THEOSOPHY, Vol. 38, No. 12, October, 1950
(Pages 560-563; Size: 12K)
(Number 12 of a 24-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 24 articles have the same name.]

"THE BHAGAVAD-GITA" -- INFORMAL ESSAYS

ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS

IT has occasionally been suggested that one of the most rewarding ways to study the Gita is to attempt, in reading, to isolate a few key passages, study their philosophical implications over a considerable period of time, and then try to relate the result in "fundamentals" to the rest of Krishna's teaching. Some of the most important passages in the Gita, however, are obscure -- as most profound things must sometimes seem. Take for example the sentence occurring in the first part of Chapter Six, which is entitled, "Devotion by Means of Self-Restraint." Krishna tells Arjuna that "no one without having previously renounced all intentions can be devoted."

The meaning of devotion is clear enough, for Krishna says there is only one true devotion -- that which is devoted to the Supreme Spirit. Since the Supreme Spirit resides in all things, this seems to mean that one must develop an attitude of devotion to All Things. Yet, how are we to follow out our devotion for the beings and creatures who move around us unless we seek to assist those who need our assistance? And does this not mean that we shall intend to succeed in our efforts of help?

The answer to this paradox must lie in a recognition that this Fire of the Supreme Spirit burns, in all, as the integrity of free choice. How can we be "devoted" to anyone, in the sense Krishna means, if we focus our attention upon some particular accomplishment we should like the object of our attention to achieve? It must be that by recognizing and being devoted to the free will of another, we best serve him.

Our "intentions" are usually of a very different nature. They are commonly centered around the desire to reward our friends and punish our enemies. Yet, in the simplest of psychological situations, we certainly must realize that we can sometimes demonstrate our friendship most usefully when we disagree with our friend -- and perhaps side with our enemies against him -- if at that particular moment a specific position of the "enemy" seems more defensible from the standpoint of impartial justice. Thus Krishna says:

And he is esteemed among all who, whether amongst his friends and companions, in the midst of enemies or those who stand aloof or remain neutral, with those who love and those who hate and in the company of sinners or the righteous, is of equal mind.
"Renouncing all intentions" can only mean, in Krishna's context, reliance upon the law of self-determination. We cannot make our enemies good nor our friends better. But since it is the absence of a perception of the law of self-determination which makes some men evil and the perception of the law of self-determination which makes others good, we can only assist by demonstrating our own "supreme devotion" to that principle. In so doing we afford an opportunity for the further enlightenment of both "friends and enemies."

Though the above may seem an over-simplification, we shall find ample justification for such an idea in reviewing the course of history, if we pay particular attention to the characteristics of the men we revile as "tyrants" or praise as "benefactors." Those who exert a liberating influence upon their fellows, who believe above all things in the principle of "self-determination," are the true Liberators of history. Tyrants are tyrannical to the degree that they reject the same principle.

With these considerations in mind, we are perhaps prepared to understand the developments of the "Golden Mean" philosophy, which many people hope will keep them away from difficulty. But Krishna intends something more than the conventional "Golden Mean" doctrine when he suggests Moderation. Moderation in the use of our faculties does not prevent us from fully entering into any action when required, although we must refrain from dissipating our "devotion" by focussing it on a particular aim. A simile may exist in physics: the electrical force produced by a huge generator can be grounded out on a single circuit and thus dissipated, instead of bringing light to many streets and dwellings. Similarly, the man who sets his mind on a certain result can "ground" the energies which need to be held ready for truly important action.

How easy it is for us to equate "regulation" and "discipline" -- even careful moderation -- with the cessation of happiness. Yet "impersonality" is necessary for perception of beauty, just as it is for truth -- and happiness flows from the knowing of beauty, does it not? Do we ever feel we know the ultimates of beauty or happiness when we are tangibly enmeshed in a situation, swept powerfully along by an emotion? Often when we are in solitude our perceptive faculties are able to achieve the balance which lets us fully and deeply experience. Sometimes -- often -- we feel our deepest love for a person, a family, or for all men, when we are not in anyone's physical presence. So discipline and happiness, restraint and beauty, meditation and love, need not be enemies, but are truly friends.

We have heard that the impartiality of the scientist is a superior quality, difficult of attainment, yet richly rewarding. To move towards the Truth, it seems, to select the most fruitful hypothesis, we must consciously strive to rid ourselves of all bias. To see clearly, we must, in other words, stand apart from the thing to be seen. And is not the impersonality of the great artist, during creation, the same thing as the impartiality of the scientist?

All men, of course, even when they are scientists or artists, live personal lives. Sometimes the price of holding an impersonal quality of mind during creative work is a bursting of all bonds of restraint when work is not in progress. At least this may have something to do with the legendary excesses of "artists." But the reactive emotional states, tending to intrude after periods of excessive discipline, are not really productive of either beauty or happiness -- because they are not creative. Krishna is saying that all true creativity must invoke the Supreme Spirit -- must, in other words, be dedicated to All that Lives rather than to any one specific object. "Devotion to The Supreme Spirit" is the impartiality of the scientist, the impersonality of the artist, and the creative detachment of every man who earns beauty and happiness through his depth of perception. Somewhere and somehow, Krishna implies, is to be found a state of mind which can lead "even the mere inquirer beyond the word of the Vedas." It is apparently the attitude of Meditation, for "the man of meditation, as thus described, is superior to the man of penance, and to the man of learning, and also to the man of action; wherefore, O Arjuna, resolve thou (first) to become a man of meditation." Is this but another way of saying, "Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven, and thereafter all things will be added unto you"? Certainly, in a soul-evolving universe, all of us must become "men of action," "men of learning" and even, perhaps, "men of penance." But to prepare ourselves we must come to know truly and clearly -- through detachment. Is such counsel an unnatural doctrine of repression? It easily can become such, so prone are we all to wish for the abrupt, oversimplified solutions which do not require us to strain over the balancing of complex subtleties. Oversimplification is "the word of the Vedas" -- the word and the doctrinal aspect of every formal religion. But behind the Word is the great truth of Synthesis, the knowledge that the truly strict and the truly free are one and the same, and that the flagellant is not one step closer than the sensualist to perceiving things aright. If discipline and freedom are to be balanced in us, we may need to know more of "the doctrine of detachment." It must become apparent to honestly reflective minds that our undue involvement in emotional states is always a kind of temporary insanity which obscures not only the truth -- but the worth and beauty of the very situations we find ourselves in. Yet our aim need not be to leave life -- rather can it be to truly live life, entering into all circumstances with the greater strength and power of the man whose attitude is fixed on universal potentiality rather than upon the exploitative possibilities of the specific moment.


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

"OBSCURATIONS"

My friend Urban has shown me a letter from _______ in which the latter, feeling dark in consequence of various causes, sees no light. This is merely the slough of despond, I tell him ... [and] strong souls are thus tried inevitably because they rush ahead along the road to the light. [But he] ought, as far as possible, to try to ameliorate the circumstances. He is living now, as you know, among people of an opposite faith. Around them are elementals who would, if they could, implant suspicion and distrust about those whom he reveres, or, if they fail there, will try to cause physical ills or aggravate present ones. In his case these have succeeded in part in causing darkness.... [He] while not just in that case, is surrounded, while not strong, by those who inwardly deplore his beliefs ... and hence the elementals are there and they quarrel with those of _______ and bring on despair, reduce strength, and so on.... Those circumstances ought to be ameliorated every now and then, for I know he would at once, if changed to a better place, get better. 


--WILLIAM Q. JUDGE

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"THE BHAGAVAD-GITA" -- INFORMAL ESSAYS
ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS
(Part 13 of a 24-part series)

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ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS
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