Ch 18 Yoga of Single-pointed Surrender (Part 13)

This article is part 108 of 118 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

The nature of aparigraha (non-acceptance of superfluous material wealth) is well described in the story of Uṣasti in the Chāndogyopaniṣad.

Uṣasti was a brāhmaṇa living in the land of Kuru-pāñcāla. Hailstorms destroyed all the crops in the land causing a drought. People began to head out of their homes in search of food. So did Uṣasti and his wife. Uṣasti could not bear the pangs of hunger. His wife had become inured to hunger; she was emaciated and her body had become a bag of bones. Uṣasti felt that he could not live any longer without some food. By then both of them had reached a village of mahouts (ibhya). A mahout was eating beans. Uṣasti implored, “Dear man, I am feeling very hungry. Can you give me something to eat?”. The mahout gave him some of the same boiled beans he had been eating - leftovers usually considered impure. Though Uṣasti was a brāhmaṇa, he accepted the leftover beans so that he could sustain his life. The mahout then offered him some water to drink. But Uṣasti refused. The surprised mahout asked, “You consumed those beans. Why not this water?”. Uṣasti replied - “Drinking water is indeed necessary. But that is available elsewhere. The drought is for food, not water. You gave me food that sustained my life. For water, I will go to the pond or the lake outside the village. I cannot accept from you what I can get elsewhere.” Such is aparigraha.
Uṣasti then offered some of the same boiled beans to his wife. She refused. Uṣasti asked - “I have eaten whatever is needed to sustain life; but some beans are leftover.” She preserved the leftover beans for the next day. They felt hungry when they proceeded further. He ate the previous day’s leftover beans his wife gave him.

One can take from others only that which is essential to sustain life. One should not accept non-essential things from others. This is the essence of aparigraha.

We have seen earlier that life is a set of give-and-take transactions with the world. Every moment, we take something from the world; and give the world something else in return. This can be seen in our breathing. The essence of aparigraha is in minimising what we take from the world while maximising what we give back to it.

The means for Brahma-experience is not intellectual ability but moral self-discipline. Here’s where we lose the plot. We look for Brahma in grammar, nighaṇṭu (Vedic lexicon), feats of logical manipulation, series of arguments, indicated in the Vivekacūḍāmaṇi as "vāgvaikharī śabdajharī śāstravyākhyānakauśalam" (ornate speech, flow of words, dexterity in interpreting the śāstras). We memorise verses and commentaries and quote them when an opportunity arises. We casually utter words such as Brahma, māyā, ātmā, jīva, jñāna, karma, prakṛti, and prārabdha without any thought. Has the principle of reality been experienced by us? The characteristics of one who has experienced reality is described thus:

brahmabhūtaḥ prasannātmā na śocati na kāṅkṣati.
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu madbhaktiṃ labhate parām

BG 18.54

"Always gracious, he has no sorrow or desire. He has the same love towards all beings. He has supreme devotion towards paramātmā."

Every activity of such a brahmānubhavī stems from his love of the Supreme Brahma.

Prasanna refers to love or grace. A gracious thing gives pleasure to those who see it. The mind gets disturbed when it sees certain objects or scenes. It can become angry or lose itself in joy. Being prasanna is not something that intoxicates. The state of prasannatā is one wherein the mind is neither agitated nor fickle. We find prayers such as "Lakṣmī Venkateśvara Prasanna" at the head of traditional wedding invitations. The intent here is for Bhagavān to be pleased towards us without any doubts or peeves. Words such as prasīda or prasāda have the same import. One who has experienced Brahma will have a similar nature of being ever pleased or gracious.

A brahmānubhavī does not wish to possess anything; neither does he grieve when something is lost. He regards everyone - sama (equally).  We have earlier discussed the word - sama - one of those words that is easily prone to misinterpretation. Love is equal; but its practice changes with circumstance.

madbhaktiṃ labhate parām ||

BG 18.54

Here, bhakti is referred to as something that a person labhate (obtains) - which makes us ask - was there no bhakti till now? The answer is that the bhakti till now was one that was either fickle or divided among many objects. But the one who has experienced Brahma attains parā-bhakti - undivided devotion only towards Supreme Brahma. Through such bhakti -

bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś-cāsmi tattvataḥ
tato māṃ tattvato jñātvā viśate tad-anantaram

BG 18.55

Possessed with one-pointed devotion towards Supreme Brahma, he sees everything as a symbol of Brahma and experiences Brahma in its totality. He realises the true nature of Brahma vis-a-vis faux appearances of Brahma. He also understands what māyā is, why the world was created, and what those things are that constitute the world. He gains a true understanding of Brahma as well as that of the world.

Does a knower of Brahma renounce the world and its concomitant dharma and karma? Certainly not.

sarva-karmāṇy-api sadā kurvāṇo mad-vyapāśrayaḥ
mat-prasādād-avāpnoti śāśvataṃ padam-avyayam

BG 18.56

“The true bhakta constantly performs every ordained activity with the realisation that whatever worldly belongings he considers his own have been bestowed upon him by Bhagavān. Hence he surely obtains the blessings of Bhagavān. He then attains Bhagavān’s eternal abode.”

It is now clear that there is no inconsistency between the knowledge of Brahma and the performance of karma. The activities of the Brahma-knower are but an external expression of his Brahma-experience. With this instruction, Arjuna’s course of action is clear. Even if he were only after mokṣa without any desire for power or kingdom or fame, he would still need to perform his duty. Such is dhārmic activity which, through activities prescribed in the śāstras - such as worship of Bhagavān - causes the welfare of the world and consequently concludes in the welfare of the individual.

With the conclusion being established, Bhagavān now summarizes the instruction.

cetasā sarva-karmāṇi mayi sannyasya mat-paraḥ
buddhi-yogam-upāśritya mac-cittaḥ satataṃ bhava

BG 18.57

“Arjuna, do whatever has to be done. However, do it as kṛṣṇārpaṇa (an offering to Kṛṣṇā). Do your work with all your mind. Do it with buddhi-yoga, marked by the distinction between the Self and the non-Self. Do it with an understanding of the principles of jīva and īśvara.”

maccittaḥ sarvadurgāṇi matprasādāttariṣyasi.

BG 18.58

“While living with Bhagavān enshrined in your mind, you will, with Bhagavān’s grace, be able to cross any obstacles you encounter”.

If, however, you do not accept this and consider yourself as the sole cause and doer, you will be ruined.

yadahaṅkāramāśritya na yotsya iti manyase.
mithyaiṣa vyavasāyaste prakṛtistvāṃniyokṣyati

BG 18.59

“If you, however, delude yourself into thinking that you are all-competent; and vow to stop fighting, your vow will sooner or later come to nought. The kṣatriya-nature latent in you will impel you and propel you into action.”

You might at first sit with crossed arms resisting battle. However, others will surely start the war. The war trumpet will be blown. Elephants and horses will rush in. Armies will strike each other with weapons. Cries of pain and horror will ensue. When those shrieks reach your ears, when your eyes see that river of blood, your true nature that is well-hidden inside you will get provoked. What then will happen? Instead of fighting with a suffusion of sattva as an offering to Brahma, you will fight with an exuberance of rajas without remembering Brahma, while being controlled by prakṛti.

svabhāvajena kaunteya nibaddhaḥ svena karmaṇā. |
kartuṅ-necchasi yanmohāt kariṣyasyavaśo.pi tat ||

BG 18.60

“The qualities and strengths naturally present in you befit a kṣatriya. It is your duty to engage them in the performance of your svadharma. However, if, stricken by naive feeling, you forget your dharma and give up your duties, you will still end up performing the same activity that you detested - but now like a shackled ox with no freedom of discernment.”

Now Bhagavān enunciates the gears and wheels of the world-machine in a mahāvākya[1].

īśvaraḥ sarvabhūtānām hṛddeśe.rjuna tiṣṭhati |
bhrāmāyānsarvabhūtāni yantrārūḍhāni māyayā ||

BG 18.61

The work of īśvara is said to be two-fold here. First - “īśvara is at the heart-centre of all beings”. Bhagavān resides in all as the inner-controller and is the primordial reason and energy behind all vital activities. What is he doing there sitting at the core? Sitting idle? No. He performs his second activity. He pricks us with a twig; he pinches us and tickles us. “He makes everything whirl from hither to thither - seating us on the mechanical horses of Māyā.” This is Bhagavān’s Līlā; and man’s life.

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.

Footnotes

[1]A great truth-revealing statement like tattvamasi (that thou art) in the upaniṣads

Author(s)

About:

Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.

Translator(s)

About:

Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.

About:

Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

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The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...