Shankara’s Path

Shankara’s Path

In the commentary to Bhagavad Gita Chapter 5, Verse 12 we read of the ‘steady-minded one’. The Sanskrit word is ‘yukta’, which means one who is yoked in yoga, who is self-controlled.  “The steady-minded one, abandoning the fruit of action, attains the peace born of devotion. The unsteady one, attached to the fruit of action through desire, is firmly bound.”  In his commentary Shankara says, ‘The steady-minded man’, and this is the man of meditation.  Forty-eight times in his Gita commentary Shankara explains the word ‘yoga’ or ‘yukta’, its derivative, or ‘yunjan’, another derivative, in terms of samadhi or profound identificative meditation. Forty-eight times. It is a characteristic of the commentary.

So the yukta, a man of yoga, a steady-minded man, a man of meditation, abandoning the fruit of action, abandoning it for the sake of the Lord, attains the peace, peace born of devotion, born of devotion to knowledge or firmness for knowledge.  Shankara says, “He does it through the following stages. He is steady-minded, he abandons the fruit of action to the Lord. Then purity of the mind”. Purity of the mind, the third – this comes 17 times in his Gita commentary. This is one of the key words in Shankara’s Gita commentary. Purification of the mind, a pure and clear mind.

Then attainment of knowledge, then renunciation of all action, and then standing on the knowledge or firmness in the knowledge. He explains that these, in fact, are a continuation of knowledge. They are not something new, but they are the inevitable concomitance of knowledge unless they are obstructed or interfered with. Sannyasa or renunciation and firmness in the knowledge and then liberation.

This comes a great many times, this set of steps. The first step is purification by meditation. For instance, in the Gita, Chapter 4, 38: “Verily, there is no purifier like knowledge. He who is perfected by yoga finds knowledge in time in himself, by himself”. Shankara explains, “The seeker of moksha, of liberation, who has perfected and regenerated himself by karma yoga and samadhi yoga will, after long practice, find spiritual knowledge in himself”.

Now, we have the Gita as our fundamental text. It is a very old text, but in one of the ancient grammars, about 500 BC, as an example of devotion, there is given the relationship of Vasudeva and Arjuna, who are the teacher and the pupil in the Gita. So already, in 500 BC, it was well known. The structure of the Gita was well known.  But our teacher wrote for us an account of a modern life, at the beginning of this century, of his own teacher, ‘The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching’, showing the application of these Gita principles to the world more than 2,000 years later.  So we confirm our understanding of the Gita by studying the same points in this book, ‘The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching’.

Now, for instance, the idea that the very beginning of purification is through meditation.  Some people would say, “No, the feelings must be purified first, the thought must be purified first.” But Shri Dada says ‘no’. Shri Dada was our teacher’s teacher, and he says in this book, “You have first to purify your buddhi, which is the highest part of the mind. It is like a lamp in a dark house. Some recommend the prior purification of thoughts and emotions, but emotions are blind and thought is without fire. Purification of emotions is very difficult. Our desires may be sacred or profane. Without an enlightened buddhi, who is going to guide them? We may feel, “I am going to do good”, but without an enlightened buddhi, who is to say whether it will be good?”

“How should one purify the buddhi?” you will ask.  Now, he gives the reply, exactly the same as Shri Shankara gives many times in his Gita commentary. ‘  Shri Dada says, “By tranquilising the whole mental process and by charging it with the holy statements, the holy statements of truth. Good company, prayer, devotion, self-analysis, self-study have a great effect on the intellect. Listening to the holy truth with faith purifies it. Simplicity of life is indispensable. A purified intellect is not misled and gives birth to the holy flame of faith”.

We can say, “Oh, no, surely. All these things are internal. Tranquilising the mental process, charging it with the holy statements, prayer, devotion, self-analysis, self-study, study of the holy scriptures relating to the Self. Surely it is better to do good externally.”

Now, not long ago there was a United Nations report on bringing food to a famine-stricken area. It is a very primitive part of the world. There are two tribes, one who live on the plain, who are cultivators, and the other neighbouring tribe live on the nearby hills. They don’t cultivate anything, but they train themselves in the use of weapons. When the harvest comes, and at other times too, they simply raid the settlements of the people, the tribe living in the plain, and take away food and anything else they want. If anyone resists, well, the warlike tribe have been trained in weapons and they can easily kill any individuals who resist.

© Trevor Leggett

(This is continued in ‘Restrain the senses first’)

Titles in this series are:

Part 1 : Shankara’s Path

Part 2 : Restrain the senses first

Part 3 : Mind must be purified

Part 4 : Yama and Niyama

Part 5 : Killing the Self


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