Daily Readings

The Song of God - January

enlarged 4th edition - 1984 - isbn 062007583 CYT, Cape Town, SA

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Venkatesaya

January 1

the preceptor's grace and blessing

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:1 - Dhrtarastra asked: Tell me, what did the sons of Pandu and my sons do when they had assembled on the field of righteousness, eager to fight, O Sanjaya?
I:2 - Sanjaya replied: After looking over the army gathered by the sons of Pandu, King Duryodhana went to his teacher Drona and said:

Dhrtarastra was the blind father of Duryodhana and his brothers.
He was blind in his affection for his sons, blind to dharma (righteousness or duty), and had a blind faith that physical might would triumph.
Bhisma's fall on the tenth day of the battle reminded him of the unalterable law - dharma or truth alone triumphs.
Sanjaya discreetly refers to Duryodhana as the king.
It is the mark of a wise man that he does not wound anyone's feelings and sentiments under any circumstance.
He does not take undue advantage of even an opponents faults.
He is full of sympathy even for the wicked in their physical and mental sufferings.
The Mahabharata paints Duryodhana as the villain.
There was no great sin which he had not committed.
He had no respect for the elders.
He had great faith in the strength of the mighty and little in the goodness of the holy.
Yet, at this eventful juncture, when he is embarking on a war that could well mean life or death for him, the first person he thinks of is not his evil advisers nor even the great generalissimo, but his preceptor, Drona.
Without the preceptor's grace and blessing no worldly undertaking or spiritual practice can ever bear fruit.
This conviction was so deeply ingrained in the ancient Indian that even the wicked Duryodhana was full of it.

January 2

no man is perfect

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:3 - O teacher, behold this mighty army of the Pandavas, arrayed by the son of Drupada, your wise disciple.
I:4 - In that army there are heroes, mighty bowmen, equal in fighting to Bhima and Arjuna; there are also great fighters like Yuyudhana, Virata and Drupada of the great car.
I:5 - Dhristaketu, Chekitana and the valiant king of Kashi, Purujit, Kuntibhoja and Shaibya, the best warriors.
I:6 - The strong Yudhamanyu and the brave Uttamauja, the sons of Subhadra and of Draupadi, who are all great heroes.

No man is perfect.
The good man has his faults.
The evil one has to his credit sublime thoughts and chivalrous actions, however rare they may be.
Both of them are subject to temptations.
But the good man shakes off evil after a brief encounter.
The wicked man similarly shies away from goodness just as fast!
Having approached the teacher, Duryodhana does not fall at the Guru's Feet and ask for blessings.
Nor does he wait upon Him for guidance or direction.
His aggressive and arrogant nature immediately overpowers even Guru-bhakti (devotion to the preceptor).
The result? Taunting words and commands!
"Look at this powerful army of our enemy: it is arrayed by one whom you taught!"
The wicked man's heart trembles in fear and the Pandava army (though numerically weaker) appears to be a 'mighty army'.
The will quakes before a sense of guilt and the vision is blurred.

January 3


1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:7 - Know also, O best among brahmana, the names of our most distinguished leaders. I recount them for you.
I:8 - Thyself, and Bhisma, Karna, Kripa, Asvatthama, Vakarna and also Jayadratha, the son of Somadatta, who ever win in war.
I:9 - And also many other heroes, who have given up their lives for my sake, armed with various weapons, all well skilled in battle.
I:10 - This army of ours, marshalled by Bhisma, is insufficient, whereas that army of theirs, marshalled by Bhima, is sufficient.

What impudence!
Does the teacher need to be told all this?
Also, Duryodhana fears that 'my army is insufficient'.
The singular and unmistakable characteristic of the wicked man is vanity and belligerence, which seeks more and more destructive power.
Yet the ominous truth escapes his lips.
These great warriors 'have given up their lives for my sake'!
Anxiety fills the evil heart.
He sees the enemy army in the true light.
It is both formidable and sufficient, whereas his own army is insufficient.
The two vital factors that ensure victory are on the Pandava side.
They are, in the words of the Holy Bible, God and His Righteousness.
Minus these, might and numbers are mere liabilities.
Perhaps in a flash of momentary intuition, Duryodhana realised the unrighteousness of his cause.
Such moments are granted even to evil-doers.
The courageous one shakes the evil off, without a false sense of dignity or vain desire overcoming him.
We need err only once if we have a little wisdom left in us.

January 4

cultivation of good habits

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:11 - Therefore, do ye all, stationed in your respective positions, protect Bhisma.
I:12 - Bhisma, the oldest of the Kaurava, in order to cheer Duryodhana, now roared like a lion, and blew his conch.
I:13 - Then, conches and kettledrums, tabors, drums and cow-horns blared forth quite suddenly and the sound was tremenduous.

Forgetting to whom he is talking, Duryodhana instructs the venerable teacher: "Protect the commander-in-chief".
The righteous impulse of turning to the teacher at the crucial hour is smothered by accumulated evil tendencies strengthened by frequent repetitions and reinforced by insatiable lust for power.
Even in the hour of danger the wicked man's haughty head refuses to bow, and his heart refuses to pray.
Adversity often turns a man away from the evil path, but that is true only of one who is on the borderline between good and evil.
We have seen that the same calamity which compels one to abandon the evil path and to strive to become a saint, goads another into the darker mazes of vice.
Only deliberate cultivation of good habits and tendencies can effect a healthy conditioning of our heart which, even if it is not naturally bent God-ward, will turn to him the moment it is given shock.
Duryodhana speaks to Drona.
The latter does not reply!
The insulting and impudent behaviour of the wicked deserves only one treatment - indifference.
The commander-in-chief, however, steps in, and, without a word, signals the commencement of the battle.

January 5

the lord als charioteer

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:14 - Krishna and Arjuna, seated in their magnificent chariot, yoked with white horses, also blew their divine conches.
I:15 - Krishna blew the Pancajanya, Arjuna blew the Pevadatta and Bhima blew the conch Paundra.
I:16 - Yudhisthira blew the Anantavijaya, Nakula and Sahadeva blew the Sughosa and Manipuspaka.
I:17 - The King of Kasi, Sikhandin, Dhrstadyuma, Virata and Satyaki also.
I:18 - Drupada and the sons of Draupadi, they all blew their respective conches.
I:19 - The sounding through sky and earth caused an uproar that tore the hearts of the sons of Dhritarastra.

The Lord's conch is called pancajanya, the matrix of the five elements or tanmatra.
The sound that issues from his conch is the supreme Om-kara, the vibration which is the origin of all creation.
Arjuna's chariot has the Lord himself as the charioteer.
The Kathopanishad likens the senses to horses and the intelligence to the charioteer.
When the Lord himself is the charioteer, it is no wonder that the steeds are white, a colour symbolising purity.
If we hand the reins of our mind over to the Lord, then it is certain that our senses will be purified and all their functions will be pure and sinless.
The end of the night and the dawn of the day are unwelcome events to thieves and prostitutes.
Even the auspicious sound of the conches of the Lord and his devotees pierce the hearts of the wicked.
Fear is not outside but within them.

January 6

the lord is ever ready

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:20 - Then, seeing all the people of Dhritarashtra's party standing arrayed and the discharge of weapons about to begin, Arjuna, the son of Pandu, took up his bow.
I:21 - Arjuna said: Krishna, place my chariot in the middle of the two armies,
I:22 - So that I may behold those who stand here desirous to fight, and know with whom I must fight.
I:23 - For I desire to observe those who are assembled here to fight, wishing to please the evil-minded Duryodhana.

Arjuna is the son of Pandu, the 'white' king.
White is symbolic of purity.
The offsprings of purity are virtuous qualities.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is the disciple, the seeker.
He represents the good man who, as yet, is not steady in his wisdom - alluded to by the restless monkey ensign!
Only by the Grace of God is it possible to curb this restless tendency of the mind.
Otherwise, like Arjuna, who at this juncture is enthusiastic about the righteous war, but later changes his mind, we, too, will swing constantly between zeal and despair in our spiritual life.
The Lord is ever ready to save His devotee.
In fact, He rejoices to be the devotee's servant!
The Lord of the universe condescends to become Arjuna's charioteer.
What Humility!
What Love!
God's Love of the devotee is immeasurably greater than even the greatest devotee's love of God.
Countless stories are current in India to show that the Lord is ever ready to serve the devotee in every way.

January 7

the most suitable climate for teaching

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:24 - Sanjaya said: Thus addressed by Arjuna, Krisna, stationed the best of chariots in the middle of the two armies.
I:25 - In front of Bhishma, Drona and all the rulers of the earth, Krishna said: "Arjuna, behold now all these Kurus gathered together!"
I:26 - Then Arjuna saw his fathers and grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons and companions,
I:27 - and friends also in both armies. When the son of Kunti, seeing all these kinsmen standing arrayed, spoke thus sorrowfully.

The greatest of all moments in the history of the world, the moment when the yoga of the Bhagavad Gita was revealed, arrived.
Arjuna was the chosen channel.
The Lord was manoeuvring Arjuna into the position in which the ideal stage would be set up.
Hence, He places the chariot right in front of the two people for whom Arjuna had the greatest respect and love - Bhisma and Drona.
Not only that, the Lord miraculously brings about a change in Arjuna's vision.
Arjuna, who but a moment before was thinking of the Kaurava army as the 'enemy', 'evil-minded', etc., suddenly beholds all the warriors in a different light - as kinsmen and friends.
Enthusiasm for war yields place to sorrow and confusion.
The external situations or circumstances have but a neutral intrinsic value; it is one's own mind that attributes pleasure and pain, good and evil to them.
As we shall see, this is the very core of the yoga of the Bhagavad Gita; and, lord Krsna creates the most suitable climate for His teaching by bringing out the contrast in the two attitudes of Arjuna.

January 8

a correct attitude

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:28 - Arjuna spoke : Seeing these, my kinsmen, O Krisna, arrayed and eager to fight,
I:29 - My limbs fail and my mouth is parched up, my body trembles. The bow slips from my hand. My skin burns.
I:30 - I am unable even to stand. My mind is reeling, I cannot hold myself steady.
I:31 - I do not see any good in killing my kinsmen in this battle.

The seed of all our miseries is beautifully exposed to our view.
'Suffering' does not move us to pity.
We are not at all 'grieved' over death.
We do not shed tears when we read of earthquakes and air-crashes.
Only identification of our own self with the persons involved gives rise to grief.
'A boy drowned in the sea' is news; 'My son was drowned' is a heart-breaking tragedy!
Both boys were living beings, born of parents, but the latter was 'my son', and that makes all the difference.
Delusion is a mental state, but it has a devastating effect on even our physical being.
Psychosomatic medicine is discovering the truth that our health depends not so much on health foods and tonics, on strong muscles and sturdy limbs, but on the state of our mind which is ultimately dependent on a correct attitude to life.
The Bhagavad Gita gives us this correct attitude.
The 'adverse omens' - did Arjuna actually see any?
We should not forget the Pandava were victorious.
The omens could have portended the destruction of their own children.
Or perhaps the fear and the confusion which overwhelmed Arjuna made him 'see things'.

January 9

unwinking vigilance

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:32 - For I desire not victory, nor kingdom, nor pleasures; of what avail is dominion to us, or pleasures or even life?
I:33 - Those for whose sake we desire kingdom, enjoyments and pleasures, stand in front of us in battle, having renounced life and wealth.

Vasistha, Krsna and Buddha have all acclaimed with one voice that desire alone is the root-cause of all miseries and of transmigration.
Here we have Arjuna voicing the same thoughts and the same wisdom, yet he was wrong!
To all outward appearances the sage might behave like a madman, but a madman is not a sage!
Between escapism and renunciation there is this vital difference - the inner attitude.
Krsna does not advocate escapism.
He revives in us the true spirit of renunciation.
"I do not want victory or pleasure, so I will not fight," says Arjuna.
"You should not run after victory or pleasure, not even the pleasure of abstaining from the battle; therefore you should fight," says Krsna.
The argument is the same, but the conclusions are different because the inner approach is different.
Hence, we should not blindly trust our intellect, but should seek wise counsel in order that the inner intelligence may be awakened.
Again, "It is for our relatives' sake that we seek kingdom, etc., and I won't fight since they may be killed in war", says Arjuna.
"No, not for their sake, but for God's sake, for the sake of your duty or God's Will, you shall fight", replies the Lord.
The path of duty is often unpleasant to the pleasure-seeking mind or ego-centred personality.
It demands unwinking vigilance to prevent insincerity and unwisdom from veiling true insight.

January 10

relationship is the source of grief

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:34 - Teachers, fathers, sons and also grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and other relatives.
I:35 - These I do not wish to kill, though they kill me, even for the sake of dominion over the three worlds, leave alone killing them for the sake of the earth.
I:36 - Only sin will accrue by killing these felons. What joy can we get by killing our relatives?
I:37 - Therefore, we should not kill the sons of Dhritarashtra, our relatives.

Verse 35 is reminiscent of the words of the great spiritual hero of the Kathopanisad, viz., Naciketas.
There, the Guru (Yama) is pleased.
But, here, the Guru (Krsna) does not applaud Arjuna's dispassionate words.
Mere aversion to worldly pleasures is valueless without devotion to God.
It can only lead us to self-imposed misery and poverty-stricken life.
As Gurudev used to say, we should 'detach the mind from the objects and attach it to the Lord'.
The Lord, as the indweller, knew that Arjuna's heart was enshrouded by spiritual ignorance.
In order to remove it, he gave it an opportunity to manifest itself, by placing the chariot in front of Bhisma and Drona.
Arjuna's cleverness weaves a web of logic to hide his ignorance and faintheartedness.
He forgets that it is the duty of rulers to punish felons, and suggests that even that is fraught with sin! Why?
'Because they are our relations'.
All animate and inanimate creatures in the world are God's creations; but relationship is our creation and the source of grief.

January 11

destroy the real enemy

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:38 - Though they, with intelligence overpowered by greed, see no evil in the destruction of families, and no sin in hostility to friends.
I:39 - Why should not we, who clearly see evil in the destruction of a family, learn to turn away from this sin?

It is easier to perceive fault in others than within oneself.
The Kaurava were greedy.
They would do anything to retain sovereignty of the usurped kingdom.
'So they do not see the sin in killing kinsmen; we are wiser and so should desist from it' - is Arjuna's argument.
One man's vanity shields another's transgression with a seemingly lofty rationalisation.
No wise man will ever justify war.
But wise men have from time immemorial indulged in what they regarded as righteous war.
War itself is evil, but when it is the only remedy for a greater evil - to dethrone evil which has usurped the place of dharma - war is a necessity.
Then, and only then, to fight is dharma (righteousness or duty).
To run away from it is adharma!
Just as an unruffled mind and a loving heart guide the surgeon's skilled hand to remove a malignant growth, the wise and chivalrous ruler must be guided by a clear vision of dharma and by a deep love for all his people in order to deal firmly with wickedness.
Arjuna was wrong in saying that as they were his kinsmen, he should not kill them, nor is it right to say that since they were his enemies, Krsna asked him to kill them.
It was only because they were the perpetrators of adharma that it was Arjuna's duty (as a prince) to exterminate them.
If dharma was on the Kaurava side, even if they were his enemies, Krsna would have asked Arjuna to look within himself and destroy his real enemy - adharma. (unrighteousness).

January 12

to know what is one's duty

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:40 - In the destruction of a family, the immemorial rites of that family perish - the destruction of spirituality.
I:41 - When unrighteousness dominates the family, the women of the family become corrupt, and when the women become corrupt, unwanted progeny comes.
I:42 - Confusion of castes leads to hell the slayers of the family, for their forefathers fall down to hell, deprived of the offerings of rice-ball and water.

This is an argument of sterling value and unassailable logic, though not in this context.
As Aldous Huxley points out in his 'Perennial Philosophy', the chaos in the world of today is partly attributable to the collapse of the caste system.
No one seems to know what is each one's duty (which is one's function in society), and when an inner conflict arises, different theorists, leaders and philosophers pull him in different directions.
The poor man himself goes to the hospital with 'tension' and nervous breakdown.
When knowledgeable persons in a society are either killed in war or lured away to other countries or avocations, the 'spirit' of the customs, traditions and rites is lost, leaving the dead carcass of a ritual to which she masses cling.
When the spirit is lost, piety or righteousness is lost.
The custodians of piety (our womenfolk) become corrupt and there is confusion of castes.
No one has a clear idea of his duty, and consequently there is chaos.
Though all are equal socially, politically, economically, and in the eyes of God, this does not mean that interracial or inter-caste marriage is the only or even the best way in which to demonstrate this equality.
The history of mankind is the story of such inter-racial fusion, though its primary result may be confusion of duties and neglect of the cultures of both the parties.
However, it leads to a re-awakening of the spirit, a re-assessment of cultural values and a new civilisation.
But, this natural process of blending should not be forced prematurely.

January 13

continuous anxiety and tension

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:43 - By these evil deeds of the destroyers of the family, which cause confusion of castes, the eternal religious rites of the caste and the family are destroyed.
I:44 - We have heard that inevitable is the dwelling for an unknown period in hell for those men in whose families the religious practices have been destroyed.

The hell referred to need not be elsewhere, but here itself!
Every war leaves a long, tragic and horrendous trail of widows, orphans, 'illegitimate' children, social misfits and outcasts.
All this happens even without war, in a rootless or uprooted community.
When the motive is physical attraction or material consideration, marriage between people of different cultural backgrounds, intellectual equipment and spiritual values or even tastes and temperaments, sooner or later leads to unhappiness.
If some of these families appear to be 'happy', it is only because they have no idea at all of real domestic harmony.
Of course, this does not apply where the parties to the marriage belong to different cultural groups, but their intellectual and spiritual equipment is similar or complementary, and they are therefore prepared to and capable of making the necessary adjustments.
With regard to the social structure, Aldous Huxley says in his 'Perennial Philosophy': 'Contemporary history is the hideous record of what happens when political bosses, businessmen or class-conscious proletarians assume the Brahman's function of formulating a philosophy of life; when usurers dictate policy and debate the issues of war and peace; and when the warrior's caste duty is imposed on all and sundry, regardless of psycho-physical make-up and vocation.'
Such a world in which this sort of chaos prevails is hell.
Whereas in ancient times, even the events in a war were predictable, today our daily life even in peace-time is unpredictable.
The result is continuous anxiety and tension.

January 14

the greatest sin

1 - Visada Yoga - The Yoga of the Distress of Arjuna.

I:45 - Alas, we are resolved to commit very sinful acts, ready to slay our kinsmen to saitisfy our greed for the pleasure of a kingdom.
I:46 - If the sons of Dhrtarastra with weapons in hand should slay me in battle, unresisting and unarmed, that would be better for me.
I:47 - Sanjaya said: Having thus spoken in the midst of the battlefield, Arjuna, casting away his bow and arrow, sat down on the seat of the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with sorrow.

If the motive of the war was 'greed for the pleasures of a kingdom', that war was undoubtedly unrighteous; but here the noble heart of Arjuna was merely reflecting the wrong attitude of the Kaurava!
'They are greedy and they are ready to fight; we are ready to fight and so we are also greedy' - is the simple equation in his mind.
Krsna will point out that his attitude, the Divine Will, was different; and hence Arjuna had to fight.
'Resist not evil' should never be misconstrued to mean 'encourage evil'.
There is an orderly (democratic, if you like) way of dealing with evil which does not involve the disturbance of the mental equilibrium of anyone.
'Great sin' is not this action or that action, but according to Krsna, kama (desire) and krodha (hatred) are the fountains of the greatest sins.
Selfish motive is the greatest sin.
Lust, anger and greed disturb one's inner equilibrium, and hence they are the 'gates to hell', according to the Bhagavad Gita.
They are 'of insatiable hunger', says Krsna.
They consume our peace of mind, our happiness, our vitality and the tranquillity of our inner being, which is one of the fundamental characteristics of yoga.
Thus are we led to the threshold of this yoga.

January 15

virtue as a fortress

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:1 - Sanjaya said: Seeing Arjuna overwhelmed with eyes full of tears of sorrow, Krishna, full of compassion, said :
II:2 - Arjuna, from where comes such lowness of spirit? It is unbecoming to an Aryan, it is not honourable, and an obstacle to attaining heaven; not befitting at all.
II:3 - Yield not to impotence, Arjuna! It does not befit you. Cast off this mean weakness of the heart. Stand up, scorcher of foes!

Lord Krsna proves to be a superb diagnostician here.
What afflicted Arjuna was not compassion or a sense of righteousness.
It was 'weakness of the heart', unworthy of a great warrior.
It was disgraceful; and what was most important, since it was against dharma (the Will of God), it would close the gate of heaven upon Arjuna!
It was sheer impotence.
Yoga or religion is intended to break down the ego which is the prison of the soul.
It demands unwinking vigilance to ensure that the sadhana or a virtuous life itself does not become a prison-house, reinforcing the ego!
Virtue, created and maintained by a wrong motive or egoistical attitude, is prison.
This does not mean that we ever sanction vice; if a seeker exposes himself to sin, he will never be able to reach the goal.
What is needed is virtue as a fortress.
But the difference is this: the key of the fortress is in your keeping; the key of the prison-house is in another's.
The spiritual hero dares to be virtuous.
The coward is scared to err, though he would very much like to!
The hero can go beyond the walls of the fortress, but remains within it because the glitter of the external world does not delude him.
The impotent man imagines he is free in his dark prison-cell.

January 16

when ignorance is bliss

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:4 - Arjuna said: How shall I fight with weapons in battle against Bhisma and Drona, who are fit to be worshipped?
II:5 - Better it is, indeed, in this world to accept alms than to slay the most noble teachers. But if I kill them, even in this world all my enjoyments will be stained with blood.
II:6 - We do not know which would be better - conquering them or being conquered by them. After slaying them, we should not wish to live.

Up to this point in the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is the Guru, the wise man, who could discriminate between right and wrong.
Now, the vehement assertion of knowledge of dharma has yielded to a confusion - perhaps brought on by the gentle chiding administered by Krsna.
These are inevitable stages through which everyone passes.
The fool thinks he is the wisest man in the world and has a solution to all problems that face mankind.
He is sure that God exists or does not exist.
He is, paradoxically enough, convinced of his own and everyone else's duty.
There is no confusion in him; in his case 'ignorance is bliss'.
He has not sufficiently evolved to enter into the state of confusion that lies between the lower orders of human beings and the true (i.e. enlightened) human being.
The unenlightened human being almost constantly finds himself on the horns of a dilemma.
Often he is ridiculed by the fool: "I told you, give up all this philosophising and be happy as I am."
It is good to know that confusion is a stage higher than ignorance.
It lasts till we find a Guru or preceptor who opens the gates of wisdom for us to enter - Guru in the sense of 'light that dispels darkness'.
Such a Guru may be personal or impersonal.

January 17

sreyas or preyas

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:7 - My heart is overpowered by the taint of pity. My mind is confused as to duty. I ask thee, tell me decisively what is good for me. I am thy disciple. Instruct me, who has taken refuge in thee.

This is one of the greatest verses in the scripture.
It is the spark that ignites the magazine of wisdom.
Much of the perversion that our philosophy has been subjected to of late can be directly attributed to the tragic fact that we have ignored an ancient wise injunction, 'Do not proffer advice, unless you are asked to'.
If spiritual knowledge is treated as a commodity, the seller goes on his knees pleading with the prospective buyer!
The latter feels that he (and therefore his own ignorance) is superior to the former's 'wares'.
He might condescend to buy, but remodels it to suit his taste, affixes his own label to it and remarkets it.
The result is evident in any book-shop.
The Guru waits not only for the disciple to ask, but to get into the proper attitude of receptivity.
If the disciple has made no effort to deal with his problem or as his own solution to it, he is not receptive.
If he has reached the end of his own resources, does not doubt the Guru!
Unless the disciple completely surrenders or empties himself, he cannot benefit by instruction from even God Himself!
The disciple has to discard his own 'knowledge' (ignorance) at the door when he enters the Guru's abode.
And, of course, he will leave the abode through the gate of true wisdom, thus leaving ignorance behind.
One who thus surrenders himself to the Guru should wish for 'sreyas', i.e., his ultimate, enduring and supreme good which is God-realisation.
Arjuna, the ideal aspirant, thrice insisted upon Sreyas (I:31; II:5 and 7).
The Katho Upanisad makes a clear distinction between Sreyas which is sought by the wise, and Preyas (pleasure) sought by the fool.

January 18

duty, impartially and impersonally

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:8 - I do not see that it would remove this sorrow that burns up my senses, even if I should attain prosperous and unrivalled dominion on earth, or becoming lord over the gods in heaven.

Of course not!
Nothing in this world, or in heaven (both of which are distasteful to Arjuna now) or in hell (which he decidedly wishes to avoid) contains the secret 'alchemical' substance that can end sorrow.
So, a wise man should renounce 'the three worlds'.
Logic ends there.
If it does not, it leads us astray.
The next step might be 'since I have renounced the three worlds, I should have nothing to do with them' or 'since I have renounced the three worlds, why should I be afraid to fight or act in this world?'
We should know the right and wrong application of logic.
It is true that the body is unreal.
But, so long as it lasts, it has to be fed.
Even the condemned prisoner has to be given his last meal.
To neglect it is Adharma.
Arjuna is grieved over the prospect of his having to kill his own kith and kin, though he knows that they are the worst sinners (Atatayin).
'Resist not evil' is a dictum that should be cautiously applied here.
Society cannot run on utopian ideals.
But that should not permit everyone to fight evil and thus generate evil in themselves.
Hence, the caste system allocated this task to the Ksatriya, (the ruler or administrator).
The others shall not resist evil, but hand it over to the Ksatriya whose duty it becomes.
For him to shirk it is Adharma!
But if he does it as his duty, impartially and impersonally, he is not inwardly disturbed, and he does not incur sin.
Law and order are maintained without disordering anyone's mind!
The duty has to be discharged, not for the sake of heaven or of earth, nor for the fear of hell, but because it is God's Will.
The Lord says that He incarnates in order to subdue evil (IV:8).

January 19

ignorance and delusion

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:9 - Sanjaya said: Having said, 'I will not fight', Arjuna became silent.
II:10 - Krishna, as if smiling to the grief-stricken, spoke these words.

It is strange what ignorance and delusion can do to man.
Arjuna was 'the destroyer of foes'.
He could fight with Lord Shiva Himself!
He was afraid of none - men, angels or demons.
Yet, here he is, despondent and effeminately weeping right in the middle of the two armies, just in that situation where a warrior loves to be and is born to be; in the very situation that is ideal for him to demonstrate his valour and his chivalry; right at his post of sacred duty.
We often complain of lack of opportunities.
We blame our fate and curse our neighbours.
We are displeased with everyone else, men and gods!
But we fail to realize that not they but our own spiritual ignorance and delusion are our real enemies.
So long as this delusion is not removed and the ignorance overcome, we shall refuse to utilize the opportunity even if the Lord Himself offers it to us.
We will bluntly tell Him, as Arjuna said: "I will not fight the inner foes."
In the darkness of self-imposed ignorance the foes seem to be friends, the closed eyes refuse to see the inner light and we continue to be the slaves of the tyrant known as egoism, weeping and wailing, unwilling to give up the sources of our sorrows and unable to endure their torment.
If we have the right attitude of surrender to God, and if we prayerfully approach Him, He will, without the least delay and in a pleasant way, impart the highest wisdom to us, dispelling ignorance and delusion once and for all. He is the Light within each one of us.

January 20

'worrying' and 'thinking'

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:11 - The blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.

This is the key-note of the Gita: grieve not.
This verse can be used as a Mantra or a talisman.
When worry knocks at the door, when grief threatens to overwhelm us, we should visualize Sri Krsna standing in front of us and telling us: "You are grieving or worrying unnecessarily."
When we are consumed with remorse over the dead past and with sorrow concerning the unborn future, let us visualize Him saying to us: "You are worrying unnecessarily."
When a man dies, his body is cremated.
Otherwise it would decompose and stink.
When an event is past, do not keep it and cherish it in your mind.
Cremate it and forget it: otherwise it will decompose in the mind and stink.
Do not worry about the future, for tomorrow will bring its own problem and the problem will have its own solution, just as yesterday's and today's problems have had.
Many only talk like wise men!
How very different is their action from their words!
To harmonize thought, word and deed is the first principle of Yoga.
The truly wise do not grieve for 'the dead, nor for those whose life-breath has not yet ceased' knowing that all created things are subject to change and dissolution.
There is a distinction between thinking and worrying.
Thinking is essential; worrying is unnecessary - it actually prevents thinking.
Constructive thought is the first step to contemplation and eventual cessation of divisible thinking.
It is made possible only when the inner awareness is freed from past (which exists but as memory) and future (which exists but as worry - a mixture of fear and hope).
Only the present is - it is a present (gift) from God!

January 21

there is no death for the soul

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:12 - Never was there a time when I didn't exist, nor you, nor all these rulers of men; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.
II:13 - Just as in this body the embodied one passes into childhood, youth and old age, so also does he pass into another body. The hero does not grieve thereat.

The grief is only for one who confuses the Self and the changing body.
The Self - which is the 'I am' within us all - is immortal and eternal.
The individual Soul is like the immortal cell in the eternal body of the infinite Lord.
It is undying.
Only the body dies.
The changes we call childhood, youth and old age do not affect the 'I' .
'Even so the change called 'death' does not affect it.
'I' does not really die; 'I' creates another body.
The realization of this immortal nature of the soul will liberate us from grief and delusion in regard to birth and death.
We must always realize our nature.
It is inevitable therefore that we should seek to realize God, our substratum.
If you hold me down in a lake, I struggle to come up because I am life and I struggle to release myself from death.
Even the eventual natural death is only release from a dying body.
Even so, throughout our life, we are endeavouring to overcome this prison-house of finitude and to realize that 'I am that infinite Self'.
Hence our ceaseless striving for freedom from slavery and from physical and mental illness, for peace and happiness unending; though we fail to realize that it is absurd to look for these in ever-changing phenomena.
Such striving therefore only makes us worse!
When the hairs turn grey, be happy you have hair.
When they fall out, be happy you have the head.
When death threatens you, be happy your Soul is immortal.
There is no death for the Soul.
Childhood, youth and old age are commas, whereas the phenomenon of 'death' is a semicolon in the Soul's perennial song.

January 22

tolerance and equanimity

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:14 - The contacts of the senses with the objects, O Arjuna, which cause heat and cold, pleasure and pain, have a beginning and an end; they are impermanent. Endure them bravely.
II:15 - The person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress, and is steady in both, is certainly eligible for liberation.

The Self that ceases to identify itself with the body and through it with the outside world, is at peace within itself.
He who imagines the Self to be the body and the senses, undergoes the varied experiences of heat and cold, pain and pleasure, and so on.
He does not enjoy tranquillity because these experiences are impermanent, fleeting and momentary.
Two distinct stages are described in these two verses.
The first is titiksa or endurance.
The second is sama or equanimity (balanced state of mind).
The first involves psychological effort.
The second is effortless and natural.
If you are walking in a forest on a cold morning and a monkey jumps on you and tears your shirt so that the cold wind blows on your bare back; you endure the cold which you feel intensely.
This is titiksa.
At the same time, the cold wind is also blowing on your face.
You are not even aware of it.
This is sama or equanimity, in which the external condition fails to affect you in the least.
The spiritual aspirant strives to practice endurance.
He is a hero who has reached the second stage and to whom pain and pleasure are alike.
'The more you are able to identify yourself with the immortal, all-pervading self, the less will you be affected by the pairs of opposites.' - Swami Sivananda.

January 23

the dream of life

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:16 - The unreal has no being; there is no non-being of the real. The truth about both has been seen by the knowers of the truth.

The reality or God alone exists: that which always exists is God.
That which is, is eternal and infinite.
No-one can bring into being that which is not!
It is simple and does not need God to tell us!
But God tells us because only He knows the totality, ours is always a point of view.
That which intuitively knows this, knows the totality.
Then, what is this world?
It is like the appearance of 'a snake in the rope', of a second moon when one suffers from diplopia, of the illusion of a mirage, of ghosts in posts in the dark courtyard, and of a second pill on the palm (when the one that is there, is touched by scissor-crossed index and middle fingers of the other hand).
When did the snake die?
When did the second moon set?
When did the water of the mirage evaporate?
Where did the ghosts go?
Who took the second pill?
They never existed; they were but illusory phenomena, non-existent but experienced!
Life itself is a long dream.
We are unable to realise the illusoriness of the external objects because the dream is still on.
We resist the awakening influence - like the dreamer of a pleasant dream - and pull the blanket of ignorance over our faces.
When it is said: "The world is unreal", it is not suggested that we are seeing the world where nothing exists.
We only mean to say that there is wrong perception: something exists (the self or God) and we see it as something else (world).
To the little boy sitting under the tree, its shadow appears to be a phantom born at midday, growing till sunset and dying then!
The Jivanmukta (liberated Being) is aware of both - viz., the reality and the fact that to the unenlightened the appearance is experienced as real.
Hence, He is never deluded, even as we see the shadow come into being, grow and vanish, but we are not deceived by it.
He is aware of the appearance (world) and its substratum (the self).

January 24


2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:17 - Know that, by whom all this is pervaded, to be indestructible. None can cause the destruction of that, the imperishable.

Every being is pervaded by God, inside and outside.
A block of ice submerged in water has not only water on all sides, but is itself water, though in solid form.
That all-pervading God is indestructible, and living faith in the all-pervading reality gives us a wonderful sense of security.
But identification of the self with the passing phantom gives rise to insecurity and grief.
The servant may be healthier and stronger than his master, but there is always a lurking sense of insecurity in him because he does not know when his dismissal will come.
Reliance on 'solid' matter generates insecurity; whereas reliance on subtle and invisible God confers security on us.
Matter changes; the spirit is unchanging.
Life becomes meaningful and all activities are purposeful only on the basis of faith in the enduring reality.
All scriptures proclaim the truth that God pervades all inside and outside; in short, God alone exists, naught else.
Whatever exists in this universe is pervaded by God. - Isavasya Upanishad.
Lord Nirayana dwells, pervading everything within and without - all that is heard and all that is seen in the entire universe - Narayana Suktam.
All this is indeed Brahman or the Absolute; there is no diversity here. - Upanishad.
Realisation of this unity will free us from sorrow.
Burn this forest of ignorance with the fire of conviction that I am one and pure consciousness. Be free from sorrow. Be blissful. - Astavakra Gita.

January 25

opportunity to uproot ignorance

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:18 - These bodies are said to have an end, whereas the embodied Self is eternal, indestructible and immeasurable. Therefore, O Arjuna, fight!

What was the need for all this discourse on the nature of the self to make Arjuna fight?
Was it not enough to point out that it was his duty as a prince? No.
It would only be putting off the evil day.
Arjuna was neither weak nor effeminate.
He was Gudakesa and Paramtapa - one who had successfully combated sleep and lethargy (internal foes) and also all his external enemies among whom were Gods!
He had full command even over the involuntary functions of his body and could sleep or remain awake as he pleased.
He was a wise and learned man, too, yet even he was overcome by grief.
Grief is born of ignorance of the nature of the Self and of maya or illusion, and also born of the false identification (confusion) of the Self with the not-Self (which includes the world, body, mind and senses).
Your mind indulges in a peculiar double trick.
It looks for reality because if thinks you are different from the truth.
Having dissected yourself from reality mentally, suddenly you think 'I am the body'.
This what they call 'maya', illusion born of ignorance.
Arjuna's collapse on the battlefield was the best opportunity for Krsna to uproot this tree of ignorance.
This can be applied to our own life, too.
We suffer again and again only because we do not go to the root of the problem, but remain satisfied with make-shift solutions.
The wise man need suffer only once.
His wisdom will seek the root and destroy it there.
Thus he will never suffer again.
Do the 'bodies' have an 'end'?
Does matter come to an end, annihilation?
They are 'said to have an end'!
Popular belief can often be illogical or unscientific - and it may be unnecessary, futile and impossible to uproot such belief.
Unless the abandonment or the belief is vital to self-knowledge, any controversy concerning it may at best be diversionary waste of effort and psychological distraction.

January 26

the self is unborn

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:19 - Neither he who takes the self to be the slayer, nor he who thinks the self is slain, knows. One who is in knowledge knows that the self slays, not nor is slain.
II:20 - He is not born nor does he ever die. After having been, he again ceases not to be. Unborn, eternal, changeless and ancient, he is not slain when the body is slain.

Krsna takes us here to the pinnacle of wisdom from where we have an indescribably glorious vision of the absolute, the one that has never undergone a change.
The self is unborn.
There is no birth and death for the self.
Cosmic Consciousness looked at from an individual stand-point, so to say, is Atma (the Self) - the sky that appears to us through the window as distinct from the sky-in-itself, which is Brahman.
It is the narrowness of our focus that generates worries in us!
A broader and deeper outlook will give us a magnificent view of what is and a realisation of its changelessness.
Cosmic Consciousness alone is, even as the sky alone is, undiminished by the clouds or walls that prevent our perception of it.
It is Avidya or ignorance that prevents our realisation of Cosmic Consciousness.
Ignorance is not a positive factor.
It is a nothing.
How can nothing bring about any change in the reality?
How can ignorance affect it either?
If we are all in a hall and suddenly the lights go off, it is true that we shall not be able to see one another.
But, because the darkness descends upon us, we are not crushed nor are we in any way affected by it, and we are exactly as we were.
God alone exists, totally unaffected by the apparent (because they are caused by ignorance) changes in this world and in our body and mind.

January 27

the art of living

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:21 - How can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill.

Daily, we are aware of three states of consciousness.
In deep sleep, there is no diversity.
In the dream state one (the mind) creates an illusion of diversity in itself!
In the waking state, there is an apparent diversity; apparent because it is based on primordial ignorance and it will not stand investigation.
These three states are experienced by the single ego, but the laws governing them are different.
You cannot prosecute a man for killing another in a dream!
Nor can he ignore a wall because he did not see it in his sleep.
The same argument applies to the different states of spiritual awakening, too.
It is true that ultimately God alone exists and that He is eternal and immortal.
But, in the state in which Arjuna found himself, he could not ask Krsna the very pertinent question: "If all these heroes are essentially indestructible, why do You ask me to kill them?"
He had not transcended the gross state of experience of the physical world and had to play the game in accordance with the laws that governed that state.
Here we have a strange paradox.
The battle of life has to be fought in the world which we should investigate all the time and realise that it is the effect of our own ignorance.
Failure to fight the battle of life in this spirit will sanction ignorance and seal the door through which we should rise into the higher states of consciousness.
This is the extremely delicate art of living: to play our part in this world as though it were a reality and yet never to forget the ultimate reality which appears, through mistaken perception, as the world.

January 28

life is continuous

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:22 - Just as a man puts off worn out clothes and puts on new ones, so also the embodied one puts off worn out bodies, and envelops in new.

'Reincarnation' is a fact only in relation to the physical body.
The Self is unborn and undying!
Life is continuous, only the dress is replaced by new ones every now and then.
All religions are agreed that the soul is imperishable and survives the body.
There seems to be difference of opinion only in regard to its donning a physical body post mortem.
It is admitted, too, that the soul on departing from here undergoes various experiences necessary for eventual ascension into the kingdom of God or to become one with Him, expressed as you care to put it.
The spirit or the soul cannot act without body, or rather, the instrument by which the soul functions and gathers experiences is called body, and getting into or assuming one of these is known as 'incarnation'.
The soul does not enjoy the pleasures of a heaven or suffer the pains of a hell, except through the medium of a body composed of the five elements, organised to suit the peculiar conditions of its existence at that stage, and so subtle or gross.
There is a great difference between the physiological structure of fish and bird and that of the human being, but basically they are all composed of the five elements.
The fish-body is adapted to life in the sea, the bird-body to flight, and the human-body to a different kind of life.
Similarly, the souls incarnating on other planets might assume or obtain physical bodies adapted to the conditions there.
The soul is really not reborn (in fact it was never born at all), but when it assumes a new body, we say it is born.
This verse takes the sting out of death and removes fear of death from our heart.
Who would not like new clothes?
It also reminds us that the body is only a garment bound to deteriorate and become useless.
We should keep it clean and healthy, but not forget the self which is the enduring reality.

January 29

the danger of assumed knowledge

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:23 - Weapons do not cut the Self. Fire burns it not. Water wets it not. Wind dries it not.
II:24 - This Self is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable, and eternally the same.
II:25 - This Self is said to be unmanifested, unthinkable and unchangeable. Therefore, knowing this to be such thou shouldst not grieve.

Expressions like 'I am injured. I am burnt' are defective.
Even so, 'I am a bad man', etc.
They betray a confusion of the Self (to which the 'I' points) and the body and mind which are subject to all these afflictions.
Take the expression 'I am sick'.
If it is true, then I cannot be made healthy!
It is just like the expression 'This is paper' - which cannot be made into a loaf of bread!
Injury, burning, evil nature, sickness, and so on, are superimpositions on the Self which has nothing to do with these and hence is able to shake them off at will.
Its essential nature as the immortal, eternal, all-pervading, stable and ancient Self asserts itself.
Thus, even common expressions like 'I am a man', if pursued as an inward enquiry, will lead us to their logical conclusion, the Self.
'I' is really not 'a man', for the 'I' is really distinct from the 'man-body'. The 'I' is beyond all these modifications. It is the subtle essence hidden in all bodies, one and immutable. 'That which is the subtle essence of all, in that all that exists has its being. That is the truth. That is the self. That thou art, O Svetaketu!' - Chandogya Upanisad.
It is foolish to pretend that all this is true.
Our Master pointed out the danger of assumed knowledge.
Wicked people catch fish in the Ganga and kill them, rationalising their action with the lofty verse 'weapons do not cut the Self'.
Such perversion of truth will only make self-realisation more remote.

January 30


2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:26 - But even if thou thinkest of the Self as being constantly born and constantly dying, even then thou shouldst not grieve.
II:27 - For one who has taken his birth, death if certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. So, in the unavoidable you should not lament.

Krsna's expressions are very clever and guarded!
He does not concede that the Self is born and it dies.
But if you think so, even then there is no cause for grief.
We should learn to accept the inevitable.
As a famous prayer goes: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."
Birth and death are inevitable; so why worry?
In the second verse, we see the cautious wording.
Death is certain for that which is born and birth for the dead.
But, where is it said that the Self is born or it dies?
Birth and death belong to the illusion (conventional or traditional usage), not to the Self, the substratum for the 'I'.
I am not born nor do I die; birth and death belong to the confusion.
At best, 'birth' and 'death' are conventional expressions like the 'rising' and the 'setting' of the sun.
For not even the 'body' dies finally.
Birth and death are two apparent stages in a ceaseless change.
They have social implications, but cease to be true when investigated into.
When you drive along a tar road in the morning, you find a mirage.
When the sun sets, the mirage disappears (dies).
Oh, no, it is not dead; the next morning, when the sun rises, the mirage is born again!
We can accept the inevitable with wisdom and course only if we are firmly rooted in the truth or the permanent reality which is totally unaffected by these passing phenomena.

January 31

possessions and relationships

2 - Sankhya Yoga - The Yoga of Self-Knowledge.

II:28 - Beings are unmanifested in their beginning, manifested in their middle state, and unmanifested again in their end. What is there to grieve about?

This is a very important thought which can immediately liberate us from worry and grief.
We clothe the moment with the mantle of Eternity and worry over its magnitude.
We forget that what happens now has had a cause in the unknown past and will in turn have an effect in the unknown future.
In the darkness of total ignorance, we grope and break our bones.
We cling to our 'possessions', forgetting that we were alive before they came to us.
We fear their loss.
We grieve over the loss.
Ignorant of the laws of Karma (cause and effect) we strive all the time to push unhappiness away and to acquire happiness.
Pushing unhappiness away involves us in greater unhappiness.
Feverish striving to acquire happiness is only misery!
The Bhagavatam reminds us of the mystery of life: 'You do not work for unhappiness and yet find yourself in it.
Even so, happiness will be yours unsought-for.'
They are the effects of adrsta (the unseen karma).
Meditation upon this will rob us of all tensions, grief and delusion, and will snap all our attachments.
'The relationship as son, friend, teacher, father, mother, wife, brother or sister is formed through the body on account of attachment and delusion.
Just as planks unite and separate in the river, just as pilgrims unite and separate in a public inn, so also fathers, mothers, sons and brothers unite and separate in this world.
He who thus understands the nature of the body and all human ships based on it, will not grieve.' - Swami Sivananda.
The enigma of a 'future' is tantalising.
People are irresistibly drawn to others who profess the ability to 'read the future'.
How strange!
What is the use of this knowledge if 'what will be will be'; and how can one trust the prophesy if the future calamity can somehow be averted?
One who knows 'what is' is not worried about what was or what will be.

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