Living Gita: 53: The World of Light

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aapooryamaanam achalapratishtham
samudram aapah pravishanti yadwat
tadwat kaamaa yam pravishanti sarve
sa shaantim aapnoti na kaamakaami // 2.70 //
vihaaya kaamaan yah sarvaan pumaamshcharati nissprihah
nirmamo nirahankaarah sa shaantim adhigacchati // 2.71 //
eshaa braahmee sthitih paartha nainaam praapya vimuhyati
sthitwaasyaamantakaale'pi brahma-nirvaanamricchati // 2.72 //

He attains peace into whom all objects of desire enter as waters enter the ocean that is full and lies motionless, and not the one whose mind runs after desires. That man attains peace who, abandoning all desires, moves about without craving, free from the sense of `I'-ness and `my'-ness. This, Arjuna, is the Brahmi-state. Attaining this, one is no more deceived by delusions. Being established in it even at the hour of death, one attains final liberation.


The enlightened man sees the world as it is and lives in the world as it is. We live in the world as created by our mind, see the world as reflected in our mind that is restless, shifting, filled with its own biases, fears, and a thousand other things that distort reality.

Hugh B. Cave’s Two Were Left is a beautiful short story about a boy called Noni and his dog Nimuk on an ice island in the cold Arctic regions. As the story begins, the two are marooned on the island and watching each other wearily. Noni had lost everything, there was no food left, his leg is broken, and the thoughts that came to his mind were not pleasant. True he loved Nimuk deeply but he also knew when hunger became unendurable one of them will have to kill and eat the other to survive. It was a question of either Noni killing Nimuk or Nimuk killing Noni. The men in his village killed their dogs when food was scarce and they killed them without a thought. So...he thought.

He knew he couldn’t kill his dog with his bare hands – it was very strong and less tired than him. There was a brace on one of his legs that he had broken. He unbound the brace and pulled out the strips of iron he had used to make it. Inserting one of them into a crack in the ice, he began sharpening it with the other strip. By evening the strip had become sharp edged enough to use as a knife. He called Nimuk to him and the dog who had been watching him with shining eyes all the while slowly came to him, as though it knew what Noni meant to do to him.

Suddenly a great sob escaped Noni and Noni threw away the knife. He couldn’t kill the dog he loved who had been his sole companion all these days. He knew throwing away the knife had made him defenseless against Nimuk. But he couldn’t do what he had intended to do.

The hungry dog was growling and circling him now and Noni shook in fear. He shut his eyes praying that his end would come swiftly. He felt Nimuk’s breath against his neck and froze, a scream gathering in his throat.

Then he felt the dog’s loving tongue against his face, licking him gently. Crying softly, he hugged the dog tightly to himself.


Noni had expected the dog to behave as he himself had planned to behave, the men of his community would have behaved under similar circumstances. His fears of Nimuk were based on that expectation. He expected Nimuk to kill him when it was hungry, just as he had intended to kill him.

The world we live in is not the world of reality but one created by our mind and so long as we live in that world, we will remain prisoners our mind that constantly distorts reality.


The little girl in the popular school had the habit of spitting on everyone. She spat on her classmates, she spat on the teachers, she spat on the school principal, she spat on the parents who came to the school. The school tried all they could to stop her habit – scolding her, punishing her, isolating her, but nothing had any effect on her – she continued to spit on everyone. It was then that one of her teachers who was my student in college took a personal interest in her case, visited her home and spoke to her mother in an attempt to find out what the matter was. And this is what she found out.

Her father was a policeman who did not enjoy his job. Every day he had to deal with thieves, rogues, cheats, goons and all other kinds of criminals. By the end of the day he was so frustrated that he came home drunk and he took out his frustration on his wife. He would beat her up and kick her in his hate-filled, drunken state and the little girl would hide under a table in the living room shivering in fear and watch it all. She was angry with her father for beating up her mother but there was nothing she could do because he was her father. It is this anger and frustration, her helplessness that came out in the form of hatred for everyone which she expressed by spitting at everyone.

The world her mind had created for her, the world in which she lived, was one filled with anger and hatred. The spitting was just an expression of her dark inner world and so long as that world did not change, there was no way she could be healed of her habit. Eventually that is what happened. The love of the teacher who took personal interest in her slowly changed her and over time as her inner world changed, she came out of her habit.

We all live as prisoners of our mind.

There was a young surgeon who was the best among his colleagues. Whenever any of his friends needed expert advice, it was his help they sought. But he had a problem: the moment he picked up a scalpel for surgery, his hand started shivering. It all began in his medical college days. One day one of his professors was demonstrating a surgery, with all the students standing around him and learning. The professor needed a particular surgical knife and it was him that the professor asked to pick it up and give him. By mistake, he gave a wrong knife. The professor exploded in anger and shouted at him and insulted him in the presence of all the students and said he would never amount to anything. The insult and those words of the professor went deep into him and altered his world forever. He lost all confidence in himself, though his theoretical knowledge remained excellent. But it was in that world in which he had no confidence that he lived from then on. He became a prisoner of his mind that told him he is no good.

We have seen earlier how what Arjuna sees is very different from what Duryodhana sees. As Duryodhana looks at the two armies assembled ready for war, what he sees is warriors gathered to sacrifice their lives in the war, some for his cause and some for the Pandava cause. Drona and Bhishma are mighty warriors for him, maharathis, and so are Kripa, Ashwatthama, Vikarna, Jayadratha and others fighting for him. Whereas for Arjuna, the same warriors are his grandsire, his gurus, his brothers and brothers-in-law, his uncles, his sons and nephews and so on. What Duryodhana’s mind shows him is very different from what Arjuna’s mind shows him. What Duryodhana sees in the battlefield are warriors he could use for his purposes whereas what Arjuna sees is his beloved and revered relations who would lose their lives in the terrible war. For Duryodhana the war is another move in his power games whereas for Arjuna it is a terrible tragedy that he would like to avoid even at the cost of losing the war.

Similarly when Krishna goes to the assembly of the Kauravas, for him the war is something to be avoided. He would repeatedly speak of peace and beg the Kuru elders and Duryodhana to avoid the war. He tells Duryodhana that though the entire kingdom belongs to the Pandavas, they will settle for half the kingdom. Later he comes down, speaking on behalf of the Pandavas, to just five villages. But throughout the negotiations the power obsessed Duryodhana has only one thing to say, one question to ask: Who has more power – he or the Pandavas. For Duryodhana life is a quest for power.  

Karna sees the war in a yet another light. For him it is a grand sacrifice in which he is going to offer his life knowing full well there is no hope of victory for him or for Duryodhana. It is an opportunity for him to lay down his life for his friend Duryodhana who he knows is evil, who he says does not deserve to win. And for the vast majority of the warriors, it is an opportunity to battle, to enjoy the thrills of war, to show their bravery and skill to the world, and eventually to attain the heaven of the heroes.

So long as we are not enlightened, each one of us lives in the world created by our mind and not in the world of reality. The mind distorts everything we see, colours everything we see, as coloured glasses alters everything we see. And for that reason, the enlightened and the unenlightened live in two different worlds. What is day to the enlightened is night to the unenlightened and what is night to the enlightened is day to the unenlightened.


The enlightened man is free from slavery to his mind and lives as a master of his mind. He has realized that happiness, ananda, is his nature and external circumstances do not make any difference to it. Victory and failure do not make any difference to him, richness and poverty do not make any difference to him,

There is a story about an ascetic who lived a happy, contented life in his small hut on the bank of a river. Once the king visited him and was deeply impressed by him. The king invited him to his palace and he happily accepted the invitation. When royal food was served to him, he had the food and enjoyed it. He did not object to the luxurious bed the king provided or the fine clothes the king gave him. Whenever there was special programme in the court, like a dance, the king invited him and he enjoyed it. Soon, however, a doubt started creeping into the king’s mind. Ascetics are supposed to live in solitude, avoid company, eat simple food and shun luxuries. If this man is living like any other guest in the palace, what is the difference between him and others? What is the difference between the ascetic and him, the king?

One day the king expressed his doubt to the ascetic himself. He said, “I am living just as you do but you won’t be able to do what I can.”  “What is it?” asked the king. “I’ll show you,” said the ascetic and he got up and walked out the palace in the direction of his former hut without another word.

That is how enlightened men are.  Being in the palace or being in a hut does not make any difference to them. But the king needs all the comforts of the palace, he is dependent on them.

A famous Sanskrit verse about king Janaka says: mithilaayaam pradeeptaayaam na me kinchana nashyati – if Mithila burns down to ashes, nothing of mine will be lost. King Janaka was totally committed to the welfare of his people, loved them as a father loves his children, but with detachment. When he says if the whole Mithila burns down to ashes, nothing of his will be lost, he is not speaking like Emperor Nero who is supposed to have played the fiddle as Rome burnt. In Nero’s case he did not care for the people of Rome, but Janaka loved his people and yet could say that because of the detachment that India speaks about. The Indian ideal for a leader was total commitment with total detachment, with anasakti, which India called nyasa, the word from which we get the word sannyasa.

By Indian definition, which Krishna makes clear in the Gita repeatedly, a sannyasi does not have to give up anything to become a sannyasi, nor does giving up things make him a sannyasi. What has to be given up is attachment – attachment to power, attachment to people, attachment to wealth, attachment to name and fame, and so on.

In the Mahabharata Mokshadharma Parva, we have the fascinating story of the great yogini Sulabha and King Dharmadhvaja. Dharmadhvaja had the reputation of being a self-realized man, a man who had attained enlightenment. Sulabha arrives at the king’s court as a beautiful young woman and engages in a debate with the king. Through arguments she proves that the king is not enlightened and tells him that he is only a pretender. Her main argument: Dharmadvaja has not developed anasakti – detachment while being fully engaged, which is the true mark of enlightenment. She points out to Dharmadvaja that he is still attached to his body and identifies with his gender, caste, position as king and so on and asks how such a man can be enlightened.

An enlightened man lives in the world but is not a slave to it. He is not blind to the beauty of the world, he is not insensitive to the taste of the food he eats nor deaf to the sweetness of the music he hears. In fact, he enjoys the world and its pleasures far more than the ordinary man does because more than anything else, what you need to enjoy the beauty and pleasures of the world is inner stillness, serenity of the mind as the story of King Janaka and a condemned man tells us.

King Janaka offered a royal dinner to a man condemned to be hanged the next morning. It was a lavish dinner and the king sat with him and encouraged the man to eat all the delicacies offered. When he finished, the king asked him, “Tell me, how did you enjoy the feast?” And the man said, “What do you mean, Maharaj? Enjoy the feast? All the time I was seeing in my mind the rope from which I will be hanging tomorrow!”

That is how it is – unless your mind is calm and serene, you do not enjoy anything. You are watching a wonderful movie in a hall and in the middle of it you get a message that your daughter hasn’t reached home though she was supposed to reach an hour ago. You instantly lose all interest in the movie. To enjoy a sunrise, a sunset, a music performance, a game, whatever, you need stillness of mind, peace.

The enlightened man’s mind is always still – he is always a sthitaprajna. Successes and failures do not affect him, gains and losses do not affect him, his mind remains still under all circumstances. And for that reason, he enjoys his lilffe and the pleasures of the world much more than others.

And since his mind is still, he is also in touch with his real nature – which is pure happiness, ananda, which can neither be increased nor reduced by external events. So Krishna says, answering Arjuna’s question about the sthitaprajna, that only he attains peace into whom all objects of desire enter as waters enter the ocean that is full and lies motionless, and not the one whose mind runs after desires.

In the final two verses of the chapter, Krishna says that only that man attains peace who, abandoning all desires, moves about without craving, free from the sense of `I'-ness and `my'-ness.  And then Krishna calls the state of such a man the brahmi state, attaining which one is no more deceived by delusions, being established in which even at the hour of death one attains final freedom, liberation.

There is a story about Sage Shuka and his father Sage Vyasa. Shuka was passing by a lake in which women were bathing. Seeing him they continued their bath as though he did not exist. A little behind him came Vyasa seeing whom the women rushed to their clothes and covered themselves. Vyasa asked the women about their strange behaviour. The sight of young Shuka did not produce any reaction in them whereas the sight of old Vyasa made them embarrassed. Why was that? And the women said that Shuka had reached such a stage that the sight of naked women did not produce any reaction in him whereas Vyasa was yet to reach that stage.

The enlightened man can live surrounded by pleasures and yet be free. Anything he desires comes to him but he is not bound by them. He does not have to run away from things. He can live in a palace and yet not be bound by the palace. He can be the head of a multinational corporation or the prime minister of a country, but he is not bound by it. Like the ocean that does not change even though a thousand rivers flow into it continuously, he remains unmoved by the greatest joys – or sorrows – coming to him.

That is the highest state, the brahmi sthiti. This is the state of ultimate peace, lasting joy, eternal contentment. India has called people who have reached this state swarajya samrats – emperors of the inner kingdom. This is also the reason why in common speech we address our mahatmas using the word maharaj.

The sthitaprajna is the king of kings. The enlightened man is the master of the world. He is no more deluded by the world. The universe has no power over him. Zen says before the mind that has become still, the universe surrenders. Before the enlightened man, the world bows its head.

Plato speaks of a dark cave in which people have been living for generations. They believed that their world is the only world, there was nothing called light or colours. And one day one rare courageous man prompted by a strange feeling from within him that there must be another world, seeks the way out and comes into the world of light. And once he has seen that world, he no more goes back to the world of darkness. Exactly like that, reaching the world of the awakened even in his last moments, the enlightened man no more goes back to the world of delusions.

His life is the only life of freedom. He lives as life should be lived. Expecting nothing from the world and giving it everything he can.

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More by :  Satya Chaitanya

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