It's a rambling text I wrote way back in June 2006. Spiritual ambivalence is the hallmark of a common fellow that constantly shuttles between god-denying confidence and god-fearing cowardice. This is something I would like to use to describe myself, for whatever it means. Maybe this is an inevitable path to spiritual realisation. Maybe it is not. Ultimately flippancy matters. Spiritual depth presupposes gravity and lo, I'm trying to reach there adopting flippancy!
Today I am in a mood to stray into the spiritual field. Yes, India is a spiritual land. Here god exists everywhere. (Not in Kerala alone, they seem to have made a tourism blurb out of god for their state: God’s Own Country.)
I will just refer to a scene in Srimad Bagvatgita, the most sacred of all scriptures, where lord Krishna himself motivates Arjun to fight a war against the forces of evil. Of course, it is an internecine war where Pandavas and Kauravas fight between themselves for eighteen days. Blood flows like a rivulet, dead bodies float on it, and the luckless survivors ride them across the bloody stream. The result is predictable: Pandavas win the war and their brother Kauravas lose it along with their kingdom and lives. There is nothing to wonder here, for lord Krishna has been there with Pandavas, planning the strategy of the war, and manoeuvring the war chariot for Arjun, the second of the five brothers on the winning side.
Earlier, when Arjun enters the battlefield and finds himself face to face with his own brothers, war-ready and sneering, a sense of righteous resentment dawns on him. He protests the meaninglessness of the fight and does not want to shed the blood of his relations only for a kingdom. But lord Krishna prevails upon him, saying that the fight is waged for cleansing the society of the bad fellows, the Kauravas, who have indulged in sins of every kind, including the outraging the modesty of a woman, the common wife of five Pandavas. If it were not for the lord himself, the woman would have been disrobed in front of all Kauravas and their cronies. Whatever lord Krishna says explaining the wisdom of right work, devotion, secrets of life and birth cycles, the spiritually recommended way of living and so on, Arjun is just not convinced. Finally, the lord relents and does something he has thus far postponed: he shows him his Universe Form, unfathomable, indescribable, inscrutable, beautiful, awe-inspiring…. It is something like an out-of-this-world phenomenon which contains all the elements of macrocosm, both in their miniature and blown-up forms.
Arjun has now no further question to ask; he gets the answer to everything that has been bothering him: everything begins and ends with the lord…. Behind anything outwardly ephemeral, there is a spirit of permanence that guides its function, defines its purpose of existence and demise. The truth is applicable to everything and everybody—humans and wild creatures, forces of nature and elements, all those that are either conscious or unconscious.
Arjun, now wise and composed, chants his prayer and it is couched in the language of surrender before the lord. They are the ultimate words of realization, spiritual strength, and desirelessness.
“ Jānāmi dharm na cha me prabriti,
Jānāmi dharma na cha me nibruti,
Tvayā hrishikeshena hridi sthitena
Yathā nijuktosmi thatā karomi.”
Translated to English, the above may sound something like this:
[I know now, Dharma is not the proclivity in me
I know now, Dharma is not the aversion in me
In my heart thou exist, Oh Lord Krishna
In whatever action you employ me, I just do that much.]
The meaning is simple: God exists everywhere. Our heart is the abode of god. In the shape of knowledge, He guides us to choose between good and bad; and there is nothing that can be done without his direction.
There can be various renderings of the above—some maybe more erudite than the other, but richness of the theme is always born out of its simplicity. It is through this simplicity that the scripture continues as the most useful treatise not only of the Hindus but also of everybody that leads a thinking life on this earth.
*** II ****
And now I will tell a story I heard long back about the worldly application of this wisdom.
One day a thief comes to a wise man with his doubt and asks:
‘Oh seer, didn’t you tell us that god in us does all the acts we’re seen to be doing?’
‘Well, yes, and what’s your problem?’ the seer enquires.
‘Then when I go to steal, isn’t it the god in me who goes for thieving?’ the thief demands. He looks absolutely clear-headed.
‘Course yes, where is the doubt then?’ the seer counter-questions.
‘Then tell me, seer, why do they take me to jail? Why do they punish me for no fault of mine? Isn’t it unfair?’ the thief asks.
The wise man understands this. The thief, despite his criminal calling, has an innocent query. This has to be decided once for all lest people find the spiritual instructions a big twaddle.
‘Where is the unfairness in it, my dear thief? Why do you say they’re taking you to the jail? Why don’t you say it’s god in you who is going to jail?’ the seer poses the question with a knowing smile.
The thief understood. The wisdom of Srimad Bahgvatgita is not open for misinterpretation, let alone its misuse. It is for use in our daily life and life is to be lived in a society created by humans under the guidance of the lord.
I am sure it is not the theory of the divine origin of society that I am supporting. It is just my effort to understand a beautiful wisdom enshrined in our scripture.
A. N. Nanda