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Essential Concepts in Bhagavadgita: Volume 3 – Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

by Venky
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Volume 3 in the series dwells at length on the metaphorical cord that tethers the material with the metaphysical. Lest the reader be misled, the employ of the word material is more in alluding to the external and extrinsic elements and vicissitudes of the world that are perceived by the senses, than a reference to any physical possession or coveting of objects. As the Swamiji informs his readers with a conviction that is both practical and powerful, ‘karma yoga’ (path of unselfish action) is but a path in the journey whose ultimate and eternal destination is self-realization. Once the karma yogi becomes adroit in exemplarily treating the two ‘dvandvas’ (“opposites”) of agony and ecstasy as inextricable and indistinguishable, he automatically makes the ascent to reach the pinnacle of ‘Jnana Yoga’ (Yoga of Wisdom). Unless such a transition happens, abdication of responsibilities and renunciation of the world, serves no purpose other than symbolic gestures of unfortunate futility.

…”Krishna at times definitely detaches his thoughts from all religio-philosophical moorings, making them stand sovereign with a solely worldly and secular front.” The words, secular and secularism, are perhaps the most misinterpreted, misused and misapplied terms in the contemporaneous understanding of Hinduism and Hindutva. The words are convenient tropes for casting aspersions on a pluralistic, multi-dimensional, mutually respectful religion that is as old as civilization itself. In this compelling book, Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha rends asunder the notion that the precepts of Hinduism are archaic, draconian and antediluvian. The exhortations of Krishna to Arjuna to perform his duties as attached to his occupation and position in society not only demonstrates a comprehensive eliding of irrationality, but also bear monument to an astounding degree of practicality. The sequence of the ‘sadhana’ (methodical discipline to attain desired knowledge or goal) undertaken by the ‘sadhaka’ (a person who follows a particular sadhana, or goal-directed spiritual practice) in attaining ‘sanyasa’ (asceticism), as illustrated by the Swamiji is a beautiful, remarkable and totally scientific series of steps that distills a feature of level headedness to it. “The whole philosophy of Bhagavadgita is to treat renunciation or sanyasa as a goal, a virtue and an attainment. Any attainment follows the right effort to gain it. And Krishna specifies this effort as yoga. Yoga purifies and sublimates every action.” Can any philosophical, spiritual or religious concept be simpler yet primordial than this?

The second Verse in Chapter 5 that deals with ‘Karma-Sanyasa Yoga’ drives home the aforementioned tenet with incredible clarity and lucidity:

श्रीभगवानुवाच |
संन्यास: कर्मयोगश्च नि:श्रेयसकरावुभौ |
तयोस्तु कर्मसंन्यासात्कर्मयोगो विशिष्यते || 2||

śhrī bhagavān uvācha
sannyāsaḥ karma-yogaśh cha niḥśhreyasa-karāvubhau
tayos tu karma-sannyāsāt karma-yogo viśhiṣhyate

The Supreme Lord said: Both the path of karma sanyāsa (renunciation of actions) and karma yoga (working in devotion) lead to the supreme goal. But karma yoga is superior to karma sanyāsa.”

This incredible synthesis and syncretic relationship between Karma Sanyasa and Karma Yoga in turn leads to the Seeker achieving the objectives of equanimity. This feature of ‘samatva’ fosters and nurtures in the Seeker an uncompromising sense of equilibrium that enables him to treat pleasure and pain, good and evil, happiness and sorrows with no distinction, discrimination or delusion. Status and sacrilege, prosperity and penury, aristocracy and abject scarcity cease to constitute polar opposites and instead dissolve into an impartial whorl of unbiased coevality. As Verse 19 in Chapter 5 illustrates:

इहैव तैर्जित: सर्गो येषां साम्ये स्थितं मन: |
निर्दोषं हि समं ब्रह्म तस्माद् ब्रह्मणि ते स्थिता: || 19||

ihaiva tair jitaḥ sargo yeṣhāṁ sāmye sthitaṁ manaḥ
nirdoṣhaṁ hi samaṁ brahma tasmād brahmaṇi te sthitāḥ

(“Those whose minds are established in equality of vision conquer the cycle of birth and death in this very life. They possess the flawless qualities of God, and are therefore seated in the Absolute Truth.”)

As the Swamiji further clarifies, “when the mind is established in ‘Samya’, it becomes stable, poised, and unassailable. All agitations and torments, together with their causes, become extinct when the mind is enriched and sublimated by evenness.”

Some of the most interesting passages in the book surface in Chapters 2 & 3, titled, “Is Human Destiny a Providential Decree”, and “From Religious Dualities to the Freedom of Non-dual Knowledge”, respectively. These Chapters take on an almost myth busting hue as they attempt to dismantle the attitude of fatalism that attributes every catastrophe and calamity to the doings of Providence. While such a proposition works in exacerbating the notion of piety, Swami Bhoomananda emphasizes that Providence neither ordains a sense of doer ship nor various actions that are executed. Further going on to emphasise this point with a hypothetical situation of tyranny, the Swamiji asserts that, “the victims and their protagonists alone had to muster timely strength and organise the necessary resistance – in thought, word as well as deed – to bridle or thwart the trend of tyranny.”  This is the part of the book that has evoked conflicting and confusing feelings in me personally. Extrapolating the aforementioned example to the plight of the six million Jews who were mercilessly exterminated by the sadistic despot, Adolf Hitler and his band of inhuman Nazis, should the Jews have mounted a concerted ‘armed rebellion’ at the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Treblinka and Majdanek? I specifically mention ‘armed’ rebellion because an attempt to induce a transformation or instill feelings of humanitarian empathy in the Nazis using the medium of words would have come to naught. Consequently , does the fact that the hapless and helpless Jews did not take matters into their own hands make them responsible for the ultimate and horrendous fate that befell them? Or is there a deliberate and concerted ‘noninterference’ of the Divine in the free will of man as it works in consonance with the paradoxical laws and ways of Nature? Further reading and assimilation would be needed on my part to absorb this seemingly irreconcilable dichotomy.

Volume 3 also devotes a couple of Chapters on the art and technique of meditation that makes for some engrossing read. Immensely and intensely personal, meditation is a gateway that facilitates ones reach into the innermost echelons of the Self. While techniques abound in so far as the practice of meditation is concerned, as the Swamiji illustrates all that matters at the end is the awakening of Intelligence that towers over the senses and the mind.

Essential Concepts in Bhagavadgita: Volume 3 – Makes for essential reading – and rereading.

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