Working for the good of the world
Discourses on the Bhagavad Gita* - Part one
   
  by Swami Nirliptananda
Courtesy of Share International



London, UK

Even though the knowledge of yoga is eternal and very precious, it has gone through decay in the process of time. Lord Krishna told Arjuna: "This very same yoga, oh Arjuna, that I taught at the very beginning of creation, I am teaching again today and to you in particular, because you are my friend." He explained that the reason for His coming into the world from time to time is the protection of dharma - righteousness - and the re-establishment of the moral, ethical and spiritual order, as well as to protect those who are good. He said: "Oh Arjuna, he who knows Me thus - understanding My divine word and action in its true light - will not, having dropped the body, be reborn but will come to Me." He said that when we really understand the secrets of His words and actions we will attain that immortal state when we die. We do not come back again, but attain the supreme state of the Gods.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand that it is - and this is very important - the purpose for which we have come into the world, as well as the purpose of the Lord to come into this world. We give different reasons, opinions, explanations why God comes. But when we really understand we undergo an inner transformation, and that transformation is like entering another world - so we do not have to be reborn again in this world, but attain that state of realization, of Godhood. The purpose for which we have come into the world is to understand why we are here and to pursue that objective in our lives: to go to God.

Austerity

Lord Krishna said that this transformation takes place when we have become free from passion, fear and anger, and that many have entered His Being, being filled with Him, having taken refuge in Him, being purified by penance in the fire of knowledge. These then are the conditions: being fearless, free from passion and anger, and filled with knowledge. We get knowledge from books - we read so many books - but Lord Krishna did not talk about the kind of knowledge which we get from the scriptures, but about that knowledge which we get through the practice of austerity - jnana-tapasya, that by practising meditation knowledge comes, and that knowledge, He said, purifies. Purified by that knowledge through austerity many have entered into His Being.

Being free from passion means that all our instincts, our impulses, are destroyed. Freed from fear means that we do not fear anyone or anything, neither do we inspire fear - no one is afraid of us. So through the practice of austerity passion, anger and fear are destroyed because knowledge comes about, the knowledge of the Self, the pure knowledge of our own Being. And when we become pure, we enter into the Eternal Abode; as Lord Krishna said: "He comes into My Being, into Me Myself, he becomes one with Me, part and parcel of Myself". This is what this knowledge does - it helps us to see that we, in reality, have that divine Essence within us. We are that divine Essence. When we realize that, fear disappears. Anger, greed, malice and hate also disappear, because the Atma, the Soul, is above all these things - it is ever pure.

Lord Krishna said to Arjuna: "In whatever way someone worships Me, in that very way I welcome. The paths men take from every side, oh Arjuna, these paths lead to Me, these are My paths. Everyone, the whole world, is worshipping Me in one way or another." He said that the aspiration to worship is important and that when we worship through austerity we will get knowledge - which purifies - through which we attain Godhood. So, when we approach God in the right way we will come to God.

The Bhagavad Gita is not meant for those who have no devotion, who do not practise the austerity of meditation. Devotion and austerity are the basis, the foundation. Lord Krishna has said that they purify us and that we, therefore, will come to Him in whatever way we practise this austerity, this meditation, regardless from which side we come to Him.

Those longing for success on this earth worship the Gods for material things, for Him to solve our different problems, for so many things like wealth or health, for a quick success through action. We go for finite things. We do not go for the eternal thing, because to get that is difficult. We have to practise austerity, severe austerity, and then we get that which is eternal, which cleanses us.

Take the example of the king who gave away his possessions. People came grabbing this chair, that table, but one person came and said: "I want you," and so got everything. Because we are blind, we are ignorant; we get something and when it is finished the next day we go for something else, and so on. We remain eternal beggars. Lord Krishna said that through ignorance we beg God for this, we beg for that, and we remain beggars all our lives. So become free from passion, anger and fear by practising austerity. Through austerity we do not feel the need - which weakens our minds - for this and that. Once we become centred on God we enter His whole Being, we become Godlike, and when we become Godlike we do not want this or that, we no longer depend on anything else. But so long as we do not approach in the right way, through austerity, through renunciation, we will always remain beggars.

Caste system

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the caste system these days. Lord Krishna has said that through the distribution of the gunas - qualities - and karma - actions - the four castes were created by Him. He said: "Though I am the author thereof, know Me to be actionless and changeless." Is caste an inheritance, flexible, or something we create; do we follow our own ways, our likes and dislikes, our own choice? I met a man who talked a lot against the caste system, and I said that I could not agree more, though he was not talking against the caste system but against caste prejudice. That gave him a shock. This prejudice is the problem.

What is the value of the caste system? What is its contribution? The Vedas, Manu and Lord Krishna Himself speak about it, but none of the scriptures really talk against the caste system. Lord Krishna said; "I created the castes, the caste system is created by me through the distribution of gunas and karma, meaning that according to what we do in this world here, so will our character be." Lord Krishna said: "Though I am the Creator of these things, do not think that I am partial, that I am taking sides, that I am performing actions; I am beyond the gunas.

Some people say that the gunas are inherited, that the caste system is inherited; others say that it is only functionary so that we can regulate society and develop progress, that without some function, some system, we cannot progress. Both are correct. What is necessary is to know that the caste system exists since the Vedic time and it has produced a lot of things, all the great things we can think about and are proud of: our concept and philosophy of life, our dharma, our science, mathematics, and astronomy, they all come from the caste society, the Sanskrit language. When we look at how much it has contributed to us, we can see where we have gone wrong.

Is technological development the cause of the bomb that fell on Hiroshima? We cannot blame technology for that. It is how we, human beings, use technology - like killing one another. Similarly, we cannot blame the caste system for the prejudices that have developed in modern times. One caste against the other - these are human failures, human negative attitudes. Technology has done very beautiful things for us, we are lucky. It has given us many things, but we use it to make, for example, atom bombs to kill people. It was not meant for that purpose; it was meant to bring happiness to mankind, to give comfort, not to destroy man. Similarly, the caste system has given us many good things. We cannot blame the caste system.

Selfless actions

Lord Krishna offered Himself as an example of how we should live in this world. He said: "Nor do actions taint Me nor is the fruit of actions desired by Me. He who thus knows Me is not bound by actions. I am in this world, but My actions - or working and doing everything - do not create any bondage for Me, because I do not desire any fruit from any action that I perform in need or want of something." Bondage - karma through the fruit of action - is created because people worship God for want of this or that, but the Lord is tainted thus.

Lord Krishna said that when we understand His word in the beginning we will not be born again after shedding the body. So, here Lord Krishna gives us another point: that when we know Him like that we become liberated from this world. Few people work out of selflessness, most people act because they desire something. Desire and the fruit of action are the causes for the ordinary man to act, but the wise one, who knows, has gone beyond that. He does not work for himself, not for anything he personally needs. He works for others, not for his own good. Lord Krishna comes for the establishment of dharma, for the good of the world, and not because He wants something. And Lord Krishna suggests that we are like Him: working for the good of the world, performing selfless actions, being helpful to the world and in that way we are not bound by our actions. Om Tat Sat Hari Om.

* The Bhagavad Gita, or ‘Song of God’, one of the sacred Hindu texts, recounts the dialogue between Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, and Arjuna His disciple.

Part Two: Sharing what God has given us

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