"It is not what you do that matters, but how you do it – with what attitude and aim. The spiritual effect that a seemingly spiritual activity brings, can also be had by the domestic pursuit, provided you preserve a spiritual attitude and dedication."

The Guiding force of Narayanashrama Tapovanam & Center for Inner Resources Development

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha


Practical Guidance

Prabhaata Rashmih talks by Poojya Swamiji
  • PR 13 Mar 2012 - Knowledge Austerity
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    Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru. 

    You know that I am spending a lot of time in Srimad Bhagavatam solely because of the fact that it is this text on which I speak for the two series, Muktisudhakaram and ‘Inner Spiritual Splendour’. Both of them are on the eleventh skanda of Srimad Bhagavatam. The eleventh skanda of Srimad Bhagavatam is actually the essence of not merely the Srimad Bhagavata narration, but also the entire spirituo-philosophical exposition.

    Our whole spirituo-philosophical culture, religious culture commences itself from the Vedic period and Vedic literature. The Vedas would not have been evolved all of a sudden. There must have been a time lag between the first thoughts on the Vedas and the last thoughts on them. We cannot say how much is the period but there certainly is an evolution if you can call it an evolution, a search, research, finding, processing the finding further, thinking further and finally they arrived at a finale. This is what we call the Upanishads. The Upanishadic thoughts climax and also crown the Vedic enquiries, the Vedic life and it climaxes in what? In a zero.

    यदा पञ्चावतिष्ठन्ते ज्ञानानि मनसा सह ।
    बुद्धिश्च न विचेष्टते तामाहुः परमां गतिम् ।। 2.3.10 ।।
    yadā pañcāvatiṣṭante jñānāni manasā saha |
    buddhiśca na viceṣtate tāmāhuḥ paramām gatim ||
    (Kathopanishad 2.3.10)

    It started elaborately with praises and hymns addressed to the super human powers. These were followed by elaborate ceremonies and rituals. Even now people have a great admiration and awe towards them. Then they receded into a contemplative state. Finally they found even the contemplative effort is to be surrendered and we should become a zero within ourselves.

    The verse I quoted is from Kathopanishad. When all the senses along with the mind and the intelligence keep quiet, doing nothing. तां आहुः परमां गतिम् – that is said to be the supreme abode, refuge and fulfillment. This is what I called a zero. ‘Are we living only to know and be this? - is an important question. There is so much of widespread alluring materials and other things around us. Can we suddenly say that these are nothing and of no value? This is a question that should occur to everybody, anybody.

    Srimad Bhagavatam is the latest scripture written about fourteen hundred years back. So you will find that in Srimad Bhagavata you will have the latest thinking in the subject. It is not that all the Srimad Bhagavata thoughts were new at that time. The Srimad Bhagavata thought process should have started very soon after the Upanishadic period. Because the Upanishads are philosophical and primarily meant for intelligence, the highest faculty, constituent in the human personality. Not all will be able to access the Upanishadic thought or adopt them all of a sudden. At the same time, everybody should be given the benefit of the ultimate truth. That is how our Vedic thinkers thought of producing something in the way of a puranic narration. Through a process of narration where time, place and personality featured repeatedly. The imagination soaring very high into the unseen heights above the earth, they started communicating with the normal people who do not have time either to read and think themselves or who may not be able to understand even when they read. So, the puranic processes had started earlier.

    In Srimad Bhagavata, you perhaps find a kind of a climax and fulfillment of the thinking. Srimad Bhagavata is primarily a devotional text, means it is completely resting upon God. God who is the creator, the preserver and the dissolver of everything in this world. Normally people say God is sporting in the whole creation. In a way it is right. Would you like to be a cat and also a rat together? Become the rat and become the cat. And as cat you pounce upon the rat. You don’t allow it to go, you don’t kill it also, you sport with it for some time. As a rat, you submit yourself to it. What should be your dimension when you are able to sport in this manner?

    You know we take to wrestling and boxing etc. as a vinoda, as a play and so many people watch it. What are they doing? One hits the other, the other counter hits until at last one is defeated and we are trying to see it. So, in sport there is something called punishment, hurting and the pinnacle of it is killing. Not only that, eating. This is the perhaps the biggest of sport that you can think of, though it is on the first hearing very painful and excruciating. There is something called bull fight. People fight with the bull until at last he is able to insert a sword into the heart region of the bull and so many people are seeing it. So killing is not avoided in sport. Maybe people delight it, may not be all. So God is sporting, you can say, except as a sport this cannot be justified. That rat being pounced upon by the cat. Like that so many animals, Our own body preyed by a number of germs. Some incurable diseases. Sometimes we have to be shut up in a dark room. So many things are there. Can you justify it as a normal act? Then God will be considered very cruel. He is not. So it is only a vinoda for Him. But is this vinoda justifiable? Can a God sport in all these cruelties? That is also a question. So an ultimate answer has to be found out.

    In Srimad Bhagavata you find in more than one place, several places it says that the whole creation is non-existent. It is nothing but an extension of man’s illusion. If there is an illusory product, an illusory cat killing an illusory rat, then I think you have no problem. The problem arises only when the cat and the rat become real. So Srimad Bhagavata clearly says यत्र त्रिसर्गॊ मृषा (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.1). The combination of words is such that it allows to be read as त्रिसर्गॊ मृषा and त्रिसर्गॊ अमृषा. In very critical places Srimad Bhagavata clearly sees that the words are put as a positive and negative. It can be split as a positive word or a negative word. But there are occasions when doubtlessly Srimad Bhagavata says everything is an illusion. 

    I was just reminded of Mundakopanishad how this illusion has come, we find so much of concreteness, grossness, weight, this, that and all. Positing Brahman as a source of everything, Mundakopanishad says,

    यस्य ज्ञानमयं तपः
    (Mundakopanishad 1.1.9)
    The tapas of Brahman is jnanamaya. 
    तपसा चीयते ब्रह्म
    (Mundakopanishad 1.1.8)

    Brahman is actually consciousness. It is not matter, it is not energy, it is not anything conceivable. On the other hand, it is knowledge. Knowledge is not unknown to us. We are knowing. We have knowledge. We have consciousness. Consciousness does not take any space or place to be. Now this Brahman, तपसा चीयतॆ - it goes on swelling. How does it swell? तपसा. The process is tapas. What is this tapas? You can have various forms of tapas. Physical tapas like walking a few kilometers, fasting, taking āsanās, prānāyāma, all these are forms of austerity. But Mundakopanishad says यस्य ज्ञानमयं तपः whose austerity is knowledge, knowledge. So, knowledge is not a process. It simply dawns. No activity is involved. And from that knowledge austerity अन्नात्प्राणो मनः सत्यं. Matter evolved. Force evolved. Mind evolved. And the elements, five elements evolved Shabda, sparsa, rasa, roopa, gandhah and panchabhutas. I would like you to grasp this word ज्ञानमयम् तपः.

    You know whenever I read something, I try to understand it and that understanding itself is the process. Nothing else is necessary. Spend your time devotionally, piously and with attunement in whatever you read and try to understand. That is the best form of austerity that you can think of. I am not sure even now that our inmates have understood that knowledge is the best corrector, improver, refiner, sublimator, fulfiller. You are not respecting knowledge. You are not able to assess knowledge. When you know something to be bad, bad, that knowledge that it is bad is sufficient to cast it aside because if the knowledge is not firm, the bad thrives. So, knowledge is the deepest faculty and constituent in the human personality. So that knowledge austerity is the process by which the knowledge Brahman started growing and becoming matter, energy, force, senses, mind, intelligence and ego. Will you think about this proposition and try to understand it? It is a very, very great statement.

    Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.

  • PR 29 Jan 2012 - Sanskrit Poetry for Mind Introspection
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    Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.

    Yesterday I was speaking about the quality, the habit, the ability, the gift of remembering things properly. In all these, that inner qualitative refinement is the most important factor. I speak. Many of you hear. The hearing part is almost common. No, there also there is difference. Each person may listen to it from his own insight. Maybe the ear drums fulfill their role. But the ear drums exist only for the sake of the mind. So, in the mind part, the listening maybe of an assorted nature. Some people will listen to it with a lot of attention, with a view to absorb what is said, to be identified with what is heard and to incorporate it in their life, in their system.

    So far as the hearing is concerned, you can say ear has a role to play. But once it becomes a question of receiving the words, receiving and absorbing the ideas, I think the ear keeps away. Everything is done by the mind. So, the qualitative listening will depend upon the attunement the mind is able to develop. Attunement itself as I said will depend upon the extent and depth of interest you have in any subject whatsoever. Whenever I began to read spiritual literature, luckily I found that whatever I wanted to read was invariably in poetry. Poetry is the only kind of literature which you can remember.

    You know in our country, when children are being taught Sanskrit, the first thing that they are taught is Amarakosam. This Amarakosam, if I remember correct, it is partly in Malayalam and partly in English also. We have got a dictionary in Sanskrit. The dictionary of all the names used in Sanskrit - it is all in poetry. And this dictionary used to be by-hearted by the students because there was no other way. They had to learn it, learn it, learn it and be impressed by it. Similarly, the entire grammar, Panini sutras, they also used to be by-hearted. This was the way. Suppose it was not poetry, I don’t think we will be able to by-heart prose to that extent. I don’t know whether anybody will be able to do it.

    Poetry has got a kind of closely knit nature by virtue of which it is all governed by chandas, metre. So the metre will not allow any kind of a deflection or a replacement so easily. So every letter will bring the other letter, the second letter will bring the third letter, the third letter will bring the fourth word, like that. There are some children who come to the Ashram, maybe six years, seven years or five years even. You know, they recite quite a number of verses at such a tender age.

    So what I have to tell you is that how can you learn, by-heart a particular verse? Only by reading it, reciting it, reading it, reciting it, making mistakes and then feeling “No, this is not the word.” When you start chanting a verse, it will not come to you properly. So you have to relearn it. So the extent of mind hours or mind minutes you put on a subject, can you imagine?

    I would like to ask all our Brahmacharis and Brahmacharinis, "Are you spending such mind hours on a subject?" I am telling them "You learn.” But they are not learning. I was telling them that “I would teach you something like one hundred verses.” I began with fifty and at one time I went up to one hundred. Except Yogavasishta Ramayana, all the verses necessary for them to know the subject of Vedanta, right from the beginning of the theory and the end of realization, I had covered in about 100 verses. If they were to by-heart these verses, every time the verse will come to them. And by appearing in the mind in the form of memory, you get an opportunity to match your behaviour, match your thoughts, match your reaction with whatever is said there. Now this process of inner examination, inner verification, inner correction will be automatic. This is all accomplished only by the poetic rendering of the values, principles and goals of our life.

    Our ‘X’ knows quite a number of verses. She knows Gita very well. If she has that kind of a memory which I also don’t have because I have not spent time in that manner, which verse belongs to which chapter etc. So, how can she say that “I don’t remember”? Whatever she wants to remember, she must spend time for it. I told you that ‘Lokesa chaitanya mayaadi deva’. That beginning word will never occur to me. So I was trying and trying and trying, now it is almost alright.

    Some of the verses which I have learnt long back, suddenly sometimes I remember it. For Muktisudhakaram, I have to spend a little time. When I read the verses, the mind will connect whatever else is there somewhere. So, it takes time. I must give time to that. Invariably I remember connections while taking bath in the bathroom, maybe in the toilet also. So I think it is question of mind application. I would like you to examine and find out whether you are applying your mind to what you are learning or want to learn.

    Yesterday I was speaking –

    मनो हि द्विविधं प्रोक्तं शुद्धं चाशुद्धमेव च ।
    अशुद्धं कामसङ्कल्पं शुद्धं कामविवर्जितम् ॥ १ ॥
    mano hi dvividham proktam suddham ca-asuddhameva ca ।
    asuddham kāma-sankalpam suddham kāmavivarjitam ।।
    (Amritabindu Upanishad 1)

    What does it say? The human mind is twofold – It is pure and impure. So, this is what you have to know in Vedanta. Mind has got two kinds – one is pure, another is impure. What is pure and what is impure? Aśuddham kāma-saṅkalpam. The impurity is kama and sankalpa and shuddha is kama-vivarjitam.

    You learn this verse, you remember it. And every day you match your mind with this statement made here, evaluation made here. I don’t know how much time it will take. Learning only 24 letters. To learn 24 letters, how much time will you take? Even if you take in the course of 10 days, 10 hours, I think that is the long and short of the whole sādhana. And then you start applying it. Suppose you don’t have this information, then it becomes difficult. And by rendering it in poetry, we also have the additional benefit of getting a lot of ecstasy, exhilaration, joy and delight by chanting it because it is partly music. For everything we have got Sanskrit verses. What is self-realization? What is Jeevan-mukti? When does a sādhaka completes his sādhanā? Will he become free and liberated from sādhanā also? Yes. He will become a siddha, a sādhanā-nirmuktah. All these are mentioned there. Why not we open the book, learn and keep that learning in your mind readily available? I think it is all a question of spending mind minutes, mind hours, mind days.

    Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.

  • PR 12 Mar 2012 - Atma Jnana to Resolve Confrontations of Mind and Intelligence
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    Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.

    On many occasions, I used to say this Atma Jnana is just like the fire we are using. The fire has got manifold application. It can be used for making pudding for offering to the Lord. It can burn the dead body and refuse. It can heat the water. It can sterilize many things. It can heat up the Earth. It will give you warmth. So many different applications are there. Similarly, this atma jnana is also of manifold application. The application of Atma Jnana is primarily and solely to resolve the problems and confrontations of the mind and intelligence. Whenever the mind is confronted with anything, the intelligence also is confronted. In the case of intelligence, it will be ignorance, delusion and doubt. In the case of the mind, it will be unpleasantness, unhappiness, suffering and what not! Atma Jnana can completely remove all these. When I say this, I am sure that most of you will not be listening to and absorbing what is said.

    We have the most illustrious application of Atma Jnana in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Generally, this jnana is sought by people who are dispassionate in the world, who develop a dispassion or even a repulsion for the world. And such dispassionate people perhaps go to the forest or kutiras, say something like this, this Ashram also and they seek atma jnana not to get involved in this world but to retire from this world and to be solely occupied with. So, it is a very peaceful application, that too austere and absorbing application of atma jnana. This is the context in which we know. But I would like you to understand that it is not at all so. It maybe so for practical purposes with many of the seekers but don’t restrict atma jnana only for that. It is supposed to treat the mind and set it right so far as any problems, interactional problems are concerned.

    So you will find in Bhagavad Gita, Krishna treating Arjuna’s mind and intelligence with the same soul wisdom, no other soul wisdom, the same wisdom and then making him get up with his bow and arrow and resolve to fight the bloody war of eighteen days, in which the first people he had to confront were his own grandfather and teacher, between whom and himself there was no enmity or dislike at all. Bhishma and Drona were blessing him, the Pandavas. And the Pandavas had the utmost regard for Bhishma and Drona. As the fight progressed also, Yudhishthira was sent by Krishna to ask Bhishma. “As long as you are alive, we won’t be able to do anything with this Duryodhana army. So, please tell us how you can be subdued and you can be de-seated from the chariot.” Bhishma himself told them the method of doing so.

    So, you can understand that this Mahabharata war is such a cruel war in one sense, though it was a dhārmic war. And such a severe, excruciating impact of the war, Atma Jnana resolved it. Resolved it and said what? “Arjuna, you need not fight. Get away from here. Let us go to the forest and dissolve our mind and intelligence. Remain immersed in the self.” That was not the advice given. Arjuna wanted to do it. Krishna denounced it completely and said “Whatever you will achieve by meditative absorption in the forest and in the cottages, achieve it here and now. I have got a formula got Yoga-buddhi”. Very good.

    Sri Rama was confronted after a pilgrimage. He was unable to live even because of the impact of suffering caused by whatever he saw during the pilgrimage. It was a widespread exposure for him. What happened? He was very young, sixteen years old. He never sought any cottage or a hermit living in the forest. Vasishtha was luckily in the palace. He called Sri Rama and then remaining in the palace hall, Vasishtha went on giving spiritual and philosophical instructions. The same Atma Jnana, Sri Rama absorbed it, got himself meditatively absorbed while the discussion was going on and then his problems were resolved, he began to do. The summary advice of Vasishtha intermittently was “Rama, Rama, you have to sit on the throne. Rule efficiently with loyalty but never have possessiveness or ego.” So what is the summary effect of Atma Jnana? Dis-possessiveness and non-ego. These are the two important ingredients of Atma Jnana.

    Now let us go to some other occasions. What are the occasions? Parikshit. Parikshit was fated to die on the seventh day. The great King decided that “I am going to die on the seventh day. I will prepare myself for death right from today by denying and refusing food and drink. I will not have my food, I will not drink even water. Prayopavesham. But my ears have to be feasted with Tattva-Kathana and devotional Kathana.” Luckily, the young sixteen-year old Suka muni came there with no apparel on his body, indicating that whatever he was going to say was as naked and open as the body was. So with all nudity outside and openness inside, he exposed the chamber of the self to Parikshit. Parikshit went on absorbing it and before Takshaka came and administered his poisonous bite, Parikshit had already internally got absorbed, forgetting the whole body.

    Which are the other occasions? You will find Saunaka going to Angiras with a doubt. That was a very peaceful situation, the Upanishadic situation. And Angiras exposed to him the mystery of self-knowledge.

    Rukmini wrote a letter to Krishna asking him to kidnap her. “Krishna, literally do so.” Then all the Kings assembled there felt very bad and Rukmini’s brother Rukmi confronted and obstructed Krishna. The battle began. Krishna caught hold of him and He was about to behead Rukmi. Suddenly Rukmini fell at his feet and said “Oh! My dear Lord, please don’t do so. He is my brother. I will not be able to bear the agony.” So He cut off the hair and the mustache or so and then sent him away. Immediately Balarama came and started advising her. “What is it? It is because it was your brother that you obstructed Krishna. Suppose it was somebody else, you would not have said anything. You certainly wanted Krishna to confront the enemies. But because the enemy happened to be your brother, you pleaded before him not to kill him. This feeling of one is my brother, another is not so, this is brought about by delusion. Because you don’t know the truth about the singularity of the soul. This is clearly moha and delusion. Rukmini, do not give vent to this. Today or tomorrow, your brother will have to be confronted and will have to be killed.” See the occasion there. Rukmini confronted by her mind and then Balarama advising the same Atma Jnana.

    What is the other instance? The other instance is Hiranyakashipu, seeing that his brother Hiranyaksha was killed by Lord Hari, felt angry on the one hand but he went to the sister-in -law and the mother to console them. He consoled them by exposing to them the philosophy of the indestructible self, Atma Jnana.

    What is the other example that comes to my mind? Devaki. All the children of Devaki except one were killed mercilessly by Kamsa. After delivery, Vasudeva faithfully took one child after the other. The seventh, there was a miscarriage. The eighth child was born, Krishna. Krishna was transported to Vrindavan, a girl was brought instead. This girl was taken away by Kamsa and when he about to smash her, it simply escaped from Kamsa’s fist and remaining in the sky it said that “I am not your enemy. Your enemy is born elsewhere. Find him out if you can”. Kamsa felt very disappointed. In spite of all heavy preparations, whatever he wanted to do, he could not do, he did not succeed. He straightaway goes to Devaki and consoles her with the spiritual and Atmic philosophy saying that “Gods also have started speaking lies. What shall I do? However, my dear sister, I am sorry for whatever I have done, but you should understand that the soul is different from the body. When the body is killed, the soul is not dying. Every one of us is under a fate. Prakrti is supreme here and let us not worry about it. Though instrumentally I might have killed your children, in reality I did not act of my own volition. Prakrti is behind everything. We are really a football hit by Prakrti this side and that side. So don’t worry.”

    What do you understand from all this? My dear souls, please know it for certain, this atma jnana is sought by a meditational and absorptional process, I agree. But meditation and absorption are only one way of it. For people who are not given to introspection, meditation and absorption alone will make them introspective. But once you become introspectional, your moments and hours of meditation will have to be larger and longer. In meditation, the mind becomes sharper, the intelligence become subtle, the mano-vrttis, the chitta-vrttis become subtler and subtler and at last they disappear like the matter particles before a scientist’s microscope. They simply disappear and the chittha will become chit. This is true.

    But Atma Jnana is not exhausted by meditation or absorption. It has to be applied in every life situation. If you are displeased by ‘x’ or ‘y’, that displeasure will be treated by atma jnana. If you are disturbed by jealousy towards anybody, that is also a disturbance of the mind. That will also be treated by atma jnana. If you have a fear, the fear also will be treated. If you have an ambition, the ambition will be treated. If you have hatred, that also will be treated. So, this Atma Jnana has got an all-fold application and that application is on no other factors than the emotional mind and the enquiring intelligence. I thought I would explain this proposition. I think it is a kind of a unique contribution from my side.

    Krishna made the greatest revolution by presenting the sublime and peaceful message of the self in a manner that was very active and vibrant in order to empower Arjuna to fight the most notorious and bloody war where human emotions were highly assailed almost to a point of irretrievable level. This is the greatness of this culture. Try to think about it.

    Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.



Poojya Swamiji says that the real focus

  • of devotional practices is not God, but the devotee's own mind and behaviour;
  • of karmayoga is not action but the attitude of the mind with which an action is performed;
  • of knowledge is not knowledge, but the purification and expansion of the seeker's mind.

Swamiji's Teachings


Poojya Swamiji says that the real focus

  • of devotional practices is not God, but the devotee's own mind and behaviour;
  • of karmayoga is not action but the attitude of the mind with which an action is performed;
  • of knowledge is not knowledge, but the purification and expansion of the seeker's mind.


NSJi-HmPgSwami Nirviseshananda Tirtha

Swami Nirviseshananda Tirthaji, a renunciate disciple of Poojya Swamiji, is known for his scientific expositions which are a source of inspiration to seekers.  Read More...


Ma Gurupriya

A disciple of Poojya Swamiji, Ma is the loving mother of Poojya Swamiji's devotees around the world. Devotion and service remain the predominant forces shaping Ma's life.  Read More...

We now enter into another critical pronouncement in Bhagavadgita. Here again, Krishna assumes the same lofty pedestal as earlier (verse 4.7), and speaks on behalf of the Supreme Reality using the first person pronoun. An experience or statement becomes clear, conclusive and doubtless when it is claimed and expressed as “I am, I have seen or I have known”. Any other reference will only be secondary.

For the existence of the world, the first and last proof is that we cognize it. Equally so, for the existence of oneself, the full and final proof is that ‘I am, and therefore I exist’. This direct, subjective, personal note in presenting matters, thus, marks the distinction of spiritual and religious pronouncements. And in our spiritual arena, it has its greatest undeniable place and purpose:

चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागशः ।
तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम् ।।

The arrangement called varnya, based upon the four categories in the society is instituted by Me; but know that I always remain a non-doer, though the Creator of such a four-fold categorization. As I am a non-doer, I am also the Imperishable.

It appears to be a very simple statement, but Krishna’s words contain and convey a world of meaning and relevance. One has to spend adequate time and attention to grasp what he means and explains in these words, more so to be able to explain the verse to others.

Thus, a great deal of controversy revolves around this verse. Even commentators like Sankaracharya are quoted and abused pitiably, relating the original message in a manner absolutely unrelated to its genesis or relevance. As is the misunderstanding in viewing and interpreting the famous Karma-yoga sutra in the second chapter (verse 47) so also is the failure on the part of the readers and students in relating the statements of this verse properly.

Varna literally means colour. Of the five senses we have for cognizing the objects of the world, the eyes are the most used and sensitive. The objects and the shapes are identified through their varnas, colours. Whether anything is there or not, then again whether the being is a bird, beast, reptile, worm, a cell or a human is first known only through the eye. Only the eye can recognize rupa, colour. In the plant kingdom, we have a number of trees, herbs and the like. Each is identified, and its properties are related, primarily by its looks, as determined by the eyes.

So, varna, the visible distinguishing feature, is important in perceiving existence and its functions. The categorization based upon this property is called varnya, that which is derived from varna (colour). Krishna now says there is something called catur-varnya in the matter of creation. The Creator has brought it into force at the time of creation itself.

It means a four-fold categorization. It is given the name vyavastha – arrangement or order. Like the divisions of beings into birds, animals, mammals, reptiles, humans and the like, this four-fold category is also there. It applies, in truth, to all sentient creation, not alone to human beings. But in human beings it is most pronounced, and we are primarily and ultimately concerned with it. The Gita-sastra also is a reference to human beings, their character, behaviour and interactions.

Krishna says that these four fold categories are on the basis of the guna, quality or character, and karma, actions or pursuits. Quality or guna is something that the human carries with him in his core, deep inside. It is a note or trait inextricably associated with his inner personality, which cannot be readily determined by eyes. That is why an exposition like this becomes necessary.

One has a body. This is a direct knowledge. But that one is not the body, though he has one, and that he is the Soul, which is quite unlike the body, is a truth that none can access through his senses. Hence sastras posit this point, explain and establish it in various ways. This is the basis of our sastras and it should not be forgotten or set aside.

In fact, such a division or categorization was already there as a vyavastha. It was a subject well understood far before Krishna’s birth as Devaki’s son. Krishna only restates what was already known and said.

The four-fold category is on the basis of inner qualities as well as the temptations and physical expressions they give rise to. It is well established that any physical or sensory action results from an inspiration, impetus or instigation arising from inside, from one’s mind and heart. The movements one makes with his limbs, the words he utters with his mouth, and also the thoughts and emotions that emerge from him, are all motivated by the qualities or forces he carries within himself. The inner part cannot be seen or judged by another. But certainly when the inner part comes to expression in the form of visible acts or behaviour, they can be clearly known.

Thus gunas, the qualities inside, and karmas, visible actions outside, both put together determine this categorization, says Krishna. Krishna does not say anything more at this stage here. Later, he has, while describing the qualities and actions of the categories (verse 18.41) said that each category is distinguished by a set of features, enlisted by him briefly. This is all that Bhagavadgita states. The rest is all interpretation and comment.

The gunas are three, as already stated in earlier chapters. Guna is a spiritual word, and naturally its meaning and import are also spiritual. Quality is just an English translation of the word. In fact, the guna means the property of a thing, be it a person or an object. Just like physical and chemical properties are there for substances, human beings have their spiritual characteristics. The Bhagavadgita lists them as sattva, rajas and tamas, about which we have mentioned in the earlier discussions.

The three gunas give rise to four combinations of tendencies, broadly, which express themselves in one’s life during his or her interactions with the world. The invisible gunas are not directly noticeable. They manifest through the activities and tendencies, which of course will be evident.

Krishna divides the characteristics into four groups. The first group, in which sattva guna is in the forefront, is the most spiritual. The predominant sattva guna will afford easy natural contemplation on the Supreme Truth or Brahman, together with the allied level of purity and goodness. Our sastras, even before Krishna was born, called it Brahmasvabhava. It means the proximate nature to Brahman, facilitating Braahmic contemplation as the most dominant aspect of life.

Arjuna, being a warrior, obviously cannot claim inclusion in this Brahma-svabhava. That is why Krishna straightaway refused Arjuna’s proposed impulsive attempt to get away from the battlefield and engage in exclusive spiritual contemplation.

Brahma svabhavins have thus a lifestyle and pursuit dominated by austerity, contemplation and the gaining of extreme level of purity. Their mainstay is knowledge, its pursuit and promotion. Sannyasins and such other people are to be included in this sattvika category.

The next group has rajo guna as the dominant quality. Rajas represents activity and the motivation, passion and prejudice for it. Rajasika people will revel in continuous activities. The taxing and seemingly cruel act of public administration, involving defence and law enforcing activities, comes under this category. Our rulers and armed forces would fall in this category. Kshatra svabhava is the name given to this. It calls for and implies the power of muscle and voice. To say what is to be done, even in emergent situations, and to see that what is so said is adhered to and implemented is the quality of rajas.

In case of insubordination or opposition, the man of rajo guna, kshatra svabhava, cannot and should not close his eyes, relent or retreat. He has to straightaway go into the matter, employing his wish, will and strength, sometimes even risking his own life. Muscle and mind both will have to be arrayed for the purpose, which is something the brahmasvabh¡vins cannot think of doing at all. By the very nature of it, rajo guna may lead to precipitous events and confrontations, as for instance the one facing Arjuna himself.

Arjuna was a kshatra svabh¡vin, and he expressed his nature consistently. He wanted to fight adharma, impropriety, and those who defended it. Thus Duryodhana and the rest were to be contended with. He was ready for the fight.

But when he came to Kurukshetra, he found his grandfather, who had literally brought him up on his lap, and his own venerable teacher, under whose care and guidance he grew to be what he had now become. They were defending Duryodhana. The wrong was to be dealt with. But the persons fighting for the wrong-side were adorable. Thus the conflict became extremely grave, and it unnerved him.

This is a typical instance in the life of the kshatriya. But rajo guna is noted to precipitate such grave crises and conflicts. The kshatriya has nevertheless to go forward. That is how Krishna instills Arjuna with the necessary insight and compulsiveness to assimilate the conflicting notes and yet fulfil the role of rajo guna. But the rajo guna of the kshatriya will have to be closely guarded and guided by sattva. Only then his violent, offensive and remedial moves will remain faultless and benevolent to ensure social and individual welfare. Herein lies the test and also redemption.

The third category of nature is the one that takes naturally to trade and agriculture, including animal husbandry. To trade means to protect the capital. In intriguing circumstances, which are not at all rare, the trader will have to blend good and bad, truth with half-truth, and only then his profession can be sustained. It is said that the trader’s success often consists in the quality of his words than of his goods. Our sastras thus describe vaisya dharma as a mixture of truth and untruth: satya-anrta. Nonetheless, there are many who have affinity for the vaisya dharma and are fit for this pursuit.

Now comes the fourth category, which encompasses always the largest percentage of human population anywhere in the world. Sudra svabhava is the name given to it. In it, the tamo guna is predominant, followed by rajas.

Those given to this combination will have their body and muscle as their wealth. They cannot take up any complex venture that needs subtle thinking and intelligent decisions. On the other hand, they can work hard under the guidance of others. All that they would expect is some reward in the form of remuneration or resources, which will enable them to live with their family.

Neither the austerity with contemplative pursuit of the Brahma-svabhavin, nor the zealous involvement in the challenges of ruling the society, nor again the cleverness and responsibility of the professions like trade and agriculture, can they take up. Theirs is the path of least resistance but comfortable involvement. “I shall not take any risk. Nor would I aspire for anything big or great. Employ me to the extent I can be employed, and I shall be content with what purpose it will serve you.”

These are the four categories which go to make humanity. The first group looks after the knowledge, research and their benefits for the welfare of mankind. The second holds the society in check and balance by placing their might and astuteness, including physical, for the cause of public administration. The third toils in the land and cultivates food materials and also engages in the production and distribution of commodities to meet the needs of the society. And the last is the broadest and largest ‘human resource’, which any other category needs and will employ.

These four together, says Krishna, constitute the complex, mutually fulfilling human society in the world. The creation of these mutually complementing four categories by different combinations of the three gunas, is the role of Nature.

In earlier chapters (verse 3.5), he has already said that all actions and their motivations are a handiwork of Prakrti, Nature, and none has anything to say or do in the matter. Nature has instituted this complex order (vyavastha) in the world. Like the birth of male and female in the society, like the preservation of the various species around, in this too, Nature’s hands alone work, and mankind has nothing to do or to interfere in the process, except to recognize the whole order and be enriched and guided by it.

These svabhavas or guna combinations are ever active and vibrant in humanity. In fact, these are the inner psychological and psychic traits. Similarly, physical and chemical substances too have their respective properties and nature. There is no being in existence, sentient or insentient, dissociated from its nature or svabhava (18.40).

Thus the four-fold combination is a well-knit arrangement one can think of. Does Nature have intelligence to conceive all this with sufficient forethought and caution? The answer is that – if the human, Nature’s best gift, has his level of intelligence and insight, what should be the magnitude and potential of Mother Nature, the very source from which the human intelligence has sprung!

Only because the super-intelligence of Grand Nature shines independently unblemished, the resultant satellites like man and the rest can have their dependent lustres. Have not the Upanishads sung this fact most melodiously?

तमेव भान्तमनुभाति सर्वं तस्य भासा सर्वमिदं विभाति ।
(Kathopanishad 2.2.15)

Only when that independent primordial lustre shines there, the rest shine after it. Indeed by Its brilliance alone are all these empowered with their respective lustres.

None should therefore doubt or wonder whether the cause of all existences, namely Nature, has sufficient intelligence within it. Is it not its intelligence or sentience that becomes manifest in varying degrees in the whole spectrum of sentient beings? The small measure of sentience we possess and display should, in fact, lead our understanding to infer how magnificent the intelligence of the Supreme source of all should be! It is because of that Supreme Master Intelligence that all this well thought-out arrangements, sequences, orders and institutions come to reign around us, in the universe. How is this wonder accomplished? The seeker has to think deeply to fill the gaps in his understanding.

It is important to know that this four-fold category of humanity (catur-varna) is not something that prevails in India or Hindu society alone. It is applicable to the whole human population, wherever people are. In the most modern nations also, where science and technology have advanced to render living standards and amenities copious, one can still find this four-fold division.

Are not farmers and agriculturists in all countries producing food and other articles on the earth and making them available to the society? Equally so, are not the other counterpart too, the traders, taking up the task of distributing the farm-produce to the different users? What about the organized, disciplined police and defence personnel with their resolve and spirit to implement the dictates of law and order? There is also the research group, active with its pursuit of knowledge, constantly endeavouring to discover, invent and popularize various measures and expediencies the society looks for and will cherish from time to time. And, there is always a work-force which serves the society with its muscle-capacity.

Surely, all these together alone make any human society wholesome and fulfilling. This basic and ultimate structure of the complex society cannot be tampered with at any time.

In fact, only when the earth, air, water, sunlight and other elemental sources are already present, the humans and the rest of creatures will be evolved. Only when the laws and processes resulting in the emergence of the insentient world and planets remain ceaselessly active to preserve their respective properties and the mutually complementary forces, the question of human existence arises at all.

In humans too, it is but reasonable that the same orderliness, cycles and constitutional harmony manifest and govern. None can think of drawing a line to divide the sequence of creation or the order of complex Nature. What precedes humanity can alone prevail in humanity and whatever follows it too!


(From the Series Essential Concepts In Bhagavad Gita- Volume 2)

Recordings of Poojya Swamiji's Talks

Bhagavad Gita : A Topic for Research - 1

Bhagavad Gita : A Topic for Research - 2


Vicharasethu is a monthly journal in English and Hindi, edited and published by Poojya Swamiji. It is also published in Malayalam by the name Vicharasarani. With Articles, Correspondance, Guidance for Sādhana and News updates from the Ashram, these monthly publications are a great guide for the earnest sādhaka. 

Devotees hold periodic meetings at their own locations wherein the teachings and messages of Swamiji are heard, read and discussed with a view to comprehend and arrive at their essence and make it a functional note in their life. This section provides resources to facilitate the proceedings at such gatherings. Read More ....

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