I am very happy that the 'Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course' will now be available in nine compact volumes so that one can carry a given volume while travelling. As I said in my foreword for the last edition, I want the readers to be aware that these books do not constitute another set of books on the Bhagavadgita. They are different in that they are edited transcript-pages of classroom discussions; they are presented to the reader as a program for self-study. If this is borne in mind, while reading, one can enjoy the same attitude of a student in the classroom, making oneself available to the whole process of unfoldment of the content of the words of Bhagavan. The study will then prove to be as rewarding as directly listening to the teacher. This attitude would prove to be atma- krpa Once this krpa; is there the other two, sastra-krpa and tsvara-krpa would follow.
The enormous job of patient editing of the pages, thousands of them, and presenting them, retaining the original words and content without any compromise, was done by Dr. Martha Doherty. These books have created a number of committed students of the Bhagavadgita, thanks to Martha's invaluable contribution to the teaching tradition of Vedanta. I also congratulate the staff of our Publication division ably led by Ms. K. Chandra, a dedicated student of Vedanta.
It is said that a human birth is not easy to achieve. If we look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, there are millions of years between the ape and the human being. In other words, the monkey did not become a person overnight. Even from the standpoint of reincarnation, where human birth is said to be a result of one's own past actions, karma, it is not easy. And once we-have this human body, whether it be due to karma or to the natural selection inherent in evolution, we are no longer in the hands of nature. We have the free will, a rare capacity, to initiate a further process of evolution. The whole process, then, is in our own hands.
An animal, on the other hand, is fulfilled once it survives a few years and produces an offspring. The cow, for example, need not do anything more than reach physical maturity in order to be an adult. It need not do anything to be evolved emotionally. There is no such thing as an emotionally mature cow. The only goal of a cow's life is to survive to adulthood and, as an adult, to survive as long as it can. Once it has become an adult, the cow is mature in every way.
A human being also has to become an adult physically.
Otherwise, one's life is unfulfilled. To become an adult physically, all you need is to survive by appeasing your hunger and thirst, and avoiding fatal accidents and diseases. You need not do anything special. The process is a very natural one, made possible by the survival instinct common to all living beings. After a few years, you find that you have become an adult.
Until you are a physical adult, you are in the hands of nature, which takes care of your physical growth until you can no longer say, 'I am a child.' Emotional maturity, however, does not happen in the same way. Unlike physical maturity, emotional growth is purely in your own hands. Unlike a cow you need not be mature just because you happen to have an adult physical body. Inner maturity is a process that you have to initiate because you are a human being enjoying a faculty of choice.
The four human pursuits
What is fundamentally sought after by every human being is called purusartha in Sanskrit. Although each individual seeks something peculiar, there are four ends that everyone seeks, whether he or she is an Eskimo in Alaska or someone living in a remote village in India. These four ends are artha, kama, dharma and moksa.
Artha and kama
The two universal ends most commonly sought after are security, artha and kama, pleasure. That which gives you any kind of security, emotional, economical or social, is called artha in Sanskrit. Artha may be in the form of cash or liquid assets, stocks, real estate, relationships, home, good name, title, recognition, influence, or power of any kind. Such accomplishments boost one's ego and, therefore, also provide some security for the ego. Although each person seeks various forms of security at a given time, that he or she is seeking security is common to all.
Seeking pleasure is another purusartha called kama in Sanskrit. It also takes many forms. For instance, sensory pleasures may be anything from seafood or icecream onwards. Examples of intellectual pleasures are those derived from playing games, solving puzzles or riddles, and studying certain bodies of knowledge. Thus, we have varieties of pleasures.
Anything that satisfies your senses, that pleases your mind, touches your heart and evokes in you some appreciation, is kama. For instance, any form of pleasure you derive from your home or from a relationship is kama. Music and travel are also kama, not artha, because by pursuing them, you are seeking pleasure and not security. You do not go to Hawaii or Bahamas to seek security. In fact, you lose some security, in the form of money, when you go to these places. Because you happen to have some money, you travel for pleasure, not for security.
You also derive pleasure from seeing the stars on a beautiful night, enjoying the sunrise, a flower, a playing child, or a beautiful painting. Because this pleasure is neither sensory nor intellectual, we call it aesthetic pleasure. Even though such pleasures go beyond one's senses and intellect, they are still kama.
Dharma, the third purusartha, is neither artha nor kama.
Dharma is a word with many meanings, as we shall see. Here, it refers to the pleasure born of harmony, the pleasure derived from friendship, sharing, helping another person and so on.
For instance, when you are able to relieve someone's suffering, you experience a joy that is not kama. This form of pleasure is different from both artha and kama in that you do not seek out a person in pain in order to derive some pleasure. It is not the same as going to Hawaii or to a concert. When you happen to come across someone in pain, you are able to alleviate the person's discomfort, and you feel happy.
A doctor who does not work purely for financial gain, enjoys this kind of pleasure. Charity also works in the same way. Those who are able to discover joy in such work, I would say, have an inner growth, understanding and sensitivity on their part. This sensitivity is also required to understand love, for to love another person totally is to understand the other person, for which one should be educated, cultured. If a person has not learned through experiences, and is not cultured, what kind of joy can he or she get out of life? For such people, there can be only sensory pleasures like eating, for example. But many simple joys are lacking in their lives. Thus, the gain in one's life commensurates with what one knows.
A professor of medicine, in his introductory class, said, 'What your mind does not know, your eyes do not see.' What he meant was, without medical knowledge the cause for a disease would continue to elude a person, even though the symptoms are everywhere. The eyes may see the symptoms, but the mind does not know. In life too, the more you know, the brighter life is, because you cannot see more than what you know. It does not imply that you should necessarily get more out of life. Only that your life is to be lived properly, fully, which implies a lot of understanding.
Living does not simply mean dragging yourself around from day-to-day, from bed to work, back home and to bed again. The whole process repeats itself until the weekend comes. Then you drag yourself to some recreation in the hope of forgetting yourself, which is why recreation becomes so important. In fact, your whole life can be a recreation. Someone once asked a Swami, 'Swamiji, do you not take any holidays? You seem to be working everyday.' In fact, the Swami's life is one long holiday.
If you enjoy what you do, life is very simple. If you do not enjoy what you do, then you have to do something in order to enjoy, which can be very costly. On the other hand, any pleasure that comes out of your maturing process is a different type of joy. Not hurting someone or doing the right thing at the right time, for instance, gives you joy, if not immediately, later. Suppose, you have postponed doing something like the laundry, vacuuming or letter writing, the day you decide to do it, and do it, you find that there is a joy in finally having done it, a joy that is neither pleasure nor security. It is just doing what is to be done; it is dharma, a very big topic that we will discuss later. For now, it is enough to know that as you grow in your understanding, your dharma also grows.
So, artha, kama and dharma are three of the four purusarthas. Because of the importance we place on dharma, the order can now be reversed as dharma, artha and krma. Dharma accounts
for your maturity. The more mature you are, the more dharmika you become. In order to be mature, an understanding of dharma and conformity to it becomes of prime importance in your life. Thus, dharma occupies the first place among these three human ends. Without violating dharma, doing what is to be done, you pursue artha and kama, security and pleasure. This is how these three universal human pursuits are to be understood.
Even though moksa comes last, it is a very important purusartha, as we shall see. Moksa is recognised as a pursuit only by few people in any given generation. Some appreciation, maturity or insight about life and its struggles is required to understand moksa. People do not discerningly pursue it, although everyone is, in fact, always seeking freedom in one form or other.
Though you think of freedom in a very positive way, the word moksa is actually defined in a negative sense. There is something binding you, from which you want to become free and that freedom is moksa. For instance, a man who is not in jail has freedom, whereas if he is in jail, he does not. Because he cannot choose to come out, he has lost his freedom of mobility and wants to gain it. He wants freedom from the shackles of jail.
If you are using crutches because of a leg fracture, you want freedom from the crutches. Similarly, an infant requiring the help of the wall or mother's hand in order to stand, wants to be free of the wall or the hand and, therefore, strives to stand on his or her own. So, freedom is always freedom from something.
Moksa means freedom from something I do not want. And because moksa is a purusartha, a human end common to all, wanting to be free is not peculiar to me alone. Everyone wants to be free from things that are common to all. That I am attached to particular forms of security, artha, reveals a fact about myself, that I am insecure. That I also seek pleasure, kiima, reveals I am restless and I am not satisfied with myself. I have to do something in order to please myself, which means that I am displeased with myself. If I am always seeking security and pleasure, when will I make my life? When will I really be able to say, 'I have made it!' I can say that only when I see myself as secure and I am pleased with myself. Then I am free; I have moksa.
Moksa does not mean salvation. In fact, there is no word in Sanskrit for salvation, which is just as well, since salvation implies some condemnation of myself. It implies that someone has to salvage me, save me, which is not what is meant by moksa at all. The word moksa refers only to the freeing of myself from certain fetters. The basic ones are the notions that 'I am insecure,' and 'I am displeased with myself.
I must see myself as secure and be pleased with myself as I am. Only then do I have moksa. If I am secure and pleased with myself, what situation is going to change that? I require no security or a situational change whatsoever to be secure and at peace.
This should be understood well. I spend my entire life manipulating the world to please myself. In the process, I find that two hands and legs, five senses and a mind are not enough to contend with all the factors involved. There are just too many events and situations as well as natural forces, over which I seem to have no control.
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