GEMS FROM THE OCEAN OF HINDU THOUGHT VISION AND PRACTICE
BEACH 11: LIVE HAPPILY, THE
WAVE 2: OUR PRAKRTI, THE VILLAIN
What exactly is this PrakRti? It is an abstraction of three guNas called satva, rajas and tamas ; Divine, Dynamic and Dull or Dark. These are the tendencies, modes or attitudes that govern our nature. These are the three broad categories in which man’s nature can be divided in general. But no person has any one of these tendencies in an exclusive manner. It is always a mixture of the three. These three constitute the three strands of PrakRti.
Every minute we are involved in some action. Even thought is a mental action. There cannot be a moment when we are not involved in action , at least a mental action. If it is the satva mode that is uppermost in our mental attitude at the moment we either involve ourselves in a noble action or we at least think of one such. But very often it is the rajas or tamas modes that are dominant in us. Sometimes we are excited about something. At other times we are restless with anxiety. All these happen in the dominance of rajas.
lobhaH pravRttir-ArambhaH karmaNAm ashamaH spRhA /
rajasyetAni jAyante vivRddhe bharatarshabha // XIV – 12
Meaning: Greed, passionate activity, initiative of actions, restlessness, desire – these dominate in us when rajas predominates.
Sometimes we are lazy, indolent, dull or just not interested in anything. Either something is occupying our mind and bothering us or we are lost in some confusion and just do not know what to do. This is tamas.
aprakAsho apravRttishca pramAdo moha eva ca /
tamasyetAni jAyante vivRddhe kurunandana // XIV – 13
Meaning: (Inner) darkness, inertia, negligence and delusion – these are born when tamas predominates.
But all the time we are submitting ourselves voluntarily or involuntarily to one of the gang of thirteen. And their captain, the ego, rules us from within. We think we have planned something, we think we are executing it and we think we are doing the action.
ahamkAra-vimUDhAtmA kartAham iti manyate (III-27: 2nd half)
He whose self is bewildered by Ego, thinks that it is his ‘I’ that is doing them.
All our unhappiness starts here.
tatvavittu mahAbAho guNa-karma-vibhAgayoH /
guNA guNeshhu vartante iti matva na sajjate (III-28)
One who knows the true principles of the divisions of the modes and of works, realises that it is the modes (as senses) move amidst the modes (as sense-objects) and thus is not attached.
I am not saying that we have to be fatalists. Fate is not something that comes from outside and compels us. It is our own prakRti that is acting. The wise man should know that it is the guNas inside us that are reacting to guNas outside us. The guNas inside us are our shades of svabhAva. The guNas outside us are the universe of matter – which is again another form of prakRti, namely the cosmic prakRti. Ramakrishna pictures this very beautifully for us: When clouds clash against other clouds, does space get affected? No. Therefore the wise man should not be affected, says Ramakrishna, says the Gita, say all scriptures. This is what it means to channelise our tendencies through ShraddhA and Bhakti. This is the starting point for chasing out unhappiness from our lives. Every time we give in to our svabhava without channelising it through shraddhA and bhakti our unhappiness starts.
However, all of us are subject to our own prakRti in the sense that the
that constitute our prakRti forcibly draw us into channels without even our
knowing it. That this is so is accepted and declared by
sadRsham ceshhTate svasyAH prakRter-jnAnavAna-api /
prakRtiM yAnti bhUtAni nigrahaH kiM karishhyati // III – 33
Even the man of knowledge acts according to his own prakRti. All existences follow their own prakRti. What shall coercing it avail?
But this does not mean we have to be slaves of our prakRti, our
svabhAva. Only coercing will not do. But
proper monitoring, and resisting it slowly, gradually and with a certain amount
of persistence, will certainly mitigate the dom inance
of prakRti – just as an intelligent mother disciplines a rebellious child. So
when our svabhAva draws us into undesirable channels we have to use our
intellect and free will to bring it back to a desirable channel. The two most
desirable channels are shraddhA and bhakti. ShraddhA is conviction-cum-faith in
the ultimate spiritual spark in ourselves. In our heart of
hearts, in the core of our cores, we are that spiritual spark. This is the
bottomline of all teaching in the vedas. The more we are convinced of it the
stronger will be our
shraddhA and the better we will be
prepared to fight the gang of thirteen. It is this internal fight that we have
to wage daily that becomes the kurukshetra war for each of us. And while we are
engaged in the battlefield,
If we allow Him to guide us, He will do a wonderful job of monitoring and guiding us. Our commonfolk have given Him the name ‘Conscience’ to this eternal Guide within us.
When we get overly excited about something either in a positive way or in a negative way (which is what happens more often), our Conscience tells us from within “Let not your superlative attachment carry you away; curb your attachment”.
When we lose our peace because of the various turbulences in our relationships with the rest of the world or the rest of the family, and we are in a totally angry mood, we can also meekly hear, in spite of our outward posture of anger, the voice of our Conscience trying to tell us “Don’t hate any one”.
When we are carried away sky-high by our own plans for the future or by our achievements in the past, our Conscience reminds us that there is an Almighty above and we should never forget Him.
When we are in a dilemma as to what to do next, Conscience keeps telling us “Do what constitutes your duty”.
When we find we are desperately in need of help because all worldly help has failed, our Conscience somewhere in the corner of our mind whispers “Surrender to the Lord”.
These are the five promptings from the innermost recesses of our heart, that the Lord is telling us through the so-called Conscience. He is constantly giving us these five teachings, or upadeshas from within. These are:
Curb your attachment
Do not hate any one
Never forget the Almighty
Do your duty
Surrender to Him
Arjuna had the same problem of excitement, compassion, egoistic thoughts, dilemma and desperate need of help; as is evidenced by
“GANDIvaM sramsate hastAt”
“yacchreyasyAt nishcitaM brUhi tan-me”
So the Lord gives him the same answer as the above five. These are exactly the five teachings of the Gita. And they exhaust the gita. I can put them in different language and you will recognise it as the five teachings of the Gita.
Indriya-nigraham (sense-control) through yoga-sAdhanA
Equanimous view of the universe or brahma-bhAva
A sAtvic devotion to to the One non-dual Absolute
The observance of svadharma without any expectation or attachment to the fruits thereof
A total self-negating surrender to that Absolute Reality
That these exhaust the teachings of the Gita is borne out by Sankaracharya himself in his bhAshya of XI-55.
nirvairaH sarvabhUteshhu yas-sa mAm-eti pANDava”
Be a doer of my works, accept Me as the supreme being and object, become my bhakta, be free from attachment and have no enmity to any living being. For, such a man comes to Me, Oh Pandava.
In his introductory words to this stanza he says that this shloka contains, at one place, in an integrated manner, the essential teaching (for our Salvation) of the entire Gita for the purpose of our implementing it in practice:
“ adhunA sarvasya gItA-shAstrasya sAra-bhUtaH arthaH nishreyasArthaH anushhTeyatvena samuccitya ucyate”
The five teachings of the Gita that we have listged earlier exactly
correspond to the five listed in the shloka by
So where do we have to begin? The very first step in the ascent to spirituality is to start the process of sense-control. The triple gates to hell are Kama, Krodha and Lobha , says the Lord in the sixteenth chapter. “trividaM naraksyedaM ...”.(XVI-21) And therefore, Arjuna, what you have to do first is to control the senses and kill these sinful elements in you which prevent you from knowing rightly and acting rightly. “tasmAt-tvaM indriyANyAdau ....” (III-41). Only he who has relinquished all desires, and all attachment to actions as well as to the associated worldly dreams and schemes, only such a one can be said to have risen to the yogic level of achievement.
Is this not an impossible task? It may look like it. But if you go about it steadily following the path of the Gita, you can do it. First the conviction that it is the right path must come. Why is sense-control talked about as most important? Because, by thinking of worldly objects, we get attached to them. This attachment breeds a desire to possess those objects or to have an experience of those objects. If the desired object is not within our reach even after a great effort, we get angry. From anger comes delusion. From delusion, loss of memory and the next step is loss of discrimination between right and wrong. And that is the last straw -- one perishes. “dhyAyato vishhayAn pumsaH .....” (II – 62)
That is why, control of the senses is prescribed as the starting point. How does one do it? The method of controlling the senses in order to bring back the happiness which is ours is called yoga-sAdhanA. Yoga-sAdhanA has two faces, one internal and the other external. The internal face is ‘dhyAnaM’ – Meditation; the external face is ‘tapas’ – austerity with a conscious force.
First let us take the external face: tapas. Tapas is of three kinds – austerity of the body, austerity of speech and austerity of the mind: “kAyikam, vAcikam, mAnasam”. Worship of the gods, the noble souls, teachers and the wise, purity, straightforwardness, celibacy and non-injury constitute the tapas of the body (XVII-14).
“deva-dvija-guru-prAjna... brahmacharyaM-ahimsA ca ..”
Speech which causes no fear, sorrow or trouble, which is at the same time truthful, pleasant and beneficial, and the study of scriptures and the teaching of them – all this is called austerity of speech (XVII – 15).
“anudvegakaraM vAkyaM ... svAdhyAyAbhyasanaM caiva ...”
Thirdly there is the tapas of mental and moral perfection which involves a serenity of mind, good-heartedness, silence, self-control and purity of nature (XVII – 16).
“manaH prasAdas-saumyatvaM ... bhAva-samshuddhirityetat ...”
One who can adopt the tapas of all these three kinds can very soon rise up in the ladder of yoga-sAdhanA. Because these purify all three parts of human personality, namely, physical, vocal and mental. It is this path of self-purification that effectively coordinates with the other face of yoga-sAdhanA, namely, ‘dhyAnaM’, Meditation.
Go to WAVE 3
Copyright © V. Krishnamurthy Dec.19, 2003