Brothers, Arjuna, deluded by the sense of ‘mine’ and ‘not mine’, was seeking ways to evade swadharma when the situation demanded adherence to it. The First Chapter describes his vain delusion. The Second Chapter sets out to remove it. It states three basic principles: the Self is imperishable and has an all-encompassing presence, the body is transient and mortal, and swadharma should never be given up. It also spells out the idea of renunciation of the fruit of actions as a key to realise these principles. While expounding this karmayoga, three concepts have emerged—karma, vikarma and akarma. In the Fifth Chapter, we have seen two types of akarma which result from the confluence of karma and vikarma. From the Sixth Chapter onwards different types of vikarma are being explained. The Sixth Chapter tells about one-pointedness of mind necessary for spiritual pursuit.
Today, we are going to deal with the Seventh Chapter. This Chapter opens before us the gallery of a magnificent new vikarma. Moving through the broad expanse of a forest, the temple of the Goddess of nature, we are enthralled by a great many captivating scenes. It is the same with the Gita. It now unfolds before us a new vista.
Even before unfolding this vista, the Lord reveals the secret of the structure of this world which creates illusions. An artist paints a variety of pictures on the same type of paper and with the same brush. A sitarist1 creates different ragas2 out of the same seven notes. In literature, a variety of thoughts, ideas and feelings are expressed through a few letters of the alphabet. Same is the case with the creation. We find in it innumerable objects and propensities. But all of them are products of only two things—the eternal Self and the eight-fold prakriti.3The anger of the angry man, the love of the lover, the agony of the sufferer, the happiness of the happy one, the drowsiness of the idler, the activity of the industrious man—all these are manifestations of one and the same Cosmic energy. These different emotions and urges, although they are often contrary to each other, spring from the same source. As the Cosmic energy within is one and the same in all, the outer bodily cover of all is also the same in nature. The Lord is telling at the very outset that the conscient Self and the inconscient prakriti are the twin sources from which all creation has come into being.
The Self and the body, the higher and the lower prakriti are the same everywhere. Why shouldthen man be deluded? Why should he see differences instead of unity? The face of someone whom we love attracts us, whereas that of someone whom we dislike is found repulsive; we desire to meet one person and shun the other. Why is it so? Different pictures drawn by the same artist with the same brush on the same paper evoke different feelings. Therein lies the skill of the artist. The artist and the sitarist have such a skill in their fingers that they make you laugh or cry. In their fingers lies a magical power.
We welcome someone while we shut the door in the other’s face. We embrace someone and push away the other. Such feelings arise in the mind and, at times, deflect us from the path of duty. All this is because of delusion. If we are to escape this, we should understand the secret of the creative skill of the Creator’s fingers. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad gives the analogy of a drum. A drum produces a variety of sounds. Some frighten us, some make us dance. If we are not to be swayed this way or that and remain in full control of all such emotions, we must catch hold of the drummer. Then all the sounds of the drum would be under our control. The Lord declares, “Those who want to cross the riverof maya should take refuge in Me.4” In the words of Jnanadeva—
‘येथ एक चि लीला तरले । जे सर्वभावें मज भजले ।
तयां ऐली चि थडी सरलें । मायाजळ’ (7.97)
(‘Only those who worship me single-mindedly and with unswerving devotion can cross this river of maya. In fact, they need not have to cross it at all; for them the water of maya dries up while they are at this bank itself—that is, the mirage created by maya disappears for them here and now.’)
What is this maya? It is the Lord’s creative power, His art and His skill. He created this world out of the single eternal Self and the eight-fold prakriti, or what the Jain terminology calls jiva and ajiva. The Lord has created this variegated world out of these two elements; out of them He is ever creating all sorts of things. They evoke different sentiments and responses. If we want to go beyond them and attain true inner peace, we should reach out for the creator of them all. We should know Him. Only then can we get rid of the delusion that gives rise to divisions, antipathies and attachment.
In this Seventh Chapter, the way of bhakti is laid open before us to tell us about a singularly effective means, a greatvikarma for knowing Him. To attain purity of mind, many vikarmas like yajna (sacrifice), dana (sharing, charity), japa (prayer, repeating God’s Name), tapa (penance), dhyana-dharana (meditation and concentration) are prescribed. I would liken them to washing soda or soap, while bhakti is like water. Soap and washing soda are useful only in conjunction with water; by themselves they are of no use. Water, on the other hand, can cleanse even without them, although their aid does result in better cleansing. It is like adding sugar to milk. How can there be purity of mind if the heart and soul are not there in yajna, mediatation, penance etc.? Bhakti is nothing butsuch involvement of the heart and soul.
All the vikarmas stand in need of the aid of bhakti. It is the ultimate means. It is no doubt advisable that a man trained in nursing and having knowledge of different remedies should be deputed to take care of a patient; but if he lacks genuine empathy and compassion, he cannot render true service. A bullock may be strong and stout, but it would not pull a cart if it does not wish to. It will then refuse to step ahead and may even land the cart in a ditch. Work without involvement of heart and soul—without heartfelt empathy and concern—can give neither satisfaction nor strength.
33. Bhakti Results In Pure And Unalloyed Bliss
If we have bhakti, we could see the art of that great artist; we could see the brush with which He paints. Once we have reached the source of all creation and have tasted the rare sweetness of water from the spring at the very source, we cannot but find all other things insipid and worthless. A man who has tasted a real banana would appreciate the beauty of a painted wooden banana for a moment, and then will put it aside. He will not be much enamoured by it. A man who has tasted true joy would not be taken in by external pleasures in the material world.
Once, some people told a philosopher, “Sir, there is festive lighting of lamps in the city today. Let us go and watch it.” The philosopher said, “What is it after all? Only an arrangement of a lot of lamps in rows, is it not? I can visualize it from here itself.” In an arithmetical progression like 1+2+3...., figures can be written up to infinity. But there is no need to write all the numbers if the difference between two succeeding numbers is known. Likewise one can visualize the arrangement of lamps in rows. What is there to be so excited about it? But man does enjoy such things. He squeezes a lemon in water, adds sugar, sips the drink and smacks his lips in delight! It is as if the tongue has nothing else to do than to taste different things. From different ingredients man creates a variety of food products and finds all the pleasure in eating them! When I was a child, I once went to see a movie. I had taken a mat with me so that I could go to sleep whenever I wanted. I could watch the dazzling pictures barely for a few moments. My eyes got tired and I went to sleep, asking my companion to wake me up when the show was over. Instead of going out in the open and watching the moon and the stars and enjoying the peace and serenity of nature, people go to congested theatres and excitedly applaud the dance of the bright moving pictures there. I just failed to understand that!
Why is man so devoid of joy that he seeks and finds some sort of momentary and illusory joy in the dance of those lifeless figures? Evidently, there is no real joy in life; that is why people go in for such artificial amusements. Once I heard drums beating next door. On enquiry, I learnt that it was to celebrate the birth of a son. Now, what is there so special about it that it should be announced to the world with the beat of drums? People even dance with joy and invite singers to sing on such occasions. Is it not childish? It is as if the world is famished of joy. Just as in the famine people rush in a frenzy at the sight of a few eatables, they jump at the slightest opportunity like the birth of a child or a cinema or a circus show, because they are starved of joy.
But is this true joy? Waves of music enter the ears and strike the brain. Different forms enter the eyes and strike the brain. The impact of such sensations is the only source of joy for the poor fellows. Some stuff their noses with snuff, some smoke tobacco, and the kick they get thereby is a source of tremendous joy to them. Their joy knows no bounds when they lay their hands on a cigarette butt! Tolstoy has written that a man may even commit murder under the influence of tobacco. It too is a kind of intoxication.
Why does man lose himself in such pleasures? Not knowing the real thing, he is infatuated with the shadows. His pleasures are confined to those derived from the five senses. Had he got a sense-organ less, he would have thought that there are only four types of pleasures. If tomorrow a man with six sense-organs comes down from Mars, such people would feel dejected at the thought that they can have pleasure only from five sense-organs instead of six and envying the man from Mars they would exclaim, “What a handicap we human beings on the earth suffer from!”
How can man, with just five senses comprehend fully the meaning of creation in all its aspects? Restricted to five senses, he makes his choices within those limits and derives joy from what the senses offer him. He considers the braying of a donkey inauspicious. But is it not possible that an encounter with a man could be equally inauspicious for a donkey? You think that its braying will spoil or harm something that you are going to do. But is it not true that you could also be causing harm to others? When I was a student at Baroda, a group of European singers once came to our college. They were good singers and were trying their best. But I, being thoroughly bored, was waiting for an opportunity to slip out. I was not used to listening to that sort of music. I could not appreciate it. Singers from our country may face a similar response in Europe. What is sweet music to the ears of one is just noise for the other. It means that the joy it gives is not real joy; it is an illusory joy. Until we experience real joy, such illusory joy would enthrall us. So long as he had not tasted real milk, Aswatthama5used to drink water mixed with grain flour, believing it to be milk. Once the true nature of things is revealed to you and you experience the true joy therein, everything else will pale into insignificance.
Bhakti is the best way to discover true joy. As we advance on this path, we shall discover the ingenuity of the Creator. Once we have grasped that divine vision, attraction for other fancies will recede. Then nothing trivial will attract us. The whole world will then be found filled with one undifferentiated joy. There may be hundreds of sweetmeat shops, but the sweets they sell are of the same kind. So long as we have not tasted the real thing, we go on pecking a sweetmeat here and a sweetmeat there like restless sparrows, and still remain unsatisfied. Once I was reading Tulsidas’ Ramayana in the early morning hours. Moths had gathered near the lamp. A house-lizard came there. What interest it could have in the Ramayana? It was happy at the sight of the moths. I waved it away when it was about to pounce on a moth, but its attention was still riveted on that moth. I asked myself, “Would you eat a moth? Does your mouth water at its sight?” The sight of a moth was not mouth-watering for me; and the house-lizard had no inkling of the great joy in the Ramayana. It could not taste the sweetness of the Ramayana. Our condition is like that house-lizard. We are engaged in a multitude of enjoyments; but how nice will it be if we could taste true joy! The Lord has shown us the way of bhakti as the means to taste true joy.
34. Bhakti For Gains Too Has Value
The Lord has mentioned three kinds of devotees (bhaktas): (i) one who has desire for some worldly gains. (ii) one who is desireless, but whose bhakti has not blossomed fully. (iii) Jnani, or the man of wisdom, whose bhakti has blossomed fully. The second type consists of three sub-types: (i) one who is restless and impatient for God’s grace (ii) the seeker of knowledge (iii) the seeker of the well-being of all. These are different branches of the tree of bhakti.
A devotee with desires in mind prays for some gains. I would not despise such bhakti, considering it inferior. Many people take to social service to earn name and fame. What is wrong in it? Give them honour unreservedly; there is no harm in it. That honour would eventually settle them in social service. They would begin to find joy in their work. Why, after all, does a man desire recognition and honour? It is because he is thereby convinced about the utility and excellence of his work. One who has no inner yardstick to judge the worth of his service depends on such external yardsticks. When a mother pats her child, the child gets enthused to do more work for her. This is also true for this type of bhakti. Such bhaktas should straightway go to the Lord and ask Him to give what he wants. To make demands on God for everything is no ordinary thing; it is something rare. Jnanadeva asked Namdeva, “Will you accompany me on a pilgrimage?” “But why go on a pilgrimage?”, asked Namdeva. Jnanadeva replied, “We can thereby meet a number of saints and ascetics.” Namdeva said, “Let me ask the Lord.” He went to the temple and stood before the Lord. With eyes rivetted on the Lord’s feet and tears flowing down his cheeks, he asked, “O Lord! Should I go on a pilgrimage?” Would you call Namdeva an idiot? Not a few people are anguished by separation from their wives, but a bhakta who weeps at the idea of going away from the Lord is out of the ordinary. Because of ignorance, he does not seek what he ideally should; but even then his bhakti is not to be dismissed out of hand.
Women take a number of vows with an idea of accumulating merit so that they can have God’s grace after death. This may be a silly idea, but they do undergo hardships willingly for that purpose. Great men are born in families with such tradition of piety and devotion. Swami Ramtirtha was a descendent of Tulsidas, the great scholar and poet. He was well-versed in the Persian language, but had no knowledge of Sanskrit. Someone commented, “You are a descendent of Tulsidas; how is it that you do not know Sanskrit?” This comment went straight to Ramtirtha’s heart. Reminder of ancestry had a powerful effect. It impelled Ramtirtha to take up the study of Sanskrit. We should not, therefore, make fun of the women’s ways of bhakti. Children born in families where tradition of bhakti is built up have a rare brilliance. That is why the Lord says, “Even if my bhakta is desirous of some gains, I shall make his faith steadfast. I shall not create confusion in his mind. If he earnestly prays for the cure of his disease, I shall cure it, supporting his will to health. Whatever may bring him to Me, I shall lovingly encourage him.” When the child prince Dhruva was pushed aside from his father’s lap by his step-mother, his mother asked him to seek from the Lord a place from which nobody could push him aside. Dhruva started penance in all earnestness. Pleased with his penance, the Lord granted him a permanent abode from which he could never be dislodged.6 The mind may not be desireless; so what? To whom you approach, to whom you pray is important. It is important to have inclination to beseech the Lord for something rather than prostrating before the world.
Whatever be the ground, do enter the temple of bhakti. Your entry into it will mark a new beginning. Even if the desires are initially there, they will eventually fade away. In khadi exhibitions the organisers urge people, “Please come and just have a look at the fine specimens of khadi available now.” People visit the exhibition, get impressed and start thinking about wearing khadi. Similar is the case with bhakti. Once you enter the temple of bhakti, you will discover its power and beauty for yourself.
When Dharmarajreached the gate of heaven, there was only a dog with him. All of his brothers—Bheema, Arjuna etc.—had fallen by the wayside.7Dharmaraj was told at the entrance, “You are welcome; but not the dog.”Dharmaraj said, “If my dog is not allowed to enter, I too will not enter.” Even a despised creature like a dog is superior to those who have inflated egos, if it is faithful and serves with total devotion. The dog proved to be superior even to Bheema and Arjuna. Even an insect that moves towards God is greater than the worthies who have not turned towards Him. In the Shiva temples, there are images of Nandi, the bull. Everybody bows before the Nandi also. It is not an ordinary bull; it is the Lord’s bull sitting in front of Him. Hence it is superior to the most intelligent amongst men. Even an idiot with God in his heart deserves respect and adoration from the whole world.
Once I was travelling by a train. When it was passing over a bridge across the river Yamuna, a passenger, visibly charged with emotions, threw a coin in the river. A rationalist sitting nearby commented, “The country is poor; still these people waste money in this way!” I said, “You have not understood the motivation of that man. Look at the feelings with which he threw that coin. Are they not worth even a farthing? We may grant that the coin could have been utilized for a better purpose. But this devout man felt that God’s compassion itself was flowing in the form of the river and threw the coin as a mark of sacrifice. Has this feeling any place in your economics? Emotions welled up in that man’s heart at the sight of a river in the country. If you could appreciate this sentiment, I would rate you as a true lover of the country.” What, after all, does patriotism mean? Does it have to do with material betterment only? In fact, it is the height of patriotism to feel impelled to offer one’s entire wealth to a great river in the country. What we call money or wealth—the pieces of yellow and white metal and the so-called precious stones produced from the secretions of the insects—is, in fact, only worthy of being offered to the river. Consider all that wealth as mere dust before the feet of the Lord. You may ask, ‘What is the relation between the river and the Lord’s feet?’ Has God a place in your scheme of things? For you, river-water is nothing but the combination of oxygen and hydrogen; the sun is nothing but a bigger-sized gas burner. You find nothing worthy of reverence therein! Should one then bow only before the bread and butter—things of narrow economic utility? But what is a bread after all? It is nothing but a sort of white clay. Why do you then relish it so much? If divine presence is not felt in the rising sun or in a flowing river, where else could it be felt? The poet Wordsworth laments: ‘I used to dance at the sight of a rainbow. My heart used to overflow with joy at that sight. Why does this not happen now? Have I lost the sweetness of my early life?’
In short, even bhakti rooted in the desire for gains has great value. The feeling of devotion even in an ignorant man has a value of its own. That is why it can generate great power. No matter what sort of a person one is, whatever may be his worth, once he enters the portal of the Lord’s mansion, he is redeemed. No matter what sort of wood is thrown into the fire, it burns. Bhakti is an extraordinary way of sadhana. The Lord encourages bhakti even if it is accompanied with desires. In due course it will become desireless and move towards perfection.
35. Desireless Bhakti: Its Varieties And Fulfilment
Sakaam bhakta (a bhakta who has desire for some worldly gains) is one type of bhakta. Now let us have a look at the nishkaam bhakta i.e. desireless bhakta. As we have seen, his bhakti could either have blossomed fully or not. The latter type of bhakta can be further categorized into three sub-types.
The bhakta of thefirst sub-type craves for the love of the Lord and cries for Him like Namdeva. He is restless and desperate to embrace the Lord and lay himself at His feet and have His love showered on him. He examines every action of his to find out whether there is sincere yearning and love therein.
The bhakta of the second sub-type is a seeker of knowledge. Presently such seekers are rare in our country. Persons of this type will risk their lives in trying again and again to climb Mount Everest and may perish in the attempt. Some may go on an expedition to the North Pole, note down their observations and findings on a piece of paper and keep that piece in a bottle for the posterity before embracing death. Some may descend into the womb of a volcano to learn more about it. But the Indians are so scared of death! Taking care of the family is for them the greatest achievement; they have nothing better to do. The bhakta who is a seeker of knowledge has an irrepressible and insatiable curiosity. He tries to know the nature and properties of everything. He too would eventually unite with the Lord.
The bhakta of the third sub-typehas been called ‘artharthi’—one who seeks artha. Artha is commonly translated as money or wealth; but it really means welfare or well-being. Artharthibhakta judges everything in terms of the good of society. Whatever he writes, whatever he speaks, whatever he does, he sees to it that it is for the good of the world. He dislikes useless or harmful activities. He is indeed a great soul who is always concerned for the good of the whole world!His joy lies solely in the welfare of the world.
Thus, the outlook of the first sub-type of the partly-blossomed nishkaam bhakta is marked with love, that of the second sub-type with quest for knowledge and that of the third sub-type with concern for the well-being of all.
All those belonging to these three sub-typesare no doubt desireless, but their approach is not holistic. They approach God either through work or through love or through knowledge. Lastly, about the fully-blossomed bhakta. He is a man of wisdom. Whatever he sees, he sees nothing but different forms of the Lord. In the handsome and the ugly, in the prince and the pauper, in men and women, in birds and beasts—everywhere he has the sacred vision of God. Saint Tukaram’s prayer to the Lord was, ‘नर नारी बाळे अवघा नारायण । ऐसें माझें मन करीं देवा ।।’ (‘O Lord! Orient my mind in such a way that I find You alone in men and women and children.’)
In Hinduism, there is worship of serpents, worship of an elephant-headed God8, worship of even the trees. All this may appear silly. But we find the height of such ‘madness’ in the fully blossomed bhakta. He sees God in everything, right from an insect or an ant to the sun and the moon, and his heart overflows with joy. ‘मग तया सुखा अंत नाहीं पार । आनंदें सागर हेलावती ।’ (‘Then the bliss knows no bounds. The ocean of joy surges in the heart.’)
You may say, if you like, that this magnificent divine vision is an illusion; but such an illusion is the height of bliss and happiness; it is a treasure of joy. In the serenity and majesty of an ocean, the man of wisdom sees the glory of the Lord. In a cow, he sees His tenderness. In earth, he sees His forgiveness and the capacity to bear. He finds His purity in the clear sky, His grandeur and splendour in the sun and the moon and the stars, His delicateness in flowers. Even in an evil man, he sees the Lord testing and trying him. Thus he is constantly seeing Him everywhere. Doing so, one day, he ultimately merges into the Lord.
Sitar is a stringed Indian musical instrument.
Modes of Indian classical music.
'Earth, water, fire, air, space, mind, reason and ego—these are the eight fold divisions of My Nature'—Gita 7.4. The Sankhya philosophy believes in two eternal principles: Prakriti and Purusha. Prakriti is the primordial matter or material Nature which consists of three gunas or constituents viz sattva, rajas and tamas. Purusha is the inactive, Pure conscience Being and it is without gunas.
Gita 7.14. Maya is the creative power of the Lord which creates illusions. It is maya which makes us forget that we are Divine. It is the veil that hides the Real from us.
Ashwatthama was the son of Dronacharya, the teacher of the Kauravas and Pandavas in the Mahabharata. On account of acute poverty, his mother used to give him, in the name of milk, grain flour mixed with water.
Dhruva, according to this mythological story, became the pole-star which is still shining in the sky.
Dharmaraj or Yudhishthir was the eldest among the Pandavas. After the great Mahabharata war, Pandavas ruled for a few years and then proceeded to heaven. Lord Yama joined them on the way in the form of a dog. During the journey, other Pandava brothers and queen Draupadi died on the way, as they were not fit to enter heaven.
Ganapati, the elephant-headed God, the son of Lord Shiva, is the God of Knowledge.