In the last verse of the teaching of the Gita, the 66th verse, Krishna says,
Sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
Aham tva sarvapapebhyo moksayiyami ma sucah
Giving up all dharmas, take refuge in Me alone. I will release you from all karmas; do not grieve. (Verse 66)
`Give up all dharmas’, he says. In this context, `all dharmas’ mean `all karmas’…Give up all karmas, he says, seek me alone. At first glance, this could be misunderstood as an encouragement to lead the life of a renunciate, whereas the previous verse highlighted the life of a karma yogi. Remember, Krishna had said in the fourth chapter that there are two lifestyles for this knowledge: one is the lifestyle of karma yoga, one is the lifestyle of sanyasa. In the previous verse, he highlighted the karma yoga lifestyle, so one can infer that in this verse he is laying emphasis on the sanyasa lifestyle. Why? Because, as a karma-yogi, you’ve been there, done that, your priorities are taken care of, and nothing else is left. So why waste time? Seek the truth and nothing but the truth for the truth shall set you free.
Another aspect of this knowledge is to drop all your identifications, which come from the various roles you play. Understand that they are only roles. You may continue playing them, but realize that they are roles. Therefore, shift your identification from the roles, from your body, your mind, your knowledge, your ignorance, your emotional state, your profession, your job to what you really are. And Pure Awareness is what you are. Once you shift your identification, Krishna says, all your roles are automatically given up. You may still play them, but you know it’s a role. If it’s a role, it’s not a problem, but if you miss the Real, then the role becomes real. That’s what’s happening in many of our lives and that’s where the problem lies.
This shift of identification I speak about happens only with understanding, it’s a cognitive change that a person gains by the unfoldment of the Gita. The emotional growth, etc., gets taken care of by karma yoga. After that, what is necessary is a shift in terms of your understanding. This is not done by action, action is not the means here. The means here is purely cognition, to know. I have to know what I really am. Therefore, it is purely a question of knowledge. This is the knowledge Krishna has been unfolding all through the Gita from the second chapter onwards, the knowledge of the self, where he said that we change bodies like we change clothes. And he also said that nothing that is not already there cannot be manifested (verse 16). In Chapter 13, in verse 1, he had said that everything including the body, mind, etc., are objects of awareness (kshetra) and you are the awarer (kshetrajna) . In verse 2, he says that the sakshi/witness is me i.e. Ishvara. Therefore, you are the limitless, fulfilled being. Everything that he talked about pertains to this knowledge. Therefore, knowledge is what will give you this freedom i.e you discover yourself as free, never bound.
People talk about various yogas in the Gita. There are no yogas; there are two lifestyles—karma yoga and sanyasa. Choose what suits you, choose what you prefer. The yogas mentioned are jnana yoga, bhakti yoga. Yoga here means the means of mastering the mind. Remember what Krishna said earlier—`Competency in action is yoga’, `Balance of mind is yoga’. Regardless of how you arrive at this balance, whether by bhakti or karma or whatever, even maybe therapy, this balance is what one should be striving for. The sattvic mind is what you need to achieve. Once you come to the realm of the truth, it’s only pure understanding that is crucial. You may do some meditation, etc., to own up the truth, to make it your own, but otherwise it’s just purely understanding, knowledge-based cognition.
When I say `knowledge’, I’m not talking about it as an intellectual pursuit, I’m talking about it as sheer recognition, a change that cognition can bring about. When you understand something, change. It happens all the time. Previously, people used to eat a lot of junk food because they didn’t know enough about its ill-effects, but now there is a growing awareness. The moment we recognize how damaging it is to our health, it brings about a change in our understanding and our value structure. Once you know this, you would’n’t be gorging on junk food anymore. You can enjoy it once in a way, that’s all. This change is brought about only by cognition. Similarly, here, it is cognition that brings about the change to understand what you are. After having completed the teaching in this verse, the remaining verses, 67 to 78, are summing up the story.
Krishna says this knowledge should be given only to one who is fit to be a student. A fit student is one who has done some guru seva (served the teacher), tapas (effort), and has made efforts to grow. The idea is that he should be ready to do what it takes to learn. If that attitude is there, it can be taught. Those who teach this knowledge, says Krishna, are dearest to me. This is a pat on the back for all the teachers. He also says, `I will consider myself as having been worshipped by those who study the Gita’. Even those who hear it unintentionally, he says, earn great punya. He’s basically emphasising its worth here. Later, Krishna asks Arjuna in the last verse, the 73rd verse, `Hey, did you get what I taught you?’ Arjuna, who earlier said he could not even hold on to the bow, roars back, `My delusion is gone….All that I should do is very clear to me… The gandiva/ bow jumps back into my hands…I stand here ready to do what it takes…’ With this the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna is over.
The scene now shifts back to the palace where the whole thing started. Sanjaya has been reporting to Dhritarashtra and has been the unintended beneficiary of the dialogue, because he has been listening to all that is happening on the battle-field. Therefore, he says, with the whole vision of the truth, ` I feel blessed after hearing this conversation’. By Vyasa’s grace, he says, I have come to understand the Gita. Yatra yogeshwara Krishnaha, he says, meaning `Where there is Krishna, the Lord of yoga, this knowledge, this wisdom will be there, and where there is Arjuna with the uplifted bow, there will be wealth, prosperity, victory, of this I am certain’. In society, wherever spiritual knowledge guides leadership, there will be prosperity. I’m not talking about religious influences of leaders, I’m talking in the true sense about the way it was in ancient India where spiritual guidance was always available for the leaders. In one’s own life, if spiritual knowledge guides you and you function with a warrior spirit, which is not different from a karma-yoga spirit, if you put some pro-activity into karma yoga, well, there you are, ready to face anything that life throws at you. And if you can do that, how can you not be a competent, successful and, finally, a fulfilled human being?
That’s the note on which the Bhagavad Gita ends.
In our next and final post, I’ll sum up the important take-aways for the student from this very beautiful and important text.
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