It is true that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. In these two verses Krishna has described the entire journey, beginning with thought and ending in total loss. Each step should be considered well.
Thought is power–magnetic power, particularly. That is, thought can draw or repel whatever is thought about, depending upon the polarity of the individual mind. Many times we see that people bring to themselves the things they continually think about, but we also see that thinking about something can repel it from the person. For example, the Franciscan Order is almost obsessed with the idea of poverty, yet it is one of the wealthiest institutions in the world. Thinking about poverty brought them wealth! This is not said in jest. I have seen people draw to themselves the things they detested, and seen others drive out of their lives the things they yearned for. As already pointed out, it is a matter of the polarity of the thought force, of magnetic energy.
As a rule, though, thought brings to us what we think about. Even if we begin by disliking or opposing the object of thought, in time we become attached to it, either by coming to like it (whether or not we admit the liking) or becoming unable to dispel it from our minds. We see this in the lives of many crusaders. They become what they oppose. In fact, they often oppose something to cover up their secret attraction to it.
It has long been known that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Krishna is aware of this, and is counseling Arjuna to simply ignore that which he does not wish to become involved with. That is why in meditation we ignore any distractions and just keep relaxed in the awareness of the process of meditation–and nothing else. If we do this, in time the distractions will dissolve, and in the meantime, being ignored, they will not be distractions, practically speaking.
So if we will not obsess on a subject, it will not touch or capture us. This is a major point of spiritual life.
“Thinking about sense-objects will attach you to sense-objects.” The word translated “attach” is sangas, which means attachment. However, sangas has both an internal and an external meaning–both of which apply in this instance.
Attachment means having an affinity for something, or having some feeling of desire to be aware of it or have it present. It has a definite emotional connotation. It also means to feel some kind of kinship with an object, or to feel a need for it–even a dependency.
Attachment also means to be linked to something, to become externally associated with it. This has already been discussed as a consequence of thinking continually of an object.
Obviously there is a positive side to this. If we think of that which is beneficial and elevating we will better ourselves. Sri Ramakrishna once met a young man who was psychically very sensitive, and who was being employed as a medium by some spiritualists in Calcutta. He spoke to him a truth that we should never forget or neglect to embody in our lives: “My son, if you think about ghosts you will become a ghost. If you think about God, you will become a god. Which do you prefer?”
“Grow attached, and you become addicted.”
The word used here is kamas, which means intense craving for something. The implication is that the nature of objects is one of escalating absorption. We cannot stop at simple attachment. If we permit attachment, it will in time grow into something much worse: controlling addiction. This is the path to loss of freedom, to enslavement.
“Thwart your addiction, it turns to anger.”
We not only lose our freedom through addiction to objects, we also lose our rational faculty. For when our addictions are thwarted we respond with the ultimate irrationality: anger. Krodha means not just simple irritation but frenzied anger or fury which completely annihilates our good sense and reason.
“Be angry, and you confuse your mind.”
Sammohas means confusion, not in the sense of simple disorientation, but in the sense of breakdown of mental coherence arising from delusion. It is a form of moral insanity
“Confuse your mind, you forget the lesson of experience.”
The Sanskrit smritivibhramah literally means to wander away from what is known, from what has been learned through experience. For it is what we know from our own experience, inner and outer, that is fundamental to our evolution. That alone is living wisdom, everything else is merely theory, however true it may be objectively. The whole purpose of the chain of births we have undergone is our gaining of practical knowledge, knowledge that is fully ours because it has arisen from our own experience and our insight into that experience. Just as no one can eat for us, so no one, however evolved they may be, can gain knowledge for us, or even impart it to us. Until we know something for ourselves it is nothing more than speculation or theory.
“Forget experience, you lose discrimination.”
The Sanskrit text literally says that if experience-knowledge is forgotten, then intelligence (buddhi) itself is destroyed. This is terrible, for expanding intelligence is the fundamental characteristic of evolution. That is why Krishna speaks so often of Buddhi Yoga as the path to perfection.
Loss of life
“Lose discrimination, and you miss life’s only purpose.”
Again, the literal Sanskrit is even more acute, stating that when buddhi is destroyed, we ourselves are destroyed. This is no exaggeration, as the foregoing sections demonstrate.
The purpose of our entry into relativity was the development of higher intelligence so we might be fitted to participate in the infinite consciousness of God. If we impair and erode that intelligence we frustrate the very purpose of our (relative) existence.
On the other hand, if we comprehend Krishna’s words in this matter, we can see that the conscious deepening of our buddhi is the path to liberation. But most of all we can learn how to never take even the first step on the path to personal destruction. By refusing to allow our minds to mull over that which is delusive, we protect ourselves from future entanglement in the nets of delusion. If we are already somewhere along the path to destruction we can also use this list to see how to reverse the process. For the message of the Gita is always and at all times the message of hope and betterment.