Nicholas Weeks – USA
[This article is based on a talk given in April 2010 at the Krotona Institute in Ojai, California by the author. References to Echoes of the Orient are from the revised version, 2009-2010.]
The second chapter begins to teach philosophy, but in such a way that Arjuna is led on gradually step by step to the end of the dialogue; and yet the very first instructions from Krishna are so couched that the end and purpose of the scheme are seen at the beginning.
Although philosophy seems dry to most people, and especially to minds in the Western world who are surrounded by the rush of their new and quite undeveloped civilization, yet it must be taught and understood. It has become the fashion to some extent to [reject] careful study or practice and go in for the rapid methods inaugurated in America. In many places emotional goodness is declared to exceed in value the calmness that results from a broad philosophical foundation, and in others astral wonder seeking, or great strength of mind whether discriminative or not, is given the first rank. Strength without knowledge, and sympathetic tears without the ability to be calm -- in fine, faith without works -- will not save us. And this is one of the lessons of the second chapter.
The greatest of the ancients inculcated by both symbols and books the absolute necessity for the acquirement of philosophical knowledge, inasmuch as strength or special faculties are useless without it... So, whether our strength is that of sympathy or of astral vision, we will be confounded if philosophical knowledge be absent.
But, so as not to be misunderstood, I must answer the question that will be asked, 'Do you then condemn sympathy and love, and preach a cold philosophy only?' By no means. Sympathy and emotion are as much parts of the great whole as knowledge, but inquiring students wish to know all that lies in the path. The office of sympathy, charity, and all other forms of goodness, so far as the effect on us is concerned, is to entitle us to [be helped]. By this exercise we inevitably attract to us those souls who have the knowledge and are ready to help us to acquire it also. But while we ignore philosophy and do not try to attain to right discrimination, we must pass through many lives, many weary treadmills of life, until at last little by little we have been forced, without our will, into the possession of the proper seeds of mental action from which the crop of right discrimination may be gathered.”
Arjuna asks Krishna:
As I am affected by compassion and yet fear doing wrong, my mind is bewildered. Tell me truly what may be best for me to do! I am thy disciple, wherefore instruct me in my duty...
Krishna, now the guru -- or spiritual teacher -- of Arjuna, makes a reply [in verses 11-25] which is not excelled anywhere in the poem; pointing out the permanence and eternal nature of the soul, the progress it has to make through reincarnation to perfection, the error of imagining that we really do anything ourselves, and showing how all duties must be performed by him who desires to reach salvation...
[These verses present] the same doctrine as is found in the Isa-Upanishad: The Identity of all Spiritual Beings, and Resignation [or acceptance]... There is only one life, one consciousness. It masquerades under all the different forms of sentient beings, and those varying forms with their intelligences mirror a portion of the One Life, thus producing in each a false idea of egoism. A continuance of belief in that false ego produces a continuance of ignorance, thus delaying salvation. The beginning of the effort to dissipate this false belief is the beginning of the Path; the total dissipation of it is the perfection of yoga, or union with God. The entry upon that Path cannot be made until resignation is consummated; for, as the Isa-Upanishad [v. 1] and the Bhagavad-Gita say:
‘All this, whatsoever moves on earth, is to be surrendered to the Lord -- the Self. When thou hast surrendered all this; then thou mayest enjoy.’
If this be true, then how necessary to consider philosophy so as to be able to cut off the false belief. And how useless to pursue occultism merely for your own benefit. You may know all about currents and polarities, about any and every phenomenon possible in the astral world, but with the death of your body it is lost, leaving to you only the amount of real spiritual advance you happen to have made. But once resign [your false ego] and all is possible. This will not ruin your life nor destroy any proper ideals; poor and petty ideals had better be at once lost. It may seem that all ideals are gone, but that will be only the first effect of taking this step.
We must be ready to say at any moment under whatever circumstances, whether expected or unexpected: 'It is just what I in fact desired.' For only those ideals can be dissipated which rest upon a lower basis than the highest aim, or which are not in accord with nature's (God's) law. And as our aim ought to be to reach the supreme condition and to help all other sentient beings to do so also, we must cultivate complete [acceptance of] the Law, the expression and operation of which is seen in the circumstances of life and the ebb and flow of our inner being. All that can be gotten out of wealth, or beauty, or art, or pleasure, are merely pools of water found along our path as it wanders through the desert of life. If we are not seeking them their appearance gives us intense pleasure, and we are thus able to use them for our good and that of others just so long as the Law leaves them to us; but when that superior power removes them, we must say: 'It is just what I in fact desired.' Any other course is blindness. All the passing shows of life, whether fraught with disaster or full of fame and glory, are teachers; he who neglects them, neglects opportunities which seldom the gods repeat. And the only way to learn from them is through the heart's resignation; for when we become in heart completely poor, we at once are the treasurers and disbursers of enormous riches...
We are not to shirk our karma; by abhorring it we only make new karma. Our only true course is to ‘let the motive for action be in the action itself, never in its reward; not to be incited to action by the hope of the result, nor yet indulge a propensity to inertness.’ This advice and the direction to see the one Spirit in all things and all things in It express the gist of the Bhagavad-Gita’s teaching as to the proper attitude to be assumed by those striving after salvation...
The encouragement given by Krishna leads us to consider what method is offered for entering upon the Path. We find it to be a right knowledge of the spirit. This right knowledge is found in the second chapter.
As by all illuminated sages, the ultimate truth is first declared by the Blessed Lord... in the very chapter wherein right action is insisted upon as the way to liberation. He then... points out errors and false views common to humanity...
Verse 41: -- In this system there is only one single object of a steady, constant nature... Those who do not persevere, and whose principles are indefinite, have objects with many ramifications and without end.
In the men thus described, desires for worldly or intellectual acquisitions prevail and, desires being infinite as also capable of producing endless modifications of desire, there is no concentration possible.
Sri Jnanadeva, a spiritual genius of the 13th century wrote a great commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita called the Jnaneshwari. Blavatsky referred to it in her Voice of the Silence. The “one single object” of verse 41, upon which concentration is needed, was glossed by Jnanadeva as Paramatma or Supreme Spirit or Self or God. He also said that “all sages, above all, seek this Wisdom.”
“We must seek for concentration in order that we may be able to do those actions which the All-Wise presents to us to be done, remaining the while unaffected. We have nothing to do with the results; they will come of themselves, and are beyond us; they are already done so far as we are concerned. But if we perform either an act of faith or an action of the body, hoping for any result -- no matter what -- we become to that extent attached to the consequences, and thus bound by them...
We should be imitators of the Deity, who, while acting as he does in the manifestation of universes, is at the same time free from all consequences. To the extent that we do so we become the Deity himself, for, as we follow the dictates of the Lord who dwells in us, we resign every act upon the altar, leaving the consequences to him.
The attitude to be assumed, is that of doing every act, small and great, trifling or important, because it is before us to do, and as a mere carrying out by us as instruments of the will of that Deity who is ourself. Nor should we stop to inquire whether the act is of any use to the Lord within. [Some] say, of what possible benefit to him can be the small hourly acts which, as soon as done, are forgotten? It is not for us to inquire. The act that pleases that Lord is the act which is done as presented with no attachment to its result, while the act that is unpleasing to him is the one which we do, desiring some result therefrom.
This practice is the highest; that which some day we must and will learn to perform. Other sorts are inculcated in other writings, but they are only steps to lead us at last to this. Therefore I said, Let us enter the Path as soon as we can.”
The essence of Krishna’s teachings is to become devoted. As verse 61 puts it: “Let a man, restraining his lower nature, remain firmly devoted to me, his true self; for he who has his lower self in control possesses spiritual knowledge.” The Secret Doctrine [I, 210] said that “DEVOTION... became the first and foremost motor in [human] nature; for it is the only one which is natural in our heart, which is innate in us... This feeling of irrepressible, instinctive aspiration in primitive man is beautifully... described by Carlyle. “The great antique heart, how like a child’s in its simplicity, like a man’s in its earnest solemnity and depth! Heaven lies over him wheresoever he goes or stands on the earth; making all the earth a mystic temple to him, the earth's business all a kind of worship.”
Judge valued spiritual devotion above all: “Kṛishna says, the kingly science and the kingly mystery is devotion to, and study of, the light which comes from within.” [Echoes I, 4]
“This devotion is what is inculcated by the Adepts to their chelas. It involves a mental abnegation not agreeable to our modern mind, but that must be acquired or real progress is impossible. We must by means of this mental devotion to the divine, which means abnegation of all the rest, dismiss all results of our actions. It is not ours to say what shall be the result of an action; the Law will bring about a result much better, perhaps, than we had imagined. If the results, if the passing daily circumstances, are not those we expected, then by means of devotion we accept them as just what the Law intended. But if we fix our desire on accomplishing even a seeming good result, we are bound by that desire, no matter whether our wish is accomplished or not.
This exhortation to devotion is at once the most simple and the most difficult. Some deride it because they want powers and 'development'; others because they think it too simple; but the wise student, even when he cannot at first grasp its meaning, will revolve it in his mind, strive after [devotion], and make it a thing to be attained by him...
Devotion must be obtained, sought after, desired, cultivated. The disciple must learn to do every act with the Divine in view, and the Divine in everything... It is seeing Krishna in everything, and everything in him. This at last we must do, for Isvara, the spirit in each of us, is none other than Krishna. Therefore let us think of him and fight; while entangled in this dense forest of existence, let us think of him, the Lion our guard, the Sage our guide, the Warrior our sure defense and shield... the Self [or Atman] is all, or if you like the word better, God: that God is all and not outside of nature, and that we must recognize this great unity of all things and beings in the Self.