Krishna As Saviour: Part – II
At another level, the Gita, as already stated earlier, exalts the ego, by claiming that it too is a part of the infinite Atman, the supreme spirit. Once our individual self is assimilated in such an all pervasive entity and elevated to such a transcendent pedestal, then the preoccupation with projecting our own little selves, is logically diminished. The Upanishadic saying. Tat Twam Asi—That Thou Art—becomes a three word demolition squad against the normal expectation-ridden, ego infested way of thinking.
On the methodology of achieving the desired mutation in our attitude towards action, the Gita is, significantly enough, one of the least dogmatic texts in Hindu philosophy. Its overriding purpose is the conquest of mental strife and agitation. It is unambivalently clear on the principle cause of this strife and agitation; but, beyond this, it does not limit its effectiveness by espousing only one path to redemption. For some, jnanamarg, the path of knowledge, in which the real nature of things is understood through the acquisition of knowledge, could be the most efficacious; for others, the path of bhakti or devotion, in which all the fatiguing retention of our misguided individuality is surrendered cataclysmically to the will of the Almighty, could be better; and for others still, the path of karma or action, in which all activity, free from the taint of ‘I-ness’ or thought of reward, is performed as a daily consecration, could be the best of all. This exhilarating lack of dogma in the Gita comes through transparently in the following stanzas:
Set thy heart on me alone, and give to me thy understanding: thou shalt in truth live in me hereafter. But if thou art unable to rest thy mind on me, then seem to reach me by the practice of Yoga concentration.
If thou art not able to practise concentration, consecrate all thy work to me. By doing mere action in my service thou shalt attain perfection. And if even this thou art not able to do, then take refuge in devotion to me and surrender to me the fruit of all thy work—with the selfless devotion of a humble heart.
For concentration is better than mere practice, and meditation is better than concentration; but higher than meditation is surrender in love of the fruit of one’s actions, for a surrender follows peace.
If there is one dominant attribute of the Gita, it is its advocacy of the harmonious life, as an overriding goal, valid in itself. Here its analysis is both ruthless and precise. The onslaught of the senses is forever at war with a person in pursuit of wisdom and serenity. If the onslaught is not checked, attachment arises, and from attachment, desire; desire leads to anger, and anger to confusion; confusion causes distortions in memory, and such distortion in turn leads to loss of understanding. Once understanding is lost, all is lost.
Attraction and repulsion, attachment and hatred, are inherent in any interaction with the phenomenal world, if the senses are not kept in control. To the Gita, desire is the root cause of the loss of serenity. The power of desire is not underestimated; at more than one place the Gita equates it with a voracious fire, capable of devouring the resolve of even the wisest of men.
The renunciation of desire is, however, not stated as a religious dictum; its harmful impact is psychologically analysed and its consequences spelt out with clinical elaboration. The man in the grip of desire is bound by a hundred shackles of hope, forever confused by fanciful thoughts, and consumed by pride, anger and greed. In short, desire while initially seductive, is in the long run enslaving, and non-conducive to the peaceful life. It must therefore be vanquished, through a control of the senses. ‘Great Warrior,” Krishna exhorts Arjuna, ‘kill the enemy menacing you in the form of desire.’