Dr. Vijai S Shankar MD.PhD.
28th March 2008
The ‘Bhagvad Gita’ is a profound spiritual scripture as are all other scriptures belonging to the different religions. The Gita, like the rest, is profound because it is an outpouring from an enlightened soul. However, it is important to understand that the enlightened souls did not either read or learn spiritual scriptures or practise techniques such as ‘Yoga’ to become enlightened! Therefore one must not be deluded into thinking that reading spiritual scriptures and practising techniques will bestow enlightenment to the reader or to the practitioner!
Yoga means union. Union means the joining of two entities that are separate. But the ‘Bhagvad Gita’ has a deeper meaning to the word union, which is, that the two entities, i.e. the soul and man, are not separate to be united, but on the other hand the ego is merely a thought projected by consciousness! Furthermore an individual is always in union with God.
The ‘Bhagvad Gita’ has been read for many generations. A search for the significance of the Gita is constantly sought after. A keen desire persists to apply the wisdom of the Gita in a practical way in life. But could this be a possibility? What is man reading the Gita for? Is it to become as powerful as God or to become God? If this could happen, it would mean that the ego is the doer, and that enlightenment is dependent upon the reading of spiritual scriptures or the practice of techniques. Could enlightenment be dependent? If it were, it would make the scriptures and the techniques more potent than enlightenment! Then would it not be more spiritual just to read the Gita and practise techniques than to attain enlightenment! More importantly, what could then be the reason to read the Gita or practise Yoga?
One has to ponder if the ego is involved in attaining enlightenment by reading the Gita and practising its techniques such as ‘Yoga’. How could this be a possibility when the ‘Bhagvad Gita’ proclaims that the ego is not the doer? Since the ego (the ‘I’ thought) is not the doer, can it read? Since the ego is in the past or the future, can it make the eyes follow written words on a paper? Since the ego is not the doer, can it make the hand turn the pages of a book? Since the ego is not the doer, can it impart any meaning to the words it believes it reads? Since the ego is not the doer, can it practise? These primary questions should be addressed initially before one ventures to read a spiritual scripture of the stature of the ‘Bhagvad Gita’.
Every movement of the body, including the function of the mind, happens from the ‘Atma’ or the ‘Soul’. It means that all movements of the body involved in the act of practising, reading and the concomitant meaning imparted to the words is the prerogative of consciousness and not the ego. Since consciousness is omnipotent, it imparts as many actions and interpretations to written words as there are minds and bodies! It does this to impart variety and spice to life, and to create an illusion of a separate reader and doer. Existence expresses itself in a multitude of activities, both spiritual and mundane, so that one may come to realize the Atma as the real doer, and attain Self-Realization. But if one continues to think of himself or herself as the doer, then the whole purpose of reading a Holy Scripture such as the ‘Bhagvad Gita’ is defeated.
The ‘Bhagvad Gita’ proclaims that the whole world is merely a ‘Maya’, an illusion. Therefore searching for practical implications in the ‘Bhagvad Gita’ that could be applied to daily life (spiritual or mundane) would still be an illusion though it may appear to be real to the ego. This is the reason why man has remained the same: anger, anxiety, fear and uncertainty, etc. still plague the mind. The paradox is that the ego continues to strengthen the bondage by reading and practising austerities with a belief that it will lessen these!
If one is searching for a practical value from the Gita, the very searching will become a barrier for achieving whatever the ego intended to achieve! One must also consider the absence of such longing when the individual goes to sleep. If the practicality of the Gita is valuable, why is its quest absent during sleep? The paradox is that every individual is peaceful and contented in sleep, where there is a total absence of the need to read the Gita or to pursue its practical instructions. Hence peace and contentment are the accompaniment of a thoughtless state. When one attains this thoughtless state in the waking state, he or she becomes the ‘Bhagvad Gita’, and that is the ‘Atma’ or ‘Soul’.
How does one approach reading a spiritual scripture? To understand this one must understand how the process of reading has developed. Initially reading was confined to spiritual scriptures. This was during times when science had yet to be expressed within consciousness. As consciousness continued to express knowledge, reading included subjects such as philosophy, science, and in recent times, fiction. Man’s psyche thus became sophisticated so as to imagine and fantasize without any limitations! Hence these virtues will participate in modern times when one reads spiritual scriptures. This gives the ego the propensity to imagine spiritual experiences. An experience is a thought or an image within the mind.
One must understand that reality is dependent on illusion for its existence. If there were nothing called an illusion, then reality would also not exist. By understanding this illusion the Real reveals itself. The illusion provides a perfect contrast to comprehend the existence of that which is Real!
So, with an open mind, let us now ponder over these two statements from the ‘Bhagvad Gita’ that creates an illusion of a doer which when pierced will reveal Reality!
‘Yat karoshi yadashnaashi yajjuhoshi dadaasyat
Yat tapasyasi kaunteya tat kurushva mad arpanam’
Chp 9 V27
‘Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you gift away,
Whatever austerity you practise, ‘O’ Kaunteya, do it as an offering to ‘Me’.
A direct meaning of this verse implies that the ego is the doer. The words ‘do it as an offering to Me’ convey a meaning that Sri Krishna too has needs and desires just as any other man. This is just a superficial meaning and not the exact meaning that Sri Krishna wishes to drive home. The deeper meaning is that Sri Krishna knows that the ego is not the doer and by His using the word ‘Me’ he implies consciousness and not his ego! These words were uttered to make the reader understand that the ego is not the doer in an indirect way. This will be expounded now.
‘Whatever you do’, ‘do it as an offering to ‘Me’
These words are related to any activity that is external to the body. These could be agriculture, engineering, medicine, etc. Normally the mind is very business-minded. It will act only for a personal gain or benefit. The ego will never do anything that will benefit another. So when the words ‘do it as an offering to Me’ are remembered, the ego will not have the enthusiasm to do any act, for then it will mean that the gain or benefit too will belong to God and not to the ego. The ego will then try to rationalize and conclude that there is no point in doing any act if it is not going to be benefited. This rationalization will also include God! The paradox is that though the ego will not have the desire to act, it will be bewildered to find that activities still do occur. This will make the intelligence impart an understanding that the ego has never been the doer and that God has been the doer all the while! Whenever you do yoga, understand it is happening to you. By this understanding you will be in yoga!
‘Whatever you eat, ‘do it as an offering to’ Me’
These words are related to any activity that is internal to the body. It also includes drinking and inhaling. The ego only does these activities according to its desire for taste. In such acts there is insistence and demands. And if at such times the ego remembers that it has to offer these acts to Krishna, the ego will hesitate for it will mean that the ego is desiring for Krishna. Fear will grip the ego, and insistence and demands for such acts therefore will dissolve. The internal acts still go on, and this observance will induce a conviction that the ego need not demand, request or insist since such acts happen anyway. The understanding then will happen that the ego is not the doer! By this understanding you will be in yoga!
‘Whatever you offer in sacrifice’, ‘do it as an offering to ‘Me’
Sacrifice is a spiritual act in relation to God. Sacrifice is a fulfillment of a vow to God, or an application for a request to be fulfilled. Again, if the words ‘do it as an offering to Me’ are in focus the ego will be defeated by logic, for how could God demand a sacrifice? And the very need to sacrifice will be effaced. In spite of this the ego will observe that circumstances make sacrifices happen, even without the ego wanting it, and this will prove that God is the doer and not the ego! Next time when you make an offering understand that everything belongs to God and you do not possess anything to make an offering. By this understanding you will be in yoga!
‘Whatever you gift away’, ‘do it as an offering to ‘Me’
This act relates one ego with another. A gift is a subtle bribe no matter how good the intentions are. A gift is normally given to another either to maintain good relationship or to procure personal gain. If at the time of offering a gift the words ‘do it as an offering to Me’ are remembered, the ego will be embarrassed as it would amount to bribing God! The paradox is that the act of gifting does occur even though the ego would not like to do it! This only proves that it is God who is gifting himself appearing as man! This enforces the conviction that God is the doer and not the ego! Next time when you make a gift understand that everything belongs to God and you do not possess anything to gift away. By this understanding you will be in yoga!
‘Whatever austerity you practice’, ‘do it as an offering to ‘Me’.
Austerity is a spiritual act in relationship to God or Self-Realization. These are various types of meditation, rituals, and yoga. When these acts happen and the words ‘do it as an offering to ‘Me’ are remembered, it would be very illogical to continue austerities for it would mean that the ego is trying to make God attain Self Realization! These acts do happen to man so that he may understand that yoga is his nature and that Self –Realization is not an act to be brought about by the ego doing austerities! Man will perceive that man is not and only God is! When you meditate or do yoga understand that meditation and yoga is not an act to be done by the ego, but it is happening to you. By this understanding you will be in yoga!
The bottom line is, the understanding that life happens. This happening called life includes all acts that involve the body and the mind. The ego is merely a claimer, and not the doer. The understanding that the deed comes first, and then the doer becomes a conviction. This conviction will make one transcend from man to Godhead! This is the essence of the ‘Bhagvad Gita’!
© Copyright V.S. Shankar, 2003