Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kariṣye vacanaṁ tava

Everything hangs on the decision. Everything culminates in action. There is no meaningful thinking or feeling without action. And action comes of the will. And will is manifest in the making of decisions. So, Arjuna, when he says kariṣye vacanaṁ tava, he is not saying I will follow a scriptural injunction or a particular religion, he is responding to the inner imperative as understood and purified by knowledge and devotion.

I did not use the terms "categorical" imperative or "moral" imperative because I am not following Kant here, at least not consciously or intentionally, but certainly "moral imperative" would be justified.

In Vaishnava philosophy, the jiva has will, which we call kartritva. This is inherent in the jiva and the very meaning of the conditioned state of existence is independent will.

Since it culminates in an act, the Gita is an existentialist philosophy.

God is the source of the imperative, he says, tasmād yudhyasva bhārata. The jiva has the right to say no. As a matter of fact, Sartre would say he is defined by his capacity to say no. But he can also say yes. kariṣye vacanaṁ tava.

But there are no scriptural injunctions that can be any more than a general guide for individual conditions. The attempt to cover all possibilities, as in the legalistic approach exemplified by Islam and Judaism, stifles the creature and almost forces him to say "No!" God gives freedom, he does not take it away. The culmination of will is the will to love, which is the harmony of God's will and that of the jiva.

The apparent constriction of possibilities to act is a result of the refusal to decide.

Even within the pursuit of the supreme goal of life, prema, there are momentary and momentous decisions that need to be made. The point is that the confirmation of our freedom is the necessary condition for making them. And in fact the shastras (of our tradition, at least) are full of refusals, even of gurus' orders, such as the refusal of Bali to listen to Shukracharya, or the gopis to even listen to Krishna.

Love should be looked at as a verb, not just a noun. Love is as love does. There is no place in love for abuse. Unless we uproot the untruth from our self knowledge, there is no possibility of love. There are no magical beliefs that we can dress our ignorance in, not even the most noble-sounding of lies, can make us eligible of love.

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