Time and space

Understanding time and space from a scientific viewpoint is one of the eternal quests of mankind.

Transcending time was also one of the goals of the ancient Indians. Thus the phrase “sanatana dharma” (eternal dharma) is used to describe the Hindu religion.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna narrates how he is the embodiment of Time, as he reveals his universal form.

kālo ’smi loka-kṣhaya-kṛit pravṛiddho
lokān samāhartum iha pravṛittaḥ
ṛite ’pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣhyanti sarve
ye ’vasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣhu yodhāḥ

This can be roughly translated to:

Time I am, destroyer of the worlds. Even without your participation, the warriors arrayed in the opposing army shall cease to exist.

– Bhagavad Gita, 11.32

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Thanks to the faculty of intelligence, humans can contemplate the consequences of actions.

Forests used to cover 99% of the entire earth at one point. What happened next is human civilization uprooted this green cover and built vast countries and empires for human dwelling.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna begins by having doubts about the battle with his kinsmen because of the fear of what may happen next.

āchāryāḥ pitaraḥ putrās tathaiva cha pitāmahāḥ
mātulāḥ śhvaśhurāḥ pautrāḥ śhyālāḥ sambandhinas tathā

etān na hantum ichchhāmi ghnato ’pi madhusūdana
api trailokya-rājyasya hetoḥ kiṁ nu mahī-kṛite

This can be roughly translated to:
Teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, grandsons, fathers-in-law, grand-nephews, brothers-in-law, and other kinsmen are present here, staking their lives and riches. O Madhusudan, I do not wish to slay them, even if they attack me. If we kill the sons of Dhritarashtra, what satisfaction will we derive from the dominion over the three worlds, what to speak of this Earth?
– Bhagavad Gita, 1.34-35
In the case of Arjuna, Krishna informs him in depth why he is heedlessly worrying about this consequence. The law of dharma ensured that the eternal self immanent in each of his kinsmen was taken to it’s next natural stage.

Choice

In life, one is faced with multiple options and it is difficult to know choosing which option leads to the best results.

After having explained the ideas of dharma, karma, yoga among others, Krishna extraordinarily gives Arjuna the choice to do as he sees fit.

iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
vimṛiśhyaitad aśheṣheṇa yathechchhasi tathā kuru

This can be roughly translated as:

Thus, I have explained to you this knowledge that is more secret than all secrets. Ponder over it deeply, and then do as you wish.

– Bhagavad Gita, 18.63

Results

Humans have evolved to realize that performing certain actions which are tough in the present moment, but lead to great rewards in the future. Also, it has been observed that hankering after results also leads to several problems.

Hence performing actions without the anticipation of results appears to be the best approach.

As Krishna delineates the three ways to perform actions, penances etc, he categorizes those actions performed for their own sake as belonging to the the Sattvika category.

aphalākāṅkṣhibhir yajño vidhi-driṣhṭo ya ijyate
yaṣhṭavyam eveti manaḥ samādhāya sa sāttvikaḥ

This can be roughly translated to:

That sacrifice which is offered by men without desire for reward as enjoined by the ordinance (scripture), with a firm faith that to do so is a duty, is Sattvika or pure.

 – Bhagavad Gita 17.11

Transcending

With the evolution of the human mind, the possibility to transcend the base nature of human existence appeared possible with the help of knowledge.

prakāśhaṁ cha pravṛittiṁ cha moham eva cha pāṇḍava
na dveṣhṭi sampravṛittāni na nivṛittāni kāṅkṣhati
udāsīna-vad āsīno guṇair yo na vichālyate
guṇā vartanta ity evaṁ yo ’vatiṣhṭhati neṅgate

This can be roughly translated to:

O Arjuna, The persons who are transcendental to the three guṇas neither hate illumination (which is born of sattva), nor activity (which is born of rajas), nor even delusion (which is born of tamas), when these are abundantly present, nor do they long for them when they are absent. They remain neutral to the modes of nature and are not disturbed by them. Knowing it is only the guṇas that act, they stay established in the self, without wavering.

– Bhagavad Gita, 14.22-23

Practice

In overcoming limitations or in achieving goals, practice is essential. This is the idea behind Krishna’s message to renounce all fruits of action as a way to perfecting the practice of yoga. By practicing the performance of work without expecting rewards, one can gain a lot in terms of control of the mind.

athaitad apy aśhakto ’si kartuṁ mad-yogam āśhritaḥ
sarva-karma-phala-tyāgaṁ tataḥ kuru yatātmavān

This can be roughly translated to:

If you are unable to do even this, in that case, take up Yoga for Me and renounce the results of all works by becoming controlled in mind.

– Bhagavad Gita 12.11

The doer

When it comes to performing any actions, it may be interesting to think about who the doer is. The nature of consciousness is something which is not well understood.

If one understands it to be independent of the body because the same self exists during sleep, waking and dream states, the body cannot be said to be the doer.

This is the idea behind Krishna’s counsel regarding action:

karmaṇyakarma yaḥ paśhyed akarmaṇi cha karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣhyeṣhu sa yuktaḥ kṛitsna-karma-kṛit

This can be roughly translated as:

Those who see action in inaction and inaction in action are truly wise amongst humans. Although performing all kinds of actions, they are yogis and masters of all their actions.

– Bhagavad Gita, 4.18

Bringing the truth

The realities of life often get eclipsed with sentiment and the resulting weakening of resolve. It is at such moments that truth gets sidelined and a false sense of hopelessness prevails. Arjuna faced a situation like this when he felt overwhelmed at the sight of battle with his own cousins. Krishna reminds him of his duty to uphold the law or dharma. He instructs Arjuna about the reality that underlies all of creation.

mayādhyakṣheṇa prakṛitiḥ sūyate sa-charācharam
hetunānena kaunteya jagad viparivartate

This can be roughly translated to:

Working under my direction, the material energy brings into being all animate and inanimate forms, O son of Kunti. For this reason, the material world undergoes the changes (of creation, maintenance, and dissolution).

– Bhagavad Gita 9.10

 

Modes of nature

In nature, there are certain patterns which can be observed. The ancient Indians identified three modes or qualities which can be applied to everything from people, food to behavior: sattva (peaceful), rajas (agitated) and tamas (dull).

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna indicates to Arjuna that the early portion of the ancient Indian texts, the Vedas, mainly deal with the three modes of nature. The way to overcome the limitations poised by these modes is to perform the Vedic duties without desire. To be situated in the mode of sattva, one needs to be self-collected without excessive worry about oneself in the manner of a hypochondriac.

trai-guṇya-viṣhayā vedā nistrai-guṇyo bhavārjuna
nirdvandvo nitya-sattva-stho niryoga-kṣhema ātmavān

This can be roughly translated to:

 O Arjuna, the Vedas have the three qualities as their object. You become free from worldliness, free from the pairs of duality, ever-poised in the quality of sattva, without (the desire for) acquisition and protection, and self-collected.

– Bhagavad Gita, 2.45

Wisdom

As Krishna describes the man of wisdom, he explains the characteristics of such a person.

duḥkheṣhv-anudvigna-manāḥ sukheṣhu vigata-spṛihaḥ
vīta-rāga-bhaya-krodhaḥ sthita-dhīr munir uchyate

This can be roughly translated to:

One whose mind remains undisturbed amidst misery, who does not crave for pleasure, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.

– Bhagavad Gita 2.56

Krishna indicated earlier that people commonly are heavily influenced by their nature and their specific daily situation. Above, the characteristics of a man of wisdom (a muni) are described.

Such a muni is not disturbed by misery and does not crave pleasure. He is also not perturbed by attachment, fear, and anger.

Of course, this standard is difficult to meet if taken absolutely. However, in spite of imperfections, one can practice regularly to achieve this in daily life.