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Knowing (gyana) is power PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

sukha-duhkhe same krtva
labhalabhau jayajayau
tato yuddhaya yujyasva
naivam papam avapsyasi

Do thou fight in the battle (in sum-bhava) and do that without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat. By so doing, you shall not incur sin. ||2:38||

There is a common saying that knowledge is power. Education helps and illiteracy should be considered a curse. Education helps in the success of not only an individual but also the whole society and in turn a whole nation. We all know this. It is our common knowledge. So, how is Krishna different? People of a particular country say India get educated. It develops leaders who are highly educated. And they have to deal with real neighbors, some of which may be hostile. The country has to deal with friends who are helping the enemy camp. These are real life situations. How can you deal with these adverse situations and still progress towards your center is the art and science that Krishna is teaching here in Gita. Arjuna is highly educated and he is highly cultured. He is dealing with adverse situation of Mahabharata war. There are friends and relatives in the enemy camp. And that is when the higher education of Gita starts. This shloka (verse) should be painted on the walls of all parliaments in the world. This verse should be a requirement of all leaders and instead of swearing in and taking oath by raising the hand they should be given this shloka (verse) to live by. Krishna gives this ultimate knowledge of gyan yoga to Arjuna but then immediately points out the difference between knowledge and knowing. Krishna emphasizes more on knowing than on knowledge itself. Knowledge base is important but knowing is crucial.

Knowledge is universal; it can be in a book or in a computer. Anyone can and should have access to it. Knowing is individual and cannot be transferred to some one else. Others can perceive it, observe it and get influenced by it, but it cannot be transferred directly. This is not true only for the experience of Atma and Parmatma, but is also true in our day-to-day life. I recently met a businessman friend of mine who travels a lot. We were talking about air travel and how sometimes it is so frustrating to have to miss a plane and wait several hours for the next flight. He had a different outlook about it. He felt that missing the plane provided him an opportunity to be with himself. This is his bhavana that he has developed over time. Others can see the calmness in him when it happens and may feel that they can also try to develop it. But they have to develop this simple technique and bhavana for themselves. This is one example. There are many others. I am a surgeon and in my eyes surgery is an art. You learn more by observing and doing the surgery than by reading from a book. Similarly if you play tennis or golf, you can find your authentic shot or swing by yourself. It does not matter how much you read and how many lessons you take, when you are out there on the ground, you have to find your own best. What then happens to this knowing when we die? This has been addressed in Gita later, but let us suffice to say here that all of it is not lost. Most of it does travel with us in seed form with our samskara. Krishna knows that our birth is not all genetics. There is something we carry with us from life to life.

Krishna is also different in the sense that he uses the word yoga after the word knowing (gyan yoga). In my view yoga has been used in Gita more liberally than many other books and scriptures. A knowing that also centers an individual in my opinion is gyan yoga. As long as it brings the person closer to his center, it is yoga. Gita starts with vishad yoga and we have just covered gyan yoga. Karma yoga and others are yet to come. Even abhyas is yoga in the views of Krishna. Why so much stress on the word Yoga? Krishna is not interested in any knowing that does not bring Arjuna to his center. Duryodhana knows how to fight. He perhaps knows the shashtras as well. But how is he going to use all this knowledge is important. Is Duryodhana going to get centered using his knowledge base? That is what Krishna is interested in. Ravana in the times of Ramayana had a large knowledge base. Even Laxman went to learn from him. But, did Ravana use his knowledge or knowing to center himself? The answer is well known No.

Krishna talks about the Atma and Parmatma and the eternity of soul. That is knowledge base. He wants Arjuna to know this as his own. And once Arjuna knows the whole truth, a sum-bhava is the outcome. Krishna has already talked about this generic sum-bhava before. Now he gets specific. We shall come back to that. Before that, let us examine where Arjuna stood at the beginning of the Gita. Arjuna is gripped with grief of what may happen to his friends, relatives and Gurus because of the war. He is not talking about Ahimsa. He does not want to fight because of his attachments to some members in the enemy camp. Because of these attachments (mohas), he cannot think straight. It is important to realize that Arjuna is carried away by these emotions; it is an emotional state of Arjuna that is causing this crisis. Krishna can see this emotional disturbance clearly and he first tries to address that here. Krishna mentions it later in Gita as to what he expected Arjuna to do. Arjuna who can turn emotional by these facts would not have tolerated when the first shot would have been fired at his brothers, who were closer to him than all the others in the enemy camp. His emotional state would have turned by that time and Arjuna will have been shooting arrows to all those who were targeting his brothers.

Krishna knows the inside story. The inside story of Arjuna that was not even clear to Arjuna was so obvious to Krishna. Therefore, Krishna first addresses the fact that there is no possible death of anyone. Krishna does not want every little event in the Mahabharata to make Arjuna emotional. An emotional Arjuna will not have the clarity that was needed for him to fight the war. So, Krishna talks about the peak experiencing that I discussed in my last column. Krishna is making sure that Arjuna knows the truth about the death and life so that he becomes completely fearless, for all fear comes from the fear of death. The fear of death of someone else is also fear of death.

And having talked about all that, Krishna comes to specifics. Sum-bhava is in generic term has vast area of applications. He calls on Arjuna to fight and fight with sum-bhava in three specific areas. The war is going to be a roller coaster ride. There will be pain and suffering. There will be moments of excitement, exuberance and happiness. The first condition Krishna puts is a sum-bhava in these two. Suffering and happiness is inevitable in a war. Krishna wants to make sure that Arjuna keeps a cool head between the two and is not carried away by one or the other. This does not mean that he should not show happiness when it is due or should not have pain when an arrow goes through his arm. Arjuna like anyone else is going to have pain when hurt. Sum-bhava is being aware of the two possibilities. Pain will come and is inevitable. Happiness will also come and go. Sum-bhava is not a mental quality; it is a state of being that is a product of knowing through awareness. A war also is bound to lead to profit and loss. Again Krishna wants Arjuna to have sum-bhava in the profit and loss and he also wants Arjuna to keep sum-bhava between winning and loosing.

Krishna puts tough conditions for Arjuna to fight. For those who think that Krishna believes in Himsa should focus on this shloka. The war in Krishna’s eyes is not for profit or loss and is not for winning or loosing. It in Krishna’s view is simply a response to an inevitable situation where Duryodhana in Mahabharata has left no other choice to the Pandavas. And given this situation, he asks Arjuna to fight but fight with sum-bhava in suffering and happiness, in profit and loss and in winning and loosing.

The next statement by Krishna is so categorical. He says to Arjuna, “By so doing, you shall not incur sin.” This is so interesting. Normally we think that certain acts are sinful. Krishna on the other hand is saying that sin does not depend on an act. It depends on the bhavana. If you think of killing some one for a profit or loss, it is sin even though you have not acted to accomplish that killing. If a killing happens by you but you are in sum-bhava at the time, then it is not a sin. Krishna does not so much care for the act but he definitely cares for who the actor is and what is his bhavana at the time of the act. This focusing of responsibility on the doer rather than what is done is a shift from our normal social establishment. Krishna will say that there are good and bad people, there is no good or bad act. The focus is on the bhavana of an individual and the focus here in this shloka is on Arjuna fighting with sum-bhava.

Let us examine our social structure of today. We like to develop professionals. Doctors, Engineers and lawyers are professionals. They have the knowledge and the experience to perform intricate cases. Doctors can perform cardiac transplants and are on the verge of breakthrough with genetic manipulations. But, there are professional lawyers who will protect criminals; there are doctors who will go into medicine to get access to drugs for abuse. We have produced professional fundraisers and professional killers. The professional killers will kill for money and the professional fundraisers know how to exploit others emotions to get money. Despite these horror stories these professionals are the success stories of our times. Even a secretary in our office wants to dress and act professionally.

What then is there that Krishna can offer to us that are better than professionals in today’s society? If we examine Arjuna, he was a professional soldier in those times. The only thing that went wrong was that he got emotional. And this to our understanding is unprofessional for a soldier. Krishna could have either exploited these emotions or could have killed these emotions to get Arjuna going. Krishna chose instead to create a centered Arjuna. And a centered Arjuna will act out with sum-bhava. This is Krishna’s contribution for us. Krishna wants to create centered professionals. There have been many names for this centered being in Gita e.g. a Yogi, an sthitapragya and so on. A centered professional will then act out of a sum-bhava. Will he be as successful a doctor or a soldier or a businessman? In my view he will be better. After all the number one spot in whole of Mahabharata war does go to Arjuna and this happened after he became centered.

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