Shri Datta Swami

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Giving Up Merit And Sin

Posted on: 08 Dec 2018
O Learned and Devoted Servants of God,

Discourse Podcast

 

Dr. Nikhil asked: Padanamaskarams Swamiji! In the recent message given to Smt. Bindiya Chaudhry on December 1, 2018, You have said that greed which causes a person to earn money through corrupt means is sin and that deep analysis is very important in deciding what is sin and what is not sin. In support of this statement, You have quoted the verse from the Gītā “Buddhiyukto jahātīha”. This verse talks about giving up both merit and sin and join yoga since such yoga is skillful action. I am not sure how the verse fits in this context. My understanding of this verse is somewhat in the sense of “Sarvadharmān parityajya…” i.e., the soul who has thoroughly understood spiritual knowledge (buddhiyukto), surrenders to God (yogāya yujjasva) and works for God. He gives up thinking about merit and sin (jahātīha ubhe sukṛta duṣkṛte). Such work is real skillful action since success is assured in God’s work due to God’s unimaginable grace. Also, the servant is free of tension due to faith in God, so, the work also happens efficiently. I seek Your kind clarification in this matter. Your servant. Nikhil

Swami replied: You are correct in saying that ‘yoga’ is the main topic of this verse[1] since the third line in this verse says that hence, one should associate with yoga (Tasmaat yogaaya …). In the first two lines, the verse says that a person who is associated with intelligence or analysis leaves both sin (paapam) and merit (punyam). Before leaving both good and bad deeds, the primary step is recognizing which deeds are really good and which are really bad, through sharp analysis (Buddhau sharanam...). Unless this primary step is satisfied, the subsequent step, which is leaving both good and bad deeds cannot happen. In the previous discourse, when I quoted the verse (Buddhiyukto…), I was referring to this primary step of sharp analysis. The subsequent step is to leave both good and bad deeds through yoga after recognizing the good and bad sides of a good deed and the good and bad sides of a bad deed. You have to leave the bad sides of both good and bad deeds and this is implied here through the word Jahaatiiha”. You have considered the meaning of this verse in accordance with the preceding two verses “Duurenahyavaram karma…[2]” and “Yogasthah kuru karmaani…[3]”. But the succeeding verse, “Karmajam buddhiyukataa hi…[4]”, should also be considered here. These four verses together completely establish the concept of yoga. At this point, an objection arises from an opponent.

Opponent: There is no need to look at the good and bad sides of each deed. A good deed is that which is totally good and a bad deed is that which is totally bad. If both good and bad deeds are given up, there is no deed leftover. It means leaving all deeds. When all the deeds are given up, there is no need for analysis to distinguish between good and bad deeds. Therefore, Your primary sense has no place in this verse.

Swami: You mean to say that this verse suggests leaving all deeds. But it is impossible to do so as told in the Gita itself (Nahi kashchchit kshanamapi...). Not only that, but the Gita also says that one should do certain deeds like social work (Lokasamgrahamevaapi…) and fulfilling one’s worldly duties such as earning one’s livelihood etc (shariirayaatraapicha te…). If all deeds are to be left, how can the Gita recommend performing certain deeds? It would mean that there are certain deeds, which are different from both good and bad deeds like working to earn one’s living, social work and so on. Actually, if one does not earn one’s livelihood, it is a bad deed. So, earning one’s livelihood must be a good deed. The same is true in the case of social service. If you say that the deeds recommended by the Gita are also good deeds, then as per your interpretation of the verse “Buddhiyukto…”, the recommended duties are also to be given up since the verse mentions leaving both good and bad deeds. But this cannot be true since the Gita orders you to perform certain duties and that order is clearly seen in the use of verbs like ‘kuru’ (Kuru karmaani), ‘bhava’ (Matkarma paramo bhava), which are used in the imperative mood. The imperative mood in grammar is related to commanding or requesting. In Sanskrit grammar, it is called vidhi ling.

In the verse, “Buddhiyukto jahaatiiha” the verb, jahaati used is only in the simple present tense (vartamaana lat). A verb used in the sense of an order is more forceful than a verb used in the simple present tense. It establishes the fact that all actions are not to be given up. Then naturally, a proper analysis becomes necessary to recognize which good deeds are to be done and which bad deeds to be left. If we wrongly assume that good and bad deeds can be clearly distinguished and that this verse is suggesting that both good and bad deeds are to be left, it contradicts other verses in the Gita.

Hence, this verse must mean that the bad side of a good deed, which you were mistakenly thinking was good, must be left, whereas the good side of the good deed should be done. In the case of the bad deed too, its bad side is to be left and its good side is to be adopted. The final result is that for all deeds, whether you had superficially classified them as good or bad, a deeper analysis must be done and the bad side of the deeds should be given up. It is in this sense that the verse says that both good and bad deeds are to be given up.

Good and Bad Sides of All Qualities

Often people question why God created bad qualities, which drive souls to commit sins. They indirectly want to say that the Creator is a sadist to first tempt souls to commit sins and then punish them for it. This argument is totally wrong since the so-called bad qualities have both meritorious as well as sinful sides. God created these so-called bad qualities in view of their meritorious side alone. Hence, originally even the so-called bad qualities were good qualities. The souls turned those good qualities to the wrong side due to the freedom given to them. For a very long period since creation, souls lived in very good discipline and enjoyed God’s creation. But a very long period of discipline and enjoyment also becomes boring. So, finally, to avoid their boredom, God granted them a free will to choose their actions. But God pointed out the sinful sides of all the good qualities created by Him and warned the souls about the punishment for sin. God comes in the form of Incarnations in every generation mainly to preach this very topic of living within the boundaries of worldly justice, which is called pravrutti and avoiding sin. In spite of all this, ignorant people blame God!

Let us examine the six so-called bad qualities or vices and see how each of them has both meritorious and sinful sides. Among them, the first three, are responsible for the majority of sins in the world. They are said to be the three main gates to hell as per the Gita.

1) Lust or sex (kaama): The meritorious side of sex is to generate issues which form the next generation. Sex with one’s rightful wife to produce children is perfectly justified (Dharmaaviruddhah kaamosmi—Gita). Even the intense desire for sex, which causes a person to engage in sex with one’s married partner frequently, is also justified. There are several uncertainties arising from gynaecological and other factors in conceiving a child. The time of the release of the ovum is uncertain, the life of sperm is short and so on. Hence, frequent sex becomes necessary for producing children. Thus, lust, which drives a person to have frequent sex, has a good side. But when a person using his or her freedom, chooses to engage in sex with an unlawful partner, in violation of God’s laws of worldly justice, the sex becomes sinful. It is this sinful side of the sin alone which is to be given up. An ordinary human being on the path of pravrutti should not blindly give up sex completely without recognizing this internal sub-classification of the good and bad sides to each quality. A very few exceptional souls of the nivrutti path, like Shankara, Ramakrishna etc., left sex completely. But they did not leave it by any forced effort. It was a natural consequence of their extreme attachment to God. Such exceptional cases are out of the scope of pravrutti or Karmaadhikaara. Karmaadhikaara means the eligibility to do worldly work. People who follow the rules of justice given by God are said to be eligible to perform worldly work, which is the path of pravrutti. But the eligibility of these exceptional cases, who are the stars of the nivrutti path, far exceeds Karmaadhikaara.

2) Violence or anger (krodha): The originally-created good side of anger or violence is that teachers or parents can show anger towards their students or children, whenever they go on the wrong path. With this quality, teachers and parents can bring their students or children back to the right path in pravrutti. An Incarnation of God like Krishna killing a devilish soul is the good side of violence (Vinaashaaya cha dushkrutaam —Gita). Even a court putting a criminal to death is the good side of violence. However, an individual should not take the law into his own hands. Even God Rama, the embodiment of justice and peace, is described in the Ramaayanam as “Sthaanakrodhah prahartaa cha,” which means that He showed anger and even killed in the appropriate situation. The sinful side of anger and violence is getting angry with good people and hurting or killing them.

3) Greediness (lobha): Greed causes a person to not share his wealth with others. The original good side of greed is that a person does not donate his precious wealth to undeserving receivers but donates it to only to deserving receivers. The sinful side of greed is donating to undeserving receivers and not donating to deserving receivers. Unless you save money by avoiding undeserved donations, you cannot make well-deserved donations since most people have limited financial resources. Very few people are rich. Even if you are rich, the sinful side of greediness must be avoided and its meritorious side must be practiced. In the Mahaabhaaratam it is clearly told that both donating to the undeserving and not donating to the deserving are sins.

The fourth, fifth and sixth vices namely moha, mada and maatsarya, also have both good and bad sides. As long as these three are within limits, they are not as dangerous, and they do not yield punishments in hell. But if they cross their boundaries and lead to sinful deeds, they become punishable.

4) Fascination (moha): Fascination to one’s family is the good side of fascination in pravrutti. Fascination or moha towards God is even better in pravrutti, and of course, it is essential in nivrutti. But moha in unlawful relationships is sin in pravrutti. Also, having fascination only for the worldly bonds of child, spouse and wealth, without having any bond with God, is the bad side of fascination in both nivrutti and pravrutti. Having a fascination only for the worldly bonds is not a punishable sin by itself. It is bad because it stops spiritual progress. But an extreme moha for the worldly bonds without any moha for God may lead the soul to commit punishable sins in pravrutti. So, on the whole, moha for God is the good side of moha and moha for the worldly bonds is the bad side.

5) Pride (mada): The good side of mada is having self-confidence and the bad side is to have an ego. Limited pride is self-confidence. It is like the normal body temperature. If the pride grows beyond limits, it becomes ego, which is like a fever. If confidence drops down below a certain limit it is like an abnormally low body temperature, which is also dangerous. Low self-confidence makes the person afraid of even doing normal activities. In nivrutti, a devotee can be proud of being a disciple of God Datta. But this pride should not take the negative direction of looking down upon other forms of God Datta. This is the bad side of pride which results from the ignorance of the spiritual knowledge preached by God Datta.

6) Jealousy (maatsarya): The good side of jealousy is to develop competition with people, who are better than us. It drives us to make efforts to reach their level or even surpass them and become the best. It is said that envy brings growth in knowledge, “spardhayaa vardhate vidyaa”. The bad side of jealousy is pulling down those who are better than us, by false blame in order to become equal with them or suppressing others and pushing them below our own level in order to become better than them.

In the cases of ego and jealousy, there is an additional danger. When both are directed to the wrong side in the case of the contemporary Human Incarnation of God, they lead to repulsion from the Incarnation. After passing into the energetic world, the soul also feels repulsion from the Energetic Incarnation. Owing to the repulsion from the Human Incarnation here on earth and the energetic Incarnation in the upper-world, the soul misses the chance to attain God here as well as there. So, avoiding ego and jealousy towards the Incarnation is very important in nivrutti.

Just as the so-called bad qualities have meritorious and sinful sides, the so-called good qualities also have both sides. Worshipping God is generally a good quality. The good side of this quality is worshipping God out of true love without aspiring for any fruit in return from Him. The bad side of this quality is worshipping God due to artificial love shown for Him. In such a case, the person’s real love is for the fruit that he aspires from God. Serving society is a good quality, which also has both good and bad sides. A politician doing social service to impress the public for the sake of getting votes is bad. His actual intention is to win the election, secure a powerful position and earn sinful money. The social service done by Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa etc., with the goal of genuinely helping needy souls, in the name of God, is the good side of social service. In ancient times, yajna was also a form of social service. During the yajna, hungry people were fed, and spiritual discussions and prayers to God were conducted. This is the good side of the yajna. The bad side of yajna is to do the same yajna for achieving heavenly pleasures after death or achieving worldly pleasures in this life, without developing any spiritual knowledge or devotion to God. During the time of Shankara, the Puurvamiimamsaa philosophy had turned to this bad side of yajna, and as a result, it was condemned by Shankara.

The Meaning of Yoga

What is the meaning of the word yoga? Based on the root verb ‘yuj’, yoga simply means union, association or attainment. For instance, dhana means wealth and so dhana yoga means the attainment of wealth. Similarly, putra means a child and so putra yoga means the attainment of a child. Hence, the item which is to be attained through effort must be mentioned before the word yoga as a prefix, and the word yoga must be defined in that context. Today, it has become a fashion to use the word yoga independently! In nivrutti also, yoga is used with appropriate prefixes buddhi yoga or jnaana yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga etc.

Discourse Podcast

 

The phrase “Yogaaya yujyasva” appears in the verse[5] being discussed. It literally means, “Unite with yoga”, or “Unite with union”, since yoga itself means union. This appears to be meaningless since there is a repetition of the idea of union. So, to clarify the meaning, the word yoga is immediately defined in the subsequent line. It is said “Yogah karmasu kaushalam”, which means “Yoga is the talent in actions”. This meaning of the word yoga is limited to this verse alone and is not to be extended to any other context. Here, since the word yoga is used without any prefix, its definition has been provided.

Similarly, the word yoga without any prefix is also used in two verses earlier in the Gita, as “Yogasthah kuru karmaani…[6]”. It means that one should do actions by situating oneself in yoga, becoming free of attachment, and being equal towards profit or loss. In this context, yoga is defined as equality by the line “Samatvam yoga uchyate”. Hence, whenever a prefix is absent, the word yoga is defined in that context, and such a definition should not be extended everywhere. Wherever the prefix is used, the meaning is clear and no separate definition for yoga is needed there.

Treating misery and happiness in an equal manner is said to be yoga (Samatvam yoga uchyate). A practical example of the same is the fact that we enjoy hot dishes and sweet dishes in a meal equally. It does not mean that sweet and hot dishes are one and the same. When you eat a sweet dish, cool tears of happiness appear, and when you eat a hot dish, hot tears of misery appear. So, the symptoms of enjoying the two also differ. But the end result, which is joy, is equal in both. In this example, souls are able to enjoy both sweet and hot dishes in their meals. They derive equal joy or enjoyment after finishing their meals, which consist of both types of dishes. But human souls cannot similarly enjoy both misery and happiness in their lives in the real world. They can enjoy comedy and tragedy equally only in a movie. The reason is that the world is real to the soul. God can enjoy both misery and happiness in this world equally since the world is unreal for God like a movie. For the soul, the movie is unreal but the world is real. So, it cannot enjoy comedy and tragedy equally in the real world.

The soul is different from God in not having the powers of creation, maintenance, and destruction of this world. Even in the enjoyment of tragedy and comedy, equally in the world, the soul is different from God. Hence, monism between God and the soul is impossible from any angle, which is the view of Madhva. Monism is possible for a particular human being if God wishes to become that human being due to His omnipotence. Monism in terms of the equal enjoyment of happiness and misery also cannot be achieved by the soul through its own effort. Only the grace of God can bring such monism (Eshvaraanugrahaadeva…). If God wishes, the soul can become God when God merges with the soul, resulting in complete monism. Hence, such yoga in the sense of equality is in the hands of God alone.

The equality in enjoyment is related to one’s subjective experience, which is only in the theoretical or mental phase. There is no equality in the physical world. Hence, tragedy and comedy or their symptoms, are never equal. This equality in the theoretical phase is related to thought or knowledge. Hence, the four verses[7] prominently recommend adopting buddhi yoga which is the yoga of intelligence. In other words, the verses recommend analysis. Mere physical actions are said to be inert and pitiable (Krupanaah …) since they only follow a person’s thought or decision (Duurenahyavaram …). The decision, in turn, is the result of the analysis done using one’s intelligence.

Equality or yoga in the enjoyment of both happiness and misery is possible to the fullest extent only for God. But the soul can try to achieve it, at least to a certain extent, by detaching one’s mind from the fruit of the action (Samgam tyaktvaa …). Since this yoga is very useful in the service of God, God will bless the devotee who is trying to achieve such equality of enjoyment in this real world. The soul is attached to the fruit due to its inherent limited selfishness. So even upon taking the best effort for attaining this yoga of equality, the soul cannot attain the state of equal-enjoyment permanently. For attaining the state of equal enjoyment in both tragedy and comedy in the real world, God’s grace is highly essential. In the case of a person doing social service, there is some detachment from the fruit, while doing the work since social service is basically work done for the benefit of others. But full-time social work is not possible and some selfish work is inevitable at least for the sake of one’s livelihood.

If the word yoga is used without any prefix or definition, it must be taken to be the attainment of the grace of God since His grace is necessary from the most basic level in pravrutti, all the way upto nivrutti. If you want the word yoga to be used in the sense of the attainment of God Himself, then it can only mean the attainment of the relevant Incarnation of God. In this sense, yoga or the union with God means recognizing the contemporary Human Incarnation of God through knowledge, developing aspiration-free devotion for Him, and remaining associated with Him through practical service and sacrifice.

Giving Up the Superficial Classification of Merit and Sin

In the verse “Buddhiyukto…”, yoga is defined as the talent in action. This talent too belongs only to knowledge and not to the inert actions. Analysis shows us the good and bad sides of the so-called good deeds and the so-called bad deeds. Any given action should be performed only after recognizing its good and bad sides. The bad side should be rejected, and the good side should be adopted. Avoiding this analysis, one should not think that a so-called bad quality is totally bad and that a so-called good quality is totally good. Such wrong thinking will lead to an altogether rejection of the so-called bad and an indiscriminate adoption of the so-called good. By such blind performance of action, the soul incurs sin. By proper analysis, one can skillfully avoid sin. Thus, the complete and correct meaning of the verse is as follows: “The person established in intelligent analysis (buddhi yukto), gives up (Jahaatiiha) the blind acceptance or rejection of the so-called good and the so-called bad (ubhe sukruta dushkrute). This indeed is the talent in action (yoga). Hence, O Arjuna adopt this yoga.”

The first three verses (Yogasthah…, Duurenahyavaram ….and Buddhiyukto…) describe action. The implied action here is service to God, which is called karma samnyaasa. The fourth verse (Karmajam…phalam tyaktvaa) describes the sacrifice of the fruit of one’s work to God, which is offering one’s hard-earned money to the contemporary Human Incarnation of God. Karmasamnyaasa and karma phala tyaaga, which are service and sacrifice done for the contemporary Human Incarnation, together constitute karma yoga. Karma yoga is also called as practical devotion since it is the practical expression and proof of the devotion in the mind. Thus, these four verses together describe karma yoga or practical devotion to the Human Incarnation of God.

Through sharp analysis, using one’s intelligence (Buddhi yukto…) one recognizes the actual meritorious and sinful sides of both the so-called meritorious action and the so-called sinful actions. He then skillfully avoids the actual sinful action and does only the actual meritorious action. Such an analytical person discards the general superficial classification of merit and sin, since he depends on the actually determining what is meritorious and what is sinful through sharp analysis.

For example, a person without analysis, might reject totally anger in all contexts, and not even use anger where it is necessary. Such a person fails to adopt the good side of a bad quality. Another person may worship God for the sake of some selfish fruit. Such a person has adopted the bad side of a good deed. He has failed to adopt the good side of the good deed, which is worshipping God out of real love, without aspiring for any selfish fruit. Both cases, show a lack of analysis. By analysis alone can one identify both the good and bad sides of each quality, which might have been considered to be either a good or bad quality due to ignorant classification. Thus, buddhi yoga means leaving this superficial classification of merit and sin and instead actually identifying the inner good and bad sides of both merit and sin. This requires analysis using sharp intelligence. Upon analysis, the person leaves the bad sides of the so-called merit and sin and adopts good sides of both. It is this leaving of the bad sides of both merit and sin upon analysis that is implied in the verse “Buddhiyukto jahaatiiha ubhe sukruta dushkrute”. The talent or skill in action, referred to in the line “Yogah karmasu kaushalam”, lies in the identification of the actual merit and actual sin, and doing only the actually meritorious action.

The Necessity of Killing Bhishma and Drona

The entire Gita was taught in the context of motivating Arjuna to fight with his grandfather, Bhishma, and his teacher, Droṇa. The two were the most respected personalities in Arjuna’s life and killing them was unthinkable for him (Katham Bhishmamaham …). Arjuna had assumed that the killing of respectable elders was a sin, based on a superficial ignorant classification. Superficially, killing is a sin. But in reality, this so-called sinful action has both good and bad sides. It is good to not kill any good person, and especially good and respectable elders. But it is bad to not kill one’s elders even if they are bad. Bhishma and Droṇa did not control the wicked Kauravas when they were insulting Draupadi in the royal court by attempting to take off her clothes before all. This is an extreme sin. Both these personalities were very powerful and were fully capable of controlling this climax sin. Yet they kept silent and their silence meant their approval of the sin, which made both of them come under the category of the supporters of the sin (anumodakas). This sharp analysis of the situation forces us to give up the superficial classification of merit and sin. It reveals the good and bad sides of both merit and sin. It reveals that it was necessary for both the sinners to be punished. This is the heart of Krishna in the context of these verses.


[1] Bhagavad Gita 2.50.

[2] Bhagavad Gita 2.49.

[3] Bhagavad Gita 2.48.

[4] Bhagavad Gita 2.51.

[5] Bhagavad Gita 2.50.

[6] Bhagavad Gita 2.48.

[7] Bhagavad Gita 2.48-51.

 
   

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