VII:20-23 Stolen Wisdom

Belief is a fixed mental state of certainty that something is true. Faith on the other hand, is action based. When one trusts the spiritual teachings of their lineage enough to put them into practice, one is acting with faith. Real Faith comes when such action ultimately proves the teachings to be true. 

20
Those whose wisdom has been stolen away by various desires for this and that, are surrendering to other gods. They follow this and that practice consistent with their own state of self-interest, and are held back by their own material natures.

  • Wisdom – Inherent wisdom reawakened by knowledge gained through personal experience in meditation, and oral teachings from the master.

Stating desires as “this and that” not only indicates a multiplicity of desires, but emphasizes their dual nature (we either like them or we don’t) and puts them in the relative realm of illusion (things aren’t what they seem). 

Lord Krishna is saying that we are deprived of our inherent wisdom because of the intrusive nature of desires (wanting “this and that”) and that we are driven to chase after them in order to get them fulfilled. We go about this in ways consistent with our existing beliefs and tendencies, which keeps us stuck where we are: in ignorance (mistaking the unreal for the Real). 

“Surrender to other gods
‘Other gods’ refers to desired objects, or to deities believed to be able and willing to provide them when worshipped.

Worshipped = Surrendered to

Wanting to get our desires fulfilled, we resort to praying to, or propitiating, “other gods”.  One propitiates fame, for instance, by seeking it. Seeking to obtain the desired objective, it takes a place of superior importance, worshipped as a god.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”

“Following this and that practice” refers to the actions taken to get what one wants. Among the multiple means available, one follows whatever strategy is necessary to get their desires fulfilled. 

“Held back by their own material natures” refers to the driving force of tendencies seated in one’s history. Acting on these tendencies causes one’s spiritual progress to get held back by motivating one to pursue the desire, an act of self-interest.  

Acting to fulfill a desire, following a course of action to get it, it becomes more important than God/Truth. The only sure way to reconcile this is to surrender to God/Truth instead. By putting a desire before God and acting on it, one is surrendering to another god, engaging their power of choice to get what they want, rather than to get God.  

If you want to know what your priorities really are, look at how you spend most of your time. 

Those who choose the worldly life over a life lived for the purpose of reaching God (by any name), regardless of religious, professional or social orientation, are worshipping ‘other gods’.

Desires can be especially commanding and controlling when they stem from samskaras. The reason for this is that one is usually not aware of them, or can easily explain them away. These dictators demand the fulfillment of desires, and produce even more desires in the process. And one digs oneself in deeper and deeper. This is the meaning of the worship of the golden calf in Exodus. The calf suggests desires for things of value (the gold) in the physical world (the calf, offspring of the wish-fulfilling cow).

  • Samskaras – Potent governing characteristics and tendencies acquired in previous existences.

21 – 22
For anyone wishing to worship the form of another god with faith, it is I who sustain that faith. Endowed with this faith and propitiating this god to obtain desires, it is I who fulfill them.

When acting to fulfill a desire it is achieved, it is not really you who achieved it, because it is not you who acted in the first place. This is all part of the ‘illusion’. Whether in success or failure, all action in this world is the interaction of the gunas of nature, the basis of which is Absolute God: “it is I (Krishna)”.

Although we may believe with faith that, by this or that technique, we can successfully get what we want, Lord Krishna is informing us that this happens not because of what we do or how we do it, but because God provides it. All such efforts and their results have been God all along. 

23
However, this fruit, gained by those of little understanding, is perishable. Those who worship the gods, go to the gods. Those who worship Me, come to Me.

You get what you worship.

A distinction is being made between the worship of God, and the worship of gods. To “those of little understanding”, the gods are not only the means of fulfilling desires, but the desire itself, as well as the object of desire.

The result of worshipping these gods can only be temporary because they are temporary—they are of the Relative Realm and subject to change. But the results of worshipping Absolute God is permanent and eternal, because That, and the power of That, is permanent, eternal, and unlimited.

By worshipping, surrendering to, anything in this relative world, you remain separated from God. By surrendering only to Absolute God, you are united with God, in God, of God, and are God your Self.

There are many gods. There is only one God. 

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that You really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com

III:20 Going for God

Improve yourself and serve the world through progress—every step you take pulls every one of us with you. 

Lord Krishna continues giving Arjuna good reasons for going forward with Karma Yoga as represented by the battle of Kurukshetra-Dharmakshetra, by telling him the beneficial outcome for all, of persisting.

BHAGAVAD GITA, CHAPTER 3, VERSE 20

20
Having adamantly persevered, perfection was attained by King Janaka, thus holding together and protecting the world. You should do likewise.

Lord Krishna now resorts to historical reference to add authority to what he has taught Arjuna in the previous verses. He calls Arjuna’s attention to King Janaka, the ruler of a kingdom who succeeded in reaching perfection. He was known as “Videha Janaka”—Videha, not identified with the body, Janaka, progenitor (father).

“He tilled the soil with his own hands, and he was also the greatest of the knowers of Truth of his time…Strictly speaking it is almost impossible to work like that for the good of the world from the householder’s position. In the whole of Hindu scriptures there is the single instance of King Janaka in this respect. But you nowadays want to pose as Janakas in every home by begetting children year after year…” — Swami Vivakananda

Why is Lord Krishna bringing up King Janaka? Perhaps to point out to Arjuna, the previously mentioned requirements as having been accomplished by someone known to him and with whom he has a few things in common, such as notoriety, caste, expertise, and the similar responsibilities of protecting the people.

Though having to carry out the rulership of an entire kingdom, King Janaka was not identified with his body or desirous of worldly things. This is no small matter—“In the whole of Hindu scriptures there is the single instance of King Janaka in this respect”—and is why this Yoga was not generally practiced by those bound by the responsibilities of a householder.

The origin of this Yoga is the Indus Valley and the mountain foothills many thousands of years ago. It has been practiced, tried and tested over millennia by accomplished sages who have attained the perfection it promises. Who are we, the newbies of the western world, to think that we are exceptions to this?

Practitioners of this form of Karma Yoga who have reached perfection, have gotten there by divesting themselves of the worldly life and dedicating themselves solely to their spiritual practices. If you are thinking, or hoping, that you are an exception, I would caution you to contemplate the above.

Also, consider King Janaka: (1) an aristocrat with the responsibilities of a ruler, (2) with the duty to protect the people, (3) completely enlightened as to what and who he was, and (4) completely unattached to the things of this world. Look inside yourself and ask, “Do I fit this description? What would these circumstances demand of me, and could I carry them out and still succeed in this practice?”

King Janaka’s singular position in the annals of history as a householder achieving perfection, gives us some idea of the challenges one could expect to encounter (it’s difficult enough for a renunciate!), and why I say…

“Get your ducks in a row now,
in case you decide to take it all the way later.” 

Coming this mid-week:  Going for God, Conclusion

Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com

Music for Relaxation, Meditation & Rejuvenation
Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga – Surrender Meditation
Shaktipat Intensives
Practical Meditation