Gītā for the Millennia (Lecture III)
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On 2nd May 2022, Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) hosted the third talk on ‘Gītā for the Millennia’, an online talk series based on Śrīmad Bhagavad Gītā by Svāmī Mitrananda, Chinmaya Mission. In this discourse, Svāmīji continued the discussion of the second chapter of Śrīmad Bhagavad Gītā, and reminded us that if we learn Gītā, even with a little familiarity, we will arrive at an understanding that a wise man should not worry. This remark was a recap of the previous talk of this lecture series, and he said that in the coming discussions we would find why the hallmark of wisdom is that the wise don't worry. Svāmīji also mentioned that the concepts like Karma Yoga and sthita-prajña Lakṣaṇa that are part of the second chapter would only be covered in the next session.

The first verse discussed in this talk was mātrā-sparśhās tu kaunteya śhītoṣhṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ āgamāpāyino ’nityās tans-titikṣhasva bhārata (verse 2.14). Svāmīji explained that when our mind is exposed to the world it would experience both worry and joy just like our physical body experiences heat or cold. Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that these experiences have a beginning and an end, which means they are anityā (impermanent). The experience in our mind while in contact with the world through our sense organs is in the spectrum of sukha (joy) on one hand and dukha (worry) on the other. Things that begin with joy in mind may end in a worry or vice versa, and any experience of joy or sorrow is temporary. It is to be always remembered that ‘even this will pass away’. Because in the explanation of Hindu cosmology the act of creation is not a single event; it is a continuing process. This way, there is no experience that can last forever in this world. He reminded us that hence, it is important to live in accordance with that natural phenomenon by understanding that ‘even this will pass away’. Attempts to cling to joy/sorrow are against that natural law, which we can never succeed as nothing is created to remain forever. Kṛṣṇa comes to that world with that understanding hence he is not shackled by the circumstances around him, and is enabled to act promptly in any situation. With such a mind one would always be capable enough to look forward to doing our duties rather than clinging to temporary things. We will be able to ‘have’ but not ‘hold’ or ‘possess’. To give us an analogy, Svāmīji said we should be like a ‘mirror’ in our life. Whatever comes to the mirror, it captures or accepts everything, rejecting nothing. Whenever things go out from the vicinity of the mirror, it holds on to nothing and lets go of everything. To highlight this thought further, Svāmīji quoted an instance from Śrīrāma Gītā where Lakṣmaṇa asks Rāma about māyā to which Rāma in simple words explained ‘I’ and ‘mine’ are māyā. It means when you hold on to something as I or mine that is māyā. So Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna that we are left nothing but endure it by understanding it that neither joy nor sorrow lasts forever. Svāmīji pointed out that to endure this changing phenomenon would also mean to endure the ever-changing diverse nature of Jagat (world). The word Jagat itself means ‘change’, so when everything in the world is ‘changing’, we must learn to endure the art of floating and balancing with the change rather than holding onto anything that will make us sink or fall. To expect permanency in an ever-changing dynamic world is not wise.

We attach ourselves so much to the body that we identify ourselves with it. That is why many of us are afraid of death. But do we feel afraid of death when we know that even our body is part of the world and is impermanent? It is to explain this that Kṛṣṇa in Gītā tells Arjuna that just like we drop worn-out garments and pick new ones, at the time of death we drop our bodies and enter a new one. To discuss this verse, Svāmīji brought out instances from the life of Svāmī Cinmayānanda Sarasvatī and Svāmī Tapovan Mahārāj. These instances showed their fearlessness to die, which is nothing but a manifestation of their wisdom. Svāmīji also said how this knowledge of the Gītā made many freedom fighters like Khudiram Bose go fearless to fight for independence. So when people die, they take their next Janma in a different body based on their desire and Vāsanās that were left with them in the previous birth. This is a cycle that would continue as long as our Vāsanās aren’t exhausted.

As this is a talk series is intended to highlight only the major points from each chapter of the Gītā, Svāmīji mentioned three points, which are to be remembered:

  1. Wise never grieve
  2. Because wise knows that every experience (joy/sorrow) is temporary and
  3. Even death is only like a change of garment

After explaining each of these points, Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna in verse 2.37 that “If you fight, you will either be slain on the battlefield and go to the celestial abodes, or you will gain victory and enjoy the kingdom on earth. Therefore arise with determination, O son of Kuntī, and be prepared to fight”. (hato vā prāpsyasi swargaṁ jitvā vā bhokṣhyase mahīm tasmād uttiṣhṭha kaunteya yuddhāya kṛita-niśhchayaḥ). Svāmīji reminded us that there is Arjuna in us, and hence this knowledge is also meant for us. He also said that a soldier that enters the battlefield with this kind of mindset would always be a warrior who has nothing to lose hence s/he would never succumb to a faint-heartedness. This way our being in this world should be in a way where we face joy-sorrow, victory-defeat, loss-gain alike, fulfilling our responsibility in this way, you will never incur sin (pāpam), the Gītā says in Verse 2.38. Here, sin means deep attachment, which is always towards victory-defeat, joy-sorrow, like-dislike, etc. It is this attachment that causes fear, the fear of losing. Hence, fearlessness comes only from detachment (Vairāgyam-evābhayam, Vairāgyaśatakam 31).

Many parents in our times don't encourage their children to taste defeat and teach them how to take failures positively or treat victory and defeat alike. This makes our people weaker, and when they fall, they get completely devastated. After mentioning this, Svāmīji recalled the life-changing moment of Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, where Svāmī Śivānanda told young Kalam who was in his struggling stage to ‘defeat the defeatist in you’. Svāmīji said that, hence, falling is not really the problem, not being able to arise after a fall is the problem.

Just like in the context of the battlefield, this knowledge is applicable to any field of work that we have chosen for duty in our lives. Svāmīji concluded by saying that to live such a life means to live life fully and people struggle to do this. This knowledge is applicable to the kinds of tragic people we find, people who are scared of death, of living, and of both. Svāmīji also said that the greater tragedy is that though such great knowledge is in our heritage, which has the potential to lift up many from their misery, we still struggle to make our people have access to it through our own educational system. The sad state of the inaccessibility of the Gītā to many of us, during major parts of our life, particularly in childhood, is a problem in itself. Because Gītā is a text that has to be experienced (and not just read) through constant reflection throughout our life as we constantly evolve spiritually. To emphasise this point, Svāmīji mentioned an instance from Svāmī Cinmayānanda’s life, where he said it doesn’t matter how many times we go through Gītā but it is about how many times we have let the Gītā go through us.

Event Date 
May 2, 2022

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