself.
Jnanis (Realized masters) could be either in pravriti, meaning acting in the transactional life (Swami Vivekananda and Swami Chinmayananda) or nvrithi margam, maybe silent and one with the Self (Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Kanchi Sankaracharya).
Why is it that the results of actions do not bind a Realized person?
When we perform action we have a specific intention to get out of our action. We are anxious about the process, often get agitated when the results are not what we expected and excited when the results are to our likes. Our actions are based on our desires, likes and dislikes with expectation of specific returns.
On the contrary, a Realized person performs all actions with a karma yoga attitude meaning, selfless for the common good without being anxious or agitated about the process OR the results of the actions. Such an individual performs one’s duties, after realizing that he is the witness and the actions are performed by the mind & body, which are inert in reality and are activated by the ever present, never non-existent, omnipresent Atman. He performs all action due to prarabdha karma which this body has earned from previous births. Such a Realized soul’s actions do not produce any consequences (hence no rebirth is warranted) for they are like roasted seeds that would not sprout.
List the obstructions in the process of attaining Self knowledge.
We come across men who are very highly educated in the transactional world, hold very high position, has power & authority, and very good individuals and still may be ignorant, faithless and doubting individual. Gita says such person is incapable of attaining the highest goal of life which is realization through Self-knowledge.
Ajnana ~ Ignorance. He is firmly rooted in the belief that the is the body. He enjoys life in every possible way and has no inclination to enquire towards the higher purpose of life. He is convinced that the purpose of life is to eat, drink, accumulate & be merry.
Asradhadhana ~ Faithlessness. People who do not believe in the existence of god, obviously cannot realize the presence of God. They have no faith in gurus or scriptures resulting is not pursuing towards the spiritual goals. When not started, cannot be arrived.
The One who doubts ~ Samsayatma. One who has a total belief in the Truth is astika and the one who has a total belief that such a Truth does not exist is nastika. The doubter is in between, unsure of his existence or non-existence. He doubts scriptures, doubts the Guru and therefore never comes closer to the doubtless knowledge.
Explain the gist of chapter 4 which is Brahma-Karma.
In ritualistic worship, yajna the worshipper (yajamana) offers oblations (sacrifices) havis (often clarified butter) with a wooden ladle into the Fire (Fire is the media through which the offerings are sent to to various devathas) for a particular result. (arpana for yajna pala). The worshipper sees a karma/action, yajamana/doer, instrument/karana and result/phala and Lord, who is worshipped.
A Realized master sees the worshipper/yajama, the action/karma, the instrument/karana, the result/phala and the Lord/who is worshipped all as Lord Brahman. This means he only sees Lord in everything around him both in action and object. He is beyond duality.
Normally we all see ourselves as the subject and the universe as an object to view it, watch it, to interact with and as an object for senses. Us vs. Universe, both distinctly separate or different or exclusive but the Realized soul sees everything as ONE, Brahman.
Verse 24 is chanted as a prayer before meals.
This mantra implies that the person eating, the food taken, the hand and the mouth as instruments, the Agni/Fire in the stomach, the act of digestion is all Brahman. Lord alone exists and everything is His expression, Everytime we eat (also a yajna), we should consume with this non dual attitude.
Explain the differences between Self knowledge and other spiritual practices. Why is Self knowledge superior to all others?
All spiritual practices are are just that, practices/sadanas and actions. These actions are a ‘means’ to purify the mind, meaning one gets ready for jnana yajna. They are the stepping stones but brahma-yajna is the direct means to Self knowledge.
Yoga, meditation, Daiva yajna, Indriya yajna, pranayama yajna are all practices that involve knowing & doing whereas with Self knowledge is only knowing which ends all ignorance prompted doing. Once you know Self knowledge, you’ve realized like a light in the dark room.
In reality there is no ‘darkness’ per se, it is only the ‘absence of light’. Similarly, we either have the Self knowledge or not. Self knowledge is the light of life.
The title of this chapter is ‘Jnana karma Sanyasa yoga” meaning karma is renounced by jnana.
‘Karma sanyasam’ is not the renunciation of action, as it often misunderstood. No one can renounce the actions.
There are only two things in this universe. Atman and anatman. Atman/consciousness, is the witness, has no actions. Our body & mind are anatman, inert and are bound by action due to three gunas. They cannot remain without actions.
There is no need for the Atman/consciousness to renounce karma/actions for the atman never does karma, being only a witness. Anatman is not capable of renouncing the action because it is bound by three gunas, who then is the one who can renounce the karma?
Jnanam, Self knowledge alone can renounce a action/karma. Therefore this chapter is called as ‘Jnana karma sanyasa yoga’.
Such a jivan who, with the thought that he has to renounce all the activities to attain moksha, can do so only by renouncing the karta, karthritva and bogthritiva, the doer, doership and the enjoyer-ship, the Self knowledge. Moksha, liberation is a state of being, can be achieved only in human life and only with Self knowledge, jnana yoga.
This jnana is his realization that, he is the witness with no actions and the actions are only for the body & mind, which he is NOT. He has no karthritva or kartha buddhi, doership. Thus he renounces the thought of doership, meaning the ahankara, ego in the process of doing and the attachment to the results of action. This knowing is the Self knowledge.
This Self knowledge alone can make the jivan, ego realize the truth and renounce the actions. There is no ‘becoming’ but just ‘being’
In all other spiritual practices knowledge is followed by actions. One can’t get the benefit of knowledge just by knowing, one needs to do it become a better person. For ex: reading about yoga or biking or driving will not give us the benefits of yoga or ability to ride a bike or drive a car.
Once a jivan renounces the doership of actions and the attachments to the results of actions, then he is a Realized Self, all the performed actions bear no results. Those actions are burnt in the fire of knowledge.
Roasted seeds though appear similar to the normal seeds, they cannot sprout. Similarly the actions of a realize person has no effects, merits & sins, thus ending all his sanchita, agami and prarabdha karma. He is beyond the birth & death cycle.
He just “IS”, renouncing his existence, his doership and enjoyership, a state of moksha. This is available to every human to rise to this spiritual plane. Therefore Self knowledge is supreme.
How should one approach the guru for knowledge? What are the virtues required for gaining the Self- knowledge?
Human life is precious, inclination towards spiritual studies is a blessing and the guidance of a guru is far more a blessed situation, simply a divine grace. A student should be very humble and able to ask intelligent questions with a surrendering attitude to a knowledgeable guru like ‘Who am I? What is the purpose of my life? What is bondage and how can I liberate myself from this samsara?” Spiritual aspirant is more willing to know about one’s own existence and purpose of life.
Gu ~ ignorance and ru ~ is one who removes it. Self knowledge is very subtle and can be gained only a qualified student who approaches the guru with deep thirst for this knowledge with the right attitude as mentioned below.
Prostrate ~ Pranipata ~ The student should has complete trust in the teacher and be humble, modest enough to totally surrender to the knowledge of the teacher. This is traditionally symbolized by falling at the feet of the guru.
Serving the Guru ~ Seva ~ Be ready to serve, love and respect the guru so that the student is in tune to absorb the knowledge from the guru ‘exactly as given’ without distortion of any kind.
Asking Questions ~ Pariprasna. ~ To get a true master is a real blessing. Such a rare blessing should not be wasted by asking questions on idly worldly matters (like asking swami ‘why didn’t you marry? what brought you to this life etc’). The spiritual aspirant should ask with humility on the purpose of life or bondages, their cause, sadanas and liberation from the cycle of birth & death towards his spiritual growth. Even Sri Krishna taught Gita to Arjuna only when surrendered to Lord asking for his guidance. The student has to be ready to absorb whatever is taught.
Apart from the attitude the below mentioned virtues are vital for knowledge transformation from the Guru to sisya.
Faith ~ Shraddha ~ For knowledge we need the faith on the source. With information overload, we can often hear the term ‘scientific evidence’ now a days. Similarly even in spiritual studies we need have the faith on the means of knowledge, object of knowledge and the ability of the knower. (The subject, Object and the relationship between the two). He needs the faith on the existence of the Truth, faith on the scriptures and the faith that he can reach the Truth.
Readiness to Act ~ Tatpara ~ One should be ready to act on the knowledge gained to experience it. Regular spiritual practices leads one to the act of listening, understanding, reflecting & contemplating. (sravanam, mananam, nidhidyasanam)
Self control ~ Samyatendriya ~ a mind with all kinds of negative emotions, anxiety and agitation is unable to focus, concentrate and be steady to break free from distractions and to avoid the energy to be dissipated in unproductive ways. A carefully directed mind can stay focused to the absorb new knowledge.