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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 49

Asaktabuddhih sarvatra jitaatmaa vigatasprihah;
Naishkarmyasiddhim paramaam sannyaasenaadhigacchati.
He whose intellect is unattached everywhere, who has subdued his self, from whom desire has fled,—
he by renunciation attains the supreme state of freedom from action.
Interpretation
This shloka talks about the person who sets himself free from actions. We ourselves choose actions and we only want to get freedom from the actions. All this is a part of the journey of life. Lord says, a person who wants freedom from actions never allows his intellect to influence any person or any object. He also keeps himself subdued from all those things that create various unwanted desires in him. With all this is a person renounces the fruits of the action and then the action itself, such kind of person is said to have attained freedom from actions. 
Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!
There is a boat on the surface of water and there is a bridge above the water. A boat is used to cross the river and even a bridge is used to cross the river. A person travelling in the boat has to do nothing but remain static and allow the boat which is in motion to cross the river, while the person who uses the bridge has to take the efforts all by himself and cross the bridge. Here the bridge will be static and the person is in motion. Attachment here is like the boat and the bridge, water is like the desires and the person is the action. 
A person who sits on the boat as he is static, experiences the turbulence of boat as he is constantly attached to the movement of boat. But a person who crosses the bridge doesnt bother about the water underneath and quietly crosses it. In life also a person who is unattached to work will not bother about anything and does his work, whereas the person sitting on a boat is constantly worried about how boat manages the turbulence of water. This also teaches an important lesson in life that we should never get attached to anything we do and keep a distance from the fruits of actions just like how bridge keeps a distance from water. That is the secret for getting freedom from actions. 

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 42

hamo damastapah shaucham kshaantiraarjavameva cha; Jnaanam vijnaanam aastikyam brahmakarma swabhaavajam.

Serenity, self-restraint, austerity, purity, forgiveness and also uprightness,  knowledge,realisation and belief in God are the duties of the Brahmanas, born of their own nature.
Interpretation
This shloka is concentrating on the qualities of a person born with the nature of Brahmin. The first aspect that Lord mentions is serenity, which is calmness, second is self restraint which is nothing but self control, then it is purity, forgiveness and uprightness that are mentioned as the qualities of a person born as Brahmin. Lord also mentions knowledge as an important quality for a Brahmin, also with that it is realization and belief in God which are stated to be as the duties that every Brahmin should perform. Together with all these qualities a person is said to be a Brahmin. 
Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!
If you look at qualities required to be a teacher you see that all those mentioned above must be present in a teacher. A teacher should be someone who should be full of knowledge. A teacher should know everything, because a student can ask anything and everything. A teacher should reflect serenity in him and should be self-restraint always. He should also have the qualities of purity, forgiveness and uprightness. A teacher should always be frank with his students and should give honest opinion to the students, and should always forgive the mistakes that they commit. He should be a firm believer of God because, there is nothing a teacher can achieve without the hand of God on him.
Anybody who has the qualities of a Brahman will always choose teaching as his/her profession because the underlying aspect that lies in this noble profession is the service and sacrifice which is a virtue of a Sattwik person. So, every teacher by nature is sattwik. Here am not referring to teachers, who came into teaching because that was the only job they got, but am referring to those who left other professions and have become teachers. Teaching happens at every level and every age, irrespective of your age. You can be a very young person in mid 20s teaching for people who are much elder to you. So, I would equate a teacher to a sattwik person who is a brahmin by birth, but not by the family in which he is born. 

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 40

Na tadasti prithivyaam vaa divi deveshu vaa punah; Sattwam prakritijairmuktam yadebhih syaat tribhirgunaih.

There is no being on earth or again in heaven among the gods that is liberated from the three qualities born of Nature.
Interpretation
This shloka is explaining clearly the nature and importance of the three gunas. Lord Krishna says that these three gunas are very important for every individual on this planet or anywhere else in the universe will be affected by these gunas. Not only the beings on this planet but also those who go to heaven also and the gods living in heaven also are affected by these gunas. In the end Lord says that all these beings on this planet as well as those living in the heaven are not liberated from the three qualities of sattwik, Rajasic and Tamasic gunas are born with.
Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!
Gunas are universal and they are present in all individual, nobody in this world or in heaven can actually escape the three qualities of Sattwik, Rajasic and Tamasic gunas. One has to understand the fact that all these threee gunas are affected by Maya, which we have seen in the previous shlokas also. The only way that one gets rid of this maya is in the stage of “om tat sat” where the person comes out of the maya of these three gunas. If Tamasic is maya that is black and filled with ignorance, Rajasic is a maya that is red with passion and Sattwik maya is pure white. White doesnt mean absence of maya but it means presence of a different type of maya.
But the question that would be asked then is how can those in heaven, including gods be under the influence of these three gunas? The answer is why not? Indra, who is the king of heaven is known to be a rajasic person who has hunger for power and lust for women. We have seen so many instances whenever rishis are performing Tapas, he sends beautiful women to entice them and deviate them. Everyone knows how Bramharishi Vishwamitra fell into the trap of menaka sent by Indra. So, swarga loka is no different from Bhu loka in exhibiting these gunas. Its only after a person crosses the swarga loka and goes into the mahar loka that he will slowly starts to get rid of this maya.  

Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sannyas Yoga Verse 29

Buddherbhedam dhriteshchaiva gunatastrividham shrinu;
Prochyamaanamasheshena prithaktwena dhananjaya.

Hear thou the threefold division of the intellect and firmness according to the Gunas, 
as I declare them fully and distinctly, O Arjuna!
Interpretation

After talking about certain qualities connected to Sattwik, Rajasic and Tamasic guna people, Lord Krishna picks up two qualities that play a very important rule in a person’s life and how they vary in a person who is from sattwik, Rajasic and Tamasic minded people. The two qualities are intellect and firmness. Intellect is called “Buddhi” in sanskrit which means the ability to distinguish between the right thing and the wrong thing in a person. The second quality is firmness which also means determination that a person shows towards a task that he undertakes. Now let’s hear from Lord Krishna how they vary from Sattwik, Rajasic and Tamasic people.

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

“Buddhi” or intellect is something which determines the distinction between the quality and quantity of a particular work. You would have observed that some people look at things only quantitatively but certain other people also look at qualitatively. For example, for a salesman quantity is important because he only looks how many units of a product or a service that he was able to sell. That’s only a partial way of looking at a product and its marketing. If someone has to look at the overall marketing strategy for a product then qualitative aspects like customer satisfaction, probability of the repeat purchase etc becomes important, which a salesman does not look at. 

Thus Buddhi or intellect involves the qualitative and quantitative way of looking at things. Not only that, it also helps a person to distinguish between what is right and what is not. Once that is done, then “Dhrithi” of inner determination of a person comes into picture. It also talks about the ability of a person to withstand the difficulties and hardships that he might encounter while performing a task. No task is easy and it involves a lot of inner determination to complete the task successfully. Now we will get to know how a sattwik, Rajasic and Tamasic person approaches the intellect and inner determination and how he looks at them is what Lord is going to tell us in the coming shlokas. 

Bhagavadgita Chapter 18 Moksha Sannyas Yoga Verse 26

Muktasango’nahamvaadi dhrityutsaahasamanvitah;
Siddhyasiddhyor nirvikaarah kartaa saattwika uchyate.

He who is free from attachment, non-egoistic, endowed with firmness 
and enthusiasm and unaffected by success or failure, is called Sattwik.
Interpretation

In this moksha sannyas yoga Lord Krishna is talking about few more characteristics of the people who have all the three gunas of sattwik, Rajasic and Tamasic. In this shloka Lord is talking about characteristics of a sattwik person. He talks about four different characteristics here which are non-attachment, non-egoistic, endowed with firmness, which means he would be firm in all situations and finally enthusiasm. These four are present in every sattwik person and when you do work with these four characteristics, the person never gets affected by success or failure and such a person is called as a sattwik person.

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

A very important characteristic about is a sattwik person that we didnt discuss in any of the shlokas and we are discussing here is him being “endowed with firmness”. One needs to understand this clearly. Firmness as defined in dictionary is “resolute determination and strength of character”. We usually associate this phrase to a Rajasic person and not for a sattwik person. But the reality is a Sattwik person alone possesses this quality. There is a difference between being form and being ambitious. We usually mistake firmness with ambition. Ambition means “desire and determination to achieve success”. So, the clarity is firmness talks about strength of character while ambition talks about determination to achieve success.

This sattwik person being firm never looks at success. Firmness is not success, but it is the ability of a person to continue to stick to the task, whatever may be the hurdles that he faces. An ambitious person might assess the returns for his ambition but a firm person never measures it with anything else, other than the task. Simple example, is following the rules. An ambitious person will mend and bend the rules and even break them if its not giving him the returns whereas a firm person sticks to the rules, and does his task by being in the framework of those rules. Its not about blindly following the rule, but it is the trust that he has on the rule. If the rule is no longer applicable he wont hesitate to change it, but he will not mend or break it.
Firmness requires a lot of mental strength and what goes with firmness is enthusiasm. When asked what motivates to go to work, an overwhelming majority of people in today’s world will talk about the financial benefit that they get, and very few will talk about work satisfaction. This is also a point that one needs to observe. Financial benefit can never keep you enthusiastic but it keeps you alert and you will shift wherever the benefits are more. But sheer enthusiasm will always keep you satisfied with what you are doing, and a satisfied person never looks for anything else. These are the typical qualities you will find in a sattwik person. Let’s now see what Lord says about a Rajasic person. 

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.