Bhagavad-Gita, Plain and Simple—Chapter Five.
This is the ninth installment of my Bhagavad-Gita series. You can find the previous discussion here.
As Chapter Five opens, we find Arjuna still asking himself the same question he asked at the beginning of Chapter Four.
Arjuna: Krishna! First you say “renounce karma,” then you say “engage in karma wisely.” Which one is better? Please tell me plainly.
Krishna: Renunciation-of-action and wise-action both lead to the ultimate goal, but between the two, wise action is better.
Krishna: Only a fool thinks that philosophy is different from wise action; the learned never say such things. You’ll achieve neither without striving for both, for the goal of philosophy is attained by action.
Real renunciation means being free from duality: having neither aversion nor attraction to anything. Such people are happy and completely liberated from the bondage inherent in worldly deeds. Renunciation without practical application, my friend, is nothing but misery. Put philosophy into practice and you will attain the spiritual goal easily. That’s why I say: philosophy and action are both important, but wise action, their synthesis, is best.
Arjuna: How can I tell the difference between “wise action” and ordinary worldly deeds?
Krishna: A “wise actor” is a very pure soul: in control of his own mind and senses, and treating all living beings as dearly as he treats himself. Such a person is never bound by karmic reactions.
“I never truly do anything,” thinks the active philosopher. “Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling or tasting; walking or sleeping, breathing or talking; letting go or holding on; opening or closing, all of these are just natural, intrinsic reactions between senses and sense objects.”
He thus invests all his actions with spiritual philosophy and divests his deeds of all self-centeredness. Karmic reaction cannot besmirch such a person, just like water cannot dampen a lotus leaf.
The body, mind and intelligence and even the senses of a “karma-yogi” are thus purified by renouncing all self-centeredness. By renouncing selfish objectives, we achieve unwavering peace through our wise deeds. Without this wisdom, however, people are addicted to their own objectives, work for their own selfish whims and thus become bound in karma.
Now Krishna references an analogy presented in Upanishads like Shvetashvatara, to make a point that even the most philosophical sources support what he says about the importance of action:
She dwells within the “City of Nine Gates” but knows that nothing in it is done by her, or for her. She is the steward of that city, but she does not own any of its property, nor does she initiate the functions of its “citizens,” nor does she have any claim to the results they create. Everything moves as a result of its own inherent nature. Knowing this, the self-controlled soul loses selfish interest in her deeds, and happily becomes renounced.
The “City of Nine Gates” is the human body with two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, a mouth, anus and genital.
A great soul never takes up any personal deeds—“good” or “bad.” Only fools do such things, their wisdom eclipsed by ignorance. When wisdom finally rises like the sun, it destroys the inner darkness of ignorance and illuminates a higher path. It enlightens their thoughts, their soul, their attention and their objectives. It washes away all confusion and ushers them to the supreme revelation.
Arjuna: When they attain such great enlightenment, what is it like?
Krishna: They become very humble and learned. They see equality everywhere: in the teacher, the cow, the elephant, the dog and even the dog-eater. In the here and now, they conquer this material world. Their mind being grounded in equality, they become as flawless and natural as spirit itself. They are already in the spiritual world.
Arjuna: What are their qualities?
Krishna: Beloved things do not thrill them. Hated things do not upset them. Their intellect is immovable and foolproof: for it understands and exists within spirit. They have no hunger for the touch of external things, because they delight in the pleasures within themselves. Their souls enjoy the infinite delight of union with the spirit.
Arjuna: They really have no interest in normal external sensual pleasures?
Krishna: They are intelligent, Arjuna. Why should they have any interest in “enjoyment” that begins and ends, and therefore is ultimately only the mother of misery?
Arjuna: What happens to them when they die?
Krishna: Even before they die, they are very happy people—because they can endure the impulses that lead to greed and anger. Their happiness is within. Their pleasures are within. They are illuminated from within. They attain spiritual nirvana, becoming spirit. Then, as great spiritual sages free of all evils and divorced from duality, they work for the welfare of every living being.
They are without any greed or anger, in complete control of their own will. When they die these self-realized souls continue in spiritual nirvana.
Arjuna: When dying, what is the final practice by which they obtain such an exalted goal?
Krishna: They keep all unnecessary perception outside, at a distance. They focus their eyes between their eyebrows. They exhale and inhale through their nose in a measured manner. Their wise senses, emotions and thoughts are fixed upon enlightenment; giving up all other intentions, fears and frustrations. They are already liberated.
Arjuna: What “enlightenment” are they fixed upon attaining?
Krishna: Me. They seek the peace that comes from knowing me to be the true enjoyer of all their endeavors and efforts; the supreme god of all beings, and everyone’s only true sweetheart.
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He is also a practicing astrologer, prolific writer and former guitarist and song writer in the popular underground spiritual-punk band, 108. His astrology website is available here.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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