Tradition and Inspiration


Our teacher sometimes used to begin a talk by asking us to touch the point between the eyebrows with the finger nail and use the after-sensation to sit in silence and bring the mind to this point.

These are verses from the Gita about how to regulate our actions in ordinary life.

He who neglects the scriptural injunctions and lives by his pleasure desires does not attain perfection, nor happiness, nor the highest goal.” The word for scriptural is Shastra. “Therefore let scripture be your guide. And you should not do what is not prescribed by scripture and you should do what is prescribed by scripture. When such required action is done simply because it ought to be done, abandoning attachment and fruit – that abandonment is of sattva, is of light. He does not hate a disagreeable action when righteousness demands it, nor does he cling to an agreeable one. Such a man is sattvic, wise and his doubts are all dissolved. One should not give up what one ought to do, even though it may have some defects, because every action has some defects, as fire is dimmed by smoke.”

The Gita itself is a Shastra – Shankara calls it the Gita Shastra – the Gita Scripture. So we can look for injunctions on action, what to do and what not to do – how to guide our actions, by looking at the Gita. There are four places where a list of the qualities is given. Chapter 16, chapter 17, chapter 18 and then in chapter 13 a list of qualities is given which will bring on someone from the worldly state up to Knowledge.

[Trevor now refers to a diagram- please see below for tables from his book “Realization of the Supreme Self”] Now in this list, the left-hand column is chapter 16. These are the qualities, self-control and so on. These come in chapter 16, chapter 17, chapter 18 and also in the chapter 13 on Knowledge, to bring one to Knowledge. So there are virtuous actions in the world, and these are also actions which will lead to Knowledge. And they’re very surprising lists. Some of them come in all four places – that’s these three, self-control, uprightness and purity. They come in all the four places.

Then the next set, devotion-worship [etc.], comes in three places. It comes in chapters 16, 17, not in 18, but it is also one of the Knowledge qualities, qualities that lead to Knowledge. Devotion-worship, then steadiness in Yoga, gift, tapas (or austerity), serenity, firmness and non-violence. Those come in three places.

Then further down still, coming in only two places, fearlessness, purity of essence – this means the depths of the being are becoming purified – self-study, truth, giving up the fruits of action. Now this is not one of the special qualities which lead to Knowledge, because the man who is practicing for Knowledge is already practicing solitude as much as he can.

A certain fire. There has to be tejas, there has to be some fire in people. Not simply to be complacent, or to blindly follow like a slave. There has to be some fire, patience, and then service. Here again, the service is not slavishness. Shri Dada, our teacher’s teacher, warns “Serve, but don’t be slavish.” And absence of pride.

And then there are a whole list of qualities which are found in one place only, [but they’re on the other side, and you will see the ones marked in red] and they come in chapter 13 and they are qualities which lead to Knowledge. And, in fact, some of them are the fringes of Knowledge. Sincerity, non-egoity, to realise that everything in the world is painful, withdrawal, non-attachment, undisturbability, yoga meditation on God, solitude, steadiness in Self-Knowledge. Already he has some Self-Knowledge, now he has to practice steadiness in it. And then liberation as the goal of Knowledge – he has to focus on liberation as the goal of Knowledge. Those are for one who is specially practicing for Knowledge.

Then the other two lists, to some extent they overlap. They come in one place only – no anger, no slander, compassion – this is one of the very few, what we would call, positive actions, compassion. No craving, gentleness, modesty, no fickleness, no injury to others – this is almost the same as non-violence, though Shankara makes a distinction as a commentator has to. Then Brahmacharya and true, useful and calming speech, charm, faith, silence. They come in one place only, and then the last one is authority, skill, heroism and faith. They are mostly for the pupils of the psychological warrior class.

Objects of worshipSattvaRajasTamas
goddeities of lightdeities of power and pleasureterrifying deities (e.g. the Seven Mothers - Sankara)
foodInvigorating, solid, juicyover-spiced, over-stimulating, ultimately unhealthystale, impure
three-fold tapasconcentrated, with faith, desiring no fruitostentatious, hypocritical, unstabledeluded, self-toruinng. or to gratify spite
sacrificenot for gain, in proper form, concentrated: this should be sacrificed'to get some fruit, or from mere hypocritical ostentationcontemptuously, casually, sceptically
giftnot for a return, respectfully, to the worthy; "this should be given'for some return or gain, or grudginglycarelessly, contemptuously
renunciation of actionno attachment to action itself, or to any fruits; as duty: 'it is to be done'giving up duty a» too troublesome; futile renunciationignorantly and improperly giving up duties
knowledge XVIII.29sees one immortal, undivided in the dividedsees various beings of different kindssen one effect as all, silly; without any real object
actiontraditionally prescribed; done without attachment to action or to results; done without love or hateseeking pleasure, or egoistic; forced through with tiring effortdeluded, inconsiderate, ill-considered
agentdetached, non-egoistic, firm, vigorous, unaffected in success or failurepassionate, greedy, cruel, impure, either elated or depressedunreliable, vulgar, untcachablc, sly, wicked, lazy, despondent
buddhi thigher mind)knows when to act, and what to do; knows about fear and no-fear, bondage and freedommhjuJgff right and wrong, what to do and what not to dosecs wrong as right, and everything upside down; wholly dark
firmness XVII133controls mind, life-currents and senses by yoga samadhisuccessively pursuing virtue, pleasure, ambition, to get their expected resultsstupid clinging to sleep, fear, grief, depression, lust
happiness XVIIIJ7like poison at first, in the end like nectar, produced by puntv of mind in meditation, or vision of Selflike nectar at first, poison in the end taking toll of vigour, wisdom, and successalways self-deluded, based on sleep, indolence, silliness
XVIXVIIXVIIIleading to Knowledge, Chapter XIII
occuring in all four lists
occuring in three lists
steady yogaoBrahmin
occuring in two lists
purity of essenceoo
giving up fruitsoo
no prideo
occurring in one list
realization: all is pain
yoga meditation on God
steadiness in self-Knowledgeo
freedom as goal
no angero
no slandero
no cravingo
no ficklenesso
not injuringo
brahmacarya (chastity)o
true and beneficial speecho


© Trevor Leggett

Talks in this series are:

Part 1: Tradition and Inspiration

Part 2: Bhagavad Gita morality is self-training

Part 3: Seeking for something to worship

Part 4: Arguments for good and bad are endless

Part 5: What is good and what is bad

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