वसुदॆव सुतं दॆवं कंस चाणूर मर्दनम् ।
दॆवकी परमानन्दं कृष्णं वन्दॆ जगद्गुरुम् I
We seek the grace of जगद्गुरु, the गुरु for the entire universe, भगवान् श्री कृष्ण: in every class.
There are 2 streams that flow alongside each other in वेदान्त | These are:
(i) Self-mastery ~ कौशलम्, संयम |
(ii) Self-discovery ~ enquiry into आत्मा i.e. आत्मा विचार |
The stream of self-mastery has many साधना-s. Self-mastery is so that we can use the mind and body as our instruments for our many pursuits, with the one major pursuit being मोक्ष |
So, for how long should one pursue self-mastery? Until one understands the Truth.
If one already understands the Truth, a lot of self-mastery would have been spontaneous in one’s life.
If one has a strong achiever identity i.e. there is the strong identity of कर्ता (the doer) and भोक्ता (the experiencer), one can take on this self-mastery as a lifelong साधना & challenge, thinking that I will be the master of my destiny.
Now, the श्रीमद् भगवद्-गीता offers us a more expansive understanding of mastery i.e. that mastery is achieved in the larger framework of धर्म |
Because one can be a master cyber-criminal, but this is not good for the people at the receiving end of this.
So, mastery includes the understanding of भगवान् ~ nothing that I can perform and no results that I get are untouched by the order that is भगवान् |
How or what shall I surrender?
So, now we see a series of verses from श्लोक २५-३० that are giving us different options for different kinds of साधना-s. Because we may be partial to one साधना, or one of our राग-s may be this particular activity, and so how can I convert my whole life into a साधना? How can I convert my whole life into a surrender unto भगवान् ?
In श्लोक २५ we saw that the कर्मयोगी can perform rituals/यज्ञ unto the deity for different ends, e.g. for a child, for harmony in a marriage, for removal of obstacles, for success in a business venture etc.
And the संन्यासी-s offer themselves- all conclusions/notions that one has about oneself, one questions, and stands purified in the fire of knowledge.
* श्लोओक २६ *
श्रोत्रादीनीन्द्रियाण्यन्ये संयमाग्निषु जुह्वति ।
शब्दादीन्विषयानन्य इन्द्रियाग्निषु जुह्वति ॥ २६॥
Here we see a helpful imagery from the कठोपनिषद्, which uses the chariot. There are five elements in this chariot-
(i) the Chariot.
(ii) Five horses –
Each of the five horses represents a sense organ, and each has their respective area of exploration as they move into the world. The horses are wild and just go all out in their sphere of operation.
– the sense organ of sound is attracted to music,
– the sense organ of sight is stimulated by all that one must watch and read,
– the sense organ of touch is attracted to comforting touch,
– the sense organ of smell is attracted to pleasant fragrances,
– the sense organ of taste is stimulated by food. We all go to great lengths in order to plan for and procure our meals; a lot of events can be dictated by food.
So, all of these are important for all of us. The horses of the sense organs can be let wild into the world- for instance, whatever is one’s fancy, one can go all out towards that. Or, the reins of how the sense organs need to move in the world can be decided by the mind.
(iii) Reins – is the अंतःकरण with the function of the mind i.e. that which throws up different kinds of desires, e.g. I am pondering over lunch ~ should I have Thai, or Japanese?
So, the outward going horse can drag one along as one ponders over the menu, and the reins will throw up the different desires. But who makes the decision? The charioteer.
(iv) Charioteer – is the deciding function i.e. the बुद्धि: of the अंतःकरण | The बुद्धि: will decide that today I will have Thai food. The options are many, so the बुद्धि: stays firm and sticks with one based on all the desires that are thrown up.
For whom does the बुद्धि: decide? The master of the chariot.
(v) The master of the chariot i.e. the one for whom the chariot is being driven.
This is the one who is illumining all the shenanigans of the sense organs, and desires/pursuits. All of this is happening for the master of the chariot i.e. आत्मा |
So, in our regular pursuits which are श्रोत्रादि i.e. all that one can hear etc.(see, smell, taste, touch),
are offered into संयम अग्नि i.e. the अग्नि of self-mastery. [संयम has another meaning in योग शास्त्र ]
So, does one pluck out the ears and throw them into the fire? Obviously, no.
In the activities of the different sense pursuits, there is both restraint and some movement in that direction.
1) If the reins of the horses are too tight, such that the horses cannot move, then one will suffer. Because one will keep having desires but because the controls are very tight, one is not able to enjoy anything. One feels guilty for every enjoyment. So, this is not appropriate.
2) If the reins of the horses are too loose, then the horses will decide what one needs to do. One is pulled in all different directions, as the sense organs decide what one does, instead of the mind/intellect.
We live in this multi-sensory world where there in constant sensory input i.e. constant knowledge from these ज्ञानेन्द्रिय | ज्ञानेन्द्रिय are the sense organs of knowledge, but what we decide to do with the knowledge received may vary. E.g. If something tastes nice, one can choose to indulge in more, or just enjoy a small serving.
The sense organs do not decide. In the light of one’s pursuits, one decides how much to pursue, what to do in any kind of pursuit etc.
The purpose of any pursuit that one has is self-mastery. We get to enjoy wonderful fragrances, beautiful sights, charming/harmonious sounds, delectable tastes, but one does not get carried away with it, because all of it is meant to serve me. It is meant to bring me some enjoyment, but at the same time I am not conditioned by the enjoyment.
For instance, if one has very particular taste, then even as one travels the world, one must have one’s rice & lentils. So, one misses out on the wonderful cuisine offered in all the different cultures. When one corners/limits oneself, then the scope of enjoyment also gets limited.
So, enjoyment is good, but one should offer one’s enjoyment into self-mastery, with some framework of धर्म |
E.g. With respect to vegetarianism, for the sake of 2.5 inches of tongue, one does not kill an animal for meat. For the few seconds that the food is on the tongue, is it really worth it? So, this is an extension of अहिंसा |
So, in all of one’s pursuits, may one offer it into the अग्नि of self-mastery.
Then, there is another अग्नि~ इन्द्रिय अग्नि i.e. the fire of the senses. Here the metaphor is that each of the senses is like the हवन् कुण्ड् with offerings to be made. How does one decide what to offer?
Whatever is appropriate one should offer- how much to see, how much to listen etc. are the decisions to be made. Even if it is वेदान्त or योगासन, one cannot spend 8-12 hours or more, per day on this. Also, excessive मंत्र chanting without guidance can produce a lot of heat in the body. So, all these activities must be guided, because it is not necessary that more of a good thing is a good thing. There must be appropriateness.
So, here the teaching is that may we be alert, deliberate and conscious with what we are consuming. This is not just limited to scrutinizing what one eats, but this discernment should be applied to all sensory input (see, hear, taste, touch).
Discernment does not mean that one swings to an extreme, e.g. one thinks that when I watch news, I become very disturbed, therefore I am not going to watch any news. One is a part of this system, so one cannot ignore the news, one should at least look at the headlines. But one thinks that the news is too toxic- this topic of toxicity makes us into soft creatures who cannot handle toughness.
It is easy to say that a person or situation is toxic, so I will run away from this- this is one’s द्वेष masquerading as the seeming toxicity of the other person. There may be people who seem to be always whining and complaining, having negative things to say, so one can try to contribute some positivity to this situation. But running away from what I perceive as toxic under the guise of controlling oneself is not self-mastery.
For instance, one may think that when I talk to people I get disturbed because I think over what I should have said and what I should not have said etc., so then one avoids talking to people. So, it seems as if people have become a source of disturbance for me, but really is it that one’s own thoughts about people have become a source of disturbance for me. So, this need not be so.
So, with respect to the mastery of the sense organs, given the nature of one’s pursuits, and where one is in one’s current age and stage of life,
being deliberate, conscious and alert about what do I see, what do I consume, what do I hear is very important as one has limited attention, and one does not want it to be scattered. So, there are management and productivity books that one can read to help with building these good habits.
So, we exercise discipline in the use of our sense organs and offer this unto संयम (self-mastery) i.e. ईश्वर-izing & spiritualizing all of our pursuits. It is not to say that this is a pleasure pursuit and so it is not spiritual.
Everything is made spiritual by recognizing that everything is touched by the order that is ईश्वर |
So, there is no reason to feel guilty with moderation and the framework of धर्म, as all the pursuits of pleasure of the sense organs, I offer it unto ईश्वर | It is all a यज्ञ – whatever I eat, see, smell, taste, touch.
Then, it also helps with शम: and दम: for अधिकारित्वम् i.e. the preparedness for वेदान्त |
One can get disturbed when one sees certain things, so how do we resolve it?
So, one may see news of the Ukraine-Russia situation or about the Kashmir fights, so this will naturally evoke a reaction.
So then does one immediately go into a binary type of thinking that those are the bad guys who I hate, and then feel very righteous about myself. Or, do I sit with the discomfort and recognize that maybe I do not fully understand all of it- yes, this does not seem right, and maybe I need to learn more. I can pray, I can educate myself, I can have another perspective. So, various options are there. In this way I am not disturbed, or I do not continue to be disturbed by the goings-on of the world. Because there is already enough to disturb one, and this disturbance will impinge on my pursuits.
So, right at the beginning the reins are in my hands as to how much I consume.
Mastery does not mean denial. If the reins/controls are too tight, then one cannot enjoy this world which is such a blessing, but if the reins are too loose, then one is all over the place. So, it should be just adequate. And this balance is dynamic~ we master it by mastering it. So, effort is required so that the mind and body are fully available for my pursuits.
For instance, if one is a social media analyst then one would need to spend many hours per day on social media because this is one’s job. But even if this is not my job, it is so easy to spend a lot of time on social media as one gets pulled into the rabbit-hole of the offerings of social media. So self-mastery is to remember that the reins are in my hands.
* श्लोक २७ *
सर्वाणीन्द्रियकर्माणि प्राणकर्माणि चापरे ।
आत्मसंयमयोगाग्नौ जुह्वति ज्ञानदीपिते ॥ २७॥
This talks about संन्यासी-s since सर्वाणीन्द्रियकर्माणि i.e. all sense pursuits(ज्ञानेन्द्रिय-s/organs of knowledge), and the कर्मेन्द्रिय-s/organs of action are both being offered unto आत्मसंयम अग्नि |
आत्मसंयम अग्नि is self-mastery that has been stoked by ज्ञानदीपिते |
Especially for a संन्यासी, the pursuit of अर्थ & कामा is at its least minimum, therefore a lot of time is spent in meditation, contemplation and learning. Therefore, one needs to be fully available for this pursuit.
Therefore, there is a certain वैरग्य/objectivity that I have been there and done that. It is not that one has द्वेष, but whatever sight/sound/travel etc. has served its purpose for me. My mind does not get carried away all the time by what I am feeling, or what I am thinking, or what I should/should not be doing. The mind has resolved, and one is fully available, borne out of विवेक/clear thinking about what is important to me at this time and stage in life, having made the commitment to मोक्ष |
With self-mastery, one can use the mind to master the body. And one can also use the body to master the mind.
This is not a dualism.
E.g. in school, one may think that when I am in the right mood, I will study. However, the right mood never happens, and one stays distracted. Then, after a few hours pass, one feels even worse about oneself because then time has also passed.
So, instead one compels oneself to do the desired action. In this way one gets going on the project, even if one does not feel like it, and then one finds that the mind will align.
So, sometimes there is शम: i.e. in the light of different pursuits, I am also resolving psychologically my mental status, centering myself despite the disturbance.
And then, one can also take the help of physically getting into the activity, and as one starts doing the activity, one gets into the right mood.
So, both शम: & दम: is needed.
दम: is mastery at the level of the body which contributes to a more centered mental status, and शम: is centering oneself and resolving issues that may have disturbed one and then one is in the right frame of mind for action.
Then, there are many more यज्ञ-s(prayerful offering/ritual) mentioned. These are used as a metaphor for different activities of our lives.