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I
The Three Types of Vision
and the Chariot Festival

 

   

hoever is fully awake and has developed his powers of discrimination will not suffer from sorrow nor be subject to fear. Only a person who has attachment to the body and attachment to objects, will experience fear and suffering. Therefore, Krishna told Arjuna to develop an integral vision. The term used for integral vision is Sudarshana, which also means good vision. Today's man has three kinds of vision. The first is body-oriented vision. This is a superficial vision; the nature of such people is to see only the external appearance of others such as the dress and the ornaments that are being worn, the facial features, the body size and characteristics, the peculiarities of speech, etc. This type of vision is totally oriented towards the phenomenal world.

   The second kind of vision is mental vision. Rather than focus on the external characteristics, those who have mental vision perceive the behavior of others, as reflected in their conduct and expressions. Therefore, those with mental vision try to ascertain the feelings emanating from another's heart and the thoughts going through their mind, as these manifest in what they say and do. In other words, the mentally-oriented person focuses on outward actions which reflect the inner being. The attitude of one with such a vision is that people will always speak and act as they feel and think.

   The third kind of vision is Atmic vision. One who has Atmic vision does not restrict his perception only to other's external features or their inner feelings, as revealed by their outward behavior and expressions, but they have an integral vision. They see the inner unity, the divine consciousness that pervades all, despite body differences and differences in behavior. They realize that feelings, thoughts and behavioral characteristics all undergo change and transformation. Therefore, those with Atmic vision do not develop any interest or any special like or dislike for people's bodily make-up and ways of expression. Their vision is wholly oriented towards the indwelling divinity. This is a sacred vision. People with such an integral and wholesome vision are in the hands of God. Not merely are they in the hands of God, truly, they become God Himself. The Upanishads say that one who knows Brahman becomes Brahman. So that, a person who gains such a sacred vision takes on the nature of divinity. As one perceives so he becomes. To become a Stithaprajna, a person of the highest wisdom, one must develop this integral vision or Sudarshana, and steadily abide in the inner unity that is within all the outer diversity. Therefore, Krishna's command to Arjuna was to always turn his vision towards Atma and to maintain this integral vision under all circumstances.

   In India there has been a tradition right from ancient days, for temples in villages and towns to conduct chariot festivals. During these festivities the idol of the deity installed in that temple, will be taken in procession. First, a huge chariot constructed for this purpose will be elaborately decorated, and a beautiful seat will be provided therein for the deity. On the auspicious day, the deity will be transferred from the temple to the chariot with appropriate rituals and incantations. The chariot is then taken through the streets in a colorful procession pulled by devotees and preceded by different groups of dancers, musicians and singers. Along the course of the procession, many people will offer worship to the deity by lighting sacred lamps and performing Aarati.

   During these chariot festivals, thousands of people will gather, coming from all the surrounding villages. Three kinds of people will come. The first kind, which constitutes the bulk of the people present for the festival, concentrate all their attention on the chariot and its external appearance. Then there will be others who concentrate mostly on the expressions and actions of the participants, the people pulling the chariot, the priests and those who are performing the dances and dramas. Thirdly, there are a few who will recognize the real purpose for which this festival has been arranged. Only this small handful will care to see the indweller, the sacred person who is seated in the chariot. Of course, the festival is being celebrated for the purpose of installing the idol of God in the chariot. Without the idol of God, the festival would have no meaning. This idol represents the indweller, who is God Himself. But only the rare individual will turn his full attention towards that divinity.

   Most of these people will see only the physical appearance of the chariot, its decorations, and other such things as the dress put on the idol and the costumes worn by the dancers and musicians, their antics, and all the sound and color of the festivities. The largest number will concentrate only on these external things. But there will also be some people who will concentrate their attention on the rituals of worship and the offerings being made, such as the breaking of coconuts, the waving of lamps and incense, and the devotion which is being expressed through these rituals. The number of people with this kind of vision and interest will be much smaller than those who concentrate mostly on the decorations, the dances and dramas, and all the external paraphenalia associated with the festival.

   But, the divine person who has been installed in this chariot, who is driving this chariot, and who is the resident of this chariot, will be seen by only a very small number of intensely-devoted people who yearn to have the sacred vision of the divinity. In the huge throng turning out for the festival, such people may be counted on the fingers of one's hand. For them, all the outer trappings and all the sound and excitement of the procession, tend to get in the way of their having a real vision of the beautiful God, whose representation is seated in the chariot.

   What is the deeper meaning of this chariot? How many such chariots are there? The chariot that is being spoken of here is the human body. So there is not just one chariot but millions upon millions of chariots. Every day these chariots move from street to street and house to house, taking the indwelling resident in procession. You have been developing your vision in such a way that you see only the body and its external features or the expressions connoting various emotional states, but you have not learned to develop the internal vision, the vision which perceives the indwelling person in this chariot of the body, and understands who he really is. It is a very rare individual who attempts to look deeper, beyond the external and superficial aspect of the body, and beyond the emotional and mental traits of the individual, to try to discover the sacred Atmic principle which is there inside.

   The bodies of human beings are not the only chariots. The bodies of animals like dogs or tigers or elephants are also chariots. In fact, the body of every being is a chariot. For example, Shiva is depicted as riding on Nandi, the bull. The bullock is Shiva's chariot. Yet, when you see a bullock, you don't think of Shiva; still He will be there. When you see a rat, you won't be thinking of Ganesha, but he will also be there, riding on that rat. The rat is the vehicle for Ganesha, so it is also a chariot on which God is installed. In a similar way, lions, crows, dogs, snakes, eagles, and so many other animals and birds are used as vehicles for the many different aspects of God. In truth, every living being is a chariot taking God in procession. These days you are developing the vision that sees only the chariot. You are focusing all your concentration on the external decorations. In this age, almost your entire time is spent on adorning the chariot and seeing to the comfort and pleasures of the body. As a result, you are paying attention only to the external differences and you are not spending any time in trying to see the indweller.

   "Therefore, Arjuna", said Krishna, "know that all these people about whom you are so concerned, are only chariots. They may be grandfathers, they may be brothers, they may be cousins, whoever they may be, they are only chariots. In truth, you are seeing only chariots in the form of these various relatives. You have been keeping your vision clouded by seeing only the body, but a sacred person like you should not care so much for externals. You must concentrate your mind on the indweller who is seated in every human body. Then only will your vision become sacred vision. Such sacred vision alone can provide the basis for your victory. Only a person who has sacred vision can achieve success in great undertakings. Arjuna, people are giving the same value to the shadow as they give to the sacred object which is casting the shadow; they are giving the same value to the reflection as they give to the sacred object whose image they are seeing. But that is not correct. The unchanging, sacred object is the Atma. Its value is unlimited and beyond all measure. Whereas, the external beauties of these bodies and all the thoughts and feelings and behaviors that are being manifested in these bodies, are all just images. They are only shadows, without any real substance or lasting value."

     
       
   

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