Chapter 3, Srimad Bhagavad-Gita

Wednesday 14 November

THE ONLY WAY

BG 3.9

यज्ञार्थात्कर्म्मणोऽन्यत्र लोकोऽयं कर्म्मबन्धनः ।
तदर्थं कर्म्म कौन्तेय मुक्तसङ्गः समाचर ॥९॥

yajñārthāt karmaṇo ’nyatra loko ’yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ
tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya mukta-saṅgaḥ samāchara [9]

(he) kaunteya–O Arjuna; ayam lokaḥ–all the living beings of this world; karma-bandhanaḥ (bhavati)–come into bondage by their action; karmaṇaḥ anyatra–other than action; yajña-arthāt–as selfless duty offered to Lord Viṣṇu. (ataḥ)–Therefore; mukta-saṅgaḥ (san)–being free from attachment; karma samāchara–be fully active; tat-artham–for the purpose of such sacrifice, for Him. [9]

“Other than action for the sake of sacrifice (the Lord), all actions are the cause of bondage for the living beings. O Arjuna, perform action free from attachment for the sake of sacrifice.”

This is a very important verse quoted much by our Gurus, and it is another fundamental verse of karma-yoga applicable to bhakti-yoga, following on from verse 2.47. This is a great one to learn. It is a very sobering message: that everything we do, if it is not for the Lord’s satisfaction, will bind us further in samsara.

One important point here is that this verse can be interpreted differently according to how ‘yajna’ or sacrifice is understood. According to the sruti sastra, ‘yajno vai Visnuh’, ‘yajna means Vishnu’ i.e. something done for the satisfaction of the Lord as Vishnu or Krishna. Not necessarily a fire sacrifice!

Srila Sridhar Maharaj on this verse:

“Unless work is done as a sacrifice for Vishnu, one’s own work will be the cause of bondage; therefore work on My behalf, and free yourself from the chain of action and reaction.” Bhagavad-gita (3.9) says that any work, no matter what it is, causes a reaction. For example, you may nurse a patient. Apparently, it is a good thing, but you are giving the patient medicine that comes from killing so many insects, trees, creepers, and animals. You may think that your nursing is a very pure duty, but you are causing a disturbance in the environment, and you will have to pay for that. In this way, whatever we do here cannot be perfectly good. …
… We must firmly establish the conception of Isavasyam (Isopanisad): everything, including ourselves, is meant for the Supreme Lord. We are all His servants, and we are meant to utilise everything in His service. Any work we perform will bind us in this environment of matter, unless we perform yajna, sacrifice (yajnarthat karmano ‘nyatra, loko ‘yam karma-bandhanah).
–Search for Sri Krishna

Another point which Srila Gurudev discusses in this regard is that the supreme yajna, or sacrifice offered for the satisfaction of the Lord, is the sankirtan-yajna: https://premadharma.org/sankirtan-yajna/

“We say yajna means fire sacrifice, but that is not the actual meaning. Something done for the satisfaction of Lord according to a regulated (vaidika) method is a yajna. The srutis, the Vedas, say that yajna is one kind of manifestation of Visnu. Yajno vai Visnuh iti sruteh. This is the evidential verse in the Vedas. Srimad Bhagavat also says yajnaih sankirtana-prayair yajanti: we should perform worship through the yajna of sankirtan. If only there is a fire, then that is not a full expression of yajna. The real fire of yajna is not a fire that burns visibly; it is a fire that burns our karma, and through that heavenly feelings arise within us.”
Really wonderful quote from that article of Gurudev’s talk🙏

Question: Pranam Didi 🙏🙏 In this verse it’s mentioned about the reaction of work. The example of nursing a patient is given. But if we put Supreme Lord in centre of our life and dedicate our prescribed duties in His Lotus Feet then how are we going to pay for this action?

Answer: It is only karma that is reactionary. In this context karma means action performed with some individual interest, separate ego. In one place Srila Sridhar Maharaj defines karma as ‘self-assertion’. It means we are imposing our own will, our own concocted, artificial, superficial idea upon the environment. That must be reactionary because it is in opposition to the natural flow, the fundamental flow, which is Krishna’s flow. If we are trying to swim upstream against the current we are going to feel it and it’s going to be a struggle. Similarly it’s Krishna’s house, it’s Krishna’s program, so if we are not in harmony with that we are making some disturbance and naturally there will be a reaction. We haven’t understood the real purpose of the environment and we’re imposing our own idea upon it. There must be a reaction. However if we are moving in consciousness of the natural flow, if we are sensitive to that and moving in harmony with that there is no reaction within this worldly plane.
If we are trying to serving Krishna with love, the only reaction will be more love: bhaktya sanjataya bhaktya. If we are trying to serve, truly, the only reaction will be more service and more desire and capacity to serve. Dasa kari vetan more deho prema dhan. Bondage from this world will be cut as a kind of negligible side-effect.
What to speak of those serving the Lord, even those who are perfectly following karma-yoga are excused from any reactions due to their spirit of detachment. See Bhagavad-gita verses 4.23 & 18.17.
I hope this is clear now.

Monday 19 November 2018

LIVING ON GRACE

यज्ञशिष्टाशिनः सन्तो मुच्यन्ते सर्व्वकिल्बिषैः ।
भुञ्जते ते त्वघं पापा ये पचन्त्यात्मकारणात् ॥१३॥

yajña-śiṣṭāśinaḥ santo muchyante sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ
bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā ye pachanty ātma-kāraṇāt [13]

santaḥ–Virtuous persons; yajña-śiṣṭa-aśinaḥ–who partake of the remnants of sacrifice to the demigods (universal administrators subordinate to the Lord); muchyante–are liberated; sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ–from all sin (pañcha-sūnā, five types of sin due to five kinds of violence to other living beings). ye tu–But those who; pachanti–cook; ātma-kāraṇāt–for their own pleasure; te–those; pāpāḥ–sinful persons; bhuñjate–eat; (eva)–only; agham–sin.

“By accepting sacrificial remnants of the universal gods*, virtuous persons are liberated from all sins arising from violence towards other living entities. But those who prepare food for their own pleasure partake only of sin.”

[Footnote: *The remnants referred to here are not the same as the Kṛṣṇa-prasād (food that has been offered to the Supreme Lord by His devotees). See 9.20–26.]

This is a nice verse to learn, and one I have heard Srila Gurudev quote. This is an example of a verse which on a straightforward level is not concerned with the practice of pure devotion, because it is really referring to more traditional Vedic practices (demigod worship and so on), yet nevertheless our Gurus extract a general devotional principle from it: that other than prasad, everything we take has some sin connected to it. Both through our own enjoying mood and spirit of consumption we are incurring a reaction, and also because of the consciousness and karma behind the food when it already came to us.

So as much as possible we are trying to live in the mood of taking prasad, the Lord’s grace. We may not always be able to take prasad which has been formally offered (and besides, ultimately, according to Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s conception, even our taking of that has value according to our own consciousness anyway) but mentally we will take everything with remembrance of Guru and Gauranga and as much as possible take that with the spirit that it is for our own upkeep, not for the satisfaction of our senses.

This is a wonderful excerpt from Sermons Vol III (ch 2) related to this which I would like to share here:

_______

This is, after all, the suicidal plane, the discordant plane where one cannot live without devouring his environment. That is the law of this land. If you want to live here, then you must devour your environment; otherwise, you can’t survive. So, it is the suicidal plane. One is eating another, and only then he can live. That too is only for the time being. So, is this a proper land to live in?

Prasad—that is the highest solution! The principal necessities of any life here in this world are to preserve and to propagate. Our first priority is to preserve, and for self-preservation we create havoc in the environment by exploitation. The first principle of exploitation begins from the urge for self-preservation, and that means eating. We are to adjust our dealings with the environment in our most primitive necessity which we can’t avoid in order to keep body and soul together. So, if we can solve this one difficulty, we can almost solve the whole problem.

prasada-seva karite haya sakala prapancha jaya

Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur says that the key to the solution of the whole problem of this mundane life is in prasad. The first necessity of life is eating, and if we can solve that problem, we have solved the whole thing. Prasada-seva karite haya sakala prapancha jaya: the most important thing is to learn how we should take prasadam to maintain ourselves. Our life depends mainly on that.

To live here, we cannot but consume, and we cannot but create devastation in the environment by our eating. If we go to consume anything, even plants, grasses, or seeds, then microscopic creatures are being killed. So, the question is how to get rid of this reaction? It is said in Srimad Bhagavad-gita (3.9),

yajnarthat karmano ’nyatra loko ’yam karma-bandhanah

We shall get relief from that reaction only if we can successfully connect everything with the supreme satisfaction, with Him whose pleasure all existence is meant to fulfil. So, in the taking of food, really we are to be conscious that we are collecting the ingredients for His satisfaction, and then cooking and offering to Him for His satisfaction—that should be our real purpose. And then because our whole life and energy is for serving Him, we need energy and must take something out of that. But the main point, the real substance of the transaction, will be to collect, cook, and offer to Him according to His will expressed in the scriptures. That is the first step, and only after the foodstuffs have been offered to Him shall we take anything ourselves. This will help to make us always conscious of why we are taking. We are taking because we want only to serve Him. Furthermore, whatever has been accepted by the Lord, the ‘poison’, the bad reaction, will have been absorbed and digested by Him just as in the case of Mahadev who drank the poison generated from the Ocean of Milk.

Krishna is absolute and can digest anything. Not only that, but those things which have been consumed in His connection also receive promotion, so actually there is no himsa, violence. What appears to be himsa is not really so because those who are apparently violently treated actually receive a high promotion through connection with the Supreme. In addition, whoever has been instrumental in fulfilling that connection will also receive some reward. So, the devotee must think, “What shall I take? I won’t take anything from the world. I shall take only from my master as His grace. It is His grace. His free grace to me—prasad.”

The word prasad means ‘kindness’, ‘grace’. The devotee will feel, “Whatever service I do, I am not expecting anything to be paid to me in return. It is a free transaction. And whatever I receive is only His grace. So, I shall take prasad, then I shall be free from all entanglement of action and reaction even though I am in the midst of it. Because it is a fact that with every action I must disturb the environment, then if all my actions are meant for Him, the Supreme Lord, there will be no bad reaction coming to me, but rather the opposite reaction will occur and help not only me but those that were offered also. Through me, through myself as a centre, such waves will emanate that will help others to progress in their path of purification.”

So, through the godliness in his heart, everyone must be a purifying agent. God is on the throne of the heart, and from there He will emanate such a fine ray which will purify not only that person’s heart but also the environment. ‘Vaisnava’ means a purifying agent who emanates goodness, absolute goodness, everywhere—through his movements, his words, his actions: every deed, thought, and word—kaya, mana, vakya. A Vaisnava is an agent of auspiciousness: te Vaisnava bhuvanam asu pavitrayanti. There are so many Vaisnavas, and by their chanting the Holy Name, by all their practices and by their whole lives, they are like so many purifying agents.

By proper knowledge, proper dealings, and proper conduct, they set everything in its proper position and create adjustment in the domain of maladjustment. This world is maladjusted, and the balancing agents, the unifying factors, are the Vaisnavas. Just as there is a germ, a virus which spreads a particular contagious disease, so there must be the opposite of that, something which emanates only a pure and healthy atmosphere, and that is the Vaisnava.

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Sunday 25 November 2018

SETTING THE EXAMPLE
BG 3.21
yad yad ācharati śreṣṭhas, tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute, lokas tad anuvartate [21]

yat yat–However; śreṣṭaḥ–the great personality; ācharati–conducts himself; itaraḥ janaḥ–other lesser men; (ācharati)–will conduct themselves; tat tat eva–accordingly. yat–Whatever; saḥ–the great personality; kurute–accepts; pramāṇam–as the standard; lokaḥ–ordinary men; tat anuvartate–follow that.

“The masses follow the ways of great men, following the standards they set.”

Please accept my dandabat pranams. I am very happy to have come to this verse today, as it is a principle we were discussing in the morning class today here at the ashram in Campos do Jordao.

In the verses following this Krishna explains that though realized persons have no need to follow ordinary duties as common people should for their own purification and to regulate their lower tendencies, they should still follow them to set an example. The most prominent example of this is Lord Ramachandra, who is known as Maryada Purusottam, or the supreme person who came to exemplify the ideals of proper moral behavior and the regulations set by the Vedic guidelines. Although as the supreme Lord he has no need to follow any particular code of conduct, he does, to the extreme, in order to set an example which others can learn from and follow. Duty, or dharma, is the uppermost principle in the tenor of his lila, and it is upheld at the expense of love, comfort, position, and everything else. He breaks the hearts of those most dear to Him, in order to uphold the dharma. And in doing so he has set a very great example for the world to follow.

This verse is also especially dear to the members of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math because when our Param Gurudev Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj left everything behind to join the Gaudiya Math, Srila Prabhupad Saraswati Thakur was overjoyed and chanted this verse at that time. Srila Sridhar Maharaj came from a very high brahman family and thus his joining gave dignity and prestige to the mission which would inspire the general persons to give more attention to the teachings of Sri Chaitanyadev. Srila Prabhupad himself came from a lower caste and thus at times his disciples who came from brahman backgrounds could be of some special use in various dealings of the mission.

This verse describes a general principle which helps us to understand why our Gurus and even the Lord Himself sometimes do certain things which they actually have no necessity to do. In the case of ourselves, it is also instructive because there may be times and situations when we feel there is no need for us to follow some particular rule or duty, but if there are others who look up to us in some way, we should still try to follow these things in order to set an example, because it is appropriate for them to follow.

“I, ME, & MINE”

UNDERSTANDING THAT WE ARE NOT THE DOERS

BG 3.27

प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्म्माणि सर्व्वशः ।
अहङ्कारविमूढात्मा कर्त्ताहमिति मन्यते ॥२७॥

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
ahaṅkāra-vimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate [27]

karmāṇi–Actions; kriyamāṇāni–are effected; sarvaśaḥ–in all ways; guṇaiḥ–(by the senses, impelled) by the modes; prakṛteḥ–of material nature; (tu)–but; ahaṅkāra-vimūḍha-ātmā–one deluded by bodily ego; manyate iti–thinks thus; aham kartā–“I am the doer.” [27]

“All actions in the world are in every respect effected by the modes of material nature (which impell the senses). But a man deluded by bodily identification thinks, ‘I alone am accomplishing this work.’”

In the verses previous to this one it is advised that the enlightened soul who has no need to perform worldly duties should continue to do so in order to set an example for the ignorant and bound souls (we discussed this point in the last post also.) In this verse the difference between the action of the wise and ignorant is clarified: the ignorant perform action under the influence of the false ego, ‘ahankara’, which is one of the subtle material elements.

Ahankara, or ‘Aham kara’, ‘I do’, is said to be composed of two elements, ‘ahamta’ and ‘mamata’. You will see that Srila Gurudev mentions them in the penultimate verse to his wonderful song on the ten offences to the holy name. ‘Ahamta’ refers to the false sense of independent existence, or the conception of ‘I’ as the doer, and ‘mamata’ is the subsequent sense of possessiveness towards the results of what we have supposedly done. But here in this verse of Srimad Bhagavad-gita this cosy bubble of illusion is being rudely popped.

We cannot actually do anything. As atomic units of consciousness we are endowed with three properties, that of willing, feeling and thinking. Thus all we can do is will, or desire for something to happen. Without going into too much of the esoteric explanations on this point which have been given by our acharyas, we can understand this in a very simple way by observing how our bodies run, or so many forces in the environment around us are functioning. We may will to do something as simple as drink a glass of water, but whether we are able to do that or not depends on so many things: the functioning of our brain, the functioning of our muscles and so many chemical processes of our bodies, the law of gravity, the laws of physics, and so on. We may plant some flower seeds in our garden but whether they sprout and blossom or not is dependent upon the quality of sun, rain, soil, air, the presence of weeds, insects, and so on and so forth. So all action is actually dependent upon so many forces and elements of the environment, and ultimately, in the background, the Lord’s sanction.

This verse ties in nicely with 2.47 (karmany evadhikaras te) which states the fundamental principle of karma-yoga that we are not entitled to the results of our actions. Why that is is explained in this verse: because our ability to perform those actions in the first place was only possible because of so many other factors and ultimately the Lord.

I’d also like to mention here this important verse which Param Guru Maharaj includes in Prapanna-jivanamrtam from the Padma-purana, which defines the word ‘namah’ or ‘obeisance’ as nullifying the ahankara:

ahaṅkṛtir ma-kāraḥ syān na-kāras tan niṣedhakaḥ
tasmāt tu namasā kṣetri-svātantryaṁ pratiṣidhyate
bhagavat-paratantro ’sau tadāyatātma-jīvanaḥ
tasmāt sva-sāmarthya-vidhiṁ tyajet sarvam aśeṣataḥ

“In the word namaḥ (‘obeisance’), the syllable ma indicates the self-asserting ego (ahaṅkār, lit. ‘I am the doer’), and the syllable na indicates its prevention. Thus, the act of offering obeisance (namaḥ) nullifies the offerer’s independence. The soul is by nature subordinate to the Supreme Lord; their innate function is servitude to Him. Therefore, all actions performed with the conception, ‘I am the doer’ should be utterly abandoned.”