Appendix 2. What do we do with our sense organs?
The havoc created by the sense organs repeatedly comes up for discussion. There is no life without sense organs; but no peace of mind with them. How do we deal with them?
indriyāṇi pramāthīni haranti prasabhaṃ manaḥ । (BG 2.60)
The sense organs disturb the mind, scatter it and take it away. Therefore the sense organs have to be restrained. What does this mean? Should the organs be prevented from functioning? Or since they create a lot of trouble, shouldn’t the sense organs be suppressed and killed?
Not so. Neither is it possible nor is it wise to do that. The sense organs must be won over, not killed. Sense organs must exist but function within limits. Sense organs must function but within bounds. That is exactly what the great ṛṣis prayed for.
bhadraṃ karṇebhiḥ śṛṇuyāma devāḥ
sthirairaṅgaistuṣṭuvāgṃ sastanūbhiḥ ॥ Śāntipāṭha
O Devas! May we listen to the auspicious with our ears!
O those deserving adoration! May we see the auspicious with our eyes!
May we please them with bodies and firm organs!
āpyāyantu mamāṅgāni vākprāṇaścakṣuśśrotramatho
balamindriyāṇi sarvāṇi ca ॥ Śāntipāṭha
May my limbs, speech, vital airs, eyes and ears and all my organs gain in strength.
It does not befit a rider to dismount his horse because the horse runs hither and thither. He should be seated firmly on his mount. He should be able to rein in the horse and go where he wants to go. The one who knows the use of the reins and the stirrup can keep any horse in his control. The one who has won over his organs is not the same as one whose organs are dead or non-functional. (A jitendriya is not the same as a mṛtendriya). Winning over the senses is not killing them. The senses should endure and be capable but must not yield to evil.
What is the merit in one whose senses are not working? A destitute is a renunciate; A toothless one eats healthy food as he has no choice; a mute observes silence; a weak person has good conduct. These varied innocences are not sound qualities in reality; but are handicaps. It is called restraint when a strong one reins in his strength. It is mercy only when a person capable of delivering punishment restrains himself from doing so. It is virtue, likewise, when capable senses do not hanker after evil.
The sense organs must not lose their ability to grasp and appreciate beauty. They must continue to perceive the finest of details but we must not come under their spell. A sweet-meat vendor knows the finer details and tastes of his own culinary creations quite well. Without this ability, his products will not be able to attract discerning customers. Thus, though being a connoisseur of tastes, he will not succumb to them. If he is infatuated by his own creations, he would have to close shop after eating all of his dishes. A refined palate is imperative for his business; but not dangerous to him.
Similar rules need to apply to our sense organs as well. We should have power over them and not the other way around.
yuktāhāravihārasya || (BG 6.17)
All must exist in moderation.
Appendix 3. The yoga of buddhi
buddhyā yukto…..karmabandhaṃ prahāsyasi (BG 2.39)
buddhau śaraṇamanviccha (BG 2.49)
buddhiyukto jahātīha ubhe sukṛta-duṣkṛte (BG 2.50)
The term buddhi has been used in a special sense in this chapter. Here buddhi does not refer to one of the constituents of the internal organ such as mind, citta, the ego, memory, steadiness (dhṛti) and intention (ākūti). Here buddhi refers to the action of the intellect. It is the discernment of or investigation into reality. The knowledge that results at the end of this discernment is also indicated as buddhi.
Thus, “buddhiyogamupāśritya” means taking recourse to the discernment or investigation into truth. If a seeker has this wisdom, karma performed by him will not bind him as he performs karma only from a transcendental perspective devoid of any selfish desires. There is no ‘me’ or ‘mine’ for a knower of Truth. Where there is no selfishness, there is no touch of pāpa or demerit.
Similarly, there is no puṇya or pāpa incurred for one who, having taken refuge in the Truth, witnesses the Self everywhere, and is free of selfish desires. He is the adhi-dharmi whose characteristics are as follows.
buddhiyukto jahātīha ubhe sukṛta-duṣkṛte (BG 2.50)
Whoever is buddhiyukta i.e., is yoked with the buddhi - or has comprehended and experienced the Supreme Principle - such a person, being unselfish, is free of both puṇya and pāpa.
This has to be related with the 18th chapter, in the famous verse fragment “sarvadharmān parityajya” (18-66). The dharmas (right actions) are counted among meritorious acts. Such works have associated motives and are accompanied by at least a tinge of self-interest. The knower, having realised the Supreme truth, has no ’I’. The one who has no ’I’ does not paṛtake of any merit or demerit. “jahātīha ubhe sukṛta-duṣkṛte” - is free of both good and bad deeds. It is about him that the following is said.
tyaja dharmamadharmaṃ ca…
(Renounce dharma and adharma)
yena tyajasi tattyaja ॥
(Renounce that by which you renounce…)
Appendix 4. Titikṣā (Forbearance)
Titikṣā is forbearance or patience or endurance. It is a quality that is much needed in a seeker. If the end goal of human life is the realization of Brahma or the experience of Supreme Godhead, the path towards the goal is of crucial impoṛtance. The practice of seeing the Divine everywhere is the path. Imagine how our behaviour would be if we knew that we were always in the presence of the Divine and that he would constantly be watching us without batting an eyelid. Our lives should be led with such behaviour.
We are models of good behaviour and humility when we meet an important government official or an influential person. What good behaviour and politeness would we exhibit if the Supreme Himself were in front of us! In that situation, there should be no scolding or threatening others, or angry shouting reactions. Our arrogance and ego must be kept in check. That is titikṣā.
mātrāsparśāstu kaunteya śītoṣṇasukhaduḥkhadāḥ | (BG 2.14)
The world associates and dissociates from us. Sense experiences come and go. Our minds should not be swayed by them.
What do we do during sultry summers, wet monsoons, or dew or cold winters? We accept those as seasonal changes and endure them. We do not try to change Nature but adjust to her system. Why do we not have the same attitude with our worldly relationships? Bodily nourishment, growing thin, elation, pain, opulence and poverty, triumph - all of these appear randomly and leave subsequently. They are transient and impermanent. We should not give in to worry for those.
The rival of titikṣā is egotism. ‘My’ convenience, ‘my’ profit, ‘my’ desire, ‘my’ pride - when these ‘me’ and ‘mine’ are on the ascendant, forbearance becomes impossible. “Alas! My work got hampered! My ego is hurt! I did not get what I wanted in time!” - are all examples of the ego in action. These are destructive to the practice of living in Divine Presence.
Titikṣā comes from an understanding of the eternal and the transient.
āgamāpāyino’nityās tans-titikṣhasva bhārata (2-14)
Cold, heat, pain, mirth, debt, money, anxiety and excitement - all of these do not last long. They exist for a while and then disappear. Once wisdom dawns about these ephemeral entities, enduring them becomes easier.
The understanding of this difference between the eternal and the transient is known as a “sense of proportion” which refers to the relative importance of different aspects of a circumstance or an object. It would not be in the fitness of things to pay four or two rupees for something worth three rupees. It would not be prudent to devote a day’s attention to an occurrence of momentary impoṛtance. All of our daily vexations and irritations are caused because of a lack of this “sense of proportion”. We make mountains of molehills; disturb ourselves and others as well.
vivekabhraṣṭānāṃ bhavati vinipātaḥ śatamukhaḥ । (Bhartṛhari nītiśataka 10)
The fall of those lacking wisdom proceeds in a hundred ways.
Titikṣā enables peace of mind. There is no experience of reality without mental peace. Just as it is not possible to see an object clearly in the light of a lamp whose flame is swayed by wind, a disturbed mind is unable to comprehend the truth. Therefore titikṣā is an imperative prerequisite for the seeker of Truth.
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.