Volume 4 of the six part series covers Chapters 7 to 12 of the Bhagavad Gita and extolls the attributes of devotion. However, as Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha eruditely educates his readers, devotion cannot be equated to the mundane rigmarole of engaging in a never ending cycle of rituals. The devotion as referred to here by Krishna is one that needs to be cultivated, rather than performed. Such a cultivation will crystallise an awakening of the true self which in turn will rend asunder the contradictory and contrasting pull and push of all the ‘dvandvas’ (opposites). For such a devotion to be Conceptualised, the Seeker needs to take refuge in a Teacher. Only a complete surrender by the Student to his Preceptor will set the latter on the path to salvation.
Verse No.34 of the 4th Chapter conveys the aforementioned message in a resounding, reverberating and remarkable fashion:
तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया |
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिन: || 34||
tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśhnena sevaya
upadekṣhyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśhinaḥ
(“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 Knowers of Truth will then instruct that supreme Knowledge to you.”)
This is where the book provides its readers with an arresting reassurance. Lest an unsuspecting human be intimidated under the gullible notion that the privilege of access to an all Knowing Teacher is the sole preserve of mythical characters of the likes of Arjuna, the author proclaims with great emphasis, “fret not!” All Seekers need not be Arjuna and most importantly, all Knowledge does not vest and rest within the confines of the Divine. Realised souls are aplenty and for every Krishna there exists in perfect complementarity a Vasistha, Angiras, Uddalaka, Yajnavalkya, Valmiki and Vysadeva. The bastion of Hindu Dharma has had a storied pedigree of colossal figures who have prised out the secrets of the Soul in a manner accessible and admirable. From Adi Sankara to Swami Vivekananda, these titans have instilled the fervor of curiosity and ignited the fire of intellectual upliftment within the hearts and minds of scores of people.
The incandescent aspect of practicality that is expounded by the Bhagavad Gita is explained in a scintillating manner by Swami Bhoomananda in this volume. The scriptures acknowledge that not every human being possesses the requisite wherewithal to become a Seeker. The attribute of equanimity like devotion needs to be cultivated and nurtured. There are four types of individuals on Earth. The first category consists of the ‘afflicted’. Only when misery comes calling and misfortune assails this breed, will their attention be cast towards the Supreme. Yet Providence neither discards not disparages this class.
The second category is made up of ‘jignasus’ (enquirers). Classic examples of personalities inhabiting this group include Arjuna and Uddhava. An inveterate bent of curiosity and piques interest drives these souls towards equipping themselves with the necessary intelligence that spurs them towards realizing the Self.
The third category is the domain of ‘artharthis’ (seekers of specific worldly gains). “When the heart is set on a certain objective or gain, and to win it, one seeks the Lord’s favour and blessing, he is called an ‘artharthi. ’
Finally, as the reader would have guessed by now, the fourth and most embellished category encompasses the Knowers. Referred to as ‘jnanis’ (wise ones), the Knower is an embodiment of detachment and the epitome of equanimity. He is neither tormented by desire nor tortured by grief. He does not crave for any material possessions. He is aware of the permeating presence of the Lord everywhere. His thinking does not veer away from the framework of concentration upon the Divine. As a consequence, he is freed from all distractions and disruptions. His Knowledge makes him one with the Supreme.
The intelligence and wisdom that is the prerequisite for elevating oneself to the highest echelons of spirituality, is an absolute fondness for the Lord. The mind needs to think the entire materialistic world as Godly. Man should constantly engage in the pursuit of ‘jnana yagna’ (penance of wisdom). In this exercise, the Seeker has to relentlessly engage both his mind and intelligence. “He thinks and wonders, he enquires and investigates, more and more, about the wondrous work of creation – how the whole phenomena subsists on a changeless Substratum, how that Substratum holds the full power and potential to evolve, sustain, and also to dissolve all expressions in a cyclic order.”
The book also dwells in a very interesting manner on the ‘visvarupa darsan’ (Omni Form) accorded by Krishna to an initially rapturous but later, a stupefied Arjuna. Still clouded by a hint of delusion, Arjuna even after being the recipient of an extraordinary imparting of life’s quintessential lessons, pleads with Krishna to reveal to his parched mind, the honour of his magisterial omni form. Ever willing to accommodate the requests of his eager disciple and an enthusiastic devotee, the Master reveals his imperial form to Arjuna. Although initially filled with an unbridled enthusiasm, Arjuna’s joy soon transforms into undiluted fear. For the towering, immeasurable, unfathomable, indescribable presence before him is a very monument to the force of destruction. The entire cosmos, the vast Kaurava army arrayed in front of Arjuna in the righteous battleground of Kurukshetra, all are swept away like being sucked into a whirlpool towards annihilation into the Lord’s being. Arjuna’s composure is retrieved only the Lord reverts to his benevolent, passive Self. This is a way of Krishna clarifying to Arjuna that irrespective of the ensuing eighteen day Mahabharata war, the cycle of birth and death is a continuous and eternal process. If not by the sharp and pointed arrows of Arjuna, the venerable Drona and Bheeshma would shed their mortal coils due to the uncompromising passage of time.
Volume 4 continues with the stirring exposition on the song of life alluded to by the previous three volumes. However, this book merits more than a single reading considering the nature of the subject it covers and the lessons it communicates.