Essential Concepts in Bhagavadgita: Volume 2 – Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

Essential Concepts in Bhagavadgita (Vol-2, Based on Chapter 3 and 4 of  Bhagavadgita)

Volume 2 in the series takes off from where Volume 1 pauses. The first installment in the series laid significant emphasis on the concepts of ‘Stitha-prajna’ (contended, calm and firm in judgment and wisdom), and ‘Stitha-dhi’ (an intellect that is firm, calm and unmoved). As Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha delectably illustrates, once the state of Stitha-dhi is attained, the beneficiary neither resents nor grumbles about the latent and paradoxical interactions with the world. The ‘Dvandvas’ (“opposites”) are met with an imperturbable equanimity. This is the ‘end state’ which each true and sincere ‘seeker’ must strive to attain.

Volume 2 further dwells into the means of attaining the state of Stitha-dhi. Chapters III & IV of the Bhagavadgita underpin such precepts. In a few stirring, strong and seraphic passages, Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha leaves his readers in no doubt that the only path of refuge for the seeker lies in a ‘Wise Teacher.’ This is the preceptor who is the Knower himself. A fount of ‘Brahmavidya’ (a branch of scriptural knowledge derived primarily through a study of the divine), the ‘Guru’ is an unassailable, unshakeable and unwavering rock which lends succor to a true seeker guiding him through the illusory mores of euphoria and anguish; ecstasy and grief; pure and impure; and good and evil. The talismanic influence of a teacher is encapsulated by a horripilation inducing verse from the Bhagavadgita:

“tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya

upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah”

(“To know that – Go to a Knower – the Seer of Truth; prostrate before him, inquire from him with humility, and serve him fondly with all attention. The Knower of Truth will then instruct that Supreme Knowledge to you.”)

As the Swamiji informs his readers, Arjuna’s quest for enlightenment does not end the moment Krishna completes his discourse on the Gita. This is just a temporal respite for the valorous archer to take up his powerful bow, and meet his formidable adversaries arrayed before him. The deeply entrenched attachment for a grandfather, the bonds tying him with his teacher and the blood that courses through the veins of his opposing cousins, all represent illusions that need to be rend asunder if Arjuna needs to perform the true duties of a ‘karma yogi’ (person who does good to the whole world, loves the whole world and all  its beings selflessly). However, this does not mean that once the Kurukshetra war is done and dusted, Arjuna will be enlightened for life. He still needs to make the ultimate transition from being a karma-yogi to a ‘Jnana-yogi’ (one who has attained the path of Wisdom and intellect). “‘Atma-jnana’ (Spiritual Knowledge) is unique in every way. There is no parallel to its power and potential. Krishna highlights how it destroys sin, however huge the stock of the sin maybe.”

Another arresting bit of information imparted by the book is the myth busting revelation surrounding the misapprehension, misinformation, misjudgement, and misapplication that has at its edifice the ‘Varna’ (type, order, colour or class) philosophy first found in the ‘Manusmrithi.’ (an ancient legal text among the many Dharmaśāstras of Hinduism). The Varna system organised society into four classes:

  • Brahmins: priests, scholars and teachers;
  • Kshatriyas: rulers, warriors and administrators;
  • Vaishyas: agriculturalists and merchants; and
  • Shudras: laborers and service providers

This classification has generated immense controversies and has been equated to the nefarious and insidious evil of “casteism” in many scholarly treatises. Of course, the asinine behaviour of a few imbeciles has only gone to stoke and add fuel to an already burning fire. However, as the Swamiji illustrates, the primordial objective behind the orderly categorization was never to belittle any particular caste or to demean any particular creed. “The soul in the body is the same for all, and the distance to It is also the same. Nature governs only the activities of a person. It does not interfere with his innate divinity, thereby brining any special discredit or disadvantage. This is a point seekers and students should unfailingly understand, if they are to be true to the teachings of Bhagavadgita.”

The Swamiji also expounds that the infantile notion of casteism was a colonial deceit, birthed solely to foster the deadly “Divide and Rule” philosophy that constituted the very métier of the British Raj. Reaching its apogee towards any census, innumerable castes were fabricated by the British and foisted upon a gullible section of the public. All with the principle of violating the tenets of unity and festering an environment of sustained instability. A classic ploy of the ruler to be exercised over the ruled.

The Swamiji also warns the reader not to get entangled in or enamoured by the allure of the ‘rewards’ promised by the Vedas either during the earthly existence or in the heavenly life after one sheds the mortal coil. These rewards are a direct concomitant of convoluted and complex rituals. However, the motive and the motivation for and towards realization is restricted only to those moments during which the Performer of the rituals immersed in his ritualistic deeds concentrates on his doing. Once the elaborate rituals are completed, it is back to the mundane nuances of the world. This rituals-to-rat race-to-the-rituals phenomenon does not lead Man anywhere. Instead as the Swamiji exhorts, the act of ‘seeking’ must be sustained, inherent, innate, and sublimated within the innermost recesses of the mind, body and intellect. This Upanisdhadic expostulation should never be missed by a true seeker.

As verse 1.2.12 of the ‘Mundakopanishad’ (an ancient Sanskrit Vedic text, embedded inside Atharva Veda), instructs:

pariksya lokan karma-citan brahmano

 nirvedam ayan nasty akrtah krtena

tadvijnanartham sa gurumevabhigacchet

samitpanith srotriyam brahmanistham

(“Having analysed the enticing, but hollow ritualistic rewards and promises of the Vedas, and finding that the Causeless cannot be attained by causal means, the true seeker must grow utter indifference to all of them. He should then humbly approach the great Teacher who is an embodiment of the scriptures as well as the supreme Truth, carrying a bundle of faggots (expressing that he wants the firewood of his ignorance to be burnt by the fire of knowledge to be received from the Teacher)”)

“Essential Concepts in Bhagavadgita: Volume 2” – introspective, informed and inspiring.