Bhagavad Gita: Real & Unreal

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I acknowledge this graphic from the Net

The unreal has no existence

The real has no non existence

This is what the Wise see as the Truth 2.16

This seemingly complex verse is the essence of Shankara’s concept of maya, illusion, of the unreal being perceived by the senses as real. Krishna here explains what is real sat and what is real asat.

Anything that is transient is asat, unreal and is maya, illusion. Anything that is constant is sat and real.

All that we perceive through our senses are transient. They exist within a time and space frame. Heat and cold or pain and pleasure or success and failure are perceived with specific reference to a time and place. They are caused by certain actions of either nature or us and last as long as the triggers of action are present. They then cease. They are seemingly real within that time and space frame, but cease to be of relevance beyond. This is what Buddha referred to as anicchha.

Shankara in his commentary on this verse talks about a clay pot. When we look at the pot what do we see? We see the vessel. The vessel, however, is made of clay, yet we hardly see the clay. The vessel contains air if empty and water if full. We do not see them either. We merely see the vessel, the superficial content.

The pot did not exist before it was made. It ceases to exist when in breaks. In both cases it reverts to its clay nature. So, the pot itself is transient, and unreal. In the same way, the clay is also unreal because it is not even perceived. Through this logic, all manifested creations of this world, which perish after a period of time and space, are unreal.

So, what is real in any of these cases?

The objects perceived and experienced are unreal. They are illusory in the sense they perish or change or disappear.  For instance, our own body mind system is unreal, as it is programmed to perish at the end of a life time. All it takes is the exhalation not followed by an inhalation. It can happen any time, any place, any age. The entire concept of life and its experiences are unreal from this perspective, while seemingly real to the objects, which we are while breathing.

Is there something within this unreal transient object that never changes, never perishes and therefore real?

Ramana Maharishi used his Self Inquiry technique of Who Am I to seek the same realisation.

Contemplate on this before we go to the next verse.

 

 

 

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Bhagavad Gita: Wise Man

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I acknowledge this image of Kanchi Paramacharya from the Net

The wise man unaffected by senses, to whom

Pleasure and pain are same 

He is fit to be immortal  2.15 

Krishna follows from the last verse, in which he talked about the impermanence of sensory inputs. These are interpreted by our mind, the manas or sensory coordinator, along with ahankara or conditioned ego, and then stored in chitti or memory base. They convert neutral sensory inputs into feeling of hot and cold, pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, like and dislike and such other judgmental mind maps. All these are relative. The same experience may give one joy and another sadness. Feeling of pain depends on one’s threshold of pain. These feelings are also transient. They change with time and space.

In this verse, Krishna says that one who recognises the impermanence of such sensory perceptions interpreted as feelings and is therefore unaffected by them is a wise man. He says further that such a person is ready to be liberated into the immortal state of energy singularity.

I have met many who are well versed in yoga, meditation, scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. Unlike me they can quote this verse in its original Sanskrit. All it takes is a small trigger to spin them off into blind anger. They cannot tolerate dissent. They cannot tolerate others not bowing down to them in surrender. Yet, they masquerade as wise men. Avoid them like the plague.

A wise man is unaffected and disengaged by what goes on around him, or her. In my own experience I have come across only two people who fit Krishna’s description: Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi and the Paramacharya Chandrashekarendra Saraswati of Kanchi, both long since in energy state. It is not that they did not experience heat and cold, or pain through their senses. They disengaged from these inputs. They practised to perfection pratyahara, the fifth state of controlling senses in Ashtanga Yoga and elevated it to the ultimate eight state of disengagement or Samadhi.  In his final stages of ravaging cancer when doctors wanted to administer morphine to deaden his pain, Ramana said: this body itself is not mine. How can I experience its pain?

As a child and later as a teenager I had visited the Paramacharya several times. The compassionate disengagement of this man, a saint if ever there was one, always reduced me to tears, such was his energy.

Zen talks about Buddha and No Buddha states . Even the Buddha goes through them. The trick is to stay in a No Mind state, the mindless state of not judging what is perceived. Every one of us can be a Buddha and a Son of God. We need to be mindless to be wise.

 

Bhagavad Gita: Mindfulness

 

 

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I acknowledge this graphic from the Net.

Senses cause heat and cold, pleasure and pain

They come and go, impermanent

Endure them bravely 

 

Our Vedic scriptures talk about four functions of the mind. These are manas, ahankara, chitti and buddhi. Manas is the sensory gateway. It collects the inputs from all our senses, the visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory, and converts all of them into thoughts and emotions that other parts of the mind can grasp. Ahankara is our ego, that interprets these sensory inputs based on our conditioning, the “I” ness. This creates individual mind maps, which differ from person to person as perspectives, though the observed reality may be identical. Ahankara is responsible for all conflicts as well as creativity.

Chitti puts all these mind maps into a memory base, partly easily accessible flash memory residing in our conscious mind, but mostly deeply stored memory, especially painful traumatic ones. These memories of chitti interact with the conditioning ahankara and the sensing manas to change the context of the content, especially the emotional tones. Finally, there is buddhi, the superior intelligence, which applies some meta logic to the stored conditioned mind map perception leading us to behaviour and action. Much depends on the ahankara in the way we interpret what we sense, and the buddhi, which applies a larger intelligent framework of awareness to these mind maps in defining the way we behave.

The Brihadharanyaka Upanishad says, ‘ we are what our thoughts are!’ Our thoughts are not individual elements. They are a stream of our consciousness passing through every one of the four parts of our mind.

Relating to th Western neurological model of the brain, I would relate manas to the hypothalamus, which processes sensory information, chitti to the hippocampus, which stores processed information, ahankara to the frontal cortex and buddhi to the prefrontal cortex. This can be and should be challenged, as I am no neurological expert.

What Krishna says here is this. It is our ego that creates the mind maps of pain and pleasure, heat and cold, success and failure, good and bad, through the conditioning that converts neutral observations into judgmental and emotional memories. He says these mere perceptions and change. This statement is related to Buddha’s observation of ‘anicchha’ or impermanence to everything related to our lives, and Shankara’s philosophy of maya. All reality is neutral. Nothing is good or bad, pleasure or pain. What happens ‘IS’. It is the mind that plays games on us. This is the state of mindfulness in which sensory impressions dominate.

We need to disengage with the knowledge that all this is a temporary illusion of the mind. Krishna explains how in the following verses.

Bhagavad Gita: Matter to Energy

 

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I acknowledge this graphic from the Net.

This entity in this body passes through childhood to youth to old age

Then onto another body, which dos not disquiet the wise

The word ‘entity’ in the translation is my creation. In the verse in Sanskrit, Krishna uses no word to describe this movement from childhood to youth to old age and then at death to another body. Shankara uses the word Self in his commentary. Following the Upanishads, I would use the word That or more simply energy.

You can use any word you wish to describe the imperishable within that perishable body mind: Self, That or energy. It is the body mind that perishes at the end of a life time. It takes its own time, sometimes, sometimes not. Krishna here says with reference to Arjuna that the mind body passes through these stages of childhood, youth and old age. We can add more as Shakespeare did, with the seven stages in life. All that is created, those which are animate, grow. They grow in body, mind , skills and in several other aspects. With this growth ambitions grow.

We see many who after producing children, would like to see those children married. When their children marry, they would like to see them produce children. Then, they would like to see those grand children marry and produce. This desire is the survival instinct dominant in all of us. The question is, how long do we think this cycle can go on?

We know that some stage every body that is born and that grows, also dies. The mind body leaves with the last breath. Brain waves stop. Heart stops. The body left alone rots. Simply put, the mind body has reached its predetermined end and leaves. Something remains though! What is that something?

Krishna moves into that inquiry in the following verses.

Here he says: ‘That’ moves on to another body. According to Quantum Physics, matter and energy are convertible as Einstein postulated. Matter just does not perish. It becomes energy. So it is with our body mind. It becomes energy. That energy becomes matter again in another mind body.

Does this verse of Krishna prove reincarnation? I do not think so. I believe that when our mind body converts to energy at death, we become one with the universal energy. A part of that universal energy, a holographic part, becomes the driving energy of another mind body. Is it possible to identify where in that unlimited universal energy our tiny fractional energy is stored and track it down to another mind body?

In other verses in the Gita, Krishna does address this issue. Even those do not confirm reincarnation of one departing energy returning in entirety as another embodied entity.

For now, use this verse to console yourself and others that death is not the end of life, it is merely a gateway to another life, perhaps more fulfilling.

 

Bhagavad Gita: Science Meets Spirit

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I acknowledge this graphic from the Net.

Never did I not exist, nor you, nor all these kings

None of us will ever cease to exist 2.12

These words of Krishna need to be pondered day after day throughout one’s life. Even then, we may not embed the consciousness of these words within us.

What does Krishna mean? This is an epigram of a few selected words, which can be amplified to several books to be read over a life time.

Shankara’s commentary says: Never did I cease to exist. On the other hand, I always existed through bodily births and deaths in multiple life times. Same is true of you and all these rulers of men. We shall never cease to exist. We shall continue to exist even after this body perishes, as the Self, the Atman, the imperishable energy in the past, present and future.

It is the body, and if one wishes to add the mind as part of the body, the mind body that perishes as a material object, when we die. All material objects that are created will eventually perish. There is no exception. Matter perishes.

Here Krishna says no. He says it is an illusion that the matter, that is you and I, perishes. He affirms we live on, that we never cease to exist. What does he mean?

Krishna was ahead of Einstein by several thousand years. He says here that nothing gets destroyed. A corollary to this would be that nothing gets created either. Is it all a cosmic illusion of the same stuff getting recycled? Isn’t that what Einstein says? Isn’t this what is the basis of all Quantum Science?

How often do we go behind and beyond the statements we learnt in elementary school such as Energy can neither be created nor destroyed? The same would be true of matter as well, as Krishna says. If matter converts into energy through the immortalised formula E=mC2, is it not true that energy can produce matter?

What happens as human population increases? What then decreases to allow this to happen, if the total energy is constant? Is it constant within the time and space constraints of this tiny Earth of ours, or is it a constant across this universe or even several universes?

The more we think about this, the more we move out of our own time space constraints. We are an insignificant piece, time space constrained as a material body, programmed to perish within a time frame. We are also the ultimate, a piece of the universal hologram, which is time space independent, and is forever, morphing but never increasing or decreasing.

We are the destructible matter. We are the imperishable energy. We can choose what we wish to be!

Reflect on this. This is where science meets spirit, thanks to Krishna

 

 

Bhagavad Gita: Grief Coaching

 

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I acknowledge this graphic from the Net.

The Lord said:

You grieve for those not deserving grief, with words of wisdom

The wise do not grieve for the living or the dead

Grief counseling and coaching is a fashionable and lucrative niche. Advanced courses are run to train people in grief coaching. Before one rushes to enroll in one, a few minutes with Krishna may be useful, saving both money and time, and proving more effective.

Krishna follows this statement with a detailed account of the imperishable Self. For a moment, let us focus merely on this verse.

Grief, as an emotion, arises with any loss. It may be a material loss of wealth and assets, It may be one of loss of status and reputation, it may be of even knowledge, and it may be one of life, a threat to one’s own or the loss of a loved one. In the varna system (termed caste now) of Krishna’s days, before the onset of Kali Yuga, different varnas valued their dharma, life purpose, in different ways. As a result, punishment for transgression of dharma was based on what would make the person shameful based on his values of dharma. Let me explain.

A brahmin, generally a scholar or priest, valued his knowledge and reputation. Generally, loss of wealth, power or even life, would not faze a brahmin. Punishment to a brahmin was, therefore, to disrepute him or challenge his knowledge. Life would not be worth living for a brahmin after this, at least in Krishna’s days. This is reflected in the lives of Parashurama and Drona, both brahmins, who became warriors when they were insulted.

To a kshatriya, what mattered most was power, status and control, to retain which he will fight unto death. Punishment to a kshatriya would be to demean him through loss of status, which is what Parashurama and Drona meted out in revenge. A vaishya valued only wealth, and to him the only punishment of meaning would be monetary. In the case of a shudra, whose occupation was physical, the relevant punishment was physical.

This understanding of what loss meant to different groups of people also helped to understand how the emotion of grief through loss could be mitigated. Each one has to regain the sense of confidence by overcoming the loss. While this is relatively simpler in cases of material losses such as that of reputation, power, wealth and physical, sense of loss after losing someone one is attached to is deeper and more subtle. This requires an understanding of where the sense of loss is coming from.

If I lose a loved one, the loss is far greater than physical and tangible; it emotional. Oftentimes other emotional states of guilt and regret add on to that of grief, based on the feeling of ‘could I have prevented the loss somehow’. Kubler Ross outlines the five stage of grieving process as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This is a time based process, requiring venting and gradual awareness of the inevitable. What if the awareness of the inevitable can be internalized to start with to accelerate the end outcome of acceptance?

This is the process that all spiritual masters of all faiths have followed. I can write a book on these processes. In this blog I would make two references. The first is to Mahabharata, where in the chapter on ‘yaksha prasna’, Yamaraja asks Yudhishtra as to what is the strangest behavior he finds in humans. Yudhishtra says: we see people dying around all the time and know the inevitability of death, and yet all of us want to live for ever. The other is to Buddha, who when the young mother came to him with her dead child pleading to revive him, said: do bring me by night fall a spoonful of mustard seeds from  a house that has never experienced death.

Arjuna laments the cruelty he would cause by killing his foes, who were once his elders, teachers, relatives and friends. Arjuna is overcome with grief. Krishna now coaches him on the inevitability of death. Whether at his hands or otherwise they would all die sometime. Every living being has to die. What is there to grieve, Krishna asks.  One must remember the context of the battle field here. Krishna is not talking about wantonly causing death, but in the context of one being aware that death is a high probability outcome.

There are complexities of guilt and regret that ride on grief. We shall explore them elsewhere.

In the next verses, Krishna moves on deeper.

 

 

Read more…

Bhagavad Gita: Coach Begins

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I acknowledge this graphic from the Net

Krishna said: 

Where are these unworthy thoughts arising from Arjuna

Of disgrace and being unworthy of the heavens? 

Don’t be a coward, son of Pritha, it does not suit you

Get up, let go this weakness of heart, tormentor of foes

Arjuna said:

How can I send my arrows against Bhishma and Drona

Who I worship, destroyer of Madhu and other enemies?

I would rather beg than kill my teachers who I honor

If I do kill them my rewards will be tainted in blood

I am in a dilemma, fight or not to, who will win over who

I do not wish to live after killing my kinsmen

I feel helpless, my mind is in turmoil

Tell me what to do as your pupil?

I cannot see what will help overcome my grief 

Even if I power, wealth and control over all the worlds? 

Sanjaya Said:

Saying this to Krishna Arjuna said

I will not fight and lapsed into silence

 

Krishna , the coach of coaches, enters the scene here. The word ‘coach’ came from the word referring to a horse-drawn vehicle. So, it is quite appropriate that Krishna, as the charioteer of Arjuna, becomes his coach as well. In a sense, Krishna is more the acharya than the coach. While the two words are almost synonymous, an acharya in the Hindu tradition carries a greater responsibility and therefore, respect.

These verses are the beginning of the second chapter of Bhagavad Gita, which is called Sankhya Yoga. In this blog I use the original commentary of Adi Shankara translated by Alladi Mahadeva Sastry, first published in 1897. The explanation by Shankara on Sankhya philosophy is somewhat at odds with what I read in Wikipedia and other sources that rely upon foreign authors for explanation. Contrary to the explanation I find in these sources that Sankhya is a dualist philosophy and is similar to Yoga, Shankara says the opposite. Shankara says that Sankhya is about the non dual Self and its wisdom, Gnana, as different from Yoga, which is to do with action and differentiates between the duality of the doer and the Self,  I am no expert, and any day I would go by Shankara.

This chapter, though called Sankhya Yoga, has nothing to do with the Ashtanga Yoga concepts of Patanjali. I could not find any good explanation as to why the chapters end with the term Yoga and also why they are classified as Karma, Bhakti and Gnana Yoga sections, each with six chapters. When I do find convincing answers shall write about them. However, this chapter is all about Krishna’s explanation about the Self, in line with Shankara’s definition of Sankhya.

In a sense, starting from this chapter, the rest of the Bhagavad Gita verses are about discovery of this Self, as taught by Krishna, God Incarnate to Arjuna, the quintessential superman. Arjuna’s dilemma that paralyzed him in the first chapter continues. He is unsure as to what to do, whether to fight as his natural dharma enjoins him to do, or to leave the battlefield based on his interpretation of universal dharma of ahimsa, non violence. As the coach, Krishna starts challenging his assumptions. This is how the coaching begins.

In all coaching situations, the client comes into play with a dilemma of sorts, posed as a disempowering problem. Each one of us has been through similar situations before. When we are in a problem state, as Einstein says, we cannot find a solution to that problem at the same level of consciousness in which the problem arose. We need to move higher to an empowered state. This is where the coach comes.

This is where Krishna comes in.

 

 

 

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