The Bhagavad Gita - The Song of God - Satsangs

Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Venkatesananda - satsangs about chapters 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, and 15.

6. The Search For Truth

The last eight verses of the twelfth chapter are considered important enough to be exalted in the minds of students of the Bhagavad Gita and devotees in particular. They call them amrtastakam - the eight verses which are immortal and immortalising. These verses are very easy to read and to understand; there is absolutely no mystification or complication in them. They describe the nature and characteristics of one who loves God and who is loved by God. "He is my devotee and I love him," is the refrain which occurs in every verse.

You read descriptions of a holy man and biographies of great men because you want to become like them, otherwise there is no sense in reading them. How do you become like Swami Sivananda, for instance? Or Baba Muktananda? You read His biography, pretend that you are like Him, and do what the book says He did.

A picture of Baba Muktananda sitting in a particular posture was published some years ago. A young man wanted to be known as a siddha; so, he had a photograph taken of himself in the same posture, and published it. If it is as simple as that, then everybody would become a siddha! You do yoga postures - cat stretch and dog stretch - but you don't become cats and dogs. Hopefully not!

So you may go through the movements of a holy man, but you will not become a holy man; you may imitate the actions of a holy man, and it is possible you may become an imitation holy man. In these days, when imitation diamonds sparkle even more brilliantly than real diamonds, it is possible that you may even attract great attention!

I'll tell you a very nice story. A guru was telling his disciple, "In these days, the real thing is not valued, only imitation stuff." The disciple said, "No sir. You are an enlightened man, and you are valued wherever you go. You are worshipped and venerated, not the imitation saints." The holy man did not argue.

They were wandering from place to place; and, one day, they passed through a village where there was a little tent. Outside that tent was a banner which announced: "Come and see a man grunt like a pig. Twenty cents admission". The guru said, "Buy tickets and let's go." Both of them went inside; and as soon as the tent was filled with about fifty people, the gates were closed and a young man came through the back entrance. He came on stage and grunted like a pig for a couple of minutes. Everybody clapped. Marvellous, marvellous!

The guru and the disciple came back the day after this show had come to an end, but before the tent was pulled down. This guru went to the man whose tent it was, and asked to have the use of it for a couple of days. He changed the banner: "The Grunting of the Pig - the Truth. Admission twenty cents." The next day, a few young people gathered round in front of the tent. Six of them paid twenty cents, and went in to see if it was worthwhile for the others to follow. The holy man entered through the back door leading a pig. He twisted its tail and the pig grunted. He said "Ladies and gentlemen, that is the truth," and walked away. These six people walked out and said, "It is nothing - only a pig grunting." There were no more customers.

The guru looked at his disciple and said, "Do you understand now? When a man grunts like a pig, it's very attractive. When a pig grunts as only a pig can grunt, it is not valued. This is the reality, this is the truth, but you don't value it." If you want to become like a saint, you will possibly attract a lot of attention; but, that's not the reality, the truth.

We cannot study the lives and descriptions of these great men, and apply those descriptions like cosmetics. That's what most people do. They read these books, and then apply the teaching. They think they have become saints - they have not. Growth is from within outwards. It is one thing to dab some paint on your cheeks, another thing to blush. When you blush, it is beautiful. Moveover, when these things are applied as cosmetics are applied, there is always the danger of them being washed away. In exactly the same way, if you imitate the actions of a holy person, that pretension will be washed away at the least provocation or temptation.

What shall we do? I had a German friend in Singapore who was a buddhist monk. Until a few years ago, whenever I went to Singapore, and there was a public meeting, he also used to share the platform. If I introduced him saying, "He is my friend, he is a buddhist," he would protest, "No, I am not a Buddhist, I want to become a Buddha." He used to say, "Don't be a buddhist, be a Buddha. Don't be a christian, be a Christ. At least aspire to be." In order to do that, you have to walk the path that they had walked. To walk the path of Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Baba Muktananda, or Swami Sivananda, is not easy. To pretend to be like them may be easy, and therefore it is of no use.

What is the vision, what are the ideals that led them along the path that they trod? Can you acquire that vision? You don't have to be a prince, and renounce like Buddha did, nor do you have to go into a place of worship and chase people away, and ask to be crucified, in order to become a Christ. What was their inner vision? What was the spirit that moved them in their lives? Can you acquire that spirit? Then you will become a Christ or a Buddha.

When you read these eight verses, which are descriptive of one who loves God and who is loved by God, please remember that this description is not some sort of cosmetic which can be applied onto oneself, but it follows the previous teaching of what it is to love God. If you have learnt to love God in accordance with the teaching which we have already looked into, then these qualities will be found in you. These are the characteristics, the hallmarks which will be found in a devotee. At best you can use them as a measuring tape. If these qualities are there in you, it is quite possible that you are growing in the love of God. If they are not found in you, then you are just not there.

advesta sarvabhutanam maitrah karuna eva ca nirmamo nirahamkarah samaduhkhasukhah ksami (XII:13)

The very first two words - advesta sarvabhutanam - hold the key. 'In his heart, there is no hate towards any being whatsoever.' This one quality would do.

Is it possible for me to eradicate hate completely and totally? Hate means a lot - envy, jealousy, ill-will, even fear. Can this hate be completely eradicated from one's heart? Then, and only then, in that heart will love manifest, will God manifest. Advesta sarvabhutanam maitrah karuna eva ca. 'He is friendly towards all, and he has compassion.' There is something interesting here. In the Yoga Sutras, and also elsewhere, it is said that the yogi - or a serious student of yoga - would have four qualities in his relationship with other human beings: maitri, karuna, muditha, and upeksa. The usual explanation is that maitri is friendliness towards equals, karuna is compassion towards those who are inferior, muditha is complacency or joy towards superiors, and upeksa is indifference towards the wicked.

In the twelfth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, only two qualities are mentioned - maitri and karuna. Muditha is not mentioned at all because, as a devotee, you don't compare yourself with anyone in this world, and therefore there is no need for you to be particularly happy that so-and-so is superior to you. You regard everyone as God. That is enough. What is even more interesting is that upeksa - being indifferent to the wicked - is completely dropped, because in your eyes no-one is wicked. You see God in all - even if that person be a murderer in the eyes of others - feeling 'It is God who is doing this. I don't know why he does it.'

I am sure a thousand questions crowd your mind right now: "What happens if all of us are like this? Wouldn't knaves and thieves flourish in this world?" That is not your concern. I would suggest two counter-arguments. They are just counter arguments, nothing whatsoever to do with the attitude of a devotee. Argument number one: can you honestly say that religious and social reformers, who have taken upon themselves the duty of eradicating evil or viciousness in this world, have put an end to evil in this world? If you go round the world and visit even those places where Buddha, Krsna, Jesus, Rama, or Moses, lived, and see what goes on there, you ask yourself: "Is this the humanity for whom those great ones lived and struggled and died?" Argument number two is borrowed from another great saint of India called Prabhudatta Brahmachari, who had quite a number of ashrams in North India. He wanted to do some writing, and felt that he needed complete isolation, undisturbed seclusion; so, he bought himself a houseboat, and anchored it in the middle of the river Ganges. He went on doing his work undisturbed. In the meantime, the ashrams were being run by somebody else.

One day, one of his lieutenants went to see him, and said, "You know, So-and-so who is running the ashram in such and such a place is stealing, cheating, doing this and that!" This holy man heard all that, smiled, and didn't respond. The man asked him, "What are you going to do about it?" He said, "Nothing. God has not appointed me a magistrate. That is not my job, that is his job."

If you are a policeman, it may be your job to get hold of a thief and thrash him, without being emotionally involved. But otherwise to you all are the manifestations of God. There is no need to judge anyone. 'Judge not' is final, because you are not God, you do not know why So-and-so does what he does. It is God himself who has put on these diverse garbs, playing diverse roles in this universe.

When this attitude or vision arises in you, there is a tremendous inner change. You see the entire world in a very different light. You don't feel like judging, and you don't feel like condemning anyone. You don't feel like accusing anyone, and therefore even forgiving anyone doesn't arise. Nirmano nirahamkarah samaduhkhasukhah ksami. 'He is totally selfless or egoless, and he does not regard anything as this is mine.'

If you bestow some thought or attention on this, you will find it very interesting. There certainly is a feeling that 'I am' - it is unmistakable. It is possible that that feeling is confused with the body and the personality, but no-one can deny that it exists. In sanskrit, this is known as aham bhavana. Great sages like Ramana Maharshi have pointed out that, if you pursue that feeling to its own source, you will discover that it is not the individual personality that gives rise to it, but the cosmic Being. The expression, 'I am' is based on some truth, or fact - though there may be some confusion concerning it. But is 'mine', 'she is mine', also based on a fact, or is it complete fallacy?

Swami Satchidananda gave me a beautiful idea when He said, "When you use the word 'mine', be careful, it might explode." It is not based on truth. Nothing is mine, not even this body. In one of the scriptures, there is a caution: "Don't think that this body is yours, there are quite a number of claimants to it." A vulture is circling around, watching a a dying animal. "It's still breathing. As soon as it stops, it becomes meat for me." If the body is to be buried, the worms and vermin of the earth are waiting to have a good feed, the body belongs to them - or to fire, or to the fish in the Ganges. Even the body does not belong to me. Then what belongs to me? What is mine? Nothing but the foolish idea that something is mine. Drop it.

If you are seriously and earnestly searching for truth, in the light of that truth, you will realise that nothing is 'mine'. This shirt is mine, but if you give it to your friend, two minutes later it becomes his shirt. You can use that word 'mine' as long as you realise it is not true. It is a convenient expression, and nothing more than that. When you call someone 'my wife', that is just a temporary feature. She was not your wife some time ago, she may not be a little while later. Even though, while living in this funny world, we may use all these expressions, it is good to remember there is no truth in them.

Another wonderful characteristic of the devotee of God is said to be an evenness of mind, a balanced state of mind. It is exalted in the Bhagavad Gita, and repeated again and again that the yogi, the devotee, or the sage, does not get elated when something nice happens to him, and does not go into a deep depression when something not so nice happens to him. When something nice happens to you, when someone gives you something, you are thrilled.

What exactly do you mean by saying, "He has given something to me"? In that very event, there is a tremendous confusion. 'He' has not given to you, and his giving it does not make you happy or unhappy. If what he gives you, or what he does to you, makes you happy or unhappy, you are a slaveyour happiness is illusory, it is in his hands. He can withdraw his favour, and you will be miserable again.

What is happiness? What is unhappiness? What is pleasure? What is pain? Who determines all this? There are neurological responses - a certain neurological response is considered pleasure, a certain neurological response is considered pain. Even that is not one hundred percent invariable. If I pinch her, she smiles; if instead of me a schoolmaster had pinched her, saying "Don't do that again", it would upset her. The thing is exactly the same - pinching is pinching! The body has its own way of responding to neurological pain and pleasure, but there is nothing called happiness and unhappiness, except in the dictionary or your mind.

The yogi is balanced in happiness and unhappiness, but not as an ideal - "I am a yogi, and therefore, even when I am unhappy, I must pretend" - which is hypocrisy. I saw an honest commercial on television, about a brand of beer. The fellow said, "Please, have it once and have it twice. The first time you won't like it, it will be bitter. Have it a second time, and then you will begin to like it." If it was bitter and disgusting the first time, it is bitter and disgusting the second time too! But then, such is the pressure of advertising - brain pollution - that you are made to feel that it is pleasure, otherwise you think you are not 'with it'. So, in order to conform to others, even though you want to throw it up, you still say it is nice.

Who defines what is pleasure, what is pain, what is happiness, what is unhappiness? If you examine this, you will realise that it is a circular argument. You decide this is happiness, and then it becomes happiness. You pursue it thinking it is happiness, and because you pursue it, you call it happiness.

He who treads the path of truth has absolutely no patience for all this. He sees through both happiness and unhappiness as mere mental concepts. When the inner intelligence recognises this, the mind is no longer agitated.

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