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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

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The Elixir of Life

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

A detailed study of the Gita will show that often there is no single straight answer to any single straight question. This is not surprising. Since the dawn of civilisation the life itself has been so complex and intricate that the problems faced by the mankind and their solutions cannot be over simplified. We have the gross body of flesh and blood which has its own problems of survival that gives rise to material needs and their fulfillment. We have the subtle body of mind and soul which has its own problems of perception, feelings, experiences etc; that give rise to non-material needs and their fulfillment. The two are different, poles apart. One is solid, visible and apparent and the other is subtle, invisible and abstract. Even then the two are so intermingled and over lapping that they cannot be completely separated or segregated. The questions that are bordering on both these fields have, therefore, necessarily to be intricate and their answers have to be complex. Sometimes we are faced with a situation like that of the famous egg and hen syndrome and it is difficult to decide which one came first. The nature of persons is varied. Their experiences are different. The circumstances in which they live, the way they think, act and react are dissimilar. It is natural, therefore, that their perceptions differ and they develop different views and philosophies of life. One thing is common though, that all of them want to achieve success, maximise their happiness and attain peace. It is here that the problems arise about what the means to success are, what the lasting happiness is and what the real peace and bliss are. Now the answers to these questions have to be different for different persons. In fact these have to be different even for the same person at different times and at different places. There cannot be a single teacher for all classes of seekers of knowledge nor can there be a single teacher for a student at all levels of his scholarship. A simple primer of alphabets and a nursery teacher would be all that is needed for a beginner to learn a language. The higher the student rises in his studies, the more advanced books would be needed and better qualified teachers would be required. Similarly, different medicines are to be adminstered to different patients with different diseases and even to the same patient at different stages of his ailment. There cannot be a single medicine as an elixir for all. In the same way, the Gita prescribes different solutions for the problems of different aspirants and for the same aspirant in different situations. The sum total is an elixir of life for all, at all places, for all times and in all circumstances. An aspirant, a seeker has to see for himself what suits him at what time, place or level of his aspiration and quest.

The Gita talks of knowledge, action, devotion and yoga as the different paths of achieving one’s goal. In specific contexts it establishes superiority of one over the rest. However, it does not emphasise the supremacy of any one over the others for all situations, for all times or for all persons. Therefore these different paths should not be costrued to be conflicting or opposed to one another. They are at leasts different routes suitable for different sets of travellers and at best different means relevant and beneficial at different stages of the journey, complementary to each other in achieving the desired objective. These different stages could be also the different levels in the quest for spiritual enhansement and realisation of the Supreme Truth. Even while refering to any one of these means the Gita gives a holistic picture with pros and cons, pitfalls and the effort involved, so that it becomes clear as to what one is up to in treading that particular route or adopting that specific means in one’s spiritual journey. When it talks about ‘jnana’, knowledge it gives the importance of both the theory ‘jnana’ and its application, ‘vijnana’. When it talks about ‘karma’, action it qualifies it by specifying that it should be either ‘mat-karma’, action on behalf of the Divine, or ‘nishkama-karma’, action without any desire for its fruits. When it talks about ‘bhakti’, devotion, it makes the point clear that it should be ‘ananya’, undivided and unswerving. When it talks of ‘yoga’, the yoke, it says that one should be ‘nityabhiyukta’ and ‘satat yukta’, ever and always merged with the Divine. Thus every path has been defined, qualified, elaborately specified and explained in detail.

It is in this context that we have to understand the alternatives placed before Arjuna by the Lord in these words: ‘If you want to live in Me alone, you should all the time fix your mind on Me and apply your wisdom towards Me. This would be the ideal situation. However, it may not be possible for you to be in that state all the time. Try and practise yoga in order to reach Me. In case you find practising also too difficult then perform actions for my sake to attain perfection. If even executing My actions is beyond your capacity, then be on your own, act as you please but renounce the fruit of your actions. This will give you peace because renunciation of the fruit of action is more beneficial than meditation, knowledge or experimentation.’ Giving up the fruits of action is the definition of ‘tyaga’, abandonment provided by the Gita. But it says that it is not possible for any one to give up all the actions born of his nature. No body can remain actionless even for a moment. However, one can be selective and if ‘kamya karmas’,the desire-oriented actions are given up, this would be termed as ‘sanyasa’, renunciation. Even so the ascetics, the men of knowledge and the men of action have been placed lower in rank to a ‘yogi’, one who is yoked to the Divine. This gives a clear message that in the end analysis it has to be our aim to attain the position of ‘sayujya’, complete merger with the Lord. Yoga also has been defined in two ways: excellence in one’s actions and equanimity and poise in one’s conduct. Whatever we do it has to be done to perfection. Thus it will be seen that three things are involved in the path of action. First is the selection of actions. These should be those that are our natural duties, virtuous and righteous and not those dictated by our passion, lust, desire or ignorance. Secondly, having selected the right type of actions, we must perform them with excellence and to perfection Thirdly, care should be taken that their fruit is not the consideration for undertaking them The only consideration should be that they form our duty and must be performed. As regards the poise in our conduct, we must take success and failure in our stride. We should neither get lost in pleasure nor be perturbed in pain. Seeing the Divine in every being, our attitude towards all should be the same.

Human life is one of constant change, for better or for worse. If it is former then a person is elevated from the lower stage of spiritual position to the higher one. If it is latter then he goes down from higher to the lower. For the second category of people the Gita says that they sink lower and lower and never attain release from the bondages of ‘samsara’, the cycle of birth - death - rebirth. It is for the first category of persons that the Gita prescribes various paths, ways and methods of seeking the Truth as also solutions for various problems faced during this quest. These are relevant at various stages and levels of their elevation in their search for self and the Divine. At some level they have to distinguish between the real and the unreal knowledge indicated in the Gita. At other times the detailed procedure for meditation given therein, is found beneficial by them for their upliftment The logic and reason helps them up to a point. Then the faith, trust and belief take over and carry the seekers forward. Thereafter a stage is reached when it is realised that the only way out is complete surrender before the Lord and seeking refuge in Him till one achieves perfect merger, the ultimate goal of all the seekers and devotees. Even the duty and righteousness, called ‘dharma’, which the Gita says is essential in the early stages of ascendance, has to be abandoned ultimately. This is exactly as we give up the ladder, which helped us climb the heights, on reaching the desired peak. Or just as we abandon the boat, which ferried us across, on reaching the shore.

Our traditional knowledge has always been holistic. There were no compartments, subjects or disciplines of knowledge. One had to traverse the whole range from Grammar to Philosophy, from Logic to Exegesis, from Monism to Dualism and from mundane to spiritual in the quest for knowledge. True to this tradition, Shri Gita also presents a comprehensive picture of all the aspects of life and is, therefore, useful for any one, at any place, at any point of time and at any level of consciousness. There are four very vivid, lucid and all encompassing shlokas in the Gita. One of them gives the sum total of the nature of existence of the Lord within the heart of beings and His varied functions. It speaks of the Divine as a spectator who goes on observing us and our activities while seated therein. It depicts Him as the one from whom we can seek permission, guidance and direction for all that we do. It calls Him as the enjoyer of all that is enjoyable and master and preserver of all that exists. The second shloka describes the perfect devotees. They sing in praise of their beloved deity. They talk about Him, discuss Him and describe Him in their conversation. The Lord is all the time in their thoughts, mind and intellect. This keeps them contented, happy and peaceful. The third one assures those who are ever merged with the Divine that they need not worry about themselves. What they have, will be protected by the Divine. What they do not have, will be provided by Him. He takes care of their gain and security. The fourth shloka is virtually the last shloka of the operative part of the Gita. It is a window to the ultimate and the supreme path. It asks us to abandon all other props and take refuge in the Divine. This, it says, will liberate us from all sins and thereby all anxieties. This is the elixir of life that will sure deliver us from all our ailments, physical, mental and spiritual so that we are able to reach our goal of realising our self and the Divine, who is Existence, Consciousness and Bliss; who is True, Benevolent and Beautiful.

(Taken from the Book ‘Bhagavad Gita, The Elixir of Life’ written by Shri Dhar)

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