True equanimity stems from wisdom and understanding the truth about the Eternal Self that exists at all times and is changeless, says NITA AGARWAL, in the second article in her series on chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita

Confused and delusional, Arjun sat down at the feet of Hrishikesh (another name for Krishna) in surrender. Lord Krishna smiled at Arjun benevolently and said it was not wise to grieve for the dead ones or the living ones. Then Lord Krishna begins to impart metaphysical wisdom to a re-educated Arjun to dispel the cause of his grief and his sudden doubt about the purpose of Dharma Yudha.

To drive home the point why one should not grieve for anyone, Lord Krishna explains that there was never a time in the past when He, Arjun or all the people present in the battle field did not exist, and nor would there be a time in future when they would not exist.

Implicit in Lord Krishna’s statement is the declaration that the Self that occupies various bodies and forms in every birth is not finite but eternal. Every birth gives rise to finite experiences and feelings due to individual ego that has forgotten the original limitless Self and, therefore, identifies with limited experiences of each birth.

Nita Agarwal

This is tantamount to ignorance and does not suit a wise person like Arjun. In fact, we all suffer due to this ignorance and our identification with the finite body, mind and intellect that we inherit due to past memories and vasanas (tendencies).

Our body that grows from childhood to youth, and then to old age, is constantly experiencing changes. Childhood passes to give way to youth and youth transitions to give way to old age. At every stage of life, we gather memories via experiences that lead to perception and conditioning. Yet we never lament the loss of one stage of this birth to another as we accept it as normal and natural.

In like manner, after death, the Self moves, taking another body. Therefore, we should not grieve for the death of the mortal body as the Self or Atma is eternal.

All the pain and pleasures experienced by the body via the senses are limited and changeable. Constant change is the law of the objective world in which we live. Nothing remains the same or stays forever.

What one fancies in childhood may not appeal in youth. We see people in old age regret the follies of their youth. It is often the case where a particular sense object gives pleasure to one, while the same may cause pain to another.

Over-indulgence in pleasures can also cause pain and lead to abhorrence of the object of pleasure. One who understands that objects of the material world give temporary pain or pleasure will cease to be affected by them. This is called Titiksha or forbearance.

Just as the body with time learns to accept both heat and cold and adapts to endure them, the mind understands the temporariness of pain and pleasure. Humans must understand that neither pain nor pleasure last forever. Once this understanding dawns, we learn to be equanimous in both pain and pleasure.

We must understand that everything we experience in this world is limited and temporary. The wise, who understand this temporariness, handle all situations without losing their mental or physical balance.

Lord Krishna goes on to elaborate that one who has learnt to endure pain and pleasure calmly is ready for true self-knowledge. True equanimity stems from wisdom and understanding the truth about the Eternal Self.

When our actions are guided by our senses,  we act emotionally or intellectually to achieve what we feel as desirable in the world of objects. This keeps us ignorant and we constantly suffer mentally and physically. 

One who has understood the impermanence of every experience by the mind, body and intellect is poised to experience immortality by connecting with the higher, True Self or Atma. Such a person will not grieve or rejoice about any experience but will accept everything with equanimity.

Swami Chinmayananda explains how we do not lament the loss of anything we enjoyed in our dreams. Because once we wake up, we know what happened in the dream was delusional and not real.

Swamiji explains that whatever changes with time cannot be real or the truth is relatively there, but not forever. He elaborates that “Only that which remains same in the past, present and future is the only Truth.” For changes to happen some changeless substratum is necessary.

Changeless substratum, that because of which we experience changes, is the Real/ Pure Consciousness/Atman. It is the True-Self/life factor/Atman that helps us to experience all the changes that goes in our mind, body and intellect as we grow in years from the time of birth.

What we consider as real due to ignorance is not real. Body experiences change with passage of time; so does our mind and intellect that helps us to take decisions. What appeals to our mind or body at some point in time, may not appeal after some years, because our experiences and perceptions changes our likes and dislikes.

And we already know that whatever changes with time is not the Real-Self. And Real is unknowable by the organs of perception, the body, mind and intellect (BMI). It doesn’t mean that one cannot know the Self, but it means one can experience the Self by going beyond BMI.

Lord Krishna exhorts Arjun to fight not out of anger or cruelty, but to be driven by a sense of Dharma that demanded war in that time.

To remove Arjun’s dilemma of fighting with his own kith and kin, the Lord says that the Self does not slay or kill anyone and neither can it be killed by anyone. One who thinks that one is responsible for the death of anyone or can be killed by someone else is ignorant of the Real Nature of the Self. BMI that has a name and form is not Real. The Self is beyond our limited ego and body. 

The body that experiences pain, pleasure, sorrow, likes and dislikes is prone to changes with time. The body experiences birth, growth, decay, disease and death, but the Self is beyond such pain and pleasure or likes and dislikes. The Self is the eternal factor that exists at all times and is changeless.

For example, a wave is born; it rises and dies when it disappears, but the ocean is neither born nor does it die with each wave. The Self is immutable. It is neither a finite matter nor does it take part in any action. Therefore, one should not lament about the death of a body.

Note from the author: These articles are based on a commentary on the Holy Geeta by Swami Chinmayananda and discussions during study classes run by Swamiji’s followers that I attended.

Nita Agarwal is an ex-Table Tennis State player, qualified teacher, self-taught budding painter and a successful blogger, who writes about her observations of life and people; most importantly, she describes herself as a working housewife. 

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