by Swami Krishnananda
The Fifteenth Chapter has concluded and we are now in the Sixteenth Chapter, which is called the chapter that distinguishes between qualities that are divine and qualities that are not divine. The description is mostly from the point of view of ethical distinction, but it is based finally on the ultimate goal of life that is described in the earlier chapters, in order to determine what is divine and what is undivine.
The goodness or the badness of a particular quality or action, the divinity or the demoniacal nature of any behaviour, cannot be asserted entirely by social standards. They become acceptable or not acceptable on account of their relevance to the ultimate goal of life. If there is total harmony and relevance to the final attainment, that attitude, that conduct, that behaviour, that thought and feeling will be considered as holy, divine, ethical and moral. But if there is a behavior which is opposed to the consciousness of the ultimate goal of life by encouraging attachment, egoism, possessiveness, cruelty and associated qualities, then it becomes unethical, immoral, bad, ugly, undivine.
Sri Bhagavan uvacha. Here in these few chapters, the Lord speaks without being questioned. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters all consist of direct speaking without any interruption or query from Arjuna.
The divine qualities actually are the qualities of what we call goodness – appreciable, noteworthy, and polished gentlemanly qualities. They are listed here in a few verses.
Abhayam sattva-samsuddhir jnana-yoga-vyavasthitih, danam damas cha yajnas cha svadhyayas tapa arjavam (16.1).
Ahimsa satyam akrodhas tyagah santir apaisunam, daya bhuteshv aloluptvam mardavam hrir achapalam (16.2).
Tejah kshama dhrtih saucham adroho natimanita, bhavanti sampadam daivim abhijatasya bharata (16.3).
Abhayam is fearlessness, an inward feeling of fearlessness born of inner contentment. People with wants of every kind are afraid of so many things. Fearlessness is a quality of desirelessness.
Sattva-samsuddhi is the manifestation of sattva guna, resulting in clarity of perception, radiance in the face, and inward satiety.
Jnana-yoga-vyavasthitih is an intense aspiration to get established in the yoga of the wisdom of God.
Danam is a charitable nature, a giving nature, large-heartedness, not a selfish nature.
Dama is the restraint of the organs of knowledge as well as the organs of action.
Yajnascha is a daily consciousness of it being necessary for us to adore gods, the divinities superintending over the cosmos, by external ritualistic sacrifice as well as internal sacrifice that is described in the Fourth Chapter, to which we may revert for brushing up our memory.
Svadhyaya is daily sacred study of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Gita or any holy scripture in order to enable lofty thoughts in the mind – without which, the mind will think of dirt and stink and very low things of the world on account of the strength of the activity of the sense organs. To prevent one’s subjection to sensory demands and the evaluation of things in terms of the sense organs, the study of sacred scriptures – which are the words of saints, sages, prophets and incarnations – will be of great assistance.
Tapa means austerity. It also means mental and sensory control – the ability not to allow the energy of the system to leak out through the apertures of the sense organs, and conservation of energy in oneself. This, essentially, is tapas..
Arjavam is straightforwardness. We should not say something, do another thing and think something as a third item altogether; that is crookedness. Actually, we should speak what we think and behave in that manner. That is what is called straightforwardness – arjavam.
Ahimsa is the extending of harmlessness and fearlessness to all living beings. No injury can come from us, and no living being need fear us. We are a source of fearlessness, harmlessness; this is ahimsa. It is also truthfulness, because untruth is resorted to only when we want to exploit people. As exploitation is not an acceptable or good quality, it is very clear that untruth – that which is contrary to truth – is not a divine or virtuous quality.
Akrodha is freedom from anger. We should not become enraged over small things.
Tyaga is living a simple, frugal life; as it is generally said, simple living and high thinking. That may be said to be tyaga. We don’t accumulate property, treasure, wealth etc., more than what is essential for our minimal comfortable existence, and we renounce all other things.
Santi is being always inwardly calm, composed, serene.
Apaisunam is the absence of crookedness and cunningness, in speech or expression, in respect of other people. We should be before people exactly what we are in ourselves, and we should not have three personalities – one for ourselves, one for our family members and one for the office. Three personalities are not good. They are like three sets of accounts: one for us, one for our partner and one for the income tax officer. Some business people keep three books of account, which is very bad. One man went to an office and said, “I want a job in your accounts department.” He was asked, “Do you know double entry?” “No sir, I know only triple entry,” he replied. I have been told that triple entry is keeping three sets of accounts. So one should be free from crookedness, cunningness etc., because if we behave like that we will be treated in the same way by the world outside. What we give to others will be given back to us.
Daya means to be compassionate. When we see suffering, we feel within ourselves ‘what will happen if we are in that condition?’. When we identify ourselves with that miserable state in which living beings exist, we will feel a tenderness of approach and we will cast an eye of compassion, and to the extent of our capacity we will do something to redress that sorrow. Daya bhuteshu is mercy in respect of all living beings.
Aloluptvam is absence of greed. We should never say that we want this or want that. Whatever comes is okay. Yadrccha labha santushtah (4.22): being contented, satisfied with whatever comes of its own accord or without too much of strenuous effort. If for the sake of ten percent happiness we have to put forth ninety percent effort, then that happiness is not worth anything because the sorrow of struggle is much more than the little jot of joy that ensues.
Mardavam is softness – soft speech, soft behavior, soft conduct, soft movements. Everything is very soft, mild and subdued, not irritable. The opposite of mardavam, mrdutvam is suddenly rising into action or jumping into expression of words that are not pleasing. Very soft, calm, quiet and pleasing – that is mrdu. Mardava is a quality of that kind.
Hrih is shame in the presence of things which are forbidden. It is an automatic repulsion from actions and even thoughts that are contrary to an elevated form of spiritual life.
Achapalam is steadfastness, freedom from fickleness. Thinking something now, thinking another thing after some time and a third thing tomorrow, and never having any concept of the final aim of life, no clarity of perception in regard to what is to be done now and what is the actual program of one’s life, everything is in a chaos – that would be chapalata. But the absence of it is achapalam – steadfastness and clear perception of the values of life, right from now till the end of our life.
Tejah is vigor, energy, strength, and not a drooping spirit. This quality of tejas or energy, vigor, capacity to work, and an indefatigable frame of the body and mind will automatically come to us as a consequence of following the other qualities mentioned earlier.
Kshama is fortitude. We do not try to wreak vengeance on someone who has committed some mistake, and do not go on thinking of one fault that a person has even though that person may have hundreds of good qualities. Generally, the evil that men do lives after them; the good is often buried with their bones. This is not to be our attitude. A hundred sacrifices a person has made, and for twenty years that person has served us, but one day he does something which is very displeasing and we remember only that, and not the twenty years of service. We must have a forgiving attitude, because who has absolutely no fault? “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us” is a very touching line in the Lord’s Prayer. “Let me forgive everyone in the same way as I would wish to be forgiven for all my trespasses” – because every minute we commit some mistake; and if we are going to be punished for every little mistake, then we cannot exist in this world; in turn, this should be our attitude towards other people. Be kind-hearted.
Dhrtih is determination to achieve our goal, and never slacken our effort, and be decided in our mind that, “Perhaps this is the last birth of mine. Why should it not be the last birth, when I have put forth all my energy and I honestly strive for the attainment of God Almighty? I have no defect in my mind. I have no greed. I don’t harm anybody. To my mind, there is nothing wrong. Therefore, God should be kind to me. I shall realise God in this birth.” If this kind of determination is there, something really worthwhile may take place one day, perhaps in this life itself.
Saucham is purity. We know much about it – external purity and internal purity. I need not go on harping on this subject.
Adroha is never committing blunders in respect of ourself or others. This blundering and floundering habit is due to the preponderance of rajoguna which keeps us restless always and never allows us to concentrate on anything. If we touch something, it falls down; if we take a cup of tea, it spills on our clothes; when we speak, we fumble; when we utter a sentence, there is no verb. These are distractions which cause a habit of blundering – adroha.
Natimanita is never expecting too much regard and respect from people. Don’t say, “Oh! He came, but he didn’t greet me.” Purvabhashe tu raghavah. It is said that Rama respected other people first; and if other people did not speak, he would speak first. He would not have the attitude: “Why should I speak first? Let the other person speak first.” He would speak first. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was like that. If a person did not touch his feet, he would touch that man’s feet. People would be horrified. “Maharaj! You are touching the feet of that person?” Sahasrasirsha purushah. He would speak first. “How are you? Acche hain maharaj? Theek hai?” Even if that person did not speak a word, he would immediately start a conversation: “How are you?” That man would be very highly pleased, and start speaking to him. So do not ask for respect. Give respect to others. Amaninam manadena kirtaniyah sada hari: We are fit to take the name of God only if we give respect to everybody and do not expect any respect for our own self.
“These are the great qualities, O Arjuna, that may be called divine, gracious, noble, superb.” But what are the qualities which are not divine? They are practically the opposite of these noble characteristics that are delineated as adorning a spiritual seeker, saint and sage.
Dambhah (16.4) is vaingloriously putting on a show – making a show of that which is really not there. Darpa is pride. Dambha is a show of something which is not there. Darpa is pride over something which is already there. So, either way there is some show. The only difference is that in one case there is nothing and in the other case there is something, but it is a big demonstration, adumbration and vainglorious advertisement of one’s great importance. Darpa is garva, pride; dambha is vainglorious behaviour – dambhah darpah.
Abhimana is being intensely self-conscious, always thinking of oneself, always looking in the mirror, being fond of oneself, and imagining that all people are thinking of us only, while nobody is thinking of us. This is abhimana: too much egoism, self-consciousness.
Krodhah is anger, as I mentioned. Lord Krishna refers to it once again.