CH 2 – Wisdom is the Solution
Verses: 14-15 Equanimity is a great virtue
तांस्तितिक्षस्व भारत ॥2.14॥
यं हि न व्यथयन्त्येते,
पुरुषं पुरुषर्षभ ।
सोऽमृतत्वाय कल्पते ॥2.15॥
हे कुंतीपुत्र! सर्दी-गर्मी और सुख-दुःख को देने वाले इन्द्रिय और विषयों के संयोग तो उत्पत्ति-विनाशशील और अनित्य हैं, इसलिए हे भारत! उनको तू सहन कर ।
क्योंकि हे पुरुषश्रेष्ठ! दुःख-सुख को समान समझने वाले जिस धीर पुरुष को ये इन्द्रिय और विषयों के संयोग व्याकुल नहीं करते, वह मोक्ष के योग्य होता है ।
2.14 Oh Arjuna, pleasure and pain are like heat and cold, subject to arrival and departure. One must learn to tolerate the seasonal changes without being disturbed.
2.15 Oh Arjuna, the person who remains steady in both pleasure and pain, due to his wisdom, is certainly eligible for immortality.
The last verse gave a hint of what is this thing called the eternal essence. But since none of us have ever seen it, or experienced it, we would now like to know how can we make that happen. This verse gives us a preparatory step in that regard. It advises us to develop the capability of ‘तितिक्षा titiskha’, or brave endurance against joy and sorrow.
Let’s examine each aspect of this verse. The first part of this verse makes the assertion that contact with material objects, or more specifically, contact of our senses with material objects, causes us to experience heat and cold.
How does this work? The senses react to external stimuli and send an input signal to the mind. The mind processes these sensory inputs and labels some as “सुख joy” and some as “दुःख sorrow”. A hot coffee when it is freezing weather outside gives us joy, for sure. But the same cup of hot coffee in boiling hot summer will probably not give us joy, in fact it would probably give us sorrow.
More broadly, heat and cold in this verse represent polar opposites of stimuli received by all of our sense organs. If we take the organ of sight, then heat and cold represent beauty and ugliness. If we take the organ of touch, then heat and cold represent soft and hard.
Taking this even further, we can include words as well. If someone praises us, our ego-centred mind gets a boost, and we experience pleasure at that point. But if someone insults us, or criticizes us, our ego-centered mind feels threatened and we experience sorrow at that point.
So to summarize, our sense organs and our ego can get affected by external stimuli. But, instead of labelling each external stimulus as joy or sorrow, what if we remained steady through each of them? Instead of labelling these stimuli as “सुख joy” and “दुःख sorrow”, could we begin to label them differently?
Let’s say your boss gave you a mouthful of criticism after your sales presentation at work. His words came through your ears, the ears sent a signal to your mind, and the mind took this criticism and labelled it as “sorrowful” or “painful”. Instead, what would happen if we labelled this as something neutral e.g. “useful information”, and used it to improve our next presentation? And if the words were not really criticism, but were veiled or direct insults, what would happen if we labelled them as “irrelevant” or “noise” or “chatter”?
Now you may say, yes, that sounds good in theory, but how do we do it in practice? The second part of the verse gives a clue in this regard. It says that any contact with material objects is temporary, it will appear and then disappear, and it has a beginning and an end. Therefore, if we know that something has an end, why should we let it bother us? Or conversely, if we know that a pleasant situation has ended, if the child’s bubble has burst, why should we grieve about it?
Again, you may say that developing this तितिक्षा titiksha, this brave endurance, would still be difficult. Just like losing weight is not something that happens overnight, developing तितिक्षा titiksha will also not happen overnight. You need to follow a structured, disciplined technique to do so, and the Gita will go into this topic in depth.
So then, what is the benefit of developing this तितिक्षा titiksha? We shall see very soon.
(Note – Heat, cold, joy, sorrow etc. are termed as ” विकार Vikaara”. Vikaara means a temporary modification of some thing or some substance that is permanent.)
Most people who read this verse immediately zero in on the last part (अमृतत्वाय immortality) and quickly ask the question “will this mean that if I follow the teaching in this verse, I will never die?”. Immortality here does not refer to a state where our body never perishes, or a state where we go to heaven and enjoy its delights forever.
What is meant here is that life is a series of experiences that arise, exist temporarily, and perish. The person who knows the “trick” of staying BALANCED through these experiences will attain a state where they will transcend the push and pull of these experiences, and will eventually get to touch that changeless, eternal essence that came up in the earlier verses. One who does not get affected by agitation is called “धीर dheera”.
So how do we bring this down to our daily lives? Let’s first look at a simple question. Why do someone else’s agitations do not impact us? Because we do not associate our “I” with someone else’s agitations. Similarly, our “I” is also not associated with our body/mind/intellect related agitations and conditions. If there is a fragrance in the room, we do not say “I am fragrant”. Therefore, we should strive to keep the joyful or sorrowful condition from associating with the “I”. Instead of saying “I am sad”, we can say, “there is sadness”.
Furthermore, we have seen instances where people are ready to endure pain and sorrow when they attach themselves to a higher ideal. A parent will endure a lot of suffering so that he or she can educate the child. A freedom fighter will endure torture, or even die for the cause of the country’s freedom. This verse is asking us to become wise and aim for the highest possible ideal, that of the eternal essence.
We have been repeatedly hearing about the eternal essence in these verses. Can we get a deeper understanding?
(Footnotes: The word “समsama” contains the word “मा maa” meaning mother. The mother’s loving attitude towards her child is same regardless of how the child behaves or misbehaves. Her attitude is “sama” or even-keel.)