Shrimad Bhagavad Gita on Right way of living -( Part-1: Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)

Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon Published on 06 March, 2014
Shrimad Bhagavad Gita on Right way of living -( Part-1: Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)
What is right way of living? Right way of living is living leading to all round success in life and its outcome of lasting peace and true happiness, which is the very nature of human life. Sorrows, pains, agony, disappointments and so on which are opposites of being happy and peaceful are the creations of human mind by their wrong transactions with outside world. Right way of living is by following human ideals or moral and ethical rules which are eternal laws governing human lives, as natural laws govern natural phenomena. Moral and ethical rules are the same today, as they were say 5000 years ago. Surprisingly, though major world Religions appear different from each other outwardly or in terms of ritualistic practices, their teachings or ethical principles enunciated are remarkably the same. For instance all Religions advocate love, compassion, self-sacrifice, equality,  non-violence, justice, gratitude, forgiving and so on to purify oneself for attaining God’s blessings or experiencing divinity, which is a state of true happiness or eternal bliss. No Religion advocates hatred or violence. No Religion advocates appropriation of other’s property. Other terms used for human ideals are values and virtues and their opposites are evils or vices or sins.   Virtues are called Sathguna or punya, in Sanskrit language and the opposites are Durguna or Paapa. Benevolent acts constitute Punya and malevolent acts constitute Paapa. Good deeds go to the credit side and evil deeds go to the debit side of our account, we open when we come to this earth. All Religions  subscribe to the view that a person would be rewarded or punished in the final  day of judgment, depending upon  whether he  has lead  life of virtues or vices . It is known as  law  of recompense. Those who have leaded a virtuous life would go to heaven and enjoy the heavenly bliz and those who have lead life of vices would go hell and suffer. Even in this life, virtuous people enjoy real happiness, peace and personal strength and people of vices suffer from various maladies. It is a question of helping all and hurting or harming none that is utmost virtue.
In Shrimad Bhagavad Giza, in chapter xvi entitled ‘Devaasurasampathiyoga,  (Deva means divine , Asura means devilish or demonic, yoga means Treatise ) Lord Krishna  talks eloquently to  his disciple Arjuna about the virtues and vices . Virtues are called as Sura or Godly or divine qualities, also called spirituality and wickedness is called Asuric or demonic qualities, also called rank materialism. Holy people manifest those noble qualities and wicked people manifest those vices. Virtues should guide our life. Vices should not be allowed to guide our life. The tendency for both co-exists in us, which ones we practice denote whether we are righteous or unrighteous people. The following are the virtues which Lord Krishna speaks about .Those are 1 Fearlessness (Abhayam, in Sanskrit language ),2. Purity of mind (sadvasana or chithasudhi), 3 knowledge (jnana), 4. Concentration (yogavyavastithi), 5. charity (Daanam),6.Self control (Dama),7 sacrifice (yajna) ,8 study of scriptures or ancient spiritual texts (saastra Adyayanum) ,9 austerity (Tapas’),10 straight forwardness or uprightness (Aarjavam) , 11  harmlessness or not injuring ( Ahimsa) ,12 truthful action (Sathyam) ,13 freedom from Anger (Akrodham),14 having restraint in indulging in outside or sensory pleasures or ceiling over desires or  being contented with modest living or not being greedy (Thyaga),15. Peacefulness, tranquility of mind, staying relaxed (Santhi), 16.  Not finding fault with others, not talking ill of others (Apaisunam or paradhushanam), 17. compassion towards living beings or not harming any beings ,but protecting them ( Dayabhutheshu),18 Non-covetousness  or not hoarding (Aloluptvam),19 gentleness as opposed to being harsh or brutish (Mardhavam),20 absence of fickle mindedness (Achalam), 21Vigour, dynamism, being energetic ( Thejas),22. Forgiveness ,not hurting those who hurt us , not being counter-provoked , to bear with ,if someone injures our feelings and facing the challenges of life ( Kshama),23 Fortitude (Dhrti) perseverance in a task undeterred, till one succeeds ,24 purity  ( Souchyam ),25 not hating ( Adroha ), 25 excessive  pride or vanity (Na-atimanita).

Let us explain the meaning of these terms:

Fear is the worst enemy of man. Fear without sufficient reason paralyses both our body and mind. Our body and mind fail us when we should act .Fear acts as safety mechanism, if it is aroused by outside events which pose real threat to our safety and wellbeing .It acts as caution .Often we are under the influence of irrational fears .we perceive danger/ threat when there is none . For example, we may be fearful of strangers, although there is no reason, why we fear strangers. We may be fearful of darkness or lonely place, although those pose no danger to us. We are unduly suspicious of other people bordering mental conditions called’ Paranoia’, which is a serious mental disease. We  may be fear of being  aloof, the feelings of which  appears in old age for  some people . The positive state of fearlessness is self-confidence or normal courage. The courage shown by a brute or a person under the influence of alcoholic drinks is not real courage. The reason is that they do not assess the situation realistically .They would not see danger, when there is real danger. They will not realize the disastrous consequences of their actions .Unwarranted fears handicap the persons. This is behind many superstitions .Those that are fearful would prefer to lead a life of least resistance or passive life. They would not venture out anything new. Persistent abnormal fear may lead to constant worry. A person may be preoccupied with his health and may feel that he has some disease or other. This is a neurotic condition called ‘Hypochondria ‘.If one lacks normal courage , he will not be able to face the challenges , which life poses, as happened in the case of master archer legendary Arjuna . Fear leads to nervousness.  A fearful man does not know his power or strength .This is called ‘Resource myopia’ as happened in the case of Arjuna., who lost his chivalry in the face of  mental conflict . Fear can expresses in the form of concern for personal security. A person with high insecurity feelings may get along with life with minimum efforts, without trying to improve his lot by his efforts. He may be lazy, lethargic and indolent and one leading a passive life. So a person to be successful should be courageous based on realistic appraisal of the situation and such a state is referred to by the term ‘fearlessness’ in Bagavad Gita .Arjuna felt that it was sinful to kill  people including  his kith and kin in the war. This element of feeling of committing sin made him fearful and nervous to retreat him from war in the beginning. It was his lack of knowledge that the war he was going to fight was not the usual kind of war in which motive was not to capture opponent’s territory for self-enjoyment, on the other hand it was war against unrighteousness. It would be fought not for Pandavas to enjoy the kingdom, but being born in the family of warriors, it was their duty to conquer those who are enemies of righteous rule. Thus, many factors may mar our readiness for action or put forth our efforts, which we find in our daily life and block progress and that we should tackle them and should try to achieve what human capabilities would permit. The inexhaustible energy in us should burst forth in action for the benevolence of mankind. Energy untapped and unused is energy  wasted .Man is not expected to lead a status quo life like animals, in the sense, spending life by eating and sleeping , but expected to work for  ongoing progress of life and life for higher and nobler purposes of realizing human ideals or values .

2 . Purity of mind
What is purity of mind? Purity of mind means keeping our minds pure. Evil thoughts poison our minds. Lying , cheating,critizing others or finding fault with others, thinking to harm others for personal benefits, injuring other’s feelings by insulting , by speaking harsh words, thinking of laying trap   , tendency to trouble or inconvenience others, thinking to misappropriate prosperities belonging to others, showing personal prejudice towards others based on caste , communal and ethic feelings, or unfavorable predisposition towards others due to egoism and jealousy, gossiping  and so on are the vices .Such thoughts take away t vitality of our minds. Another category of thoughts which affects purity of mind is such feelings as anxiety, apprehension, guilt feelings etc. Yet another category of thoughts which make our mind impure are unnecessary thoughts pertaining to our daily life having their origin in our greed. Some of those could be harmless. But all of them overload our minds and make our minds overburdened by thoughts or preoccupations .We should generally keep our mind free from unnecessary thoughts, whether those are good or evil. In other words we should keep our mind feather weight .We should control our thoughts. Outside world bombards us perpetually with stimuli. Unless we have internal control, our mind gets stressed up. Personal training and Meditation help to control our thoughts. Reading Religious texts and Scriptures and reflecting over the ideals dealt with in those would help to arrest our negative thoughts and to cultivate virtuous thoughts in their place.  It would also help to keep our mind restful, quiet and calm or unruffled. Meeting with good natured people and discussing human values would also help to maintain noble character .Our mind would be in its full, power ,capacity and perfection, when our mind is pure .
Too much of expectations for anything and failure to meet those may generate unhealthy reactions and cause worry which pollutes our minds.
Parents may entertain great expectations from their children. They might want to consult them in matters pertaining to their daily life and accept their advice. We may expect our so-called relatives to be open to us, trust us and care us.  We may feel disturbed mentally or we may do self-pitying when they  fail  to meet our expectations,  both of which affect our mental health. We may start brooding over the matters which makes our mind clouded.  When we have no control over how others should behave with us, the best way to safeguard our peace of mind is by not developing expectations about them.  When we don’t have any expectations, no matter how others behave with us, whether they are supportive or indifferent, we would be least disturbed. As Bhagavad Gita says, ‘Karmanyeva adikaresthe ma bhaleshu kadachana’ we should go on doing what is expected of us in a detached way just like a nurse nurses others’ children. .

3 . Knowledge

Knowledge is power. Knowledge includes intellectual knowledge or our ability to grasp the events in the outside world, creativity or innovativeness or awareness of cause and effects or coming out with something new or understanding the secrets of nature or laws and discriminatory knowledge or spiritual knowledge or knowledge about oneself including working of impulses and passions and control of self over them, higher goals in life etc.  The first two types of knowledge including intellectual and creative are called as secular knowledge (aparavidya in Sanskrit) and the last type as spiritual knowledge or( ‘paravidya). Secular knowledge helps to control our environment for our benefits. In other words, this knowledge helps us to lead materialistic life. It brings forth more and more of the so-called physical comforts and pleasures. The way materialistic pleasures work is that more we have, still, we chase for more, without enjoying pleasures which we have secured. .We keeps hunting and never have time to enjoy what we got in our hunt.  We try to catch birds in the sky, leaving the bird in our hand .The popular story of Golden duck is a typical example of our greed in life. A duck use to lay one golden egg a day .It’s owner being greedy and to become rich over night thought that he could get all the eggs at once, if he opened its stomatch. He killed it and found no eggs in side and lost the duck forever, as golden eggs are formed every day.  This happened due to lack of knowledge on the part of the owner which made him avaricious. We do so many things without knowing why we do it, whether we should we do it, when should we do it and so on. We pass through meaningless motions and waste our energy. We hold many superstitions and based on which we act, which are often detrimental. We worship Gods, without knowing or with wrong understanding of why we worship, we celebrate religious rituals and festivals, without knowing why we do.  We may be recognized scholar in a particular field, but we may not know how to behave like human beings. We may show a false sense of superiority over others and may look down upon others. We may not know our strengths and weaknesses, how we can control ourselves without letting outside forces to control ourselves.
Secular knowledge is elemental and partial. It covers only part of reality, where as spiritual knowledge is holistic or covers the absolute truth. Again our limited intellect goes for limited knowledge, which may appear partially beneficial, which may also lead to ill effects. Propensity to make quick buck prompts us to accept any discovery which shows some positive effects, without understanding ill effects that follow from its application. In the discovery of drugs, we call side effects. We find most of the medicines discovered today for diseases have side effects. In other words, while curing one disease, it causes another disease .Cannot the human minds discover remedies without such side effects?    Half- baked knowledge is as dangerous as ignorance. If there is a drug for a disease, without any side effects, we say that it’s discovery is the application of real knowledge. We have several pesticides which affect the food chain. While   they prevents insect infestation, they also prove harmful to man. Can we call such discovery a true discovery or can we call it a true scientific knowledge? Collection of bits and pieces of information and ability to memorize and reproduce them do not constitute real knowledge .A person develops knowledge, only when he understands a field of knowledge critically and deeply that it becomes part of his very nature. Do we find such learning taking place in the so-called educational institutions today?. Knowledge is considered as a commodity of exchange for earning livelihood or to make quick bucks, rather than the person being passionate in learning .Demand in the job market dictates choice of the field of study rather than love of the subject. In other words, knowledge is highly commercialized. In the industrial world few generate knowledge and convert it to such forms which majority of the people can handle without much application of their intellect. This is the bane of unplanned industrialization and characteristic feature of consumerism or market economy. If this trend continues, the intellectual levels of the succeeding generation may go down and the clock of progress may run backwards.

Generation of knowledge is the characteristic of the mind. In other words, knowledge does not lie outside. Situations stimulate   our mind. Thus knowledge generation depends upon the strength and power of our minds and vice versa, in the sense knowledge also strengthens our mind and enhances its capacity. Its capacity is maximum when we keep our mind pure, sharp and set to proper direction.

4. Concentration
Concentration means being attentive generally to the outside world and focusing attention to an activity and persisting in an activity without losing attention or with one pointed attention .Being generally aware of what is happening outside is called presence of mind, which is a pre-requisite for developing concentration. A mind distracted by outside circumstances cannot sustain concentration. A brooding mind cannot concentrate. An agitated mind cannot concentrate. Persons who day dreams or in a state of fantasy cannot have either presence of mind or Concentration. Thinking about the past incidents particularly those that were painful or sorrowful or worrying about the future affects our presence of mind and concentration. There is no point in regretting about the dead past nor being apprehensive about unborn future. We should have ‘here and now ‘attitude’ or we should attend to what is to be attended in the immediate present.  How well we apply our minds to the present situations determines the result of our attempts .Interest in an activity or general life interest helps to develop presence of mind and concentration. Presence of mind is applying mind appropriately or doing what is appropriate to a situation. We may act  in a particular way in a particular situation and later we may feel that we could  have acted differently, which would have been more accurate and we may regret our past action .A teacher may go to the class well prepared , but due to nervousness , he might not perform well . Later he may regret his poor performance and might feel that he could have done much better, but for his nervousness .Regretting is no use, when the right opportunity is lost .If a person is obsessed with some matters, he may not have presence of mind and he may be unable to concentrate .Success in any endeavor comes to those who display presence of mind and ability to concentrate . The best way to improve  personal skills is to keep the mind calm and quiet or in a state of equipoise, by withdrawing it inwards or to be in a state of meditation and operate from that state .This state of mind is also called as union with the self or inner Reality or yogavyvasthithi  in Sanskrit in Gita . The word yoga came from the word ‘yuj’ means union, that union of mind with supreme power called ‘Atman and Brahman’. Our ancient saints performed  meditation also called ‘Thapas’  which means withdrawing the mind from the body and outside world , for many years and focus attention on the supreme power. It helps to release tremendous power lying with in untapped .All the layers, as pointed out above obstruct minds ability for clear and focused vision, just like cataract  obstruct normal vision .In Shrimad Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says ‘shradhavan labathe jnanam’ meaning those who concentrate their mind on the subject get knowledge. When two persons engage in conversation, nether listens to other or neither concentrates on what the other person is saying, or they compete with each other as to who talks more or wears out whom, with the result real communication hardly takes place. On the other hand, they misunderstand each other and develop unfavorable attitudes towards each other. Leading a selective life promotes concentration. Leading a selective life means attending to only those things which are necessary for our life through prior planning and not attending those things which are not relevant for our life .Whenever we attend to a thing outside, we are spending our mental energy. So if we attend selectively, we conserve our mental energy and we are able to concentrate on things we choose to concentrate upon. There is an old saying:’ We should put in our mouth only as much as we can chew ‘.This adage holds good in all aspects of our life. We have to develop ‘will’ for concentration. Will is the decision we take consciously when our mind is clear when it is in meditative state, to which we commit.Gandhiji developed his strong will to regulate many practices in his life which have proven beneficial effects by taking vows. Taking vow is pledging to follow a particular act bringing moral force to bear upon it .Though he relished eating meat during his early days, he abstained from eating meat and became staunch votary of vegetarianism by his sheer will power, inspired by his love for non--violence and as a method of self purification and also to honour his words given to his mother.

5. Charity

The word charity is a mistaken word. It is commonly understood as giving away something which the other person needs. Even giving few coins to a beggar is considered as charity .As physical act, yes, it is an act of giving or parting with what one has .But it has much higher meaning. By charity, Receiver is benefitted .When a hungry person receives food, his hunger is quenched and thus he is benefitted .There is real charity, when there is awareness on the part of the giver that more than the Receiver, he is getting the real benefit. Apparently, he may feel what benefit he gets, is he not losing what he has?. The supreme benefit he gets is that the habit of Dana or parting with what he has helps to purge the most evil tendency of selfishness and greed from his mind, which prompt him to lead demonic/ materialistic life of fleeting joys alternated by prolonged sorrows. The donor is not obliging the person who receives, on the other hand he is giving donor the chance to overcome his disabilities of his ego and release his true nature and potentialities. When we think this way, the roles are reversed. Who is the real beneficiary, the Donor or the person who receives?. Who obliges  whom? . Then there is U- turn in our understanding of who benefits most from the act of charity.   Charity is a way of purification of our soul, which is polluted by our selfishness, greed and self-aggrandizement and pompousness or feeling air of superiority.

The readiness to be charitable should come from feelings of oneness with the person who is the beneficiary. The giver should feel that he is meeting the needs of other person as he would meet his own needs. Unless the giver identifies himself with the receiver, he will not have the noble urge of sharing  what he possesses with other .If at all he parts with what he has will be for his personal gains such as name, fame, influence and a way of  appropriating several times more than what is given . Alms giving, philanthropic acts of donating funds for social and educational causes are different forms of charity. True spirit of charity can weaken the tendency to accumulate material resources mostly by hook or crook and may help the person to lead morally upright life. Extending monetary help alone is not charity. Extending any kind of help, say looking after a sick person also amounts to charity. Sharing experiences of others who face hardship and the urge to be helpful   is act of charity. There is no big or small help. Even a small help rendered timely is as good as extending liberal help .Only people who have spiritual bent of mind can be charitable in true spirits. Persons having spiritual bent of mind understand how acts of charity works for their self-improvement, leading subsequently to divine experience. Those who give alms or offer charity for gaining God’s blessings for their welfare are influenced by superstition. It is to be understood that human life sustains by acts of giving and receiving or by mutual help. In charity, one sacrifices one’s self interest .One may sacrifice one’s self interest in rendering many kinds of services.
There are two kinds of begging (Bisha Sanskrit ): 1.being unable to sustain oneself due to many reasons such as when earning capacity is lost due to old age or any handicap and 2.those who   go to door to door for food to curb their likes and dislikes. Saints, for instance, depend upon what others give. There is no choice for them. Thus, it helps to curb their likes and dislikes, which is a form of selfishness or a way of pampering the body. The former type of begging is condemned, but the latter type is considered venerable. Curbing our likes and dislikes in the matter of food has many salutary effects. It helps us to control our senses .When senses are allowed to go unchecked, it leads to difficulties and adversities .It also helps us to dissolve our ego and develop humility and also to gain over all control of our behavior, checking our tendency to take to evil practices.


Self control is also called self discipline. It means not giving license to sense organs to indulge in worldly pleasures or creature comforts. It also means limiting desires. Seeking outside pleasures is an endless activity. In seeking material pleasures and comforts, one may take to any means violating moral laws .A person who keeps on enjoying material comforts is called as ‘Bhogi’ in Sanskrit. Satisfaction of lust,  enjoying more and more facilities, eating drinking etc are the sources of happiness to such a person .One should be content with moderate conditions of living and his mind should be focused on higher  human values .Excessive indulgence in  material comforts destroys one’s health and personality . We should check our attractions towards objects of pleasure outside by developing will.

We have 5 sense organs such as eye for sight, ears for hearing, nose for smell, tongue for taste and skin for touch. Each of those sense organs is bombarded by stimuli from outside   persistently. Similarly, we have five motor organs or organs of action. Unless we control them, they can create havoc in our life in the form of life of wickedness .All those organs should be put to proper and virtuous use to conserve our inner energy to make our life resourceful and constructive .We should not allow them to run after everything .They should respond to outside stimulation only selectively, so that there is order and harmony in our life. Our eyes should catch the beauty and finesse of nature. Our ears should be tuned to singing of birds, the movements of air through trees, the gurgling of streams producing musical sound and so on. We should focus our eyes to good sights, ears to sounds of goodness.  We should use our mouth to speak words of goodness and gentleness. We should condition our tongue to enjoy foods that are healthy. We should tune our nose to fresh air which is a vital life force and sweet aroma. We should refrain from spoiling nature which deprives us from enjoying the best of circumstances. We should not put our organs to overuse or faulty use .We know how watching T.V or computer screen for a long time at a stretch affects our eyes .We know how our love for food or palate affects our health. We should use our sense of touch to give the feelings of good will and caring. For instance, we shake hands when we meet someone. Physically, it is a sense of touch. We should shake hands in such a way that it conveys feelings of warmth and friendship. It should not be simply a mechanical act. We should allow our motor activities such as breathing, eating, digestion, movements etc to follow rhythmic order. There is a natural rhythm of breathing. When we are tense and stressed up, it affects the rhythm and becomes detrimental to health. Irregular habits of eating, consuming food having high sugar, salt and oil, consuming alcoholic drinks etc affect digestion and metabolism causing systemic diseases. We develop unhealthy habits by which we go against nature and the laws of creation.

Being meticulous is a sign of self-control. A meticulous person attends to whatever he has to attend to promptly and in time. His life is organized and orderly. He is on time in everything. He would be on time for appointment, never late. He never procrastinates or never post phones what he has to do today to tomorrow. He never hurries, but does everything in his comfortable pace. He applies himself fully or gives total attention to what he does, even to the so called little things and enjoys what he does. He thinks before he acts such that he never would have the occasion to regret for his decisions or acts. In other words, he is never impulsive or one who acts on the spur of the moment. He shows adequate patience. When he engages in conversation with others, he listens to them and gives a reasoned reply and never interjects in the middle of conversation.

(To be Continued)
Shrimad Bhagavad Gita on Right way of living -( Part-1: Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)
മലയാളത്തില്‍ ടൈപ്പ് ചെയ്യാന്‍ ഇവിടെ ക്ലിക്ക് ചെയ്യുക