Karmayoga has a long history in India, starting from the Veda. We must know that this Gita is much later than the Veda. From the Vedas came Brahmanas. From Brahmanas came Aranyakas. From Aranyakas came Upanishads. And from Upanishads arose many systems of philosophy. Many ethical systems arose out of this, and when the knowledge of the Veda was quite destroyed, quite forgotten, it was at that time that Sri Krishna reveals, once again, the knowledge contained in the Veda and the Upanishads. This is why this book is called: ‘the digest of the Upanishads’. It is also called that: ‘all that is to be known in the Veda in known through the Bhagavad Gita’. It is a repetition. In fact in the 4th chapter Sri Krishna will tell us, will tell Arjuna: “look, I have told you the knowledge which I have told in early times to vivasvān, and then to manu, and then after it was lost; and I now repeat it and enlighten you with that knowledge”. In order to understand this sentence, on which we are now concentrating, we have to understand what is Veda, and what is the object of the Vedic knowledge, and how now Sri Krishna joins up with this question of the fight in which Arjuna was engaged.
Very briefly, let us see what the teaching of the Veda is. The Vedic teaching was a synthetic teaching, an integral teaching in which the problem was: ‘what are the highest potentialities of human being? What is the highest that is possible for human being to attain?’ This was the question of the Vedic sages: ‘What is the human being? What are the potentialities of the human beings? Can these potentialities be brought to the fullness, complete fullness, perfect perfectibility, is it possible?’ And the Vedic Rishis made experiments upon human psychology for thousands of years. And then, they came to the conclusion that human potentialities are of various kinds; that these potentialities can be developed; in the process of development there is a big battle, psychological battle. In these battles, there are heights to be climbed, but at every step you are thrown back by other forces, which do not want you to climb up. This is the experience, which the Vedic Rishis specialised in: what is it that prevents you from climbing? What is it that helps you in climbing? What is the motivation of climbing? Why do you climb?
The answers are that you climb because this world in which you are living is very uncomfortable, this world is incomplete, therefore, both for the sake of perfection and for the sake of arriving at a very comfortable living, happy living, these are the two motivations that impel you to move forward: the sense of ‘misery’ and the sense of ‘imperfection’. These two motives, these two facts motivate you to move forward and upward.
In this movement, there is a stage where you strive to attain higher and higher results. And as you climb, when the results are obtain you have the tendency to enjoy them: ‘fruits of action’ are enjoyed, and when you start enjoying, then the effort that you have to make forward is diminished; you become absorbed in enjoyment and when you are climbing now the climbing becomes steady and you don’t climb further. But then imperfection again besieges you; again you have to climb upwards. Then you are asked to offer your enjoyments, sacrifice your enjoyments and then you make a further effort and you move upward. Once again you begin to derive the fruits of action; at a higher level again you enjoy and again you remain stuck there. All these processes they went forward and they reached the peaks, highest peaks possible, then they came to these three conclusions:
One is, ‘you should always climb’: ‘climbing’ became the basic word of the Veda. That is why they said that, ‘everyone who climbs is Arya’: the very word arya is: ‘urge to climb, one who climbs, one who toils’. So, every human being in the world is destined to climb, even if he does not want to climb, ultimately he will climb because of discomfort and because of imperfection. He is bound to climb. The first thing is that ‘everyone must climb’. In the process of climbing, there are helpers and there are enemies. The enemies are of various kinds: there are Rakshasas, there are Pishachas, there are Vritras, all kinds of blind and wicked forces are there in the world.
These are the psychological experiences, not a theory, not a dogma: anybody who tries to climb he will find the presence of these forces, anybody who tries. You may give different names, you may not name them Rakshasas and Pishachas, any name you give, you can give another name, but you are bound to come across these forces.
If Othello and Desdemona are in full love of each other, it is bound to appear Iago, even come up suddenly and try to break this great harmony and great love. If Rama and Sita are living a life of great harmony and joy, then Ravana must come into the picture and destroy it: this is the experience; it is only a description of what is happening in the world.