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Your Questions Answered
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 31: The Senses – Two Kinds of Sacrifice

Swamiji: Sharmaji, in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagvan Sri Krishna says that there are varieties of sacrifices. There are some who practise sacrifice by offering the objects in their senses. There are others who do sacrifice by offering their senses in the objects. So, there are two kinds of sacrifice. What does it mean? They look opposite, like two contradictory things. In one case, you offer the object in the senses; in the other case, you offer the senses in the objects. So, what does it mean?

Sri Krishna Sharma: Is it not the same thing, Swamiji?

Swamiji: You offer the senses in the objects, and you offer the objects in the senses. How can you say it is the same? They are two different things. But what is the meaning? Both are considered as sacrifices, though they are opposites.

Srotradini'ndriyany anye samyam'agnisu juhvati; sabdadin visayan anya indriy'agnisu juhvati. Sarvani'ndriya-karmani pranakarmani ca'pare; atma-samyama yogagnau juhvati jnana-dipite. This is the sloka. Some people perform sacrifice in the form of restraint of sense organs from contact with objects. That is the meaning. Some people offer their senses in the fire of objects; they say, "Om svaha," and they put ghee into the fire. Like that, the senses are offered into the objects. How do you do that? If you offer senses into the objects, it becomes indulgence. It cannot be called sacrifice. Everybody offers senses to the objects; there is no need of saying anything here. But yet, it can be a sacrifice.

Sharmaji: Then, these are two opposite things.

Swamiji: It requires to be understood. The Gita is not an easy book to read, and you cannot imagine that you have understood it, also. It is a very deep secret, the secret of the operation of the Universe Itself. That is mentioned there. It is not meant for you, or me, or any particular person. It is an address of the Universal Being to the whole creation. It is God speaking to the universe. It is not Arjuna or Krishna; they are representatives of the Universe.

The objects of the senses are enemies if they are considered as different from ourselves. It is only under that condition that people run after the objects of sense. They will never run after the object of sense, unless it is outside – totally outside. If it is not outside, you will not run after it. You will not run after your own nose, or your own ear, and all that; but you will run after the nose of somebody else, because it is outside you.

The relationship of the object to you is to be understood properly. What is your relationship to an object? Is it outside you, or not outside you? A person walking on the street, whom you see when you go for your evening walk, is totally outside you. You have no concern with him. But, you may go for a walk with your own brother. He is not totally outside you, though for ordinary vision, both are outside only. The brother who is walking with you on the road, and the pilgrim who is walking on the road – what is the difference between the two persons? They are both outside, and yet your brother is not entirely outside you. Why?

Sharmaji: He is mentally connected with us, and the other person is not mentally connected.

Swamiji: Yes. This is the way you have to understand the objects of sense, also. You will run after them, you want to pursue them, because you don't pursue something that is with you, or which is within your capacity, within the ambit of your understanding. You don't go on thinking of your dear brother day and night, but you will think of somebody outside, who has a connection with you, positively or negatively. The objects of the world are neither good, nor bad. They are bad if you treat them as alien, foreign elements; then you want to grab them, or reject them, as the case may be. But if they are set in harmony with your senses, the senses will never go for them.

When two water tanks have water in the same level, the water will not flow, but if one is higher than the other, it will flow. So, if the senses and the objects are on a par, the senses will never go to the objects; but if they are either above you or below you, they will run to things. If they are kept on par, they are your friends, and contemplating them would be to contemplate yourself only, in a way.

This is what Sri Krishna means here. When you offer your senses to the objects, it means to say that a friend is meeting a friend. But, there is a difference in meeting your sister and meeting your wife. Both are women only; what is the difference between the two? Is there some difference, or no difference?

Sharmaji: There is a difference.

Swamiji: Why should there be a difference? Both are equally ladies, and there is absolutely no difference between them. Here is the whole point. All your problem is here, in this little analogy. Both are equally women of the same category. But, why is one a wife and another is a sister? Why is there such a distinction?

When you love an object, it becomes your wife; when it is on a par with you, like your sister, it is a sacrifice, and it is meditation itself. When you think of your sister, you have no agitation in your mind. You think nothing, practically, as if you are seeing a tree or a mountain. But if you see your wife, there is a different way of looking, though both things are identical statistically.

Sharmaji: Yes, Swamiji.

Swamiji: You are unnecessarily creating a distinction between two things and get agitated in one, and be calm and quiet in another. The objects are neither yours, nor not yours; they are neither a wife, nor a sister, but you convert them into this or that because of your prejudice. So, in two half verses, the Lord mentions both things. The senses can go in this way, or they can go in another way, also. The world is not a bad object, nor is it meant for your enjoyment. It is just what it is.

In a family, the members of the family are all on a par – you neither love them, nor hate them specially. But if it is a kind of property, a belonging, then it is different. When you say "my brother," or "my sister," or "my wife," you are uttering practically the same sentence grammatically, while you mean different things. Even the word "my" has two different meanings. What do you say?

Sharmaji: Yes, Swamiji.

Swamiji: "My sister" and "my wife" – the "my" has the same meaning grammatically, but the intention is different. Even your mind works in a different way with this "my." So when I see an object, you can say either it is "this" or "that." Just as all women are the same, all objects are the same, but you can convert them into your wife or sister, as you like, by the impulses of your mind.

This is such a complicated verse that nobody cares to understand its meaning truly. In commentaries, they simply pass it on, gloss it over, as if everything is clear. It cannot be understood so easily.

Do you consider the object as your sister or your wife? It depends upon your intention. Objects are not your properties. Therefore, you cannot consider them as your wife. A sister is not your property; she is an independent person like you, and the objects of the world also are equally as important as you. They are not servants; therefore, you cannot indulge in them.

All indulgence is a mistaken notion of the mind. The world is not a binding rope created by God to hurl you to hell, as people think – it is Satan's creation, evil, and so on. The world is not a thing. It is just like you. If the world is a source of bondage, you are also a source of bondage, because you are a part of the world. You cannot say that you are perfectly all right, and that the world is evil. In a most harmonious manner you must look at things, and then any perception becomes like samadhi only. Every perception is samadhi under a condition. Whatever you see with your eyes, consider it as yourself only. Then, you will never have any agitation afterwards.

Sharmaji: There is no binding also to that thing.

Swamiji: So much meaning is hidden in two half verses of the Gita: Your self is your friend, and your self is your enemy, as the case may be, according to the two viewpoints. The bondage is in the viewpoint, and your freedom also is in your viewpoint. Unnecessarily we create a mess by our ignorance and stupidity. That is all.

Sharmaji: By taking the things as our possessions.

Swamiji: So, I have given you a commentary on this verse.

Sharmaji: We are fortunate, Swamiji.

Swamiji: But, still you must remember this. I have mentioned a very subtle point. It will slip out of your mind. It is not easy to catch it. People always say that the world is a bondage; this is commonly said everywhere, but it is not so. It is a bondage because you are looking at it as an enemy, an outsider. Who asked you to look at it like that? God never created enemies, nor friends.

Sharmaji: Yes, that is true.

Swamiji: Has God no other work than creating enemies? You have converted things into alien forces and, then, you are looking at them as friends and enemies. The world is not an alien object. It is on par with you, so it is neither your friend nor enemy. If you look at it thus, the world is a wonderful beauty. Viratsvarupa it is! I asked you what you are reading, and this idea came to me.