GEMS FROM THE OCEAN OF HINDU THOUGHT VISION AND PRACTICE

 

BEACH 11:  LIVE HAPPILY, THE GITA WAY

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Wave 12: THE FINAL SECRET OF SECRETS

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It is now time for us to wind up. All the ideas that we have thrown up and the conclusions we agreed to are summarised in chart form:

Go to Chart 3 and Chart 4

 

Our ‘light’ response to all the happenings that impinge on us and our ‘respectful’ response to all the obligations that devolve on us are the two foundations on which all our activities have to rest. The methodology is to have an attitudinal change in all such activities. The attitude of ‘I am not the experiencer’ reflects the fundamental maxim in the “mA phaleshhu” shloka. The attitude of ‘I am not the doer’ reflects the attitude of Actionlessness, that is everywhere extolled in the Gita.  The former takes care of present happiness and the latter assures us of future happiness because of the absence of any accumulation of  vAsanAs, good or bad.

 

This certainly summarises the teaching of the Gita; but Krishna does not want to rest here; because all that went before  needs a strong support from the intellect of the devotee. This is so because everything thus far said relies on the acceptance of the validity of an ‘Equanimous view’ and the need for non-attachment by means of sense-control.  Krishna knows that the ordinary aspirant for happiness needs, more than any of these,  an emotional power-boost for the spiritual ascent – even more than just devotion, prayer and worship.  So  His last word of advice goes like XVIII-61 and 62:

 

Ishvaras-sarva-bhUtAnAm hRd-deshe’rjuna tishhTati /

bhrAmayan sarva-bhUtAni yantrA-rUDhAni mAyayA //

tameva  sharaNam gaccha sarva-bhAvena bhArata /

tat-prasAdAt parAM shAntiM sthAnaM prApsyasi shAshvataM //

The Lord abides in the hearts of all beings, causing all beings, by His mAyic power, to revolve, as if mounted on a machine. Go unto Him, with all your being, as your refuge; by His Grace you will obtain supreme peace and the eternal abode.

 

This surrender idea, though not in the same  words, was already told to Arjuna in the 11th chapter itself when the Lord was showing His cosmic form.

nimittamAtram bhava savya-sAcin

says He.  ‘Be only my instrument of action and experience’, thereby implying ‘Don’t think you are the actor or the experiencer’. It is a question of whether it is God’s Will or our will.

In fact the full declaration goes like this:

 

....

mayaivete nihatAH pUrvameva

nimittamAtraM bhava savyasAcin // XI -33

droNaM ca bhIshhmaM ca jayadrathaM ca

karnaM tathAnyAnapi yodhavIrAn /

mayA hatAmstvaM jahi mA vyathishhTA

yuddhyasva jetAsi raNe sapatnAn // XI -34

“I have conquered and vanquished all your enemies, including Drona, Bhishma, jayadratha, Karna and other warriors; be only an instrument of my action; go and fight. You will win.”

 

But when the Lord said this, Arjuna was in such a dazed condition because he was in the presence of the cosmic form, with His one thousand hands and all other paraphernalia. Arjuna considers that form as an ‘ugra-rUpa’ (gorgeous form) (X1-31-first line). The Lord Himself refers to it as “mama ghoraM rUpaM” (XI–49–2nd line) – ‘My terrifying form’. So naturally Arjuna wants the Lord to get back to his normal form with which he is familiar!(XI – 46).  And the matter does not come up again until the final secret of secrets is ready to be declared.

 

The Lord mentions ‘the superlative Secret’ (guhya-tamaM) three times in the Gita. (IX – 1, XV – 20, and XVIII – 64).

 

The first time it is about  two apparently contradictory statements :

 

mat-sthAni sarva-bhUtAni  - IX – 4 2nd line : ‘All beings are in Me’.

and

na ca mat-sthAni bhUtAni’ – IX -5 1st line : ‘Also, the beings are not in Me’.

 

Both these statements happen to be true once we understand the concept of  mAyA rightly.  He, the Supreme, is the source, substratum of everything, like the screen for the movie. In this sense all beings are in Him . But again, the movie is only an appearance. The real presence is only the screen. So the beings which are only appearances superposed on the substratum are really not there. Thus it is His mAyA that validates both the statements. This is the first secret of secrets

 

The second secret of secrets is mentioned at the end of the 15th chapter. This is the concept of the three purushas – the kshhara-purushha, the akshhara-purushha and the purushhottama. It is the Purushhottama that appears as the individual personality with name and form (kshhara-purushha) and it is the same Purushhottama who is the impersonal akshhara-purushha witnessing all the goings-on of the BMI in the world of prakRti (which, is nothing but mAyA). Thus both the secrets are explainable as the effect of mAyA.

 

But both of them have only an academic conceptual significance.  They do not tell you what to do. How do we apply them in our spiritual ascent?  It is the third secret of secrets that gives us such an action plan.  That  plan is: “Surrender to the Lord”. So  when He  finally winds up his Gita, He comes back to the topic of the helplessness of the will-power of Man.

 

And particularly, addressing Arjuna, He says (XVIII–59, onwards): “If resorting to your ego, you decide not to fight, it will only be a wasteful decision, because your own prakRti will take you along (its way).  You are bound by your karma born of your own nature; and so what you are not willing to do will be done by you; you are not in control. The Lord Almighty is there in the hearts of all beings and He is it that motivates the whole world into action. Go and surrender to Him”.  Gthese are almost His final words. Announcing that He is now going to tell him the most superlative secret (sarva –guhyatamaM – XVIII -64) He gives out what constitutes the most sacred  (and secret) mantra of the Gita:

 

Sarva-dharmAn parityajya mAm-ekaM sharaNaM vraja /

ahaM tvA sarva-pApebhyo mokshhayishhyAmi mA shucaH // XVIII -66.

Abandon all dharmas and surrender to  Me alone. I shall deliver you from all sin and evil. Do not grieve.

 

The crucial statements that are puzzling here are “Abandon all dharmas”, and “Surrender to Me alone”.

 

Abandon all dharmas”:  It is not ‘dharmas’ alone but ‘adharmas’ also. For, all through the Gita Actionlessness has been emphasized.  And for the same reason it is the ‘doership’ of dharma and of adharma that has to be abandoned. That ‘I am the doer’ has to be renounced.  The plea is for us to be the instrument of God’s Will. This is the greatest renunciation. This is the renunciation by which the inherent nature of the body, mind and intellect are disassociated from the centre of activity and thereby an identification with the divine takes place.

 

Surrender to Me alone”: Who is surrendering to whom? When I say ‘I surrender’, the subject  is ‘I’. But the only subject is the real ‘I’, the higher Self. Everything else is an object. So it all looks like saying: “I surrender to my Self”. The finite is surrendering to the Infinite. The lower self of ours – the kshhara-purushha - is finite. The lower self has to surrender to the Higher Self, which is the akshhara-purushha, the real ‘I”, the infinite Self.  In other words it means only this. The ordinary self with all its ego, accumulated VasanAs and faults, surrenders to the higher Self, which is the Lord Himself.

 

Putting the two together, we get the idea. “I” and “Mine” are the two great evils in  the mind. Instead of identifying ourselves with the “real I”, namely the akshhara-purushha within, we always confuse ‘I’ with the mind, body and its ramifications. This is ‘dehAtma-buddhi’. It is the feeling that this Self is the conglomeration of several things external to it like the BMI. It is this false dharma that has to be renounced. Once it is done then what remains is the Subject and Subject alone. There is only one (ekaM) and no second. The surrender is complete. Then He will not only take you off the obligations of the consequences of your actions, even if it is ‘sinful’,  but He will also grant you that release (mokshha), by revealing to you his svarUpa. Recall

 

teshhAm-evAnukampArthaM aham-ajnAnajaM tamaH /

nAshayAmyAtma-bhAvastho jnAna-dIpena bhAsvatA // X – 11

Out of compassion for them, I, lodged in their Self,  destroy the darkness born of ignorance, by the luminous lamp of knowledge.

 

This One (ekaM), we know, is sat-cid-Ananda (Existence, Knowledge, Bliss – satyaM, jnAnaM, anantaM). Shri Aurobindo analyses the surrender to this sat-cid-Ananda in great detail. In very brief language it is this:

 

Surrender to the shakti of Supreme Existence (‘sat’). Both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ of our finite existences are then destroyed; the bottled ‘kuNDalinI shakti’ is released as Infinite shakti. “asato mA sad-gamaya” (Lead me from the unreal to the real). This is the release of the Karma yogi.

 

Surrender  to the shakti of Supreme Bliss (‘Ananda’, that is, Bliss personified). The dualities of life that come and go are then destroyed. We are released from the wrong tunings of ours to the drama of life and thus fine-tuned to the music of that Infinite Bliss. “mRtyor-mA amRtaM gamaya” (Lead me from Death to Immortality). This is the release of the Bhakti-yogi.

 

Surrender to the shakti of Supreme Knowledge (‘cit’). The VasanAs of both kinds, of ignorance as well as wisdom, are then destroyed. We are released from our wrong perceptions and the eyes are opened (‘jnAna-cakshhus’) for the Infinite Light to reveal itself.  tamaso mA jyotir-gamaya” (Lead me from darkness to Light). This is the release of the JnAna-yogi.

 

The three lines of the Gayatri reverberate beautifully with these three facets of surrender.

 

tat-savitur-vareNyaM” (That – of the Originator – Most excellent) is the supreme Glorification of the Self. The word ‘savituH’ indicates the Originator because ‘savitA’ goes back to the same root word that ‘prasava’ (birth, creation) goes to. This glorification  is what motivates ‘asato mA sad gamaya’.

 

bhargo devasya dhImahi” (Light -  of God – Let us meditate) is the supreme worship of the Infinite, that automatically brings in  the Ananda, because meditation  of the Supreme is itself bliss. So the finite self is taken to the Immortal Bliss of the Infinite Self. ‘mRtyor mA amRtam gamaya’.

 

dhiyo yo naH pracodayAt” (Intellects – He who – our – may prompt) is the supreme Prayer to that Infinite Knowledge-shakti. This is what takes us to the realisation of the effervescence of that ultimate ‘cit’. ‘tamaso mA jyotir-gamaya’.

 

And thus Gayatri constitutes the greatest form of SharaNAgati (surrender). That is one of the reasons why it is extolled by every part of Hindu scriptures. It is the essence of the entire religion and philosophy.

 

ananta-shAstram bahu veditavyaM

alpashca kAlo bahavashca vighnAH /

Yat-sAra-bhUtam tad-upAsitavyaM

Hamso yathA kshhIram-ivAmbhu-rAshau //

Scriptures are infinite and much has to be known. Time is short and there are too many obstacles. So what constitutes the essence has to be propitiated. Just as a hamsa bird separates  milk from  water.

 

This essence is the Gayatri.

 

The vishishhTAdvaita tradition is famous for its incisive anatomy of the theory of SharaNAgati. They mention six maxims which perfectly define what a complete surrender is. Of these six, the most important is “rakshhishhyati iti vishvAsaH” – ‘He will protect me under all circumstances’. The conviction in this maxim has to be hundred percent; nothing less. When Vibhishana abandoned his brother Ravana to go and seek refuge in Lord Rama, he had no prior agreement with or assurance from Rama that the latter will accept him and protect him. Even then he had perfect trust in the goodness of the Lord and was confident that he will be taken in. Rama did not belie the expectations of Vibhishana, in spite of the fact that all of Rama’s troupe – except of course the wise Hanuman – preached extreme caution and even predicted a positive danger in accepting  Vibhishana. This trust and confidence in the Lord is the one sure foundation on which the principle of surrender works. Even if you are a non-believer or a sinner, if you take total refuge in the Lord, He will not forsake you. He says so in so many words (IX – 30).

 

Religious minded devotees usually quote the various scriptures as proof of their conviction that God always takes care of His devotees. The sceptics on the other side have a hard time believing such naïve statements. This dichotomy of opinion has been there ever since Man started questioning the Faith of his fellowmen in the supernatural. Kuresa, one of the foremost disciples of Sri Ramanujacharya has written a short poem of seven verses called ‘Arta-trANa-parAyaNa-stotram’.  The very first sloka of this poem says that God is our sole refuge, saviour and support and that six monumental  instances prove this beyond doubt. But before we mention these six instances cited by Kuresa we need to recall the dimensional context in time in which he is giving us this proof. The six instances identified by Kuresa is over such a long period of mythological history, namely over a period of, roughly, 1.9 billion years, which is the time elapsed since this kalpa started.

 

The first instance is that of Dhruva which occurred in the early part of the first manvantara, i.e., the first 30 and odd crores (A crore is ten million) of years since the beginning of this kalpa. It was at the end of that (svAyambhuva) manvantara that Prahlada, lived and it is his story that forms the core of the second instance mentioned by Kuresa. The story of Gajendra which is the third instance in the chronological order is said to have happened in the fourth manvantara (called Tamasa manvantara). The story of Vibhishana and Ahalya occurred in Rama’s time i.e., in the 24th mahA-yuga of the current manvantara (which is, by the way, the seventh manvantara from the beginning: it is named the Vaivasvata manvantara). The story of Panchali is just 5100 and odd years old. Thus the six instances which are cited as colossal witnesses for the Supreme Presence of the Lord actually span an unimaginably l…o…n…g period of time. That is one of the reasons why we call them ‘monumental’. Kuresa’s shloka is:

 

vAtsalyad-abhaya-pradAna-samayAd-ArtArti-nirvApaNAt

audAryAd-agha-shoshhaNAd-aghaNita-shreyaH-padaH-prApaNat /

sevyaH shrIpatir-eka-eva jagatAm ete ca shhaT sAkshhiNaH

prahlAdashca vibhIshhaNashca karirAT pAncAly-ahalyA dhruvaH //

 

Meaning: In the entire universe, it is Sri hari (VishNu) that is to be worshipped as the Ultimate Resort. Six colossal figures stand testimony to this: Prahlada, Vibhishana, Gajendra the elephant-king, Panchali, Ahalya and Dhruva. They are the blessed ones who have received, respectively, superlative affection, supreme refuge, undisputable protection, infinite compassion, total absolution and apex of benefaction, from the Lord.

 

There is a classical statement of the Lord in the Ramayana which justifies why we should have the faith that He will protect us. “Even if for once the devotee says: I am totally yours,” says the Lord “whatever living being it be, I have to grant my Grace of Fearlessness; this is my vow (‘vrata’)”. (Valmiki Ramayana:VI-8-33):

 

sakRd-eva-prapannAya tavAsmi-iti ca yAcate /

abhayaM sarva-b hUtebhyo dadAmy-etad-vrataM mama //

 

This is the greatest norm or vrata that He adhered to steadfastly all His life in the Rama-avatara. Indeed that is why He is called ‘suvrataH’ (One who observes the greatest vrata)  in the Vishnu-sahasranama.

 

This trust therefore is a trust with total abandon. It is this spirit of abandon which is recommended by the SharaNAgati shloka (XVIII-66). It is the abandonment of all dependence on anything other than the Lord. We certainly do it sometimes when we are in distress and when we have no hope of any earthly help. When we have tried every other means, when we are totally helpless, certainly we take refuge in the Lord, at least orally, though it is a moot question whether it comes from the heart.  When the doctor finally says: I have done my best, the patient now is in God’s hands, -- at that time we no doubt pray to God and say to Him ‘O God, you are my only refuge’.  Actually we should have more truly said to Him: ‘Now you are my only refuge’! Can we have that attitude even when there is a so-called worldly help or alternative available? That would be the true practice of ‘rakshhishhyati-iti vishvAsaH’ and ‘nimittamAtram bhava’ – the true implementation of the theory of SharaNAgati.

 

The Vaishnava tradition talks of  actually six components of the process of Surrender to the Lord.  The conviction that ‘He will protect me under all circumstances’ is only one of them, though the most important. The  following are the other five.

 

AnukUlyasya sankalpaH”: The determination to do only that which is favourable and pleasing to the Lord. It was here that the famous surrender of Bharata to Rama in the Ramayana failed in its norms. Bharata wanted to bring back Rama to the capitol and not allow Him to continue in the forest.  This the Lord not only did not like but it went against His more fundamental requirement of upholding the promise to which the father Dasaratha was committed. Bharata’s SharaNAgati misses the willingness to be in tune with the Will of the Lord. It is the willingness to follow, to obey, that is more important than following or obeying.  The first great saying of the ancient grand old lady  (Auvaiyar) of Tamil literature and culture is  aRam ceya virumbu” – meaning, Have the will   to do good.  Here the words “have the will” (virumbu, in Tamil) is significant. One might have noted that on the airplanes the first announcement that you hear from the crew is “We like to welcome you on this flight”. This is more pleasant to hear than a formal statement “We welcome you on this flight”. The ‘liking’ makes it more hospitable!

 

pratikUlasya varjanaM”: The avoidance of everything that is unfavourable or displeasing to the Lord.

 

Vibhishana excelled in both these criteria. He was prepared to forego his kith and kin in order to get away from the evil-doing Ravana. As soon as it was clear that Ravana was incorrigible, he rose up (in the skies) to leave him. His “AnukUlyasya sankalpa” was certified by Rama himself. “He has come with friendly intentions” (‘mitra-bhAvena samprAptaH’) says Rama in the discussions that took place with his troupe an d therefore Rama says he deserves acceptance.

 

There are two more criteria which are insisted by the Vaishnavite schools with a particular emphasis unique to them. These are “goptRtva-varaNaM” (the adoption of the Lord as the only Protector) and “Atma-nikshhepaH” (Laying of one’s entire self at the disposal of the Lord). The devotee realises in due time that whatever he may do, his past karma and present obstacles to a spiritual pursuit do not give him the spiritual advance he yearns for in spite of the regularity of his life and purity of conduct and attempt to control his senses. He feels that something else other than his conduct, knowledge and faith is necessary. He realises that even if he surrenders to God he is not able to ingratiate himself into the Lord’s favour. He needs somebody to intercede on his behalf with the Lord. It is generally believed that it is the Mother Goddess Lakshmi who intercedes on behalf of the devotee. But more specifically this interceding usually takes place through the Guru whose natural it is to intercede on behalf of the devotee. The Guru enables the devotee to rid himself of the burden which he is unable to bear any more. This is technically called ‘laying off the burden’ or ‘returning the burden to its rightful owner’ and known as ‘bhAra-nyAsa’ in Shri Vaishnava jargon.

 

The last one in the list of six fundamental components of an ideal surrender is “kArpaNyaM  -- the feeling of total triviality and nothingness vis-a-vis the Lord. This is the norm by which two famous episodes of surrender in the Ramayana fail to reach up to the ideal.

 

One was Sita’s. While she was a captive in Lanka she repeatedly surrendered mentally to Rama. But hers did not satisfy this norm of incapability on the part of one who surrenders. For, if she had chosen to, she could have consumed Ravana himself in the flames of Her Absolute chastity, though she did not choose to do it for other reasons.

 

In the same way, there is another episode of surrender in the Ramayana, namely, that of Rama Himself to the God of the Seas. Again Rama’s surrender did not meet the sixth norm above. For, his surrender was not because of inability to achieve what he wanted to achieve. If He had chosen to, He could have dried up the ocean and have his armies cross it.

 

The only SharaNAgati in the Ramayana that satisfies all the six norms for surrender is that of Vibhishana. He is therefore taken as the role model for SharaNAgati.

 

In sum, sharaNAgati or surrender is certainly the final command of the Lord to all humanity. The Lord  says in so many words: Surrender to Me, in heart and soul, -- by all your being, sarva-bhAvena, says shloka 62 -- even your will.  Then your future, either here or elsewhere, shall be My concern. This settles, once for all the question “What dominates? Man’s free will or the divine will?” This is a question which every religion has to answer. Hinduism says that every individual starts  life with certain macro-aspects of one’s life already chalked out, not by an external force, but by the thoughts and actions of one’s own past lives – in short, by one’s own evolution, as evidenced by the store of one’s vAsanAs. Subject to this each person is enjoined in one’s day-to-day life, to voluntarily discipline oneself as per the religious sanctions, advices and norms. But an intellectual analysis of life’s experience in due time tells us that nothing happens without the will of a super-power and perhaps even one’s own free will is subject to the influence of that divine will.

 

For most of humanity this however may remain only an academic  ideal.  But,  for the few who are intent on a spiritual ascent, they can help themselves by making small beginnings in the  direction of being only an instrument of God’s Will.  Suppose one day we feel that we have been cheated by somebody on a small matter  and we have no way of redressing our grievance. We might fret and fume at the thought of this happening. Instead, if we take it as God’s will and forget about it, (and forgive the wrong-doer) then that would be the first step in being ‘an instrument of God’s Will’.

 

Having made this beginning with respect to  small matters, gradually one enhances it by having the same attitude in larger and larger matters of happenings, good or bad. But usually what happens is very familiar to all of us. Somebody has taken us for a ride, in a very important matter. (What is important and what is not,  depends of course on one’s taste, training, and tradition). But our immediate reaction is to take a hard decision to fight back and ‘teach the wrong-doer a lesson’. But to be only an instrument of God’s will is not concordant with this judiciary role that we ascribe to ourselves. Some of us even go to the extent of saying: “I should teach that wrong-doer a lesson. It is God’s Will that I be the instrument in His hands to teach this wrong-doer a lesson”. This is only an indirect justification of the play of our own ego.  It only increases our affiliation with the gang of thirteen within us. Certainly it is not concordant with our attempt to become  the instrument of God’s Will and nothing else.

 

Thus, starting from small matters and gradually over a period of time (perhaps a whole life) encompassing all matters – small or big – into the frame of ‘being only an instrument of divine will’ , one rises fast on the ladder of spirituality.  Certainly, the best prayer in this circumstance would be ‘Oh God, Take my will and make it Thine’! A few names of great people in living memory who were beacons of light in this direction would not be out of place here: Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa; Sri Ramana Maharishi; and Kanchi Mahaswamigal (also called the Paramacharya).  They all lived happily, the Gita Way!

 

 

Copyright  ©  V. Krishnamurthy    March 2, 2004

 

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