Thus, one who leads life in the form of tapas, yajña, and dāna, does not have to hanker after mokṣa. It is readily available. By leading a life that is dedicated to the divine, he climbs above the duality caused by lust and anger. Gradually he will realize that there is something beyond worldly enjoyment and becomes eligible to see the abode of paramātmā. Then is freedom from karmic shackles.
yastvātmaratirēva syādātmatṛptaśca mānavaḥ |
ātmanyēva ca santuṣṭastasya kāryaṅ na vidyatē || BG 3.17
Kṛṣṇa says, “sahayajñāh prajāh srṣṭvā” (It appears that there is a pāṭhāntara, “sahayajñaih”). It is probably necessary to make sense of this verse by explaining and understanding the inner meanings of expositions of the earlier ācāryas.
- It should be noted that there is no mention of division on the basis of region, caste, or clan. By the words “prajāh srṣṭvā”, it is clear that it refers to all humankind. Therefore, this instruction applie to all humans, irrespective of caste or position in life.
- The temperament of yajña is inherent in the makeup of human nature. It has not entered man from outside. It is not created by someone else’s influence. The inclination towards yajña is one of the innate qualities of humanity.
- Yajña is worship. An important part of worship is naivedya or oblation. It is also called āhuti or havirbhāga; that itself is upāyana or gift. The common English translation of the word yajña is sacrifice. In essence, ’sacrifice’ also means proper conduct of oneself towards something sacred – that is, start with worship and make an offering. Giving up something that belongs to us for an object worthy of worship – giving up one’s ownership with a sense of reverence is yajña.
- Is not the purport of the earlier verse that Yajña is inborn in man? What does it mean? Does it not imply that giving up ownership is inborn and natural in him? Is it real, though? Our experience tells us otherwise. Man is by nature selfish. Giving up something selflessly is usually unnatural to him. (See #7 below).
- Let us explore the experience in greater depth and breadth. In every human, there is surely some generosity in something. Even the most parsimonious man will show some affection and concern towards his wife and children – at least sometimes. He might loosen up, at least to reach his own selfish ends. He might draw someone close to him and help him. The seed of selflessness is thus sown. Dāna and yajña are the workings of sattva-guṇa. There is no human without at least some goodness in him. Just as there cannot be a person who is completely sāttvika, there is no one completely devoid of goodness. In some people, the quality of sattva-guṇa and the tendency towards yajña are quite minimal and feeble. By associating with the world, these feelings gradually grow and become more intense. Lust becomes love. Love transforms into attachment. Attachment moulds into fellowship. Fellowship trains one to give up selfishness, at least a little. This is the instruction of nīti acquired by acquaintance with the world. This teaching is possible because there is at least an iota of sattva in all humans. The germination of this tiny seed of sattva is the initial manifestation of yajña. Matthew Arnold’s opinion is nearly the same – “... the enduring Power, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness.” (Literature and Dogma).
- Initially, natural selfishness itself expects others’ help. No one can lead a life in this world without at least some help from other people. Thinking thus objectively, a solitary life is not a full life. No man is completely independent. Everyone is dependent on others. As humans are necessary for one another’s survival, they have established families, societies, and states. Plato the philosopher affirms the same. Thus, interdependence among humans is a natural state.
- Even though the seed of yajña is naturally present within us, our difficulty is that it is dormant (See 5. above). As we will later see in the sixteenth chapter, daivī and āsurī qualities are both mixed in our nature. Selfishness and friendship with others co-exist. A sense of ownership exists alongside indifference. The object of dhārmika rituals is to sift through this mixture, separate out the virtuous qualities and reinforce them. Among all dharmas, the first one is the intention to help others, the will to think of others’ welfare. Even if it is born out of a desire for one’s own welfare, it is not a flaw. It is enough if from within arises the realisation that there is someone other than oneself and that their companionship is valuable. This wisdom paves the way for further lessons in moral instruction. When man progresses from egotism to affection – when ego expands from self-centredness into a sense of ‘mine’ and ‘my people’ – it can be said that the progress of nīti has begun. The second step is moving from the sense of “only these are mine” to the feeling that “all are mine”. Due to the organisation and mechanics of creation, natural self-love and self-regard themselves desire the company of others and help practise giving up selfishness.
- “parasparaṃ bhāvayantaḥ”: is the golden maxim of life in the world taught by Bhagavān. That indeed is friendship with the world. It is a yajña where one’s selfishness is offered as an āhuti. Bonding with family is its preliminary form. The husband has to give up something for the happiness of his wife. She, in turn, has to do the same for him. This mutual giving up for the other’s sake itself is yajña which leads to a rise in matrimonial bliss. In fact, love itself is preparation for giving up oneself. Without the yajña of the offering of one’s ego, there cannot be family or friendship or society, or any human relationship at all.
- As the fluid of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ gradually spreads from one’s home to the extended family, to society and then to the country, it goes deeper and becomes thinned and diluted. As ego thins out, the practice of likening oneself with the whole world increases. As the practice of ātmaupamya (the feeling that the whole world is like us) increases, the universe is seen and experienced as an extension of oneself. When the sense of belonging breaks out of the embankments of worldly attachment and rushes into the sea of paramātmā, mokṣa or salvation is gained.
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.