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Looking for happiness without peace? || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagvad Gita (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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नास्ति बुद्धिरयुक्तस्य न चायुक्तस्य भावना ।

न चाभावयत: शान्तिरशान्तस्य कुत: सुखम् ।। 66 ।।

nāsti buddhir-ayuktasya na chāyuktasya bhāvanā

na chābhāvayataḥ śhāntir aśhāntasya kutaḥ Sukham

For the unsteady, there is no intellect (buddhi), and there is no contemplation (bhāvanā) for the unsteady man. And for an unmeditative man, there is no Peace. How can there be happiness for the one without Peace?

~ Shrimad Bhagwad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 66

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Question: This verse relates buddhi with bhāvanā. What exactly is meant by bhāvanā here, and how does it lead to Peace? Also, in this verse Shri Krishna first talks of buddhi and bhāvanā, and then he mentions Peace or Śhānti, and ultimately he speaks of happiness. But in our daily activities we wish to achieve happiness directly. Is this verse indicating a major flaw in our view of the world?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Okay, step-by-step.

First one — “This verse relates buddhi with bhāvanā. What exactly is meant by bhāvanā here, and how does it lead to Peace?”

The verse says, “For the unsteady, there is no intellect (buddhi), and there is no contemplation (bhāvanā).” For the unsteady, there is neither buddhi, nor bhāvanā. And ‘buddhi’ here refers to, has been rather translated as, ‘intellect’, and ‘bhāvanā’ as ‘contemplation’.

They refer to two parts of the same thing.

The one who is unsteady, is not steady where he must be. He’s steady really somewhere else. He has taken roots somewhere else. He’s not centered where he must be. Instead, he has found an alternate, and false, and worthless center.

When you say that somebody is steady, or firm, or rooted, or unwavering, don’t you want to ask, “Where is he rooted? Where is he steady? What is he steady about?” That is implicit in the word ‘steadiness’, that you have to be steady in the Truth. So, to be unsteady in the Truth is really to be committed to something else. And what is that something else that one is committed to, when one is not steadfastly rooted in the Truth? This something else is the ’Ahaṃ Vṛtti’.

From vṛtti arises bhāvanā, and from bhāvanā arises vicāra (thoughts). Buddhi operates through vicāra; buddhi is in the same dimension as vicāra.

So, when the verse says, “For the unsteady there is neither buddhi nor bhāvanā,” what is being said is that — when you are unsteady, both vṛtti and vicāra go wrong, because your vṛtti is now on its own, separated from the Truth; therefore vṛtti becomes rootless, uncontrolled, somewhat of an autocrat, a sovereign in itself.

And from such vṛtti, the passion that arises, the bhāvanā, the emotion that arises, is directed only towards the nourishment of falseness, and therefore the suffering of the individual. And when the underlying passion itself is directed towards falseness, all the thoughts that will arise from the passion, will obviously be thoughts towards self-destruction.

Then, the questioner says, “Shri Krishna first talks of buddhi and bhāvanā, and then he mentions Peace or Śānti, and ultimately he talks of Happiness. But we usually want to achieve happiness directly. Is the verse indicating a major flaw in our view of the world?”

It is not as if Peace is a stepping stone towards eternal or true Happiness. First of all, the word used here is ‘sukham’. ‘Sukha’, when used in a classical scripture, in a spiritual text, really refers to higher Happiness, true Happiness; not dualistic happiness, not the sukha-dukha pair.

When Shri Krishna says that you must have ‘sukha’, he does not mean ordinary happiness or pleasure; he refers to non-dualistic Happiness, which is more accurately called as ‘Ānanda’. But because the words are being spoken to Arjuna, therefore probably it is better to use the word ‘sukha’. Arjuna, due to his conditioning, would resonate more readily with sukha than Ānanda. But, read ‘sukha’ as ‘Ānanda’ here.

Peace is not a step towards Ānanda. Peace and Ānanda are the same thing. Spirituality is not about creating more and more layers, and structures, and distinctions. Anyway we are a victim of the endless divisions and distinctions that we have created. Spirituality is not about having more structures and saying that ”Such a thing has eight divisions, and out of these eight divisions the fifth one has three types, and out of these three types two belong to this category, and one belongs to some other category that tallies with the third distinction.” Those kinds of things you often read in spiritual texts; more frequently in commentaries on spiritual texts. Avoid these things.

Spirituality really knows only two distinctions: Truth is distinct from false. Only that distinction exists. And even that distinction does not really exist in non-duality, in Advait.

Advait says, “That which appears as the false is really a manifestation or expression of the Truth,” so even this final two-ness disappears. Even this final two-ness disappears, and hence, ’Advait’; no two-ness.

So, Peace, and Happiness, and Liberation, and Simplicity, and Clarity, they should not be taken as separate states or something. Remember that all the separate states, all the separations really exist only in the conceptual mind, only in thoughts, as ideas. And all the concepts, and ideas, and mentations are anyway of no avail when we say that on one side is Silence and Emptiness, and on the other side are all the ideas of the mind. All the distinctions that you have created are clubbed together and brought under one single umbrella. What’s the name of that umbrella? Mind.

So, there is the mind, and then there is the mother of the mind, that which is beyond the mind, that you can call as the ‘full mind’, or that which you can call as the ‘no mind’. Only these two distinctions are there. Do not bother for other lot of distinctions.

You know, a lot of so-called spiritual scholarliness is based on mugging up those distinctions. “What are the twelve types of such and such things?” And someone comes and says, “I remember all the twelve types!” And then he is taken as some kind of a great spiritual or religious scholar. Nonsense! Putting something in memory—how does that have anything to do with freedom from memory?

Spirituality is Freedom from the little self. By adding some concept to the memory, how are you gaining Freedom from the memory itself? How? Rather, you are, in your own eyes, glorifying the value of memory. Are you not?

By putting something in your memory and de-facto attaching your ego to it, your identity to it, are you not glorifying memory itself? And if you are glorifying memory, how will you be liberated from memory? Memory is such a burden, is it not? To be always remembering something. To remember something is to think about it. And if the mind is constantly thinking, then where is relief? Where is Freedom?

You’re saying, “In our daily activities, we wish to achieve happiness directly.” False! We never wish to achieve happiness directly. We always want mediated happiness. Don’t you say, “I will get happiness by doing this; I will get happiness through him or her; I will get happiness when I achieve that; I will allow myself to be happy when I reach there”? So our happiness is not meditated, it is mediated. You understand ‘mediated’? Between us and Happiness—and I’m talking of true Happiness, the higher Happiness; Joy, Bliss, Ānanda—between us and the true Happiness always stands something; a condition, a mediator.

“How will I achieve happiness? Through my wife!”

So who is mediating? The wife.

“How will I achieve happiness? Through that new car!”

Who is mediating? The car is mediating.

So, you are obviously not very attentive or conscious when you’re writing this question, when you say, “In our daily activities we wish to achieve happiness directly.” No. You don’t even try that.

In fact, that’s the central problem.

We always bring in the world as the mediator; we always want some middleman in between. “I will get the Truth through this. Through the world, I will get the Truth.” Now the Truth actually becomes unimportant, the world becomes very-very important. The Truth is de-facto forgotten. The real thing goes for a toss, and the worthless mediator gains all the importance.

See whether it is necessary to be Joyful through something. Even before that, see whether the medium that you are using is of any avail. Once you see that all these media that you have used, have actually been useless, then you say, “What is the point in using an intermediary? Let me try something a little more directly.”

And the moment you say, “I do not need a mediator, I will try out on my own,” you discover that the Truth really didn’t need to be achieved. It didn’t need to be achieved through a mediator, it does not even need to be achieved without a mediator.

It’s just that when there is a mediator, then the fact that the Truth does not need to be achieved at all, remains hidden; remains hidden in the shadow of the mediator.

Remove the mediator, and then there is no need to achieve the Truth. The very need to achieve the Truth through the mediator is created by the mediator itself. The mediator says, “Use me! Pay me! Bribe me! Worship me! I will deliver the Truth to you!” The fact is otherwise — the Truth is already there; the mediator exists to hide it from you.

The mediator will not give you Happiness.

The mediator is blocking your real Happiness.

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