PRINCIPLES OF A HIGHER ORDER OF LIFE
by Swami Krishnananda
The Import of the Gita's Third Chapter
Knowledge and action are the rule,
The twain which constitute the world;
These twin approaches single aimed
Are not divided as opposed.
The eye of knowledge or of deed
Is hard to see since roots of things
Are screened from human perception
Which dual envisions the world.
As waves and ocean are not two,
Action and knowledge are the same;
As sun and light, or seed and oil,
Knowledge and action are combined.
Though Brahman-all is act and science
In one compass undivided,
In lesser levels deeds proceed
From subjects confronting objects.
An action is the relation
Obtaining fluidly moving
Between the seer and the seen –
Reciprocation ensouls deeds.
As one descends to lower realms
Cutting the seer from the seen,
Actions become the binding chains
Keeping the gulf a chronic ill.
The force of deeds gets mellowed down
When seer-seen approximate
To greater friendship and union,
Till vanish they in communion.
When knowledge sees its object there
As sundered from its subjectness,
Action becomes imperative
To thought and content harmonise.
Action is that which holds intact
The subject-object relation
In harmony and perfection,
For soul of all is harmony.
The soul's universality
Compels the performance of acts
So that its law of harmony
Is manifest in daily life.
Thus action itself is knowledge
Since union is its ambition
Where deed and doer merge in one
To form the higher soul of life.
The welfare works of society
Or actions for one's well-being,
Inward or outward, all move straight
Towards the Soul universal.
When soul the soul to itself pulls,
They call it love or selfless deed;
Nothing but soul there ever is,
Which haunts the world as men and things.
No one can exist without work,
For movement is the condition
Of all relative forms of life,
Whether on earth or in heaven.
Since thought is action finally,
Physical restraint is not poise
While mind revels in thoughts of deeds
Which connect it with world of sense.
The body's actions are not deeds
When mind to body is not tied
And lofty reaches contemplates
Within to contact soul of things.
Except as Yajna, sacrifice,
All deeds are binding in this world;
But what is Yajna, know this well
By careful thought in reason's calm.
When God created fields of life
He ordained then the role of works
Which gravitate to sacrifice,
So that all deeds are Deity's home.
The doer and the end of deed
Are bound together as a whole
By glorious Deity transcendent
To both the agent and the work.
Thus none can work by oneself free
As urge to acts is well ordained
By that which holds the two in one
Unseen by both as soul awake.
As triangle doer, deed and soul,
The soul ruling from high above,
Perform the scene of experience;
And none is owner in this play.
Obligation to one's duty
Refers to stages of Selfhood,
Wherein the balance in between
The seer-seen is clear maintained.
Oneself, society, nation, world,
The universe and Being's height
Are rising levels to the Self,
Through which perfection is attained.
The higher stage to lower stands
As Deity inclusive and real;
The Yajna is the higher goal
When to it lower is offered.
The lower isolation self's
Which opposed looks to its object
Is sacrificed in Yajna high
That integrates the sundered poles.
The Deity includes and transcends
The lower cleavage of the self
From its own object, though severed
Does still belong to widened self.
By sacrifice union is reached
With higher forms of wider self;
This divine cow which yields all wish
Is here at hand with everyone.
Who worships Deity in this way
Has all the wishes quick fulfilled,
To self the Deity stands good stead
In mutual graced recognition.
He is a thief who thinks he owns
Or does by himself deeds alone;
While all the wealth is Deity's form
And Deity rules ever supreme.
Here none is owner, share-holder,
For all belongs to Brahman great
Which is the Self of universe
And owns it indivisibly.
From That which is one alone
A cosmic impulse emanates;
From this the self-alienation
And desires' rains on crops of greed.
The world and body then emerge
And so the cycle continues
Of give and take which is this life,
The wheel of empirical law.
Since all is thus with all entwined,
All action though perennial,
Is no action in truest sense;
The deed is no deed binding none.
The mendicants though well detached
Are also in this cycle bound,
For who could expect alms of good
If none there is to offer alms.
But one who grounds himself afirm
In all-pervading Self of all
Does fear none and has no needs
Nor does depend on others' grace.
He does nothing while doing all,
Nor does he gain by doing deeds;
Actions done or not done here
Affect him not, nor disturb poise.
He disturbs not the ignorant
Who have their faiths illiterate,
But follows suit with environment,
Maintaining rule of harmony.
To disrupt minds is no teaching;
The sage with child as child behaves;
His presence thus is no presence
As sugar sweet in milk dissolved.
As wave collides with wave in sea
Senses with objects commingle,
Since sense and object both are formed
Of same substance universal.
Thus actions or performances
Are all of cosmic origin,
And none can claim a single act
As one's own move or claim its fruits.
Egoism, the arch-devil,
Does wrongly show that someone acts,
While acts are Nature's purposes
Which comprehend all history.
The duty each one's in the world
Depends on one's circumstances;
And no one unfit for a work
Can render that as duty's role.
The total of capacity
Determines work as duty-bound;
The body's strength and mental make
Do proclivity works' decide.
None takes from world what one gives not;
Here Karma Yoga sums up work;
Else, social balance gets disturbed
And chain of Karma binds one hard.
The other's duty is that work
For which one is not fitted best;
And one's own duty each shall choose
To bring to life stability.
Passion and anger are the foes
Which distort duty and prevent
The basic goodness of the soul
To rule one's life for commonweal.
These fiery forces, instincts dark,
Should get subdued by force of mind,
By force of reason and of soul,
Which surpasses all puissance.
By contemplation on the Self
The reason moves the mind aright,
And senses home of urges low
Get restrained well for Yoga's way.