Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha
Even a small measure of buddhi-yoga practice takes away all fear from the mind, making the practitioner confident, clear-sighted and steadfast in whatever he does. The mind becomes greatly free and broad. This prepares the yogic student to take up even hazardous tasks, and perform them admirably well.
Dear and blessed souls:
Harih Om Tat Sat.
We now go to the next verse (2.39), where Krishna inaugurates his yoga exposition. His words mark a very clear transition from Sāṅkhya-yoga to buddhi-yoga. Mind you, he calls it buddhi-yoga. What does it mean? What he delineated so far was Sāṅkhya – the ‘knowledge pursuit’. He is now going to explain the pursuit of ‘yoga’, in which he highlights the performance of activities and interactions.
Psycho-intellectual effects of buddhi-yoga
In this buddhi-yoga, there is no craze for or adherence to any exclusive meditational absorption. The whole emphasis, on the other hand, is how to deal with activities and interactions wholesomely and well. Their psycho-intellectual effects are every time closely observed and sublimated. The process instantly results in mind’s placidity and intelligence’s stability. Krishna assures that by pursuing this buddhi-yoga, one breaks through all bondage caused by intense activities. The message is aptly applicable not only to Arjuna but all those who are engaged in one or the other pursuit.
Remember: Krishna’s instruction was aimed at removing Arjuna’s grief and fear evoked by the thought of sinfulness. He uses the words ‘therefore, Arjuna fight’ in verse no. 2.18. In the verse concluding Sāṅkhya exposition also he gives the same exhortation. If the mind has to behave with equanimity, correspondingly the intelligence also has to be enriched equally with Knowledge. Both go together.
Note that in verses 2.25, 26, 27, 28 and 30 Krishna repeatedly asserts that grief is unfounded and Arjuna deserves not to grieve. Just see how fondly and deftly Krishna relates all his instructions to Arjuna’s submission, namely “Krishna, redress my grief and fear.” Krishna’s present assertion strengthens the earlier proclamations.
Twin-defects of worldly activities
Let us move to the next verse 2.40. Krishna explains, how the practice of yoga-buddhi becomes a full safeguard against the chronic defects as well as side-effects all normal activities and interactions are likely to face. He calls the defects as abhikrama-nāśa, loss of effort, and pratyavāya, adverse result. Every kind of performance is subject to these twin-defects.
What are they? Loss of effort often takes place in agriculture, either due to drought or floods or even pests. A very good crop may get destroyed within a few hours or days. All the efforts in nurturing the harvest, can by one stroke crash into ashes. Imagine the impact on the mind of the farmer, agriculturist. Likewise, are instances of miscarriage, another illustration for loss of effort.
As for pratyavāya, adverse result, it is characteristic of treatment of diseases. In the attempt to cure the disease, unexpectedly adverse result occurs. Sometimes, the name of the medicine uttered by the physician may be misheard by the attending nurse, and she may give the wrong medicine. I was told that barium sulphate and barium sulphide are typical instances resulting in pratyavāya.
Yoga-buddhi is free from adverse effects
In practising activities with yoga-buddhi, karmayoga, both these defects are fully safeguarded from. Krishna further explains: “Even a small measure of karma-yoga practice takes away all fear from the mind, making the practitioner confident, clear-sighted and steadfast in whatever he does. The mind becomes greatly free and broad. This prepares the yogic student to take up even hazardous tasks, and perform them admirably well.
The fear element is altogether dissolved and the seeker begins to feel the taste of freedom while remaining active and involved. His ability to perform gets enhanced considerably. The key for all performance is in the mind. Mind becomes healthy and performance becomes efficient and glorious. The focus in karmayoga is the mind, and the effort consists in instilling into the performer yoga-buddhi. That is why it is called buddhi-yoga, not karma-yoga.
Resoluteness of intelligence
The next verse, 2.41, emphasizes how important is the role of intelligence in Yoga pursuit. Following his exposition of Sāṅkhya, Upanishadic knowledge of the Self, Krishna continues the dialogue focusing on knowledge and wisdom. In this yoga, says he, the only factor to count is the resoluteness of intelligence. Intelligence should remain firm and stable in its clarity and comprehension. It should not be shaken by any factor whatsoever.
Those who lack such resoluteness will have multibranched motives, leading them nowhere at all. Multiple thoughts, various distractions and fascinations will assail them, pulling their mind in scattered directions. To avoid such a catastrophe, the studious thinkers and seekers should reflect upon what Krishna says about the world, human personality and interaction between the two. The more and more one thinks about these, the deeper and deeper will his understanding grow. Disturbing attractions and repulsions will be maturated and will virtually fall from the mind effortlessly.
The influence intelligence sheds in the mind is marvellous, subtle and deep. Mind can be acted upon by intelligence alone. That is why Krishna highlights buddhi, intelligence, and says it has to become clear, stable and resolute. In fact, what Krishna does is to speak to Arjuna. By that he is instilling knowledge. It is a subtle transfusion from Krishna’s buddhi to Arjuna’s mind, the enlightened intelligence of one eradicating delusion in the other.
By listening attentively to Krishna, Arjuna is absorbing what is imparted through every word and phrase. As a result, Arjuna’s intelligence gets infused to become like Krishna’s. Between a Guru and shishya, this is the kind of sharing, infusion, that takes place. Kurukshetra strikingly demonstrates how the transformation expected transpires in the listener!
Hollowness of ritualistic life
To underscore the resoluteness of intelligence, Krishna evaluates ritualistic life, where the sole attention and focus are in chanting protracted hymns and offering specially selected materials to the fire blazing in the altar. The ceremony can last for hours and days. Some of the protracted ceremonial yagas call for months of dedicated preparation. The actual performance itself may involve hours of intense application of the mind and senses.
All these are generally considered extremely austere, involving and exacting in every way. But Krishna points that this kind of karmic involvement is absolutely hollow and if spiritually examined it is a mere waste of time and effort.
Mark his words: “The entire dissertation on rituals that Vedas provide, is like beautiful flowers, alluring to look at, but not followed by fruits. Normally flowering is a harbinger to the emergence of fruits. But in the case of ritualistic ceremonies, it is like Palashakusuma, the flowering of Palasha tree. The tree will become full of flowers, with no leaf at all behind. But none of them will yield any fruit at all!”
Only after shedding the body
The ritualists indeed vociferously speak about the results and outcomes rituals are expected to shower. But mind you, all of them will be available only after shedding the body! This is a very clever statement, deceptive as well. By stating that the results of rituals performed here will be available only in the post-death period, the whole injunction becomes irrelevant to rational thinkers! Everything in our life is pratyaksha, directly perceptible to the senses.
Our body, the activities it performs, the food we eat, the dress we wear, the interactions we take up, all have their place, meaning and purpose ‘here and now’. They are experiential. How is it that the sacred rituals alone have their fruition after the performer drops his body? Of what practical relevance are they then? Of what earthly bearing are the performances?
Yet people take to rituals with a craze. Krishna says it is solely due to lack of viveka. It is avivekins, indiscreet people, that extol them and their acclaimed results. They do not think about and evaluate the worth and utility of rituals. They tend to argue senselessly. They proclaim the Vedas as sacrosanct and feel that their declarations cannot be adjudged like all other things of the world.
Flowery words full of desires and greed
Proponents of rituals claim: “Vedic deities are celestial. The way they live and work is not evident to the senses. The results bestowed upon the performers and allied matters are all supra-worldly. They cannot be questioned or devalued, but should be accepted with full faith. There is nothing beyond the holy chants and sacred performance. Other Vedic sentences and statements are not true and should be summarily dismissed.”
The ritualists contend that all descriptions about the Soul in the body are purely eulogistic in nature. None should heed them at all.
Krishna affirms that they say all this solely because of the desire and greed that dominate their minds. They love and relish to hear the highlights of heaven. What an enjoyable abode is it, together with the thrills and delights available there! Who will not yearn for them, they ask.
Their desireful mind blinds their vision. What they verily get is birth and life again and again in this world together with the enjoyments already had and the scope for various activities and interactions.
Thus how can those whose mind is robbed by sensory delights hope to have a resolute intelligence? As are the world and secular delights, so are Vedas, their pronouncements and promises about a life hereafter and the extensive enjoyments to follow. All are but flowery flattery, with no fruit succeeding them. They at best only delude the human mind and intelligence and tie them down to things which are fictitious and illusory.
“In this buddhi-yoga, there is no craze for or adherence to any exclusive meditational absorption. The whole emphasis, on the other hand, is how to deal with activities and interactions wholesomely and well. ”
“The focus in karmayoga is the mind, and the effort consists in instilling into the performer yoga-buddhi. That is why it is called buddhi-yoga, not karma-yoga.”
“In buddhi-yoga, the only factor to count is the resoluteness of intelligence. Intelligence should remain firm and stable in its clarity and comprehension. It should not be shaken by any factor whatsoever.”
“The influence intelligence sheds in the mind is marvellous, subtle and deep. Mind can be acted upon by intelligence alone. That is why Krishna highlights buddhi, intelligence, and says it has to become clear, stable and resolute. ”
“The entire dissertation on rituals that Vedas provide, is like Palashakusuma, the flowering of Palasha tree. The tree will become full of flowers, with no leaf at all behind. But none of them will yield any fruit at all! ”
“Krishna assures that by pursuing this buddhi-yoga, one breaks through all bondage caused by intense activities. The message is aptly applicable not only to Arjuna but all those who are engaged in one or the other pursuit.”