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28. Life without External Guide
How does one determine whether an action is right or not right?
That was Arjuna's question, and the entire Bhagavad Gita is the answer.
What is the action that will instantly, here and now, free us from the experienced bondage, limitation?
How does one determine right action?
Right action must be absolutely free, without giving rise to a problem now or sowing the seed now for a problem to arise later.
Can such action happen in our lives?
The Gita is the gospel of appropriate action.
The expressions used repeatedly are: niyatam karma, karyam karma, sva karma.
Unfortunately we translate these words into 'duty'.
But 'appropriate action' is better.
Is it possible for a human being, so heavily loaded with memories and cravings related to a future hope or fear, to rise above the ego and to find this appropriate action?
Can you use a scripture as a measure of your action from moment to moment?
If an action does not measure up to the scripture, reject the action.
As long as you have integrated and total obedience to that scripture, you will find the truth, not because the scripture gives you the truth, but because you come face to face with the source of your own cravings - the ego.
There are people who may not adopt a scripture and they have no faith in a teacher.
If your heart says that this teacher is a hypocrite, you cannot follow him, and if your heart starts off with a rejection of the scripture, you cannot have any faith in it.
Verse twenty three of chapter sixteen says:
He who, having cast aside the ordinances of the scriptures, acts under the impulse of desire, attains not perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme goal.
It implies that the man who rejects the scripture, but follows the dictates of his own cravings, goes to hell.
But there are people who may discard all scriptures and teachers, and yet find the truth, if they have sraddha.
Arjuna said: Those who, setting aside the ordinances of the scriptures perform sacrifice with faith, what is their condition, O Krsna? Is it sattva, rajas or tamas? (17:1)
If you have this sraddha, your body and mind are functioning very efficiently while living a full life - eating, drinking, thinking, talking, doing charity, engaging yourself in austerities - with, or without reference to any scripture whatsoever, and without the guidance of a teacher.
You are living endowed with something by which you are able to observe what is happening - in the body, the mind and life.
When this observation takes place, there is clarity, and associated with that clarity is a great joy.
You realise that this is sattva.
When you are able to observe that the body, the nerves, the mind and intelligence within are agitated, you realise that there is rajas.
When it is dull, stupid, fatigued, sleepy, drowsy, lazy, you realise that there is tamas.
The words do not matter at all.
Gurudev Swami Sivananda used to ask: "Do you know what guna is operating at a given moment?"
If you know, that knowledge must lead to one or the other of the two alternatives.
One: You suit your action to the guna that prevails - if the mind is dull, go to sleep; if you are in an enlightened state of mind, sit and meditate; if the body is full of energy, restless, get up and do some work.
Appropriate behaviour happens.
Two: You detect within yourself a sort of laziness and stupidity which seems to be unending.
If it is possible for this observation to observe the prevalence of tamas without condemning and judging, you realise that the observation itself is free.
That which is aware of this tamas is not tamas, and the moment it opens its eyes wide and looks, the tamas is gone.
It is so simple - provided you do not indulge in hypocritical self-condemnation.
If there is this sraddha, the observation observes the state of mind without condemning it, but not necessarily without distinguishing one from the other.
It is one thing to distinguish, and another to discriminate, to judge.
The human being constantly discriminates, and hopes that somehow this discrimination will lead him to the realisation of the absolute - in which there is no discrimination and no duality!
Is it possible for such a stupid creature to rise above the ego?
If it is possible for the inner observation to distinguish sattva, rajas and tamas without judging one or the other as superior or inferior, then sraddha is born.
This whole process by which there is immediate (meaning without mediation) and intense (meaning neither past, future nor even present tense) observation, is sraddha.
You see yellow, you see blue.
In that sight there is no judgement.
Observation does not judge, but something else arises which says: "Oh, this is beautiful, that is ugly."
It is the observer - which is memory, 'me' , ego - that indulges in this.
The observation itself is completely pure.
Observation alone is the truth.
Those men who practise terrific austerities not enjoined by the scriptures, given to hypocrisy and egoism, impelled by the force of lust and attachment, are determined to be diabolical. (17:5,6)
There is not a single word of condemnation here.
Asuraniscaya - beautiful!
I wish I could convey this joy to you.
Asuraniscaya means that they are 'determined to be diabolical' - it only means they do not have insight.
It is not a crime not to have insight.
You enjoy life in your own way, and life will teach you.
If it does not, there is something else which is pure grace - death! - which will create another chance.
You cannot be a fool for all time to come.
Later on in the same chapter you have the three-fold tapas:
Worship of the gods, the twice-born, the teachers and the wise, purity, straightforwardness, celibacy and non-injury are called the austerities of the body.
Speech which causes no excitement, truthful, pleasant and beneficial, the practice of the study of the Yeda, are called the austerity of speech.
Serenity of mind, good-heartedness, silence, self-control, purity of nature - this is called mental austerity. (17:14,16)
None of these things can be laid down as a rule.
All involve constant self-awareness - sraddha.
Honesty cannot be defined, what is defined is not honesty.
Brahmacaryam is not only celibacy, but total one-pointedness to live, to move and to have one's being in God.
Ahimsa is to be totally non-violent in thought, word and deed - what you say should not upset anybody, excite anybody, disturb anybody's peace of mind.
You cannot do that mechanically on the basis of the teaching that somebody gives you.
Mouna is not merely not talking, but silencing the mind.
This is tapas.
When you engage yourself in tapas, you find your sraddha blazing forth, and tapas is natural to you.
No tapas performed without sraddha can have these characteristics.
If you perform any austerity which does not have these characteristics, there is no sraddha; you are doing it without thought.
If you do not have this, then blindly obey a scripture or a teacher and you will be alright.
Either way you are alright, because either way you will detect the ego and its play, and transcend it.

The Bhagavad Gita - Introduction | EN

Swami Venkatesananda

The Song of God - Introduction - Swami Venkatesananda - enlarged 4th edition – 1984 - published by The Chiltern Yoga Trust, Cape Town, South Africa
1998 - 2017

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