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1. ARJUNA’S DILEMMA
Circa 3000 BC, cousins went to war over inheritance of a kingdom. Their armies were made up of relatives, teachers, and respected community leaders. Arjuna was a renowned warrior recognized as a master archer. His childhood friend Lord Krishna agreed to be Arjuna’s charioteer.
Arjuna became bewildered upon seeing people he loved and respected ready to battle, and said: “I desire neither victory, nor pleasure or kingdom, O Krishna. What is the use of a kingdom, or enjoyment, or even life because all those for whom we desire kingdom, enjoyment, and pleasure are standing here for battle, ready to give up their lives?” (1.32-33)
“I do not wish to kill my seniors, spiritual leaders, and relatives who are ready to kill us, even for the sovereignty of the three worlds, let alone for this earthly kingdom, O Krishna.” (1.34-35)
2. TRANSCENDENTAL KNOWLEDGE
“It would be better indeed, to live on alms in this world than to slay these noble personalities, because by killing them I would enjoy wealth and pleasure stained with their blood. (2.05) We do not know which alternative, to fight or to quit, is better for us. Further, we do not know whether we shall conquer them or they will conquer us. We should not even wish to live after killing our relatives.” (2.06)
Lord Krishna said: “You grieve for those who are not worthy of grief, and yet speak words of wisdom. The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. (2.11) There was never a time when these monarchs, you or I did not exist, nor shall we ever cease to exist in the future. (2.12) The soul acquires another body after death. (2.13) The invisible Spirit is eternal. The visible physical body is transitory. (2.16) The Spirit pervades this entire universe and is indestructible. No one can destroy the imperishable Spirit. (2.17) The physical bodies of the eternal, immutable, and incomprehensible Spirit are perishable. Therefore, fight for your right as your duty, O Arjuna. (2.18) The Spirit is neither born nor does it die at any time. It does not come into being, or cease to exist. It is unborn, eternal, permanent, and primeval. The Spirit is not destroyed when the body is destroyed. (2.19-20) Just as a person puts on new garments after discarding old ones, the living entity or the individual soul acquires a new body after casting off the old body.” (2.22)
“Even if you think that the physical body takes birth and dies perpetually, even then O Arjuna, you should not grieve like this. Death is certain for the one who is born, and birth is certain for the one who dies. Therefore, you should not lament over the inevitable but pray for the salvation of the departed soul.” (2.26-27).
“Considering also your duty as a warrior you should not waver like this. There is nothing more auspicious for a warrior than a righteous war. (2.31) Only fortunate warriors, O Arjuna, get an opportunity of an unsought war that is like an open door to heaven.” (2.32) War fought to reestablish morality is considered righteous, not one fought for dominance.
“If you will not fight this righteous war, then you will fail in your duty, lose your reputation, and incur sin. (2.33) People will talk about your disgrace forever. To the honored, disgrace is worse than death. (2.34) You will go to heaven if killed in the line of duty, or you will enjoy kingdom on earth if victorious. Therefore, get up with determination to fight, O Arjuna. (2.37) Just do your duty to the best of your ability without becoming discouraged by the thought of the outcome which may be success or failure, gain or loss, victory or defeat. By doing your duty with this attitude, you will not incur sin or Karmic bondage.” (2.38)
“The resolute determination of Self-realization is not formed in the minds of those who are attached to pleasure and power, and whose judgment is obscured by ritualistic activities. (2.44) Become free from pairs of opposites, be ever balanced and unconcerned with the thought of acquisition and preservation. Rise above the three modes of Material Nature (goodness, passion and ignorance) and be Self-conscious, O Arjuna. (2.45) To a God-realized person, scripture is as useless as a river in a flooded area. Scripture is only an aid to God-realization, not needed after one has realized God.” (2.46)
“You have control over doing your respective duty, but no control or claim over the result. Fear of failure, from being emotionally attached to the fruit of work, is the greatest impediment to success because it robs efficiency by constantly disturbing the equanimity of mind.” A farmer is responsible for working his land yet has no control over the harvest. But, if he does not work his land he cannot expect a harvest. “The boundary of one’s jurisdiction ends with the completion of one’s duty. Do your duty to the best of your ability, O Arjuna, with your mind attached to the Lord, abandon worry and attachment to the result. Remain calm in both success and failure. Such selfless service brings peace and equanimity of mind.” (2.48)
Lord Krishna further said: “The mind and intellect of a person become steady who is neither elated by getting desired results, nor perturbed by undesired results. (2.57) Restless senses, O Arjuna, forcibly carry away the mind of even a wise person striving for perfection. (2.60) One should fix one’s mind on God with loving contemplation after bringing the senses under control. One’s intellect becomes steady when one’s senses are under complete control.” (2.61)
“A disciplined person, enjoying sense objects with senses that are under control and free from attachment and aversion, attains tranquility. (2.64) An uncontrolled mind distracts the intellect as a storm sways a ship from its path. (2.67) A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desire, that enter the mind, like rivers into an ocean which is ever being filled but is not disturbed by the rivers, can alone achieve peace, not the one who strives to satisfy such desires.” (2.70)
Self-realization is to know one’s relationship with the Supreme Lord and His true transcendental nature. A Self-realized person does not need rituals to reach God.
3. PATH OF SERVICE
Arjuna asked: “If You consider that acquiring transcendental knowledge is better than working, then why do You want me to engage in this horrible war, O Krishna?”
Lord Krishna said: “I have stated a twofold path of spiritual discipline in the past. The path of Self-knowledge for the contemplative ones, and the path of unselfish work for all others. (3.03) One does not attain freedom from bondage of Karma by merely abstaining from work. No one attains perfection by merely giving up work, because no one can remain inactive even for a moment. The forces of Nature drive everyone to action.” (3.04-05)
“People get confused and think that leading a life devoted to scriptural study, contemplation, and acquiring transcendental knowledge may be better for spiritual progress than doing one’s worldly duty. A God-realized person does not consider oneself the doer of any action, but only an instrument in the hands of the Divine for His use. Both metaphysical knowledge and selfless service are means to attain the Supreme Being. These two paths are not separate, but complimentary. O Arjuna, do your duty to the best of your ability as a service to God.” (3.09)
Lord Krishna said: “There is nothing unattained that I should obtain, yet I engage in action. (3.22) For, if I do not engage in action relentlessly, O Arjuna, people would, in every way, follow my path. These worlds would perish if I do not work, and I shall be the cause of confusion and destruction of all these people. (3.23-24) Do your duty and dedicate all work to God in a spiritual frame of mind; become free from ego, mental grief and the compulsion to satisfy all desires. (3.30) Likes and dislikes are two major stumbling blocks, on the path to Self-realization.” (3.34) Control over attachment, and aversion, is needed to attain peace of mind and tranquility.
Arjuna said: “O Krishna, what impels one to commit sin as if forced against one’s will?” (3.36)
Lord Krishna said: “It is lust born of passion that becomes anger when unfulfilled. Lust is insatiable and is a great devil. Know it as an enemy. (3.37) The senses, the mind, and the intellect are said to be the abode of lust; with these it deludes a person by veiling Self-knowledge. (3.40) Therefore, O Arjuna, by controlling the senses first, control this devil of material desire that destroys Self-knowledge and Self-realization.” (3.41)
“The senses are said to be superior to the body, the mind is superior to the senses, the intellect is superior to the mind, transcendental knowledge is superior to the intellect, and the Self is superior to transcendental knowledge. (3.42) Thus, knowing the Self to be superior to the intellect, and controlling the mind by the intellect that is purified by spiritual practice, one must kill this mighty enemy, lust, O Arjuna.” (3.43)
4. PATH OF RENUNCIATION WITH KNOWLEDGE
Lord Krishna said: “Both you and I have taken many births. I remember them all O Arjuna, but you do not. (4.05) Though I am eternal, immutable, and the Lord of all beings, yet I manifest Myself by controlling Material Nature using My own divine potential energy.”
“Whenever there is decline of Dharma (Righteousness) and predominance of Adharma (Unrighteousness), O Arjuna, then I manifest Myself. I appear from time to time for protecting the good, for transforming the wicked, and for reestablishing world order (Dharma).” (4.07-08)
“With whatever motive people worship Me, I fulfill their desires accordingly.
People worship Me with different motives. (4.11) The one whose mind and senses are under control, and who understands that he cannot control the outcome of his actions, does not incur sin (Karmic reaction) by doing bodily action. (4.21) A renunciant who is content with whatever gain comes naturally by His will, who is unaffected by pairs of opposites, like victory and defeat, free from envy, equanimous in success and failure is not bound by Karma.” (4.22)
“People perform sacrifice in many different ways. The one, who considers everything as a manifestation, or an act of God, shall realize God. (4.24) Those who perform selfless service obtain the nectar of Self-knowledge as a result of their sacrifice and attain the Supreme Being. Acquiring transcendental knowledge is superior to any material sacrifice such as giving charity. Purification of mind and intellect eventually leads to the dawn of transcendental knowledge and Self-realization, which is the sole purpose of any spiritual practice.” (4.33)
“After knowing the transcendental science, O Arjuna, you shall not again become deluded like this. With this knowledge you shall see the entire creation within your own higher Self, and thus within Me. (4.35) Even if one is the most sinful of all sinners, one shall yet cross over the ocean of sin by the raft of Self-knowledge alone. (4.36) There is no purifier in this world like the true knowledge of the Supreme Being. One discovers this knowledge from within in due course, when one’s mind is cleansed of selfishness by selfless service. (4.38) The one who has faith in God, is sincere in selfless practice, and has control over the mind and senses, gains this transcendental knowledge. Having gained this knowledge, one quickly attains supreme peace and liberation.” (4.39)
5. PATH OF RENUNCIATION
Arjuna asked: “O Krishna, You praise the path of transcendental knowledge, and also the path of selfless service, which is better of the two?” (5.01)
Lord Krishna said: “The path of Self-knowledge and the path of selfless service both lead to the supreme goal. But, of the two, the path of selfless service is superior to the path of Self-knowledge, because it is easier to practice. (5.02) The wise see no difference between the renunciation of selfish activities, and the performance of one's worldly duty without attachment to the result. Renunciation does not mean becoming a hermit. (5.04) Selfless service is the goal, and renunciation is the means.”
One is a true renunciant and enlightened who:
Does all work as an offering to God abandoning attachment to the result;
Enjoys sensual pleasure with mind and senses under control;
• Sees one and the same Spirit in all beings. Looks at a learned person, an outcast, even an animal with equal eye, and can feel the pain and pleasure of others as one’s own;
• Neither rejoices on obtaining what is pleasant, nor grieves on obtaining the unpleasant and is tranquil in pleasure and pain (disappointment), in honor and disgrace;
• Finds happiness with the Supreme Being, who rejoices the Supreme Being within, who is illuminated by Self-knowledge and remains ever steadfast with the Supreme Self;
• Acts beyond personal selfish motives;
• Has neither attachment nor aversion for anything.
• Has discovered the joy of spiritual knowledge, and whose mind is in union with God.
Such a person is not bound by Karma though engaged in work, and attains eternal bliss.
“The Lord neither creates the urge for action, nor the feeling of doership, nor the attachment to the result of action in people. The power of Material Nature does all this.” (5.14)