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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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The First Lessons

by T.N. Dhar ‘Kundan’

Millions and millions of people the world over read Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, the song celestial. Different people derive different meaning and different lessons from the verses contained therein. Those who seek solutions to their mundane problems get guidance and those who seek spiritual knowledge get enlightenment from this compendium of the Upanishads. From the second to the last eighteenth chapter there are discourses on action, ‘Karma’, knowledge, ‘Jnana’, devotion, ‘Bhakti’ and contemplation, ‘Dhyana’. Although the first chapter is generally skipped over by those desirous of profound knowledge, for a beginner like me the first chapter also conveys a lot. For me it contains the first lessons of life, both exoteric and esoteric.

The first verse talks about ‘Dharma-kshetra’ and ‘Kuru-kshetra’. This tells me that whatever is stated in the Gita relates to our life, which is a vast field of action and a theatre of righteousness. I am convinced that the Gita tells me to live a life of committed action and sustained virtues. The same verse refers to the two armies arrayed in the field as ‘yuyutsavah’ or inclined to fight. This tells me that the life is a continuous struggle between right and wrong, true and false and virtue and vice and the Gita describes this struggle and shows us the ways and means to fight and be victorious.

For me again the verse nos.21 and 22 are very significant. Arjuna asks the Lord to place his chariot between the two armies so that he could see whom he is to fight against. Arjuna represents the ‘Jeevatma’ or a human being, the Lord is his consciousness, the chariot is his self and the two armies are the forces of virtue and evil. Now this human being wants to identify the forces of evil and virtue and then determine how to overcome the evil and live a life of righteousness. We are so deeply immersed in the waters of delusion that the forces of evil appear to us as our near and dear ones and, therefore, we are reluctant to fight them. These forces are ‘Lobha, moha, kama, krodha, mada, ahankara’ greed, delusion, lust, anger, pride and arrogance. They thrive under the patronage of our blind intellect, Dritrashtra. They are so dear to us that we are deeply attached to them. That is why we, the beings refuse to fight them and drop our weapons. In a later verse of this chapter Arjuna refers to them as his kinsmen, ‘Swajana’ and refuses to take up arms against them.

We experience this situation in our every day life. We have greed for wealth and lust for enjoyment. Unmindful of the momentary pleasure that we derive from these things we are mad after them. Obviously, therefore, we are reluctant to combat them. We are proud of our position and power. We are arrogant about our possessions because we are in a delusion that whatever we have is the result of our own actions and that we are the rightful enjoyers of all these material luxuries. If through us somebody is benefited, we unashamedly boast about it and make a show of it, but if we are benefited due to someone’s actions we take it to be our right and well-deserved reward and thus refuse to give credit to him. We make a pomp and show of our riches and wealth, strength and power, wisdom and knowledge, possessions and belongings. Some thinker has rightly observed that ‘these days people are respected for what they have and not for what they are’. That being so we are so attached to all these evil attributes that we treat them as our near and dear ones against whom we should not raise our head. In his ignorance a being says that even if these forces of evil become the cause of his death, he should not fight them. This is the real paradox of our life.

On the other side are the forces of virtue, love, compassion, kindness, harmony, poise, honesty, truth, purity, piety and straightforwardness. These attributes are constantly fighting the forces of evil and vice. This is the real fight between Kauravas and Pandavas, indefinitely going on in our mind. Once we keep the chariot of the self in the middle we are able to have a full and complete view of these forces arrayed on both sides of the mind. Once we are aware of these forces and are able to identify them, we begin to overpower the evil forces and triumph on vices. This enables us to rise from animality to divinity and live a life full of virtues. In all this exercise Shri Krishna in the garb of our own consciousness guides us on the path of righteousness. The being addresses the Lord seated in his heart in these words, ‘Shishyaste-aham shadi mam tvam prapanam – I am your disciple, I bow before you and seek instructions from you.’

For a common man of ordinary prudence this first chapter is, therefore, of a great significance. It tells me that I must be aware that there are two forces of vice and virtue in me. I must realize that if I am intellectually blind, the evil will entice me and appear to me as my dear one. I must, therefore, seek guidance from my consciousness and learn to overpower the evil with the help of the forces of righteousness, which are also there within me. I must keep this struggle continuously on throughout my life and create a balanced and harmonious attitude in all my actions. I must not harbour despondence and defeatist thoughts I must be a person of action, focused and committed all the time. This is the greatest lesson I learn from this chapter.     

Once these forces are identified, once the evil elements are overpowered and once the path of righteousness is chosen, we have not to go on fighting this battle lifelong. If these first lessons are learnt well, we will have a sound and firm base of awareness on which can be built the edifice of spirituality. These first lessons help us remove our delusion with the result our vision is cleared and we regain our consciousness and steer clear of all evil. We will shun all lust-oriented actions and shall become ‘Sanyasi’ or ascetics in real sense of the term. We shall regulate all our actions relating to desire and wealth, ‘Kama and Artha’ with due regard to ‘Dharma’ or righteousness and focus on attaining ‘Moksha’ or liberation. This liberation will be from all types of bondages, ignorance and darkness. 

If we ignore these first lessons we shall feel the same way as Arjuna and say, ‘my limbs fail me, my mouth is parched up, my body quivers, my hair stand on end, my skin burns all over and my bow slips from my hand’. Like Arjuna we shall lose the power of discrimination and our judgment of good and bad, vice and virtue, right and wrong and righteousness and non-righteousness will get blurred. If these lessons are learnt well in time, we shall know what is our duty and what is not. We shall be able to identify sin and virtue, transient and eternal and also learn to live a life of purity and piety and know the essence of everything around.

These two armies of vice and virtue are all the time present in my mind. They are ever ready to overpower each other. Once I am conscious of this fact I will see to it that the elements of vice do not get an upper hand. I need not kill them. Even a change of direction will serve the purpose. Instead of having lust for power I can have lust for knowledge. Instead of greed for wealth I should have greed for knowing the truth. If I have to be angry I must be angry on my ignorance. Pride and arrogance do not go with wisdom and knowledge. These have to be changed into humility, compassion and love. This can be done by having devotion and dedication. Faith, commitment and dogged perseverance in effort together form a ‘Mantra’ for winning this battle of the inner world.  

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