Krishna said, "Arjuna, I am your very Self. Focus your mind steadily on me, and with your mind fixed on me do your duty."
If you do your work, being aware of your own reality, you will accomplish great things. Actions performed with the awareness of the atma, your true self, are free from bondage. To carry on your work while at the same time, being fully aware of your identity with the atma, requires perfect control over the senses. Sense-control is an essential precondition for being illumined. Once you enjoy complete control over your sense organs you can be described as a person imbued with the highest wisdom.
When you consider all the pairs of opposites, such as joy and sorrow, heat and cold, profit and loss, honor and dishonor, with an equal mind, and are established in your true reality, then you have gained the characteristics of a wise man. It is the nature of the wise to treat everything equally. Once you recognize the nature of the senses, it will be easy for you to follow the path that leads to true wisdom. But if instead of identifying yourself with the atma, you continue to identify yourself only with your body-mind complex, then it will be impossible for you to obtain that exalted state.
Krishna told Arjuna, "Always remember that you are the indweller, not the body. You are the one who wears the cloth; you are not the cloth itself. You are the resident of the house; you are not the house. You are the witness, the knower of the individual, you are not the individual. But now, Arjuna, you are mistaking yourself to be this limited individual. Enjoyment of impermanent things can only give you impermanent happiness. Eventually, all these momentary pleasures and enjoyments will only turn into sorrow. Keep your mind steady and discharge your duties, remembering the atma. Do not think or worry about birth and death, or the joy and sorrow which accrue to you. Birth and death are relevant only to the body. They do not refer to you. You are not the body. You are the permanent entity which is free from birth and death. You have neither a beginning nor an end. You were never born and you will never die. Nor will you ever kill anyone. You are the atma. You are all-pervasive. Verily, you are God. Your very self is God and God is your self."
After realizing that it is in the nature of fire to produce heat, would anyone grieve over the fact that fire burns? Would anyone suffer from sorrow after learning that ice cools? The very nature of fire is to burn and the very nature of ice is to cool whatever it comes in contact with. In the same way, everything which is born will some day die. This is natural. Whatever is free to come must also be free to go. Therefore, you should not brood over things which are natural, like birth and death, joy and sorrow. Recognize the inherent defects and weaknesses of all things. One day or another, everything existing in the world will have to undergo change. The same five elements which are to be found everywhere in the world are also to be found in you and in everyone else.
Whatever things you desire, whatever things you are seeking, even if you pursue your search for them into the farthest corners of the world, you will discover that you are really just seeking the five elements. These five elements are all you will ever find in any of the things of the world. But since they are already part of you, what is the point of seeking them in the things outside? It is natural for you to seek and aspire for something which you do not have. It is unnatural for you to seek and aspire for something which you already have. There is only one entity which transcends the five elements. That is the divinity. That is what you should aspire for.
Wisdom is seeing the one everywhere. That all-pervasive unity is the atma. Seek out this unity and keep it constantly in view. When all your actions are based on the atma, they become sacred and pure. When all your activities are performed for the sake of the atma or for the pleasure of God, then you become sanctified and filled with spiritual wisdom. A number of sages, right from ancient days, have made heroic efforts to attain this supreme state of being immersed in the highest wisdom.
Once upon a time, the King of Greece, Alexander, reached the banks of the great river on the north-western border of India. He intended to enter India, to conquer and plunder it. For this purpose he had come with a mighty army. In those days there were no royal roads; the few roads that existed were more like footpaths. The king crossed the banks of the river and entered the forest with his army. The scouts preceding the army found a yogi lying under a tree, with his legs spread out across the path, deep in sleep. This yogi had attained the stage of enlightenment; he was a truly wise man.
One soldier went up and awakened the yogi and commanded him to move out of the path. But the yogi was totally indifferent to the orders given by the soldier. He did not move. The Greek soldier started threatening the yogi and boasted that the great emperor of Greece, Alexander, was coming with his army and that this emperor had decided to invade India and plunder the entire nation.
While the soldier was shouting at this yogi, Alexander arrived on the scene. The Greek soldier was enraged to see that even after the emperor had come, this yogi remained completely unconcerned. The yogi was not paying the proper respect and courtesy due to the emperor. At this, the soldier threatened to cut off the yogi's head. The moment the yogi heard that the enraged Greek soldier wanted to cut off his head, he started laughing and stood up. On the yogi's face there was no trace of fear. He was amused, but at the same time he remained completely serene. The emperor saw the great effulgence on the yogi's face and spoke to him. "My soldier has just threatened to cut off your head and yet you seem very happy and unaffected. If you were an ordinary person you would immediately fall at his feet, beg for pardon and try to save your life. But you are only smiling. What is the meaning of your behavior?"
The yogi replied, "I am the eternal truth. I am pure awareness. I am infinite bliss. I am forever free. Your weapons cannot harm me. Fire cannot burn me. Water cannot wet me. Wind cannot blow me away. I was never born and I will never die. I am the immortal atma, the one true self. I am indestructible. Thinking that I am just this body, your soldier is threatening to destroy me by cutting the head off this body. Isn't that ludicrous? Hearing this provoked me to laughter."
When the emperor heard these words he was astounded. He thought to himself, 'It is natural for people to get frightened when someone threatens to kill them and they are about to face death, but rarely will anyone laugh and be so happy when they are about to die. In India there are people who have attained such a high spiritual state that they are not even afraid of death. How can I conquer a nation such as this? No, I won't succeed here with my weapons.' Having concluded that India could not be subdued by him, he turned his army around and penetrated no further into India.
From times immemorial, great beings such as this yogi have existed in India, and, in the way in which they conducted their lives, taught other nations the highest truths about spirituality. They showed the spiritual heights that could be achieved through control of the senses. People who do not know the method of controlling the sense organs get lost and stray onto the wrong path. But, actually, controlling the senses is quite easy. When you do not understand the fickle nature of the senses, all attempts to control them are fraught with difficulty. But once you understand their limitations controlling them becomes easy, because you realize that all the pleasures and enjoyments you gain through them are filled with sorrow.
The first step in controlling the senses is to investigate the defects and problems associated with the various objects of the world. For the sake of temporary joys and pleasures you are subjecting yourself to many difficulties and problems that will hound you long after the little fleeting joys are forgotten. A person who has a disease may take some food items which are not prescribed in the diet and feel temporarily happy. Having ignored the diet and taken food which is prohibited, he may experience some temporary joy; but in a short period of time he will experience the unhappy consequences of his acts. It may even lead to a dangerous situation. In the same way, man, yielding to temporary joys, will suffer a great many problems in the long run.
How many powerful kings have there been who have created huge mansions and palaces, enjoyed luxurious comforts, eaten a variety of luxurious foods, traveled in luxurious cars and indulged themselves in countless vanities, all the while thinking that they were enjoying all the great pleasures available on the earth? What has happened to them in the end? Ask yourself, 'Is a king who indulges himself like that really enjoying the luxuries or are the luxuries enjoying him?' You will have to conclude that it is the luxuries which are enjoying him. It is he who is being enjoyed by the sense objects. They are literally eating him up. Soon he becomes weak, he becomes diseased and gets old.
If the king were really enjoying the sense objects, then he should have attained unbounded health and strength from them. But, as he is the one who is being enjoyed by the sense objects, he loses all his health, and his life span gets reduced. Not recognizing this truth he temporarily experiences some happiness. He fixes his vision on these transient sense objects without realizing the dire consequences which ultimately must come his way because of his indiscriminate desire to enjoy the senses.
A certain man went to a palmist who told people's future by reading the lines on their hand. The man showed the palmist his hand. The palmist told the man that there was a line on his hand which signified that he would become very wealthy. The moment the man heard this he was overjoyed. After looking at his hand some more, the palmist told him that the line also showed that he would get a lot of honors. The man felt even more happy.
Then, after examining the hand still further, the palmist said, "You are going to occupy a very high position." The man felt so happy, it was as if he had just been told that he would become prime minister that very day. After a while, the palmist told him that he was going to have many children. Joy was now heaped on joy. Then after telling him all these things, the palmist said, "But your life span is going to be very short!" The moment the man heard this, all his joy left him; he got totally dejected and shrank down in despair.
Whatever may be your property and wealth, whatever position you may occupy, whatever honors you may get and however many children you may have, if you only have a finite life span, then what will be the use of all these things in the long run? If you are not going to be alive then how can any of these things be of lasting value to you? How many kings and how many emperors have lived? In what circumstances have they left this world?
In the history of India, there once was an emperor who ruled over all the hundreds of kingdoms comprising this huge land. He was most powerful, but did he not have to leave this world? In ancient times, there was an even mightier emperor who ruled over the entire world; could he take even a handful of earth with him? King Rama built a magnificent bridge spanning the ocean from India to Lanka; where is that great bridge now? So many kings have come and gone. Not even one person can carry a handful of dust with him. If you think and reflect over the past history of mankind, you will be able to understand how impermanent this world really is. Therefore, two important defects to be noted about the worldly pleasures: They are impermanent and they are harbingers of misery.
All that you see in the external world is but a reflection of what is inside you. There is only one thing which is real and true and all-pervasive. That reality, that truth, is always within you. It is eternally true, it is eternally auspicious and eternally beautiful. Make every effort to realize that permanent truth. Live in that auspiciousness. Be one with that divinity. It is the very embodiment of all beauty.
After explaining the qualities of a wise man to Arjuna, Krishna directed him to enter the battlefield and fight. Krishna told him, "Keep all your attention on me. Concentrate on me alone. Obey all my commands and do your duty. This body has been given to you for the purpose of discharging your duty. It is because of your actions in the past that you have gotten this birth. Now, you must use your actions to sanctify this life."
The only light in this world which does not get extinguished is the light of the atma, the light of the immortal self. As long as there is electricity, the electric bulbs will burn. The moment the power goes off, the bulbs do not shine. Only as long as there are batteries in the flashlight, the flashlight will function. In the same way, when the senses are not receiving any power, they will cease to function. Even the sun and the moon, which do not need either oil, batteries or electricity, will lose their effulgence in the end.
When the sun and the moon are likely to lose their light, what about you? When this is true of these mighty mountains, then what about this small pebble that is you, deluded as you are, with body-consciousness? Krishna told Arjuna, "Because of the grief arising from your attachment to relatives and friends, you are getting drowned in ignorance. You are being washed away by the tears from your own eyes. Arise! Awake! Do not stop until the goal is reached!" Thus Krishna rescued Arjuna and put him on the right path.
The sun and moon shine in the world but they cannot illuminate God. The light shining inside the house can illuminate the objects inside but it cannot illuminate God. How do you know that the sun and the moon shine and that fire burns? On what basis can you declare that these things are bright and luminous? It is because of your eyes that you can recognize their brightness. If you did not have eyes the radiant light of the sun and moon would not be seen by you. But as for these eyes, what is it that helps them to see? Even when you are sleeping or when your eyes are closed there is an unmistakable radiance shining in your awareness. It is your highest intellect, your intuitive faculty, your buddhi. Therefore, you can conclude that even more effulgent than your eyes is your intellect. There is a small story to illustrate this.
There were two friends, a blind man and a lame man;. They would go begging together from village to village. The blind one had good legs and the lame one had good eyes. The lame man sat on the shoulders of the blind man. So, with the help of each other they were able to go from village to village. Once, on their way, they came across a beautiful field of melons. The lame man said to the blind man, "Brother, there are some very fine looking melons in this field. Let us go into the field and eat some; afterwards we can take a little rest and proceed on our way."
The blind person said to the lame person, "Brother, be careful. There may be some watchman keeping an eye on the field." The lame man said, "No, there is no one there." The blind man went on, "Please tell me if there is a fence or a gate around this garden." The lame one said, "There is neither a gate nor a fence. We can go and have our dinner." The blind person immediately said, "Brother, these melons must be very bitter and inedible, otherwise why is there no watchman, no fence and no gate to protect them?"
A person may not have eyes to see, but if he uses his intellect he is greater than the one who sees with his eyes. Therefore, it is really the intellect which lends a shining quality to the eyes. But from where does the intellect get its power? The intellect is shining because of the atma. Therefore, because of the atma the intellect is illuminated, and because of the intellect the eyes shine and can see, and because the eyes see, the effulgence of the sun and the moon can be perceived, and because of the sun and the moon the whole world shines. We see that the ultimate source that illuminates everything is the atma. Therefore, it is the atma which you should worship.
It is only when you keep the atma constantly in view, in everything you do, that you will be able to reach the stage of true wisdom. A wise man is sometimes thought of as having something to do with worldly people. This confusion comes about because it has been said that, 'When everyone is awake, the wise man is asleep, and when he is awake all the other people are sleeping.' According to such a definition, you would conclude that those who work nightshifts, such as the night watchman and the station master, who are awake at night when others are sleeping and asleep during the day when others are awake, are all wise men. But, obviously, this is not the correct meaning of the word.
All those people who base their lives on this impermanent world, will be fully awake to this world and its objects. The wise man on the other hand, will be asleep and indifferent to worldly objects. Ordinary people will not be alive to the beauty of the atma; they will be sleeping through that. But when it comes to this world and its sense objects they will be fully alert and awake. Therefore, a wise man is one who is asleep to the principle of the world and who is fully awake to the principle of the atma. A wise man is not one who has renounced the world and gone to the forest. Krishna said, "Do your work in the world. Live in the midst of the things which are necessary for your daily life. But keep your attention and concentration constantly on the atma. That way you will gain abiding wisdom."
Here, a doubt may arise. Why does such a wise person need to work at all? He will have no interest in work nor have any ambitions regarding work. And yet for the good of mankind he will take up work. If a wise man had the attitude that he did not need to work, then he would not be able to inspire others to work. The sage has to set an example for ordinary people so that they will be able to follow him. "Therefore, Arjuna," said Krishna, "Become an ideal human being. You are very close to Krishna. You are his relative and you are very dear to him. Keep the inner significance of all these teachings in your heart. I want to raise you as an example to the world. I will use you as my instrument. You will be my instrument in doing many great things in the world."
Whatever Krishna has said is for the welfare of the entire world and for setting an ideal example for mankind. All avatars undertake activities which are absolutely sacred, but ordinary people will not be able to recognize these activities as divine activities. In this context, Krishna told Arjuna, "Arjuna, I have not accepted the job of being the driver of your chariot because I like this task and want it so much. It is not for the sake of my love of horses either that I'm doing this. Don't you think that I have chariots and horses of my own? Do I need to drive your chariot and your horses? This body-consciousness that you have saturates your whole being. It is in your blood. I am enacting the entire play and I have taken on this task of driving your chariot in order to see to it that you become permanently cured of this disease of body-consciousness."
Arjuna frequently addressed Krishna using an affectionate phrase that referred to Krishna as his closest and dearest relative, the light of his heart. Krishna once told Arjuna when they were sitting on the banks of a sacred river, "Arjuna, I do not like to be revered by you as your dearest relative, without reason."
In the world many people will freely praise God, using terms of great respect or familiarity, but God will not accept such adulation. Praises will be very common for people to utter in order to gain favor. It is as if they were going to some government officer to get into his good graces. But, praise which has no real basis, is like perfumed water. It can be smelled but it cannot be taken as nourishment. You will hear all manner of flattery but it will not touch your heart. God accepts only true feelings that come sincerely from the depths of your heart.
Krishna said to Arjuna, "I don't want to ask you to give up calling me your closest relative, and yet you are saying it out of praise rather than because it is really true. Therefore, I want to become your relative so that you can say it sincerely, knowing in your heart that it is true." Shortly afterwards, Krishna offered his sister in marriage to Arjuna and became Arjuna's brother-in-law.
Krishna's brother Balarama did not approve of this marriage, and would not even come to the wedding. Instead, he went off to a forest. From that time on, Balarama did not feel much love for Krishna. But, for the sake of harmonizing thought, word and deed, Krishna was willing to risk his relation to his own closest kin, his older brother, who as a divine being had taken birth for the express purpose of assisting Krishna in his mission.
This trait that we see here in Krishna, of putting principles before considerations of kinship, is truly extraordinary. His actions were always commensurate with his words. Unity of thought, word and deed is the very nature of divinity. It is also the true nature of man. Whatever you think must be in harmony with what you say, and whatever you say, that you must do. This harmony of thought, word and deed is the deeper meaning of Swami's often repeated statement, 'The proper study of mankind is man.'
Krishna told Arjuna, "I want to make an example of you to the whole world, that is why I am teaching you here on the battlefield the qualities of an enlightened being. First, I will turn you into a wise man and then, through your example, I will teach others. To begin with, you must understand this most important principle, which is that you are not the body; you are the indweller. When you understand that, you will no longer be bothered by body-consciousness.
The body is temporary. God is eternal and permanent. You are not the cloth but the one who wears the cloth. The body is the temple of God, but the indweller is God himself. This world is impermanent and full of sorrow. There is no use taking refuge in it. All the people you know will change. God is the only fixed entity. He is the one lamp which does not get extinguished. Take shelter in him. He is the supreme light. He is the light of the soul. He is the undiminishable light of pure consciousness. He is the one light, without a second."
Through such inspiring words, Krishna transformed Arjuna's heart which had been filled with impurities. By explaining all these noble principles to him, Krishna made Arjuna's heart bright and pure. Krishna turned Arjuna into a true wise man, one who manifested all the divine qualities.
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