Any gospel becomes effective only when it highlights the unique benefits of what is advocated or upheld and at the same time emphasizes in equally strong terms the grave consequences of the opposite course. “This when followed will be most auspicious; and any other course will lead to the worst”, such should be the message and tone. The positive note has to be clearly pronounced and the negative note condemned outright. Only then it will arrest the attention of the reader and the listener, making his choice conclusive and the pursuit easy.
Krishna explained the need for yoga-buddhi, which he said consists in samatva. He emphasized how this inner samatva should become a constant enriching note while doing all karmas. He now points out how karma done without yoga-buddhi will verily be futile as far as the enrichment and elevation of the performer is concerned. When one grasps the contrasts between the two, his motivation to take up the yoga practice will naturally grow stronger.
Samatva-buddhi and phala-buddhi are utterly opposed to each other. Phala-buddhi is greatly constricting and disturbing. By the vivekin it must be avoided at any rate. We have explained how in the right performance of any karma, the result aimed at is verily implied, and hence it is unnecessary to get disturbed by thinking repeatedly on this score. Karma well begun and effectively performed, will automatically end up in its result. No intercepting thoughts about the fruition will help. In the next verse Krishna shows how karmas done without yoga-buddhi will be much inferior in quality. To stick to phala-buddhi is to lose greatly.
(Bhagavad Gita 2.49)
“Karma done with the sole aim of its result is far inferior to that done with samatvabuddhi. Seek refuge under the yoga-buddhi, O Arjuna. Those who aim only at the results are indeed misers, stingy people. They stand to incur great loss.”
‘‘Karpanya-doshopahata-svabhavah” were the words of confession Arjuna uttered in the 2nd chapter. He was, he said, victimised by the defect called karpanya (constriction, miserliness). In other words, he found himself unable to eschew the pettiness and narrowness of his mind. He could not think broadly and deeply. The mind will be led to a state of stultification and helplessness whenever it is subdued by constrictions. Krishna’s description of krpana (miser) in this verse is particularly relevant. To be concerned merely with the objective results while doing karmas is to be a krpana. To get rid of such narrowness is to leave the phala-buddhi in the first instance and then to imbibe the yoga-buddhi. Arjuna’s karpanya-dosha will find its redress, says Krishna, if he could cultivate yoga-buddhi to replace his phala-buddhi.
Arjuna has also stated, in his confession, śiṣyas-te’ham– that he was no more the proud brother-in-law of Krishna, but a humble seeking disciple. Addressing Krishna as his Guru, Arjuna had surrendered like any disciple and sought timely instruction on the path of the śreyas (everlasting welfare).
“Buddhau śaranam-anviccha” is the clarion call of Bhagavad Gita, not only to Arjuna but to all devotional minds. To all those who surrender before him, Krishna’s lasting message is to look to one’s own buddhi. Any crisis of the mind has to find its solution in and from the buddhi alone, the superior faculty which holds the power of influence on the mind.
Yoga-buddhi is the one relief, assurance and fulfillment to all those in the field of action, while doing karma. In fact, Krishna’s distinctive role has always been to activate and arouse the buddhi of every one around. Playing with cowherd mates, sporting with the Vraja women, whether he hid himself or stole their dresses, he was delivering a pertinent message, which had the effect of making them thoughtful and spiritually reflective.
While yet a boy in Vrindavana, did he not sternly interfere in the worship offered to Indra of the heavens? In the place of making offerings to imaginary gods, the Vraja settlement, insisted Krishna, should show its allegiance to the visible Govardhana mountain and the rivers flowing from it – the visible sources of Nature, on whom depended their lives and welfare. Even in the delightful talks with Rukmini during leisurely spells in the Dwaraka palace, Krishna had only the message of lofty spiritual thoughts and dispassion to convey. The effort to awaken and stimulate buddhi in all matters and imbibe the right introspection and inspiration is the singular gospel of Krishna everywhere. In the Bhagavad Gita, which presents a synthesis of spiritual, religious and philosophical thoughts, it is all the more so!
In the 18th chapter of the Gita also Krishna speaks conclusively about the inner refuge and surrender. Stating that the supreme Lord of the Universe is seated in the heart of everyone, he tells Arjuna:
“Him alone you seek refuge under. And do this by all your attitudes and mental notes.” To the one who surrenders before him, Krishna has always to say: Seek the one that dwells in your heart. The inward surrender is the supreme one. In that, everything else has its conclusion and consummation. Is this not also the same buddhau-saranam anviccha?
Thus Krishna gives supreme importance to the inward life and inwardness. He is very particular to impart a spiritual note to all religious thoughts and attitudes. Likewise, he wants to ensure that the objective outlooks and motivations are replaced by a deeper subjective view and motivation.
So, to the unthinking and constricting mind alone, the practice of result dominated karma will hold any meaning and charm. Once the buddhi takes the lead and one begins to reason or enquire about what is what, a thorough change, a sure elevation, is bound to transpire. And this is what happened to Arjuna in such a short spell, just before the discharge of arrows in Kurukshetra – a change that had not taken place in all the decades that had passed, including the austere forest life!
“Krpanah phala-hetavah” is an absolute pronouncement. “Ma karma-phala-heturbhooh” were the words used earlier. Karmas have something immortal, everlasting to bestow, provided you perform them with samatva-buddhi. That gain will remain inseparable from your being. Krishna underscores here the fact that to do karma with any other outlook is indeed to be a krpana. The Upanishads speak about krpana in even a more drastic manner. Yajnavalkya tells Gargi:
“Whoever exits from this world without caring to know the Imperishable Soul, which he verily is, is indeed a krpana, the real stingy person.” Having a splendid opportunity before him, if man ill uses it, he makes himself a krpana, extremely stingy. Monetary stinginess or miserliness is a very common concept. But in the ultimate analysis, all qualities have their bearing upon the mind and soul of man. Stinginess viewed in this deeper sense, is the constricted nature of the mind and buddhi, by which man is not able to grasp the supreme spiritual wisdom.
Thus Krishna evaluates yoga-buddhi as the most rewarding for one and all. Immediately he also wants to condemn the phala-buddhi as the most degrading. The reader and the listener thus get a double motivation – for taking up and cultivating yoga-buddhi as well as for desisting from contrary notes.
In the next verse, Krishna presents how the yoga-buddhi takes one to mental transcendence, and how the yogic vision and practice make one distinguished in doing all kinds of karma –adventurous, hazardous or stupendous– dexterously:
By using the word buddhi-yukta it becomes clear that karma-yoga is a practice that rests in buddhi. Buddhi-yukta means one who is integrated well with samatva-buddhi. Buddhi being attuned to samatva as a constant overwhelming note, one is able to freely leave aside notions like sukrta (auspicious) and dushkrta (inauspicious). Why should Krishna make a special mention of sukrta and dushkrta?
To Arjuna the entire war looked extremely sinful. He thought the real virtue lay in abandoning fight and embracing ascetic life. This is the dual or differential outlook ‘bheda-buddhi’ of the common deluded man. Virtue and vice are considerations of the ignorant, constricted, disintegrated mind. To the yogic seeker, such differential notions should not have any appeal at all. In fact, the yoga-buddhi itself is taken up to dissuade the constant influence of the world in the form of dvandvas (duals): virtue and vice, good and bad, success and failure and the like. Where yoga-buddhi reigns, there dvandvas have no place or purpose. Arjuna has thus no cause to worry about dushkrta to be avoided or sukrta to be earned. His mind can become free and stable about whatever he was proposing to do.
Thus Krishna goes to the last quarter of the verse:
Yogah karmasu kausalam
Yoga, Krishna describes, is extreme dexterity in doing one’s karma. Far from desisting from any action, fearing any consequence or doubting about any possibility in its way, it is the skill and courage in going forward with any action whatsoever. Whether it is the devastating Kurukshetra war now, or the complex and painful task of administering the country later, to the yogic thinker it makes little difference. Yoga-buddhi gives him an efficiency, a confidence and perception which together make him immensely effective and doubt-free in whatever he does. Krishna calls karma-yoga as unique excellence and skill for doing karmas.
In fact, Krishna’s life itself was an open demonstration of the yogic excellence. You can find enough clues to this right from his early life. He was born as the nephew of Kamsa, who considered him to be a stark enemy and inflicted a number of adverse plights, the like of which human history has not recorded till date. The yogi can remain immensely active. His yogic vision will empower him to take up any venture, meet any eventuality and reconcile with any outcome any time. The man of yoga will not shudder at any situation or possibility. As earth moves in its trajectory ceaselessly, the river flows on and on from the mountain, so too the one enriched by yoga-buddhi will go forward and forward. While yet the pet boy of Vrindavan, Krishna was invited formally by Kamsa, his uncle, to Mathura, where the invincible Malla and Chanoora awaited him for a personal duel. Right at the entry gate stood the huge tusker Kuvalyapeeda, ready to charge the boy when he came to the spot. The young Krishna neither feared nor wished to retreat on any account, although every one in Vrindavan stood breathlessly on hearing about the hazardous journey. Krishna did go to Mathura and subdued the tusker as well as the powerful Malla and Chanoora to overpower Kamsa and install his father on the throne in all righteousness. What greater adventure can one think of attempting?
Just before the commencement of the Mahabharata war, Balarama, Krishna’s elder brother, became pensive and restless. He could not think of witnessing Duryodhana and Bheema, his disciples, facing each other in war. He left the scene and went on a pilgrimage. But Krishna, related to both equally, decided to be in the midst of the war, standing as a charioteer and steering every crucial event to uphold righteousness and win its cause.
When Krishna speaks about yoga-buddhi and describes it as karma-kausalam, it means a wonderful deal. Any one who wants to be effective in his field of activity, who intends to go ahead with whatever task lies ahead, whoever wishes to strive untiringly for greater and greater objectives in life, will do well to reflect upon this yogic exponent’s vision, will and excellence. Even a small percentage of the merits yoga-buddhi instils and bestows, is ample enough for any worldly individual to pursue his life with effectiveness and fulfilment.
(to be continued .... part of the series Essential-Concepts-In-Bhagavad-Gita)
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