Essays on the Gita

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So, you will see in the Upanishads therefore, a synthesis of disciplines of knowledge. There are negative disciplines and positive disciplines of knowledge. The negative disciplines of knowledge tell you that 'you are not the body, you are not the life, you are not the mind'. This is the knowledge. Normally, we think we are the body, life and mind – we are identifiedwith body, life and mind. Therefore the negative part of the discipline of knowledge is to say, "I am not the body, I am not the life, I am not the mind, I am not the ego." "I am the Brahman, the Satchidananda,  chidanand rupoham shivoham shivoham , this is the positive method. The negative method is to say, `I am not this, I am not this, I am not this'. The positive method is to say, `I am this, I am this, I am this'. So, the positive method and the negative method, both are reconciled and synthesized in the Upanishads. This is the great synthesis that you find in the Upanishads, which got into the background. And there came about even a greater and greater emphasis, not on synthesis, but even on exclusive method of knowledge, to emphasize that Reality can be attained only by the process of knowledge, and Karma and Bhakti are subordinated.

A stage was reached in India and if you study the Bhagavad Gita, you will find that the perplexity of Arjuna is centred on this important question: Is not the path of Knowledge the supreme path, the only path? Is not renunciation the only path? And he argues in favour of that, that because in the environment of the Mahabharata this theory must have been very prominent, otherwise why should Arjuna be so perplexed about it? It is because in the course of time, from the Upanishads, the disciplines of knowledge which were synthesized, even when it synthesised also Karma, Bhakti and Jnana there was a gradual emphasis on Knowledge. And it became so powerful, as to say that all other methods may prepare you, but they do not deliver you. It is the Knowledge which can deliver you. And as a result of that, there was some kind of ambiguity in the atmosphere, and people were arguing in favour of this, or that, or that... And if you read the Bhagavad Gita you will find a tremendous churning of various trends of thought. There was a belief that without Vedic karma you cannot attain the highest; that also was a theory present and that is why Sri Krishna deals with that problem also: the distinction between Vedic karma and the real Karma.

At that time there was a kind of a conflict between Sankhya and Yoga. Yoga was supposed to be a path of action, and Sankhya was supposed to be the path of knowledge. In the Bhagavad Gita, the words Sankhya and Yoga do not mean the same as what they now mean. In due course of time, the meanings of these words Sankhya and Yoga have changed. But in the Bhagavad Gita the word Sankhya means the path of Knowledge and Yoga means the path of Action which is consistent with Knowledge and Bhakti. But these two elements subordinated.

But that we shall see when we come to further details of the Bhagavad Gita. For the moment it is important to notice that by the time we come to the Bhagavad Gita, the time of Mahabharata, the prevailing idea was that knowledge was the real method of salvation, of liberation, and that all others had to be subordinated or to be surpassed. This  had become very prominent, so prominent that Arjuna's main difficulty arose from it. He wanted to renounce the battlefield on the plea that battlefield is a field of action, and action ultimately is to be of no consequence, it does not lead you to the ultimate goal. Therefore, he said, "I leave it and 1 will take sannyasa, I'll renounce the world and enter into the path of knowledge and attain to the highest". That was his basic argument. And Sri Krishna deals with this question in depth, and while dealing with this question – and this is specialty of the Bhagavad Gita –, it synthesizes knowledge, action and devotion. This synthesis of Karma, Jnana and Bhakti, with a special emphasis upon action, you will not find anywhere else in the history of the world. As Sri Aurobindo says, the Bhagavad Gita is the highest gospel of Karmayoga. You will never find anywhere the statement of Karmayoga as clearly and as potently as it is in the Bhagavad Gita. So this is a new synthesis, you do not find either in the Veda or in the Upanishads. It is a new synthesis required by the needs of the time.

In due course however, even this synthesis went into the background and then arose a conflict of different claims. The Bhaktas claimed that Bhakti is the only path; the Jnanis claimed that Jnana is the only path; Ved kandis believed that only karmakanda is the only path; or Karmayogis believed that only Karma is the only path. So there was a period of great conflict, claims and counter claims. Even today this conflict subsists in a very powerful manner. Even the Bhagavad Gita's teaching has been interpreted by Bhaktas saying that Bhagavad Gita teaches only Bhakti. Bhagavad Gita is taught in such a way as to say that it teaches only Jnana marga or others who say that it teaches only karma marga. So even Bhagavad Gita's syntheses has now come to be so interpreted as to become an exclusive teaching, either for this or for that.

In the meantime there arose in the Indian history another synthesis, the synthesis of Tantra. The specialty of Tantra is, a synthesis of Supreme as both masculine and feminine principles of existence, which was present in the Veda. As I said, the Veda described the Reality both as He and She, both as Vrishabha and Dhenu, – Vrishabha is the bull and Dhenu is the cow. But that synthesis was not so marked out, so very emphasized, as the Tantrics came to do who came to emphasize that Reality is dual in character although it is one. And not only that, it came to emphasize a further point: that it is a feminine principle which can ultimately take you to the Supreme Lord. If you want to enter into the portals of the Supreme Lord, you can do only with the Grace, with the favour, kripa, of the Supreme Mother, of the Divine Mother. Therefore the entire worship of the Mother is a special characteristic of Tantra.

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