Bhagavad Gītā is a śāstram. Śāstram is defined as, “instruction, advice, good counsel; rule, theory; compendium, institutes (of any branch of learning), code, scientific or canonical work, scripture; learning (rare):” -Macdonell Sanskrit dict.
Vedās are śāstrās. They talk of four human goals. Called purushārthas पुरुषार्थ । All humanity will have one of them as a predominant goal of life. It may change order within a life, but at any stage, one of them will be more dominant. These are-
1. Artha अर्थ – The objective world, characterised by acquisition of money or means which contribute to the sense of security.
2. Kāma काम – Fulfillment of pleasures, desires.
The above two are by default and everyone has them.
3. Dharma धर्म – Earning merit, पुण्यम् । This can be utilised in two ways. One, as earning the invisible merit which can later be utilised for one’s Artha and kāma. As one does with bank deposits. Save now, for a later use! Two, it can also be used as, earning a conducive, struggle free environment so that one can pursue the 4th goal, purushārtha.
4. Moksha मोक्ष – Absolute freedom from embodiment and allied notions!
3rd and 4th goals one has to choose and deliberate them. They are not a default mode! The urge for them is there, but they have to be activated!
However, all the 4 goals are equally recognised as valid for man. For each and every one of the goals we have the respective śastra, the instructions on how to pursue them in such a way that we are successful in the pursuit.
For Artha we have Artha śāstra. The famous Chānakya Neeti is well known as a part of Artha śāstra, which Chānakya had authored to revive it. For Kāma we have kāma śāstra, the famous kāma sutrās are indeed kāma śastra; for Dharma, the dharma śāstra. Manu Dharma smriti being most known, but there are a few others a sense well. And for Moksha the Moksha śāstra. Upanishads are the principal texts for moksha, dealing only with this purushartha.
Bhagavad Gītā is a Moksha śāstra. Instructing man how to rise above his sense of limitations and everyday struggles and know the source of his being, which alone can give him eternal peace! And to be qualified for such a fragile innermost journey, the Gītā also serves as an guide.
Let me ask you, think of someone who is an ‘angel’ 😇? What comes to you? A person. Why that person, above all the others whom you know? Certainly it is the qualities the person inhabits which make him stand above the average. Who is an angel is referred to the cognition of certain qualities, which are humanly possible; just that, most of us, common folks, think it to be beyond us to put in “that sort of an effort”, or we deem them an unnecessary aspect to the running of our life or whatever else be the reason. But, that it is possible, we all know. Moreover, we may not be very clearl what those qualities are till we see them distinctly in someone! All we know is, angel must be above our level for sure. The weakness I have, an angel would not have them!
Now, think of a ‘devil’? The same comes to you, the qualities first, that a person exhibits. Along with also comes an underlying expectation, that person should have put in some effort to ‘not be so devilish’. And that, they can change, if and only if they want too!
Look at the verses below from chapter 16 of Bhagavad Gītā.
अभयं सत्वसंशुद्धिर्ज्ञानयोगव्यवस्थितिः । दानं दमश्च यज्ञश्च स्वाध्यायस्तप आर्जवम् ।।१।।
1. Fearlessness, purity of heart, steadfastness in Yoga and knowledge, alms-giving, control of the senses, sacrifice, study of scriptures, austerity and straightforwardness,
अहिंसा सत्यमक्रोधस्त्यागः शान्तिरपैशुनम् । दया भूतेष्वलोलुप्त्वं मार्दवं ह्रीरचापलम् ।।२।।
2. Harmlessness, truth, absence of anger, renunciation, peacefulness, absence of crookedness, compassion towards beings, uncovetousness, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness,
तेजः क्षमा धृतिः शौचमद्रोहो नातिमानिता । भवन्ति सम्पदं दैवीमभिजातस्य भारत ।।३।।
3. Vigour, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, absence of hatred, absence of pride—these belong to one born in a divine state, O Bhārata (Arjuna)!
These are the दैवी सम्पत्त – wealth or accumulation of characteristics; and one who has them is called divine, angel in our definition! While angel is stil a gender, ‘daivi’ is not gender based! Any human being can aspire to be rich with them. Irrespective of caste, colour, creed, gender or religion!
दम्भो दर्पोऽतिमानश्च क्रोधः पारुष्यमेव च । अज्ञानं चाभिजातस्य पार्थ सम्पदमासुरीम् ।।४।।
4. Hypocrisy, arrogance, self-conceit, harshness and also anger and ignorance, belong to one who is born in a demoniacal state, O Pārtha (Arjuna)!
These are the अासुरी सम्पत्त accumulation of the characteristics of the demonic, one we call a devil!
Is this ennumeration of human qualities, a religious mandate? They are called daivi or āsuri only as reference to two opposite spectrums that a human being is capable of gravitating towards.
They give a demarcation, a definition of what are the qualties which can be lived and which to be avoided or falling into. These are clearly, only aspects of self-development.
If someone asks, “why should I put in that effort, when the whole world is busy developing the devil in them?” The answer is the next verse.
दैवी सम्पद्विमोक्षाय निबन्धायासुरी मता । मा शुचः सम्पदं दैवीमभिजातोऽसि पाण्डव ।।५।।
5. The divine nature is deemed for liberation and the demoniacal for bondage. Grieve not, O Arjuna, for thou art born with divine properties!
So, why should anyone want to put in the work of developing the daivi sampat and avoiding the āsuri Sampat is dependent upon, if you want peace in life or strife! The divine nature is deemed fit for mental peace and the demoniacal for strife!
The message here is, even though it takes greater courage and effort to amass the ‘developed qualities’; in the long term, they have greater benefits and returns. In the immediate gain is the peace of mind and culmination is, it help one in knowing his own true and essential nature. This is the highest benefit.
Whereas, though it is easy to fall for instant ‘reactive-ness’, it results in greater stress and strife later on! Called bondage. Bondage to people, circumstances, and an alarmingly high proportion of dependence on external factors for one’s happiness. A cyclical struggle in life. A frustrated, unhappy, dejected and even violent expression to life, which is counter to one’s happiness.
Arjuna had succumbed to self doubt on the battlefield after the war cry was made. It was time for his skills to be in action. But instead, self doubt had paralysed him, making him incapable, even to lift his bow. Kṛṣṇa, here as a friend assures Arjuna, that he is equipped with all the capabilities to fight injustice, and he should shrug out this mental depression he had slipped into born of his attachments.
Is this religious ?
How and when in time did the śastrās take a religious outlook? Another post, some other time. 🙏