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Purity in Action



hagavad Gita has not asked that you should renounce all worldly activities and take up Sanyasa. The inner significance of the Gita has to be understood in the context of human nature as it is expressed in the world, in the everyday activities of people. The most important objective of the Gita is to bring down the priceless, ancient wisdom to the level of the mundane world and to raise the worldly life to the level of the highest wisdom. Bhagavad Gita transforms Vedanta into daily life and elevates daily life to the level of Vedanta; it not only introduces philosophy and spirituality into daily life, but it also introduces daily life into philosophy and spirituality. Hence, it reconciles spirituality and daily life.

   Bhagavad Gita teaches the sanctity of human life; it directs man to his ultimate goal. It teaches him how to make his livelihood in the world in a way that enables him to transcend the human condition and in a way that doesn't bind him to further human births. You will not be bound by your actions when they are performed with disinterestedness, without any interest in the fruits. Bhagavad Gita taught the Sadhana of Anasakti, which means developing nonattachment to all your activities and duties. What actually happens by having this Anasakti is that your actions become sacred. The Gita does not encourage you to renounce work; on the contrary, it encourages you to do your duty and perform all the activities appropriate to your status in life. But, you must transform all these actions into sacred works by offering them to the Lord.

   Krishna held out King Janaka as an ideal person because he ruled his kingdom with a sense of Anasakti and detachment, and thereby attained perfection. There are some people who have only outward vision. There are others who have developed inward vision. Outward vision sees only the illusory world outside. The inward vision transforms the mind and fills the heart with sacred feelings. In order to gain the inner vision, this Anasakti has to be developed. There is a story to illustrate this.

   Once upon a time, the young sage, Suka, was travelling in the neighborhood of Mittilapura. King Janaka heard that Suka had entered his kingdom, but he did not know where he would make his camp. To find out, the king sent out several messengers to get news of Suka's whereabouts. They spent a week going round the kingdom and, finally, were able to locate Suka living in a shelter in a forest, nearby the capital city of Mittilapura. Janaka, along with his ministers, went to visit Suka. Janaka did not go there as a king or emperor. He went as a servant of the Lord; he had long ago removed all traces of ego, and now he went as a humble spiritual practioner. Suka was giving a discourse to the disciples on some spiritual topic. During this discourse, Janaka stood and listened with full concentration. Evening came. Before he left, Janaka went to Suka and asked, "Swami, may I join this divine discourse every day?" Suka replied, "Janaka, spirituality and philosophy are not anyone's private property. Whoever has the interest, whoever enjoys listening to these teachings, whoever believes in reaching the goal, has a right to this knowledge. Certainly you may come. You are most welcome." Janaka went back to his palace and returned each day to attend the discourses.

   Now, Suka wanted to demonstrate to the world that King Janaka had inward vision, whereas most people have only outward vision. With this in mind, he moved to an elevated spot near Mittilapura, from where the entire city was visible, and there he put up a little cottage. From this place, he began giving discourses on Vedanta. One particular day, King Janaka, on account of some urgent responsibilities of administration, was delayed in coming there. Suka purposely held up starting his discourse until Janaka had arrived. Suka took no cognizance of the large gathering of people that were already assembled there, waiting for the discourse to commence. To demonstrate his interest, Suka started asking questions of this person and that, trying to find out why King Janaka had not yet come. He also told some people to go and find out what had delayed the king. He himself stood on the roadside and watched for the royal party to arrive.

   At this, some murmur began among the people there. The disciples, the elders and youngsters who had assembled there, began whispering amongst themselves. One said, "Look at Suka. He is considered to be such a great sage who has renounced everything; but it does not seem to be true. Here he is waiting for King Janaka. Just because Janaka is an emperor, Suka is not paying any attention to us and does not seem to care at all about giving the discourse to us." Another person said, "Look at this peculiar behavior of Suka. Why does he show so much partiality to kings? For a sage, should there be any difference in his feeling for a king and for others?" Now, Suka noted all this talk that was going on. In fact, it was with the intention of teaching them a good lesson that he had conducted himself this way. A half hour passed. Two hours passed. Suka continued to wait for Janaka to come; he did not make any attempt to start the discourse.

   Meanwhile, those people whose hearts were a little dirty, gave expression to their feelings of jealousy and anger. All those impure feelings which were inherent in them but had been hidden inside, now started coming out. That is just what Suka wanted, for only after the venom that was in their hearts had come out, could the teachings of Vedanta enter there. If there is nothing inside one's head, then it can be filled with sacred teachings. But if one's head is already filled with all sorts of impure stuff, how can it take anything pure and sacred in? Without emptying the head of bad things, good things cannot be put in. So, Suka's wish was that all these bad feelings should manifest themselves and be expressed. He wanted his students to pour out all the dirt and filth which was inside their minds. He knew that as long as their hearts harbored attachments and bad feelings, his teachings would not take hold. So he had them undergo this process of purification.

   Meanwhile with a great deal of anxiety, Janaka rushed to attend the discourse. Suka noted the approach of Janaka. He could be seen coming from a long ways off, because Janaka did not usually come alone. Although Janaka was not interested in bringing ministers and servants, they would invariably accompany him to provide security and protection for the king. Soon all the people became aware that King Janaka was approaching. Entering the area where the discourse was given, Janaka prostrated himself before the Guru and humbly asked his pardon for coming late; then he spread his durba grass mat and sat down. Immediately Suka commenced his discourse. Now, in the hearts of the young disciples who had assembled there, hatred fructified. Their faces began changing because of their feelings towards Suka and King Janaka. 'Look at this Suka!', they thought to themselves. 'He only cares about pleasing the king. That is the extent of his Vedanta'.

   Suka decided to teach a lesson to all the people assembled there who were harboring such bad feelings. After some time, he interrupted his discourse suddenly and said, "Janaka, look at your kingdom. It is on fire.!" King Janaka, who had closed his eyes and was totally concentrated on listening to the sacred teachings, took no note of these words. He had fixed his mind on Vedanta, and so he kept his concentration only on Vedanta. The other people who had assembled there saw the flames and smoke rising above the city. Some of the disciples, thinking of their relatives and belongings, began running towards Mittilapura. All the attachment which had laid hidden deep in their hearts now came to the surface and fully exposed itself. A few moments later, Suka told King Janaka, "Janaka, this fire has now spread to your palace." Even then, Janaka did not take any note of Suka's statement; Janaka did not move from his seat. He had the true feeling of Anasakti, complete disinterestedness and indifference to all things worldly. His interest was only in Atma; except for this absorption in Atma he had no other feelings.

   Among those in attendance at the discourse were a number of famous pundits and celebrated scholars, having worldwide reputations. Suka wanted to demonstrate to them that they might have been very great scholars, but they had not killed their attachments. When these scholars saw the flames, they were fearful; they turned to King Janaka and began praying, "O, King! O, King!" But Janaka had entered into a state of Samadhi; he was enjoying the bliss of Atma. Tears of joy were rolling down his cheeks. He did not waver for even a moment from the holy thoughts on which he had fixed his concentration. Suka observed Janaka's state and he was very pleased. After some time those disciples who had run away towards Mittilapura returned, reporting that, in fact, there had been no fire at all. Then Suka began to explain to the disciples the meaning of all that had gone on.

   Suka said, "Well, children, I did not delay starting my discourse for two hours because Janaka is the king, and, therefore, a very important man. I delayed because he is a deserving person, a true Sishya; and I believe in waiting for one such as him. Because he has purged himself of ego and pride, because he has true humility and dedication, he has the authority to hold up the discourse. You listen, but you do not hear what is said or put it into practice; therefore, you have no such authority. Instead of teaching hundreds of people who have made no effort in applying these teachings to their daily lives, I can teach at least one person who truly has a right to being taught, because he has integrated these sacred precepts into his very life. What is the use of teaching people full of attachment and egoism? It is something like throwing a stone into the water. For any number of years the stone may lie in the water, but it will not absorb even a drop of it. Even if I can get just one person like Janaka it is sufficient for me to go on. Why have useless shining stones in great numbers? If there is at least one gem which is truly valuable, that is enough. Why have 10 acres of barren land if you can have even a small plot that is fertile and abundant in its yield. If one king like Janaka can become sacred, then he can transform his entire kingdom, and turn it into a sacred realm that will be an example to the whole world." Suka's intent was to make Janaka a sacred king, a Rajayogi, and at the same time to teach a valuable lesson to the conceited disciples, who had gathered around him.

   Krishna had a similar intent when He taught the Gita to Arjuna. Arjuna was also a sacred person, and he had qualified himself for the teachings by his character and his high ideals. Arjuna had control of the senses; he had won a great deal of spiritual power from the penance he had performed. He had, to a large extent, suppressed his worldly attachments. He had a highly developed intellect and had become skilled in many arts. And he had surrendered himself to Krishna in true humility. Krishna decided that Arjuna was ready for this wisdom and resolved to turn him into a Sitithaprajna. With the intention that if Arjuna could be corrected, the whole world would benefit thereby, Krishna took great care to give these sacred teaching to Arjuna. Arjuna had both the capacity and the virtue to rise to great spiritual heights, being under all circumstances in complete control of his senses. That is the reason why he had been given a number of titles. Arjuna means the pure one; another title was the sacred-hearted one; another was the jewel-of-men. It was such an outstanding hero that Krishna chose, and it was His wish and Sankalpa, that by teaching the Gita to Arjuna, the entire world would benefit thereby. Arjuna's name is Parthiva, which means son of the earth. All of you are sons of the earth. Since Arjuna may be considered an outstanding representative of all human-kind, by converting him into a sacred person, Krishna felt that the whole world would in time be transformed.

   Compared to ordinary actions which are done thinking of oneself as the doer, actions done without desire for the fruits, that is Nishkama Karma, will be much greater. Anasakti Karma, that is action with complete desirelessness, performed impersonally with total indifference, and without any attachment, is even greater than Nishkama Karma. But, action offered completely to the Lord is more sacred than all these. Thus, Krishna commanded Arjuna to offer all his acts to the Lord. When Arjuna reached this state of evolution, that is, when Arjuna began to offer all his acts to the Lord, Krishna began to teach him the Gita.



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