As we ring in the New Year 2018, it can be refreshing to pick a flower each from the 18 bouquets presented by Sage Vyāsa in form of the 18 chapters of the Song Celestial.
1 Examine your attachments. The very word that the old king Dhritarāsthra uses to refer to the Kauravas, in the very first verse of the grand poem is “māmakāh” – “my sons”. All our conflicts, battles or wars – call them as you may – arise from strong attachments implied by the word “my”. Can we question our own attachments?
2 Give up your attachment to results of action. The line that is perhaps most quoted from the Geetā is, “Your right is to your duty, and not to the fruit thereof.” Yes, a very precious teaching of Lord Shri Krishna is that we must focus on doing our duty, giving our best to others in every situation, and not waste our energy in regrets over ‘what we got’ or anxiety over ‘what we will get’.
3 Recognize ‘how you are made’ or ‘where you belong.’ We must dedicate ourselves to serving in the capacity that is aligned with our personality. Without comparing with others, who are made differently, we bring out the best from within us, and that is the prominent teaching of ‘swadharma’. It is better to die in ‘swadharma’ (our own, right field) than to seemingly do well in ‘para-dharma’ (the field where somebody else belongs).
4 Knowledge liberates. The wisdom of our true nature – Self-knowledge – is the panacea to all our ailments. No matter how wrongly we have been living and how disorganized or defective our ways have been, we can cross over all misery by the power of ‘right knowledge’. This liberating understanding acts as a boat that takes us across the wide river of worldly suffering.
5 Be like the lotus leaf! If we could fix our mind in the Pure Truth (or God, if that is preferred), that is ever free of the crippling ideas of “I, me and mine,” we can live (and work) in freedom. This is comparable with the lotus leaf, which remains dry despite water being around it all the time!
6 Be like the steady flame in a windless spot! The good news is that we can set right our messed life by working on ourselves patiently. Through frequent contemplation on spiritual truths, our mind becomes like the steady, bright flame in a windless spot. Situations of mutually opposite nature like defeat and victory, insult and praise etc. cannot throw us off balance.
7 Recognize the Divine everywhere! A thread, though often invisible, holds a number of precious stones together in a necklace. God (or the Pure Self) is similarly ever present, though invisible, in everything that is beautiful, marvellous and magnificent. We must have the eyes to see the Divine everywhere.
8 When one hand of yours is at work, hold God with the second. As soon as the work is over, hold God with both your hands. The great scripture advises us to constantly remember God and keep doing our duty.
9 Nothing can destroy you when you are devoted to God. Our constant anchoring in higher values, remembering the deeper dimension of Awareness as our true nature (rather than the body or the mind), will stand by us. Gravest circumstances pass away and – thanks to our spiritual wisdom – we shall emerge unhurt and victorious.
10 God (the Truth) is ever with you, in your own heart! The Lord says, “I am the Self, seated in everybody’s heart! I’m their beginning, the middle and the end!” We thus constantly question the play of our spiritually ignorant mind, which misleads us to believe we are away from God.
11 Hate none; be attached to none! The Geetā assures us that a virtuous life, guided by right values and love of God, where we neither cling to anyone nor harbour ill will against anybody, is sure to help us unite with divinity.
12 Respect both jnāna and bhakti! We are told in no uncertain terms that we can approach the Truth either ‘without name and form’ or as a personal God. Considering the numerous attachments that we typically have, the former way of adoring the ‘inexpressible’ is harder; the latter way of adoring the Truth in the form of a person is less hard!
13 The supreme truth is the light of all lights! The highest reality, called Brahman elsewhere, is of the nature of Pure Consciousness (termed chitelsewhere). The Geetā presents this principle of Awareness (called prajnānam in Aitareya Upanishad) as “that which is to be known” (jneya).
14 You become very sensitive, caring and understanding when the attribute of sattva is predominant in you. Employing a beautiful metaphor, Shri Krishna says, “Light emanates from every pore of your body,” when sattva gets an upper hand over rajas and tamas.
15 God makes us know, remember or forget too! The ego is utterly false. Our idea, “I do, I think, I write, I speak, I create or I destroy” is not the truth. Everything is God’s doing. We are normally unable to visualize the dynamics of the totality and, for us, the individuality appears very real.
16 Scriptures are your guide! In the matters of right and wrong, where subtle perception of human values and enhanced sensitivity to real life conditions come into the picture, the great scriptures, rightly interpreted by pious, broadminded scholars, guide us. They help us decide what we may do and what we may not.
17 Speak what is true, pleasing, beneficial and not agitating. An orderly daily life is marked by self-discipline on the planes of body, speech and mind. The four criteria that decide austerity in the context of speech are: our words should not be false; they should not agitate the other person; they should be pleasing; and they should benefit the other person.
18 Give up the thousand ideas of who you are, and abide by the Pure Self. (The devotional interpretation of this is: give up all notions of duty and surrender to Me.) In the context of self-inquiry, we need to do what our conscience says out duty is; on a deeper level, however, we must abandon the numerous concepts of I, which are but faces of the ego only. Abidance in the Self then happens. All sins come to an end then; all suffering ceases.
VERSES USED AS BASIS (Chapter No. and Verse No.)
1 māmakāh pāndavās-chaiva - verse 1.1
2 karmani eva adhikāras-te, mā phaleshu kadāchana – 2.47
3 svadharme nidhanam shreyah – 3.35
4 jnāna-plavena eva vrijinam santarishyasi – 4.36
5 padma-patram-ivāmbhasā – 5.10
6 yathā deepo nivātastho nengate.. – 6.19
7 sootre mani-ganā iva – 7. 7
8 mām-anusmara yudhya cha – 8.7
9 na me bhaktah pranashyati – 9.31
10 aham-ātmā gudākesha – 10.20
11 nirvairah sarva-bhooteshu – 11.55
12 kleshah adhikatarah teshām – 12.5
13 jyotishām-api tad jyotih – 13.17
14 sarva-dvāreshu dehe asmin prakāsha upajāyate – 14.11
15 mattah smritih jnānam apohanam cha – 15.15
16 tasmāt shāstram pramānam te – 16.24
17 anudvegakaram vākyam satyam priya-hitam cha yat – 17.15
18 sarva-dharmān parityajya mām-ekam sharanam vraja – 18.66