VMA 1.70 "Make your heart harder than a thunderbolt"

na kuru na kuru mithyā-deha-gehādy-apekṣāṁ
mṛtim akhila-pumartha-bhraṁśikāṁ viddhi mūrdhni |
cala cala suhṛd adyaivābhimukhyena vajrād
api ca hṛdi kaṭhoraḥ śrīla-vṛndāvanasya ||
Don’t, please don’t take any consideration
of home or family, they are all illusory.
Know that death is sitting over your head,
ready to destroy all that is of value in your life.
Go, my friend, go today in the direction of Vrindavan,
making your heart harder than even a thunderbolt. (1.70)

In the comment to 1.52, it was said that the devotee is sometimes the cruelest person. From the beginning of the Bhagavad-gītā, Krishna mocks Arjuna's weakness of heart:

klaibyaṁ mā sma gamaḥ pārtha naitat tvayy upapadyate |
kṣudraṁ hṛdaya-daurbalyaṁ tyaktvottiṣṭha paraṁtapa ||
Give up this cowardice, son of Kunti, for it does not become you.
O great hero, cast off this petty weakness of heart and arise for battle. (2.3)
The Bhagavad-gītā is throughout a challenge to Arjuna to engage in the cruelest possible act, that of killing his own relatives. His feelings of compassion for his family are not seen by Krishna in a positive light. And indeed, there is no mercy in life: death is an ever present fact.

Recently, I happened to be reading a couple of medieval French poems, Vallon's Song of the Hanged Men and Rutebeuf's Lament, and it became clear to me how attitudes to death have changed so much in the modern world. For Vallon and Rutebeuf, death would have been something that was very real and very present in their lives.

Even until quite recently in India, it would not have been unusual for entire families to die from some epidemic, like my param gurudeva Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur who, although from a very well-to-do family, saw his father and all his siblings fall over just a few years, some right in front of his eyes in a most horrible fashion. Nowadays, with the achievements of modern science, we have come to believe that death is not quite so inevitable, and there are even some who like the Alchemists or Taoists of ancient China who believe that immortality of the body can be achieved through science.

And at the same time, social pressures demand an exaggerated display of sympathy for those who have "lost a loved one" and the grieving are ushered through a complex process of "stages of grief." .

Nevertheless, it seems that Yudhisthira Maharaj's wise observation in the Mahābhārata is as applicable today as it was in the past.

ahany ahani bhūtāni gacchantiha yamālayam
śeṣāḥ sthāvaram icchanti kim āścaryam ataḥ param
Every day all creatures will go to the abode of Death, and yet those who remain still aspire for immortality. Can anything be stranger than this?
The Buddhists had crematorium meditations on death to remind themselves constantly of the illusory and temporary nature of life. This world is a world of vanity and its purpose is not to simply indulge in the wonders of the here and now. Nor is it to aspire for the fulfillment of desires in a hereafter, either as heaven or liberation.

At the same time, the teaching of the Gītā is not to have a morbid obsession with death and the hereafter. It is to have life, as Jesus said, and to have it more abundantly. Real life means living in the consciousness and service of God. When Sri Guru reveals the path of transcendence to a person who has become aware of the vanity of attachments to this body and the world and their transience, then alone can he find true meaning, purpose and joy in this world. For devotees of Radha and Krishna, that Supreme Transcendent Truth takes form as the Divine Couple, and Vrindavan represents the world in which life is ordered around this center of Divine Love.

Love is not to be mistaken for the comforts and attachments of this world, whereby one feels, "I love this thing or person because they bring me comfort and pleasure." In fact, the extent to which we feel love is the extent to which we experience our true self being actualized in relation to some other person or thing. When we feel love on the basis of a false sense of self, then the nature of the world is such that it inevitably reveals the shallowness of our illusory concepts through suffering, just as Arjuna was suffering at the beginning of the Gītā.

The society of devotees does bring comfort and pleasure. This is due to a shared awareness of the Infinite Supreme Truth, in whatever form, and in service to that Truth. Therefore devotees experience love in this context. This is why, from the material point of view, a devotee may act as hard as a thunderbolt, exercising a tough love to those who have sentimental attachments or dependencies, while being gentle with those who show a tendency to God's service.

vajrād api kaṭhorāṇi mṛdūni kusumād api
lokottarāṇāṁ cetāṁsi ko nu vijñātum īśvaraḥ
Who can understand fully the heart of an extraordinary person, which can be both harder even than a thunderbolt and softer even than a flower? (Uttara-rāma-carita, 2.7)
Our true duty is to the Supreme Self of all beings, and this duty bears no compromise in sentimental weakness. Whatever sentiments we feel for others can only be fulfilled in the awareness of the Supreme Self.

yathā taror mūla-niṣecanena
tṛpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopaśākhāḥ
prāṇopahārāc ca yathendriyāṇāṁ
tathaiva sarvārhaṇam acyutejyā
As a tree’s trunk, branches, twigs and leaves are nourished by watering its roots, and as all the senses are satisfied by giving food to the stomach, so similarly, all living beings are served by worshiping the infallible Supreme Lord, Achyuta. (4.31.14)
The sense of I and mine are the essence of illusion. And we mistake the attachments to our own false sense of doership for self-esteem, and our attachments to the objects of sense gratification for love. How then can we understand an instruction like this one, in which Prabodhananda tells his heart to harden itself to everything and everyone that holds him back from attaining his spiritual goal?

To some extent we know and admire this freedom from sentiment in this world when we admire the self-sacrifice and accomplishments of dedicated, selfless and accomplished actors like artists and social reformers. It is incumbent on a certain segment of human society to dedicate itself to understanding its spiritual goals, and that starts by the dedication to a spiritual path. Prabodhananda's path is that of Vrindavan consciousness.

Cross posted from Vrindavan Today.


Anonymous said…
Whilst reading your blog posting this morning, the following passage of the Bhagavad-gītā was left open, my mind wandered to the fact of the root म (ma) being a hexatonic note (see the paragraph entitled "Ragas and their symbolism"), where music is discussed as equivalent to the ritual yajna sacrifice, with pentatonic and hexatonic notes:


मच्चित्ता मद्गतप्राणा बोधयन्त: परस्परम् |
कथयन्तश्च मां नित्यं तुष्यन्ति च रमन्ति च || 9||

mach-chittā mad-gata-prāṇā bodhayantaḥ parasparam
kathayantaśh cha māṁ nityaṁ tuṣhyanti cha ramanti cha

Bhagavad-gītā - Chapter 10, Verse 9.


If we take a single example, the primitive base root ma (म), we find ma (म) itself dead but existing in the noun forms ma (म), mā (मा), man (मन्), mataḥ (मत:), matam (मतम्); man (मन्) existing only in the nasal form mank (मंक्) and in its own descendants makara (मकर), makura (मकुर), makula (मकुल) etc., and in tertiary formations makk (मक्क्) and makṣ (मक्क्ष्); makk (मक्क्) still existing as a root-word in the forms makh (मख्) and mankh (मंख्); mag (मग्) only in its descendants and in its nasal forms mang (मंग्), magh (मघ्) in its nasalised form mangh (मंघ्); mac(मच्) still alive, but childless except in its nasal disguise manc (मंच्); mach (मछ्) dead with its posterity, maj (मज्) alive in its descendants and its nasal form manj (मंज्), majh (मझ्) wholly obsolete. We find in the long forms mā. (मा) and mākṣ (माक्ष्) as separate roots and words with māk (माक्), mākh (माख्), māgh (माघ्), māc (माच् ), and māch (माछ्) as their substantial parts, but more usually deriving, it would seem, from a lengthening of the short root, than from the long form as a separate root.

Page 973, The Secret of the Veda - Sri Aurobindo
Anonymous said…

The Monier-Williams entry for म (ma) may be found on page 771:

F# (185 Hertz) said…

"The effect of cymatic frequencies on matter."





Deep in the wild mountains is a strange marketplace where you can trade the hassle and noise of everyday life for eternal light.

Go there on retreat.

- Milarepa


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