ಮೃತದಿಂ ಫಲ್ಗುಣನ ಸಂತವಿಡುತವನುಲಿದಾ
ಮತಿಮೋಹವ ನೀಗುವ ಜೀ-
ವಿತತ್ತ್ವವ ಪಾಡಿದಂ ಜಗದ್ಗುರು ಕೃಷ್ಣಂ || 1 ||
With a smile and a nectar-like glance of friendship,
the world-teacher, Kṛṣṇa, sang the essence of life,
curing Phalguṇa’s (Arjuna’s) mind delusion
that caused him to utter words of unhappiness.
ಅವಿಚಾರದ ಕೃಪೆಯೇಂ ತ-
ನವಕುಸುಮಾಸ್ತರಣಗುಪ್ತಗರ್ತಂ ಸುಖಮೇಂ || 2 ||
What is compassion that lacks reflection?
What is faith in dharma without the basis of analysis?
What is renunciation if accompanied by sorrow?
Does a pit hidden by a spread of fresh flowers count as pleasure?
ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಂಗಳಿನರುಹಿ ನಿತ್ಯಸರ್ವತ್ರಾತ್ಮ- ||
ವಿಸ್ತರದಿಂ ಪೇಳಿ ಭಯವ ಕಳೆದಂ ದೇವಂ || 3 ||
Elucidating the nature of reality
from sāṅkhya and other ancient sciences,
Bhagavān expounded upon the indestructibility of
the eternal and omnipresent Self in detail and
rid Arjuna of his fear.
Arjuna was unaware of exceptional circumstances wherein violence became imperative and compassion became inappropriate. He did not realize that a limited personal perspective or common public opinion was insufficient to arrive at the right conclusion. He was ignorant of the idea that the determination of one’s dharma required discernment between the Real and the Unreal.
Karma (action) depends upon the performer whereas the fruit of action is dependent on Providence. Excellence or kauśala (skill) is that by which one does not accumulate detriment while performing one’s dharma.
Sāṅkhya-yoga (The Yoga of Knowledge)
or Tattva-viveka-yoga (The Yoga of Discernment of Reality)
There are several words of śāstric terminology in the Gītā such as ātmā, brahman, and prakṛti, which have not been defined or explained. Such words had been in common parlance for ages prior to the Gītā. These terms have come to us from the Vedas and Upaniṣads that are thousands of years older than the Gītā. Therefore, it might not have been necessary for either Vyāsa, Kṛṣṇa, or Arjuna to explain these terms. However, an understanding of these terms is a necessary prerequisite for our study. Let us now comprehend, albeit in brief, some of the most important terms.
1. Adhi-dharma – This word is not found in the Gītā. I do not know if this term has been used in any ancient work. As I deem it to be a necessary term, it has been used in this work.
Dharma can be deliberated upon through six different perspectives:
A. Dharma is the body of obligatory works—both worldly and Vedic—comprising ritual practices, conduct, and restrictions that enables one’s own welfare as well as that of the others.
B. Svadharma is dharma based upon a person’s circumstances, clan, and society. In other words, it is one’s own dharma.
C. Adharma – (i) Something that is not dharma or (ii) Something that is against dharma.
D. Vidharma – (i) Something that is not one’s own dharma or (ii) The dharma of the others.
E. Ubhaya-tāṭasthya (indifference to both) – Being indifferent to both dharma and adharma.
F. Adhi-dharma is one who, though beyond dharma and adharma, follows dhārmic behaviour in society. As he sees his own Self everywhere, he has no friends or foes; or likes and dislikes; and hence free from the touch of pāpa and puṇya. Therefore the adhi-dharma has no need for rules and prohibitions. However, he acts as if he is subject to societal rules and norms and performs worldly activities while free from the fruitful or unfruitful rewards of those actions.
tyaja dharmam-adharmaṃ ca ||
(Renounce both dharma and adharma)
yena tyajasi tat-tyaja ||
(Renounce that by which you renounce)
2. Avidyā – This word is not found in the Gītā but is found in śāstra. Avidyā is the deficiency in human knowledge, not the absence of it. The illumination of the Self is obstructed by the impurities from previous lives. Therefore one is unable to see an illusion as an illusion. This lack of knowledge and its insufficiency is avidyā.
3. Ātmā – This word has several meanings. Let us note a few of them here:
(i) Consciousness accompanying the body – The entity being alluded to when man refers to the word “I” in his mind. This ātmā, referring to itself as “I” (“aham”), “I”, separates itself from the world. This can be referred to as dehātmā or embodied self. The body or deha includes sensory and motor organs, mind, intellect and the vital airs.
(ii) Manas – Ātmā also refers to the mind that is distinct from the body. “Mahātmā” (great soul), “duṣṭātmā” (evil soul) and “pāpātmā” (sinful soul) refer to this definition of the ātmā.
(iii) Jīvātmā – The entity that, while different from the body and mind, illumines and enlivens both. This is referred to as the jīvātmā. The word “jīva” refers to pure consciousness coupled with the body and a few other elements.
(iv) Antarātmā – Pure consciousness without any upādhis (adjuncts). This is also referred to as the kūṭātmā or sūtrātmā. The name sūtrātmā denotes the consciousness that is like the string in a necklace of pearls that is unseen and untouched. It is the inner essence of all beings.
The previous definitions pertained to the individual being.
(v) Paramātmā – Collective existence of the individual consciousness found in all beings. This pervades all creation and gives energy to every being. This is an aspect of para-brahman.
4. Īśvara – State of brahman related to creation, preservation, destruction, and other activities pertaining to the created universe.
5. Ṛta – Natural order in the world. This is seen in the movements of the earth, the planets, the sun, the moon, and other celestial objects as well as in the change of seasons and in the production of offspring. The special distinguishing quality seen in each individual substance is ṛta. Seen this way, ṛta is the seed of dharma. Ṛta is Truth contemplated upon internally, or Reality. It is also the power that makes available the appropriate fruit for karma.
6. Karma or transmigratory karma is of three kinds:
(i) Sañcita – This is the collective set of merits and demerits produced by actions performed across several lives. These are waiting to yield results.
(ii) Āgāmi – Karma that has not yet yielded fruit and will yield fruit later.
(iii) Prārabdha – is a part of the sañcita karma that has begun to yield fruit. In a pile of grain, a few grains would have begun to sprout; prārabdha is such. This prārabdha can be exhausted only by experiencing and enduring it.
Has not the beginningless jīva lived across so many births? The mass of karma that remains after experiencing its fruits is akin to today’s leftover food that came from yesterday’s cooking. This is of three kinds—sañcita, āgāmi, prārabdha—as explained before.
When grains of ragi (or any cereal) are moistened, a few of those grains sprout sooner. Other grains sprout in time. The sprouted ones constitute prārabdha. There are other distinctions in prārabdha – but those are not relevant here.
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.