The wise man should act, but unattached
Two verses from Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita
Reader: ‘Fools, attached to action, as they act, son of Bharat, so the wise man should act, but unattached, seeking to effect a control of the world. Let him not cause confusion of mind in ignorant folk who are attached to action. He should let them enjoy all actions, a wise man himself acting-‘.
We notice here that it says, ‘He acts with the same intensity as the man who is strongly attracted to action, but he, himself, is independent of the results, but he acts with that same intensity.’
Shankara, in commenting on this, he says… The word ‘disciplined’ is used.
Edgerton translates ‘yuktha’. It means ‘yoked in Yoga’, with the mind calm and even, steady, but he says it’s… Shankara says, ‘He is efficient in the actions,’ so that he’s like one who is very eager to achieve the results. He acts just as energetically, but he is yuktha. That’s to say his mind is in a meditative state, and, as a result, he is inspired.
His actions then become efficient and fruitful, whereas the actions of the people who are inspired by their own interests are very often failures. They seem reasonable, but it all turns out a failure, and they don’t know why. becauseit’s against the cosmic purpose, and the actions of the spiritual man are based on the inspiration from the cosmic purpose.
Just in the last little bit, the Indian tradition is much more logical and precise, and the Chinese tradition is often highly poetical and elusive, but just to give a little example, these are two quotations on these points from a great Chinese master of meditation.
One of them he gives this example. He says, ‘If you’re on top of a mountain, you’ve got to the peak,’ but he says, ‘You’re in a constant state of anxiety because, if you drop anything, it’ll fall right down and be lost to you, so your arms are full. You’re holding onto everything, every shred of possession, every scrap of reputation, or name, or personal relationships. You’ve got to keep holding them. Otherwise, you’ll drop down.’
Then he says, ‘If you’re at the bottom of the mountain, you’ve tried to get up, but you couldn’t, and you’re full of resentment against the man at the top. You’re spitting, trying to spit on him, but the trouble is the spit goes up a little way and then it shoots down.’ He says, ‘Now, if you’re at the bottom, if you can remain,’ he says, ‘If you can remain pure, then you’ll become like a pond. The pure rainwater will fill the pond, and in that pond plants will flourish and the fish will be nourished.’
The second one, he says, is about the supreme self, the supreme, the transcendental, and the material workings of the associations with which we’re now entangled and in which we have to work until we can free ourselves.
The dragon, in the Chinese presentation, represents the transcendent. The dragon has, on the head, a crystal ball, which represents his wisdom. It’s like some passages of the Old Testament, in which God and his wisdom are there. Wisdom speaks in some of the books, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs: ‘I was beside God when he created,’ so the crystal ball.
He says, ‘The dragon plays with the crystal ball. It doesn’t remain in heaven all the time. That’s to say it doesn’t remain in absolute abstraction, attributeless. He lets the ball drop. It goes down towards the earth, towards the state where things are real, are absolutely real. Then he catches it. So, he plays. Sometimes it’s transcendence, and then there’s this provisional reality, of which the… In which we play and we try again to come out. Never does it go, drop right down to the earth, whence it can’t get back.’
These are illustrations from… They’re poetic and sometimes they can form a most attractive picture. Then the verse with which we began – the verses with which we began: ‘He sees, who sees the supreme Lord standing equally in all the beings, the undying in the dying, and he who sees the Lord standing the same everywhere does not kill the self by the self. So he attains the highest goal.’
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Karma – Kill Not the Self
Part 2: Cohesion of the universe
Part 3: Within man there is the great Lord
Part 4: Kill Not the Self – Karma
Part 5: The true self is unseen
Part 6: Having a theory and confirming it
Part 7: The wise man should act, but unattached