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Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.
I have said this earlier but I am wondering whether the message has been sufficiently absorbed and received by all of you. Our country is a very great and old country and we have perhaps the oldest human civilization here. Any kind of civilization becomes meaningful provided the people about whom it is said have got their own cultural achievements and cultural refinement. If you ask what is culture, it is the intellectual achievement of people regarded collectively and practiced variously by them. These words are very important – ‘Intellectual Achievement’.
So, in culture there is always the play of intelligence, employment of intelligence and it should be in the form of an achievement. What can the intelligence achieve except knowledge? So, the culture is actually the knowledge a society has been able to gain, achieve, muster, display and also pursue. I say our society, our people are very much civilized and we have the oldest civilization here. We also have cultural refinement. ‘Swamiji, how do you say this?’ - if you ask me, I am not saying this in the form of a hearsay. We have got very beautifully recorded documents before us and our cultural documents are called Prasthāna-trayam.
Many people speak about Prasthāna-trayam. Generally, Sannyāsins alone take this Prasthāna-traya and start learning, discussing and discoursing. Others never look at the Prasthāna-trayam at all. But I would like to say that this Prasthāna-trayam is a documented depiction of the cultural heights we have been able to achieve. Whenever we have something written before us, I think the content and the message cannot be doubted. A writing is before us. Naturally it must have been authored by one of our predecessors. The documents must have emerged or transpired at a point of time. When - we are not able to say because it happens to be prehistoric. Prehistoric means its age can be anything; it is beyond history. At the same time, we cannot doubt it. In the true sense, it is history because it is recording what our ancient people thought, felt, understood, realized as their own personal direct experience.
The word ‘traya’ means three. So, what are the three which constitutes Prasthāna-trayam? One is the age-old Upanishads whose dates we are not able to precisely assess. In the most ancient days, Vedas were taught by the mouth through the ear. We don’t have any writing at that time. Vedas and the Upanishads were rendered in written form much later. That is also prehistoric.
In the Vedas, the Upanishads are the concluding portion. The Upanishads value in a very critical manner all the preceding portions of the Vedas namely the Samhita - the hymns, Brāhmaṇās - the rituals, and even Āraṇyaka - the contemplational life. Making a clear critical evaluation and assessment of the preceding three phases, Upanishads make their declaration. And what is the way of the Upanishads? Setting up enquiries and questions before the intelligence and pursuing them systematically and consistently until at last they get clarity and knowledge in answer. So, it is a kind of a voyage within the body in the sphere of consciousness through the instrumentality of the intelligence. The word ‘Prasthāna’ means a voyage in the area or region of knowledge. You can say it is a knowledge voyage. The Upanishads are recording beautifully how this knowledge voyage took place.
Later on, we come to a period where it is something like 5154 years back. At that time, out of the two dynasties Solar and Lunar, the Lunar dynasty Hastinapura Kuru Vamsa was ruling the country. At that time, through Veda Vyasa, Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura were born. Pandu had five sons, Dhritarashtra had 101 children (100 sons and one girl). Dhritarashtra was blind. So, Duryodhana had practically the functional rulership. But for everything he had to get permission from the father. Duryodhana and his brothers chose to be wicked, selfish, greedy and possessive. Yudhishthira and the other four were on the other hand given to righteousness, peace, self restraint, goodness, non-harmful and the like. Naturally, the ideals and values differed so gravely that they fell apart. Ultimately it precipitated in the Mahabharata war. All the preparations were made and both the armies came to the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
Duryodhana first of all went to his teacher and started talking to him in a very high-handed manner. Finally, he concluded his statement saying “My dear Acharya, I don’t want you to take any kind of a leading step or measure. Protect Bhishma my grandfather. When he is protected, my army and myself are safe, my victory is also certain.” When it came to this much of climax, Bhishma wanted to arrest him and then raising a lion’s roar he blew his conch. Following that, the entire Duryodhana army raised various kinds of instruments and also conch and other things.
Now it was for the Pandava army to respond to; they kept quiet. Drishtadyumna was the Commander-in-Chief. But he felt that “I am nobody to respond to Bhishma, the great grandfather”. Krishna took up the Pānchajanya, his conch, and blew it; and it was only conch, conch and conch. There was no instrument that was sounded. Normally, discharge of arrows should begin. But Arjuna suddenly felt that “I should examine the army”. So, he asked Krishna to drive the chariot and station it in a suitable place.
Krishna always was very clever; so he drove the chariot and stationed it in front of Bhishma and Drona as if to put a subtle question to Arjuna’s mind, “You wanted to examine the army. You have reinforced yourself with Gāṇdīva, Pāśupatāstra etc. Will all that be sufficient to fight this war especially when the opponents are headed by Bhishma, the unconquerable, the invincible? So, see whether you are fully fit with all your material acquisitions.” Arjuna suddenly collapsed saying that “I will not fight. My whole body is trembling, my mouth is dry, mind is whirling, Gāṇdīva has slipped. My intelligent says this war is not to be fought.” It was in such a situation that Krishna took up the task of setting right Arjuna’s mind. A conversation followed which lasted I believe about 2.5 hours or so. Arjuna got the necessary clarity, courage and restoration. He said “I will fight”. Now, this is the whole story of Bhagavad Gita.
This Bhagavad Gita as we have before us was narrated on the tenth day by Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra. This happened 5000 and odd years back. In the Prasthāna-trayam, Bhagavad Gita is the second text. The third text is Brahma-sutras. There is a beautiful relationship and value complimenting between the three. The Upanishads are very sanctifying; they have got some divinity associated with them. So, we call it ‘Śruti divya’. Now, so far as Mahabharatam is concerned, it comes as an epic called ‘Smriti’. It is something like a constitution. The third is Brahma Sutra, it is called ‘Yukti’. So, Śruti, Smriti and Yukti. These three together form the Prasthāna-trayam.
I would like you, my dear souls, to understand that this is the foundation, the basis of all our cultural thoughts, cultural refinements and intellectual achievements of people. The intelligence is noted for making enquiry and arriving at knowledge. The knowledge is divided into two sectors. One is the knowledge of things which our senses reveal - the object knowledge. But our senses are employed by the mind which itself is not sensible. This is a point that the scientists and others never care to know. The senses by themselves cannot work. They are shaped and made by the power within the body which is inaccessible to external instrumentation or perception. So, the mind is the genesis even for the senses for their creation. If mind is thus at the root of senses, our knowledge should go to the mind region, the subject region and try to understand what is there. But normally we are only interested in the object hemisphere and the object knowledge. But knowledge is not complete by that. The true knowledge, the greater knowledge and the foundational knowledge is that of the Subject. This Subject knowledge is dealt with in our Prasthāna-traya. In other words, it tells you about the mind, intelligence and ego and the character, behavior and interaction which are instrumented by the inner personality - mind, intelligence and ego. This itself is a full area of knowledge and that knowledge when you properly acquire, life becomes meaningful, complete and fulfilling. In the language of the Upanishads:
If you succeed in knowing this subject part, atha satyam-asti – human life, your life becomes truthful and meaningful. Na ced ihāvedīn - suppose you don’t succeed in knowing it; mahatī vinaṣtiḥ - colossal is the destruction.
Now you tell me, whether the object knowledge is the greater or the subject knowledge is the greater. This subject knowledge is the one dealt with in the Upanishads, in the Bhagavad Gita and also in the Brahma Sutras. In the Brahma Sutras, it is presented completely in a rational manner. In the Bhagavad Gita, it is presented in a conversational manner. This conversation, this dialogue took place in the battlefield. The event before the dialogue was a war event and the events that followed the dialogue are again war events. So, it is a war-field dialogue and meant to make Arjuna fight the war. The Upanishads have a different theme and purpose. The Upanishads always exhort the seeker to take up the ascetic life remaining in the forest, secluded environments. The seeker does not have any worldly interest or ambition. He has already said good-bye to the world and he goes to the teacher in an ascetic environment. But in Bhagavad Gita, though the message is the same as Upanishads and Upanishadic insight and focus namely the immortal nature of the soul, Krishna focuses on action and interaction.
असक्तो ह्याचरन्कर्म परमाप्नोति पूरुषः ।।
asakto hy-ācaran-karma param-āpnoti pūruṣaḥ ||
Be active and by so doing, attain the Supreme. So, the two are in a way diametrically opposed to each other but they have the same aim. Krishna also says that sānkhya, that is the jñāna-nishta and yoga, the karma-nishta are the same when properly understood. So, I want you to understand ‘Prasthāna-trayam’ is the one written record before us which clearly tell us what we are, who we are, how our ancients were, for what did we give the supreme value in life and how that supreme goal was fulfilling in every way; it fulfills the mind, intelligence, the ego also and how this becomes the real human quest. This Prasthāna-trayam, the written, the documented version of our own history - how the ancients thought, pursued it to the logical climax, crowning glory and what they understood, whether it was true even after many many millennia. Bhagavad Gita says it was true. Krishna uses it for Arjuna to set him right. And whether it is reasonable, rational and scientific, Brahma Sutras explain. This Prasthāna-trayam - that word as well as the content and the message, everyone of you should understand and keep in mind.
Harih Om Tat Sat Jai Guru.