Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda


Song of God (Bhagavad Gita) - Chapter 18: 33-35

December 7, 2017

™dhṛtyā yayā dhārayate manaḥprāṇendriyakriyāḥ
yogenā ’vyabhicāriṇyā dhṛtiḥ sā pārtha sāttvikī (XVIII-33)
™yayā tu dharmakāmārthān dhṛtyā dhārayate ’rjuna
prasaṅgena phalākāṅkṣī dhṛtiḥ sā pārtha rājasī (XVIII-34)
™yayā svapnaṁ bhayaṁ śokaṁ viṣādaṁ madam eva ca
na vimuñcati durmedhā dhṛtiḥ sā pārtha tāmasī (XVIII-35)

XVIII/33. The unwavering firmness by which, through yoga,
the functions of the mind, the life-force and the senses are
restrained – that firmness, O Arjuna, is sāttvika.

XVIII/334. But that firmness, O Arjuna, by which on account of
attachment and desire for reward one holds fast to dharma,
enjoyment of pleasures and earning of wealth – that firmness,
O Arjuna, is rājasa.

XVIII/353. That by which a stupid man does not abandon sleep,
fear, grief, despair and also conceit – that firmness, O Arjuna,
is tāmasa.

Swamiji's Commentary

     The classification and the description of each category is very explicit. But a great thought is hidden in a simple expression in the last verse. It leads us once again to a puzzling paradox.

     The word paradox means something that is beyond teaching, something that cannot even be caught, but glimpsed – like the beauty of a flower. Once caught, the flower is broken into a thousand pieces; truth that is caught is destroyed instantly.

     Thus, we should know our own limitations. We should know what to fear, but should not cling to fear – it is tāmasa. Neither should we cling to despair. That, too, is tāmasa. Millions in the world today waste their lives in hiding, through sheer despair and morbid fear. They do not realize how illogical they are. Would it not be better to face the situation and either die, or live happily? We should not throw away life by valuing life itself more than the living of it.

     Rājasa firmness is also not very highly commended and is not our goal. However, it is better to be functional with a doubtful motive or even in selfishness, than to crouch under a blanket of fear and despair. This dynamism will in due course lead us to the firmness of a yogi described in the first verse. We should be firmly rooted in contemplation of the Lord and carefully avoid clinging to anything else. “Attach your mind to the Lord and detach it from the world,” sang our Master.

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