The entire world is made up of three qualities. These qualities constitute illusion. They can be spoken of as density or inertia, action or reaction, and balance or harmony. Although their effects are very different, all three qualities befog your understanding. As long as these qualities reside in your heart you will remain in bondage.
Among the three qualities enumerated above, the first two, namely inertia and excessive activity, are responsible for all the sorrows, grief, troubles and problems that you experience. Whenever torpor, laziness, drowsiness or sleepiness manifest, or whenever unconscionable fear or rage or hatred take hold of you, then you are overwhelmed by the quality of inertia or density, which in Sanskrit is called tamas. Whenever strong desires, frenzied activities, impatience, passion, emotional and self interested actions of all kinds predominate, then the second quality, which in Sanskrit is called rajas, holds sway over you. When these two qualities are in control, your real human nature is forgotten. They bring out the animal nature and the demonic nature in human beings. Therefore, to begin with, these two qualities of tamas and rajas will have to be expunged from you.
A farmer who wants to gain a good crop starts by removing the weeds from his field. As long as the weeds cover the field, depleting the soil of nutrients and energy, the crops will not have a chance. Therefore, the removal of this unwanted growth is an essential precondition for raising a good crop. In the same way, if you want to gain enlightenment, if you want to realize the bliss of the eternal self, if you want to abide in the unending joy of the atma, you will have to remove from the field of your heart the weeds of tamas and rajas. They have rooted there in the form of desire, anger, greed, delusion, pride and jealousy, the baneful inner enemies which must be conquered. These inner enemies are the children of tamas and rajas. They keep you locked up in delusion. As long as these weeds remain within you, you will not be able to reap the bliss of the atma.
The first chapter of the Gita is filled with Arjuna's anguish and wailing. The two qualities tamas and rajas had taken over his heart and were responsible for Arjuna's grief and sorrow. Krishna taught Arjuna, that in the first place, he had to root out tamas and rajas from his heart, so that he could fully express his human nature. But, to express his true divine nature, even the third of the three qualities that make up illusion, the one which in Sanskrit is called satva and which is characterized by a balanced peaceful manner, had to be transcended. It is also a limitation which covers your divine nature, although with a very fine veil. All three qualities keep you locked into the individual personality and prevent you from fully realizing your divine self. Krishna told Arjuna, "Offer all three qualities, tamas, rajas and satva, to me. Then you will be free of timidity and sorrow, and you will be able to achieve victory in the world."
If you are inviting a great spiritual being such as a sage or a revered teacher to your house, there are certain preparations which you will have to undertake in cleansing, adorning and decorating your house. You will have to clean inside and out and bring order to the surroundings before the guest arrives. Great people will not enter a house which is full of dirt and which lacks sacredness. In the same way, when you have invited the governor or a high official to your town, you clean the roads and decorate the paths and keep everything ready and fit to receive the distinguished personage. Even though this person holds only a temporary position, you will still take great care to clean your house and make many preparations to welcome the honored guest to your place.
When you make so much effort to receive a worldly official, then how much more effort and preparation should you make to invite the very creator and protector of the world to come to your house? Clearly, when you welcome God into your heart, you must cleanse your heart thoroughly. Only when you purify your heart will God be pleased to enter it. Krishna said, "Arjuna, up to now you have been taking me only as the charioteer of your chariot, but you must take me as the charioteer of your life! The seat on which I am seated in the chariot is clean and well decorated. Now, think of how clean and grand your heart must be to make a seat for me there, if I am to install myself as the charioteer of your life."
If you go to a park and decide to sit down on the ground, you put down a mat, or a newspaper or a large kerchief and sit on that. When you take so much care about the seat for this body, which, after all, is just temporary and full of impurities, how much more care should you take when you are inviting God into the inner sanctum of your heart?
As long as the two qualities rajas and tamas are in your heart, your heart will remain impure. These two qualities continuously pollute and dirty the heart. As long as it is dirty, the divinity will not enter your heart; you will not be able to perceive the divine presence there. Therefore, you must first remove the quality of density and inertia, the tamas quality, and having done that, you must remove the rajas quality. Then the satva quality will shine in you, and you will become a self assured human being, in touch with your divine source. Start now by making every effort to remove every bit of dirt that has accumulated in your heart. There is a small example for this.
When ladies go out, they frequently take along a little mirror, a comb and a handkerchief, to make sure that they will present a neat appearance. Why do they take these three particular items? During the journey, it is quite likely that their hair will get disturbed. To put their hair back in order they take the comb. To see if their hair is properly in place, they take the mirror. And to wipe their face they take the handkerchief. If they leave any one of these behind, they will not be able to achieve perfection in their appearance. So, a comb, a mirror and a handkerchief are necessary to help maintain facial cleanliness and a neat appearance.
In the same way, if you want to correct the disturbed beauty of your heart, you have to take certain aids for that too. Whether your hair is disturbed or not is shown to you by the mirror. Whether your heart is disturbed or not is shown to you by your devotion, which acts as the mirror. This mirror must be pure. When the mirror is clean, you will be able to see if your heart and mind are pure or if they have become covered by impurities. When you recognize that your heart is disturbed, you have to correct it. And for this purpose you need a comb, namely, the comb of wisdom. Wisdom clarifies the heart and returns it to a state of order and beauty. Then, just as you have a cloth to clean the dirt that has come on your face, you have to remove the dirt that has entered your mind with the cloth of detachment. With the help of detachment you can wipe off all the dirt that has accumulated in your mind.
Just as ladies take these three things, the mirror, the comb and the handkerchief, along with them whenever they go out on a journey in the world, so also, in your journey of life, you have to take devotion, wisdom and detachment to keep your heart and mind pure.
We have already considered the tamas quality which binds you to your lower nature. Now, let us examine the characteristics of the rajas quality, which also locks you into the lower realms of being and keeps you from expressing your true human potential. A person who is filled with rajas will always be hasty in everything; he will have no patience or forbearance. He cannot be steady for even a moment. And he will exhibit a great deal of anger. Not only this, he will also have unlimited desires. These are all characteristics of the rajas quality. This becomes clear when you go to watch animals in a zoo. Be it a cheetah, a tiger or a fox, they will not be quiet and steady for even a moment. The reason is that they are filled with an excess of rajas.
When rajas enters your heart it makes you unsteady in body and mind; you will be restless all the while. Not only does it make you unsteady, it also keeps you in delusion. When you are deluded, you have strong desires for the objects of the world. As these desires manifest in your heart, you take action to procure these different things for yourself. In that way, delusion leads to desire, and desire leads to action. These three, delusion, desire and action are the powerful qualities which are the characteristic features of rajas.
It is because of rajas that you constantly move about. For example, when you sit in a particular place, you find you will not be steady for very long; some part of the body or other will always be moving. This may be compared to the aspen tree. Even if there is no breeze or wind, the leaves in such a tree will always be moving. The same applies to a horse. The word for horse in Sanskrit refers to that which has no steadiness. Whenever you see a horse, whether it be the head, the tail or the legs, some part of it will always be moving. That is why in ancient times, a sacrifice called the sacrifice of the horse, was performed as a symbolic ritual to elicit the help of the gods, in the practice of steadying the mind.
The exemplar for the rajas quality is Ravana, the king of the demons. The exemplar for the the tamas quality is another well known demon in ancient lore, who slept for decades at a time. There was still a third demon whose heart was good and who surrendered himself at the feet of Rama. He is the exemplar for the satva quality he chose the side of good, but nevertheless, he was a demon. All three of these demons are brothers. If you allow the first two into you heart, they will lead you into endless harm and grief. If you let the third one dominate you, he will lead you into activities and ways of living that are good. But, nevertheless, he will also keep you immersed in delusion and forgetful of your true divine nature.
If you want to enter the kingdom of liberation, you must remove all three of these demons from your heart. All three belong to the same demonic family. That is why the Vedanta has been teaching that you must transcend the three qualities and offer them to Lord Shiva. He will watch over them with his three eyes and render them harmless with his three-forked trident.
What is the best way to remove these three qualities? If you are out in the wilds and a thorn were to enter your foot. You need not take a big sharp knife to remove it. You just take another thorn and remove the first with the second. Once that has been accomplished, you throw away both thorns, without making any distinction between them. In the same way you have to remove the tamas quality with the help of the rajas quality. Then you have to remove rajas with the help of satva. Finally, you give up satva also. Before you can enter into the kingdom of God realization, you have to cast out all three of these qualities that keep you bound up in delusion. That is why Krishna directed Arjuna to transcend all three qualities. He warned Arjuna that he would have to make a maximum effort and take great care to permanently rid himself of these three qualities.
After having taught Arjuna to recognize these various qualities, Krishna showed him how to rise beyond them. In that way, Krishna transformed Arjuna into a truly wise man. The primary cause of these three qualities is the mind. It is impossible to transcend this human nature and realize your divine nature until your mind loses its wavering nature and becomes still. Therefore, the best way to transcend these qualities is to offer your mind to the Lord. After you have offered your mind to him completely, God will take care of you in all respects. Here is a small story to illustrate this.
Once upon a time, King Janaka sent a message to the people in his realm, saying, "If there be amongst you a great scholar, a pundit, a mahatma, a yogi, a sage, whoever he may be, let him come and teach me the knowledge of the atma." In his message he said that he expected to attain self-knowledge within a matter of a few moments of being properly instructed. Even while climbing onto his horse and before he was completely settled onto it, he should have gained self-realization. He said, "If the person offering to teach me self-knowledge cannot assure me this experience of instant illumination, then he will be banished from my domain even if he is the greatest scholar or the most learned person or the highest educated person in the land."
Well, all the pundits and sages were a little frightened by this requirement. They saw that this would be a severe test on their scholarship and learning, and so no one dared to come forth and offer himself to instruct the king and meet the conditions that had been posed.
It was at this point that the boy Astavakra entered the kingdom. While he was going on the road towards the capital city, he met a number of people coming from there, including quite a few scholars and pundits. All of them had long faces, looking worried and grief-stricken. Astavakra asked them what the cause was for their worry and grief. They explained to him all the things that had happened. But Astavakra could not understand why they should get frightened over the king's pronouncement, if they had truly mastered the teachings and realized their truth. He said, "I will gladly solve this problem for the king." So saying, he directly entered the court of Janaka.
Astavakra addressed the king, "My dear king, I am ready to teach you the knowledge of the atma. But this sacred knowledge cannot be taught so easily. This palace is full of rajas and tamas. We must leave here and enter an area that is pure satva." So they left the palace on horseback and went along the road leading out of the city towards the forest. As was the custom, whenever the king went outside the palace walls, the army followed close behind. But, when they approached the forest, King Janaka directed the soldiers to remain outside, and not follow them into the forest.
Astavakra and Janaka went deep into the forest. Astavakra told King Janaka, "I am not going to teach you the knowledge of the atma unless you accept my conditions. I may be only a young boy, but since I am to teach you, I am in the position of the preceptor. You may be an all-powerful emperor, but since you are going to learn from me, you are in the position of the disciple. Are you prepared to accept this relationship? If you agree then you will have to offer the traditional gift to the teacher, the gift that is given by the disciple to the guru. Only after you give me your offering will I start my instruction to you."
King Janaka told Astavakra, "The attainment of God is the most important thing to me, so I am prepared to give you absolutely anything you want. You can have my crown and the kingdom itself." But Astavakra replied, "I don't want any material things from you. All I want is your mind. You must give me your mind." The king answered. "All right, I offer my mind to you. Up to now I thought this was my mind, but from now on it is yours alone."
Astavakra told Janaka to dismount from his horse and leave it by the side, and then he told the king to sit down in the middle of the path. Astavakra walked further into the forest and sat quietly under a tree. Outside the forest, the soldiers waited for a long time. Neither the king nor Astavakra showed up, although it was long after the customary time when the king would have his repast. Both the officers and the soldiers who loved their king and were very faithful to him, became anxious to find out what had happened to him. So, one by one, they stole into the forest to look for King Janaka and the little boy who was with him, suspecting some foul play.
When they went along the path leading into the forest, they were relieved to find the king seated there, in the middle of the path. His horse was standing next to him. The king had his eyes closed and he sat motionless. The boy, Astavakra, was not to be seen. The officers addressed the king, but he did not answer. They feared that Astavakra might have exercised some magic spell over the king and had made him lose consciousness. They went to look for the prime minister.
The prime minister came and addressed Janaka, "O king! O king! O king!" But Janaka did not open his eyes. He did not move at all. The prime minister became very frightened. Not only the prime minister but all the other officials from the palace who had come, were now getting thoroughly concerned. The king had always kept to a rigorous schedule. He took his supper at the same time every day. Now that time had long since passed but the king still had not stirred. In this way, the day went on and evening came, but the king did not move from his position, sitting there immobile on the ground.
Left with no alternative, the prime minister sent the chariot back to the city to bring the queens, thinking that if the queens spoke to the king he would surely respond. The queens came and addressed the king, "Maharajah! Maharajah!" The king did not stir; there was absolutely no response from the king. Meanwhile the soldiers searched throughout the whole forest for Astavakra. At last, they found him under a tree. Astavakra was immersed in divine ecstasy.
The soldiers called out to him and exhorted him to answer their queries. Astavakra came out of his self-absorbed blissful state. They implored him to come to the place where the king was. Astavakra asked them, "Why are you all so worried? The king is safe and everything is all right." But they insisted that Astavakra come along with them and brought him before the king seated in the middle of the path. The king had his eyes closed. His body was completely still. The soldiers said, "Here, look for yourself! See what has happened to the king!" Until that time, whether the prime minister, or the other ministers, or the queens, or any of the court officials or soldiers or common people, had called out and addressed the king, he neither opened his mouth in answer nor opened his eyes in acknowledgment. But now, Astavakra came and spoke to the king. King Janaka immediately opened his eyes and replied, "Master!"
Astavakra questioned the king, "Well, the ministers have come and the soldiers have come, and also many others have come. Why did you not reply to their entreaties?" Janaka answered, "Thoughts, words and deeds are associated with the mind, and I offered my mind entirely to you. Therefore, before I can use this mind for anything, I need your permission. What authority do I have to speak to anyone or use this mind in any way? Without your permission and command, I am not going to do anything." Astavakra told Janaka to put one foot in the stirrup and get up on the horse. By the time he had climbed up and seated himself on the horse and put his other foot in the stirrup, he had attained the direct experience of the atma. Then Astavakra said to him, "You have attained the state of God-realization."
Once a person has offered up his mind, and with it all his words, deeds and thoughts, then he will not have the authority or the power to perform any actions without the permission of the one to whom he has surrendered his will. As was the case with Astavakra and Janaka, so also with Krishna and Arjuna. Krishna told Arjuna, "Arjuna, offer everything to me. Surrender all your actions to me. I will take care of you and I will guide you towards liberation and deliverance." So also, you need to offer all your physical, mental, spiritual and worldly duties, all your various actions, thoughts and words, to the Lord, the inner director installed in your heart.
But, you may wonder, if every duty and desire is relinquished and offered to the Lord, then does that mean that even the desire for liberation has to be given up? After all, that is also a type of thought. No. The real meaning is that when you offer up your load of desires and duties and responsibilities to the Lord, and allow him to make all your decisions, then he will carry all your burdens. And then you can be one-pointed in the one worthwhile goal of life, that of self-realization.
All this education that you acquire, all this learning that you pursue, is associated with the three qualities of delusion. Only when you transcend these three qualities will you be able to gain self-realization. In celebrating a marriage, a benediction is given so that the couple might be blessed with a successful career, with material prosperity, and with a fine family. These are three of the four primary goals of human life. The first refers to duties and responsibilities and position, the second refers to the accumulation of wealth and the third refers to the desire for progeny and the continuation of the family line. All three of these goals have to do with the worldly life. But there is a fourth goal of human life. That final and most important goal is liberation. The fourth goal relates to the spiritual life. The first three of these goals of human life cannot be considered equal to the fourth, which is liberation. Offer up all your little acts involving these first three goals. Give them all to the Lord, and trade them in for the one priceless treasure which he will give you in return, namely, liberation. Consider the following example.
In Indian currency, the smallest denomination is a paisa. It is a small metal coin. One hundred paisa is equal to one rupee. Conversely, 100 rupees is equal to 10,000 paisa. If you should have to carry these 10,000 paisa around with you, it would become a very large unwieldy bundle. Also, it would be quite difficult to hide and protect such a big bag of coins. If you were to heap all of these 10,000 paisa into one small cloth, the cloth would soon get torn and before long the coins would fall out.
Krishna told Arjuna, "Arjuna, I will give you a hundred rupee note. You give that whole pile of change that you are carrying, consisting of 10,000 paisa, to me. This one 100 rupee note and these 10,000 paisa are equal in value, but what a great difference there is in the burden of carrying them around with you. It is the same with all these many little duties and worries and thoughts of various types that burden you. Offer all 10,000 to me; I will give you a single 100 rupee note and relieve you of your load."
All your various thoughts, all your wishes and wantsä all these small desires may be compared to individual paisa. When you have so many small paisa, unless they are all put together, they will not be equal to a one rupee note. Krishna said, "Arjuna, all these small desires can never be equal to the grace that I can shower on you. So give them all to me." This is how King Janaka was able to attain liberation after he had offered up his entire mind, all his thinking and doing and speaking, to Astavakra.
The sum and substance of all this is that you should offer up your mind to the Lord. In everything you do and think and say, follow his directions, emanating from the purity of your heart. That is what is meant by becoming mindless. Do not allow your mind to follow desires. Offer all these desires up to the Lord and follow only his dictates. Until you have done that, pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow and all the other pairs of opposites will be present within you. If you want to become free of these opposites and treat all things equally, you have to become mindless. That is why it has been said in the Vedanta that it is the mind which is responsible for liberation or bondage. As long as you retain the mind, rajas and tamas will not leave you. So long as you have rajas and tamas, you will have no steadiness. Why is the mind so unsteady, constantly hopping from place to place? It is because of desires. These desires all relate to the body.
Consider for a moment that you have poured a little water into a vessel; when the vessel moves, the water also moves. If the vessel is steady then the water remains steady. In steady water you will be able to see your own image. In moving water your image will be blurred and indistinct. It follows then that if you want to enter the still state of meditation and have a vision of your true self, you must keep your body steady. The body is like a vessel; the mind may be compared to the water inside. If the body moves, it is like the movement of the vessel. Then the mind inside will also move. Therefore, if you want to keep your mind steady, you must keep your body steady. Considering how much you move the body, think of how much more the mind will move.
If you throw a stone into a well, ripples will start. These ripples or waves, which arise from the stone hitting the water, will soon spread to the far end of the well. In the same way, once you put a thought into the well of your mind, it spreads to the entire body. And whatever be your thoughts, they will subsequently influence your actions. So, you must constantly keep good thoughts, positive thoughts, in your mind. When you are having good thoughts, there will also be good feelings in your heart. If negative thoughts enter your mind, then, in whatever you see, in whatever you hear, in whatever you say and wherever you go, these negative thoughts will lead to harmful actions and grievous results.
When you are sitting, the posture should be erect... not like that of an old person, all bent over. You should be steady and straight. You should not go to the other extreme either, of raising your head up; nor should you turn your head to one side or the other. For meditation, it is very important to have an erect sitting posture. If you were to imagine a line going vertically down through the top of your head, it should go straight to the base of your spine, the center of subtle energy at the bottom of your spine. That way the entire spine will be in proper alignment. The kundalini power will then be able to travel unimpeded from the lowest energy vortex to the highest at the crown of your head.
Therefore, keep the body steady and straight. If from youth it is bent, then by the time you become old you will be completely bent over. Be it your head, your neck or your torso, there should be no bend. This is extremely important for students, and equally so for devotees. Therefore, I will be telling you this quite often.
Why are you studying at all? What is the goal of your studies? Truly, you are studying in order to steady your mind and body. Except when you are playing, you should not be moving too much. Even when you are talking or when you are singing, you should be steady. In this way, right from childhood, if you can keep your body under control, it will be very useful to you as an instrument to achieve meditation. Krishna gave these instructions to Arjuna in the Gita, in order to turn Arjuna into an ideal representative of mankind, one who would serve as a model for all of humanity. Krishna told him, "Arjuna, I am taking you as my instrument so that by your example you may teach all of mankind."
Arjuna became an ideal person. Since his wavering mentality was due to the rajas and tamas qualities, Krishna told Arjuna to systematically rid himself of these two qualities, and offer them to the Lord. Eventually, he would even have to give up being controlled by the third quality, the satva quality. In the second chapter of the Gita, the chapter on the wisdom teachings, Krishna explained a number of ways in which the three qualities that have been discussed here, can be conquered. When you have completely expunged them from your mind, you will become transformed into a sage, a wise being, one who is steeped in the highest wisdom.
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