Sharing what God has given us
Discourses on the Bhagavad Gita* - Part two
   
  by Swami Nirliptananda
Courtesy of Share International



London, UK

Austerity and sacrifice purify our character. Repentance means that when we have done something wrong, we suffer, ourselves, for it: we may spend a whole night chanting the name of God, or repeat a mantra, or we may take on some kind of austerity like fasting. That is what we call the tapasya - austerity - of meditation. Austerity goes against our nature; through it we get rid of the bad effects of our nature, or our sinful inclinations. When this happens knowledge comes. Through knowledge we attain liberation, we attain God. By reading - even the Bhagavad Gita - we get ordinary knowledge. The Bhagavad Gita tells us how we must behave, how we must practise our dharma - righteousness - and through that practice we gain a liberating knowledge.

Lord Krishna used very strong words: "That fool who outwardly controls the organs, but keeps dwelling on the objects of the senses in the mind, is a hypocrite." A hypocrite is someone whose mind is full of sinful inclinations, though putting on a worldly type of religiosity. But that person excels who controls the mind, who performs karma yoga - the yoga of action - with the mind unattached. So, it is not the control of our physical organs, but the internal organ, the mind, where the sinful deeds cling. When such inclinations cling to the mind, even though we show an outward religiosity, there is a hankering for negative things. It is necessary to control it in order to perform actions without attachment to its fruits, selfless actions performed with the spirit of sacrifice. It is the type of action which we call austerity. Ultimately, such an action - which purifies our nature - brings about enlightenment, not the action we perform hankering after the fruit of action or because we will get certain things - that we do not only act unless we get something for it. Performing duties is superior to inaction. Moreover, if we are inactive, even the maintenance of the body is impossible.

Act for the good of others

To perform the prescribed duties, that is a very important point. There are certain duties we call swadharma: family duties, duties relating to the society and duties relating to our dharma. These duties exist. Whether we like or dislike them, they must be performed. And they have to be performed with the spirit of detachment. What is good, what is necessary, that is what we should do. A cleaner who performs his duties properly is greater than a king who does not. The emphasis on duties is that we put our whole heart in it, whatever we are doing - that is the secret of life. Performing actions whole-heartedly - not half-heartedly - brings perfection; that is austerity, that elevates the soul, our whole attitude to things in life. We must always aim at the highest; we must do everything to the best of our ability: that elevates us. Doing things half-heartedly does not get us anywhere.

This world is bound by action except what is done for sacrifice. Therefore, act for the sake of the community, for the good of others, free from attachment. The whole world, all beings, are attached to the fruit of actions, so they become bound to action, to the world. An invisible chain of what we call attachment is around our neck, we become bound like the child is bound to its mother with the umbilical cord. Therefore, perform actions free from attachment, for the sake of our duties, for the good of the world, of all beings, of all creatures, not for our own benefit, but like a mother who does things for her child without expecting it to give her something back - she acts for the good of the child. That is karma yoga.

Restraint

This is the spirit of yajna - restraint - which purifies our being. Brahma, the Creator, created everything, all beings, through yajna. Lord Krishna said: "By this yajna you go and multiply, let this yajna be the fulfiller of your desires." We should enjoy everything that we do in this world through the spirit of yajna. In the very first verse of the Isa Upanishad, the Rishis explain this yajna: to use things with restraint, knowing full well to Whom it all belongs, only taking as much as we need, not what we do not need, not indulgence. Restraint purifies our mind; it prevents us from doing the wrong type of things, because when the mind becomes purified, the negative inclinations also disappear and then we get enjoyment from doing the right thing. Together with the creation of the world, Brahma created yajna, and He said: "Now go and live and enjoy through yajna." This means that we do not envy someone else and that we do not, even, indulge in what we have. It means that we eat with restraint, that we take only what is necessary for us.

Take the example of Mahatma Gandhi who was washing himself near the ocean one early morning. At the same time he had a discussion with Pandit Nehru. In one hand he had a glass of water for washing, in the other a brush. When he realized that he had finished the water in the glass before completing washing himself, he said: "My God, what have I done? I have finished the water before finishing my washing!" "But you are by the sea!" replied Nehru. "But," said Gandhi, "that does not give me the right to use more than I need." That is the spirit of yajna, that is the basis of dharma. If we have this type of understanding, we become like kings, and then we will really enjoy this world.

Enjoyment

As Lord Krishna said: "When we know fully well to Whom everything belongs, we can take and enjoy through the spirit of restraint, not taking much, only what is necessary, being like a keeper of something that belongs to someone else." If we have that type of attitude, our mind will always be fixed on God. When our mind is fixed on God we enjoy peace and we enjoy everything else. So, by performing sacrifices for God, He surely will bestow on us things for enjoyment. However, we are a thief if we enjoy what is given by God without offering Him anything in return. Everything we get is the gift of God: when we pass our exams, when we get a lot of money, when we buy a house, when we are rich, when we get the many things this earth bestows on us. But after getting all these things, we do not give anything in return. When we go to a temple for a blessing, for merit, we are committing sin if we do not make an offering. Rather than elevating ourselves, we either become worse or we stay the same as we are. What is the value in that?

Those who cook for their own sake partake of sin only. But those who partake of the remnants of sacrifice are freed from sin. We only eat what we like, it may not even be good, even harmful, for us and we take too much, throwing half of it in the dustbin because we do not think. We do not think about all those who are starving, all those suffering millions: that is the worst thing. Lord Krishna said that the food taken for our own selfish appetite and desire is no good - then we eat sin only. Giving from even the little bit we have is charity; that food we eat after sharing is what we call amritam, nectar. Eating the remnants of sacrifice frees us from all sins, it purifies our mind, our being and, so, we become pure-natured.

Spirit of sharing

In the spirit of sharing we help each other maturely, mutually, and as a result of that each one progresses. If we have that type of spirit there will be harmony, peace and progress; we will get everything and we will feel inwardly happy and peaceful. But when that type of spirit is not there selfishness is created, and forgetfulness regarding to Whom this belongs, for everything we have God has given us. Forgetting that is the basic and worst missing link from which stem all the problems of the world. Once we can remember that God gives us all these things and once we share with others, it has a psychological effect on our mind - it purifies us inwardly and when we are purified we experience peace and happiness. Self-purification cleanses us from ignorance, leading to knowledge and from knowledge to liberation. And that is the objective. 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 Three: Detachment brings peace and harmony

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