The path of knowledge – Chapter 2 – Slokas 2.01 – 2.72

Sanjaya as a witness to this discourse narrated as he saw in Kurukshetra, “Madhusudhana (Krishna) uttered the following words to him (Arjuna) who had thus been filled with pity and whose eyes were filled with tears which showed distress and who was in deep sorrow after seeing the great assembly of mighty warriors who were his kith and kin ready for battle.”


The Blessed Lord said, “O Arjuna, in this perilous place, from where and from which source has this impurity come to you that is entertained by unenlightened persons and that which does not lead to heaven and which brings infamy? O Pārtha, do not yield to unmanliness. This cowardice does not befit you. O scorcher of foes, arise, giving up this petty weakness of the heart.”


Arjuna then said, “O Madhusudhana (Krishna), O destroyer of enemies, how can I fight against the great Bheeshma and Drona who are worthy of adoration in battle? Rather than killing the venerable noble-minded elders, it is better in this world to live even on alms. But by killing the honourable elders, we shall only be enjoying the pleasures of wealth and desirable things soaked in blood.


We do not know about this either as well as to which is better for us or whether we will win or whether they will conquer us. Those very sons of Dhrutharashtra stand ready for confrontation by killing whom we do not wish to live.


With my nature overpowered by weak commiseration and with a mind bewildered about duty, I implore You to tell me in all certainty which is better. I am Your disciple and appeal to You to instruct me who have taken refuge in You.


Because, I do not see that which can and what that is that can remove my sorrow which is destroying my senses even after acquiring a prosperous kingdom on earth free from enemies and even sovereignty over the Gods.”


Sanjaya then said, “Having spoken thus to Hrsikesa (Krishna), Gudakesa (Arjuna), the destroyer of foes, verily became silent, telling Govinda (Krishna), “I shall not fight.”


Hrsikesa (Krishna) mockingingly said these words to the descendant of Bharata who was in deep sorrow while placed in between the two armies:


“You grieve for those who are not to be grieved for and you speak of wisdom! The learned do not grieve for the departed and those who have not departed.


But certainly, it is not an actuality that I did not exist at any time; nor you; nor the rulers of men. And surely, it is not that we shall all cease to exist after this.


As are boyhood, youth and infirmity to an embodied being in this present body, so is the acquisition of another body. This being so, an intelligent person does not get deluded.


But the contact of the organs with the objects (sensory) are the causes of cold and heat, happiness and sorrow. They have a beginning and an end are hence, transient. Bear them O descendant of Bharata.


O Arjuna, know that the superlative among men is the verily the person for whom these do not torment and to whom sorrow and happiness are the same. That wise man is fit for Immortality.


Of the unreal there is no being; the real has no non-existence. But the nature of both these has been indeed realized by the seers of Truth.


But know That to be indestructible by which all this is pervaded. None can bring about the destruction of this Immutable.


These destructible bodies are said to belong to the everlasting, indestructible and indeterminable embodied One. Therefore, O descendant of Bharata, join the battle.


He who thinks of this One as the killer, and he who thinks of this One as the killed – both of them do not know that this One does not kill, nor is It killed.


Never is this One born, and never does It die; nor is it that once it has come to exist will It again cease to be. This One is birthless, eternal, undecaying and ancient; It is not killed when the body is killed.


O Pārtha, he who knows this One to be the indestructible, eternal, birthless and undecaying; how and whom does that person kill or whom does he become the cause for to be killed.


As after rejecting tattered clothes, a man takes up new ones to wear, likewise after rejecting the decrepit bodies, the embodied one unites with other new ones.


Weapons do not cut It, fire does not burn It, water does not moisten It and air does not dry It.


It cannot be cut, It cannot be burnt, It cannot be moistened and surely cannot be dried up. It is eternal, omnipresent, stationary, unmoving and changeless.


It is said that This is unmanifest; This is inconceivable; This is unchangeable. Therefore, having known This thus, you ought not to grieve.


On the other hand, if you think this One is born continually or dies constantly, even then O mighty-armed one, you should not grieve thus.


For death is certain to anyone born and of the dead, rebirth is a certainty. Therefore, you should not grieve over an inevitable fact.


O descendant of Bharata, all things remain unmanifest in the beginning; they become manifest in the middle and after death, they certainly become unmanifest. What and where is the need to lament over them?


Someone visualizes It as a wonder and similarly another one talks of It as a wonder and another one hears of It as a wonder and someone else, does not realize It even after hearing about It.


O descendant of Bharata, this embodied Self existing in everyone’s body can never be killed. Therefore, you ought not to grieve for all these beings.


Even considering your own duty, you should not waver since there is nothing better for a kshatriya (warrior) than righteous battle.


On the other hand, if you will not fight this righteous battle forsaking your own duty and fame, you will incur sin.


People will also speak of your unending infamy and to a person worthy of honour and respect, there is nothing worse than infamy; not even death.


The great chariot-riders will think that you have refused to fight out of fear and you will fall into disgrace in the eyes of those who held you in high esteem.


And your enemies will speak harsh words that are unworthy and unjustified disparaging your might. What can be more painful than that?


Either you will reach the heavenly abode if you are killed in battle or you will enjoy your victory on earth. Therefore, O Arjuna, rise up with the will and determination to fight.


sukha-duhkhe same krtva
labhalabhau jayajayau
tato yuddhaya yujyasva
naivam papam avapsyasi – Treating happiness and sorrow, gain and loss and victory and defeat alike and in equanimity, engage in battle. You will not incur sin then.


O Pārtha, this wisdom to remove the ignorance that is responsible for sorrow, delusion and forsaking duty has been imparted to you from the standpoint of Self-Realization. But listen to this wisdom from the standpoint of Yoga and the means to arrive at Self-Realization which will then help you get rid of the karma bandham (bondage of action).


Here there is no attempt or even a beginning in this path that can go waste nor is there any harm as the result and progress of the same is unknown. Even a little bit of righteousness practised in the form of execution and implementation of duty and action saves one from great fear of mundane existence characterized by death, birth, rebirth, affection, etc.


O descendant of the Kuru dynasty, there is only a single one-pointed conviction and goal in the path of Liberation and Self-Realization which has been spoken of in Yoga and Knowledge. That Yoga and Knowledge is resolute in its conviction and goal as Self-Realization and annuls the numerous branches of thoughts that may arise that are opposite to it since it originates from the Supreme. Those irresolute ones are possessed of innumerable thoughts and owing to the influence of these thoughts like numerous branches of a tree have an unceasing, extensive, ever-growing and limitless worldly state. But when the cessation of thoughts occurs under the wisdom of Yoga and Knowledge with the single-pointed conviction of Self-Realization, they become resolute.


O son of Prthā, those devoid of one-pointed conviction who utter this flowery talk which appears to be beautiful like a tree in bloom, pleasant to hear and appears to be meaningful are people who are undiscerning and of poor intellect and remain engrossed in the utterances of the Vedas which reveal many fruits of actions and their means through rites and rituals and who consider it to be apt to say that nothing else exists apart from performing rites and duties conducive to results for attainment of enjoyment, affluence and heaven, etc.


One-pointed conviction for Self-Realization with regard to Yoga and Knowledge does not become established in the minds of persons who delight in enjoyment and wealth, of those who hanker after wealth and for wealth to be sought after for this enjoyment and for those who identify themselves with these thoughts and ideology and for those whose intellects are carried away and whose discriminating judgement becomes covered by that speech of promises of birth, affluence, enjoyment, heaven, etc.


O Arjuna, the Vedas have three qualities as their context. You become free from these three qualities and from the conflicting pairs of dualities. You become ever-poised in the quality of sattva without any desire for acquisition and protection and also be self-collected and aware while being engaged in your own duty.


In the world, there are uses for a pond, well and other numerous limited reservoirs for bathing, drinking, etc. and these needs are indeed fulfilled to that very extent. Likewise, whatever uses or results of rites and rituals and duties are mentioned in the Vedas, they can achieve or are fulfilled only to that extent. In the state of Self-Realization, a Brahmana or a sannyasin who knows the Reality as the Supreme Goal, has that much use for and in all the Vedas as a man who has a well when there is a flood. Therefore, before one attains the steadfastness in Knowledge, rites and duties even though they have limited utility as that of a well or a pond, etc., have to be undertaken by one who wishes to reach the single-pointed conviction of Self-Realization and by one who is fit for duties and rites through Yoga.


karmany evadhikaras te
ma phalesu kadacana
ma karma-phala-hetur bhur
ma te sango ‘stv akarmani 
– Your right is for action alone, not for steadfastness in Knowledge. Even there, when you are engaged in action, under no circumstance, do you have a right for the fruits or results of action. Whenever you have a hankering for the fruits of action, you will become attached and bound to acquiring the results of action and the results of action itself. Hence, do not become bound to acquiring the results of action and the results of action itself. For, when one engages in action by being impelled by thirst and desire for the results of action, he then does become the cause for the production of the results of action. May you not have an inclination for inaction.


By becoming established in Yoga, O Dhananjaya, undertake actions for the sake of God alone and even there cast off the attachment in the form that God will be pleased with me. Undertake actions remaining equi-poised in success and failure and even in the success characterized by the attainment of Knowledge that arises from the purification of the mind when one performs actions without hankering for the results, and in failure that arises from ignorance and non-discrimination. Yoga is indeed equanimity in success and failure that one has to undertake. This is the meaning of being established in Yoga.


Then again, O Dhananjaya, action undertaken with desire for the results are indeed very inferior as against action performed with equanimity of mind for adoring God and hence, action is indeed quite inferior to the Yoga of Wisdom as that Yoga relates to conviction about Reality arises from the degree of conviction and steadfastness and is the cause for achieving this fearlessness. The meaning is that you should resort to the Knowledge of the Supreme Goal because those who undertake inferior actions and who thirst for rewards are impelled by results are indeed pitiable. Hence, the action to Yoga of Wisdom with the firm conviction of Self-Realization is superior.


Possessed of wisdom and possessed of wisdom of equanimity, one rejects both virtue and vice in this world through purification of the mind and acquisition of Knowledge and therefore, devote yourself to that Yoga which is the wisdom of equanimity. For Yoga is skillfulness in action with regard to one’s success and failure while engaged in actions and to the wisdom of equanimity while engaged in action and the action for the single-pointed conviction of Self-Realization wherein the mind is dedicated to God. That indeed is skillfulness which, through equanimity, makes actions that by their very nature bind give up their nature. Therefore, be devoted to Yoga that is the wisdom of equanimity.


Because those who are devoted to wisdom, who are imbued with the Yoga of wisdom of equanimity, they become men of enlightenment by giving up the fruits, the acquisition of desirable and undesirable bodies produced by actions and reach the state of the Supreme State of Visnu also defined as Liberation or Supreme Consciousness that is all-pervading. (Here Visnu refers to its direct meaning of Liberation and the all-pervading Supreme Consciousness and not to a physical deity). That Supreme State is beyond evils and beyond virtue and vice and by having become freed from the bondage of birth, bondage and attachment itself while living, he is in the state of a Jeevanmukta.


When that Yoga of wisdom of equanimity that arises from the purification of the mind brought about by implementing both Yoga of righteousness in every action and performing an action to adore God only relinquishing the fruits of the action and the cause for the production of the fruits and Knowledge of the Supreme Goal that is only about the single-pointed conviction of Self-Realization, then at the appropriate time your mind will cross over and go beyond the turbidity of delusion that is like dirt in the form of non-discrimination, which, after confounding one’s understanding about distinction between Self and not-Self impels the mind towards objects. That is to say when your mind will attain the state of purity then at that time, you will acquire dispassion for what has to be heard and what has been heard.


By becoming possessed of the wisdom arising from discrimination about the Self after overcoming the turbidity of delusion, you shall attain the Yoga of the Supreme Reality. What that means is that when at the time your mind that has been bewildered and swirling by hearing diverse means, ends and their divergent ideas will become unshakable and free from turbulence in the form of distractions and is steadfast that is to say free from doubt and even in that unshakable state is in samādhi that is in the Self, then at that time, you will attain Yoga that is enlightenment and Self-absorption that arises from discrimination.”


Arjuna said, “O Kesava, what is the description of a sthitha-prajnasya or a man of steady wisdom of Realization; samādhi-sthasya of one who is Self-absorbed. How does the sthita-dhih, man of steady wisdom speak? How does he sit? How does he move about? How does he conduct himself?”


Sri Bhagavan uvaca
prajahati yada kaman
sarvan partha mano-gatan
atmany evatmana tustah
sthita-prajnas tadocyate 
– The Blessed Lord said, “O Pārtha, when at the time when one fully renounces all desires that have entered the mind and heart and remains satisfied in the Self alone in the the very nature of the innermost Self by the Self which is his own and indifferent to external gains and satiated with everything else on account of having attained the nectar of Realization of the Supreme Goal, then he is called sthita-prajnah, a man of steady wisdom, a man of Realization, one whose wisdom arising from discrimination between Self and not-Self is stable and steadfast.


Moreover, that monk is then called sthita-dhih, a man of steady wisdom when his mind remains unperturbed by the sorrows that may come on the physical or other planes, when he is free from longing for delights and pleasures and when he, unlike fire which flares up when fed with fuel has no longing for delights when they come to him and when he has gone beyond attachment, fear and anger.


Further prajnā, wisdom of that sannyāsin remains established who has no attachment for anything anywhere, even for body and life and who neither welcomes nor rejects anything whatever good or bad when he comes across it. That is such a sannyāsin who does not rejoice on meeting with the good nor reject the bad, and thus, he is free from elation or dejection, the wisdom arising from discrimination remains established.


And when this sannyāsin practising steadfastness in Knowledge fully withdraws the senses from all the objects of the senses as a tortoise wholly withdraws its limbs from all sides out of fear, his prajnā, wisdom remains established.


When the objects, organs and senses recede themselves from an embodied being, and recedes even from a fool who engages in painful austerity, the only thing that remains is taste. And even that will fall away when the sannyāsin ‘s main objective of Self-Realization through established prajnā, wisdom and steadfastness in Knowledge is attained and thus, he attains the Absolute, the Reality which is the Supreme Goal. Such a sannyāsin will continue in life with Realization of Self in the state of a Jeevanmukta.


For O son of Kunti, the turbulent organs violently snatch away the mind of an intelligent person, even while he is striving diligently.


Controlling and subduing all the objects, senses and sensory organs, one should remain concentrated and focussed on Me as the Supreme for he to whom I am Vāsudeva, the inmost Self of all and the Supreme. For the prajnā, wisdom of one who is a sannyāsin, whose organs are under control by practice, becomes steadfast and all his concentration is on Me.


In the case of a person who dwells on and thinks of objects and the special qualities and attributes of the objects such as sound, taste, smell, etc., there arises a fondness, attachment and love for them and as this attachment from love and desire grows, hankering and thirst is developed. And when there is any obstruction in obtaining the desired object, anger springs from the hankering, desire, attachment and fondness.


From anger follows delusion and absence of discrimination with regard to what should or should not be done. From delusion, comes failure of memory originating from the impressions and understanding acquired from the instructions of the scriptures and teachers. From that loss of memory, is loss of understanding. The unfit mind is incapable of discrimination and to discriminate between what should be done and what should not and this is called loss of understanding. From loss of understanding, he perishes.


Certainly, the functions of the organs are naturally preceded by attraction and repulsion. This being so by perceiving objects which are unavoidable with the organs such as ears, eyes, nose, etc which are under his own control and free from those dualities of attraction and repulsion, the self-controlled man, whose mind can be subdued at will is a seeker after Liberation, attains serenity and self-poise.


When there is serenity, there follows eradication of all his sorrow on the physical and other planes. Moreover, because of prajnā, wisdom, one who has serene mind and one whose mind is poised in the Self, becomes firmly established very soon and remains steady and unmoving in the very nature as the Self.


For the unsteady and for one who does not have a focussed mind, wisdom does not arise and there is no meditation and perception and experience and earnest longing for the knowledge of the Self. And similarly, for an unmeditative man, who does not ardently desire the knowledge of the Self, there is no peace and restraint of the senses. How can there be happiness for one without peace? That indeed is happiness which consists in the freedom of the senses from the hankering and desire for enjoyment of objects.


For the mind which follows in the wake of the wandering senses, that are tending towards their respective objects and for the the mind which is engaged in thinking of the objects of the senses, the wisdom born from the discrimination between Self and the non-Self i.e., sannyāsin‘s prajnānam is carried away and eventually destroyed. How the wind diverts the boat on the waters from its intended course driving it along a wrong course, similarly the mind, by diverting the wisdom from the pursuit of the Self, makes it engage in objects.


Therefore, O mighty-armed one, the sannyāsin‘s prajnānam – wisdom becomes established whose organs in all their varieties differentiated as mind etc., are withdrawn from their objects such as sound etc.


That which for all creatures is night which being darkness by nature obliterates distinctions among all things; what is that? That is the Reality which is the Supreme Goal, accessible to the man of steady wisdom. As that which verily appears as day to the nocturnal creatures is night for others, similarly the Reality which is the Supreme Goal appears to be night, as it were, to all unenlightened beings who are comparable to the nocturnal creatures, because It is beyond the range of vision for those who are devoid of that wisdom. The self-restrained man whose organs are under control, i.e., the yogi who has arisen from the sleep of ignorance keeps awake in that night characterized as the Reality, the Supreme Goal. That night of ignorance, characterized by the distinctions of subjects and objects, in which the creatures who are really asleep are said to be keeping awake in that ignorance are like dreamers in sleep and as for all-knowing and all-seeing sage who perceives the Reality that is the Supreme Goal – he remains awake in the night because that night is ignorance by nature.


That man attains peace that is Liberation into whom, into which person, all desires, all forms of wishes enter, from all directions, like waters entering into a sea, without overwhelming him even in the presence of objects; they vanish in the Self, they do not bring It under their own influence, in the same way as waters coming from all sides flow into the sea which continues to be its own self without any change when filled up from all sides with water. Not so the other, who is desirous of objects who does not attain peace.


That man who has become thus, sannyāsin, a man of steady wisdom, the knower of Brahman attains peace called Nirvāna, consisting in the cessation of all the sorrows of mundane existence, i.e he becomes one with Brahman, who after rejecting all desires without a trace fully moves about and wanders about making only as much effort as required to maintain the body and is free from hankering, becoming free from any longing even for the maintenance of the body without the idea of “me” and “mine”, without the deep-rooted idea of “mine” even when accepting something needed merely for the upkeep of the body and devoid of pride and free from self-esteem owing to learning etc.


O Pārtha, this is brāhmisthitih, the state of being established in Brahman, continuing his life in identification with Brahman after renouncing all actions. One does not become deluded after attaining this attains brahmanirvānam, identification with Brahman, and remains established in this, in the state of Brahman as described even in the closing years of one’s life.

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