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Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sannyas Yoga Verse 50

Siddhim praapto yathaa brahma tathaapnoti nibodha me; Samaasenaiva kaunteya nishthaa jnaanasya yaa paraa.
Learn from Me in brief, O Arjuna, how he who has attained perfection reaches Brahman, that supreme state of knowledge.
Interpretation
In all the previous shlokas we were talking about perfection and the ways and means to attain perfection. Lord Krishna from this shloka starts to talk about the state of the person after he attains perfection. Lord tells Arjuna that perfection is not the end of everything and once a person attains perfection, there is still some more journey that he has to take. So, Lord says that once a person reaches the state of Brahman how he reaches Brahman, the supreme which is also called as the supreme state of knowledge. 
Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!
We know many things, but we practice just few of them. This statement more or less summarizes everything that you do in life. Suppose you were asked to write an essay on cow. That is a very easy topic to write on, but when you finish writing it, and after self evaluation you feel that you could have written a lot more. This is something which makes you feel that something which was perfect moments ago can be improved even more. Same is the case with the things you do, people you talk to and the situations that you respond to. The key here is the self evaluation. A person has to critically evaluate himself without any bias as to how he handled a situation or a person he would agree that he could have done a lot more with every effort.
Why is there always a gap between what we could do and what we end up doing, what we could say and what we end up saying? The answer is the noise. This noise is in the form of hesitation, ego, shyness, carelessness or anything which makes a person not give his 100%. We call that noise because it disturbs and deviates. But mind has the amazing ability to justify and rationalize all its actions. So, it comforts itself that the 100% is not the 100% and what he tried is actually the 100%. That is where we say dont be idealistic but be practical. In reality, when the real perfection is attained, then there is no gap between what is idealistic and what is practical. Practical is amount through which the noise deviated you from attaining what is idealistic. Let’s hear more from Lord Krishna on these, in the coming shlokas. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sannyas Yoga Verse 48

Sahajam karma kaunteya sadoshamapi na tyajet; Sarvaarambhaa hi doshena dhoomenaagnirivaavritaah.

One should not abandon, O Arjuna, the duty to which one is born, though faulty; for, all undertakings are enveloped by evil, as fire by smoke!

Interpretation

In this shloka also Lord is continuing to talk about the importance of one’s dharma. He tells Arjuna that one should never abandon the duty to which one is born. Here it has to be understood that is not the family to which he is born which does that duty, but the duty for which the person is born that decides. Lord also says that he should never abandon it even though it is faulty in the eyes of everyone including himself. If he doesn’t listen to this and abandons his duty and takes up some other duty then whatever he does will be enveloped by bad karma just like how the smoke envelopes the fire. This is the analogy that the Lord gives to the person who takes up the duty which is not his.

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

What is a faulty duty? The first line itself says that one should not abandon the work of his own nature, even if it is faulty. What exactly does that mean? It’s the thought process with which we approach the work. No work in this world is perfect and every work will have some faults or the other. What Lord here means is that just because there is something wrong in the work that a person is doing he should not abandon it. The fault could be anything. There might be a mismatch of your values with the values of the management where you work, a person might have to tell some lies, there can be a lot of obstacles, misunderstandings while doing this work. Whatever they may be, a person should never leave the work of his nature.

Just because your outlook doesn’t match with the management outlook you should not leave that work. He might tell lies for the overall benefit of people, and those lies are worth 100 truths. So, ultimately, doing the work that one is meant to do is the only dharma that a person should follow. But a person might think, why is he in such a bad place? The answer is simple. There are lessons to be learnt and there are debts of your past karma to be repaid. The day they are done, God will shift you to another place.  Thus work is more important, not the place. These hostile situations created by God are like tests to us to see whether we can withstand or not.

If we breakdown and abandon that work and take up altogether new work, then it is considered to be a sin. Even if that work appears perfect to you,  you will not be able to do it for a long time. You will end up accumulating a lot of bad karma in the entire process and that is like smoke around a fire. It’s a common assumption that wherever there is a fire there is smoke. Likewise wherever a person abandons his dharma and embraces someone else’s dharma his actions or karmas will be bad and surround themselves around that work. Whenever you do a work which your soul doesn’t accept, then you don’t do it with full dedication and work without dedication only results in bad karma. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sannyas Yoga Verse 46

Yatah pravrittirbhootaanaam yena sarvamidam tatam; Swakarmanaa tamabhyarchya siddhim vindati maanavah.
He from whom all the beings have evolved and by whom all this is pervaded, worshipping Him with his own duty, man attains perfection.
Interpretation
This shloka needs to be understood with a slightly higher level of spirituality. Lord wants us to understand here that when you perform a duty which is according to your dharma it is similar to worshiping the God who has created us. Lord also says that this is the God from whom all the living beings have evolved. Not only that the God who created this universe is present in all the living beings. So, one has to understand that identifying and doing actions that is in line with his own dharma is similar to worshiping the God every moment. This is the way a person can attain perfection, says Lord Krishna. 
Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!
How do you know what is your swa-dharma? Ask your soul. God created all of us and every life is a gradual progression in spirituality of an individual. In childhood you might want be a pilot or you want to be in army. The decision is purely based on senses as at that age one can never understand the urges of the soul. It is the teenage when an individual is able to understand the urge of his soul. If he is tamasic then he will naturally progress towards menial jobs and as the Rajasic quality increases he tends to become a trader and a warrior. That Rajasic guna turns sattwik and he slowly starts to get into philosophy, religion, teaching etc. 
Thus when you talk to yourself in your teenage you will know what you want to be. A Tamasic person would want to enjoy and travel, Rajasic person might want to get into a leadership role and earn money, status and power and a sattwik person will always want to help people. This nature combined with the urges of soul makes a person choose his profession. Thus it becomes important for a person to follow the profession with a devotion that is equivalent to worshiping the God. That can only happen when the individual is 100% committed to his profession and that is the only way he attains perfection. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sannyas Yoga Verse 41

Braahmanakshatriyavishaam shoodraanaam cha parantapa; Karmaani pravibhaktaani swabhaavaprabhavairgunaih.

Of Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, as also the Sudras, O Arjuna, the duties are distributed according to the qualities born of their own nature!

Interpretation

Starting from this shloka, the next few shlokas are going to be concentrated around the type of distribution of work among different people living in a society. Lord here talks about four varnas or four types of individuals arising out of the distribution of the work. They are Brahmanas or Brahmins, the Kshatriyas or the warriors, the Vaishyas or the sheths or traders and finally the sudras or the menial job holders. Then Lord goes on to talk about the main criterion for classifying them into these four varnas. Lord says that the duties of each varna are based on the person’s own nature that he is born with but not on the kind of family that he takes birth in.

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

One of the most prominent social evils that prevail in India today is the caste system. We do everything according to our caste prescriptions. We socialize and mix with people of our caste, marriages happen within the same caste and even voting and electing their representatives is also based on the caste system. What exactly is this caste? Caste is the varna that we have discussed above. People who belong to a particular occupation are known by their caste. A Brahmin is someone who should be a scholar, a philosopher, a doctor and a wise man who is suited to be the Prime Minister for any kingdom because of his knowledge. So, if you have the inclination to read and master yourself in various subjects you are called as Brahmin.

Suppose a person is interested in ruling, taking decisions and in warfare, he is called as Kshatriya and the ruling class of people in different areas were called Kshatriyas. Then you have the trader community who are called as vaishyas and they are responsible for the trade activity and making the kingdom rich. Apart from this there are people who are engaged in different activities like weaving, pottery, artisans, painters etc who are called as shudras. What is the yard-stick for deciding the caste of a person? Lord Krishna in Gita clearly mentions that it is the interest of the person that should determine his occupation and thus his caste. Suppose if a Brahmin’s son is interested in business activity he can become a vaishya by engaging in trading activity. 

But if you see, this system was abandoned long back and was not practiced even during Lord Krishna’s time. We all know how Karna was ill-treated and barred from competing with Arjuna just because he was not a Kshatriya. Though this caste system was evolved to give freedom for an individual to pursue his interests, slowly it became hereditary. The eldest son of Kshatriya king alone can succeed him as King and son of Brahmin should do the work that a brahmin does and so does the son of a vaishya or a shudra. This is one of the greatest ills that has crept into our system only because of greediness and till the time the caste system is completely thrown out, human dignity and respect for work can never come into Indian ethos. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sannyas Yoga Verse 39

Yadagre chaanubandhe cha sukham mohanamaatmanah;

Nidraalasyapramaadottham tattaamasamudaahritam.
That pleasure which at first and in the sequel is delusive of the self, 
arising from sleep,indolence and heedlessness—such a pleasure is declared to be Tamasic.
Interpretation
Lord in this shloka is talking about the Tamasic pleasure in an individual. According to Lord Krishna a pleasure a person is experiencing which is delusive is a tamasic pleasure. Delusive is something which is false or which gives a misleading impression. Not only that person begins to do the activities with delusion but he also continues to do activities as a never ending chain. Lord Krishna also says that these tamasic qualities arise from sleep, indolence and heedlessness. Indolence is the quality of avoiding a particular task due to laziness and heedlessness is lack of care or attention in an individual.
Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!
When an individual wants to enjoy life he can go to any extent to keep himself happy. Yesterday we were looking at a Rajasic person who ends up losing many things and feeling immense pain as he approaches towards the end of a task. A Tamasic person actually doesnt feel the pain at all because he never allows pain to come to him. Any painful situation coming, he will run away from that and he will embrace only those things that bring him happiness. Happiness that an individual creates for himself is a false happiness but a Tamasic person can never understand this. He takes God on his side and makes multiple deals with Him to win happiness. If that happiness is not coming he will run from that God as well as from that situation.
Am sure you would have seen many people who go to many temples, sometimes even to churches and dargahs only for their wish fulfillment. Even after all this if the wish doesnt fulfill he runs away from it and starts finding a new wish for himself. There are many examples you can take. A person who changes multiple jobs in his career but never went to the top position is an example. A person who starts multiple business ventures but ends up losing money is another example. A person who believes in luck, lottery and who is into betting, gambling and easy way of earning money is also an example. We have many examples of such people because they exist everywhere in our society and they always keep running away from one situation to another. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sannyas Yoga Verse 34

Yayaa tu dharmakaamaarthaan dhrityaa dhaarayate’rjuna; Prasangena phalaakaangkshee dhritih saa paartha raajasee.

But that firmness, O Arjuna, by which, on account of attachment and desire for reward, one holds fast to Dharma, enjoyment of pleasures and earning of wealth—that firmness, O Arjuna, is Rajasic!

Interpretation

This shloka talks about the dhrithi or the firmness of a Rajasic person. Yesterday we have seen the firmness of a Sattwik person where he practices dhrithi for the control of senses. Here in Rajasic it is exactly the opposite. Lord tells Arjuna that a Rajasic person uses his firmness as a tool of attachment and for attaining the reward for his actions. A Rajasic person equates dharma to attachment and rewards that a person looks for. He also says that the main aim of the Rajasic person is to earn wealth and then enjoy with that wealth and he would not look at anything else beyond that. That kind of firmness that a person exhibits is the Rajasic firmness, says Lord Krishna.

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

When you are saying that “I am following my dharma”, then what dharma you are talking about? When a person works very hard for his family and earns money for giving comforts to them, then he is following his dharma. But that dharma is a Rajasic dharma. Firstly, Rajasic dharma is not bad or undesirable. It is just a priority that one has in his life. But one needs to know about sattwik and Rajasic dharmas because he needs to be clear what he is doing and what he needs to do in life. It is also clear that one cannot attain salvation, unless he goes through this cycle of performing his Rajasic dharmas and then moving into sattwik dharma. Thus earning money for the sake of enjoyment and fulfillment of desires with utmost firmness is a Rajasic firmness and the one who practices it, firmly believes that it is his dharma. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sannyas Yoga Verse 30

Pravrittim cha nivrittim cha karyaakaarye bhayaabhaye;
Bandhammoksham cha yaa vetti buddhih saa paartha saattwikee.

That which knows the path of work and renunciation, what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, fear and fearlessness, bondage and liberation—that intellect is Sattwic, O Arjuna!
Interpretation
This shloka talks about the intellect of a sattwik person. Intellect as we have learnt in the previous shloka is what is right and what is not right. According to Lord Krishna, Sattwik intellect is where a person knows the distinction between the path of work and renunciation, which means he has a clear cut understanding of what is qualified as work and renunciation. Lord also says that sattwik intellect also knows what needs to be done and what a person should not do. It also differentiates between fear and fearlessness, bondage and liberation which affects a person and his actions.  Such a kind of intellect is termed as the sattwik intellect. 
Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

Life is all about choices we make. We are always sceptical and unhappy with the choice we make. Suppose if you were asked to choose between A and B, and if you choose B, while performing the task B, you always think what would have happened if you had chose A, how easy A would have been compared to B, and what rewards it would give compared to what we have chosen. Thus you neither focus on B nor you can shift to A. Thus you end up losing both. Robert Frost in his poem “The Road not taken” very aptly says “No matter which road you take, you will always sigh and wish you would have taken the other road”. This beautifully explains the choices we make and the choices we leave. 

A person with Sattwik intellect will not be affected by this because he knows very clearly what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. Accordingly he plans all his tasks. The other two things that sattwik intellect talks about is bondage and liberation. Love bonds, affection bonds, care bonds and anything that bonds is not sattwik. Liberation is where you love, but you dont love. You say that you love a person, but when that person leaves you, you act as if nothing happened and life will go on. Love, care and affection are never sattwik if they bind you, but not when you are unaffected by the presence or the absence of them. Fear comes when you are bonded to things. If you are bonded to your job, you always fear about losing it. So, the progress of a person from bondage to liberation leads him from fear to fearlessness. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sannyas Yoga Verse 28

Ayuktah praakritah stabdhah shatho naishkritiko’lasah;
Vishaadee deerghasootree cha kartaa taamasa uchyate
Unsteady, dejected, unbending, cheating, proscrastinating
malicious, vulgar and lazy-such an agent is called Tamasic.
Interpretation

This shloka talks about the Tamasic nature of a person. There are many qualities that are associated with Tamasic nature that are described here. The first is unsteady, where any work they do, they cannot remain steady in that. Next is they are dejected and they are unbending, which means you cannot change them or bend them. Two more qualities that are described here are cheating and procrastination where a tamasic person cheats and postpones all their responsibilities. Finally Lord Krishna calls these people malicious, lazy and vulgar which are the reactions that the Tamasic people usually display in all their actions. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

Who feels dejected? A person when he does something wrong and gets caught, is the one who is dejected. If he had not done a wrong thing, will he ever get the feeling of dejection? If you stick to your dharma, do everything that your dharma demands, you will never get a chance to feel bad about anything you do. Dejection comes, when you hide things from others and do things that are wrongful and adharmic. The second point is a Tamasic person ever after the dejection, never bends or changes his path. Till the time everyone remembers his wrong ways, he remains silent and once everything is forgotten, he is onto his bad ways again.

Lord also describes a Tamasic person as malicious, vulgar and lazy. Such kind of person talks very ill about others and doesnt stop himself from character assassination of a person. Such bad words can only be spoken by a Tamasic person. Such people are also vulgar in their actions and they are the ones who verbally and physically abuse women. You would see that category of people commenting on women and even go the extent of assaulting them. The nature of such people is lazy, as they dont believe in doing anything that involves hard work and never believes in that. Such kind of people are described as Tamasic by Lord Krishna. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sanyyas Yoga Verse 19

Jnaanam karma cha kartaa cha tridhaiva gunabhedatah;
Prochyate gunasankhyaane yathaavacchrinu taanyapi.
Knowledge, action and the actor are declared in the science of the Gunas the Samkhya philosophy to be of three kinds only, according to the distinction of the Gunas. Hear them also duly.
Interpretation

After the three fold impulse to action and the three fold impulse to the basis of action, Lord Krishna in this shloka is talking about the three kind of gunas that are declared in the Samkhya philosophy. Lord says that the Knowledge, the action which prompts to acquire the knowledge and the actor, who is basically the person performing that action are finding a mention in the Samkhya philosophy. Not only that, Lord also says that these three elements of knowledge, action and actor are purely dependant on the Guna that a particular person possesses and then asks Arjuna to listen to them very carefully. 

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

Guna of a person decides the spirituality that he is into. That is the reason why we keep coming back to the same aspect of Guna again and again. The last 6 chapters of Gita have at multiple points referred to the importance of Gunas, and Chapter 14 and 17 dealt extensively only the Gunas. A person who is of Tamasic guna reads Gita, he takes it and personalizes it to his level and does things that suits him and thinks that this is what Gita teaches. Same is the case of a person in Rajasic or in Sattwik state. Everyone understands things in their own way and attach meaning and relevance akin to their understanding, maturity and spiritual levels. 

If we take all this apply to what is being discussed in this shloka, it fits in perfectly. Knowledge comes to a person according to his actions and its primarily his actions that define how much of knowledge that comes in. For example a highly evolved soul like Sri Aurobindo, who also wrote commentaries on Gita, can write not less than one full page on this verse itself, whereas a less evolved person like me is able to write just 2-3 paragraphs. The shloka is the same, but the depth to which you go is different. Its your actions that primarily defines the depth of your knowledge and that remains as your understanding. 
Not only that, the Gunas also make a significant difference in the quality of what is being written. Its not always the quantity that defines something but it is also the quality. As you move spiritually, you will be transported from Tamasic state to Sattwik state and from there to the stage of “om tat sat”. A person who sees God all around him is in the stage of “om tat sat” and none can explain better than the way he explains. If you really want to see that, read Sri Aurobindo’s Bhagavad Gita or his famous work “Savitri” which a poetic work based on the drama of integral self-realisation. The book narrates the legendary “Love conquers Death” concept of Satyavan and Savitri in Shri Aurobindo’s most philosophical ways.