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Life through the Bhagavad Gita

A per­son­al under­stand­ing of Chap­ter 15-Purushot­ta­ma Yoga

By Srishti Agar­w­al

When I read the Bha­gavad Gita and reflect about how God cre­at­ed this uni­verse, every­thing else seems so super­flu­ous. ~ Albert Ein­stein.

If you were to read only one spir­i­tu­al text in your life, let it be the Bha­gavad Gita. The Bha­gavad Gita sum­maris­es the most fun­da­men­tal aspects of exis­tence as laid out in our Iti­hasa Puranas (his­tor­i­cal texts). Chap­ter 15 from it cap­tures the essence of the Bha­gavad Gita. So in a way, this is THE gold stan­dard. In case you haven’t got around to read­ing and under­stand­ing it yet, here is a sneak peak to increase your FOMO. If this kin­dles your inter­est, you may read the chap­ter here: https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/15

The fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple that dri­ves it all

Is it pos­si­ble that this entire cre­ation with innu­mer­able galax­ies, galac­tic arms, suns, stars, plan­ets just came to exist of its own accord with­out a gov­ern­ing intel­li­gence? Well, may be. But, maybe not, when you con­sid­er how a tree is con­tained with­in a tiny seed, the inter­de­pen­dent sur­vival and har­mo­ny of species in an ever­green for­est, mil­lions of years of evo­lu­tion hap­pen­ing in a mere 9 months in a human womb, the high and low tide occur­ring with the moon’s phas­es, intri­ca­cies of the move­ment of the earth around the sun.

  1. The Supreme Con­scious­ness (aka Absolute Real­i­ty, Para-Brah­ma, Para­mat­ma, Truth, Sat, Super­soul) is the defin­ing prin­ci­ple or sub­stra­tum through which this entire cre­ation exists. It would help to think of this not in human-cen­tric terms, but zoom­ing out to see the larg­er pic­ture at play.

  2. This prin­ci­ple, through the process of man­i­fes­ta­tion, or Maya, leads to the cre­ation of this real­i­ty. The Jivat­ma (eter­nal indi­vid­ual soul, or Atman) is a part (amsha) of this Supreme prin­ci­ple, which brings to life all beings. For instance, the Jivat­ma com­bines with the six sens­es and the mind to acti­vate them. This inner truth is of the form of bliss and can be seen as the Anan­damaya Kosha (you can read more about the Pan­chakoshas (five sheaths) here: https://www.sivanandaonline.org/public_html/?cmd=displaysection&section_id=775

  3. This prin­ci­ple man­i­fests as ener­gy that dri­ves the uni­verse and all activ­i­ties on it. For instance, the light ener­gy that comes from the Sun, and is in the moon and fire, comes from that. It gives the vital life force, that nour­ish­es all plants, which even­tu­al­ly nour­ish all oth­er beings. This can be seen as the Anna­maya Kosha.

  4. Give this a thought — The food that you eat turns into ‘you’ even­tu­al­ly. This trans­for­ma­tion is pos­si­ble because of the Supreme intel­li­gence that enables the diges­tive process by man­i­fest­ing as the diges­tive fire and unit­ing with the vital breaths (Prana and Apana) in the body. This can also be seen as rep­re­sent­ing the Prana­maya Kosha.

  5. The inner psy­che of all beings, mem­o­ry, knowl­edge and for­get­ful­ness (for only by for­get­ting / putting aside old learn­ings, can you grasp new things) are gov­erned by this Truth. This can be seen as the Manomaya and Vij­nana­maya Kosha.

Kshara (tem­po­ral), Akshara (eter­nal) Purusha (Divine being) and Ish­vara (eter­nal Lord)

There are two types of enti­ties in the uni­verse, first is the Kshara Purusha, which is the tem­po­ral Divine being, sub­ject to wear and tear, change and death.

The oth­er is the Akshara Purusha, which is the eter­nal unchang­ing Being (the Jivat­ma).

As the Jivat­ma moves from one Kshara Purusha (body) to the next (after death of a phys­i­cal being), it car­ries along with it the six sen­so­ry fac­ul­ties of hear­ing, touch, sight, taste, smell, and mind, just as the wind car­ries fra­grance from a flower. This dis­card­ing and reman­i­fest­ing from one body to the next hap­pens because of the cycle of Kar­ma and Kar­mafala (cause and effect), through attach­ment to the sens­es and cre­ation of desires. More about this in the next sec­tion. Since this is non self-evi­dent, not every­one will recog­nise this process because of which we are over­ly attached to the phys­i­cal bod­ies.

Beyond the Kshara and Akshara Purusha, and supreme to them, is the eter­nal Lord (Ish­vara), which sus­tains both the Kshara and Akshara Purushas and per­vades all Lokas (plan­e­tary spheres). This is the Supreme Being or the Absolute Truth.

The Ash­wattha tree

All of life and exis­tence (Maya) has been depict­ed in the Gita in the imagery of the Ash­wattha (Peepal) tree. The root of this tree is the Parabrah­ma, which is invis­i­ble to us as it is non self-evi­dent. Its branch­es spread down­ward to all of cos­mos to cre­ate this exis­tence. The tree grows and is nour­ished by the three Gunas (Satt­va, Rajas, Tamas) which are also con­sid­ered the fun­da­men­tal dri­vers of life accord­ing to Ayurve­da. The sense plea­sures that we run and spend our whole lives after, are its sprouts, and its sec­ondary roots are ego and desires. These are the ones that cause Karmic bondage and cause one to be reborn time and again and go through the birth-death cycle. Vedas are its leaves, and the know­er of the Vedas or Divine knowl­edge can break free from this cycle and gain free­dom.

What is the aim of life?

Since this process of rebirths is so bind­ing and unend­ing, if one devel­ops the need to get free of it, one must trace the root of the tree, real­ize the self as one with the cos­mos, as them­selves being the Divine prin­ci­ple in man­i­fest form at play. Here, there is no sep­a­ra­tion. This is seen as self-real­i­sa­tion or God-real­i­sa­tion, which is seek­ing that Supreme Abode of Para­mat­ma. Once there, one can remain in that bliss­ful real­ized state, and does not need to return to and iden­ti­fy with this world of Maya.

Only those who have devel­oped the eyes of wis­dom by detach­ment, con­trol­ling of the sens­es and oth­er paths laid out in our Shas­tras, will be able to grasp this Truth (Sat). The yogis and wise ones, who realise this Truth, con­stant­ly dwell in and behold the Para­mat­man even while liv­ing through this Maya. For the igno­rant and unpu­ri­fied psy­che, this Truth will not be vis­i­ble, and they will not see the Jivat­ma either when it is in the body, and even when it departs to anoth­er body. This caus­es attach­ment lead­ing to mis­ery.

How to get there?

Luck­i­ly for us, the Gita also describes prac­ti­cal steps to self-real­i­sa­tion. Become free of pride and delu­sion. We go through life claim­ing things to be ‘mine’ — my fam­i­ly, my suc­cess, my con­tri­bu­tion. We are attached to our sense of self (Ahankara), our phys­i­cal bod­ies, our thoughts, our pride. Through self-knowl­edge and detach­ment, we need to rec­og­nize that all of this cre­ation is uni­fied, with one pri­mal enti­ty dri­ving it. There is no sep­a­ra­tion, and all is born of the same Divine love. Take con­scious steps to rec­og­nize this, zoom out from a shal­low point of view and be inclu­sive in your world­view. One can start by shar­ing more, wish­ing well for oth­ers, try­ing to accept peo­ple as they are.

Detach, from the con­stant slav­ery of our sens­es (hunger, thirst, sleep, avoid­ing pain, etc.), so that we can ded­i­cate our life to some­thing larg­er and not be caught up in mere ful­fil­ment of our desires (Kama). A step to start off would be to devel­op some Niya­mas (rules) to suit you, like wak­ing up at a fixed time (con­trol over sleep), observ­ing a fast on cer­tain days or after evenings (detach­ing from hunger).

Make your­self capa­ble of bear­ing dual­i­ties of plea­sure and pain, heat and cold, with the same equani­mous feel­ing, instead of cre­at­ing desire for the good and aver­sion to the so-called bad. One can start with a sense check of their com­fort zone and start by push­ing the bound­ary to increase it. Small starters could help, like hav­ing a cold water if you’re not used to it, hav­ing a food item that you dis­like, keep­ing a tech fast by not using your phone / lap­top for a day.

Lim­it your desires. From the time we wake up, to when we sleep and even in dreams, we are con­stant­ly cre­at­ing desires — I want to have this food, I wish I didn’t have to do this work, if only I had a life like him, I wish more peo­ple praised me, etc. Whether small or big, what­ev­er desires we gen­uine­ly cre­ate will be ful­filled, either now or lat­er in this life­time, or in future life­times. So, be care­ful what you wish for! Think whether the desire is actu­al­ly serv­ing your high­er self. If not, can­cel it. This con­stant churn­ing of desires and attach­ments is what keeps us going on a nev­er stop­ping tread­mill across life­times. Imag­ine stop­ping this, and break­ing free of it. What would that be like? To not be bound, to be absolute­ly free, to act not out of com­pul­sion but love, to be one with the Supreme Divine. Well, you need not imag­ine much, because you are already that. Just a flip is need­ed — from focus­ing on the out­er world to real­iz­ing inner truth that is oper­at­ing through each of us.

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