The Tree of Knowledge
Triangle of Life
Our life, from the standpoint of sadhana, is like a triangle having three angles: A, B and C. Here “A” indicates the whole of man and his inner being. “B” stands for practical life which we pass in the midst of our family, neighbourhood, society and all the creatures of the world. The third angle “C” shows that aspect of life, including the physical body, which is related to forces of nature. Man cannot consider himself perfect merely on the strength of a successful practical life nor exist merely on the basis of his body and inner being. Life is impossible without the harmonious cooperation of all these aspects. If the elements of nature were to withdraw their support, no creature could maintain its existence.
If the sun stopped emanating light, water ceased to quench thirst and air put an end to its movement, man’s existence would be impossible. It is, therefore, essential for man to learn the art of maintaining the right relationships among his inner being, his life of action in this world, and the elements of nature which sustain the physical body.
We often exhaust all our energies in seeking to develop only one aspect or one angle of the triangle of life. Examine the life of any individual belonging to any section of society. You will find there is no equanimity in anyone’s life. Those who are gifted with extraordinary genius may be physically sick. They consider the perfection of their inner being as the sole aim of their life. Others, who are physically robust, are lacking in spiritual advancement. If a few achieve both physical robustness and spiritual progress, we find them sadly wanting in their dealings with others or in the wisdom of practical behaviour. Thus we rarely see human beings fully developed and perfected in every way.
The development of only one aspect of life, or one angle of the triangle of life, is not enough. The age in which we live is an age of human beings lost in the hustle and bustle of the noisy world and engulfed in the darkness and restlessness of their minds. We search in vain for a model, a wholly perfected being, a resplendent ideal invested with the power to raise the consciousness of the individual, of his society, and of humanity as a whole.
An enduring human life is possible only on the strong foundation of ideals and principles. We can build the right kind of man and society only when the principles of individual life are directed towards the welfare of mankind and society, and our social ideals are meant for the progress and well-being of individuals. From times immemorial man has made manifold experiments and explorations in the quest of establishing a harmonious balance in the relationship between his inner being, his life of action, and nature.
The history of man’s culture and civilization, in its narration of the consecutive stories of human evolution, reveals how tirelessly and restlessly man has groped to attain the state of perfection. This is also the call of our age. A careful consideration shows that unless we succeed in establishing harmony and balance between the diversities of our inner and outer life, realisation of perfect peace will forever elude our grasp.
The absolute necessity of establishing a harmonious balance between the three points of life’s triangle must be recognised. Can there be any who does not inevitably feel the need of harmony in Iife? Indian philosophy, religion and spiritual practice, in presenting us with various means of achievement, teaches a distinguished way leading to the establishment of harmony among the various directions of life. The highest maxim of the Gita says, “Samatvam yoga ucyate,” or Equanimity is called Yoga.
When, on the battlefield of life, Arjuna wavered in indecision as to what was right and what was wrong, Lord Krishna, in his great compassion, satisfied all the yearning queries of Arjuna by expounding the theory of “Yogab karmasu kausbalam” — Yoga is skill in actions. Is not the query of Arjuna and the answer provided by Bhagavan Krishna quite applicable to all of us?
Arjuna was a bold inquirer, a seeker of Truth. His jijnasii (query) is similar to that of ours. Not once, but a thousand times we are caught in such a whirlpool of circumstances that we lose the clear vision of right and wrong. We are all like Arjuna on occasion. Our queries are then the queries of Arjuna. The inquiry of Arjuna and the illumination provided by the Lord of Yoga, Bhagavan Krishna, serve as secure guidelines to humanity even today, as they did to Arjuna in the past. The same problems still exist and the same wisdom of the Gita still provides satisfactory solutions to those problems.
We have to live as non-attached karmayogis (men of action) in our practical life. We have to keep the eternal flame of faith and devotion constantly burning in the purity of our inner being. There can be no usefulness in life without discriminating wisdom. A life of discrimination is therefore the only purposeful life. Thus the Gita throws light at once on all the three sides of life’s triangle, and emphasizes the principle of harmonious coordination of the three points.
Very often, in our study of the Gita and Upanishads, our intellect, suffering from prejudice, leads us to much misdirected wrangling and misinterpretation of words in our search for principles to support our life. Some scholars believe Karma Yoga, the gospel of action, to be supreme in the Gita. Others feel that the Gita underlines Bhakti Yoga, the doctrine of devotion. There are still others who think the Gita emphasizes Jnana Yoga, the philosophy that knowledge is the only means of liberation from the bondage of births and deaths.
In my view all the doctrines taught in the Gita are closely related to each other, but underlying all are practice and non-attachment. Be you a devotee, a man of action, or a monk, if you have failed to realize the value of non-attachment or if you are unaware of the profitability of spiritual exercise, it may be said that you are ignorant of the deepest secrets of the Gita. Without dispassion and spiritual exercise, you are like an intensely thirsty man who, overwhelmed by his anguish, mistakes the green scum of the pond for water and tries to quench his thirst with it.
The comprehension of Gita-philosophy is possible only by the forthright adoption of the system of investigation tested by its leading doctrine of spiritual exercise. It is known to all that Arjuna was deluded by attachment. And only because he was so deluded did the supreme warrior Arjuna adopt an attitude of cowardice and unmanliness. A coward is one who has lost his powers, and he who is unable to make proper use of his powers can only be unmanly. We, like Arjuna, are oblivious to our powers. The word Arjuna means one who incessantly endeavours to achieve his purpose. Lord Krishna, in his compassion and grace, merely awakened him to his real nature and the power hidden within him.
The philosophy of the Gita is the philosophy of non-attachment. We are all, like Arjuna, constantly engaged in the battle of life. This battle of life is for bringing unity to diversity. Our object is to establish harmony among the multiplicities of life. It is our purpose to bring about properly the maximum development of our Antabkaranii (mind, intellect, consciousness and ego) and to find our own Self in all, while discharging our duties dispassionately.
Harmonizing of the three points of ‘the triangle of life’, namely inner being, forces of nature including the body, and practical life, is possible only on the basis of non-attachment. Dispassion is the only means which can bring triumph to us in the battle of life.
Human life is undoubtedly shrouded in mystery and the key to resolve this mystery lies in the wisdom of the Upanishads.
(To be continued)
Source: Book of Wisdom – Ishopanishad: Swami Rama
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