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Gita Lesson - 1901: Essence of Vedanta

Bhagavad Gita
Unit - 19
Lesson - 1901: Essence of Vedanta
By Raja Subramaniyan

Lord Krishna teaches the essence of Vedanta to end all the sufferings in life. The essence of Vedanta consists of two statements,

Teaching 136: Brahman is the only truth. World is an illusion.

To convey this, Lord Krishna uses various metaphors and explains all the related facts that are revealed in Vedas. This knowledge is available in the Vedanta for everyone to learn. However, only those with intelligence and matured mind can comprehend this truth through Jnana Yoga. For others, the world will continue to be a place that alternates between pleasure and pain. Most people wrongly assume that they can control this oscillation and thereby avoid suffering. The only possible way of removing the suffering is to follow the path of Jnana Yoga.

Through Jnana Yoga we learn that the creation is an illusion, which is always changing and the only reality is Brahman, our consciousness. If we are aware of our real nature, the changes in the world will not affect us.

Thus, after gaining this knowledge, the very same world will become a place of entertainment without any trace of suffering.

Lord Krishna compares the creation with a huge tree. Through this metaphor, he teaches the following.

Brahman: It is like the taproot of a big tree. The tree cannot stand without the taproot. Similarly, Brahman is the root cause of the creation. Like the taproot, the Brahman is changeless, eternally present and not perceivable. It is the constant truth behind the creation.

From another perspective, the taproot could be compared to our ignorance of Brahman because without ignorance there is no suffering.

Creation: It is like the visible part of the tree above the ground. It is also eternally present but it is constantly changing. It is perceivable to our five senses. It is an illusion that stands on Brahman.

Creation is an illusion like the tree. Existence of a tree cannot be explained. It is not possible to say whether the tree came first or the seed came first. People accept the existence of the universe (and that of the tree) without any enquiry. On enquiry, we find that it does not exist. It is an illusion.

If we start removing the parts of the tree one by one, the tree will vanish. It is an illusion.

The world has come about due to the actions of the human beings in the previous births. Since they have to enjoy/ suffer the results of their past actions the world has come into existence. Action leads to results and the results lead to further action. This is as inexplicable as the questions on whether the seed came first or the tree came first.

Although a particular tree is not eternal, the seed-tree cycle is eternal. Similarly, the creation is also eternally present although it undergoes the cycle of birth, growth and death. The creation is the manifestation of the AEM, the inherent power of Brahman, which is eternally present.

AEM: It is like the main trunk that comes out of the taproot. AEM is the inherent power of Brahman just has the seed has the inherent power to grow the trunk out of it. AEM is made up of three elements, Aura, Energy and Matter and in various permutations and combination gives rise to five building blocks.

Five Building blocks: Space, air, fire, water and earth are the five building blocks similar to the main branches of the tree that comes out of the main trunk. They are born out of AEM and in various permutations and combination give rise to all the inert objects in the creation.

Preferences: They are like the small roots branching out of the taproot. Taproot is responsible for the existence of tree. Health of the tree depends on the small root that takes water from the ground and sends it up to the leaves. Assuming a particular small root is supporting a particular small branch of the tree, the quality of the branch depends on the quality of the small root.

Sense Objects: They are like the shoots that come out of the big branch and give rise to small branches. They have the potential to develop into bodies of living beings (small branches that sprout the leaves).

- Sense objects are present in the world and they are inert and do not have any power to attract anyone.
- Preferences convert the sense objects as objects of likes and dislikes.
- Ego converts the likes and dislikes as desires
- Desires prompts actions
- Actions invariably give results. Some results are immediate and the remaining are accumulated as impressions for subsequent births
- Impressions force us to take physical body so that we can enjoy/ suffer in line with the accumulated impressions.
- Thus, sense objects, which are inert, give rise to our physical bodies, also inert. We eat for living and we live for eating. It is an Eternal Cycle alternating between pleasure and pain.
- It is not possible to escape from this Eternal Cycle without taking the help from Vedanta.

Thus, sense objects of the world are seen by us through our biased vision of our preferences. As a result, we are distracted from the truth of Brahman and indulge in material pursuit. Such action binds us to the Eternal Cycle of pleasure and pain.

Physical body is required to undergo this pleasure and pain.

Physical bodies: They are like the small branches of the tree. From the small branches, leaves are sprouted. Leaves are always seeking something from the external world. Similarly, we use the physical body in material pursuit as described in the initial parts of the Vedas. Our biased preferences have tied us to the sense objects of the world and give rise to our physical body. This cycle will eternally continue until we gain enough knowledge to see the truth of the Brahman and the illusory nature of the world.

Material pursuit: Initial parts of the Vedas recommend material pursuit and are similar to the leaves of the tree. The leaves protect the tree, beautify it and cover it all over.

1. Material pursuit protects the suffering in life, as the guards in the jail protect the prisoners from escaping. We are caught in the Eternal Cycle of pleasure and pain because our material pursuit does not give us time to reflect and see the truth behind creation. We are ignorant of the truth of Brahman and carried away by the illusion because the material pursuit paints an attractive picture of the world.

2. It displays various possibilities of sense pleasures. There is no limit for sense pleasures in terms of varieties and combination. One can travel around the world to the virtually unlimited tourist attractions. There are countless people to interact with, belonging to various cultures, and ethnic backgrounds with varying physical and mental attributes. Changes in the seasons offer different experience. There are varieties of cuisine in each of the thousands of cultures and it is possible to get a new dish for every meal. One lifetime appears insufficient to enjoy all the pleasures offered by the world.

3. The means of gaining the sense pleasures also vary. Earning name, fame, wealth, power, position and property is the means of reaching out to the heights in enjoying worldly pleasures.

4. However, it hides the fact that pleasure is always coupled with pain. It deceives people to think that the action will bring immediate and direct results. People are offered various sense pleasures and motivated into never-ending action. This is similar to motivating the horse to pull the cart by tying a carrot on a stick attached to the cart. In the field of physical science, the action and results are directly correlated. However in our life, our hard work is not always earn immediate direct results. Since this fact is not obvious, people continue to act with the hope that they will be able to enjoy the pleasures offered by the world all the time and avoid pain totally.

5. It prescribes never-ending action for humankind by offering unlimited sense objects for enjoyment. Caught in this deception, human beings do not come out of material pursuit to see the truth of the Brahman and the illusion of the world. The world, which is binding us into action, appears beautiful with countless possibilities of sense pleasures.

6. When some people realize that the actions do not directly correlate with immediate results, various pseudo sciences like astrology, numerology and such distracts people into further action in the wrong direction. Such pseudo scientists (like astrologer) promise the ignorant people to correct the imbalance between action-result and people are kept under illusion for a longer time.

Chapter 15: Jnana Yoga [Verses: 01 - 03]

15.1 The Lord said - They speak of the eternal fig tree whose taproot is beyond comprehension, branches are available for experience and leaves are the initial parts of the Vedas. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.

15.2 The branches of this tree extend in all directions, nourished by the three elements (AEM). The shoots are the sense objects. Its roots are stretched below, causing actions among human beings.

15.3 The form of this tree cannot be perceived. It has no beginning, no middle or no end. With determination, one must cut down this tree with the weapon of detachment.

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