THEOSOPHY, Vol. 38, No. 4, February, 1950
(Pages 159-162; Size: 12K)
(Number 4 of a 24-part series)

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

"THE BHAGAVAD-GITA" -- INFORMAL ESSAYS

ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS

CHAPTER second of the Gita is a difficult chapter for the thoughtful student to "finish," for we find here, at least in brief, most of the psychological equations inevitable in any philosophy addressed to the enduring soul. Mr. Judge's Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita contains forty pages on this second chapter, nearly twice the space given to any other section. It is even possible to suggest that a student may learn more from a consistent re-reading of this second chapter over a period of many months than by attempting to "master" the eighteen divisions of the Gita successively. Every re-reading may lead us to see much that we missed before, and suddenly bring clearly to our minds various correlations for which our thinking faculties were not previously prepared.

Krishna, in the second chapter, loses no time in outlining the three fundamental propositions of Theosophical philosophy, though not in their most easily recognizable forms. First, we hear that the "unprovable spirit is inexhaustible." From this it follows that one who sees Spirit to be the most substantial reality can therefore feel forever encouraged by his own equally "inexhaustible" opportunities for advance in evolution. What matters death to one who sees that he may ultimately attain whatever he wills, regardless of the number of his physical forms he must see destroyed!

Here we come to a consideration of the law of cycles -- keynote to H.P.B.'s second fundamental proposition. The cycles of death and rebirth are incessant, "certain to all things which are born," and thus every conscious being is not really separated from, but co-existent and at least partly in harmony with, the fundamental law of cycles throughout all nature. Reward and punishment are self-directed, and man may attain, whenever he is ready, to that condition wherein he shall "in action still be free from sin." Thus man conquers the Law -- or, rather, identifies himself with the meaning of that dynamic pattern of interaction between all beings which is Universal Law. While the man whose heart and mind are not thus at rest "hath no calm," in the one who attains to tranquillity of thought "therefrom shall soon result a separation from all troubles."

The passage of the soul to greater evolutionary heights is made possible by the universal perspectives on Spirit and Law suggested in the first two Fundamentals. The man who has listened to the counsels of wisdom implicit in them will acquire a new "time sense"; thus, and thus only, will he be able to avoid being of "those whose impulse to action is found in its reward." Rewards are of time and not of eternity. The evolution upward is at one and the same time an evolution inward, for the goal is not one of time but one of soul. When man has become acquainted with the "Supreme," he restrains not only his "tumultuous senses and organs," but also even his tumultuous personal heart, and "remains in devotion at rest in the supreme, his true self." He passes on to Nirvana -- the symbol of that state of spiritual attainment which betokens mastery over the complications of the world of the senses. Time -- that is, beginnings and endings, rewards and punishments -- he no longer fears.

It has become a part of Theosophical tradition to call the Gita a "devotional" book. Since Arjuna is a warrior, and the scene of the dialogue is a battle chariot, it becomes clear that the word "devotional" has little to do with conventional piety -- the latter quality we usually expect will emerge in a more monastic setting. Although the whole of the discourse gives an enlarged meaning to "devotion," Krishna provides one simple and clear definition. He tells Arjuna to "seek an asylum in this mental devotion which is knowledge." And so, for the Theosophists of all ages, it is the light of the fire of Manas which enables true singleness of purpose and steadfastness of heart. The "devotion" which flows from an emotional efflorescence of the personality can never reach to more than the conventional virtues, and these, we are informed, must later be transcended by the disciple. Each virtue may even become an opaque chrysalis for the soul, whereas the only worthy asylum is that state of mind which refuses self-satisfaction. Mental devotion can only be assured when the man has determined never to cease using his creative, perceptive faculties. Thus Krishna says, "When thy heart shall have worked through the snares of delusion, then thou wilt attain to high indifference as to those doctrines which are already taught or which are yet to be taught. When thy mind once liberated from the Vedas shall be fixed immovably in contemplation, then shalt thou attain to devotion."

Of course, this leads to a further question: what is this "high indifference"? Since "indifference" is elsewhere used as a synonym for tamas --darkness or ignorance -- we must infer that there is no "high indifference" which may be applied to duties or responsibilities. But it should also be clear that formal ethical doctrines are never more than poor representations of "duties."

Now, "a high indifference" need not mean cynicism or disdain. To rise above contempt is to reach understanding. Whenever we do reach a feeling of clear understanding on any matter, we experience something of that feeling of "impersonality" which the greatest philosophers so highly prize. Arjuna is taught that respect for the function of the Vedas is necessary as an indication of understanding gained about them, even though he may soon pass to that state where the specific formulations of teachings no longer serve him.

In tracing significant developments of thought in the major fields of science, we see an increasing awareness that the ideal scientist must strive to rid himself of all preoccupation with his particular branch of science, and attain "objectivity" -- especially in respect to his own hypotheses in that particular field. The reason is clearly because every set pattern of the mind dams up and withholds manasic energy which might otherwise flow onward to sustain and encourage new forms of growth. Perhaps, then, there is no difference between these three: Krishna's "mental devotion," a "high indifference to doctrines" -- and the insistence of Socrates that men incessantly question all the things they casually take for granted.

The function of the Theosophical Society, as conceived in 1875, was largely to build a platform of "high indifference" or impartiality, from which to examine all partisan religious, scientific, and ethical theories. The questioning attitude, as H.P.B. insists in the Key to Theosophy, was of much greater value to the Society than Christian piety, and it is a sine qua non of impartiality.

We shall note that Arjuna's opening speech, in which he outlines the causes of his despair, has all the eloquence that may easily be mustered to support a partisan or "too personal" position. Arjuna says, "As I am of a disposition which is affected by compassion and the fear of doing wrong, how can I be content with the possession of wealth and pleasures which are polluted with the blood of my enemies?" Krishna's reply reminds Arjuna that because he is thinking in terms of self and not in the terms of the Supreme Spirit, he therefore falsely considers as "enemies" those who can never be considered enemies by the spiritual man. Arjuna will become "fitted for immortality" only when he ceases thinking in terms of mortality, and recognizes that the fear of doing wrong is always of less importance than that duty which impels to battle on behalf of a better kingdom for all men -- whether considered "enemies" or not.

Since impartiality is thus suggested as providing a basis for that portion of morality we call fairness to others, so also the problem of wrong-doing receives helpful redefinition. "Sin" is simply the mediocre performance of action, and to be "free from sin" means to perform actions with all the energy and devotion at one's command, without self-interest.


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:

AMONG PATANJALI'S APHORISMS

The means of quitting the state of bondage to matter is perfect discriminative knowledge, continuously maintained. This perfect discriminative knowledge possessed by the man who has attained to the perfection of spiritual cultivation, is of seven kinds, up to the limit of meditation. Until this perfect discriminative knowledge is attained, there results from those practices which are conducive to concentration, an illumination more or less brilliant which is effective for the removal of impurity.

In order to exclude from the mind questionable things, the mental calling up of those things that are opposite is efficacious for their removal. Questionable things, whether done, caused to be done, or approved of; whether resulting from covetousness, anger, or delusion; whether slight or of intermediate character, or beyond measure, are productive of very many fruits in the shape of pain and ignorance; hence, the "calling up of those things that are opposite" is in every way advisable.

From purification of the mind and body there arises in the Yogee a thorough discernment of the cause and nature of the body, whereupon he loses that regard which others have for the bodily form; and he also ceases to feel the desire of, or necessity for, association with his fellow-beings that is common among other men.


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"THE BHAGAVAD-GITA" -- INFORMAL ESSAYS
ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS
(Part 5 of a 24-part series)

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ON EVERYDAY QUESTIONS
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