Thursday, September 08, 2011

The path within, the path without

Anyone who has studied the Bhagavad-gītā will know the following verse:

ārurukṣor muner yogaṁ karma kāraṇam ucyate |
yogārūḍhasya tasyaiva śamaḥ kāraṇam ucyate ||
For one seeking to rise to the platform of yoga, work is said to be the cause. For the same person when arisen to the platform of yoga, mental pacification is said to be the cause. (6.3)
This somewhat innocuous verse says a great deal about the structure of the Gītā and the sixth chapter, and indeed about the entire Gītā philosophy of yoga. As many will already know, Madhusudan Saraswati has divided the Gītā into three six-chapter sections, on karma, bhakti and jnana, respectively. This scheme has been accepted by the two Gaudiya commentators, Vishwanath and Baladeva, also.

The sixth chapter also serves as a bridge from the karma section to the bhakti section as the number of references that Krishna makes to himself, to thought of him, to the vision of him, etc., is substantially greater than in the earlier chapters. And, finally, this transition is completed when Krishna clearly states in the last verse that "of all yogis, one who worships me with faith is the most united with me in yoga." (6.47)

For their part, the Shankaraites do not give much independent value to the various kinds of karmas described in Chapters 3-5; they only serve as external aids to purification. This seems to be substantiated by the verse quoted above. Karmas are only meant to bring one to the level of yoga sādhanā or mental discipline, when one is actually on the path of yoga, where directly controlling the mental processes is the principal task.

Something analogous goes on in the bhakti path as well. Bhakti has external forms, but the sādhya of bhakti is internal, bhāva or the feeling of love. As with karma, there is a process of internalization that takes place, without which the external actions remain unfulfilled.

Now, one of the things that I have been trying to communicate here is the somewhat non-intuitive idea that such internalization is also external in another sense, especially for the bhakta. That is why the sahajiya calls it the pravartaka stage.

The externality of the "internal" path can be understood when you recognize that its preoccupation is self-realization. Now I have come to the conclusion that "self-realization" (or "Self-realization" depending on whether this internalization process arrives at realization of the self as a spiritual monad or in relationship with the Paramatma) is essentially "self"-centered. It moves the practitioner away from material consciousness, but eventually he has to encounter the "Other." In this pravartaka stage, his concept of God is such that though he appears to be encountering the Other internally, in fact he is still establishing an external ideal and internalizing it. Because it is still fundamentally ideal, i.e., confined to his own internal reality and not entirely conforming to the external reality, it is incomplete, hence external, even in its higher or more advanced stages such as rāgānugā.

Now Sahaja sādhanā is about a transition from the "self-centered" bhajan to a dual form, an external-internal sādhanā, where there is a connection to the "other" in the form of the bhajan partner. See here for more.

In the siddha stage, the external is transformed by the internal, in the sense that the internal accomplishment in prema manifests in external transformations. Changes can be gross or subtle, but the most subtle transformations take place in the transmission of prema and its attendant consequences. Nothing inauspicious can result from a premi bhakta.

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