Gita Daily Readings

27th August
Chapter XI: 48
Neither by the study of the vedas and sacrifices, nor by gifts nor by rituals nor by severe austerities can I be seen in this form in the world of men by any other than thyself, Oh great hero of the Kurus.

Commentary

Dr. Zimmer, in his monumental work on Philosophies of India, expresses the view that before the vedas were introduced into India by the invading Aryans (there are others who question this!) there flourished there a religion whose hall-mark was world-and-life-negation, e.g. Jainism.

Zimmer includes even sankhya and yoga (in their empirical form) in the pre-Aryan religious thought. Yoga insists on stoutly refusing to let the purusha (individual soul) identify himself with the activities of prakrti (the active principle); kaivalya (isolation of the purusha from prakrti), which was taken to imply non-participation in the world, regards all life as unhappiness, to the wise. Austerity and "withdrawal" were vigorously advocated by these pre-Aryans.

The vedas, on the other hand, extol an active life of sacrifices (yajnas), rituals and gifts. They are intensely interested in this world and in the world of heavenly pleasures, considering austerities to be more expiatory than self-liberating.

Historians place the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita (which is part of that epic) at a much later date than the former two, viz., sankhya-yoga and vedas. Here, Krishna boldly proclaims that neither the pre-Aryan austerities and withdrawal from the world, nor the Aryan study of vedas, sacrifices and rituals can enable one to attain the beatific vision that Arjuna had.

Later sages of vedanta, too, have admitted that performance or non-performance of any action (both involving egoistic notions) do not lead to liberation which is awakening from the slumber of ignorance. How does man wake up, then? WAKE UP! When the time comes, the Lord will awaken you, provided you are ready to wake up. "Time", here, is not used in the traditional sense, but in the sense of "maturity" which is thinning out of the selfishness.

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