by Swami Krishnananda
Krishna goes further in delineating these points a little more for a clarified understanding. There are varieties of knowledge, varieties of the application of the will, varieties in the function of the emotion, and varieties of methods of the performance of action. When we speak of knowledge, we are not always clear in our minds, usually, because knowledge, to mention the least, is at least of three kinds. The highest knowledge, the mediocre, and the lowest type, are distinguished. When one is able to recognise the presence of a single, uniform, common denominator behind every event and every form, or object, one is supposed to be endowed with the highest kind of knowledge. The recognition of a common principle in the midst of the varieties of sense-perception is the supreme form of knowledge. Though many things are seen by the senses, the internal faculty of wisdom would tell us that there is, behind these varieties, a uniform principle of reality. Ultimately, there is only one thing appearing as many things. When we are convinced of the fact that we are able to view things in this light, we are blessed with the loftiest form of wisdom. But when we are only academic persons, rationalists, working merely through the logical intellect, accepting that there is variety, while, at the same time, conceding that there is a relationship among things, so that there is a kind of relativity of all objects, one hanging on the other, we are in a state lower than the one already mentioned. In spite of the fact that we are recognising the inter-relationship of things, we are also accepting the varieties at the same time as valid in their own forms. This is the so-called philosophic, rational, academic, or scientific understanding of these days, good enough for all practical purposes, but not ultimately valid. But the lowest kind of knowledge is that whereby one clings to a particular object only, as if it is everything. We cling to money, we cling to status, we cling to name and fame and power of various types, attach ourselves vehemently to some point which we identify with the entirety of the values of life. A passionate clinging to any particular thing is the lowest type of understanding. And most people in the world are of this type; very few can have that lofty elevation by which they can grasp the inter-relatedness of things in a cosmical sense, what to speak of the highest knowledge. People in the world are in the lowest category of understanding, because everyone clings to something only, and not to all things. Thus, here, we have a categorisation of the three types of appreciation, or knowledge. So is the case with will, or volition. When our will power is able to decide upon the supreme value of life and maintain this consciousness continuously, in a state of self restraint through yoga, we are endowed with the most powerful form of will, the sattvika form of volition. Moksha is the goal of life, and everything is contributory towards this supreme attainment. If the will can rest on this conclusion perpetually, we may be said to be possessed of the highest form of will-power. We should be able to connect every little thing in the world with that ultimate purpose of the liberation of the soul. But if our will is muddled, is mixing up values, and we are unable to come to a decision as to what is the ultimate principle that guides life, go on quibbling about dharma, not knowing what it is, do not know what is the final purpose of things, shift our points of decision from one to the other at different moments of time — that indecisive will is rajasika or distracted. The lowest kind of will is that which clings to wrong ways, lives in unrighteousness, is engaged in vicious activities, considering them as noble, worthwhile and meaningful.
Likewise, is emotion. The feeling of pleasure or satisfaction which impels all emotions is also of three kinds. The highest kind of the satisfaction of emotion is that which is permanent and abiding in the end, though requiring some painful effort in the beginning. Generally we seek pleasure at the very outset. We do not want to work hard, because work is pain, we hate effort of every kind, “Why should I do anything?” Because, to do anything is un pleasant to the ego. But we do not understand that all worthwhile things in life are preceded by some exertion. That which is painful in the beginning but pleasant in the end, perpetually — that satisfaction or pleasure is sattvika. But that which is pleasant in the beginning due to sense contacts and bitter in the end is rajasika, and we would repent for having sought this kind of satisfaction. We jump into an immediate delight of the senses by contact with objects, but, then, reap sorrow as a consequence. This is not wisdom. The lowest kind of happiness is that which revels in the crudest indulgence of the senses, bereft of understanding and reason, making one wallow like an animal in rubbish, totally ignorant of the values of life, and drowned in tamas, or inertia.
As regards action, enough has already been said. That which is engendered with unselfishness and an impersonality of attitude, is sattvika. That which is motivated by desire is rajasika. That which is done without any sense of proportion, and is bereft of the consideration of pros and cons is tamasika. These are the broad outlines which the Teacher of the Bhagavadgita draws in the Eighteenth Chapter for the purpose of clarifying certain concepts and teachings which were delivered earlier in the foregoing Chapters.
The Bhagavadgita is not merely a metaphysical gospel. It is not just a philosophical discourse in the sense of an idealism lifted above the values of life. It has something to say about social existence and the values which are empirical and realistic. In a very few words the nature of co-operative social living is mentioned. With reference to what has been already said by way of the description of knowledge, will, emotion and action, we may say that our endowments are practically these four. And our social life is an outward expression, by way of mutual co-operation, of these faculties with which we live in this world. No one is endowed with all knowledge. No one has all power. No one is clarified entirely in emotion. No one knows the secret of all action. Hence there is a necessity to share what one has with others. In order that society may be a perfectly organised living body, even as there is a co-operative activity among the limbs of our own physiological system, it is necessary to apply this principle of co-operation to human society also, if it is to exist, and if it is to be in peace. Else, there would be dissension among the members forming society and mutual self-regard would be absent, which may culminate even in battle and war, a scene which threatens people at a time when the welfare of another is completely blotted out from one’s vision, and each one is for oneself and the devil takes the hindmost. If this is to be the fate or the policy of life, what would happen to human society? If each one dislikes the other, and everyone likes one’s own self, there would be chaos and an impending destruction of life. But this should not be on the very face of things. In the light of the purpose of the universe, which is a gradual evolution into the realisation of the freedom of the Spirit, from this point of view at least, all stages of evolution are a rise from an organic completeness of one type to another of a larger dimension and comprehension. War, battle, destruction, annihilation is not the purpose of Nature. Growth, evolution, constructive activity, and purposeful movement towards the ultimate realisation, is the aim of the universe. Hence we have to share knowledge, feeling, emotion and work among ourselves. These categorisations of social groups into classes are sometimes called castes in a wrongly intentioned manner. We have heard of the caste system which is cowed down by people as a curse upon humanity. Yes, anything can become a curse and a blot, a shame, if it is distorted and misconstrued and read in the wrong place. Even if we eat our meal at a wrong time, it can be a curse to the body, and anything can be evil if its meaning is not understood and is misconstrued, abused, or exploited in any manner. The classification of society into the groups of knowledge, etc., is for the constructive, co-operative, wholesome existence of society. These are, in traditional terms, the classes of Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra, whose purposes have been lost sight of these days, while the real intention here is super-individualistic and is meant for social welfare in the light of the true nature of things. They represent the blend of spiritual power, political power, economic power, and man-power, necessary for social solidarity and a wholesome existence.
The Great Teacher is winding up his message when he says that everything is controlled by God personally, as well as impersonally. The whole universe revolves round Him and there cannot be anything which is outside the purview of His knowledge. Our duty, therefore, is to surrender our individuality to That All-Being, we call the Almighty. Our blessedness lies here. The more do we assert ourselves, so much is the worse for us, and the more we are in a position to affirm the existence of the Almighty as the all-comprehensive Being, the less would we be there as significant entities. “Drown your mind in this thought, devote yourself to the fulfilment of this ideal, perform every action for the purpose of receiving this Divine Grace from God. Surrender yourself, and prostrate yourself before this Great Creator, you shall reach Him, the Supreme Being, there is no doubt about this. Whatever you think deeply in your mind, that you shall become; whatever you feel in your heart, that is going to be your destination and goal; whatever you shall ask, that you shall be given. In this blazing fire of knowledge, all sins are burnt out at once, and there would be no such thing as sin, ultimately. Sin is an error of understanding; it is not a thing that exists outside us like a terrifying devil. It is as darkness, it is not there substantially, it is just the absence of light. And, so, when the Sun of knowledge rises, this darkness shall automatically vanish; you need not worry about it. When the self surrenders itself wholly to the Omnipresence of God-Being, there cannot be a trace of evil or sin any more; there shall be the glow of enlightenment. It will be the possession of all existence at once, instantaneously, the possession of knowledge which amounts to an experience of delight, the ambrosia of immortality. You become possessed of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss at one stroke, in its infinitude and eternality.”
Again, to reiterate, the Bhagavadgita is cautious of the values of the various degrees or levels of self-advancement in the process of evolution. We have to emphasise again, tirelessly, that no stage in life is so unimportant as to be rejected or abandoned wholly. There is a relativity of all levels of existence, and, therefore, there is a necessity to blend together the phenomenal and the noumenal, the relative and the absolute. Man and God have to work together. This is the principle behind Arjuna and Krishna sitting in one chariot and driving forward in the field of the battle of the universe, which spiritual message is the connotation of the last verse, in the Eighteenth Chapter. Where man and God work in collaboration, there shall be victory; there shall be success; there shall be happiness; and there shall be prosperity, there shall be righteousness ruling everywhere. Righteousness is the harmony between the individual and the Absolute, and this is Arjuna and Krishna working in union, seated in one vehicle. That vehicle may be this body, it may be human society, it may be the whole universe. Any field of operation is the chariot, and in every such field there should be this co-operation between the individual and the universal. In every bit of the relative or the particular, the universal is immanent, and the recognition of this universality in every particularity is the wisdom of life.