Shree Bhagavaan uvaacha:
abhayam sattvasamshuddirjnyaanayogavysavasthitihi |
daanam damashcha yajnyashcha svaadhyaayastapa aarjavam || 1 ||
Shree Bhagavaan said:
Fearlessness, purity of mind, steadfastness in the yoga of knowledge, charity, self control, worship, self study, penance and straightforwardness.
abhayam : fearlessness
sattvasamshuddihi : purity of mind
jnyaanayoga : yoga of knowledge
vysavasthitihi : steadfastness
daanam : charity
damaha : self control
cha : and
yajnyaha : worship
cha : and
svaadhyaayaha : self study
tapaha : penance
aarjavam : straightforwardness
Some commentators believe that the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of the Gita are used to clarify points that were hinted at in the prior chapters, almost like an appendix. This chapter is one of the more practical chapters in the Gita, and picks up on a statement made in the ninth chapter where three types of people – divine, devilish and evil. It describes two sets of qualities, divine and devilish, so that we can do an assessment of where we stand, to understand which qualities to tone down and which qualities to emphasize.
Shri Krishna says that the first divine quality is abhayam or fearlessness. Once we realize that the universe is a play of Ishvara’s Prakriti, and our role in it is to exhaust or desires, we automatically develop fearlessness. We are even able to be fearless of death, the greatest fear, because we have understood that death applies to the body, not to the self. Another source of fear is loss or harm caused to our property and our relationships. If we remove the label of mine from everything, and recognize that everything is Ishvara’s, fear automatically goes away.
The next quality is sattva samshuddhi, purity of mind. Sattva here refers to the antahakarana, the mind and the senses, because they are created from the sattva aspect of Prakriti. The foremost indication of a pure mind is the absence of any thought of cheating someone else, or cheating oneself. Even if we know that someone has done something wrong, we should tactfully deal with the situation, without putting them on the spot, or by making fun of them.
Let’s now look at what is meant by jnyaanam or knowledge. True knowledge is knowledge of our own self, the answer to the question who am I. This knowledge is passed on from teacher to student through detailed study and analysis of the scriptures. Also, yoga refers to any process that connect us to something higher. So then, the third quality of jnyaana yoga avasthithi refers to the process of internalizing this knowledge by withdrawing the sense organs and mind from the play of the world, and constantly abiding in this knowledge.
We have seen how the notion that something is mine or something is my property can become a hinderance in the spiritual journey. An easy way to counter this notion of mine-ness is to engage in daanam or charity, the fourth quality. Whenever we feel that our pride in our possessions is increasing, we should examine where it is coming from, and weed out the source of our pride though charity. However, charity cannot be performed haphazardly. We have to put a lot of thought into what we are giving, how we are giving, when we are giving and so on. This is covered in great detail in the seventeenth chapter.
Another obstacle in the spiritual journey is the importance we give to our sense organs. They are kept in check by the fifth quality which is damaha or sense control. The natural tendency of the sense organs is to demand objects that are pleasant to them, but probably not beneficial to our personality as a whole. The tongue wants unhealthy foods, for instance. But it is important to note that like anything else, moderation is prescribed rather than complete denial, which has its own problems.
The sixth divine quality is that of yajnya, a topic that was covered elaborately in the fourth chapter. Essentially, it means that our dealings with the world should be performed thoughtfully. We owe our daily existence to our teachers, our deities, our environment, our ancestors, our fellow human beings and to nature. The payoff of these debts gave rise to the five types of yajnyas that are prescribed in the scriptures. The culmination of the spirit of yajnya is the giving up of our sense of I, our identity, to Ishvara.
For most children, and even for adults, studying is a boring and dreadful exercise, something to be dispensed off quickly. But Shri Krishna says that studying of the Gita, the Vedas, the Puraanas, any spiritual text, is an essential quality of the seeker. The emphasis is on the word self, which has two implications. We should be forced to study by someone else. The inspiration should come from within. Also, we should perform introspection, and not use the teaching to analyze and improve other people.
Tapaha or penance and austerity is the eighth divine quality. Austerity is not to be taken literally where one retires into the jungle and shuns all worldly duties. It refers to the fulfilling of one’s duties while staying firm in the face of any obstacles, and by not wasting time and energy at the level of body, mind or intellect. Doing so requires patience and tact, but the payoff is the buildup of a reservoir of energy that can be channelized for spiritual pursuits. Further details on the various types of tapaha are found in the seventeenth chapter.
The ninth divine quality is aarjavam or straightforwardness. It refers to those who mean what they say and say what they mean. Their actions, speech and thought are aligned. There is no hint of crookedness or deceit in their dealings. It should be construed as being overly simple in a negative sense. Whenever we notice that we have strayed from this quality, it usually means that selfishness has entered into our system, and we need to correct it.
Shree Bhagavaan uvaacha: