Let’s start with a story about a professor who was going around the world studying different churches, temples, and mosques. When he reached the Basilica of Rome, he was very impressed. It’s a beautiful church, and as he was walking around he came upon a golden telephone lying on a table. Curious, he asked the priest there about the phone and was told that it was a hotline to God. And how much does a phone call cost, he asked. Ten thousand dollars was the answer. The professor immediately stepped away from it and declared that he was not interested. Later, he landed up at a mosque in Istanbul. Once again, he saw a similar golden telephone but, like before, the cost of a phone call was a deterrent…..10000 US Dollars was too much, he complained to the attendant and left in a huff. Later, he landed up at a temple in India. It was a beautiful temple, located in Tamil Nadu, and guess what?….As he roamed around the temple, he saw a similar golden telephone perched on a window there. How much, he asked the attendant. He was expecting to hear `10000 dollars’, but he was in for a surprise. `Only one rupee, saar’, the attendant announced. `But it’s 10000 dollars everywhere else,’ the professor informed him. `From here, it’s a local call, saar’, the attendant retorted. Obviously, the attendant didn’t mean to say that God is only in the temples and only in India; he meant that God is everywhere. Once you have that understanding, then God is not a matter for belief anymore, and your emotional connect also has to be born from this understanding.[pullquote] It is soaked until the `rassa’ has totally permeated the `golla’ after which it becomes a `rossogolla’. If you’re diet-conscious, you will want to squeeze the `rassa’, the sweet syrup, out of it, but the rossogolla will still be sweet. In the same way, contemplation of the Reality has to be done in such a way that it permeates one’s whole mind. [/pullquote]
The twelfth chapter starts with a question from Arjuna. Worship can be divided into either contemplation on Ishwara or contemplation on the Reality of what I really am. Worship of Ishwara makes me a better karma yogi, contemplating on the Reality directly helps me own the truth, which is what we are after. So Arjuna wants to know who is a better yogi of the two—the one who contemplates on Ishwara or on Reality, on the truth? The answer should be quite evident—if you contemplate on the truth, you come to own up the truth, it becomes a fact of your life. But Krishna doesn’t say that. To start with, he says: With his mind on me, the one who contemplates on me regularly, with shraddha i.e. with great trust and confidence, he is supposed to be the best.
Mayyavesya mano ye mam nityayukta upasate
Sraddhaya parayopetaste me yuktatama matah
Sri Bhagavan said: Endowed with unflinching faith, their minds committed to Me, being ever united (with Me), those who meditate upon Me are considered by Me as the most exalted. (Verse 2)
Although those who contemplate on the truth, on the non-changing, non-decaying, ultimate Reality reach me, he says, those who worship Ishwara are the best. This appears contradictory. But this is resolved in the third verse where he says that the troubles of those who go directly to the contemplation of the ultimate Reality are greater. This is because their minds may not be prepared to contemplate.
Kleso dhikatarastesam avyaktasaktacetasam
Avyakta hi gatirdulikham dehavadbhiravapyate
Greater is the affliction for those whose minds are committed to what cannot be objectified for an end which cannot be objectified is reached with difficulty by those who are identified with the body. (Verse 5)
This is a very common mistake made by many. A lot of people try to jump directly into contemplation and, after a few days of trying, if they don’t succeed, they give it up. So Krishna advises to take a step-by-step approach. Invoke Ishwara as the totality, contemplate on that, or use a simple chant, or you could also take Ishwara as a deity, as Shiva, Krishna or Devi, or any deity that is consistent with your cultural understanding, your religious background. Why? Because it is something you can relate to. Contemplating on the Reality, especially if you are not sure what the Reality is, is a tough job if not impossible. If you don’t know, you can definitely not contemplate. You must remember that one doesn’t contemplate to know, but one contemplates to own up what one already knows. It is a myth that you can know the truth in meditation. You know the truth when you operate a means of knowledge.
Any knowledge is gained only when you operate a means of knowledge. Therefore, Vedanta is a means of knowledge to know yourself, and it is operated when you are listening to the unfoldment of the spiritual text. But what you know may not be clear and, therefore, you have to clarify your doubts, etc. until there are no more doubts. Now, doubts can come either from the basis of your thinking, the basis of your experience, or because of old conditionings. For a long time we have been conditioned by the thought that the roles I play are myself, the body is me, the mind is me. This is the conditioning that has gone on for a lifetime. Therefore, in spite of knowing, I might not be able to live in that knowledge because my old thinking may come back. To break that, we do contemplation of the Reality.
I’ll give you the example of the Indian sweet, the rossogolla, which is essentially paneer balls dipped in syrup. The paneer ball is made first, which is called the `golla’, and this is dipped into a sugary flavoured syrup called `rassa’. It is soaked until the `rassa’ has totally permeated the `golla’ after which it becomes a `rossogolla’. If you’re diet-conscious, you will want to squeeze the `rassa’, the sweet syrup, out of it, but the rossogolla will still be sweet. In the same way, contemplation of the Reality has to be done in such a way that it permeates one’s whole mind. Having done this, however tough life’s challenges are, you will always remember the truth. But this involves doing a lot of work beforehand. For this I need a contemplative mind. One way to get this contemplative mind, with reference to Arjuna’s question, is the contemplation of Ishwara. Therefore, contemplation of Ishwara becomes almost like a prerequisite to contemplate on the Reality.
I have mentioned this before in earlier posts—you can contemplate Ishwara in various forms: in the form of the Himalayas, in the form of a river, in nature, etc. Therefore, let’s not think that Ishwara always has to be in the form of a particular deity. Therefore, when you contemplate on Ishwara, your mind becomes used to being contemplative. You can handle worry, anxiety, etc., with your attitude of karma-yoga, and contemplation of Reality is an easy process after you have practised contemplation of Ishwara. Therefore, he says, those who try to do it directly will have to struggle and, instead, the one who contemplates on Ishwara is better off. To sum up, you start with the contemplation of Ishwara, and once the knowledge is clear you move on to the contemplation of Reality.
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