New Year, equality and Gita

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New Year, equality and Gita

Saturday, 29 December 2018 | Romit Bagchi

A new year is standing before us like a chapter in a book waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”

The first part is true. However,  as to the second part where it is said that we can help write that story through setting goals for ourselves for the year to come I am doubtful. I do not, of course, doubt my ability to set goals. I can set up umpteen numbers of goals for the coming year.

But I doubt whether it would in the least influence the unfolding story of my life for the new year. I know it from my experiences through the life I have lived so far and I am thus unshakably convinced that my ability to dream- though it is infinite in its fecundity- comes to nothing when it comes to the events of my life taking form for the coming year.  

It is said that a year’s end is neither an end, nor a beginning, it is a going on. It is true. It is a continuation of years piling upon years, of lives piling upon lives, of deaths piling upon deaths, of little progress piling upon little progress. One year is an infinitesimal speck of the Infinity, of the Timelessness, of the Eternity. Bhagavad Gita is emphatic on the matter of the timeless continuity of life.  “Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” This is what Lord Krishna says to Arjuna.

I wonder why Bhagavad Gita is sweeping across into my mind when I am about to embark on the new year. Perhaps it is because of the catholicity of its teaching, its all-embracing spirit, its all-inclusive comprehensiveness. It even does not seem to exclude the new year in the sense that it teaches us about how to embrace the new year, the right spirit in which it should be embraced in tune with the spirit of the inscrutable working of the world as enunciated in our hoary scriptures.

The Gita is the supreme of the scriptures because “it does not attempt to evade the enigma of the world by escaping from it through a side door.” (Essays on the Gita by Sri Aurobindo).

To understand the subtler sense of the Gita, we must disentangle our mind of the Materialistic view of the Existence existing just as a mere mechanical action of a brute and indifferent mechanical force or of the views of the Mayavadis of an equally mechanical play of the blind energies arising out of an original Non-Existence with the dreams of the play of energies reflected on Its passive, unaffected Soul.

The Gita is clear in its view while sweeping aside such cobwebs spun around the ‘mechanical magician’ or the’ purely extra-cosmic god’ apparently behind the cosmic creation. It is emphatic that the omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent God, who is at the same time a transcendent Being, manifests the world and Himself  has become the world, who is not a slave but a lord of his creative consciousness-Maya, Prakriti, Shakti–, who is not baffled by the works of either man or devil (for both man and devil owe their existences to Him and thrive in Him).

And so He cannot shrug his responsibility off one to own the other (for He is the wholeness encompassing both the evil and the good dancing in the world-play). If things were so, the human beings have “to start from a great, a difficult act of faith.’’  

It is indeed a stupendous task, this act of faith for a human being as he is finding himself in a world of chaos, of battling powers, obscure, gigantic forces, fighting to proclaim supremacy in life bedeviled by constant change, death, birth, death..., menaced by pain, suffering, evil,  mayhem, massacre, destruction.

He must see the Omnipresent in it All, un-frightened by the macabre face of the Apparent. Encircled on all sides by the apparently devilish dance in the created things, he must say, “Though You may slay me I will trust in You.”

This is the Equality which Gita exalts, the Equality Gita stresses for us to imbibe. Knowledge from where comes Equality is a freedom or at least a superiority to the tangled interlocking of the three modes of Nature-known as Tamas, Rajas and Sattwas-the locomotive behind the world play- and yet the liberated soul must continue its action, emancipated from the tangled web of Gunas.

He must act from the base of the unalterable calm which is his deepest soul, and sitting firmly there, he must encounter, wrestle and fight with all the shocks, all the grim, terrifying clash of forces which stare him in his face in the life he lives. This unalterable calm reflects the “equable immutability of Brahman in the midst of all mutations and it belongs to the indivisible and impartial Oneness which is forever immanent in all the multiplicities of the universe.” ((Essays on the Gita by Sri Aurobindo).

So, if there is any prayer meant for the new year- and I am resolved to refuse to indulge in the audacity of setting goals or to refuse to lend credence to ‘helping write a new story for the coming year’ rhetoric- I pray for such an equality of soul which does not get devastated by the frightful, the intangible clash of obscure forces and its overwhelming footprints being marked on the puny life I live in this apparently perilous world.

 Now, in the end, let me say something about a character I have created for my next book, a sort of a detective character who probes crimes as part of his government job errands. He is Kedar, an educated village youth from Nainital. “He is a thin, tall, spectacled man with shiny black hair and thoughtful, earnest eyes of a dreamer gleaming from behind his glasses…He seems to be a person who can be still while in activity and vibrantly active while in repose….In his early 20s, he had then seemed to be a deep character much of which was intangible, murky. Now, after a space of about ten years, he looked much deeper than he had then been. It was natural, given the stream of things, which were outside the realm of the normally explicable, deluging him in an unimpeded flow. Kedar seems to have realized that what is visible is just a screen over which the invisible is imaged.  He has perhaps realized that life cannot be rightly seen in the sole light of its externalities- what is visible, tangible, palpable. As if the physical, the visible, the tangible is incomplete until it is set against and seen in its right relation to the supra-physical, the invisible, the intangible.”

Kedar is my creation. I am his creator. But the creator is praying to evolve into the likes of the created in the year that is coming so that he can fully learn through concrete experiences the true Divine nature of the tangled, frightening web that weaves the physical, the visible, the tangible with the supra-physical, the invisible, the intangible.     

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