Appendix (Part 11)

This article is part 136 of 138 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

Bhakti-Karma-Jñāna

Our philosophical literature is replete with analyses about the superiority of either one of bhakti, karma or jñāna. This also features as one of the strongest grounds of arguments among the three matas. My belief is that this is an unnecessary and fruitless controversy. Even though the three means — bhakti, jñāna and karma appear different, there is no doubt that the basis for all the three is the same. The substance that’s deep inside all humans is the same, but it flows out in multiple ways. Among them, the important ones are bhakti, jñāna and karma. If the inner feelings express themselves towards their object of interest through:

  1. The heart, it is called bhakti
  2. The intellect, it is called jñāna
  3. Through the limbs and sense organs, it is called karma

svakarmaṇā tam-abhyarcya

-BG 18.46

Indeed, in the above verse, ‘tam’ indicates jñāna, ‘arcana’ indicates bhakti. The word karma is already clear.
A man’s internal faculties might like any one path, or find any one easier among these three at a moment, and another at a different moment, and take that path. The same person might be a bhakta once and find happiness in worship and kīrtana; in another moment he may sit absorbed in yoga-samādhi; at another moment he may occupy himself in activities of puṇya. Finding differences between and comparing these paths, or any other paths which are the means of worshipping Bhagavān is absurd.

yat-sāṃkhyaiḥ prāpyate sthānaṃ tad-yogair-api gamyate ॥

-BG 5.5

The bliss of Mokṣa

Mokṣa means liberation. Liberation from what? The answer is of four kinds.

  1. The flavours and splendours of the universe excite our desires and delusions, making us act in many ways. These are the fetters of desire. Mokṣa is when we are freed from them.
  2. During our worldly life, we may have to do many kinds of work. It may not be possible to live without performing them. We even have to perform various karmas compulsorily if our lives have to become meaningful. We accrue puṇya and pāpa from these karmas. These are the shackles of karma. Freedom from them is mokṣa.
  3. The jīva gets stuck and suffers in the whirlpool of life and death due to remnant karma from many past lives. That is saṃsāra. Mokṣa is when we escape from this whirlpools of the ocean of saṃsāra.
  4. Worldly life seems burdensome because of difficulties and bitterness. Poverty and misery spoil our peace of mind and trouble us. It is freedom indeed if these burdensome experiences were to cease and life were to appear to the mind as a load of flowers - a light load. Mokṣa is relieving the burden of difficulties of the jīva.

Thus, there are four kinds of freedom in mokṣa. Among them, I feel that the fourth one is the most important — freedom from burdensome experience.

The happiness and pleasure experienced by becoming free is also mokṣa. Among all the pleasures that can be experienced by humans, the bliss of mokṣa is the best among the best.

Pleasure is something that everyone has experienced. Everyone has tasted it. Therefore, everyone desires it. How can desire be born for something that one does not know at all?

Even though everyone knows a thing or two about pleasure, ‘pleasure’ as everyone knows it, has a few shortcomings.

Firstly, ordinary pleasure is associated with pain. There is hunger before a meal and fear of indigestion after it; there is poverty before wealth; the fear of poverty again in the future; yearning before love and fear of bereavement after it; indifference before friendship, and jealousy after — thus there is always a dash of remembrance of pain associated with pleasure. A need for something is attached to the rejection of something else.

Secondly, there is a fear of our pleasure coming to an end. When we remember badam halwa, our palate desires it. When we see it, we feel like keeping a small piece on our tongues. The moment it is kept there, we feel - “alas! this has started melting away! We need another piece, and then yet another piece ”, and so on.

Thirdly, our pleasures (sukha) depend on the senses. ‘Kha’ refers to the senses of perception. The senses of perception are the varied powers of perception in the different organs of the body. Therefore, our pleasures depend on the body. The body always has the fear of death.

Fourthly, since pleasure is dependent on the body, we cannot escape the anxiety of disease and decrepitude of the body. The pleasure that we experience right now might itself pave the way for disease. A sumptuous meal can culminate in indigestion. Sweet water might appease thirst, but brackish water increases it. It is thus seen that pain is hidden in the womb of our pleasures.

Fifthly, the intoxicating nature of sensual pleasures might make us forget that there exists something beyond the body called jīva. It can conceal the ātmā, and deny the existence of Bhagavān. It might encourage feelings such as — “it is only the body that exists; momentary pleasures are everything; apart from these pleasures, there is nothing exciting in life”. Forgetting the ātmā is the biggest danger from our worldly pleasures.

The pleasure that is unaffected by these dangers is the bliss of mokṣa. This bliss (’ānanda’) does not have even a touch of the senses. Ānanda is that pleasure for which there is no fear of ending, free from the memory of opposition, unmixed with even an iota of fatigue, which is infinite, unbroken, untainted and free. This ānanda is possible when the ātmā is freed from the cravings of the sense-organs of the body and the distresses of the state of jīva. That is mokṣa.

It is proper from all perspectives to say that freedom from ego is mokṣa. Because, the difficulties of saṃsāra, the boons and banes of karma, and the pain of birth and death are all caused due to the incitement of the ego (ahaṅkāra) — this personal feeling that one is different from the world, and that one enjoys the world and that the world exists for one’s enjoyment. If, however, one mentally feels that there is nothing other than oneself, that there is none else to compete with for a share in the wealth of the world, and that there is no enemy anywhere, how can one ever feel difficulty or pain, wherever one is? For a person that truly feels - “All experiences are superficial. These are but the actions of prakṛti, which of course is different from me. Whatever exists in reality is only paramātmā in which I always exist”- at every single  moment, there is neither bondage nor freedom.

bandha-mokṣau na vidyete nitya-muktatayātmanaḥ ॥ (Unknown source)

One who always experiences parabrahma - the basis of everything - everywhere, whose mind does not perceive anything other than Brahma, for whom all that the eyes see are works of māyā, and whose firm belief that there is nothing other than ātmā gives him complete peace - is indeed mukta (free).

As our ordinary pleasures are related to the world, they become capable of perturbing our minds. The bliss  that is related only to the ātmā and hence does not cause mental perturbations is the bliss of mokṣa. That indeed is ānanda. The characteristic of ānanda is peace without any sorrow or difficulty. Peace is when ego melts away. Freedom from ahaṅkāra is mokṣa

Religion or Dope?

It might be remembered that in CE 1917, there was a revolution against czarism in Russia. During that time, the first blow of the Bolsheviks fell on religious institutions. Communists aver that the clergy and religious officials are the bodyguards for capitalists and imperialists. They turn people’s minds from this world to the world beyond. Because of this, unjust officials of the state and greedy businessmen can escape the wrath of common people. Therefore, religion is akin to dope that can make people forget themselves.

The word ’dope’ has come from the jargon of horseracing. Suppose one of the racers gets information that a rival horse is sharp and might win the race, they might bribe the horse’s jockey and other caretakers and secretly feed drugs to it. The sharp horse then becomes dull. Similarly, places of worship and monastic institutions are like dope. People, forgetting that the reason for injustice and difficulties are capitalists and officials, believe that unknowable things such as ‘God’, dharma, destiny, puṇya and pāpa are the cause for their misery. They suffer further because of that. It is necessary therefore to destroy their śraddhā in religion, if people have to become better. This in a nutshell is the communist view.

Communists may be atheists. But, is their argument completely baseless? Doesn’t religious fervour overcome the intellect with emotional upheavals and delude it? The flaw here is not that of religious principle, but of the blindness in religious fervour. Religious dharma is something that should uniformly pervade all fields of human life. If it is limited only to worship and prayer and denies nation and country, it is not religious dharma, but religious delusion.

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.

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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Vanitakavitotsavah

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Vaiphalyaphalam

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Nipunapraghunakam

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