Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Lord Krishna and Warrior Arjun.
The Gita is Lord's guidance to humanity to be joyful and attain moksha (salvation) which is the ultimate freedom from all the polarities of the physical world. He shows many paths which can be adopted based on one's nature and conditioning. This podcast is an attempt to interpret the Gita using the context of present times.
Siva Prasad is an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer. This podcast is the result of understanding the Gita by observing self and lives of people for more than 25 years, being in public life.
54. Automaticity of Indriyas (senses)
Krishna cautions Arjun (2.60) that turbulent indriyas (senses) are capable of forcibly carrying away the mind of even an aspiring wise person. This verse is about the automaticity of indriyas to stimulus.
The best example is of a smoker who's quite aware of the pitfalls of smoking, but finds it extremely difficult to quit it and laments that by the time he or she realises, the cigarette is already lit. Anyone who is involved in road rage or a crime vouches that it happened in the heat of the moment and not consciously. The same is the case with someone who speaks harsh words at the workplace or in the family and keeps regretting them as they weren't intended in the first place. These instances imply that indriyas take over us and bond us in karma bandhan (bondage).
During our formative years, free neurons in the brain form connections called hardwiring to take care of automatic activities like walking as it saves a lot of energy of the brain. The same is the case with skills and habits which we acquire during the latter part of life.
We expend a lot of energy in this process and thus hardwiring, which is otherwise essential, becomes so powerful that it's extremely difficult to overcome habits based on hardwiring. Neuroscience says that hardwiring is impossible to break except by making a new one or overriding the existing one.
Krishna is referring to this phenomenon when he says that the indriyas are so powerful that they can forcibly take away the mind of even a wise person.
Krishna says (2.61) that one should surrender to the almighty which is a higher form of existence or power to overcome the automaticity of indriyas. The key is not to fight but surrender with awareness, which is the source of required strength.
53. Dropping of longing for sense objects
Krishna says (2.59) "sense objects fall away from the abstinent person, but not ras(longing) and longing ceases only when one realizes the supreme." Indriyas have a physical instrument and a controller. The mind is a combination of controllers of all sense organs. Krishna advises us to focus on the controller which sustains the longing.
Krishna uses the word 'ras' whose literal meaning is juice. When a ripened fruit is cut, 'ras' is not visible unless it is squeezed, same is the case with butter in milk. 'Ras' is the intrinsic longing that exists in indriyas.
At an ignorant level, Indriyas are attached to the sense objects and keep swinging between polarities of pain and pleasure. In the next stage, the sense objects like sweets fall away due to external circumstances like lack of money or doctor's advice but the longing for sweets remains. External circumstances may include morality, fear of God/law/reputation, ageing, conditioning etc. Krishna is indicating about the ultimate stage where longing itself goes.
Krishna gives a practical tip in Srimad Bhagavatam (11:20:21) where he compares Indriyas with wild horses which are brought under control by a trainer who runs along with them for some time. When he fully understands them, he starts riding them as per his wishes.
Two issues to be noted here are that the trainer can't control horses in one go as they will overpower him. Similarly, we can't just start controlling Indriyas, we need to go as per their tunes for some time till we understand them and slowly bring them under control. Secondly, we need to be in a state of constant awareness that we need to control Indriyas, even when under their influence.
Awareness and longing can't simultaneously exist. Knowingly we can't be gripped by longing as it happens only in ignorance.
52. Wisdom is to know when to withdraw
Krishna says (2.58) that wisdom gets established when one completely withdraws their indriyas(senses) from sense objects, like the tortoise withdrawing its limbs.
Krishna lays emphasis on indriyas as they are the gateways between our inner self and outer world. He advises that we should withdraw our indriyas when we see ourselves getting attached to sense objects like the metaphorical tortoise withdrawing its limbs when faced with danger.
Each sense has two parts. One is the sense instrument like an eyeball and the second, that portion of the brain (controller) which controls this eyeball.
Sensory interactions happen at two levels. One is between the ever changing outer world of sense objects and the sense instrument (eyeball) which is purely automatic where photons reach the eyeball and interact as per their physical properties. The second is between the eyeball and its controller.
The desire to see is the reason for the evolution of the eye and that desire is still present in the controller part of the sense. This is known as motivated perception where we see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. In a game of cricket, we tend to notice more decisions favouring the opposition and conclude that the umpire is unfair.
When Krishna refers to Indriya, he is speaking about the controller part which generates the desire to sense. That's why even when we shut our senses physically, the mind uses its power of imagination to keep our desires alive - the mind being the combination of all these controllers.
Krishna is guiding us through this scientific verse to separate the controller from the physical part of the senses so that we attain ultimate freedom (moksha) from the ever exciting or depressing external situations. Wisdom is to know when to withdraw from a situation.
51. Aversion is also an attachment
We tend to assign one of three labels to a situation, a person or an outcome of a deed: good, bad or no label. Krishna refers to this third state and says (2.57) that a wise person is one who isn't filled with joy when coming across good nor does he hate bad and is always without attachment. This implies that the sthithpragna (one with coherent intellect) drops labelling(2.50) and takes facts as facts without any extrapolation, which is the birthplace for polarities of pain and pleasure.
This verse is tough as it runs contrary to our tendency of instantaneously labelling facts as good or bad even in moral and social contexts. When one encounters a situation or person labelled as bad, dislike, aversion and hatred follows automatically. On the other hand, the sthithpragna doesn't label it and hence the question of hating doesn't rise for them. Thus similarly when coming across good, the sthithpragna doesn't get overjoyed.
For example, all of us go through the natural process of ageing with time where beauty, charm and energy are lost. These are mere natural facts, but if we label them as unpleasant or bad, then this labelling would bring us dukh(sorrow). Same is the case with injury or illness where labelling of these as evil brings sorrow. Certainly, it's neither denial nor extrapolation.
Sthithpragna handles situations like a surgeon who is expected to perform surgery based on pure facts brought out during the investigation. It's like a super-conductor that does its best to let all electricity pass freely.
We tend to either cling or averse to situations, people or deeds. It's easy to understand clinging as attachment, but aversion is also a kind of attachment, however to hatred. When Krishna says that sthithpragna is without attachment, he means that they drop both clinging and aversion.
50. Raag (attachment), Bhay(fear) and Krodh(anger)
Krishna says (2.56) that Sthithpragna is one who is neither excited by sukh(pleasure) nor agitated by dukh(pain), is free from raag(attachment), bhay(fear) and krodh(anger). This is an extension of verse 2.38 where Krishna says to treat sukh(pleasure) and dukh(pain); labh(gain) and nasht(loss); and jaya(victory) and apajaya(defeat) with equipoise.
All of us seek sukh but dukh invariably comes to our lives as both of them exist in pairs of dwandwa(polar). This is like bait to fish where the hook is hidden behind the bait. On the other hand, the struggle always brings rewards.
Sthithpragna is one who transcends these polarities and attains Dwandwa-ateeth. It's a pure awareness that when we seek one, the other is bound to follow -maybe in a different shape and after a lapse of time.
When we get sukh with our planning, ahankaar gets elated which is nothing but excitement however when it turns to dukh, ahankaar gets hurt which is nothing but agitation and krodh implying that it's essentially a game of ahankaar. Sthithpragna realises the same and sheds ahankaar.
Languages rarely have words to describe a state beyond polarities and when Krishna says sthithpragna is free from raag (attachment), it doesn't mean that sthithpragna gravitates towards detachment. It's a state beyond both.
Sthithpragna is free from bhay and krodh but it doesn't mean that they suppress them. They don't leave any space in themselves to let bhay and krodh enter and stay either temporarily or permanently.
Bhay and krodh are projections of the future or the past, on the present. As such, there is no place for either of them in the present moment. When Krishna says that sthithpragna is free from bhay and krodh, it implies that they remain in the present moment.
49 Stithpragna (stoic) is internal phenomenon.
Krishna says (2.54), in response to Arjun's query, sthithpragna (one with coherent intellect) is contented with self. Interestingly, Krishna didn't respond to the second part of Arjun's query as to how a sthithpragna speaks, sits and walks.
'Contended with self' is purely an internal phenomenon and there is no way to measure it based on external behaviour. Maybe, in the given circumstances both an ignorant person and a sthithpragna might speak the same words, might sit and walk in a similar manner. This complicates our understanding of sthithpragna even more.
Krishna's life is the best example of a sthithpragna's life. He was separated from his parents at birth. He was known as 'makhan thief'. His romance, dance and flute are legendary, but when he left Vrindavan he never came back seeking romance. He fought and killed when needed, but avoided war at times and was hence known as Ran-chod-das(who ran away from war). He showed many miracles and was a friend of friends. When it was time to marry, he married and maintained families, traced the samantaka mani (valuable jewel) to ward off false accusations of theft and when it was time to give Gita Gyan, he gave it. He died like any ordinary person.
Firstly, there is no external pattern to his life, but the internal pattern is living moment by moment. Secondly, it's a life of joy and celebration inspite of difficult situations, which were anitya (transient) for him. Thirdly, as mentioned in 2.47, for him 'contended with self' doesn't mean inaction, but it's karma(deed) sans kartha(doer) and karma-phal (fruits of action).
Basically, it's living in the present moment without any burden of the past or any expectations from the future. The power is in the present moment and everything including planning and execution happen in the present.