Q&A with Swami Nirviseshananda Tirtha (Published in Speaking Tree)
Q: What is the one message of Bhagavad Gita, that is of particular importance to youth?
A: Our scriptures do not at all advocate a fatalistic view of life, as it is often alleged. The purpose of the scriptures is to guide us to elevate, integrate, and fulfill our personality by scientifically and assiduously employing our will and effort. Bhagavad Gita highlights the role of self-effort in verse VI.5 : “Uddharet aatmanaatmaanam – Elevate yourself by your own effort” .
Right from birth, we are slave to our attraction and repulsion towards worldly objects and situations. Our mind constantly undergoes elation, depression, and agitation, depending on whether the objective situation we face is to our liking or disliking. We are fearful of losing what we like and facing what we dislike.
Bhagavadgeeta wants us to transform this slavery into mastery by cultivating the “Yoga” attitude. It defines “Yoga” as evenness (samatva) of the mind towards success and failure, desired and undesired outcomes:
“siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhootvaa samatvam yoga uchyate” (BG II.48).
And it says that remaining well seated in this yoga-attitude or samatva-attitude is the key to excellence in all our performances: “yogah karmasu kaushalam” (BG II.50).
Cultivation of samatva means freeing the mind from the clutch of “raaga-dvesha” – affinity and hatred. Raaga means colour. Our vision is coloured by our constricted notion of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, and the resulting likes and dislikes, preference and prejudice. Removal of this colour allows us to see the world as it is, and also to see ourselves as we are. The true vision enables us to perform our best in any situation.
Q: How to free the mind from the clutch of raaga-dvesha?
A: Our focus is always outward, and the inner being is under the control of the external world. The senses are tied to the external objects and objective situations. The mind is driven by the attraction and repulsion of the senses and by its own desires. The intelligence analyzes and decides driven by the desires of the mind. So, the whole personality becomes slave to the objective situation.
Bhagavad Gita says that the way to freedom is to reverse this order of control (verses III.42 & 43). Tie the intelligence to our inmost true identity – the One universal Soul. Although we may not have a clear understanding of the Soul, its voice is there in everybody as the inner voice, because this is our real identity. Being under the spell of external attraction and repulsion, we don’t heed this voice.
Awareness of this universal identity will free the intelligence from the constrictions of partial and coloured vision. Led by the free intelligence, the mind will be able to overcome its clinging to selfish gains, and relieved of its stress produced by preference and prejudice. Employed by such a free mind the senses will do whatever is ultimately auspicious for oneself as well as the society.
The pursuit of evenness or samatva, although may appear to be only behavioural, is based on the Truth of one undivided Consciousness appearing as the diverse world. Bhagavad Gita says (V.19) that one who is well seated in samatva has won over the entire Creation, and is established in Brahman, the one undivided Reality.