Associate Vice President of a reputed IT Company, India
Earlier we saw that the dilemma of “What should I do now?” while encountering situations where multiple options were yielding contradictory results, was getting resolved by adhering to Krishna’s counsel of associating our life to a principle, the one chosen being a derivative of our innate nature. We had identified that there were two other possibilities where the same question could arise with force and disturb our equi-poise i.e. one where there are seemingly no options yet we are compelled to act and the other when we we feel “Am I meant for only this?” as we keep on doing the only thing that we could do. We reconnect to the Master Charioteer for further guidance.
Let us begin with the assimilation of thoughts towards tackling encounters where “there are no options yet we are compelled to act”. An introspection from the point of view of the Life Principle that we have associated ourselves with, would mostly indicate the action that has to be done. For reasons that we would see shortly, we are not able to do the action that is the need of the hour. Given this background, it would appear that by remaining action-less, we can circumvent and tackle the situation. It is very easy to convince ourselves and quieten our conscience with the line of thinking that we are hapless and helpless. However, we hear Krishna emphatically state that action cannot be avoided (3-5). Taking himself as an example, he mentions that he is always engaged in work, despite the fact that nothing binds him to a duty (3-22). He goes on to explain that it would lead to a state of confusion and destruction, if he were not to work (3-24).
Since it is established that action cannot be avoided, what really are the factors which reduce us to a state of being choiceless? What makes us feel incapacitated? Why does a sense of lack of vitality prevail, casting a pall of gloom on our personality? Primarily because, we feel constrained or limited. We can see that the limitation could stem from the boundaries of physical strength or mental prowess, resources at disposal, a word that had been given, prevailing customs or protocol and possibly a dozen more circumstances
A direct counsel from Krishna at this point would help us! “Abandoning dependence on all principles, come to Me as the sole refuge” (18-66), enlightens us on the question that we have been debating and enjoins us on the direction that could be taken. It is interesting to note that this message comes almost at the very end of the conversation that Krishna had with Arjuna. Krishna possibly reserved this to the concluding phase because amongst a series of messages, the parting one is likely to be remembered for long! To gain full import of this teaching, two words viz. “Me” and “Refuge” which are part of the above message need to be illustrated and understood.
Several verses in the Gita have a pointer towards the interpretation of “Me” referred to above. Possibly the most striking and absorbing ones are those in the tenth (“Manifestation of Divine Glories”) and eleventh (“The Vision of the Cosmic Form”) chapters. In the tenth chapter, we see Krishna enlisting atleast fifty supremes each for a given category as equated to “Me” which includes Vishnu, Sun, Moon, Sankara, Kubera, Fire, Skanda, Kamadhenu, Garuda, Adisesha, Varuna and several more, apart from another twenty grand attributes such as patience, fame, fortune, speech, memory, intelligence. In the eleventh chapter we see that based on Arjuna’s request, Krishna grants him the power of divine vision by means of which Arjuna was enabled to see the magnificent cosmic vision known as Viswarupa. By now, it is crystal clear that the “Me” correlates to the infinite and the unlimited.
What could “Refuge” (also comes as surrender) mean? Does it not sound meek and submissive? Would it not restrict us further? These are questions that typically arise in our mind. Let us look at some contemporary examples before we completely grasp the import of “Refuge”. The issue that has been paralyzing us, is that of limits and constraints. What do we normally do when we are in equivalent situations? Either we try to push the limits farther or look for an alternate source that is apparently unbounded. These days when lands go parched and desperately look for that vital elixir called water, many governments have been rushing towards the vast expanse of the seas for the limit-breaking respite. As per reports from International Desalination Association (IDA), the last five years have witnessed a 57% increase in the capacity of desalination plants around the world! Obviously, side-effects including disturbances to the delicate marine eco-systems are bound to happen over a period of time. Similarly, energy requirements of nations have been unabated. Once again, searches and researches have been going on for alternate sources or pushing the limits. Solar power seems to be providing clues and some solace. In this case, it is the economic applicability and not the availability that has been a concern. While we may or may not agree with specifics, what we see as a pattern here is the approach – that of expanding beyond the limits. “Refuge” simply refers to this act or approach.
Thus seen in context and put together, “Refuge in Me” translates to “Connect to the Unlimited”. Soon we can see that our limiting boundaries start melting away despite the most trying circumstances. An extensively referred quote on the Gita which sums this up, flows from the pen that Mahatma Gandhi wielded and it is apt to recall the same : “When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavadgītā. I find a verse here and a verse there and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies – and my life has been full of external tragedies – and if they have left no visible, no indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teaching of Bhagavadgītā.” The essence of this message which is about the revival of spirit is to be compared with Chandogya Upanishad 5.2.3 “Should anyone say this to a dry stump, branches will surely grow on it, and leaves will sprout”
A doubt that may naturally arise – Can’t we do this act of “connecting to the unlimited” all the time? Ofcourse yes, if we could achieve it! But unless circumstances compel, we are otherwise satisfied with a limited existence!
We reserve the last question “Am I meant only for this?” to the next occasion.
(To be continued)