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June 21, 2006

Bhagavad-gita 2.39-53

Buddhi-Yoga ( niskama-karma) - Fight! But without any reaction ( 2.39-53)

Arjuna cannot think of fighting as anything but sinful. Thus he sees inactivity as the single solution to the problem of sin. To counteract this misunderstanding, Krsna will present an entirely different way of action: Buddhi-yoga.

As the name implies, buddhi-yoga concerns linking one’s intelligence with God. By fixing the intelligence on the conception of the soul, one will no longer act for fruitive bodily results. One will continue to act, but in a mood of detachment from the material results.

Krsna’s argument against Arjuna’s fear of sinful reaction comprises this section.

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Main Theme:
It is one’s consciousness that determines the bondage of any activity, not the activity itself. One will remain free from bondage if his/her actions are guided by a conception of the eternal, spiritual self.

Sub points:
A. There are two levels of buddhi-yoga.
1. The first is simply to act in knowledge that one is not the body. Acting in this way frees one from the desire of fruitive results.
2. The second, higher level of buddhi-yoga is to act in knowledge that one is an eternal servant of Krsna. This not only frees one from the desire of frutitive results; it gives transcendental desire to please The Supreme Personality of Godhead.
B. Action in buddhi-yoga is distinct from action on the material level.
1. Material action is judged by its result. Therefore, it is only deemed successful if it is brought to completion. But any amount of action in buddhi-yoga ( Kṛṣṇa consciousness) has a permanent effect in the consciousness of the individual. This effect carries over to one’s next life, where upon one takes up the cultivation of spiritual realization from where he/she left off.
2. One should understand that any material activity is ultimately futile, as it is inevitably temporary. Kṛṣṇa consciousness activity, in contrast, eternally stays with the individual.
C. Fixed determination (vyavasayamika buddhi) to achieve spiritual success characterizes a person endeavoring in buddhi-yoga. Materialists are fickle, as they follow the dictates of the ever-changing mind. Devotees however, fix their intelligence to the Lord, knowing him as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the root of all creation.
1. Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura explains vyavasayatmika budhhi as accepting the instructions of the spiritual master as one’s mission in life.
2. One has firmly fixed his intelligence in devotional service when he has firm faith that by serving Kṛṣṇa alone every other duty will be fulfilled.
D. One who endeavors to advance in buddhi-yoga must relinquish
attachment to many of the vedic rituals.
1. Inability to distinguish minor, secondary duties from the
essential duty of pure devotional service creates a significant impediment to surrender.
a) As the Vedas are meant to purify people, they prescribe different dharmas for people at different levels of consciousness.
b) Certain sections of the Vedas (called karma-kanda) attract people who are attached to sense gratification. Once attracted to the Vedas, they can make further advancement.
c) As one follows the vedic path, he/she should gradually become detached from sense gratification and materially motivated religion, and thus advance towards the goal of pure devotional service to Kṛṣṇa.
d) If one has the opportunity to perform pure devotional service, but avoids it on the plea of mundane religious piety, he misses the point and wastes his time.
2. Using arguments such as these Krsna sharpens Arjuna’s
intelligence and attempt to remove all obstacles standing in the way of Arjuna’s fixed determination to surrender.
E. Attachment to material opulence and sensual pleasure are the single largest deterrents to stability in devotional service.
F. Because karmic reactions are result of fruitive mentality, one who
acts out of duty, free from the desire to enjoy the fruits of his action, is untouched by karma.
G. An important theme in Bhagavad-gita. Kṛṣṇa never tells Arjuna to give up his natural occupation. He advises to Arjuna to remain active, to work but in a spirit of detachment.
1. Kṛṣṇa prescribes a method of action called niskama-karma-yoga, which releases one from the bondage of fruitive action and reaction while allowing one active sensory engagement. Thus, compared to total renunciation of activity (karma-sannyasa), niskama-karma-yoga incites less provocation of unrest and fall down.
2. Kṛṣṇa describes yoga as work done with detachment from the results. One achieves this yoga of detachment by following the Lord’s direction in devotional service.
3. One can fully give up binding activities of sense gratification when he realizes that the constitutional position of the spirit soul is to serve the Supreme Soul, Kṛṣṇa. He will thus only act in service to Kṛṣṇa. Such activities are on the liberated plane.
4. By engaging in devotional service one avoids karmic reactions from his present activities, and burns up the past karma as well. This is the essence of Kṛṣṇa’s argument against Arjuna’s fear of sinful reaction. Arjuna does not wish to fight because he desires to avoid sinful reactions and subsequent misery. But Kṛṣṇa explains that acting in devotional service (which for Arjuna means to fight) will free him from all sin and lead him to the place beyond all miseries (Vaikhuntha)
5. Understanding buddhi-yoga and the position of Kṛṣṇa makes one fixed in devotional service and indifferent to the rituals of vedic rites and mundane religiosity.

June 15, 2006

Bhagavad-gita 2.31-38

Karma-kāṇda – Fight! Gains come from dutifully fighting and losses come from not fighting (2.31-38)
Kṛṣṇa now drops His argument to a materialistic level. Having successfully defeated the argument of compassion, He will now defeat Arjuna’s argument of enjoyment, and make clear that one can become happy only by adherence to duty.

Main Theme:
Material happiness comes from proper execution of one’s dharma. Neglect of dharma brings material downfall.

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A. This section elaborates on text 2.2, where Kṛṣṇa explains that
avoidance of duty leads no to higher planets but to infamy.
B. Dharma has two main divisions.
1. First, there is the sva-dharma for those who have not attained self-realization. As functions of the varṇāśrama system, these duties fulfill material desires in a regulated manner, and thus gradually diminish bodily consciousness and encourage detachment. Most of Kṛṣṇa’s arguments in this section come from the first platform of sva-dharma (2.31).
2. Secondly, there is the sva-dharma for those who have attained liberation. These purely spiritual duties are not based on one’s desires or conditioning (2.31).
C. The duties of a kṣatriya
1. The specific duty of the kṣatriya is to protect the citizens from harm. For this reason, they receive training to be expert fighters and must never shrink from a battle, which may be necessary for the protection of society (2.31).
2. In a righteous battle, victory brings worldly fame, and death sends one to the higher planets. Thus all outcomes are beneficial for the kṣatriyas, who eagerly engage in such warfare.
a) These facts also apply to Arjuna’s fear of sinful reactions.
b) Arjuna said that killing in the battle would be sinful. Kṛṣṇa, however, defines sin as avoidance of one’s duty. Since it is Arjuna’s kṣatriya duty to fight it would be a sin not to kill in the battle.
D. Kṛṣṇa points out that Arjuna will be disrespected by the opposing warriors on account of his neglecting duty (2.33-37).
E. After Kṛṣṇa defeats Arjuna’s argument of enjoyment, He quickly
returns the conversation to a transcendental level. In verse 38, He explains that Arjuna should fight not for material happiness, but because it is his duty.

June 07, 2006

Bhagavad-gita 2.11-30

Jñāna—Fight! There is no death for the soul (2.11—30)

Main Theme:

The spirit soul is eternal and indestructible, while material nature is temporary. Because of this, one should not be bewildered by the inevitable destruction of the material body. Rather one should remain fixed in prescribed duties, which purify and allow one to realize the eternal self.

A. Kṛṣṇa calls Arjuna foolish (2.11).
1. The first step in teaching is to dismantle the student’s misconceptions.
2. Arjuna presented many intellectual arguments to avoid fighting, but he did not consider the essential nature of the soul. Therefore, even though his arguments sounded intellectual, they were based on the platform of ignorance.
B. The soul is eternal and eternally individual (2.12).
C. Prescribed duties are essential for spiritual advancement. They fulfill material desires in a regulated way, and thus gradually detach one from the bodily concept of life.

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Śrila Prabhupāda gives three examples of such purifying duties in this connection:
1. The requirement of taking bath early in the month of Māgha even though it is cold.
2. The necessity to cook in the heat of the summer.
3. Sannyāsa life in general, which is full of austerity.
D. Understanding the soul:
1. On a cloudy day the sun is not directly visible, but we infer its presence by the presence of its symptom: light in the sky. Similarly, the infinitesimal atomic soul is not directly perceptible to the naked eye but is indirectly perceived by its symptom: consciousness.
2. One can conclusively establish the authenticity of the soul’s presence by comparing a live body with a dead one. We cannot find any material element missing in the dead body, although consciousness is clearly gone. Therefore consciousness is not the symptom of any material element, but of the non-material element (2.17).
3. As the soul is beyond the range of ordinary perception, it cannot be understood by direct empiric methods alone. We must therefore understand the soul on the basis of Vedic wisdom (2.25).
E. Different types of people misunderstand the nature of the soul (2.29).
1. Persons of small knowledge, who try to understand the soul through empiric perception alone, cannot see that the same soul can animate different types of material bodies, from the elephant to the germ.
2. Persons engrossed in pursuance of sense gratification have no time for spiritual introspection and thus misunderstand the soul.
3. Some understand that the self is spirit, but incorrectly equate the atomic soul and the all-pervasive Supersoul as the same in all respects.
F. Time inevitably destroys the body. Thus one should concern themselves
with the eternal spirit soul, the real self animating the body (2.16, 26-28, 30).
G. Śrila Prabhupāda uses Kṛṣṇa’s instructions on the nature of the soul to
Launch powerful attacks on the Māyāvāda philosophy.
1. Māyāvādī philosophers declare that any individual consciousness is due to illusion. If this is the case, then the conscious individual named Kṛṣṇa is also in illusion and His Bhagavad-gīta cannot be authoritative. Yet Māyāvādīs claim to accept the authority of Bhagavad-gīta. This is self-contradictory (2.12).
2. Māyāvādīs say that māyā broke or cut the individual souls from the one original consciousness, but Bhagavad-gīta and the Upaniṣads establish the spirit souls as unbreakable and non-cleavable (2.13, 23)
3. Māyāvādīs claims that the liberated soul dissolves homogeneously into Brahman, but Bhagavad-gīta and the Upaniṣads say the soul is insoluble and can never dissolve (2.24).
4. The spirit soul may be the same as Supersoul in terms of quality, but never in quantity. The spirit soul is infinitesimal (aṇu) and the Supersoul is infinite (vibhu). Therefore, the individual soul can be overcome by the force of māyā, whereas the Supersoul, always full in Himself, simply witnesses the activities of the spirit soul engrossed in material nature (2.17 purport, 20 purport, 23 purport).