Bhagavad Gita Chapter Two – What is Self-Realization
- April 26, 2020
Compassion for the eternal soul is self-realization – Chapter 2 – Contents of Gita Summarized
This chapter covers the conversation between Arjuna and Krsna about compassion and self-realization.
“Material compassion, lamentation, and tears are all signs of ignorance of the real self. Bhagavad Gita is the Absolute Truth.”
The Absolute Truth
Lia: Can you explain in simple words what you understand as The Absolute Truth / Self-Realization?
Lucas: The Absolute Truth cannot be described only realized through action and detachment.
Lia: So, the actions are the purified actions described before?
Lia: Can you give me one example of a purify action or this is specific for each person?
Lucas: The purity actions are the same for all people. They must become detached from material things and sacrifice themselves through worship and meditation.
Self-Realization as The Sun
Like the sun, The Absolute Truth is realized in three phases:
- Sunshine – Preliminary student / Brahman – Impersonal all-pervasive spirit
- The Sun surface – advanced / Paramatma – Localized aspect of The Supreme within the heart of all living entities
- The Star Itself (Sun) – Enter into the star is the highest stage / Bhagavan – The Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Krsna
Lia: Can you explain what is your understanding of this comparison in relation to Self-Realization?
- Brahman: Is “The All” that consists of everything in every level of existence, but more specifically it represents The Supreme Reality. The Absolute Truth as viewed from the outside.
- Paramatma: Is The Divine that is present in all things. Every object, every creature has a part of the unembellished Divine within it.
- Bhagavan: Is the unity of the self and The Divine where there is no distinction.
Lia: Would the “unity” be represented as the “person” itself that becomes “One” with The Divine?
We are part of The Divine
Lucas: Yes but true unity occurs when the self ceases to exist, as it becomes a part of the Divine.
Lia: When the person dies and has understood the aim of life as serving The Lord?
Lucas: And they have committed the proper actions with detachment and self-denial consistently.
Lia: What “self-denial” would imply?
Lucas: Refusing to partake in material pleasures, to live ascetically.
Lia: This seems like a Monk life. Is this what we all should be doing?
Lucas: Only if one is truly committed to achieving true enlightenment otherwise people should just live as piously as they can.
The two paths
Lia: So, There are two paths that we can “choose”?
Lucas: That comparison implies that they lead to the same destination, which is untrue. Indeed the pious are rewarded after death but even that is temporary as afterwards they are returned to the material plane. Only those who truly renounce themselves from the world are given final freedom.
Lia: I see this as similar compared to the teachings of Spiritism as they describe the several levels we need to go through to reach the pure spirit and them we do need reincarnation any longer.
Lucas: I have not commented, as I don’t know about Spiritism.
Lia: Can you explain what the reward after death is for the pious?
Lucas: I do not know. I’d like to say that the reward is freedom from the material world once.
Self-Realization | Transcendentalism
Lia: The text mentions the word “transcendentalist” many times. What is your understanding of this?
Lucas: A Transcendentalist is someone who wishes to transcend the material world.
Lia: The devotee?
Lucas: Yes, the devotee with the end aim of final freedom.
Lia: But this is not the aim of all devotees as self-realization?
Lucas: Yes, those who follow the orthodox path of renunciation. Others to simply wish to live piously cannot truly be called devotees but their devotion is just as valid.
Krsna was surprised by Arjuna’s compassioning feelings referred to as “impurities”. It was not expected to come from a person who knows the value of life. “People who are led by the material conception of life do not know that the aim of life is the realization of the Absolute Truth”, the self-realization. Arjuna was deviating from his prescribed duties by declining to fight which does not help One in his progress of spiritual life.
Lia: The text mention Krsna’s father – Vasudeva and that Arjuna was the son of Krsna’s father sister. So Arjuna was, in fact, Krsna’s cousin? I thought Krsna was the Supreme so I don’t understand about Krsna’s father?
Lucas: This is just a description of genealogy. You must be reminded that Krsna at least of the time of Bhagavad Gita was a material incarnation of Visnu born to human parents.
Krsna didn’t want Arjuna to become an “unworthy” son by declining to fight.
The internal Conflict – The path towards Self-Realization
Arjuna was conflicted about having to fight against his teachers and superiors. In general etiquette, we shouldn’t have even a “verbal fight” with them. Therefore, Arjuna was willing giving up the throne and live his life begging rather than killing his friends and superiors.
“This was described as a sign of detachment and because of that he was quite fit for liberation.”
Lia: What “liberation” mean in this context?
Lucas: To be free from the circle of incarnation and become one with the Divine.
Lia: This would imply as a reason for Krsna to encourage Arjuna was to perform what he was told to do so he could reach enlightenment?
Lucas: The surface reason was that he reclaim the throne and fulfil his destiny but by freeing himself from compassion he not only allows himself to do that but also moves forwards through liberation.
Lia: But we have the freedom to choose certain things right? In this situation, Arjuna didn’t want to fight so why to “reclaim the throne” was seeing as his destiny? How do we know what is “our destiny”?
Lucas: He was in line for the throne and as the mandate of heaven claims that monarch is divinely appointed. In his quest to The Divine intervention made by Krsna, only solidifies the inevitability of his destiny.
Lia: What about my first question regarding that Arjuna “lost” the right for the throne because he shouldn’t have it anyway as his father was the young son of the King. So, would this be his destiny instead? And his uncle’s destiny to be the King as he was the oldest son?
Lucas: The actions committed by the current King proved that he is not suited able for the throne and Krsna intervention in Arjuna’s quest prove who is destined for the throne.
Lia: This was clear for Arjuna as Krsna told him directly. What about us? Would we be able to know for sure what is our destiny? If this was that clear, we would strongly carry on our duties without lamentations, but not knowing we are lost.
Lucas: That is One’s question and it is different for everyone.
Controlling the Senses – The purified actions
“Unless de senses are controlled there is no chance of elevation to the platforms of knowledge and without devotion, there is no chance of liberation”
Arjuna offered himself as a disciple and asked Krsna to instruct him what to do as he didn’t want to fight but he should.
Lia: Is this one of an example of a purify actions that we should do?
Lucas: Yes, to surrender ourselves to a higher power.
Perplexities of Life – The barrier to Self-Realization
“The perplexities of life happen without our desire. They are like a forest fire that somehow blazes without being set by anyone. No one wants fire, and yet it takes place, and we become perplexed”. “The Vedic wisdom, therefore, advises that to solve the perplexities of life and to understand the science of solution, one must approach a spiritual master who is in the disciple succession.”
The text implies that we have the body and capacity to solve all problems in life however if we do not use as such we are like animals who quit this world without understanding the science of self-realization.
The next point was quite a quaking for me so I have to read twice.
“We waste our time in being overly affectionate for family, society, country, etc. in the material conception of life. One is often attached to family life, namely to wife, children and other members, based on “skin disease”.
Arjuna’s compassion for his family were the causes for his perplexities, therefore, couldn’t make a decision himself so he asked Krsna to make a definite solution.
Lia: I found the term “skin disease” quite rash to accept as we do have a material body at this moment. We do have a “family”, “children”, friends etc. Seeing this as something that it is not important it is like that we should not be living the “now” and living “the future” instead? How can we be so disconnected and fulfil our destiny?
Lucas: Note how he says “overly” affectionate. Krsna is not advocating for total asceticism here but rather how we must not make our connections with other people no matter how close or how far the main part of our life. We must devote time to disconnect from the material and seek communion with the Divine.
Lia: It is very hard to accept that the soul is more important while we have a body, a family, our jobs… would be like ignoring the “now” and living in the “future”
Lucas: No, because when one detaches himself from material trivialities, he is no longer distracted and is put into an enlightened state of being. He is more aware of the now than ever before.
Due to Arjuna’s inability to sort out his problems himself, he sought refuge in Krsna’s consciousness as this is the path for peace and harmony. Even an unrivalled Kingdom couldn’t drive away Arjuna’s lamentations. The Bhagavad Gita confirms this:
“Krsna punye martyalokan visanti” – “When the results of pious activities are finished, one falls again from the peak of happiness to the lowest status of life”. Economic development or supremacy over the world can be finished at any moment by the cataclysms of material nature”.
Lia: Is a Tsunami or the Covid-19 examples of perplexities in life?
See within and without
The accumulation of wealth and economic development cannot prevent the problems of material existence as birth, old age, disease and death.
The body is born and is destined to be vanquished today or tomorrow. Therefore the body is not as important as the soul. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is alive in the heart of every living entity. Only saintly persons who can see, “within and without”, the same Supreme Lord can attain to perfect and eternal peace.
Lia: What “see within and without” mean?
Lucas: To understand and observe what is around you without being involved or affected by it.
Lia: So, as my previous question it is like living in the future and quite ignoring the “now”, right?
Lucas: Actually, you are more focus on the now than ever before. By freeing yourself from the fleeting trivialities of worldly attachments, you are no longer distracted and you become aware of the Divine in your very existence.
Lucas: When you live the attached life you focus on past regrets and future worries. Only when you detach yourself from such things you can realize the Divinity of the present moment.
Living the “Now”
Lia: I was thinking about the “now” as my life now. Not the specific moment. How can we be disconnect all the time if we are here and we have things to do/people to care?
Lucas: One can simply avoid decadence for start then it goes on to following the teachings of the Divine in daily conduct as well as devoting time for religious practices. The point is One can live an active life with friends and family and work and still have some connection with the Divine as long as they do not let material senses contaminate them. This is done through detachment.
Lia: That is a very clear explanation.
Krsna message to all towards Self-Realization
The conversation between Arjuna and Krsna was in the middle of the battlefield, therefore, was for everyone to hear, not just Arjuna.
Arjuna said: “Govinda, I shall not fight”
Sanjaya (Dhrtarastra’s advisor) explained to Dhratarstra what was happening on the battlefield. He told that Arjuna was not going to fight which would make Dhrtarastra glad. However, Sanjaya also said that Arjuna was competent to kill his enemies but was overwhelmed with false grief due to family affection. As Arjuna surrendered into Krsna as a disciple, Arjuna would be free from false lamentations and be enlightened with perfect knowledge of self-realization. This is Krsna consciousness and then Arjuna would be able to fight.
Replying to Arjuna’s about not fighting, Krsna said: “While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living not for the dead. You are talking like a learned man, but you do not know that one who is learned – one who knows what is the body and what is the soul.”
The body is born and is destined to be vanquished today and tomorrow; therefore the body is not as important as the soul. Regardless of the condition of the material body, once this is learned there is no cause for lamentation.
Krsna as a friend
Arjuna chose to be a disciple of Krsna and Krsna is always in the superior position to everyone however Krsna agrees to be a friend, a son or a lover for a devotee, who wants him in such a role.
Lia: In which occasion should we ask Krsna to be a friend, a lover, a son?
Lucas: Depending on what the situation calls for. Whatever is needed in your dilemma and should One be righteous in their actions the Divine will accompany thee.
“Knowledge means to know matter and spirit and the controller of both”
Lia: Should we say that we “know” that?
Lucas: To “know” is one thing. It is entirely different to “realize”. When you act diligently and experience that knowledge then you realize it, then you live in it.
There is no cause for lamentation
Every living entity is an individual soul, each is changing his body every moment, as a child, youth and old man. The same spirit soul is there and does not undergo any change.
Lia: Is there a way to prove this statement as true? How a person that does not believe that we have a soul could understand such a statement?
Lucas: This is a religious text. All judgments must be made on faith if one chose to believe. You cannot convince anyone of what to or not to believe based on objective arguments.
Liberation from Illusion
One has to execute his duty despite climatic inconveniences and not deviate from prescribed duties. Following the rules and regulations of religious principles is the way to rise to the platform of knowledge. Knowledge and devotion liberate from the clutches of Maya (illusion).
The text talks about the fourth stage of life as “renounced order” – sannyasa – which is a painstaking situation. It also mentions that in the Varnasrama Institution anyone steady in his determination for the advanced stage of spiritual realization is a person eligible for liberation. This can mean able to tolerate difficulties and persevere, even if it is difficult to fight with his family members. That is the way of achieving liberation from material bondage.
Lia: How the “stages of life” work? Are we free to choose which one to follow or is it as a step by step obligated stage of evolution?
Lucas: One can only choose to either remain or progress what stage they are at. Should one seek enlightenment they must diligently climb those steps. The aim is the noble aim as all those who seek the absolute truth should strive for.
Lia: But for them, some souls don’t want to ascend? Or are not yet prepared to make that decision and might need to live more lives to decide?
Lucas: Then, they reincarnate until they work towards enlightenment. In the end, the only thing that stops them is their attachment.
“That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one can destroy that imperishable soul”.
Lucas: Consciousness is the soul.
“The atomic soul is situated in the heart of every living entity. The corpuscles that carry oxygen from the lungs gather energy from the soul. Medical science admits that the heart is the seat of all energies of the body.”
Hatha Yoga is a System meant for controlling the five kinds of air encircling the pure soul by different kinds of sitting postures – not for any material profit, but the liberation of the minute soul from the entanglement of the material atmosphere.
“The material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is sure to come to an end; therefore, fight, o descendant of Bharata.”
The Eternal Soul
The body is perishable and the soul is eternal. The spirit soul is so small compared to the size of the material body that cannot be seen or killed. So there is no cause for lamentation because the material body cannot be saved for any length of time or permanently protected. The minute particle of the whole spirit acquires this material body according to his work, and therefore observance of religious principles should be utilized.
Lia: What the observance of religious principles means?
Lucas: To observe and take part in religious practices such as worship and meditation as well as abstaining from immoral acts.
Arjuna is advised to fight and not sacrifice the cause of religion for material, bodily considerations.
The soul is full of knowledge or full with consciousness therefore consciousness is the symptom of the soul. The consciousness of the individual is prone to be forgetful. Arjuna is the atomic soul, forgetful of his real nature therefore he requires to be enlightened by Krsna of by his Bona Fide representative (the spiritual master). When Krsna orders fight it is for supreme justice and it is not violence because the soul cannot be killed. A surgical operation is not meant to kill the patient, but to cure the person.
The Soul and Supersoul – Vedas Mundaka Upanisad
The Vedas, like the Mundaka Upanisad, as well as the Svetasvatara Upanisad, compare the soul and the Supersoul to two friendly birds sitting on the same tree. It is a lovely story that makes easy to understanding.
One of the birds (the individual atomic soul) is eating the fruit of the tree, and the other bird (Krsna) is simply watching His friend. Of these two birds – although they are the same in quality – one is captivated by the fruits of the material tree, while the other is simply witnessing the eating bird. Although they are friends, one is still the master and the other is the servant. Forgetfulness of this relationship by the atomic soul is the cause of one’s changing his position from one tree to another, or from one body to another. The jiva soul is struggling very hard on the tree of the material body, but as soon as he agrees to the other bird as the supreme spiritual master – as Arjuna agreed to do by voluntary surrender to Krsna for instruction – the subordinate bird immediately becomes free from all lamentations.
Forgetfulness of the relationship by the atomic soul to the Supersoul Krsna is the cause of one’s changing his position from one tree to another or from one body to another. The soul struggles but when accepts Krsna as Supreme Spiritual Master we become free from all lamentations.
Become one with the Divine
One who lays down his life on the battlefield is at once cleansed of bodily reactions and promoted to a higher status of life. Even after being liberated from illusion, the living entity remains a separated identity but never became one with Krsna.
Lia: Is this because Krsna is the Supreme and we are “part” of this but in a subordinated way?
Lucas: The example given beforehand of the warrior who dies valiantly is of one who has elevated himself beyond the basic illusions of life and is rewarded in the afterlife however since he has not given himself up fully he cannot become one with the Divine. All beings have a part of the Divine within themselves but as long as they remain beings in their own right they will be subordinated.
Arjuna didn’t want to fight because he thought this would take him to hell as killing his family and friends. This was seen as ignorance because of the nonviolent in the discharge of his specific duty. A worrier must protect his citizen and apply violence in suitable cases for law and order. Arjuna had no reason to refrain from fighting. He would be elevated to the heavenly planets if he dies in the battle.
Performing your Duties
Therefore if he does not perform his previous duty of fighting he would incur sins for neglecting his duties and his reputation as a fighter. In the words, he could go to hell by withdrawing from battle. So, Lord Krsna says:
“Arjuna, if you leave the battlefield before the battle even begins, people will call you a coward. And if you think that people may call you bad names but that you will save your life by feeding the battlefield, then my advice is that you’d better die in the battle. For a respectable man like you, ill fame is worse than death. So, you should not flee for fear of your life, better to die in the battle. That will save you from the ill fame of misusing my friendships and from losing your prestige in society.”
Lia: I believe this is a general message of encouragement to all. We should take our duties and fight for what we believe is correct. Focus on the aim of the battle without lamentations on the way will make the path easier to walk through.
Lucas: We must think carefully about what we think is correct for we must not be blinded by our emotions.
In Arjuna’s case, his withdraw from battle would be seen as fear for his life and not for compassion for his friends.
Devotional Service vs Pure Knowledge
Krsna says that only to those who are always engaged in devotional service out of transcendental love does He award the pure knowledge of devotion in love. In that way, the devotee can reach Him easily in the ever-blissful kingdom of God.
Lia: This is confusing for me. What is the difference of devotional service out of transcendental love and pure knowledge of devotion of love?
Lucas: The first is what the devotee gives out towards the Divine as his actions are based on a love that is not emotional nor bodily whilst the later is what the Divine gives out to the true devotees.
Activity in Krsna consciousness, or acting for the benefit of Krsna without expectation of sense gratification is the highest transcendental quality of work.
Lia: Is this detachment?
Lucas: Yes because when you worry not on your own reward you are free from mental trouble and gain the capacity to attain bliss.
Material activities and their results end with the body. But work in Krsna consciousness carries a person again to Krsna consciousness, even after the loss of the body. This will give a chance in the next life of being born again as a human being, either in the family of a great cultured brahmana or in a rich aristocratic family that will give one a further chance for elevation. That is the unique quality of work done in Krsna consciousness.
Lia: Does this mean to surrender and let the Lord tell us what we need to do? Is this message giving through meditation? How do we know?
Lucas: Do not expect some Divine revelation to grant you an answer, like all religious practices it relies on faith. The point of meditation is to be aware of the Divine in the present moment.
When one is situated in Krsna consciousness, all activities are on the absolute plane, for they are no longer subject to dualities like good or bad.
The highest perfection of Krsna consciousness is the renunciation of the material conception of life. By progressive Krsna consciousness, this state is automatically achieved. The resolute purpose of a person in Krsna consciousness is based on knowledge.
By acting in Krsna consciousness one can render the highest service to everyone. Everyone will be satisfied if Krsna is satisfied with one’s actions.
Finding Guidance for Self-Realization
Lia: To service Krsna consciousness the text says that we should act under the guidance of a Bona Fide representative. How can we find a Spiritual Master that we can trust? Would he be a living entity or would we meet our guide through meditation?
Lucas: Once again, you have forgotten the purpose of meditation but I will answer either way. We live in an age of charlatanism and snake oil salesman. In my opinion, one must have faith in the ancient orthodox texts. But if we do find someone we must always be wary.
Unenlightened men are similarly attracted by such heavenly opulence and the sense of enjoyment as they are attached to the flowers of poisonous trees without knowing the results of such attraction.
Lia: This is a very interesting way of explaining how we are frivolous, as always wanting gratification. Again, I can compare to the “unconditional love” the path to service Krsna consciousness.
As long as the body exists, there are actions and reactions in the material modes. One has to learn tolerance in the face of dualities such as happiness and distress, or cold and warmth, and by tolerating such dualities become free from anxieties regarding gain and loss. By acting on these we can reach self-realization.
When one is fully dependent on the goodwill of Krsna, they achieve this transcendental position.
Lia: Not to be attached to the results of One’s actions.
Knowledge vs Self-Realization
Lia: My understanding is that Self-Realization is when we understand Krsna and our relationship with Him. The living entities are part of Krsna. Krsna lives in us but even when we achieve enlightenment and not reincarnate we are with Krsna as a subordinated or part of Him.
Lucas: Once again, it is not enough to know, only when one acts in the way of Krsna consciousness living ascetically and with devotion does he realize the truth because he lives it.
Lia: What is the difference between Knowledge and Self Realization?
Lucas: Anyone can know just by reading or being told only through action does one realize and understand.
The practice of chanting helps us to focus on the Divinity as we are repeating His name.
Yoga – The Path to Self-Realization
Performing your duty equipoised, abandoning all attachments to success or failure. To concentrate the mind upon the Supreme by controlling the ever-disturbing senses.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches one to surrender into Lord Krsna in all respects and becomes liberated from the chained victimization of action and reaction, birth and after birth. This is the way to remove One’s ignorance.
Controlling our Senses
By strengthening the devotional service to Krsna is the only way to control the senses. One who is not in Krsna consciousness is sure ultimately to fail, for the slightest thought of senses pleasure will agitate him to gratify his desires.
Mind – Fix on the Lotus feet of Lord Krsna
Words – Describing the abode of the Lord
Hands – Cleansing the temple of the Lord
Ears – Hearing the pastimes of the Lord
Nostrils – Smelling the flavour of the flowers offered to the Lotus Feet of the Lord
Tongue – tasting the tulasi leaves offered to Him
Legs – Travelling to the Holy place where His temple is situated.
Lia: Can you explain what is the relation between the senses/yoga and Self-Realization?
Lucas: The purpose of yoga is to prepare the body for spiritual actions. It both calms the senses and purifies the mind. It is an essential step in achieving self-realization.
All of the senses must be engaged in Krsna consciousness, for that is the correct technique for controlling the mind. What is a night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled, and the time of awakening for all beings is a night for the introspective sage.
People that are materialist are asleep of self-realization, feeling sometimes happy and sometimes distressed in sleeping conditions.
The introspective man is always indifferent to materialist happiness and distress. He feels transcendental pleasure in the gradual advancement of spiritual culture. He goes on with his self-realization activities undisturbed by material reactions.
Self-Realization – The Perfect Peace
Lia: Self-realization is like “letting the rivers flow” into the ocean. Do you have another metaphor?
Lucas: Why did you choose this metaphor?
Lia: I see Self-realization as being calm and not be disturbed by material things. So, as the river flows along the stream without having any other forces to make the river flows, so our lives should be the same.
Lucas: If you believe it is a river then where does it flow to?
Lia: To the eternal life, to unify us with the whole.
Lucas: The metaphor I would use is like a man waking up from a dream and realizing what is real. I think you are confusing Self-realization with the Spiritual path in general.
Lia: So, in summary, can we reach the Self-Realization and still having a material body or when this is reached you no longer needs a material body and die?
Lucas: One can achieve self-realization in life through detachment and asceticism. To simply realize and understand what is real and what is Divine.
As long as one has the material body, the demands of the body for a sense of gratification will continue and The devotee is not disturbed by such desires because of his fullness. A Krsna conscious man does not require anything, because the Lord fulfil all his material necessities.
The devotee of Krsna has no material desires, and therefore they are in perfect peace.
Lia: So, I understand that in fact, there are two paths in life:
Living as Pious – How can one live a pious life?
- Believing in eternal souls, performing our duties without lamentations and remembering God by meditation.
Living ascetically – How can one live an ascetic life?
- Having a strong control over emotions, practice Yoga, meditation and avoid contact with the senses of their objects and live frugally.
Can we reach Self Realization by just living piously?
Lucas: No. One might gain a heightened sense of the Divine but to achieve self-realization one must live it.
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