Ch 18 Yoga of Single-pointed Surrender (Part 15)

This article is part 110 of 135 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

Let us now look at a story.

A story

There was a wedding in our village in the house of the landlord Shamarao. Shamarao was wealthy and generous. His kin by marriage Bhimarao was also a rich landlord and no less flamboyant. Fifteen cartloads of his people showed up for the wedding. So there were a hundred people from the groom’s side and a similar number from the bride’s side as well. With them were the two or three hundred villagers who participated in the wedding - making it quite the spectacle. The sounds from the wedding orchestra echoed in all directions. Arrangements had been made for the varapūjā[1] at the village Rāma temple. There were several folks bedecked in all their finery, with zari (gold or silver thread) turbans and silk-bordered upper garments, roaming here and there with fulsome smiles under their plush moustaches. All of them are gaily conversing among themselves showering love and enthusiasm. Let us mark one of them - Gundurao, who too is of impressive demeanour with a well-groomed moustache, a gracious smile - who is shaking hands with everyone else and engaged in easy conversation. All those who see him think of him as a well-established member of society. After the varapūjā rituals were completed, even Gundurao, of his own accord, helps in distributing sandal fragrance, flowers, and betel. Following that was dinner. Gundurao continues his participation there as well - wishing bon appetit to one and all and ordering the food servers around. He makes everyone chant the prayer before eating food and ensures that all the guests get their customary tāmbūla (a fruit or a coconut with betel leaves) after their meal.

The wedding was celebrated for four days. Gundurao gains confidence from the groom’s side as one on the bride’s side and as belonging to the groom’s side from those on the side of the bride. Both parties praise Gundurao - “It was because of Gundurao that our work became light! What a helpful person!”

On the fifth day, all the relatives begin to depart for their places. Then,  an uproar ensues. Gold and silver ornaments gifted to the groom have disappeared! Finery and jewellery kept aside for the bride have vanished! There is much mayhem on both the bride’s and groom’s sides. All of them insist - “Call that Gundrao. He can find out what happened”. But where is Rao now? No one knows. Bhimarao asked Shamaro, “Where sir, is your Mr. Rao?” Shamarao questions him back - “Which Mr. Rao, sir?” to which the answer is - “The same person - Mr. Gundurao!”. Shamarao replies - shocked - “Ayyo! Isn’t he from your side? I thought he was from your side!”

To Shamarao’s eyes, Gundurao belonged to Bhimarao’s side whereas Bhimaro thought that Gundurao was on Shamarao’s side. But in reality, he belonged to neither side. He came from an unknown place, played his tricks, and left for some other place. In the days he was there, he attracted them, made both sides trust him, and finally cheated them. That is māyā.

The matter does not end by cursing Gundurao. Who was it that facilitated and encouraged his sleight of hand? Shamarao was dumbstruck while Bhimarao was stupefied. That is avidyā. Avidyā is not the lack of formal education. It is a deficiency in perception. If the buddhi that had to climb ten stairs collapses on the sixth stair, it is avidyā that is the cause. The situation wherein the knowledge-power of the jīva is burdened and weakened by latent tendencies of endless lives is denoted in the śāstras as avidyā. It is a deficiency in knowledge, the incapability of the buddhi.

The teeth in our mouth have fallen off because of prakṛti’s law of ageing. Pretending to favour us, she force feeds us a banana with a chunk of opium hidden in it. As we do not have teeth, we cannot chew and so the opium slips into our throat without our knowledge. As our tongue tasted the fruit, we relished it. Now, we open our mouths for more. As the opium gets into our stomach, the drug induced high gets to our head. Our lack of teeth is avidyā. The fruit with opium is māyā. Avidyā and māyā thus combine to agitate our buddhis. While māyā is a world phenomenon, avidyā resides in the jīva.

Māyā is the charm in the world. Nobody would want to live in the world if māyā did not do her job. Wasn’t there a jester next to the king in some of our dramas of yore? That jester would encourage all the pleasure cravings of the king and teach him devious ways to attain them. Whenever the king started on any adventure, the jester would prod him on saying - “Yes, that is the right thing to do!”.  Finally when the king lost his teeth and got his moustache ripped, the same jester would then pretend to give advice to the king - “O friend, did I not warn you back then?” and berate him, while laughing inwardly. Such are the noble qualities of a jester. Māyā plays the role of such a jester in our lives. After we have lived as tenants in a rented house for a while, she makes us argue that it is we who own the house and that the owner is actually an outsider! She makes us think that we own the world, making us forget that the world has another master. It is because of māyā that we are attached to the world.

When māyā embraces us, we feel pleasure and forget ourselves. Then from her soft, smooth, and lovely limbs exude prickly thorns, making us cry out - “Ohhh haaa!” in agony. When māyā retracts those thorns, we are content once again. We choose the deep embrace again and forget ourselves. The hair-thorns and needle-like nails come out again, causing us pain. Her lullaby lulls us yet again into a stupor.

punarapi hasitam punarapi ruditam
punarapi māyāsaudhanivasitam ||
(Again the laughter, again the cry,
Again the living in the palace of māyā)

******

In trying to understand the extent of Bhagavān’s instruction about the structure of the world-machine, the topic of māyā was cursorily discussed.

īśvaraḥ sarvabhūtānāṃ hṛddeśe.rjuna tiṣṭhati.
bhrāmāyānsarvabhūtāni yantrārūḍhāni māyayā

BG 18.61

The above śloka is worthy of much repeated reflection. The more we think of it, many more flashes of meaning become evident to our minds. This śloka is verily a mahāvākya[2] .

The yantra referenced here seems to be like the merry-go-round that we see in our fairs and parks. A hemispherical roof blankets a tall pole from which ten or twenty rods descend. Attached to the ends of the rods are swing seats, cradles, and toy animals such as horses, elephants, or peacocks with seats on them. Children then choose to sit on their favourite mounts. The controller of the contraption turns a lever with which the roof starts whirling. The toy animals and cradles, along with their riders, also start whirling with the roof. We do not know if such a machine existed during the age of the Mahābhārata. But this simile suits the world-machine quite nicely.

  1. The merry-go-round is fitted with colourful flags, toys, and buntings and is attractive to the eyes. The world too is attractive to the sense organs.
  2. The child sitting on one of the revolving toy horses forgets that it is a toy and imagines it to be a real horse. We too forget that our body is insentient and behave as if life is only a sequence of bodily activities. We also think that this life is eternal.
  3. The rider thinks that he is the master of the toy horse and flails about his hands and legs exclaiming, “hup, hup, go!”, as if he is urging on the horse. He forgets that the operator of the machine is someone else. We too think that we are masters of our lives, and that all our adventures and achievements are of our own doing. We presume that the world is because of us, forgetting the divine master who is the primordial origin of it all.
  4. The speed of the rotation overwhelms the rider. In that overwhelmed feeling, he forgets where he is headed and why - showing a lack of discernment. That is delusion. It is the same for us too. The heady euphoria of worldly pleasure overwhelms us. We lose the caution and wisdom to ask ourselves -  “What is the goal of life? How can we make it fulfilling?”. This too is delusion. The whirling of the contraption makes the boy forget himself. Engaged in worldly running around, we forget ourselves too. The whirling machine’s form, colour, and speed are attractive for children; wordly form, colour and the pace of activity attract us too. The children surrender to that transient attraction without further thought. So do we. While revolving in the machine, children forget reality and a fantasy takes them over. In worldly māyā, we forget our true Self and are wonderstruck by the world.

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]Welcoming the groom and his party

[2]Four great Upaniṣadic sentences that declare the identity of jīva and Brahma.

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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