How to Practice Bhakti (Gita 12.8-12)

Texts 8 through 12 of the Gita’s 12th chapter are an important section conveying a message well worth reiterating for clarity.

8: The essence of bhakti-yoga is to enwrap your heart and mind in Krishna. The best way to do this is out of heartfelt desire to attain divine love, a desire that results from deep wisdom. (rāgānugā-sādhana)

9: When such heartfelt desires are absent, one should fall back upon the strength of willpower to keep one’s heart and mind wrapped around Krishna. (vaidhi-sādhana)

10: If willpower is insufficient, one must at least engage in the physical actions of bhakti-yoga. (karma in bhakti-yoga)

11: If we cannot do this, we fall outside the realm of bhakti-yoga but can still make progress towards it by giving away all the rewards of our actions. (karma-yoga).

12: If we can’t do this, we need to get a deeper philosophy, contemplate it carefully, and keep trying.

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Are You A Sanyassi?

This is an excerpt from my presentation of Bhagavad Gita, 18.7-10.

English: Sanyasi at Kathmandu

Arjuna: You mentioned three grades of renunciation. What are they?

Krishna: Out of confusion, those in darkness (tamas) give up responsibilities that should never be forsaken.

Passionate people (rajas) give up difficult and disturbing responsibilities that get in the way of their bodily comfort. This will never grant the fruit of true renunciation.

Those in clarity (sattva) carry out their responsibilities thinking, “This is my duty.” They renounce any connection to the rewards of these actions. They don’t detest unpleasant work, nor are they particularly attached to pleasant deeds. These intelligent people are free of all doubts and completely clear about renunciation.

Identity of the Soul

Arjuna: Who are the creatures dwelling in the upside-down tree?

7-8

Krishna: The living creatures in this living world are certainly eternal fragments of me. Situating themselves within material nature, they draw unto themselves six sensual capacities, headed by the mind.

Thus the soul develops and dissolves its bodies.  Like the wind carrying a scent, the soul carries the subtle elements of one body into the next.

Arjuna: Why does the soul change bodies?

9-11

Krishna: The soul changes bodies because it wishes to enjoy sense objects in various ways. Each body offers a different aural, visual, tactile, gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell) array.

Sometimes staying in a body, sometimes giving it up, sometimes enjoying the wealth of the three qualities; those with informed vision can see what is really going on, but great fools cannot recognize it, even when shown.

Serious spiritualists can also see the soul doing all these things, but those who are serious to avoid the soul are basically unconscious, and thus blind to it.

The World is an Upside-Down Tree!

 

1-4

 

Banyan Tree in Lahaina

Krishna: They say this world is a Banyan tree whose roots are above and branches below, and whose attractive leaves are promises of enjoyment. He who knows this tree well knows the methods of gaining such enjoyment.

 

Watered by the three qualities of nature, its branches expand in all directions, upwards and downwards, finally producing buds of enjoyable sense objects. From these branches, roots also fall downwards and find nourishment in the selfish deeds of the mortal world.

 

The real tree is elsewhere, and this is merely a reflection, with no end, no beginning, and no real substance. This Banyan cannot be uprooted, but it must be tenaciously cut down with the axe of indifference to it.

 

Once it is felled, you must search out what is beyond it; some place from which no one ever strays. There, finally, seek for that Original Person – the ancient one from whom the true tree grows – and give yourself to him.

 

Arjuna: How can I succeed in such an amazing quest?

 

5

 

Krishna: Be free from the intoxication of honor and cast off your faulty entourage. Dwell always in yourself, and curb down external lusts. Free yourself from dualities like pleasure and displeasure. Then you can attain that foolproof, eternal destination.

 

Arjuna: Can you say something more about this destination?

 

6

 

Krishna: The sun does not shine there, nor the moon, nor fire. In that place from which no one strays, I am the supreme illumination.

 

A Survey of the Three Qualities

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 14 of the first draft of the Bhagavad-Gita presentation I am working on.

5

Krishna: Prakṛti, “Nature” is the first thing produced from the singularity. It has three qualities: sattva, rajas, and tamas. My strong friend, these three are the ropes that bind the limitless living being to a body.

Arjuna: Can you explain more about each quality?

6-9

Krishna: Sattva is clear and undistorted and therefore allows the illumination of consciousness to shine brightly. Its rope, though, is the desire for happiness and comprehension.

Rajas is distorted by passion. Its ropes around the living being are ever-rising thirsts and endeavors.

Tamas is the strongest of all. It darkens with ignorance and thus bewilders every soul. It has many ropes, like foolishness, laziness and stagnation.

In summary: Sattva creates happiness. Rajas creates efforts. Tamas eclipses knowledge and creates foolishness.

Spiritual Equality

Excerpt from my forthcoming rendition of Bhagavad-Gita. Chapter 13, from text 28 till the end – a bit abridged.

Krishna: “The Supreme Master is equally situated in all entities. Things which appear to be destroyed are indestructible.” They see this, because they truly see.

Arjuna: There are so many different people and things – how is it possible to see oneness and equality?

Krishna: These differences are in the field only, not in the field-knower. All deeds and endeavors occur in, and by, the field. The field-knower, however, is not truly involved in any of it. That is real vision, try to see it.

Arjuna: Why should I give more preference to the field-knower, the “true self.” Why not focus on its identity as a participant in the field?

Krishna: Even if you focus upon the field, you will find it is all essentially one, despite the infinite variations in its appearance. All the very different external manifestations of things are simply expansions from the singularity of the field. Try to see the truth of this theory and you will have a spiritual vision of the world.

Arjuna: But why shouldn’t I focus upon the being the self becomes when it mixes with its field?

Krishna: Arjuna, the field-knower dwells within the body, but does not blend into it and does not truly do anything with it; because it is a causeless entity, beyond delimitations, inexhaustible, and superior to the field.

Arjuna: How can the soul be within the body, yet not blend into it and become implicated in it?

Krishna: Because it is a substratum, like space. Isn’t space everywhere, yet unblended and quite distinct from everything as well? Similarly, the soul is spread all throughout the body, yet remains distinct and unblended.

Arjuna: If it does not blend with the body, what is the point of spreading through it?

Krishna: To spread the illumination of consciousness! Just as one sun illuminates the entire world, the field-knower illuminate the entire body with consciousness.

Matter and Spirit

Krishna: What do you already know?

Arjuna: I know the dictionary meanings. The term prakṛti means “energy – the thing from which other things are created.” The term puruṣa means “person – the conscious being.” So, prakṛti is matter, and puruṣa is spirit.

Krishna: Good. Do you know anything else?

Arjuna: I think that matter is the field-of-activity, and spirit is the field-knower.

Krishna: Good. Then, what confuses you about them?

Arjuna: How and when do the two become related?

20

Krishna: You must understand that matter and spirit are both without chronological origins. Their relationship has no beginning.

Arjuna: How can matter be eternal? It is constantly being created and destroyed!

Krishna: Exactly. Matter has delimitations, and is therefore in an eternal state of change.

Arjuna: Spirit has no changes?

21

Krishna: Not directly. Not in the same way that matter does. We say that matter causes the mechanisms and substances of creation. By identifying with these fluctuating substances, spirit experiences a sensation of change. Therefore we say that spirit causes participation in emotions like pleasures and pains.

Arjuna: How do the two become linked together?

22

Krishna: Spirit becomes enmeshed in matter because it wants to enjoy the various things available in the field. That is why spirit embraces qualification and delimitation, and takes birth in matter through various wombs.

The True Object of Knowledge

From Gita’s 13th chapter…

Arjuna: What truly is the object of knowledge?

13

Krishna: When you come to know the true object of knowledge, you will experience immortal bliss. It is the beginningless spiritual energy that descends from me, described as beyond both existence and non-existence.

Arjuna: To be beyond both existence and non-existence is inconceivable. How then will I be able to perceive the object of knowledge?

14-18

Krishna: Its hand and feet are everywhere. Its eyes, heads, and faces are everywhere. It hears through every ear. It surrounds and permeates everything.

It is the power of illumination in all your senses, yet it is far away from all your senses. It has no affections, yet it certainly cares for everyone. It is beyond qualification, yet completely qualified.

It is within all living beings, yet beyond all of them. It is immovable, yet it moves. It is beyond full comprehension, because it is so subtle. It is very far away, but also very close.

It is indivisible, yet divided within everything. That object of knowledge creates, maintains, and destroys all things.

It is certainly the luminosity within all luminous things, described as “beyond darkness.” It is knowledge. It is the object of knowledge. And, within the hearts of all beings, it is approached through knowledge.

Arjuna’s eyes were wide with wonder and no words came from his mouth.

19

Krishna: So far, I’ve answered your questions about the “field,” and have explained that the field-knower is the spirit. I explained that the supreme spirit is the ultimate object of knowledge; and I have described the process of attaining this knowledge.

Arjuna [still stunned]: Yes… but who can fully understand what you have said?

Krishna: Someone like you. Those who have true devotion to me can comprehend all this in their effort to attain my intimate association.

 

Knowledge and the Object of Knowledge

8

Krishna: Knowledge begins with humility and sincerity.

Arjuna: What comes next?

Krishna: Humility and sincerity make us patient and honest. This makes us good students who learn well.

Arjuna: What do good students learn from their teachers?

Krishna: First, we learn self-control, beginning with cleanliness and regularity.

Arjuna: What are other aspects of self-control?

9

Krishna: The essence of self-control is to diminish the ego and control its desire to exploit the sensual world.

Arjuna: How does the teacher help us do this?

Krishna: By teaching us to be aware of the miseries inherent in it: that birth leads to death, after dragging us through age and illness.

Arjuna: What happens when we diminish the ego and thus slacken our passion to enjoy the sensual world?

10

Krishna: It is like being freed from an all-consuming addiction. We then loosen our compulsive embrace on objects of pleasure, like children, spouses, and homes.

Arjuna: What is the experience like?

Krishna: You will feel your mind become ever-balanced, regardless of obtaining desired or undesired results.

Arjuna: Is this peace the goal, or is there something even more worthy beyond it?

11

Krishna: This peaceful detachment from the interaction of the fields is the beginning of the greatest joy: true love. At this stage you can turn to me and form an uninterrupted link of pure divine love, without any ulterior motive.

Arjuna: How does the person at this stage of knowledge begin to develop that connection with you?

Krishna: Losing all interest in common people and places, you will seek a quiet, solitary residence.

Arjuna: Why seek solitude?

12

Krishna: You will want to be free from interruptions to your contemplation of the true self. You will not want to see anything except the object of true knowledge.

Arjuna: Is this the culmination of knowledge and education?

Krishna: Yes. Beginning from humility and ending at uninterrupted intimacy with the object of true knowledge – these are the constituents of knowledge and education. Anything outside these principles is ignorance.

Know Your Field

Having heard Krishna express how attracted he is to those who are equipoised towards all things, Arjuna desired to gain better understanding of the knowledge that enables such a perception of the world.

1-3

Arjuna: Dear Krishna, I want to understand a few pairs of concepts: prakriti and puruṣa; kṣetra and kṣetra-jña; and jñāna and jñeya. Please explain these terms.

Krishna: Kṣetra means “field.” In philosophy the term refers to your body and its world, which is your “field of activity.”

Kṣetra-jña means “field-knower.” In philosophy this refers to the consciousness that acts within your body, the “field.” Kṣetra-jña refers not only to you, the individual consciousness aware of a single field, but also to me, the super-consciousness aware of all fields.

As for jñāna, that term means “knowledge.” In my opinion, “knowledge” consists of understanding the field and the field-knower.

Arjuna: Please explain more about the field and the field-knower, so that I might become wise with knowledge.

4-5

Krishna: Listen carefully to what I have to say about the field, how it works and what it does; and the powers of the field-knower. I will summarize the many different teachings of the sages, the scriptures, and the philosophical codes.

Arjuna: Certainly, I will listen very carefully.

6-7

Krishna: Your field-of-activity can be summarized as the interactions between various elements.

Arjuna: What elements?

Krishna: First the five tangible elements: solids, liquids, gasses, energies, and space. And then, the sense of ego, which makes one feel important enough to control and exploit these elements.

Arjuna: Are there more elements in the field-of-activity?

Krishna: Yes, many more. There is intellect, the immediate tool of the ego. And there is the unseen background nature, of which the ego is the immediate tool.

Arjuna: What is the tool of the intellect?

Krishna: It has eleven tools, the eleven senses. The most important is the mind. Then there are the five senses of input (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin) and the five senses of output (voice, hands, legs, genital, and anus).

Arjuna: What are the tools of these senses?

Krishna: The five sense-objects: form, sound, scent, taste, and touch.

Arjuna: Is there anything else in the field?

Krishna: No. These 24 items sufficiently summarize the ingredients on the field-of-activity.