Who are Fit for Liberation and Immortality?

Krishna's Teachings

by Jayaram V


Chapter 2, Verse 15

15. O chief of men, the wise man to whom pain and pleasure are alike, and who is not tormented by these contacts, becomes fit for immortality.

In the previous verse, we learned that since sensations and perceptions, which were caused by the senses were fleeting we must learn to endure them. In this verse, we are told how wise people remain the same to the dualities of life and become fit for liberation. They do so because they know that since our experiences are temporary in a transient world, one should not become too disturbed by the presence or absence or the loss or gain of anything.

Spiritual life is not easy. Spiritual practice requires considerable effort, discipline and dedication. Spirituality is not for the weak and the infirm or those who vacillate in their convictions and practice. Those who have not learned to be free from the passions and pains of the ordinary life are not fit to enter the world of immortals. The fires of mortal existence have yet to refine and purify these weak souls who burn their animal passions tirelessly in search of false dreams. They are not yet ready to leave the world because they are still madly and deeply in love with themselves and their achievements, deeply enchanted by the lure of worldly life.

The spiritual journey of many aspirants begins with the realization that worldly life is the cause of all suffering and mental afflictions, and it is essentially a trap set by Nature to keep the souls bound. The next step in that journey is to establish a certain degree of inner calm which can withstand external pressures. It is a prerequisite because without inner stability and firmness spiritual progress is difficult.

Peace is the first door through which each soul has to pass to experience the bliss and beatitude of divine life. That state is the cherished goal of all spiritual aspirants who seek liberation through austere effort. Unless one has attuned his mind and body to a life of perfect peace and equanimity or sameness, one cannot stabilize the mind in the contemplation of Self or enter the world of absolute freedom, which is eternally enduring, absorbing and free from modifications. Without adequate prior preparation, purity, peace and equanimity, one cannot be a passive witness to the drama of life on the spiritual path, or remain undisturbed when numerous distractions and evil forces try to disturb the mind and create chaos.

The purpose of worldly life is to aid and abet Nature in her plans to keep the souls bound to aims of creation and ensure the order and regularity of the worlds. Nature does not support the effort of spiritual people to escape from the world. Instead, it makes their task difficult. As you progress on the path you will meet with increasing resistance from your own mind and body, who are but the agents of Nature and represent its field of influence. The gods who reside in your body are part of Nature and assist her in her effort to keep the souls earth bound. Only those souls who cultivate detachment and equanimity can manage to cross the ocean of Samsara and reach the other shore.

People are mostly unhappy because they do neither recognize the transience of worldly life nor adapt themselves to the fleeting worldly phenomena. Only a few manage to do it by transcending attraction and aversion to the phenomena of life and its impermanence. They remain equal to the dualities of the external world since they know the causes of suffering and how to remain free from it. They know that their suffering arises from their perceptions when they are influenced by their desires and attachments to the sense objects. Hence, they come to the realization that the cause of suffering is not in the objects or the phenomena, but within themselves. Therefore, to experience peace and resolve suffering, they look within themselves and cultivate the right attitude to accept everything with stoical indifference. This attitude of sameness and stability makes them the wise men of the Bhagavadgita, "to whom pain and pleasure are alike" and who are fit for immortality. How this state is achieved is described in subsequent verses.

Perceptions by themselves do not disturb the mind, nor are they capable of producing the same reaction in every person. Both the world outside and the world within play an important role in our thinking and attitude towards the dualities and pairs of opposites. For example, in summer season, the heat from firewood causes your body to sweat, while in winter the same heat provides you with warmth and comfort. A beautiful flower is imperceptible to your mind or senses when you are in a deeply disturbed state, but may draw your attention and invoke your appreciation when you are normal, peaceful or happy.

Here, in both instances, you, the same person, react differently to the set of conditions according to your state of mind. Thus, the problem that needs to be resolved is not what hurts you, but why your hurt yourself when certain objects, events and circumstances present themselves. It means you must pay attention to what goes on in your mind when you interact with the external world, and why they invoke such reactions and responses in you. The wise ones know this. Therefore, they are not disturbed by the fleeting images and modifications that appear and disappear in their consciousness. They know that they rise and fall due to the play of the gunas and the modes they induce. The awareness gives them the strength to face life with firmness and remain unaffected by the tragedy and comedy of worldly life.

Note : These commentaries are not part of the Bhagavadgita Complete Translation.

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