Yogis, Adhikaris and privileged births

The following is an excerpt of the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Radhikaji from her forthcoming book to be published in 2017. This article summarizes verses 37-47 from Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita and verses 1-7 from Chapter 7.

Verses 37-39: Doubts and Faith

These three verses represent the doubts that even the best of students experiences about his own capabilities and the result of these efforts. You too may have wondered at times whether you are wasting your time reading spiritual books, if you will really be able to attain, and what will happen to all that effort when you leave this plane? Is that effort all wasted? You swing from one extreme to the other. You put in a lot of energy into building up that faith, but then again the doubts start creeping in. You doubt your teacher, you doubt your practice, you doubt yourself and this makes you weaker and weaker. A doubting mind cannot progress. The biggest fear is: what if, having put in all that effort and time, I still do not attain?

These are the doubts that all seekers have to deal with. Arjuna, like all seekers is seeking reassurance from his teacher. 

Verses 40-45: Law of Karma

The law of Karma is an unforgiving law. Your thoughts and deeds will determines the kind of body you will acquire (jati), the lifespan that body will enjoy (ayus) and experiences that body will go through (bhoga). If your thoughts and deeds are dark and negative, then the law of karma is brutal. Should your thoughts and deeds be full of light, positive and healthy then this law works in your favour. 

In finance at the end of the financial year, the  profit or the losses are carried over to the next year. This is exactly what happens to you, when you go to your next life. Your accounts are carried over from this life into the next. If your karmic balance sheet  is positive you get a higher birth, you enjoy a good lifespan and life experiences. If your karmic balance sheet is negative you will get a body that is appropriate for living out that kind of karma. It is a just law and at the same time, it is unforgiving. You cannot just wipe the slate clean. This is a simplified explanation of how the law of karma works. The actual process is far more complex. Imagine a supercomputer that calculates with innumerable constantly changing variables!

None of the effort you put in to sadhana is lost. In a sense you always continue from where you left off. This explains why some sages and saints unfolded their divine nature very early. 

Sometimes, when we think of the fallen one we think of one who is decadent, materialistic or evil. One who has fallen from yoga, is one who has had glimpses and insights, but has not been able to establish himself in a higher state of consciousness. So such a person is indeed evolved and therefore born into the homes of pure glorious beings, prosperous people or in the home of wise yogis. Such a birth brings with it great advantages. What you would otherwise have to learn the hard way, comes to you already when you are in the cradle. It is like learning a language in your mother's lap naturally as opposed to learning a language when you grow up. A privileged birth in the homes of yogis would enable an evolved jiva to remember and enfold yogic qualities naturally and effortlessly.

Verse 46: Comparison of margas or paths

The yogi refers to one who has a systematic method. A meditator has a systematic and scientific method that leads from the gross to the subtle and finally to the subtle-most. The focus on the path leads to deeper understanding and integrating yogic truths through direct experience until the yogi attains Sakshatkara or Self realization. 

The one endowed with knowledge is the jnani. He may have a philosophical background and his path may as yet only be the focussed on understanding yogic theory. He may or may not have any kind of direct experience. Intellectual and theoretical knowledge cannot lead us to the direct experience of the Highest. The Shiv Sutras (SS I.2)  say “Jnanam bandhah” or “Knowledge binds.” This may come as a shock to many who firmly believe that knowledge liberates. Worldly knowledge or intellectual knowledge strengthens Ahamkara and this pulls you deeper in to the bondage of karma. This worldly knowledge is Apara Vidya, the knowledge of this shore. The verse does not refer to knowledge that you acquire through direct experience of Pure Consciousness in a non-dual state or a glimpse of it, that is eventually integrated into one’s life. 

An ascetic is a sanyasi or renunciate. His path is of external renunciation or tyaga accompanied by the practice of austerities  or tapas. Tyaga is not a complete path. Mere external renunciation can lead to hypocrisy or self torture. The practice of Vairagya or internal renunciation is essential for attainment.

You may try to make your life beautiful and joyous by performing your actions skillfully and lovingly. This is the path of karma or skillful action but it is not a systematic path. 

Why is the systematic approach considered the most superior path? The systematic path of meditation is considered the best because it is a speedy path. You learn to use your sankalpa shakti or will and sharp intellect or buddhi and equipped with these you take the shortcut or the direct way from the gross to the subtle-most. Therefore this path is considered the best.

Verse 47: Is Bhakti or devotion the best path?

This verse has been quoted by many to give credence to the popular belief that bhakti is the highest path even though the words bhakti, bhakta or bhakti marga have not been used in the verse. 

The verse clearly defines the One whose mind, or antahkarana is well coordinated and devoted to pure consciousness is the greatest of all yogis. Such a great one is truly united in Yoga. This is known as mahabhava. Such a yogi is a Self realized sage.

This is not the bhakti as it is understood by most people to mean singing songs, dancing, performing rituals or reading and hearing stories about the life of Krishna and other deities. This external form of bhakti may be inspiring and comforting, but it not referred to in this verse. 

Chapter 7 Jnana Vijnana Yoga
Verses 1-3: Direct Experience

It is not enough to have a theoretical understanding of the process of manifestation and dissolution. With direct experience of the Absolute nothing else remains to be known.

Imagine you need to have surgery. Would you like to have a surgeon, who has never operated before and has only read books on anatomy? No of course not. Yet most people only have theoretical knowledge. They have studied the scriptures but have realized nothing. The Bhagavad-Gita says we need to do both. 

Only the rare few will endeavor for direct experience to realize the Truth and attain perfection on this path.

Verses 4-7: Gross and Subtle energies

At first the 5 Bhutas or elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space are mentioned. This is the gross level the material world. This a gross form or material form of energy.

It mentions the Antahkarana or the inner instrument of the mind, a very subtle and fine most of energy. Manas, Buddhi and Ahamkara are thus forms of energy or Prakruti.

Everything is Consciousness including the gross forms of energy, earth water fire here space. One is the material form and the other the subtle or transcendent form of energy, including the divas or individual souls. The jivas evolve from Pure Consciousness and resolve back into Pure Consciousness. The entire world evolves from and is resolved back into Pure Consciousness. This is pralaya or dissolution of the world. Consciousness or the finest subtle energy is the building block of the world. There is nothing beyond pure consciousness.

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