The inspiration for action

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    Sri Vasudeva Das

    Hare Krishna prabhuji

    in Gita 18.18
    ज्ञानं ज्ञेयं परिज्ञाता त्रिविधा कर्मचोदना ।
    करणं कर्म कर्तेति त्रिविध: कर्मसङ्‍ग्रह: ॥ १८ ॥

    It explains how there are three factors for inspiring action: knowledge, object of knowledge and knower. In the subsequent verses of Gita these are elaborated in terms of goodness, passion and ignorance. But I find it difficult to understand it from the perspective of how they become an impetus for action, can you kindly elaborate on the understanding of this verse with reference to the elaboration given later in Gita.

    Ashish Dalela

    Below is the English translation from Prabhupada’s Gita:

    Knowledge, the object of knowledge, and the knower are the three factors that motivate action; the senses, the work and the doer are the three constituents of action.

    The first thing to note is the distinction between knowing and acting. There are two types of senses for these, and they are respectively called the knowledge senses and the action senses. These senses exist as potentials, which means there is a capacity for knowledge and action, but that capacity has to be realized by a process. That process is then further divided into three parts in this verse.

    Let’s first delve into the knowledge senses, such as the eye. The eye is a potentiality in which everything we can see is already hidden in an unmanifest form. If the type of vision is not present in the eye, then we cannot see it. For example, some people are color blind. Others have difficulty recognizing shapes. This is because something is not inherently present in the eye.

    Even if the external object is present, it only triggers one of those things that are innately present in the eye. For example, during dreaming, there is no external object, and yet, something present in the eye is manifested. Likewise, if a person is in fear, then even if the external trigger is a rope, the vision of a snake would be triggered from the eye. So, due to this triggering from within, we can get both correct perception and incorrect perception. When our senses are contaminated, we see everything as separate from each other. When they are purified, everything is seen to be interconnected.

    Once the sense manifests a sensation, then the sensation unites with the sense. This is just like the soul is manifest from the Lord and unites with the Lord in a relation. So, the sensation is from the eye, caused by the eye, it is a sensation of the eye, and if we take into account the pleasure of sensation or desire for it, then it is also for the eye. When the eye and sensation are related, the eye becomes that sensation temporarily. Otherwise, the eye is the potential for many sensations which are unmanifest. Hence, we say that “I am seeing” because the sense is the sensation at the point of observation, and yet, the sensation is not the sense which means that I can see something else.

    Even if an external object is present, the sensation is still triggered from the eye and unites with the eye. The external object is just a trigger. Potentially, the external object can trigger many sensations, including false sensations (e.g., seeing a rope as a snake). Hence, if the senses are not purified, then the external object triggers some latent impurity. However, if the senses have been purified, then the same object triggers a pure sensation, which means it corresponds to the external object. Therefore, the purification of the senses is important to ensure that we are having the correct perception.

    Thus, in the waking case, there are two causes, namely, the knower and the object of knowledge. If you are seeing an apple, then there are two causes, namely, the apple and the eye. But you can look at an apple from a distance, and say: “I want to see it closely”. In this case, some knowledge—i.e., seeing the apple from a distance—is the cause of additional knowledge, namely, seeing the apple closely. This generally happens if we are attracted to something. So initially we get coarse-grained knowledge, and then we want to get detailed knowledge. If we had never obtained coarse-grained knowledge, then we will not try to get detailed knowledge. We will simply be unaware of the existence of an object. Thereby, there are three causes—(a) the senses can trigger knowledge, (b) an external object can trigger knowledge, and (c) some knowledge can trigger other knowledge.

    All these three things happen during waking and dreaming. For example, sometimes you see something and it triggers your memory from the past. That trigger is external. But once a memory is triggered, then the sense attaches to it and wants to know even more about the past. Then, all the associated feelings, surroundings, time, place, etc. are progressively recalled from memory. So, a small trigger leads to a small recollection, but then it becomes a detailed recollection.

    Now you can easily extend this to the senses of action. There is a sense of action that can do some work. That work is a potential lying latent in the sense. However, in this case, the external trigger is replaced by an internal trigger, namely, the doer. For example, if you saw the apple at a distance, and then you wanted to go close to see it, then the doer triggers the legs to walk, and the desire of seeing the apple closely triggers the sense of action. That triggering of the senses of action is called work. When one sense becomes active, then other senses may also be activated. For example, if you start walking, then slowly your hands start moving forward and backward with the legs. This is just like some knowledge triggers more knowledge. In this case, some activity triggers more activity.

    Similarly, during a kirtan, initially, the legs move a little, then the hands move a little, then you start singing (speech is also a sense of action). Or, you can sing first, then move your hands, then move the legs. It can happen in any order. Generally, people who come new to the temple may just sing. But after they start singing, then the hands and legs start moving. Similarly, if you hear the sound of someone speaking, then immediately the eyes want to see who is speaking. So, some knowledge leads to more knowledge, and some activity leads to more activity. After some time, we have to apply effort to stop these activities because a chain reaction has already been set in motion.

    These three things are also described in terms of the modes of nature. For example, the doer is sattva, the sense of action is rajas, and the work done by the sense is tamas. Similarly, the sense is sattva, knowledge is rajas, and the object is tamas. Context plays an important role. When other things are included in this, then in contrast to those things, the same thing can be called a different mode. This is just like if you meet a new devotee, you talk to them like a senior. But if an even more senior person comes around, then you don’t talk and let the more senior person talk. So, just by adding a person, the modes have changed. This is why there is an objective reality of potentials. But every potential is not always manifest. By adding or removing, some potential can be manifest. Whatever is manifest defines the mode in relation to other manifestations in other things.

    Srila Prabhupada talks about more things in the purport. For example, he writes that before the work is actualized, work exists in a subtle form. This “subtle work” is a plan. You create a plan before you start acting. In this case, the mind is also included. Then, there is intelligence on whether the plan is feasible or not. Then there is ego, which decides if the plan will fulfill the goal. Then there is mahat that checks if this plan is legal and moral or illegal and immoral. So, there are many things involved. The three-part description is not everything, but it is important.

    Sri Vasudeva Das

    Thank you very much prabhuji for the in depth explanation, regarding the knowledge which becomes an inspiration for work, is 18.20 describing how the knowledge can be an inspiration for acts of goodness. Does 18.20 practically imply that we should meditate on Atma/Paramatma’s presence in every being? Thus it will inspire for right action

    Ashish Dalela

    This is the text of verse 18.20 from Prabhupada’s Gita.

    TEXT 20: That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entities, though they are divided into innumerable forms, you should understand to be in the mode of goodness.

    Yes, I already explained this above:

    When our senses are contaminated, we see everything as separate from each other. When they are purified, everything is seen to be interconnected.

    The material vision is diversity, and the spiritual vision is unity. There are two kinds of unity—unity in diversity and diversity in unity. The unity in diversity is called Paramātmā and diversity in unity is called Bhagavān. And the diversity is Brahman. In this verse, unity in diversity is spoken of, which means the vision of Paramātmā. Beyond it is the vision of diversity in unity, which is Bhagavān.

    We can illustrate this with the example of the elephant and blind men. The blind men see each part of the elephant, and they call the tail a “line”, the trunk a “pipe”, the leg a “cylinder” and so on. This is the vision in tamo-guna. In this vision, each part is independent and separate from the other parts. If one part moves, then it is due to the force exerted by the other parts. Then, in the vision of rajo-guna, we can see the other parts, but we think that these parts are accumulated because each part is profiting from being with the other parts. However, the whole is not realized. Then, under sattva-guna, we see that everything is a part of a whole elephant. So, there is no force to be together, and they are together even if there is no profit from each other. They are just doing their duty. Then, each part is described as a tail, trunk, and leg, because they are now part of the elephant. But the men are still blind, which means that they cannot see the whole elephant. And yet, they understand there is an elephant and therefore the parts are not disjointed or aggregated for individual profit.

    We can take another example. If two brothers fight with each other for their father’s property, then that is a life of tamo-guna. If the two brothers join hands to run a mutually profitable business, then it is rajo-guna. If the brothers don’t fight and don’t think about profit, but just do their duties toward each other as brothers, then it is sattva-guna. In this duty, there is a realization that we are brothers because we have the genes of the common father. So, the gene is in each person, and that unites us. However, the father is not seen. The brothers see each other as brothers without the father.

    Finally, if the brothers see each other as brothers, and they know the father, then it is more complete. Even if they fight with each other, it is to make the father and each other happy. Fighting is not the loss of love. Similarly, even if they run a business together, it is not just for profit. And even if they stay silent and do their duty, no love is lost between them. This final stage is called pure sattva.

    Some of the recent posts have discussed six different models of reality, namely, force, profit, duty, self-absorption, respect, and love. The first three, namely, force, profit, and duty are tamas, rajas, and sattva. After that, there are multiple stages of pure sattva. In the state of sattva, there is the realization that we have no friends and no enemies. Everyone is a brother or sister, and even if there is some fighting, it is superficial, because everyone is ultimately a brother or sister. So, the ability to see everyone as a brother or sister is to see that everyone has the same “genes” in them. That “gene” is the immanent truth in everything and is called the Paramātmā. He is the unity in diversity. This is the philosophy of peace, dutifulness, accommodation, sacrifice, empathy, and compassion.

    Sri Vasudeva Das

    Thank you so much prabhuji for so beautifully elaborating the point, I just read the post also, it is very beautiful.

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