Living Gita: 48: The Sthitaprajna by Satya Chaitanya SignUp
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Living Gita: 48: The Sthitaprajna
by Satya Chaitanya Bookmark and Share

Continued from Previous Page

arjuna uvaacha
sthitaprajnasya kaa bhaashaa samaadhisthasya keshava
sthitadheeh kim prabhaasheta kimaaseeta vrajeta kim // 2.54 //

shri bhagavaan uvaacha
prajahaati yadaa kaamaan sarvaan paartha manogataan

atmanyeva aatmanaa tushtah sthitaprajnas-tadochyate // 2.55 //
duhkheshw-anudwigna-manaah sukheshu vigatasprihah

veeta-raaga-bhaya-krodhah sthitadheer munir uchyate // 2.56 //
yah sarvatra anabhisnehas tattat praapya shubha-ashubham

na abhinandati na dweshti tasya prajnaa pratishthitaa // 2.57 //

Arjuna said:

What is the nature of a man who has reached the state of samadhi and is rooted in wisdom? How does one of steady wisdom speak? How does he sit? How does he walk?

Shri Bhagavan said:

When a man completely gives up all the desires of the mind, Arjuna, and is contented in himself, then he is called a man of steady wisdom. He whose mind is not shaken by sorrows, who does not crave for pleasures, who is free from attachment, fear and anger, such a sage is called a man of steady wisdom. He who does not cling to anything, who neither rejoices nor is displeased when he obtains good or evil, his wisdom is firmly rooted.

~*~

With this verse, a new section begins in the second chapter of the Gita, a section that deals with an important topic of the Gita, the sthitaprajna, a man steadily rooted in prajna, wisdom. The section begins with a series of questions from Arjuna about the sthitaprajna: What is the nature of a sthitaprajna who has experienced samadhi? How does he speak? How does he sit? How does he move about?

This verse also marks another major change in the Gita. Until now Arjuna was preoccupied with his personal problems – how to kill in battle his own people, how to kill Bhishma and Drona who are so close to his heart, one of whom his grandfather and the other his guru? Mentally he had taken a decision and announced that decision to Krishna: I shall not fight, na yotsye. All the questions he asked following that statement were actually not questions but attempts to justify his stand.

Ideally reasons should come first and then decisions. We must consider various sides of a problem using our intelligence and after considering all sides, take a rational decision. The widely used management decision making tool, Six Thinking Hats, for instance, helps us to look systematically and in an orderly fashion all the various sides of a problem and its possible solutions.

For instance, when you consider whether you should launch a new product or not, symbolically donning the white thinking hat, you to gather and analyze as much information as possible about launching the new product; when you symbolically put on the yellow thinking hat, you look at all the positive sides of launching the new product; when you put on the black thinking hat, you look at all the counter points against launching the new product, and so on. If you are considering buying a new plot of land, or a new office building, these hats help you systematically look at all the various sides of the issue. The final decision will be based on these considerations.

But normally that is not how the human mind works. We first take a decision impulsively or intuitively, often decided by powerful emotions, and then try to justify that decision later through supportive arguments.

Decisions first, reasons later, that is our way. And that is what Arjuna was doing so far. Swayed by powerful emotions, hijacked by his emotions, he first took the decision he shall not fight and then the questions he asked following the decisions were all his attempts to justify rationally that decision – the war would kill men and destroy family dharmas, when family dharmas are destroyed, women will become corrupt, when women become corrupt, there will be mixture of castes and when that happens, the spirits of the dead ancestors will fall from their worlds and so on.

Now for the first time he is asking a different question: about a man of steady wisdom, or a man rooted in consciousness. He has come out of the immediate situation and he is asking questions of lasting meaning. From here onwards, all the questions Arjuna asks will be about the spiritual world into which Krishna is taking him. His questions will be about what spirituality is, about how to climb to spiritual heights, and about how to live in the world rooted in spirituality, how to face the problems and challenges of daily living using spiritual wisdom, how to manage lust, anger and greed using the timeless wisdom of the land and so on.

All that preceded the discussion so far could be considered as what leads us to the discussion to follow and what prepares us for it. True there is great wisdom in the shlokas we have already discussed, but one way of looking at them is as what we call in classroom teaching and teacher training as set induction – inducing the mental set, the mental readiness, putting us in the right mental frame for the discussions to follow. Which does not in any way reduce the importance of what preceded because the Indian tradition is to begin teachings at the highest level and then come down to lower levels, into the details.

Arjuna’s first question is: sthita-prajnasya ka bhaashaa samaadhi-sthasya keshava. What is the nature of a man rooted in consciousness, a man who is in the state of samadhi or who has experienced samadhi? The question arises from the previous verse in which Krishna had said when the mind stays still and motionless in samadhi then you attain yoga.

Samadhi is the highest state of meditation. In the eight stages yoga system of Patanjali, the last four are directly related to mediation: prayahara which is sensory withdrawal, dharana which is concentration on one thing, dhyana which is mediation proper and samadhi which is the highest state of mediation.

Normally our mind is full of all kinds of things – thoughts, emotions, feelings, memories, images, plans and a thousand other things. In the lower stage of samadhi, known as sabija or savikalpa samadhi, thoughts are still in the mind, but they run smoothly, like oil poured out from a bottle – aajyadhaaraya srotasa samam, as Ramana Maharshi puts it: like a stream of liquid ghee. But in the higher state of samadhi, known as nirbija samadhi or nirvikalpa samadhi, the mind becomes empty of all thoughts, emotions, feelings, memories – of everything, except a sense of boundlessness and bliss.

The experience of samadhi alters your perception of the world and of yourself completely. It functionally unites the two halves of your brain and the neuronal paths inside your brain are rewired. You don’t see the world as different from you anymore nor yourself as different from the world. When we speak of the I normally, we mean the me born on a particular date, to a particular set of parents, doing a particular job. But after samadhi your perception of yourself is no more that, but as everything and everyone in the universe. The Kaivalya Upanishad says that there is only one way to attain the Supreme and no other – by knowing oneself as existing in all beings and all beings as existing in oneself:

sarvabhootastham aatmaanam, sarvabhootaani chaatmani
sampashyan brahma paramam yaati naanyena hetunaa
.

This seeing all beings in yourself and yourself in all beings is what happens after you experience the state of samadhi.

Here is one experience of J. Krishnamurti, the mystic and world master, taken from the master’s Notebooks, in which he experiences himself as another person, a village woman carrying a heavy basket on her head.

“She was carrying a large basket on her head, holding it in place with one hand; it must have been quite heavy, but the swing of her walk was not altered by the weight. She was beautifully poised, her walk easy and rhythmical. On her arm were large metal bangles which made a slight tinkling sound, and on her feet were old, worn-out sandals. Her sari was torn and dirty with long use. She generally had several companions with her, all of them carrying baskets, but that morning she was alone on the rough road. The sun wasn't too hot yet and high up in the blue sky some vultures were moving in wide circles without a flutter of their wings. The river ran silently by the road.

“It was a very peaceful morning, and that solitary woman with the large basket on her head seemed to be the focus of beauty and grace; all things seemed to be pointing to her and accepting her as part of their own being. She was not a separate entity but part of you and me, and of that tamarind tree. She wasn't walking in front of me, but I was walking with that basket on my head. It wasn't an illusion, a thought-out, wished-for, and cultivated identification, which would be ugly beyond measure, but an experience that was natural and immediate. The few steps that separated us had vanished; time, memory, and the wide distance that thought breeds, had totally disappeared. There was only that woman, not I looking at her.”

Here’s another experience of Krishnamurti in which he experiences himself as a little girl he was watching and everything else he saw around him. If in the previous experience he experiences himself as one person, a village woman, in this experience he merges with everything he sees.

“There was a little girl of ten or twelve leaning against a post in the garden; she was dirty, her hair had not been washed for many weeks, it was dusty and uncombed; her clothes were torn and unwashed too, like herself. She had a long rag around her neck and she was looking at some people who were having tea on the verandah; she looked with complete indifference, without any feeling, without any thought of what was going on; her eyes were on the group downstairs and every parrot that screeched by made no impression on her nor those soft earth-coloured doves that were so close to her. She was not hungry, she was probably a daughter of one of the servants for she seemed familiar with the place and fairly well-fed. She held herself as though she was a grown-up young lady, full of assurance and there was about her a strange aloofness.

“As you watched her against the river and the trees, you suddenly felt you were watching the tea party, without any emotion, without any thought, totally indifferent to everything and to whatever might happen. And when she walked away to that tree overlooking the river, it was you that was walking away, it was you that sat on the ground, dusty and rough; it was you who picked up the piece of stick and threw it over the bank, alone, unsmiling and never cared for. Presently you got up and wandered off around the house. And strangely, you were the doves, the squirrel that raced up the tree and that unwashed, dirty chauffeur and the river that went by so quietly.”

Watching the little girl, Krishnamurti becomes the girl, watching doves he is the doves, watching a squirrel he is the squirrel, watching a dirty chauffeur he is the chauffeur, watching the river he becomes the river.

Because you are in fact everything. There is nothing in existence other than you. You are all that exist. Sarvam khalu idam brahma, say the Upanishads: All this is indeed Brahman. And I am Brahman – aham brahmasmi. That is why when Sage Vyasa calls his son Shuka, the entire nature answers him in response.

This is the universal experience of mystics. But occasionally poets too get a rare glimpse of this experience. Here are a few lines from Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Bidrohi in Mohammad Nurul Huda’s translation:
 
I am the shy village maiden frightened by her own budding youth.
I am the soothing breeze of the south,
I am the pensive gale of the east.
I am the deep solemn song sung by the wandering bard,
I am the soft music played on his lyre!
I am the harsh unquenched mid-day thirst,
I am the fierce blazing sun,
I am the softly trilling desert spring,
I am the cool shadowy greenery!

After the experience of samadhi, you see yourself as everything and everything as yourself. All that exists is you and there is nothing in existence other than you. Atma eva idam sarvam – everything that exists is nothing but myself.

~*~

Zen, the religion based on meditation that started in India with the Buddha and is now known as Japanese, has three goals: joriki, kensho and mujodo no taigen. Joriki is the balancing and unifying of the mind. A person with a lot of joriki feels like, and is, a powerful mass of energy. Both spontaneity and self control come from joriki and some people develop healing and other supernatural abilities. However, joriki is a long way from enlightenment.

Kensho, at advanced levels also known as satori, is a sudden and abrupt event, its depth varying according to the readiness of the meditator. Kensho or satori is not a product of the intellect. It is something that happens when all our illusive perceptions fall away. It is impossible to describe it in words.

Mujodo no taigen is Zen in daily living, the transformation that takes place because of the Zen experience of awakening. It is a total transformation of our whole being and behaviour, affecting all aspects of our life. An awakened man is always a master of the situation, completely free to respond in any way. He is a man who has found joy in himself – in Krishna’s words, aatmany eva aaatmanaa tushtah, contented in himself and with himself, which is the first definition of a sthitaprajna Krishna gives in response to Arjuna’s question. He is no more dependent on other people or situations for his happiness.

Here is Osho Rajneesh describing his awakening experience, his satori, at the age of twenty-one.

“...the presence of a totally new energy, a new light and a new delight, became so intense that it was almost unbearable? as if I was exploding, as if I was going mad with blissfulness. The new generation in the West has the right word for it? I was blissed out, stoned. It was impossible to make any sense out of it, what was happening. It was a very nonsense world, difficult to figure out, difficult to manage in categories, difficult to use words, languages, explanations. All scriptures appeared dead and all the words that have been used for this experience looked very pale, anemic. This was so alive. It was like a tidal wave of bliss.”

It is of a man who has experienced this bliss that Krishna speaks of when he says “When a man completely gives up all the desires of the mind, Arjuna, and is contented in himself, then he is called a man of steady wisdom.” Such a man is not tempted by any pleasure in the world because he has known the greatest bliss there is. He is contented in himself – he no more depends on anything or anyone in the world to become happy. He is just happy. As Adi Shankaracharya says, he is happy when he is engaged in yoga, he is happy when he is engaged in bhoga, he is happy when he is with others, he is happy when he is all alone.

He is like a man who has been collecting stones in a valley to repair one of the walls of his small house and suddenly has come across a treasure of jewels and diamonds. Once he finds the treasure, he is no more interested in ordinary stones. Or like a child who was very fond of toy cars but has grown up and is now in his twenties. He is no more interested in toy cars, he is interested only in real ones.

There is a famous story about the Jain Muni Sthulibhadra from the ancient days. The muni asked his guru permission to spend the four months of the rainy season, the chaturmasya, in the house of the courtesan Kosa who had invited him to stay with her. The other disciples of the guru objected to it, saying that it will be extremely inappropriate for a muni to stay in the house of a courtesan even for one day, what to speak of four months then. However Sthulibhadra’s guru had complete faith in him and let him stay with Kosa. The other disciples were sure Sthulibhadra would fall a prey to Kosa’s charms which were famous all over. They eagerly waited for the chaturmasya to be over, sure that the muni would never come back from Kosa’s house. But they had a big surprise in waiting. Not only did Sthulibhadra come back to report to his guru of the successful completion of his chaturmasya, he had Kosa with him. She was now a shravika, a female monk.

The sthitaprajna is no more a prisoner of the mind, unlike us. That is what Krishna means when he says he is happy and contented in himself. To be a samsari is to be a prisoner to one’s own mind and to be a sthitaprajna is to be free from bondage to the mind.

Krishna further clarifies the idea by adding he whose mind is not shaken by sorrows, who does not crave for pleasures, who is free from attachment, fear and anger, such a sage is called a man of steady wisdom; he who does not cling to anything, who neither rejoices nor is displeased when he obtains good or evil, his wisdom is firmly rooted.

To be contented with oneself, not being shaken by sorrows, not craving for pleasures, freedom from attachment, fear and anger – these are the results of enlightenment. To an enlightened man, these are natural states. He does not have to make any effort not to be shaken by sorrows, he does not have to fight against his cravings or attachments, fears or anger. When you try to take away his toy from a little child, he will fight. But it does not make any difference to adult.

Being contented with oneself, being not shaken by sorrows, not craving after pleasures, being free from attachments, fear and anger – these are wise ways of living even when we are not enlightened, and they help us achieve a still mind. It is in a still mind that enlightenment happens – the mind becoming still is enlightenment, a still mind is an enlightened mind. So while for a siddha, a man who has reached enlightenment, these are natural conditions of mind, someone who is on the path of sadhana has to work on these. But that work yields results so long as you are sincere about these and not putting on a show to impress others.

Both in our personal life and in our professional life, not being affected by success and failure, not being affected by attachment, fear and anger, is important. Such a man we call a self-master and self-mastery is one of the most basic requirements for successful living. A man who has no mastery over himself in personal life makes his own life and the life of others around him miserable. He shouts and yells at people, screams at them in anger, the smallest things make him lose his balance. Apart from having no peace in personal life, he loses all his friends, he makes his family members miserable. One of the most important reasons why divorces happen is this inability of the man or the woman to manage himself or herself.

Two days ago a newspaper interviewed me about violence among teenagers. The interview was occasioned by a local murder – a young man in a moment of anger had killed his own father. Sons killing father, fathers killing sons, wives killing husbands, husbands killing wives – these things happen because one of the persons concerned loses his mastery over himself and because of jealousy, anger or some other reason crosses all bounds and ends up committing a murder.

A man with no self mastery if he is in position of authority loses the respect of his people and will not be able to command them. I have had to work under such a boss for a few years – and they were among the most hellish years of my life. It was an educational institute and I remember how faculty meetings became unendurable because nobody wanted to open his mouth for fear of offending the boss who lost all control over himself if he felt offended – and he felt offended for the least reason. In board meetings, silence is the most unendurable thing – and when because of such behaviour on the part of the leader silence dominates the meetings, people feel suffocated and feel like exploding. The meetings of course fail.

An executive today has a hectic schedule, has to switch from one role he plays to another constantly, has to deal with all kinds of people, constant deadlines threaten him, organizational competition is tough, there are all kinds of insecurities, and his job demands so much of his energy and time, there is hardly any time for him to relax, get in touch with his inner world of piece and serenity. Under such conditions, not being shaken by sorrows, not craving for pleasures, freedom from attachment, freedom from fear and anger – all become extremely important. While to an enlightened mind, these are natural conditions, and an awakened mind has to make no efforts to achieve these, others can cultivate these through awakened living, through mindfulness.

Stephen Covey speaks of the 90-10 principle. He says ninety percent of our life in not in our control but ten percent is. He gives the example of a little child at the breakfast table spilling coffee onto the shirt of her father who is dressed to go to his office. The father explodes in anger at the child and then fumes at his wife for keeping the coffee mug too close to the child. The little girl bursts out crying, her mother reacts to his criticizing her and there is tension at home. The little girls runs to her room and continues crying there and is late for the school bus. The father now has to drop her himself, he is late for his office, over speeds his car to reach the office on time, is caught by the traffic police and fined. When he reaches his office he realizes in his hurry he has forgotten to take his briefcase..... Covey then gives us various options for the man’s day getting ruined: one, the coffee caused it; two, the man’s daughter caused it; three, the traffic police caused or, and four: the man himself caused it. The correct answer, Covey says, is four, the man himself caused it. Rather than handling the situation mindfully and consoling his daughter saying these things happen, you have to be more careful in future and moving on, he reacted and exploded at her and at his wife. Steven Covey concludes by saying we have no control over ninety percent of the things that happen to us but the remaining ten percent is in our control and if we are mindful with this ten percent, many disasters could be avoided.

An executive can conduct his meetings mindfully and with awareness. He can take decisions mindfully and with awareness. He can deal with people mindfully and with awareness. Mindfulness helps him avoid many potentially explosive situations. When you listen to people mindfully, you are giving respect to what people are saying and you understand them better. When you talk to people mindfully, you don’t say things for which you will have to regret later. When you are mindful, your mind wanders much less and you are able to focus your attention on what you want to do for longer periods.

So the qualities that are natural to an enlightened mind like not being a slave to the mind, freedom from attachment, fear and anger, not clinging to things, not letting successes and failures take your mind for a ride and so on can be cultivated by ordinary people through mindful living. And when you cultivate these, your mind becomes calmer and more serene. With that not only do you achieve excellence in whatever you do, you also begin your journey towards enlightenment.

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09-Jan-2021
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