Even Though Acting One Does Nothing – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 11, Vs 33

Kali
Kali Ma — The teachings of Yoga revealed in a image.

In our last post we discussed the nature of Time as both personal and cosmic. The above picture of Mother Kali is significant to this, for Her name, Kali, has the same root and the word for Time, and both are said to be destroyers.

In the story of the Mahabharata war, this Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Lord Krishna and his devotee and childhood friend, Arjuna. Listening in, we receive the teachings of Lord Krishna as he relates them to Arjuna.

This post addresses the removal of obstacles to yoga, non-doership, the onset of real yoga, enlightenment and surrender.

Last week:
32  The Blessed Lord spoke: I am Time, the destroyer of all beings and all worlds, come to destroy these people in this world. Even without any action on your part, none of these warriors here in the opposing army will be spared.

Todays post:
33  
Therefore, you, who can shoot an arrow with either hand, stand up and attain glory! Having conquered the enemy, you will enjoy a prosperous and flourishing kingship, for these enemies have already been killed. You are merely the instrument. 

Lord Krishna reminds Arjuna of his prowess and assures him of a victory that will bring about the return of his kingdom, and that he will be pleased with the results. He may as well accept this, for it is already done. No matter what Arjuna does in the way of killing the enemy, this action is not really of his own doing.

The killing of the enemy suggests the purification of obstacles. “It is already done” suggests that the Real You is already perfect.

Krishna (God/Guru) and Arjuna (You) are standing together in the middle between two armies. These two armies represent the two forms of Life Energy in the body (prana and apana) that, with the commencement of the battle, come crashing together. This causes the Life Energy to act as the Evolutionary Force (kundalini).

The warriors on both sides are Arjuna’s relatives. They represent all your personal assets and liabilities (obstacles) because of their relationship to you. What will be killed are all the things that stand in the way of your forward progress. This can only happen when the two armies come crashing together. This is what yoga really is and what the word means: ‘union’.

Once this real yoga begins, purification begins in ernest. Having already prepared the way with proper conditions for your meditation, the dam breaks and out comes all the muck. Your mind speeds irrationally, you are overcome with emotion, your body moves around in strange ways. Kundalini-shakti has taken center stage and aids your progress by killing the enemy: all the things that hold you back. Thus we have an expert archer hero (you) in the leading role of this tale, with Goddess Kundalini doing all the dirty work. 

“These enemies have already been killed. You are merely the instrument.”

Lord Krishna is saying that in killing the enemy, these actions are not really your own, however much it may seem otherwise. Taking up this course of action makes you an instrument of the inevitable destruction of these warriors (obstacles), but not the doer of it. This tells us more about the principle of non-doership.

Through surrender to God/Truth in meditation, even though action occurs, one does nothing. 

Surrender to God/Truth is the means of attaining yoga and enlightenment easily. Through it, the ‘ego’ is automatically overcome during the period of your meditation.

‘Ego’ is ahamkara in Sanskrit. The word literally means, “I do.” The sense of doing, ‘ego’, is dependent on the use of the will. When you surrender to God in meditation, you abandon the use of your will. Only through this practice of surrender to God will you come to understand this experientially. It will not happen any other way.

The sense of doing—’ego’—is dependent on the use of the will. Using the will fortifies the ego.

While it is possible to have direct experience of Truth/God using a technique (will), the experience is very short (1/16th of a second), and though it may justly be called an enlightenment experience, it is only the beginning. Overcoming the domination of the ego is the overcoming of the sense of being the doer of actions. This is true enlightenment, and the beginning of Real Yoga. 

“You who can shoot an arrow with either hand”

Lord Krishna is not only commending Arjuna’s prowess with bow and arrow, but suggesting the nature of the course his path is now taking. Arjuna has reached a fork in the road that leads in a direction that has not been clear to him and is taking eighteen chapters to fully comprehend. The message here is that all this takes Time.

The Sanskrit for “either hand” actually means ‘left, left hand, or North’. It is translated as “either hand” or “both hands” by most translators and diverts the idea of Lord Krishna teaching the Left-hand Path, so despised by most yogis due to misinterpretation.

When you face the east (your face is the east of your body), south is down and on your right, and north is up and on your left. The right-hand path is known to everyone, but yogis seek the upward trending of kundalini going North.

Kali, left knee raised
Kali, left knee raised

I once went into an ashram store looking for a picture of Kali with her left knee raised. She is usually shown with the right knee raised, and the person in charge of the store was horrified at my request. Probably thinking I was depraved and needed guidance, she insisted on the other form of Kali and warned me about the one I sought. But I was adamant. She went into a back room and brought out pictures of Kali. We finally found one with the left knee raised, and she sold it to me, probably saying prayers for my redemption as I left (she was a very kind person). 

Kali Ma was originally the Creator (Brahmā), Sustainer (Viṣṇu) and Destroyer (Śiva) all rolled into one dynamic female God. Eventually though, She became relegated to the single and fearful position of Destroyer.

So what is the big deal about the Left-hand Path?

The Left-hand Path has gone through periods of descent into madness over the centuries. Some have taken ‘left’ to mean ‘south’ (probably because of the Ida, the channel for the downward flowing apana on the left of the body) and referring to sexual practices, human sacrifice, and all kinds of craziness. But this was due to misunderstandings of correct teachings off and on over the centuries.

Pingala - channel of prana; Ida - channel of apana; Sushumna - channel of awakened kundalini.
Pingala – channel of prana. Ida – channel of apana. Sushumna – central channel for awakened kundalini.

The only way to get all the Life Energy to rise (north) is for the downward trending energy to be brought up by something equally powerful — the upward trending energy has to descend (south) to do this.

This paints a picture of prana, the upward flowing Life Energy, falling to the basal chakra, uniting with the apana, the downward flowing Life Energy, and both going upward together through the central channel as kundalini. Thus is Kundalini ‘awakened’ and hatha yoga (‘sun-moon union’) begun.

This is the story of the Ramayana, the saga of Lord Rama and his beloved Sita. Rama goes south to get Sita and together they go North. Their journey North is hatha yoga. 

prana – the upward trending warming Life Energy in the body flowing upward through the Pingala channel from the Right: Sun.

apana – the downward trending cooling Life Energy in the body flowing downward through the Ida channel from the Left: Moon.

kundalini – the evolutionary force in the body activated by the union of prana and apana. This union takes place at the first chakra: South.

With Kali’s left knee raised, She demonstrates the upward-going of the normally downward-going energy, apana. Not only is this usually misunderstood, but Kali Herself is misunderstood. Yes, She destroys, but what She destroys is ignorance, impurity and other obstacles to yoga. Kali Ma is seen as another form of Durga Ma, or as Durga Ma’s instrument for this purpose. Thus is Kali revered by all true yogis.

In our next installment, we will have a look at some of the obstacles Kali obliterates.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one you really are),
Durga Ma
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