Bhagavad Gita Lessons
Lesson 2: Inaction after Action
The treatment is to be continued until we completely regain our health. After crossing the two milestones of getting matured mind by doing Karma Yoga (following Active Dharma) and gaining self-knowledge (following Passive Dharma), one starts leading life joyfully.
Joyful Living is the final state of health. There is nothing more to be done. Therefore, after reaching this stage, one feels completeness. The feeling of inadequateness or insecurity is no more.
There are no more duties for such a person. He does not need to do any action for achieving anything in life. This happens automatically. This is the end goal.
Teaching 40: There are no duties for the one who has gained self-knowledge
Those who have not reached will be motivated by their desires to be in action.
Example: A child is happy when a chocolate is given to it. Even before eating the chocolate, the child is happy because it possesses an object of pleasure. It may not seek another chocolate!
Similarly, the person who has regained his health is happy with himself. He does not seek anything from the external world for him to be happy. Therefore, he does not have to do any action. He has no duties to perform.
In fact, the child may want more chocolates even though it still holds the other chocolate in the hand. Similar attitude can be observed in most people. Even though they got what they want, still there will be a sense of incompleteness. This is not the case for the one who is living joyfully. He is completely happy with himself and fully contented all the time.
He is fully independent and does not require anything from anyone. Therefore, he does not have to be in action nor has a compulsion to remain inactive.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
Verses: 17 – 18
3.17 However, for one who is taking pleasure in the self, who is illumined in the self, who rejoices in and is satisfied with the self only, fully contended, for him there is no duty.
3.18 A self-realized man has no purpose to fulfill in the discharge of his prescribed duties, nor has he any reason not to perform such work. Nor has he any need to depend on any other living being.
Lesson 3: Nature of Action – Part I
Session: 097 – 099
Man is a combination of consciousness and inert objects (his body and mind).
Consciousness is changeless. It does not do any action nor causes any action.
The body/mind complex is helplessly bound to action all the time.
Unlike the body, the mind has the power to reflect the consciousness, which appears as our ego. Our ego assumes the role of the doer due to ignorance. People think that they have a choice on doing action. This is a myth. We do not have any choice on what we think nor what we do. Life happens to us and we do not live life.
The consciousness part of the man is common to all but the body/mind complex varies person to person depending on its composition. There are three distinct elements called, Aura, Energy and Matter, AEM for short, which make up the inert objects and the ratio in which these three elements are mixed varies from person to person. Based on the dominance, people can be grouped in four levels.
The perception of the action varies within these four levels as described below.
Level 1: Matter Dominant
These people do not have any ambitions in life. They just eat and sleep and live mostly like animals. They do not have sufficient intelligence to understand the nature of action nor do they have strong ego to assume that they are the doers. They just live life as it comes. They are happy when they get what they want and feel sorrow when they do not get what they want. However, they have minimum expectations in life.
Such people do action without thinking that they are doing the action. They are not very active. They do more work only when it is demanded by others.
They will not have the required level of intelligence to understand the concepts of Dharma or legitimate or illegitimate desires. They cannot see the importance of material pursuit. In addition to mere survival, they may be offering various prayers and observing various rituals according to the traditions and customs.
They can be guided into more action and pushed into material pursuit.
From inaction, they should be guided into action.
Teaching 41: Matter dominant people should be guided into more action
Level 2: Energy Dominant
These people have ambitions in material pursuit. They are better educated, more intelligent, aggressive and dominant people. They strongly believe that they are the makers of the world. They see themselves as independent of the universe. They assume that human beings came into existence by chance.
They have very strong ego. They work hard to modify the environment through their technical, political, economical skills. They believe that the world can be made into a perfect place where they can live happily all the time.
They cannot and will not understand that the everlasting happiness cannot be achieved through their action. Therefore, they should be encouraged to proceed in their path. However, they should be taught to follow Dharma in all their actions.
Teaching 42: Energy Dominant people are advised to follow Dharma
Level 3: Aura Dominant
These people have ambitions in spiritual pursuit. Having seen the futility of prosperity to lead to everlasting happiness, they turn towards spiritual pursuit. They also do lots of action. However, such action is towards the practice of Karma Yoga, Upasana Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
Their ego is fully ripened. They begin to see that the actions happen and they are not the doers. Some of them believe that the God is the doers and others accept action as integral part of them.
These people should be taught to do Karma as Karma Yoga. Once they achieve the required level of mental maturity by doing Karma Yoga, they can be guided into gaining Self-Knowledge, which will enable them to reach the final destination.
The primary purpose of all their actions is to achieve Joyful Living.
Teaching 43: Aura Dominant people should move from action to learning
Level 4: Beyond dominance of any element
These people do not have any ambitions in life since they have reached the destination. They live life joyfully. They do not have any binding desires. They may be more active or less active depending on their accumulated preferences. They may continue to have many desires. However, it does not matter to them whether such desires are fulfilled or not.
They do not have any ego. They are fully aware that life happens to them and all their actions are part of the nature. Therefore, they willingly allow themselves to be in action as directed by the nature. Although they do not have anything to gain by doing action, they do not abstain from action since others who have not reached this level might imitate them prior to reaching the destination.
Action and Attitude
Everyone, without any differentiation with respect to the level, is tied to action. The type of action depends on the composition of the three elements that make up the mind of the individual. The attitude towards action determines the suffering or otherwise.
People in Level 1 do not have a strong feeling, ‘I am the doer’. Consequently, he accepts all the results of his actions as the gift from God. He may or may not complain about his status.
People in Level 2 have a strong feeling, ‘I am the doer’. As a result, he feels guilty of inaction, insufficient or inappropriate actions. In addition, he is not satisfied with the results of his actions. He has the constant feeling of inadequateness and incompleteness. He works harder to achieve everlasting security, non-diminishing happiness and undisturbed peace.
People in Level 3 have a positive attitude towards action. Slowly they realize that they are not the doers and therefore they start moving towards Joyful Living.
People in Level 4 know that they are not the doers. Therefore, they function as a tool in an expert’s (God’s) hand.
Action is mandatory for all human beings. The attitude differs depending on the knowledge which varies at each level. The right attitude is listed below.
‘I should do more action and gain material comforts’ – This should be the attitude for the Level 1 people.
‘I should do action in line with my Dharma’ – This should be the attitude for the Level 2 people.
‘I should do action for making my mind matured enough to receive self-knowledge’ – This should be the attitude for the Level 3 people.
‘I should do action for setting as a role model for those people who are following my footsteps’ – This should be the attitude for the Level 4 people.
These are the recommended attitudes. Type of action and quantum of action is not recommended since they are not controllable.
Attitude is the result of knowledge. Knowledge depends on the ability to know. Since not everyone has the capability to understand the ultimate truth, each individual is allowed to grasp his version of truth. According to his limited understanding, he is expected to have appropriate attitudes towards his action so that he can progress to the next level.
Action and Dharma
All our actions are to be in line with the Dharma as prescribed in the Vedas. Dharma is the basis for both material pursuit and spiritual pursuit.
Material pursuit includes all the actions that are carried out for earning name, fame, money, wealth, property, position etc. In addition, it also includes all the actions done for the gratification of sense pleasures, like playing games, visiting places, dining in restaurants and such entertainment. All religious activities that are done for the purpose of earning name, fame, money etc and for removal of suffering are also considered to be part of material pursuit.
Spiritual pursuit includes learning the scriptures under the guidance of a competent teacher, reflection on the truth revealed in the scriptures and meditating on the knowledge.
All our actions are to be within the prescribed Dharma at all times. Initially, ensuring that the Dharma is followed in all our actions will be an effort. When one reaches the destination of Joyful Living it will become part of one’s nature.
During the phase of material pursuit, Dharma may appear as a hurdle to progress. This is because most people do not know the real purpose of doing work. People wrongly assume that their effort in material pursuit will lead them to Joyful Living. The correct and only purpose of our action is to gain mental maturity (by doing the Karma as Karma Yoga). Karma Yoga strictly prohibits actions that are not in line with the prescribed Dharma. Therefore, when people are clear about their goal in material pursuit, there will not be any difficulty in restricting actions within the fold of Dharma.
Dharma is elaborately explained in Vedas. However, it is difficult for the common person to understand the same. Besides, according to the time and place the situation faced by the individual will wary. Although Dharma will not change, applying the scriptural definition to the day-to-day issues to determine the course of action is difficult. For this purpose, it is provided in Vedas that the life of the elders in the society who have already reached the final destination of Joyful Living can be a pointer. It is possible to approach such people and get clarity if there is a doubt in anyone’s mind on whether a particular course of action is according to the Dharma or not.
Since the life of the elders who have mastered the Vedas is closely followed by others, it is essential for such people to do their duties although they have already reached the destination.
Dharma as demonstrated through actions in life will have better impact on them than telling them to follow Dharma.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
Verses: 19 – 29
3.19 Therefore, without being attached to the result, one should do the prescribed duties. For by working without attachment, one attains the supreme.
3.20 Even kings like Janaka and others attained liberation by performance of prescribed duties. At least considering the welfare of the society, you should perform your work.
3.21 Whatever action is performed by a great man, common people follow his example. Whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
3.22 Oh Arjuna, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need to obtain anything. Yet I am engaged in work.
3.23 For, if I did not engage in tireless work, Oh Arjuna, certainly all men would follow My path in every way.
3.24 If I should cease to work, then all these worlds would perish. I would also be the cause of creating confusion. I would thereby destroy all the sentient beings.
3.25 As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, similarly the learned may also act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path.
3.26 Let not the wise create confusion in the minds of the ignorant who are attached to action. They should not be encouraged to refrain from work, but to engage in work that is more efficient.
3.27 The ignorant people, under the influence of the three modes of the nature, think themselves to be the doers of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.
3.28 Oh Arjuna, but the knower of this truth, remains detached with the understanding that the sense organs function among the sense-objects.
3.29 Those who are deluded without knowing this truth get attached to the actions of the organs. A man of complete knowledge should not unsettle them.
Lesson 4: Description of Karma Yoga
The difference between Karma and Karma Yoga lies in the attitude with which the action is done. One need not make any addition/ deletion/ modification of activities that are being done by him. One can continue to do whatever that is being done in terms of doing professional work, carrying out personal/ family/ social obligations and activities for entertainment.
In order to convert Karma into Karma Yoga, one should understand the purpose for which the work is being done. The purpose is not for any visible benefit but for gaining adequate mental maturity so that the truth regarding the self could be fully understood. Once we gain Self-Knowledge then we can live joyfully. Therefore, converting Karma into Karma Yoga is the first milestone to be crossed before one can hope to reach the final destination of Joyful Living. Karma Yoga involves changes in attitude as detailed below.
1. All of us are bound to action and no one can remain in inaction.
2. We are doing our action as our part to keep the universe going.
3. There is no other purpose in doing our action. We do not do action for obtaining any specific result except for gaining mental maturity.
4. We should adhere to Dharma in all the actions under all circumstances. Special Dharma overrules Ordinary Dharma and we should not abstain from action on any pretext.
5. We should do our duty without the notion “I am doing”. We should not think or talk about our work as if it is a big accomplishment.
6. We need to do our duty to the best of our ability all the time.
7. We have no right on the fruits of our action.
8. We need to do our duty as our offering to God.
9. We need to accept the results of our action as a gift from God.
10. We need to reduce the actions that are prompted by the likes and dislikes of the mind.
11. We need to increase the actions that are prompted by the rights and wrongs of the intelligence.
12. We must carry out all the actions prescribed by our tradition/ culture.
If we do action without converting them into Karma Yoga as suggested above, we will be making our likes/ dislikes stronger. As a result, we will develop attachment, which will corrupt our intelligence further and our intelligence will no longer be able to guide us to Joyful Living. Therefore, we need to do our action as Karma Yoga so that we do not remain attached to the world forever resulting in continuation of suffering.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
3.30 Therefore, Oh Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with mind intent on Me, fight without desire for gain and the mind free from attachment and anxiety.
Lesson 5: Attitude and Action
All the sufferings in the world are related to the mind. Therefore, the solution should also be part of the mind.
As a part of the creation, man is continuously engaged in action. The apparent motive or objective of his actions is to make the world as a better place to live so that the sufferings in the world are removed or reduced. Whether he has such an objective or not he is bound to action.
These uncontrollable and continuous actions do not seem to solve the problems of humankind and the problems continue to exist even after thousands of years of effort.
The solution to the problem is a change in the attitude with which work is done.
Due to ignorance, man thinks that he is separate from the world and he is doing the action. In reality, he is just an instrument in the hands of God. Out of the millions of action that happens through him, he assumes ownership only for a selected few and claims that he is the doer of the actions. Therefore, his attitude towards action is harmful and it causes suffering. He thinks ‘I will do this and gain this benefit’.
As long as he has this attitude, he will continue to suffer and there is no possibility of solving all his problems. His action will always appear to be inadequate and the results will always be insufficient. After completion of a particular task, the next one will appear with a promise to give happiness. This will be an endless search.
The problem is resolved by having the right attitude. The right attitude means to acknowledge the fact that the life happens to us and we do not live life. If all the actions are done in line with the prescription of Karma Yoga, then there is no suffering at all in life and one can live joyfully.
This right attitude will come only with the right knowledge. Therefore, one has to follow the prescription with faith that it will solve the problem. If one doubts the words of Lord Krishna and continues to do Karma as mere Karma and not as Karma Yoga, he is doomed to suffer forever.
Everyone is continually doing various actions. In essence, there are no differences in the action or in the result.
Example: Whether one is a president of a country or a cobbler sitting on the platform, the fundamental nature of work done and result obtained remain same.
There are certain tasks to be completed, people do action to complete the task, and the next task is taken up. It remains same for everyone. The apparent differences between two persons with respect to work and results are of no consequence.
However, those who do not do Karma Yoga are affected by the process and they are like people fallen in quick sand. Every effort to come out of a problem will sink them deeper into the problem. This is because actions done without the right attitude strengthen the likes and dislikes of the person. He is deluded by attachment and therefore cannot see the solution.
Actions do not bind those who do them as Karma Yoga. In this case, the likes and dislikes do not get enough power to be converted as attachment. If one functions in this way for sufficiently long period, his intelligence will be relived of the accumulated covering caused by attachment and he will be ready to receive the self-knowledge.
Self-Knowledge reveals the fact that we do not do any actions at all and life is happening to us. We have no role to play because we are part of the action.
Example: A pen does not do any action in writing. It appears to be involved in lots of action resulting in a great work of literature.
Similarly, all the human beings function as a tool in the hands of God. We do not have to worry about what is going to happen in the future, just as a pen does not have to worry what to write next.
If we gain this knowledge then our attitude while doing our action will be right and we will remain happy forever.
Right knowledge leads to right attitude. However, it is required that we develop a right attitude towards work in order to gain the right knowledge. This appears to be cyclical. There are many alternative ways of coming out of this cycle. We can choose what appeals to us.
Alternative 1: To have faith in Lord Krishna’s words and blindly follow the instructions of the teacher
This means all our duties are imposed on us by God and we have no choice except to obey his command. Just as a servant obeys his master, we should obey the command of God and do our duties to the best of our abilities. The only purpose of the servant doing an action is to fulfill the wish of the master. Similarly, the only purpose of all our actions should be to fulfill the command of God.
Alternative 2: To thank God for giving us this great opportunity to live life
We have taken many things from nature including air, water, food etc without which we cannot exist. Therefore, we need to do our duty as an offering to God. Our proficiency (skills and capabilities) is the gift given to us by God. Our efficiency (quantity and quality) in action is our return gift to God. Therefore, we need to do our best all the time.
Alternative 3: To see the logic in the functioning of the world
It is observed that everything in the universe is functioning according to a predetermined order. It is our duty to do our part to keep up the movement. Therefore, we need to do our duty to the best of our abilities. Running water is healthier than stagnant water. Similarly, we should allow the wealth to keep flowing in the system and not accumulate or hoard. We need to contribute to the welfare of the society and community for our own well-being. Therefore, we should work without any selfish motive.
The advantage of following this path is the benefit one gets even while putting the effort. For example, we do not get bored of doing our work. Repetition is the part of any work. If we change our attitude according to the prescription, we can avoid boredom and enjoy our work. It is not possible to achieve this by any other means.
Thus, if we shift our focus from the external results of an action to the internal results (attitude change) then will gain benefit in the short run and in addition, we will reach the goal of gaining mental maturity soon.
If we do not, our actions will continue to bind us to suffering without any prospect of getting relief.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
Verses: 31 – 32
3.31 One who executes his duties according to My teaching and who follows this teaching faithfully, without being critical, becomes free from the bondage of actions.
3.32 But those who criticize this teaching of mine, disregard these teachings and do not practice them regularly, are completely deluded and doomed to bondage.
Lesson 6: Nature of Action – Part II
Session: 102 – 105
Thoughts, words and action of all the human beings are dynamic part of the creation. There is no choice for any human being on what he thinks, says or does. Everything is controlled by the composition of the constituting materials called Aura, Energy and Matter.
Teaching 44: It is not possible to change anyone
We are what we are due to our past actions.
All of us are bound to action all the time.
We do actions as determined by our likes and dislikes.
Such actions determine our preferences.
Our preferences determine the nature of our thoughts/ mind.
We do Good Actions, Bad Actions and Neutral Actions.
Type of action (Good or Bad) creates impression.
We do actions to learn and gain knowledge.
Such actions determine our knowledge.
When people are born, they bring with them the accumulated results of their past actions namely, Impressions, Preferences and Knowledge.
The external environment in which a person lives is determined by his accumulated impressions. External environment includes the physical body and physiological body.
How people respond to the external environment is determined by the preferences and knowledge.
Therefore, it is said that no one can change anyone.
If this is true, then it can be argued that there is no use of Vedas and Gita, which prescribe certain actions and prohibit other actions. Besides, this teaching suggests that man does not have any free will.
It is only said no one can change others. It is possible for one to change one’s own nature through self-effort and knowledge. These are the two important aspects, which determine the progress of an individual in any field.
Our entire environment is determined by our past impressions. It is not possible to change our environment. However, it is possible to change how we respond to them. This change should come from within and no external person can make this change. That is the reason one should seek and get a teacher with whose help the change can be brought about.
When our sense organs encounter the sense objects our preferences determine the thoughts that arise in our mind. It is not possible to control what we think about our environment. However, it is possible to change how we respond based on our knowledge on what is good and bad as guided by our teacher.
Our intelligence gains knowledge through learning. There is no other way to gain knowledge. Learning can happen by reading, listening, seeing and doing. We should learn what is declared by our elders to be the guide to Joyful Living (like Gita or Vedas). If we do not learn such scriptures, our knowledge will be restricted to our exposure to TV, News Papers and Business/Technical/ Professional/Self-development books/ magazines etc. Such worldly knowledge will mostly be in line with our initial reactions to our experience. In which case, we will continue to do what we are thinking is good. Therefore, it is not possible to change ourselves. In fact, all our efforts will be directed in the same line and therefore we will become more unchangeable. Our personality will become stronger.
However, if we get proper guidance, we can gain the right knowledge that will lead us to Joyful Living. This right knowledge will direct our efforts and it is possible that we can change how we respond to our environment.
Example: Due to the past impressions and preferences a college student gets into bad company. He is led into a pub. When he tastes liquor for the first time, he likes it due to his accumulated preferences. It is impossible for anyone to advice him and force him to come out of this wrong path. However, if he seeks guidance from elders, he may gain the knowledge on the evils of drinking. According to his knowledge, he will direct his efforts to change his behavior. Depending on the quality of the knowledge and the quantum of efforts, he will end up as a non-drinker, social-drinker or an alcoholic. Such change is purely dependent on his knowledge and self-effort.
It should be noted that even the guidance from a teacher could come only because of our past impressions. Nevertheless, they do come because all of us have done good deeds in the past. Therefore, it is important that we recognize and make use of the good opportunities whenever they come.
Thus, the response to environment can be changed by the use of free will directed effort guided by the knowledge that is derived from Vedas/ Gita.
Our impressions are being accumulated continuously and therefore, we need to use our free will to do more good actions and avoid bad actions.
Our knowledge continues to grow based on what we learn and therefore, we need to seek the right knowledge. We may not know what is right to us and therefore we need to have faith in the words of our elders and follow their guidance.
Our preferences are being accumulated continuously and therefore, we need to use our knowledge to overrule our preferences. We should put in required effort to do those actions, which are good for us and stop doing actions according to our likes/ dislikes.
Thus, it is possible to change ourselves. Based on the nature and quantum of change brought upon ourselves, people can be grouped into four types.
Type 1: Non-Changing – Aura or Energy dominant.
People who have reached the destination of Joyful Living will also continue to live according to their preferences. However, what they like will be good and what they dislike will be bad. Since they have the absolute knowledge about action, there is nothing for them to accomplish by using their free will. They do not have any use of their free will. They live joyfully without depending on any external object. The experiences that come in their way are determined by their past impressions. They enjoy good experiences but do not seek them. They go through bad experiences without any trace of mental suffering. They react to both according to their past preferences.
Therefore, such people do not change at all. People who are Energy dominant will continue to be so and they will be very active. They may be involved in action that guides others into Joyful Living. They may continue their material pursuit and use the wealth for the welfare of others.
Birds do not leave a trail while flying. Similarly, Aura dominant people will leave the world without trying to leave a mark. They will not attempt to change themselves nor will they attempt to change anyone else.
Type 2: Changing – Aura dominant supported by Energy.
People who have not yet reached their destination of Joyful Living will put in lots of effort on how they respond to their environment. They filter their preferences with their knowledge and act on only what is good for them. They take care and avoid converting their bad preferences into actions. They continue to gain right knowledge and therefore progressively accumulate good preferences. The experiences that come in their way are determined by their past impressions. They take the maximum advantage of the good experiences and treat the bad experiences as a polishing stone to refine their preferences. These people change a lot through self-effort and will power. They will continue to gain the right knowledge and soon they will reach their goal.
Type 3: Changing – Energy Dominant supported by Aura.
Such people know that their destination is Joyful Living. However, they do not yet know the right path. Therefore, they try to reach their destination according to their limited understanding of the world by trying to modify their environment. Their experiences are determined by their impressions. They want more of their good experiences and want to avoid all the bad experiences. Therefore, they get into intense action. Their accumulated preferences become stronger and they become more active.
These people change a lot due to their hard work and will power. However, since their Aura Element is misdirected due to their strong preferences they continue travel in the wrong direction of material pursuit. As and when they realize the futility of prosperity, they may redirect their energy towards spiritual pursuit.
They cannot be changed to pursue the right path. It is like trying to pluck a fruit before it ripens. Trying to pluck such fruit will not do any good either to the fruit or for anyone. Similarly, such people should be allowed to go in their chosen path as guided by their preferences until they discover for themselves that their path do not take them to their destination.
As and when this happens they will start, working towards making their mind matured enough to receive the right knowledge. After this stage, they will become Type 2 people progressing towards Joyful Living.
Type 4: Non-Changing – Mater Dominant supported by Aura/Energy
People, who have not yet recognized that Joyful Living as their goal, continue to be swayed between the pairs of the opposites offered by life. Their experiences are determined by their impressions. They enjoy their good experience and suffer during bad experiences. Their actions are dictated by their preferences and they end up doing good or bad without any use of free will. Their accumulation in knowledge will also be limited.
These people hardly change. They may not reach the destination in the current lifetime. The quality and quantum of support giving by Energy Element determines the increase in their action. They may at the most become more active and become Type 3 people. Such changes may not be noticeable.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
Verse: 33 3.33
Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows his nature. What can repression or restrain accomplish?
Lesson 7: Sense Objects and Action
The world offers many sense objects that provide sense pleasures to us. The only purpose of the existence of the sense object is for our enjoyment. However, we should be careful not to be attached to them resulting in suffering.
Example: A bee sits in the edge of the flowerbed to suck the honey. If it goes too close to the honey, it is stuck. It suffers and dies due to the attachment.
Similarly, all human beings are suffering due to attachment to the sense objects. This is obvious from the statements like, ‘I cannot live without you’. Every human being depends on something or someone for being happy. This is attachment.
Teaching 45: Enjoy sense objects without being attached to them.
We can enjoy sense pleasure without any limit if we are sure that we will not be attached to it. This is possible only after we reach our destination of Joyful living. Until then the sense objects are to be enjoyed with caution.
Sense objects are innocent. They do not have any power to attract us. Our action binds them to the sense objects. If we analyze the cause for our attachment, following steps can be observed.
Step 1: Presence of sense objects. (They are present for our enjoyment)
Step 2: Sense organs report the presence of sense objects. (It is their duty)
Step 3: Mind receives the report and classify them ‘desirable’ or ‘undesirable’ based on the accumulated preferences. (It is natural and cannot be changed)
Step 4: Ego, assuming the role of the doer, drives the action organs towards experiencing the sense pleasures.
Step 5: Intelligence, depending on the strength of its knowledge, supports or prevent such action based on the judgment whether it is good or bad to us.
Step 6: Whether we fulfill our desire or not, the desire does not go away but comes back with increased strength. It makes our preferences stronger.
The process of gaining, retaining, maintaining and enjoying the sense objects binds us to continuous action. In addition, we get attached to the sense objects more strongly. Because of attachment, we suffer. Thus, the improper usages of sense objects make us suffer all the time without giving us any opportunity to liberate ourselves from attachment.
Therefore, one should be very cautious in enjoying sense pleasures while pursuing the goal of Joyful Living. We need to understand the limitation of the sense objects in providing us everlasting happiness.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
3.34 Attraction and repulsion for sense objects are natural and bound to exist, but one should not fall under the control of senses and sense objects because they are obstacles on the path of self-realization.
Lesson 8: Prescribed and Non-Prescribed duties
We should stick to our chosen profession/ prescribed duties and life style. All our actions could be classified into two groups.
Group A: Actions arising out of our prescribed duties.
Group B: Actions arising out of our desires.
We should do actions in Group A to the best of our abilities. We should not compromise on doing such actions because we want to do Group B actions.
Example: The prescribed duty of a college student is to study well. Even if he is not able to achieve great results in his prescribed duties, he should not branch out to do business or politics in which he may be performing extremely well.
Thus, the question is not how well we can do a job but whether it is our prescribed duty or not. We should do our prescribed duty to the best of our abilities so that we can progress in our spiritual path.
Teaching 46: Poor performance of prescribed duties is better than good performance of non-prescribed duties
We need to do our prescribed duties with proper attitude as described in the earlier lessons.
We need to reduce actions that are done because we like to do them. This is a difficult proposal to start with. Since our accumulated preferences influence our thoughts, we will be forced to yield to the pressure of our desire.
We can overcome such desire only by following the suggestions given by Lord Krishna in the subsequent verses.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
3.35 It is far better to discharge one's prescribed duties, even though they may not be perfect, than attempting non-prescribed duties. Even death in one’s own duty is better. It is harmful to pursue non-prescribed duties.
Unit 09: Obstacles to Karma Yoga
Number of Sessions: 7
(109 – 115)
Number of Lessons: 3
Verses: 3.36 – 3.43
On completion of this unit, the student will be able to
(a) identify and remove the obstacles to Karma Yoga
1. What are the three elements that make our inert body?
2. What are accumulated impressions and what is its effect?
3. What are accumulated preferences and what is its function?
4. What is accumulated knowledge and what is its role?
5. What are the three degrees of affliction of desire?
6. What are the two obstacles to practice of Karma Yoga?
7. What are the three steps involved in removing the desire
8. What are our three bodies?
9. What are our five layers?
10. What is the meaning of the word ‘I’?
Lesson 1: Obstacle, the invisible force
Session: 109 – 110
No one wants to suffer. However, many seem to be driven by an invisible force to do evil actions against their will. They are aware that if they do sinful acts, they will suffer the consequence and yet they continue to do them. Why do they behave like this and what is that invisible force?
Three accumulations from previous births:
People are different from each other because they accumulate impressions, preferences and knowledge in each birth by doing varied types of actions and carry the same with them birth after birth. As a result, when they are born the ratio in which the elements (Aura, Energy and Matter) that constitute them widely differ.
Impressions: The unused portions of our actions are called impressions. When we do an action we enjoy or suffer the result of such action depending on whether it was a good action or bad action. Normally we get to experience the result immediately or within the lifetime. The remaining part, which has not yet fructified for experiencing is carried forward to the next birth as impressions.
Preferences: When we do our actions we continuously modify our likes and dislikes. The total set of our likes and dislikes is called preferences, which is also carried forward to the next birth.
Knowledge: While doing our actions we gain knowledge. This knowledge is also accumulated and carried forward to the next birth.
Impressions are stored in the Causal Body and the Preferences and Knowledge are stored in the Subtle Body. (We have three bodies namely physical, subtle and causal which will be detailed in the subsequent lessons)
Lord Krishna answers the question on invisible force from Arjuna as follows:
1. People are different from each other because the elements (Aura, Energy and Matter) that constitute them are present in different proportions.
2. The situation and environment in which they are placed is dictated by their accumulated impressions.
3. Their actions are dictated by their accumulated preferences and knowledge.
4. Although they have the knowledge that sinful acts will earn them suffering, their accumulated preferences drive them into such acts.
5. Their intelligence, which uses the knowledge, is not strong enough to control the functioning of their mind, which acts on the preferences.
6. The strength of their sense organs is so strong that mere presence of a sense object will drive them into action. Such desire-backed actions make the preferences stronger.
7. Although their intelligence is aware of the nature of their evil actions and the resultant suffering, it cannot control the force of sense organs. Therefore, they indulge in sinful activities and the invisible force is craving for sense pleasures.
Teaching 47: Desire is the invisible force that drives you to do wrong action
Three degrees of affliction:
Just as a fire causes injury of varying degree, the desire to enjoy sense pleasures afflict their intelligence at varying degrees.
First Degree Affliction: A fire covered by smoke.
Second Degree Affliction: A mirror covered by dust.
Third Degree Affliction: A baby covered by the womb.
The time and effort taken to remove the covering will vary depending on the degree of afflictions. In the case of Third Degree Affliction, one has to go through the required period and undergo the required suffering before one can be hope to be relived. There are no shortcuts.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
Verses: 36 – 39
3.36 Arjuna asked, Oh Krishna, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if driven by a force.
3.37 Lord Krishna answered, it is the desire, which is born of contact with the sense objects, which later transformed into anger, and which is insatiable and very sinful. Know this to be an enemy in this world.
3.38 As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, similarly, this knowledge is covered by different degrees of this desire.
3.39 Thus, the knowledge is covered by this desire, which is like the insatiable fire and which is the permanent enemy of the people, Oh Arjuna.
Lesson 2: Location of the obstacle
The obstacles to Karma Yoga are not in the external world. There are many sense objects in the world. Not everyone is attracted to a particular object. From this, it is clear that the sense objects do not cause our desires.
Therefore, the sense objects do not pose any problem to the practice of Karma Yoga. They are innocent. They are meant for our pleasures. The source of the obstacle is our desires covering our intelligence.
If the sense organs are compared to horses, the intelligence is the charioteer to control them and direct them in the right course. However, when the horses are wild and powered by desires (rum) they do not yield to the wishes of the charioteer.
Therefore, one has to understand that the desire caused by our likes and dislikes is the obstacles in practicing Karma Yoga. Acting in line with likes and dislikes give rise to new desires and the desire cover our natural intelligence preventing us from seeing what is good to us.
Teaching 48: Likes and dislikes cause desire.
People are deluded to think that a desire for sense pleasure can be fulfilled by indulging in it without any limit. This is like expecting to put off the fire by pouring unlimited quantity of ghee. More ghee we pour, the stronger the fire will become. In the same way, more we indulge in sense pleasures, the stronger the desires will become. When the desire becomes stronger, our intelligence will not be able to control the sense organs from running behind the sense objects.
Fulfillment of the desire will make our desire stronger and in addition, it will raise our future expectation. Non-fulfillment of the desire will make us crave for the fulfillment. Either way we will be bound to action.
To gain liberation we need to reduce the likes and dislikes by doing our regular work as karma yoga.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
3.40 The sense organs, the mind and the intellect are the sitting places of this desire, which covers the real knowledge of the human beings and make them deluded.
Lesson 3: Removal of obstacles to Karma Yoga
Session: 112 – 114
We should overcome the force of our likes and dislikes through the following three ways:
1. Sensory Control for Third Degree Afflicted people.
This method is suitable for people whose intelligence is covered extensively by their desires. Their past preferences are so strong that mere chance exposure to sense objects will derail them from the prescribed duties.
Therefore, such people should use maximum restraint in living their daily life.
Example: When they receive their salary, they should deposit the same with a wise person and should not walk back home via wine shops with the money in their valets.
Thus, by reducing the chances of exposing to sense objects one can hope to achieve liberation from the strong covering. If such sensory control is implemented for extended period, their preferences will become weaker and their mind will be able to control their action.
Then they can move to the next level of control.
2. Mind Control for Second Degree of Afflicted people
To regain the original shine on a mirror, one has to put lots of efforts and time in removing the rust. Similarly, for the people who are afflicted by second degree of desire, one should control the mind extensively. It is not required that the sensory inputs are completely banned. One should do a thorough quality check before the inputs are processed. This amounts to validating the desires before converting them in to action.
3. Intelligence Control for First Degree of Afflicted people
These people are least affected and they need to improve their intelligence strong enough to direct the mind to do action in line with the prescribed duties. Since majority of the people are engaged in material pursuit, even those who are intelligent, deluded to think that if they become rich all their problems will be solved.
Such people should be exposed to the right knowledge and just as a few blow of air clears the smoke and reveals the fire the internal intelligence in such people will start shining. From then on irrespective of the quantum of exposure to sense objects, they will not be lured into indiscriminate indulgence in sense pleasures.
Example: The process of cutting a tree should start with the branches and end with the root.
Similarly, the deep-rooted desire can be removed only systematically. It is essential that we control our sense organs and mind so that they stop feeding the mind with strength. However, we cannot stop at this stage. Desires cannot be eliminated by controlling the sense organs and mind. It is only the first step. We should strike at the root cause of desire, which can be done only if we gain the right knowledge. Therefore, after imposing adequate self-control on indulging in sense pleasures, one should start learning who we are.
All our desires are rooted on the fact that we feel inadequate or incomplete. The reason for such feeling is our wrong knowledge on who we are. We think we are the physical body, which is mortal and the mind, which lacks complete knowledge. We do not know our nature is happiness and assume that happiness comes from external objects. Therefore we need to discriminate our three bodies divided into five layers from the Atman, which is our real self. The three bodies/ five layers constitute the inert part of the creation and our real self is eternal, conscious and everlasting happiness.
The three bodies are Physical, Subtle and Causal, which can be grouped into five layers, namely, Physical, Physiological, Psychological, Intellectual and Spiritual. We are under the wrong knowledge that the meaning of the word ‘I’ refer to these three bodies/ five layers. Therefore, we have desire for everlasting happiness. If we know that the real meaning of the word ‘I’ is ever-witnessing-joy, there will be no more desire to seek happiness from the world.
Teaching 49: Desire is the obstacle to Karma Yoga.
Teaching 50: Karma Yoga prepares the mind to receive self-knowledge.
Chapter 3: Karma Yoga
Verses: 41 – 43
3.41 Therefore, Oh Arjuna, restraining the sense organs first, may you give up this destroyer of your mind and intellect.
3.42 The sense organs are superior to sense objects; mind is superior to the sense organs; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and the Atman is even higher than the intelligence.
3.43 Oh Arjuna, Thus knowing the self, which is beyond the intellect and steadying the mind with the mind, conquer the elusive enemy, which is in the form of desire.
Unit 10: Origin of this knowledge
Number of Sessions: 7
(116 – 122)
Number of Lessons: 3
Verses: 4.01 – 4.08
On completion of this unit, the student will be able to
(a) Understand the concept of rebirth
(b) Understand the role of an Avatar
1. What are the differences between the knowledge revealed in Vedas compared with the other fields of knowledge?
2. What are the three tests to validate the authenticity of the knowledge?
3. What are the four features of Vedas?
4. Why the knowledge from Vedas is called a secret?
5. What are the differences between Ascending and Descending Avatars?
6. What are the three accumulations that come with us birth after birth?
7. Why we do not remember about our previous birth?
8. What is Dharma and why should we do action in line with Dharma?
9. Why people do Adharma?
10. Who decides the environment in which we live?
Lesson 1: Authenticity of this knowledge
Session: 116 – 118
When we have a problem, everyone known to us seem to be having a solution. Even if we causally mention that we have a headache or some minor health problem to anyone, we are sure to get a suggestion that ‘will work for sure’. For serious health problems, we may approach qualified medical professionals. However, there are many doctors from various established medical disciplines and each contradicts other’s way of treating the disease.
In case of modern science, including medical science, it will be better for us to get the latest knowledge. We will prefer a young and experienced surgeon to perform a complicated operation rather than an old and famous doctor. This is because, science and technology is developing at a fast pace and the knowledge gets outdated soon. Every expert (in any profession) needs to update himself with the latest development in the chosen field; else, he cannot claim to be an expert. New inventions and discoveries are made practically every day and all of them will become old and outdated soon. Therefore, we need to seek the latest without the assurance that it is the best.
Example: The better models of the cell phones are available for a lesser price. If we buy the best today, tomorrow someone will show us a phone, which is better and cheaper.
Thus, in all the fields, knowledge is being renewed constantly. One can never be sure that he has the access to the best. Choosing the new in place of the old is not a foolproof method. There is no universal agreement on what is right.
However, with respect to the knowledge on how to live life, this is not true. Vedas declare the one right way of living for each individual, which is not subject to any modification or change.
Vedas is the user manual of the creation and it is made available to us even before the appearance of the first human being on earth. It is part of the creation in the form of sound waves. These sound waves are heard by the sages of ancient India. These sages consulted each other on the accuracy of what they heard and then transmitted them to the next generation orally. Vedas are referred as ‘sruti’ in Sanskrit with the meaning ‘that which is heard’. Thus, the Vedas are not authored by any human being but made available by God and passed on through oral tradition for a long number of years before they are written down.
Unlike other fields, where the knowledge is continuously being updated, knowledge from Vedas is constant and changeless. One can have access to this authentic knowledge very easily by getting in touch with the many unbroken teacher-student traditions that are prevalent widely in India.
Following are the tests to validate the authenticity of the teaching.
Test of Authenticity – 1: Source of knowledge
If someone gives us the expert advice on how to live life happily, the first test that needs to be conducted is on the source of the knowledge. If the expert claims that the technique he is offering is his own brainchild, we need to reject it. It is not possible for anyone to add/ modify the knowledge that is given out in Vedas.
Even Lord Krishna, did not claim that the knowledge given by him through Gita as his own. He declared that his teaching is based on Vedas.
Vedas are not authored by any human being. It is ‘heard’ from the teacher, the first teacher being God.
Test of Authenticity – 2: Medium of knowledge
The next test of the authenticity of the knowledge is to check the medium. The source of knowledge may be acknowledged by the expert as Vedas or Gita. However, if he claims that he has gained his knowledge by studying these scriptures directly, he should be dismissed. Vedas are not books. It is not possible for anyone to read and understand the correct meaning of Vedas.
The only way someone can get the correct knowledge from Vedas is to learn it from a teacher. Therefore, one has to check the tradition in which the expert has gained his knowledge. Although there are many traditions, the first teacher should have been God in any tradition.
It is possible, although rarely, for some to gain enlightenment without a teacher in the current life. We can seek blessing of such people and take their words for guidance in our life. However, we cannot gain knowledge from such people since they have not studied Vedas systematically under a competent teacher. Therefore, even if they know the ultimate teaching of Vedas, they will not be able to teach effectively.
Changing our lifestyle or following the guidance given by wise people will not liberate us. Knowledge alone can lead us to liberation (Joyful Living). Therefore, we need to seek knowledge from an established teacher-student tradition.
Test of Authenticity – 3: Tradition of knowledge
There are many traditions through which the knowledge from Vedas is available today. Although all of them accept the source as Vedas and the first teacher is God, they differ widely with respect to the contents. Many contradicting commentaries on Gita are taught as authentic knowledge in many traditions.
After conducting the first two tests, we need to conduct this third and final test to ensure that we are getting the unadulterated knowledge that is revealed in Vedas.
Our own intelligence is a tool to conduct this final test. Out of the many different traditions, we need to choose one that sounds correct to us. This test will not give universal and uniform result because the scales with which we measure differ in size. The result will vary person to person and time to time. This is so because not all of us are same. We have varying degree of intelligence. The ultimate knowledge revealed in the Vedas can only be understood according to the limitations of our own intelligence.
Example: It is like six blind men ‘seeing’ an elephant.
There is nothing wrong in our conclusion, even though it may not be complete. Even though there may be limitless water in the river, we can only take as much as our container can hold. Similarly, we can gain this ultimate knowledge only according to our own limitations.
The only purpose of trying to understand the revelation of Vedas is to solve our problems once for all. We want to live life happily all the time. It does not matter which tradition we choose to follow, as long as we reach our goal.
We are more important than the tradition. When our intelligence outgrows a particular tradition, we should graduate to the next. We should pursue our journey until the end of our sufferings which will happen when we understand the ultimate knowledge revealed in Vedas.
Features of the Authentic Knowledge:
This knowledge is valid for all times. The contents of Vedas are not subject to modification or change in the course of time.
Gita was revealed to Arjuna thousands of years ago. It was valid to that time as it is valid now. Even after thousands of years, it will continue to be relevant and applicable. Since this knowledge precedes creation of the universe, it will continue to exist even after the dissolution of the universe.
In modern times, this feature ‘secret’ assumes additional significance. Even a normal secret does not remain as a secret for long due to the information age in which we are living. Any information, good or bad, spreads across the world at alarming speed. However, the knowledge revealed in Vedas is useful to all the human beings but it remains as a secret due to the dominance of material pursuit. People are running after sense pleasures and they do not have time to learn the knowledge, which will give them eternal happiness. Therefore, this knowledge remains as a secret.
Another important reason for the continuance of the secrecy is the condition that precedes the understanding. Unless one gains the required mental maturity, it is not possible to understand the message given in Gita.
Example: The radio waves are available at all places. However, its presence cannot be perceived unless we possess an appropriate instrument (radio).
Similarly, unless we have an appropriate mind frame, we will not be able to appreciate the essence of Vedas. It takes quite a while to gain the required mental maturity and therefore, the authentic knowledge remains as a secret.
Many of us may have the mental maturity that is required to understand the secret. However, we may not have the humility to surrender to the teacher, since our ego (fueled by our educational background/ worldly knowledge) may be too bloated up to accept the superiority of the teacher.
Example: Lord Krishna says that he had revealed the same knowledge to Sun God.
This statement is not within our logical understanding. On hearing such statements, we may dismiss the entire teaching. As and when we come across such statements, we should have a humble attitude and say, ‘My mind is incapable of understanding the meaning of this statement’.
Since many of us think either the statement is illogical or the teacher is teaching wrongly, the knowledge remains as a secret to us.
Although the ultimate solution part of the knowledge is secret to those who do not have matured mind, Vedas contain appropriate knowledge for all human beings. Human beings have varied levels of intelligence just as in a school there are children studying in varying grades. The level of knowledge increases with the grade. The lessons taught in the final grade will be a secret to those in the first grade. However, there are appropriate lessons available for the first grade students too. Similarly, Vedas provide knowledge that is applicable and understandable for all sections of the society.
It prescribes the steps to be followed to gain a matured mind and then reveals the ultimate knowledge to those who are ready.
Vedas is the user manual on how to live our life. It is a science of life. It does not fall under the category of pseudo science like psychology nor is it a matter of belief. One has to study Vedanta in the same way one learns physics or mathematics.
Intelligence varies. One has to test the theory taught in a Vedanta class using one’s own mind and experience in life. Since the laboratory in which one conducts experiments, varies person to person, this is not accepted as science in the popular sense.
Nevertheless, only people who study Vedanta in the same way like a research scholar studying science will find the truth that is revealed in Vedas.
Teaching 51: This ultimate knowledge is revealed by God at the time of creation.
Chapter 4: Source of knowledge
Verses: 01 – 03
4.1 Lord Krishna said: I imparted this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku.
4.2 The royal sages knew this supreme science, which was thus traditionally handed down. Due to long passage of time, this science as it is appears to be lost.
4.3 That very ancient science of yoga is this which has been taught by me to you now because you are My devotee as well as My friend. This is indeed the highest secret.
Lesson 2: Ascending and Descending Avatars
Session: 119 – 120
This is not the first time that we are living. All of us have lived many times before. We have three bodies, namely, Physical, Subtle and Causal. Only the Physical Body is discarded at the time of death. We survive the death. Just as we change our outfit, we discard the physical body (on death) and take another one (called birth). The journey continues in a cycle of birth-death-birth.
The Subtle Body that comes with us through all our births consists of 19 parts including mind. The Subtle Body carries our preferences and knowledge and ensures we continue to grow in each lifetime.
The Causal Body contains our impressions and they determine the environment and situations in our life.
Example: The frame of a mirror is broken and a new frame is provided. This is similar to our death and birth.
Physical Body is the frame that serves as a medium for us to interact with the world.
Subtle Body is the mirror that reflects our Atman, which gives sentiency to the inert physical body.
Causal Body is the mercury that enables the mirror to reflect the light.
In every birth, we continue to accumulate our impressions, preferences and the knowledge. We carry these three accumulations with us birth after birth until we reach the destination of Joyful Living.
For a very good reason, we do not retain the memory of the previous births. The purpose of learning is to gain knowledge and remembering the details will defeat the purpose.
Example: In the school, we forget the lessons of the previous year by the time we complete the subsequent year. In fact, many students forget the details of the subject soon after completing the final exam. However, the knowledge or maturity gained by studying the lessons is not lost.
Similarly, our experiences in a lifetime teach us many lessons. The essence of such learning is retained as our knowledge, which we carry with us to our next birth. However, we forget the details of our experiences.
We forget most of the details of the current lifetime even before we die. Therefore, it is not surprising that we forget the details of the previous lifetimes.
Example: What was the breakfast we had on the previous Friday?
It is an unnecessary burden to remember the unwanted details. Therefore, whatever we remember is wiped out at the time of death and when we get a new physical body, we are ready with a new clean slate.
Example: When we format the hard disk in the computer, it works faster and more efficiently. If we keep all the unwanted and useless data stored in the computer it will start hanging often.
As a part of our lessons in the Vedas, we are taught to overcome our likes and dislikes. For this purpose, we are advised to forget and forgive our enemies.
Example: Present is called as a present since it is a gift from God. We ignore the present either by worrying about the future or by thinking about the past.
If we are to remember the details of our previous births then our current lifetime will be wasted thinking about our innumerable past lifetimes. It is like getting confused with previous year’s lessons while writing the exams for the current year.
Thus, every one of us is an Avatar, since we are all reincarnated in every birth. However, we are called Ascending Avatars because we are in the process of gaining knowledge and moving towards our Godly nature.
When God comes as a human being, he is called as a Descending Avatar.
We are born (take a physical body) according to the accumulated impressions. God does not have any accumulated impressions.
Our knowledge is limited. The Descending Avatars are omnipotent.
The purpose of Descending Avatar is to guide people when the efforts of Ascending Avatars are not good enough.
Avatar is a person who guides the rest of the humankind towards Joyful Living.
Example: The PhD Student before getting his doctorate may serve as an assistant to his professor and teach the other students.
The PhD Student could be termed equal to Ascending Avatar and the professor can be compared to a Descending Avatar.
Descending Avatars are controller of the illusion, while we are all victims of the illusions. We do not know our real nature due to the power of the illusion. Since, God is the master of illusion it will not affect him.
It is neither possible nor necessary to identify or classify the Avatars. We are concerned with our lives and it should not matter to us whether someone else is Descending Avatar or not.
When we understand the nature of God, we will know that he is capable of appearing in the world for specific purposes.
God appears in the world as Descending Avatar when the cumulative impressions of all the living beings warrant such an act. While Ascending Avatars (all the individual human beings) are born to experience a world according to their own past deeds, Descending Avatars appear on earth to provide for appropriate experience to the people.
Descending Avatar provides positive and good experience to people who follow Dharma as dictated by their past deeds. He makes life miserable for those who do Adharma. The purpose of his arrival is thus to maintain balance.
Teaching 52: We carry our impressions, preferences and knowledge across all births
Chapter 4: Source of knowledge
Verses: 04 – 06
4.4 Arjuna asked your birth was later and prior was the birth of the Sun God. How am I to understand that you have taught this in the beginning?
4.5 Lord Krishna answered, many births of mine have passed as well as yours, Oh Arjuna, and I know them all but you know them not.
4.6 Though I am birth less and deathless and though I am the Lord of all beings, yet, ruling over my own Nature, I take birth by my own Maya.