We are shadows; and we keep on chasing shadows throughout our lives. And we are unhappy because we have chosen to be unhappy.
Though our real nature is sat-chit-ananda (real blissful consciousness), many of us lead unhappy life by behaving like Duryodhan who had stated, “Jaanaami dharmam na cha me pravrttih, jaanaami adharmam na cha me nivrttih” (I know what is right but I do not practise it. I know what is wrong but I do not forsake it.)
Literally meaning the “Divine Song”, Bhagavad Gita is a perfect guide in our daily life. Gita takes us from ordinariness to excellence, from despair to bliss, from negativity to positivity, from emptiness to fullness and from turmoil to tranquility.
Gita stipulates what can, and what cannot, bring peace of mind. It charts the path leading to excellence, supreme success, bliss, serenity and ever-lasting peace of mind. It guides us to overcome all dualities like pain and pleasure, victory and defeat, honour and dishonour, attachment and aversion, success and failure, joy and sorrow, anxieties, self-imposed limitations, bondages, ego, greed, anger, fears and frustrations of life to lead happier, fuller, contented and supremely successful and blissful life.
The revered book extols positive action and fulfillment; not fatalism and passivity. It teaches that being happy, successful, equanimous and tranquil is a matter of choice and not a matter of destiny; and that we can ensure that sweet symphony of bliss pervades our life.
It says- Equanimity brings bliss. An important theme of Bhagvad Gita is ‘equanimity’ as Shloka 2.48 also proclaims, “Samatvam yoga uchyate” (equanimity is Yoga).
Equanimity means facing any situation with calmness and fortitude, and remaining unruffled in the above-mentioned dualities like pain and pleasure, victory and defeat, honour and dishonour, attachment and aversion, success and failure, joy and sorrow etc. Equanimity also means freedom from personal likes and dislikes. Though as per Vedanta, equanimity is our true nature, we become finite and limited, and get affected by dualities since we identify ourselves with our body, mind and intellect.
It does not mean neutrality or negativity. It means positivity, completeness, happiness and fullness. Only a person who is complete and happy can be equanimous and remain unaffected in all situations. As per Shloka 6.22, “Yasmin sthito na dukhen gurunaapi Vichaalayate” (no situation, whatsoever, can disturb a person situated in Yoga).
Gita guides us to become ‘Sthit Pragya’ which literally means situated in wisdom but actually denotes a person having equanimity.
When vide Shloka 2.54 Arjun asks Bhagwan Krishna as to who is a Sthit Pragya’, vide Shlokas 2.55 onwards Bhagwan describes various attributes of ‘Sthit Pragya’.
As per Shloka 2.55 “The person who gives up all desires, is contented and is satisfied with himself, is said to be ‘Sthit Pragya’.
Shlokas 2.56 and 2.57 further elaborate that Sthit Pragya is someone who remains unruffled in pain and pleasure; who is free from attachment, fear and anger; and who neither rejoices nor hates.
Here it is relevant to refer to Shloka 16.21 which stipulates that lust, anger and greed are three gateways to hell, and must be avoided.
Shlokas 2.62 and 2.63 caution that thinking about sense-objects develops attachment; attachment leads to desire; unfulfilled desire leads to anger; anger leads to delusion; delusion leads to loss of memory; loss of memory brings forth loss of intellect; and loss of intellect is disastrous.
To break this vicious circle of attachment, desire and misery, one should control the mind and become Sthit Pragya.
In Shloka 6.34, Arjun complains about waywardness of mind, “….Mind is restless, turbulent, adamant and obstinate. Like the wind, it is very difficult to be controlled”.
Appreciating Arjun’s anguish, Bhagwan offers these soothing words in Shloka 6.35, “….Though the mind is restless and adamant, it can be controlled by practice and detachment”.
The reward of this ‘practice’ and ‘detachment’ would be the lasting peace of mind.
Engaging in selfless actions which help others is real Karma Yoga (path of action) and brings bliss. Performing our duty with equanimity and selflessness is “Karmayog”. When there is selfish desire, the work is only “karma” (activity) and not “karmayog”.
Being selfish and self-centred generates agitation and stress. Our selfless actions aimed at helping others give us joy and happiness. Besides, our selflessness makes us full, complete and infinite.
Motives of our actions determine the merits of our actions. Our selfish and negative actions are stressful and upsetting whereas our selfless and benevolent actions which serve others liberate us from our ego and lead to bliss.
Happiness is not something we receive from others; but it is something we give to others. We also can experience the infinite joy of selfless giving; and be the instruments for our blissful life. We hanker after power and material things because of a sense of insecurity and emptiness within. This insecurity and emptiness would vanish if we do selfless actions to help others.
Any discussion about Gita must also include Shloka 2.47 which stipulates,“Karmanyave adhikaaraste ma phleshu kadaachan, ma karmphal heturbhurma te sango astav akarmani” (Your right is only to do your duty without brooding over its outcome. Neither the result of your action should be your motive; nor should you forsake action).
This Shloka glorifies action; and decries inaction and fatalism. Detachment does not mean inaction. Rather, detachment means focussed action without brooding over the result of action. By avoiding thoughts about the outcome of action, we get liberated from anxieties, frustrations and fears caused by desire-driven actions.
Similarly, Shloka 2.50 elevates action to the status of Yoga since Yoga means doing one’s selfless duty with perfection (“yogah karmsu kaushalam”).
Desires and contentment
For Chanakya, “contentment is the divine orchard” (Santosho nandanam vanam).
Gita stipulates that being unaffected by our desires, and cultivating contentment brings peace of mind. As per Shloka 2.70, “Only the one who remains unruffled by the incoming desires as the ocean is unruffled when rivers enter into it can attain a peaceful state of mind”. Taking these sentiments further, Shloka 2.71 echoes, “Only the person who has given up all desires, and who has no attachment and no vanity can attain peace of mind”.
Servility to desires brings bondage, agitation and distress. Liberation from desires establishes us in contentment and bliss. Gita proclaims that sense objects are the source of misery, and cannot give lasting peace as Shloka 5.22 stipulates, “Sensual pleasures are indeed the source of misery. They have a beginning and an end, and therefore, the wise do not indulge in them.”
Sense objects and worldly pleasures are impermanent, and can give only temporary relief. Material pleasures are bound to diminish or disappear because of the impact of time and space. Seeking permanence in temporary things is obviously illogical. Happiness gained by acquisition of material things does not last long since we feel the vacuum again and long for something else to fill it. It is contentment, and no amount of acquisition or indulgence, which can bring lasting satiation and happiness. Santosha (contentment) is one of the Niyams of Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga, as also an important attribute of Dharma.
From turmoil to tranquility
Gita describes three Gunas (qualities) viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas which shape every person’s life. Every person has Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in varying proportions. Sattva is purity, virtuousness, fullness, contentment, selflessness, compassion, positivity, equanimity and serenity; Rajas is selfishness, passion, agitation, stress, strain, arrogance, vanity, restlessness and greed while Tamas is ignorance, anger, complacency, passivity, pessimism, negativity, laziness and lethargy.
Saatviks are contented persons who have control over their desires, and perform their actions selflessly. Raajsiks are motivated into action by their desires; and are obsessed with the fruit of action. Taamsiks on the otherhand have desires but they achieve nothing since they do nothing to fructify their desires. Gita guides us to travel from Tamas and Rajas to dwell in Sattva to lead a successful, socially useful and blissful life. Besides, Gita guides us to go even beyond these three Gunas to become a Gunateet to attain self-realisation.
The person who is in Sattva mode is unruffled by desires; is equanimous in pain and pleasure; controls his senses; transcends the feelings of attachment, aversion, ego, greed, fear and anger; engages in selfless action; and attains supreme success and lasting peace of mind.
It is our nature to dwell in Sattva and lead Saatvik life to enjoy perpetual happiness and bliss as Mandukya Upanishad stipulates that you are “Shantam, shivam, advaitam…..” (You are serenity; you are auspiciousness; you are divinity).
JG Arora (The writer is former Chief Commissioner of Income Tax)