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WISDOM FROM GITA – DUTY (Karma)

Gita Chapter 2 Verse 47

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन ।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भुर्मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ॥2.47॥
कर्मणि : action
एव : only
अधिकार : authority
ते : your
मा : not
फलेषु : result
कदाचन: ever
मा : no
कर्मफलहेतु : motivated by result
भुः : become
मा : don’t
ते : you
संग : attached
अस्तु : happen
अकर्मणि : inaction
तेरा कर्म करने में ही अधिकार है, उसके फलों में कभी नहीं। इसलिए तू कर्मों के फल हेतु मत हो तथा तेरी कर्म न करने में भी आसक्ति न हो॥47॥
2.47 You have a choice over action alone; never over the results. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never stop doing your duty.

Analysis:

These are the four very important principles of leading life scientifically. They are not options, they are all compulsory. It’s called as the Karma yoga catus sootri, four principles of living life scientifically. First principle – ते कर्मणि अधिकार एव. You have the right to act rightly; first thing. And now see the beauty. Be very, very attentive, we are going into subtler in our understanding now. When you work and at the time of doing your work, if you have discovered happiness, nobody in the world can make you miserable. For example, if I am happy ‘now’, nobody in the world can make me unhappy, because happiness can be experienced only in the present. The other alternative word for happiness is being in the present; first.

Second thing – We all work only in the present. Third thing, we work with our own hands. Fourth thing, our hands are in our hands. Fifth thing, those who express every action of their lives as an expression of happiness, such a person can never be miserable whatever he has to do. It doesn’t matter what you are doing. What matters is how you are doing; the first scientific principle. If you want to succeed in life, if you want to make the most of your life, this is the first principle. Whatever you do, do cheerfully, happily. And when you do everything cheerfully and happily, you are automatically weaned away from the past on one side and the future on the other side. Because happiness cannot be in future, happiness cannot be in past. This is very simple technique. Therefore, ते अधिकार – you have the right to be happy, you have no right to be miserable. First principle.

And you can be rightly happy when you express your happiness as an expression of joy, cheer, inspiration, fulfillment and time pass. Don’t become serious in life. Now I am doing कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते. How great it is! Don’t become serious in life. All those who become serious in life, they have not understood A, B, C of life. Life is an expression of divine bliss. In the expression of divine bliss, there cannot be material blisters. Blisters come when we do not express the inherent happiness. Such people are all the time looking for happiness outside. So, कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते is the first principle.

Second principle is मा फलेषु कदाचन. You have no right on the fruit of action. Now, see how it is. Action is done in the present. Why do you do the action? Certainly to get happiness! And if you want to get happiness after the work is complete, what are you doing? You are postponing your own happiness into a future period of time. Take an example, I am doing some work. And I start imagining that I will be happy when my work is over and when you would say, ‘you really done well.’ But none of you will say that. Then what happens to me? Took so much of efforts to work but nobody even appreciates me! So while working, I was not happy. In the future, because you did not appreciate me, I am not happy. So what is the net result? The net result is, I am unhappy in the present because I postponed my happiness into the future. And I am unhappy in the future because future never comes. Think!

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन – That does not mean, do the job but don’t take the salary; that is foolishness. Take double the salary. So, मा फलेषु कदाचन means what? Remember one very important thing, there are only two results possible for every act – Either you get happiness or you get misery. सुख, दु:ख these are the only two results to all our actions in life. A person is happy when he gets an ordinary bicycle to ride. Another person is happy when he gets a Honda to ride. Both of them got only happiness. Whether it is out of a bicycle or it is out of a four wheeler, it makes no difference. Similarly, one person becomes miserable because he is not married. Other person becomes miserable because he is married. Now see, misery is the result of marriage or no marriage. Therefore, there are only two results in life, one is happiness and the other is misery.

Now, he who has discovered happiness at the time of doing the action, he doesn’t have to wait for the future. But what is it that we do? Don’t we make statements to our children such as, ‘Is this the day we looked forward to while bringing you to this level? What we have not done for you? And now you are deserting us?’ Mother and father become miserable looking at their own child. They forget that perhaps they have made the child miserable when the child was small. Friends, if we as parents are happy in bringing up the children, there our relationship ends. Don’t hang onto their neck till they die or you die! Leave them free. Therefore, मा फलेषु कदाचन is the only way to be happy in life. Live in the present. Whatever comes is just perfect and wonderful and you go ahead.

Be very attentive. When you go again and again into the future, ‘If I do this, this will happen, that will happen and when that happens, I will be happy.’ It is only ख्यालि पुलाव, imaginary things. It has no reality in it. It is virtual existence, not the actual. There was a pot maker who was sitting below a tree on a hot summer day. He had hundreds of pots with him piled one over the other which he wanted to sell. A stick in his hand would keep away the animals from bringing down the pots. As he sat on the cot waiting, he started dreaming of his future. He happily thought, ‘I have got say about five hundred pots. If I sell all of them at the rate of five rupees per pot, I will earn quite a big amount. And suppose I earn the same way for the whole year, I’ll make a lot of money! And then in this terrible heat with little bit of shade here and there, I will not do this wretched job of selling pots. To hell with it!’ Dreaming, he gave a blow to the pile of pots and all his pots came rolling down to break into pieces and so did his dream! He had forgotten that he was in the Present. This is the meaning of मा फलेषु कदाचन.

Now the third important principle is मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भु. See, cause and effect are the worst kind of bondage which human mind has thought of. Everything we want to fix in the language of cause and effect. And we all know how we fix it. Let us take an example – ‘Suppose I commit some murder and then hire a lawyer. Now, after the lawyer is hired, what will that lawyer try to prove? He will try to prove that  I have not committed the murder. Maybe somebody is killed but I have not committed, therefore I cannot be hanged to death. Because he who has committed the murder, he alone is qualified for that.’ In the same manner, मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भु means, you act but do not create the results of your action and that is possible only when you do not have the sense of doer-ship associated with any action.

Take this understanding clearly. When we have bad digestion, this is a sin or a merit? When somebody loses his memory, is it a sin or a merit? When somebody goes round and round in circles, is that a sin or a merit? When somebody gets a heart attack, is it a sin or a merit? Nothing! Because in these modifications there is no sense of doer-ship. But on the contrary, if I give somebody five rupees in charity, then I feel I have done so good. So that act is associated with the doer-ship. So what is the equation? Action plus doer-ship is equal to deed. Legal deeds are signed, legal actions are not signed! That is the difference between an action and a deed. So whenever action is supported or associated with a sense of doer-ship, a deed takes place and a deed is called in Sanskrit as Karma. We get the कर्मफल, not the क्रियाफल. When the body is undergoing modifications that is natural in the प्रकृति, in the nature. And therefore, what is happening naturally in the nature does not create sin or merit. But when any action is associated with a sense of doer-ship, ‘I have done that,’ then the result will be born and you will be responsible for answering that result.

Therefore, the Lord says, live in this world in such a manner that if you are doing something good, ‘So what!’ That is what you are supposed to do. Therefore, be good for the sake of being good, not to claim from the world that you are good. See the difference. This is what said , नेकी कर कुवे में डाल (Do good and forget). But what do we do? We do good and we want recognition from the world for it. And the moment you want recognition from the world; you get no recognition, you get blows! Therefore friends, ‘Be good without being a doer of good’ (मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भु). Let the actions be natural as they are happening. When you are in tune with the divinity within, only goodness will come out of you. And when we are taking a detour from the divinity, only ugly actions will come out of you. And therefore, when we act in tune with the divinity, we cannot have the arrogance of doing good. But when we don’t understand this, we do good and we frustrate ourselves.

Understand this simple principle, ‘Be good for the sake of being good.’ Don’t be good just for an act. Those who are goody goody type of people they are very dangerous. Those who are open-hearted and frank, they are pure hearted. Otherwise, all the time too much of goody good behaviour indicates malice in personality. They are very dangerous type of people. Be aware about that. Therefore, मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भु.

And the fourth principle – All the problems of our life come because we act. Therefore, we conclude, why not stop acting? Extremists, we become quickly. You see, in our spiritual path also, not taking food at all is possible. Eating all the time is also possible. And both these extremes are not spiritual life. The real spiritual life is to have control on your self and live in such a manner that you eat four times a day but in very small measured quantities. Then you will discover the meaning of self control.

Another extreme that we can see is – either we get involved so much, so much in the world that we suffer. Or out of anger, we get so much frustrated, ‘O.K., I will give up everything. I’ll get out of the house and become a sanyasi.’ So getting involved in the world, grihasta, is one extreme. Other extreme is becoming a सन्यासी and imagining that now I have withdrawn from the world. But the tragedy is, whether you are a ग्रहस्थ or a सन्यासी, the mind is with you. Where will you run away? It is the mind which is creating the problem. And therefore, the Lord says, don’t take wrong decisions in life. If you have suffered because of Karma, you can rectify it with Karma alone. Suppose because of a wrong direction, you have reached a wrong destination. That doesn’t mean, ‘O.K., I have been driving wrong, I will not drive now.’ Then you will remain there only. Continue driving, but change your course now onwards.

Therefore the Lord says, मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि – Don’t lead a life of indolence and inertia. Friends, we are from Bombay, most of us know this. Our Bombay was called a few years back as the Manchester of India. There were so many mills here. Then the great saviours of the labour class came and they have shaved off all the labour. All the machines which were running not for a day or two but for three, four, five, ten decades, they were made to stop. The day those machines stopped, they became a waste. You cannot restart the old machines again; the momentum is lost. In the same manner, when we are living in this world dynamically, what do we have to do? Only change the attitude behind action and don’t suspend the activities. Normally what we do? When we decide to become spiritual, immediately the first thing is, ‘I will do nothing.’ Only eat and eat. Convert the beautiful dishes into filthy garbage. Is this spirituality? NO!

मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि, Never be lethargic, never be indolent, don’t accept anything in this world as a charity or beggary from anybody. Earn. And then live in the dignity of self-respect. The highest crime that we commit on the society, that highest crime is not burning and killing few people. The real crime is when we give concessions, reservations to those poor people. They don’t understand that we are making the weaker section weaker. If somebody is lame, don’t have pity on him. Give him the crutches and let him fight the battle of life. Give him self-respect. That is important. Otherwise we claim reservation as a right as if the whole world owes us. The pathetic existence of begging concessions from the society is the highest insult that one can inflict on masses because of wrong policies. Let us give self-respect.

मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि. Never become lethargic in life, then you see the beauty of existence. Those who have gone through the tragedies of life, they know the meaning of earning money. And those who are living only on the earned money of their parents, they have never understood the meaning of joy in life. Because everything you want, you get. You never know how to earn money. Therefore, when the money comes from anybody without effort, it is only wasted. But when you earn money and then spend, you truly understand the value of life. Therefore, मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि.

These are the four principles. If these four principles are perfectly followed in life, we have learned the science of living. And then practice. The more you practice in this dignity of right understanding, commitment and to express the inner hidden divinity in us, such a person has a different glow in his personality.

If these words cannot motivate us, God will have to correct his mistake. Next life, he will not give the opportunity to be a human being. Small little things happen in life and we stand defeated. Such a kind of pathetic self-pitiable existence is not the field of scientific existence. Therefore, मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि. Thus, if this is accepted by us as a proposition of life, the Lord now goes still deeper.

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WISDOM FROM GITA – LINK OF OUR KARMA WITH SUFFERING

Gita Chapter 2 Verse 39:
एषा तेऽभिहिता साङ्‍ख्ये बुद्धिर्योगे त्विमां श्रृणु ।
बुद्ध्‌या युक्तो यया पार्थ कर्मबन्धं प्रहास्यसि ॥2.39॥
हे पार्थ! यह बुद्धि तेरे लिए ज्ञानयोग के विषय में कही गई और अब तू इसको कर्मयोग के विषय में सुन- जिस बुद्धि से युक्त हुआ तू कर्मों के बंधन को भली-भाँति त्याग देगा अर्थात सर्वथा नष्ट कर डालेगा॥39॥
2.39 Thus far I have declared to you the knowledge of Atman. Now listen to the knowledge of yoga whereby one works without the focus on immediate result. Oh Arjuna, when you act with this knowledge of yoga, you can free yourself from the bondage of action.

ANALYSIS:

Hey Paartha, Hey Arjuna, I have now told you earlier (up to the thirty-eighth verse) of logic and the path of enquiry by which you can come to a cool experience of equanimity and make the best of your life.

We all have this one common problem – our mind is so constantly torturing us that we are unable to keep our mind shut. And then what we do? Some of us go to chemical meditation. They will take drugs or pills or drinks. And when their mind is totally under the influence of those drugs, they start believing that, now I am feeling good. Means what? Now the thinking process is arrested. How long? – Till it is detoxified and excreted through the urine. Afterwards again the original process of thinking begins. How long are we going to suffer this? Therefore the first technique Lord has said, एषा तेऽभिहिता साङ्‍ख्ये बुद्धिर्योगे त्विमां श्रृणु. Now take on a simple method how to live life. If you live your life by this technique, you are bound to end up with equanimity and peace. So what is the technique?

The technique is, live outside and attain peace inside. We know so many things about computer, about how the cinemas are made, what happens behind the screen, what is the share market, everything we know. But what is happening to us when we come in contact with the world, how the impressions are formed, how we become victims because of our own thoughts, is there any technique that we can help ourselves, is there any way that we can diagnose, now am I going wrong, stop and halt! – Are we able to know these? That we do not know. So, all unwanted things are known but the most important thing of how to live life scientifically, that is not known to us. And we imagine we are very intelligent people and we believe in freedom. This is not a freedom friend it is only a slavery. Normally, what we imagine, youngsters particularly, freedom means what? Allow me to do whatever I want. That is called as freedom. But we forget we are the slaves of our own mind. We are not able to understand this mind is making us dance. We should control the mind or the mind should control us?

The day you understand this principle that our activity in the outer world should ultimately lead to the creation of a beautiful inner world, the day we understand this, we have changed our lifestyle, scientifically perfect. And such a person can never have – 1 Regrets in life, 2 Failures in life; and 3 Frustrations in life. Those who do not have regrets, failures and frustrations in life, they alone have lived scientifically and fully every moment of their lives. So Lord says बुद्धिर्योगे त्विमां श्रृणु – now, I will tell you a secret of how to live intelligently in this world.

The Lord says further, बुद्ध्‌या युक्तो यया पार्थ कर्मबन्धं प्रहास्यसि – Once we have this understanding, here बुद्धि means understanding, once we have this understanding, with this understanding when we live your life, we will never be a failure, we will never be a frustrated person. All those who are frustrated are only because they have no understanding that is given over here in GITA.

To use a small machine or any gadget, we have to study the manual supplied along with the machine, then only we can use it properly. And, we are given this most wonderful machine, more sophisticated than the most powerful computer in the world. How much we have studied the manual? How much we know what are the functions that can be brought out from this divine machine? In the same manner, if we really mean business in life, let us be scientific. Find out how the eyes work, how the ears work, how the mind works, how we react, how we respond, what is the difference between reaction and response, what is the meaning of success and failure, what is the meaning of depression and going the wrong way, all these things are to be known.

Because there are thoughts in the mind, that doesn’t mean we are thinking. Thinking is a technically sound scientific process. Because there are thoughts, that doesn’t mean we are thinking. Like because there are vehicles on the road, that doesn’t mean it is traffic, it could be a traffic jam! In the same manner, the whole inner working of our personality has to be perfectly known. And once we know how the whole working goes on, then we see, we will be able to immediately assess. It is something like most of the drivers they know only how to ignite and start the car. Many of them they can drive the car only ahead. If they have to reverse it, they say no, we will take a U-Turn and come. Because; reversing is very difficult for them.

Now because there are thoughts, that doesn’t mean we are thinking. We have to learn that. And without learning that, our condition becomes like the driver who knows nothing except driving the car. And if there is a small little problem below the bonnet, he goes to the mechanic because he has never opened the bonnet and seen what are the things within. And the mechanic gets the things right.  The same things we do in our life, small little difficulties, and small little problems we go to psychiatrist.

It is very necessary for all of us that we know the working of our personality. So here the Lord says, बुद्ध्‌या युक्तो यया पार्थ – if you have the technical know-how of the working of your own personality, कर्मबन्धं प्रहास्यसि, you will function dynamically in this world and not suffer. Free from कर्म बंधन is this only.

We suffer because of our own actions nobody is responsible for our suffering. So if we understand this technique and we practice this technique, our life will become so beautiful, so simple.


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WISDOM FROM GITA – EQUANIMITY

CH 2 – Wisdom is the Solution
Verses: 14-15 Equanimity is a great virtue

मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय,
शीतोष्णसुखदुःखदाः ।
आगमापायिनोऽनित्याः,
तांस्तितिक्षस्व भारत ॥2.14॥
यं हि न व्यथयन्त्येते,
पुरुषं पुरुषर्षभ ।
समदुःखसुखं धीरं,
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.

DETAILED ANALYSIS:
Verse-14
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.)

Verse-15
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.)