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May 2020 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:May' 2020


Focus on inner-self !

K. Siva Prasad

The Bhagavad Gita is a 700- verse conversation between Lord Krishna and Warrior Arjun in the battle field of Kurukshetra.
Just before the start of the war, Arjun gets the feeling that war would kill many of his friends and relatives and argues this is bad from many points of view.
Arjuns dilemma emanates from his presumption that " I am doer" - Aham karta and is also known as Ahamkaar. This Ahamkaar keeps us telling that we are distinct, but reality is different. Though ego is usually given as meaning to Ahamkaar, ego can be taken as one of many manifestations of Ahamkaar.
If we take Kurukshetra war as a metaphor, all of us enter into a situation, like Arjun did, in our daily lives, be it in family, work place and in terms of health, wealth, relationships etc. As long as one lives, these dilemmas are natural .
The Gita is about what we are and certainly not about what we know nor what we do. Like no amount of theory can let us ride a by-cycle or swim, no amount of philosophy can help us unless we see life eye to eye and guiding principles of the Gita help us to reach the final destination -the inner self which is free of Ahamkaar.
All paths given in the Gita lead us to the Inner Self. Some of the paths appear to be in contrast with each other. However, this is like a circle where a journey on either side would take us to the same destination. The Gita operates at various levels. Sometimes Krishna comes to the level of Arjuna and sometimes he comes as the Supersoul ( Paramatma).
Scientists faced similar difficulties while understanding light, at the beginning of the last century. Initially, it was proved that light is a wave and later it was realized that it also behaves like a particle. Both theories appear to be opposing each other. But light, with which we are so familiar, is a combination of apparent contradictions. Similar is life.Once an elephant entered a village and a few blind men attempted to identify or understand it.
Depending on which part of the elephant they touched, they imagined what an elephant might be like. The one who touched trunk said that the elephant is like a long and rough creature. The one who touched the tusk said that this animal is hard as a rock. Another who touched the stomach said that it is huge and soft. And so their deductions went.
Different perceptions of one reality is the reason for all the differences we see in the world today.
In reality, the elephant is none of these, but it is also all of these.
Our state of mind is no different from these individuals, with people, things and relationships being that enigmatic elephant. Partial understanding leads us to misery.

Being truthful

The Gita is about what we are. It is like being truthful apart from knowing the truth and that happens when we are centered (space) in the present moment (time) The underlying dilemma of Arjuna is what would happen to his image, in the eyes of world, if he kills his friends, relatives, elders and teachers for the sake of kingdom. This appears very logical and this is the first barrier to be crossed, if one has to live the Gita life.
The real dilemma of Arjun is about his future, whereas Krishna says that we have the right to do karma but no right to the karmaphal .
Why ? Because karma happens in the present and karmaphal is something that comes up in the future.
Like Arjun, our tendency is to strive for outcomeoriented actions. Some times modern life gives us an impression that future outcomes can be controlled.
But in reality, the future is a combination of so many possibilities over which we do not have any control.
Once again its our ahankaar , feeding on our past and projecting future on the present, creates dilemmas.
Coming to space, the entire universe, consisting of galaxies, stars and planets, is characterized by rotation, which is primarily a stationary axis/hub and a rotating structure. The hub never moves and without this hub no rotation of a wheel is possible. Every storm has a calm centre - without it, no storm can sustain momentum. The farther away from the centre, the greater would be turbulence.
We too have a calm centre which is nothing but our inner self and the turbulent life, with its many attributes, revolves around it. Arjun's dilemma is about one of such attributes - his image. Like him, we form images about ourselves by looking into the eyes of others rather than looking into our inner self.

Stress on senses

Gita lays emphasis on our senses as they are the gateways between our inner and outer world.
Neuroscience postulates, "Neurons that fire together wire together". The Gita's words too convey a similar message using the language of its time.
Our brain has about a 100 billion neurons. Some of them are wired by DNA to take care of automatic functions of body and some are wired by us during our life times. On the first day, before a driving wheel, we all found it difficult to drive and then slowly got used to it. This is because of hard wiring that the brain does, with unutilised neurons, to coordinate all the activities involved in driving.
The same happens with all the skills. Starting from simple walking to sports to complex surgeries by a surgeon. Hardwiring saves a lot of energy for brain and makes our lives easy.
A new born is a 'universal baby' capable of many things. The domestication done by family, peers and society, leads to formation of many neural patterns. These patterns expect us to look for a particular type of impulses and sensations from external world and we work hard to get them. For example, we all like to hear praise about ourselves as our neural patterns expect and enjoy the same. These patterns are foundations for expectations, prejudices and judgements.
Combination of these patterns, coupled with efforts made, are nothing but Ahankaar and in today's world, success and happiness is defined as getting sensations matching our neural patterns. One gets centered in self once these are broken. As a result joy flows as we are no more dependent on external sensations and Krishna calls it Atma Raman.
To live a Gita life is to use various instructions/instruments given in Gita to break these patterns, which makes us joyful and free of judgments.

Three paths

The Gita appears different to different people based on their orientation. There are three different paths in the Gita--- Karma yog, Sankhya yog and Bhakthi yog . Karma yog is ideal for someone who is mind- oriented.
Sankhya yog is for Intellect and Bhakti is for the heart- oriented.
In today's world, majority falls in the category of mind oriented. Its based on belief that we are tied up with chains and need to work hard to break them to free ourselves. So its action oriented. Any conversation with them would end up with 'What should I do now'.
This path leads us to Nishkam karma i.e. unmotivated action.
Sankhya yog is also known as Gyan Yog and this is about awareness or knowing, but not knowledge. Its beginning point is the belief that we are in a dark room and have to just lighten a lamp in the dark to quell the darkness as no amount of action or flight can remove that darkness. This path takes us to realize about choiceless awareness. Bhakti Yog is about surrender. They equate themselves as a wave which owes its existence to ocean and the ocean being paramatma , the supreme being.
At the beginning, the language and understanding of these three paths would be quite different. If a path of awareness is explained to a mind oriented person, he would keep looking for some action for awareness.
Certainly, these are not water tight paths and combination of them is what one experiences. For example, when karma and Sankhya paths meet we will get awareness that final destiny of all karmas is a mirage and would become unattached to karma while performing it, like an act in a drama.
Just like the entire universe is combination of three particles electron, proton and neutron, the spiritual world is combination of these three paths. Krishna says all these paths have one common destination of realizing self, which is free of Ahankaar .

-- The writer is a senior IAS officer in the Punjab Government.