Extracts from the Srimad Bhagavatam


.... continued

XIII ... Extinction of the ‘I’-sense

Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are the qualities of prakriti (phenomena), and not of the Self. By Sattva the other two are subdued, and Sattva by Sattva itself. From Sattva arises righteousness which inevitably leads to devotion and culminates in the realisation of the Self. Righteousness curbs unrighteousness which rises from Rajas and Tamas.”

Uddhava remarked that most men know that the sensuous pleasures are baneful in their results, inviting endless trouble, yet like dogs, donkeys and goats they heartily plunge into them, and asked why it is so. The Lord answered:

“It all begins with the perverse sense of ‘I’ rising in the heart, which causes the formidable, misery-ridden rajas to invade the mind and induce it to conceive notions of enjoyable objects and the means of enjoying them. Long brooding on the attractive features of a particular object creates an uncontrollable passion for it, which overwhelms the mind and impels irrevocable actions. Although the perception of the evil consequences of such actions is present, the impetuosity of the passion is too strong to arrest them. But the man of discrimination exerts hard to control his infatuation, and, thus, spares himself future suffering. Such a man will turn his mind to Me, away from everything else, and will be finally established in Me. This is the Yoga which I taught to Brahma in the presence of My disciples, the four Kumaras, Sanaka and his brothers.”

Uddhava wanted to know when and in what form did He teach Yoga to the four Kumaras.

Sri Krishna answered:

“The four mind-born sons of Brahma - Sanaka, Sanatkumara and others - once inquired of their father about the relation of the mind to the sense-objects. In view of the fact, they argued, that the former clings to the objects, and these impress themselves upon it, how can a seeker of Liberation disentangle them? The self-created Brahma, deeply thinking over this question, could not find an answer, his mind being occupied on his creative duties. So he concentrated it on Me, and when I appeared in the shape of a swan they asked Me who I was. Listen to what I spoke in answer, O Uddhava.

‘If you admit of only one substance, the Self, how can your question have a meaning, O Brahmins? If by “You”, you mean My body, then not only My body, but all bodies are made of the same five elements, and are, thus, identical in substance (and as there exists only one substance, all the bodies must be also [the Self] Myself). Whatever is known by the mind, expressed by the tongue, or perceived by the senses is but Myself: there is no other than Myself. This is the conclusion to which all the investigations into the Truth lead. The sense-objects and the mind on which they leave their impress both form the body (qualities, adjuncts) of the jiva, which is I Myself (the substance), so that they can be transcended by the jiva’s contemplation on its own real nature. To be one with Me - its own essence - the jiva should give up the sense-objects and their impressions on the mind.

‘The three states of waking, dreaming and deep-sleep are the states of the mind resulting from the qualities, and distinct from the jiva which witnesses them. Bondage results when the mind, bearing the impress of the qualities (gunas) identifies itself with the jiva. Shaking itself from this false identification releases it from its bondage and establishes it in its essence, from which will follow the complete divorce of the mind from the sense objects, which will be seen as they are in themselves. He who realises the bondage to be unreal due to the actions of the gunas will develop renunciation and will take his stand on Me in Turiya (the Fourth state or samadhi), otherwise the belief in the reality of the objects will continue, and the foolish subject will continue to sleep though he imagines himself to be fully awake.

The person who is awake is the same as the one who dreams as well as the one who is in dreamless sleep; he witnesses all the three states and connects them with his memory, himself does not suffer any change. Realising by investigation and by the guidance of the Srutis and sages that the states are mere superimpositions created by the qualities on himself, the wise seeker will cut at the root of the ‘I’-sense which has caused the false identification and ignorance. Therefore, O Sages, take to the contemplation of Me who am seated in your hearts. The world is a mere display of the mind, having a seeming existence, like the circles described by a firebrand. The one consciousness appears as many due to the differences in the combinations of the qualities, which result from My power of illusion. Having withdrawn your sight from visible objects you will remain immersed in the bliss of the Self. Thereafter your contact with the world will not mean that you will view the world as real, for what is once realised as unreal cannot again assume a reality, but it will mean that its impressions on your mind will continue till the body falls. He who is established in the Self is no longer cognisant of the behaviour of the transient body, any more than the man who is blinded by intoxication is cognisant of the position of his cloth whether it is off his body or on it: the body which is under the control of Providence survives till the karma that has given birth to it is exhausted. Thereafter he will not return to new bodies, any more than he would to a dream body after having awakened from the dream. This is the secret of the Yoga and Sankhya, O sages, I am, the Supreme Goal of both as well as of dharma, power, and self-control.’

“Thus, O Uddhava, did I clear the doubt of Sanaka and his brothers.”

XIV ... The Path of Devotion Easiest

Uddhava asks:

“Teachers of the Vedas speak of many paths to Liberation, O Krishna. Does the importance of the path depend on the seeker’s choice, or does there actually exist only one path for all seekers? Yourself, O Master, have consistently recommended devotion for all, which, you aver, frees the mind from attachment and fixes it on You.”

Sri Krishna replies:

“The word (the Veda) which I taught to Brahma was imparted by him to his eldest son Manu, who passed it on to the seven great seers, Brigu and others, who passed it on to their progeny from one generation to another, the gods, the danavas, the guhyakas, siddhas, gandharvas, nagas, rakshasas, men, and many others. It is but natural that these should understand and interpret it each according to his natural tendencies, which depend on the proportions of the mixture of their gunas. This is the reason why perversion of it and heresy has taken place. Take, for example, “blessedness”: some take it to be Wealth, some power, some dharma, others sexual enjoyment. Ascetics call it renunciation and mind control, pleasure-lovers call it sensuous delights, ritualists call it sacrifice, whereas it is the result of the highest human endeavour: for no true blessedness is possible for those who set their hearts on worldly enjoyments: it is possible only for the minds that have completely surrendered to Me, expecting support from none but Me. Neither Brahma, Shiva, Lord Balarama, nor Sree, My Consort Herself, nor even My own Person is so dear to Me as (a devotee like) you, O Uddhava, I am ever present with him who is devoid of all expectations, who is given to the contemplation of Me, serene, free from hatred, and sees Me everywhere.

Though attracted by objects of desire and he has not yet gained complete mind control, My devotee is not overpowered by them, being shielded by his strong devotion to Me. Just as fire steadily grows to a big flame and burns all fuel to ashes, so does devotion to Me, O Uddhava, blaze forth and consume all obstacles; it purifies even the outcasts who eat dogs’ flesh. Piety, austerity and learning do not radically cleanse the mind if they are devoid of devotion. The more the heart is purified by dwelling on My stories, the greater is the ability to discern the subtle essence of things (in their outer gross coatings), like the eye that has been cleansed by unguents. The mind which revels in objects gets entangled and falls with them, but that which contemplates Me merges in Me. Therefore, give up thinking of the unreal and worthless things, which are no better than dream objects, and firmly fix your mind in devotion to Me. Eschew the company of women and their admirers, and go to a safe and convenient place and concentrate on Me, shaking off sloth. He who follows these instructions will never suffer the afflictions that arise from bad associations.”

At the request of Uddhava to expound to him the process of contemplation on His form, Krishna describes first the asanas (bodily postures) and the breathing, and then the Lord’s form on which the concentration should be made - symmetrical, gracious, with four long arms, graceful neck, beautiful cheeks and gentle smiles. The devotee should then gradually pass on to His real nature which is the all-pervading Brahman (formless consciousness), wherein there is neither thought nor thinker, and is the substance of all that exists. Krishna continues:

“Having withdrawn his mind from the senses and fixed it on My own Person (or Form), the devotee should now focus it on only one part of it, preferably the smiling face, to the exclusion of all the others. Then withdrawing it from even there, he should concentrate it on My all-pervading Self which is free like the sky. Leaving that too, and becoming one with Me, he should cease to think of anything. He will see Me the Antaryamin (the inner Ruler), in himself, and himself in Me, like the light which is one with the fire. All doubt about Matter, Knowledge, and Action will then radically come to an end.”

XV - XVI ... The Dangers of Siddhis

Sri Krishna now minutely describes the supernatural powers that are apt to be gained by the perfect Yogi who practises the highest Yoga, but warns that these may seriously obstruct the union with the Lord. Then speaking of Himself as the living and non-living beings, as well as all the principles in the manifestation and of His avatars, He ends by saying:

“I have indicated in brief all these manifestations of Mine, but you must know them to be nothing but fancy of the imagination - mere words, unreal. You will do well to control your speech, mind and senses, and you will never again suffer transmigration. He who fails to control his mind and tongue, all his spiritual attainments will leak out of him like water out of an unbaked pot.”

XVII - XVIII ... Sannyasa

Uddhava requests the Master to depict those conducts which please Him most and which bring men true blessedness. Krishna reviews the history of the castes and orders in life (Varnas and Ashramas) and their evolution from the first yuga to their present state (in the third, Dwapara yuga), delineating the duties of each Varna and each Ashrama. Of the last and highest Ashrama (Sannyasa or Renunciation), He says:

“Having by close investigation realised the universe to be a superimposition on himself, the Atman, the sage who is established in himself, with a serene mind, renounces all action. Since everything that exists, including the body, all the thinking processes, and the sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, has proved to be an illusion, he turns his back on it, and is no longer bound by the scriptural precepts and the duties of the four Ashramas, though he may retain the appearance of a seeker after Truth. The Self-realised man neither propounds the practice of rituals nor behaves in opposition to it, nor takes to intellectual discussions and fruitless arguments. He is neither afraid of anyone nor causes fear to anyone. He receives abuses with a controlled mind, but himself neither abuses nor shows disrespect to anyone, for the Self is one and the same in all beings, like the moon in several vessels of water. Possessed of fortitude, he neither desponds when he has no nourishment nor feels elated when he has it or when his other needs are satisfied; for all these are in the hands of Providence (Myself), yet he has to make efforts to procure food to sustain his life in order that be may be able to pursue his quest for Truth. The wise man who has realised Me will see no diversity, though he may continue to have the body perception until it falls in its own time, when he will attain to a perpetual state of equality with Me.

“He who has discovered and feels revulsion for the vanity of sense-pleasure but has not yet received guidance to the realisation of Truth, should seek a guru who is given to contemplation and respectfully serve him, regarding him as My own Self, till he attains Brahman. But he who continues to wallow in sense-pleasure, lacks wisdom and dispassion, yet parades the external marks of sannyasa to make his living, violates the duties of sannyasa and deceives himself, the gods (by abstaining from the religious performances of the householder), and Myself, Who dwell in his heart. He will be deprived of the joys of this world and the next.

“He who loyally observes the duties of his varna and ashrama and possesses a knowledge of Me, eventually comes to Me, for he is the follower of dharma and, thus, My devotee.”

XIX ... The World is illusion: Knowledge is True Perfection

Krishna continues:

“The learned seeker whose intuition has led him to the realisation of the Self, does not indulge in theoretical dialectics about this world of diversity, knowing it to be a mere appearance in Me, a knowledge which he has also eventually to renounce (in vidwat sannyasa) exclusively to Me, his highest bliss and redemption, his goal and the way to it. He whose mind has been thoroughly purified by knowledge and realisation alone can comprehend My Supreme State. Penance, pilgrimage, japa, charitable acts, are mere means of self-purification, and not of perfection, as knowledge is. Therefore work your self-knowledge up to the stage of realisation, O Uddhava, and reject everything else but your devotion to Me. The threefold manifestation of prakriti, namely, body, mind and senses in you, is an illusion, having neither beginning nor end, but appears in the middle (like the snake which appears in the dark, but which has at no time been, nor will at any time be, other than a rope).”

Uddhava wanted to know the difference between Jnana, Vijnana and Bhakti, which are attempted by even the great Brahma. The Lord said that that very question had been asked by Yuddhishthira of Bhishma after the battle of Kurukshetra and that now He would give it in the very words of that apostle of Dharma (Bhishma). He quoted:

Jnana consists in perceiving the nine principles, the eleven organs, the five elements, and the three gunas in all creatures, and the One Supreme Soul (Purusha or Paramatman) permeating them all. Vijnana (discursive knowledge) perceives neither plurality nor the pervading One, but investigates into the creation, preservation and dissolution of all things which are made of the gunas (to repudiate them all). That alone is real which abides in the beginning and end and which appears to evolve in the middle. Plurality has, therefore, no existence whatever (since the Reality alone exists but appears as the evolving diversity, having a beginning and an end): it is repudiated by the four principal pramanas (evidences or means of firm knowledge), namely, the authority of the Vedas, direct perception, the authority of the wise (tradition), and inference. Ritualistic acts, likewise, being transient, are unreal. The wise look upon the pleasures of the invisible world (which are the result of action) as misery-laden and as perishable as those of this visible world.

As for the yoga of Bhakti I have already described it to you, O Uddhava, as mainly consisting of the preoccupation of the whole mind with Me in an all-absorbing love through studying, rehearsing, and chanting My stories; through contemplation, charitable acts, and worship; and, finally, through total surrender of the whole being to Me.”

Asked to describe Yama* and Niyama which are prescribed by the Scriptures for the attainment of the final Beatitude, the Lord mentioned them in detail and ended with:
* The qualities of Yama and Niyama have already been mentioned in different contexts here. Patanjali Yoga-Sutras separate them in two groups. The Yamas are those which the aspirant has to refrain from doing and are by order of importance: killing, uttering falsehood, thieving, incontinence, and greed. The Niyamas are those which he should strive to do or achieve and are: purity, contentment, austerity, study of the Scripture, and surrender to God.

The desire to get over happiness and misery is happiness; the desire to enjoy worldly happiness is misery. He is learned who knows the distinction between bondage and freedom, and ignorant who looks upon his body as himself. The means by which I am attained is known as the right path, and the wrong path is that by which mundane activity is undertaken. Activity of the Sattva guna is heaven, that of tamas is hell.

“I have thus answered all your questions, O Uddhava, but what avails you to go through all the characteristics of good and evil, which are always safe to avoid?”

.... the Uddhava Gita continued

These pages will be supplemented from time to time with further extracts from important works.

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