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Sanatana Dharma Appendix: The Wisdom of the Manu Smriti

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Who is/was Manu? Manu is a term with various meanings in Indian texts. In early texts, it refers to the archetypal man, or to the first man–the progenitor of humanity. The Sanskrit term for “human,” manava, means “of Manu” or “children of Manu.” Therefore “Manava Dharma” means both the dharma expounded by Manu in the Manu Smriti and Human Dharma–the dharma of mankind, the dharma of human beings. It certainly includes and is embodied in Sanatana (the Eternal) Dharma, popularly called Hinduism.

It is generally accepted that the first Manu–Swayambhu Manu–was either a totally perfected being, a Siddha, or a direct manifestation of Brahman, the Absolute. As is right and natural in Sanatana Dharma, there is no single, “orthodox” or perfect definition of such a being who certainly embodies the Divine Source of All.

What really matters is his teaching given to the sages of India in prehistory. “Manu” means: thinking; intelligent; wise. “Smriti” means “that which was heard and is remembered.” So we should examine those parts of the Manu Smriti that deal with the Supreme Dharma (Param Dharma) which embraces both Atmajnana, Knowledge of the Self, and Brahmajnana, Knowledge of Brahman the Absolute Being. What also matters is the fact that for countless thousands and thousands of years this dharma was the norm in Aryavarta, Bharatvarsha: India. The equally countless number of enlightened men and women in India were the embodiments of Manava Dharma.

And what is Dharma? It is the righteous aspiration, perspective and practical way of living as enjoined by the dharma shastras (scriptures) and the spiritually illumined. It is not meant to be a high ideal only for the spiritually gifted, but the norm for all human beings that aspire to the revelation and manifestation of their own innate divinity: the yogis. The Manu Smriti is the most authoritative–and the foundation–of all the dharmashastras of India.

I am confining this commentary to the teachings of Manu that relate to spiritual life and have meaning for all human beings who wish to attain higher consciousness. (Consider that the term “Brahmana” includes all genuine seekers of higher consciousness–especially the yogis.) Most of the shastra consists of the external observances, religious and social, that were relevant to the Aryas in pre-history. I use the term pre-history because the true history of humanity only began when human life evolved enough to both learn and live the principles of Manava Dharma, the true Human Life which began when:

The great sages approached Manu, who was seated with a collected mind, and, having duly worshipped him, spoke as follows: Deign, divine one, to declare to us precisely and in due order the sacred laws…. For you, O Lord, alone know the purport…, and the knowledge of the Self [Atman], (taught) in this whole ordinance of the Self-existent (Swayambhu), which is unknowable and unfathomable. (1.1-3)

It is very easy to miss the very important principle implied in this passage. The sages ask Manu as one who possesses knowledge of the Self to reveal to them the sacred laws, implying that knowing and following those laws will lead whoever follows them fully and perfectly to Self-knowledge (Atmajnana). Only those who follow Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion, will come to know the Eternal One, the divine Self, which to those without this knowledge is certainly “unknowable and unfathomable.”

He, whose power is measureless, being thus asked by the high-minded great sages, duly honored them, and answered, Listen!

This (universe) existed in the shape of Darkness [Tamas], unperceived, destitute of distinctive marks, unattainable by reasoning, unknowable, wholly immersed, as it were, in deep sleep. (1.4-5)

This is the condition known as Pralaya, when the universe is in a state of unmanifestation, but within it is the potential to become manifest at the will of the Creator, Parambrahman. This is because there is no essential difference between the creation and the Creator because the creation is the Creator. Whether we consider that the creation is the Creator’s extension of Itself, or that the creation is simply an idea in the mind/consciousness of the Creator, makes no difference. The unity/identity is there in some form which no human mind could ever comprehend. The only way to know or understand Divinity is to become divine ourselves. The enlightened jivatman most certainly knows the Paramatman because it exists inseparably within the Paramatman. Only those who are in the state of the Manu can experience this. But we are all manava–of Manu. The supplicating rishis, being yoga siddhas, knew this through their own enlightened consciousness. And so can we. But the first step toward that is learning, following and embodying Manava Dharma, which is essential to our succesful pursuit of Sri Krishna’s exhortation in the Bhagavad Gita: “Therefore be a yogi” (6:46).

Then the divine Self-existent (Swayambhu), himself indiscernible, (but) making (all) this, the great elements [Mahabhutas] and the rest, discernible, appeared with irresistible (creative) power, dispelling the darkness.

He who can be perceived by the internal organ [antakharana] (alone), who is subtle, indiscernible, and eternal, who contains all created beings and is inconceivable, shone forth of his own (will). (1.6-7)

The appearance of the unseeable became the seen by Its own will. This is not contradictory. No one can see the Absolute by external perception, but since the Absolute is within all beings, sentient and insentient, It can be perceived in our inmost consciousness. This takes place in “the internal organ,” the antahkarana or “internal instrument” consisting of the subtle–astral and causal–bodies. But these bodies must be awakened and made functional through yoga sadhana. All the observances we will encounter in our journey through the Manu Smriti enable the individual’s antakharana to convey this all-embracing vision to us. In a sense they are both the cause and the effect of the individual’s Self-realization.

As at the change of the seasons each season of its own accord assumes its distinctive marks, even so corporeal beings (resume in new births) their (appointed) course of action. (1.30).

Rebirth became in the very beginning the fundamental means for the evolution of the jivas to Self-realization. Reincarnation and karma are the foundation of this process. Perfection in this process which becomes possible only after creation cycles passed in transmigration from an atom of hydrogen to an awakened human being, requires the final, conscious and self-willed process of yoga sadhana. As Yogananda said: “Yoga is the beginning of the end.” So the purpose of the Manu Smriti is fulfilled in the yoga siddha who is established in Self-realization. And it should be studied in this perspective.

But for the sake of the prosperity of the worlds he caused the Brahmana, the Kshatriya, the Vaishya, and the Shudra to proceed from his mouth, his arms, his thighs, and his feet. (1.31)

Manu is referring to the Purusha Shukta, the ninetieth hymn of the tenth book of the Rig Veda. In the list of manifestations of the Parampurusha, the Supreme Purusha [Self], the twelfth verse says: “The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya [Kshatriya] made. His thighs became the Vaishya, from his feet the Shudra was produced.” Later in the Manu Smriti (1.87) we are told: “In order to protect this universe He, the most resplendent one, assigned separate (duties and) occupations to those who sprang from his mouth, arms, thighs, and feet.”

Here we should pause and consider the subject of caste.

Caste is a matter of individual development. It is not determined by birth (caste of the parents), but by the evolutionary (psychological) development of the individual which he brings into this life at his birth. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna outlines it this way:

“Of the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas, as also the Shudras, the duties are distributed according to the qualities of their swabhava.”

Brahmins

“Tranquility, self-restraint, tapasya, purity (cleanliness), patience, uprightness (honesty; sincerity), knowledge, realization (vijnana), belief in God–these are the duties of Brahmins, born of their swabhava” (18:41-42). Later on Manu says: “To Brahmanas he assigned teaching and studying (the Veda), sacrificing for their own benefit and for others, giving and accepting (of alms)” (1.88).

A brahmin is one striving for brahmajnana, so we must cultivate the qualities listed for them assiduously if we really plan to succeed in our spiritual quest. Here they are:

  • Shama is calmness, tranquility, and control of the internal sense organs.
  • Dama is self-control, control of the senses, and restraint.
  • Tapas (tapasya) is austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline; spiritual force.
  • Shaucha is purity and cleanliness, including physical and mental purity. Physical shaucha involves purity of diet–abstinence from meat, fish, eggs, alcohol, nicotine, and any mind-altering drugs.
  • Kshama is forgiveness, patience, and forbearance.
  • Arjava is straightforwardness, honesty, and rectitude.
  • Jnana is knowledge, especially knowledge of (or about) Reality or Brahman, the Absolute.
  • Vijnana is the highest knowledge, beyond mere theoretical knowledge. It is transcendental knowledge or knowing, a high state of spiritual realization in which all is seen as manifestations of Brahman. It is final knowledge of the Self.
  • Astikyam is piety and belief in God.

What is to be noted about these traits is the fact that they are the prerequisites for spiritual life–they are not spiritual life itself, which is something even higher, the state of yogayukta, of continual uniting of the consciousness with God through yoga. It is sad to see that in most religions the things needed for being a beginner are considered the highest attainments.

Most important is the fact that these traits are not artificial or imposed modes of thought and deed, but are a manifestation of the brahmin’s swabhava–his inherent state of mind, his state of deep inner being. A brahmin is not one who acts like a brahmin, but who is a brahmin and therefore acts accordingly.

Kshatriyas

Valor, splendor, steadfastness, skill, not fleeing in battle, generosity and lordliness of spirit are the duties of Kshatriyas, born of their swabhava” (18:43). Manu says: “The Kshatriya he commanded to protect the people, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), and to abstain from attaching himself to sensual pleasures” (1.89). 

These are traits needed by us, too, for as a person passes from lower to higher caste he retains his positive qualities. So we should consider the qualities of all the castes as necessary for us.

  • Sauryam is heroism, valor, and strength.
  • Tejas is radiance and brilliance of mind and spirit.
  • Dhriti is the quality of being steadfast, constant, firm, patient, and endurant. It also means one possessed of the ability to engage in sustained effort.
  • Dakshyam is skill, virtuosity, and dexterity. One who is daksha is expert, intelligent, wise, and able.
  • Apalayanam is not fleeing battle or trying to avoid conflict.
  • Danam is generosity, charity, and a giving disposition, as well as self-sacrifice.
  • Ishwarabhava is a lordly disposition or spirit; nobility and dignity.

All these reveal the swabhava of a kshatriya.

Vaishyas and Shudras

“Agriculture, cow-herding and trade are the duties of the Vaishyas, born of their swabhava, and the Shudras’ duty is doing service, born of their swabhava” (18:44). Manu says: “The Vaishya to tend cattle, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), to trade, to lend money, and to cultivate land. One occupation only the lord prescribed to the Shudra, to serve meekly even these (other) three castes” (1.90-91).

This is quite straightforward. It is interesting that only physical actions are listed, whereas both the brahmins and kshatriyas require many psychological factors. Obviously vaishyas and shudras require ethical principles as much as anyone else. In fact, all that has been said in the previous chapters of the Gita applies to all the castes.

Duty/Karma

“Duty” is the usual translation of karma–actions–and cannot be objected to. But in these verses it also means the actions that will be done by the different castes, impelled by their innate nature–swabhava. In other words, these are the things that will be done, and the qualities revealed, spontaneously by the various castes. Caste is not determined by action, but action is produced by the innate caste-nature, the swabhava. However, in the present day the “caste system” and “caste-ism” based on birth rather than personal character is an indefensible corruption and degeneration–based on ignorance, oppression, and egotism–of the original, authentic teaching and practice of Sanatana Dharma. The scriptures of Hinduism bear this out, speaking of people’s caste being determined by their character, and even telling of those who moved from one caste to another in a single life because of their personal development. For example, the philosopher-king Janaka, a kshatriya, in time was recognized as a brahmin.

Psychologically, Shudras are those who are servants to materiality and ignorance, Vaishyas are those who have an intellectual understanding of the possibility of their betterment, Kshatriyas are those who, being close to apprehension of the Self, are able to intuit the truth of the Self while aware of their limitation, and Brahmins are those who see and know the Self. This is the correct understanding of the entire matter. There is no doubt that caste is a matter of ascension in evolution of consciousness and personal life and personality.

The word translated “caste” is varna–color. Krishna says: Chaturvarnyam maya srishtam–“The four castes [colors] were created [brought forth] by me.” Krishna is saying that the Supreme Spirit has brought forth into manifestation human beings of a fourfold kind. And this Supreme Lord has not “created” human beings as four types, but has manifested them guna karma vibhagashah–“according to the sharing of their guna and karma.” That is, all human beings fall into four very broad categories according to the evolutionary level of their development: according to the quality (guna) of the energies of which their subtle and gross bodies are formed, and according to the karmas which they have been born to fulfill. The “color” of each caste is either symbolic or a matter of the dominant color that can be clairvoyantly perceived in their aura. In either case, our caste is determined solely by the innate vibratory qualities present within us. No one assigns us a caste, though others may be able to perceive it, perhaps better than we do.

So what are the “colors” of the four castes? In the dharmashastras dealing with the gurukula, the place where Indians were originally educated, we find colors assigned to the clothing of the four castes. (Notice that all four castes were going to attend the school, not just some “higher” castes.) White was the color of shudras; yellow the color of vaishyas; red the color of kshatriyas, and orange the color of brahmins.

White is actually not a color, but all colors combined. This would be appropriate for shudras, since they were involved in the duties of all the castes. It also expresses their social fluidity, for originally the shudras were the most frequently transferred into other castes.

Yellow is the auric color of intelligence and initiative–an essential trait for agriculturalists, artisans, merchants, and those that comprise the vaishya caste.

Red is the color of dynamic power, discipline and assertiveness, so it naturally fits the kshatriyas, the warrior-ruler caste.

Orange (gerua) is a combination of yellow and red, for brahmins must have the mental acumen and vigorous personal energies of the vaishyas and kshatriyas combined with a dominant spiritual consciousness. Fire is the essence of the original sacred rites of India, so its orange color represents spiritual consciousness and its transmuting powers.

It is interesting that all four colors are to be found in levels of the Indian monastic life. The standard color of full sannyas is appropriately orange, for it is the color of the crematory fire in which the earthly body is consumed, and the sannyasi’s aim is to reduce to ashes all that is earthly within himself by means of the fire of spiritual realization.

It is essential to understand that caste has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s livelihood, though innate caste-qualities will certainly influence what we will gravitate to as our profession. Consequently, the general and natural situation was for shudras to be the servant class–those who assisted the three other castes in their respective functions; vaishyas to be the artisan/merchant class (which included agriculture); kshatriyas to be the warrior/ruling class (which included law enforcement); and brahmins to be the teaching/priestly class (this included the making of laws and magisterial duties).

The Vaishya, Kshatriya and Brahmin castes were called dwijas, “the twice-born” because they were considered to have undergone a spiritual birth when they were initiated into the Gayatri mantra and the spiritual rites of Vedic religion, though they are now considered the practice of Brahmins alone–another corruption and degeneration.

All castes had their function that was essential to society. All were respected for their skills and for the benefits they provided for all in common. It is extremely necessary for us to see that the shudras were not half slaves at the bottom of society in mere servitude. Certainly some were in domestic service, but many–if not most–were found at the side of the other classes to help them in their work.

The castes went through life side-by-side, not in a four-level social stack, one higher than another. All four castes were considered spiritually equal. A shudra following his swadharma was the spiritual equal of a brahmin following his swadharma.

The idea of outcastes who would be relegated to the work everyone else was considered too superior to do, was absolutely unknown. The only “outcastes” practically speaking were criminals doing voluntary penance outside the context of normal society, and they would be reinstated once their penance had been completed. The outcastes of today are the descendants of incorrigibles who refused to observe the penances (not punishments) imposed on them by the brahmin judges and instead took to a wild and wandering life that often included crime.

Naturally, those in in the thousand-years’ domination under the Moslems (seven hundred years) and Christians (three hundred years) who adopted Islam and Christianity through coercion or bribery were considered outcastes by their own choice.

In modern times certain very traditional institutions such as the Arya Samaj provide the means for these people to be reinstated into normal Hindu society if they desire. In the last century Pandit Anandapriya of the Arya Samaj in Baroda enabled over half a million of these and other estranged groups to return to traditional Hinduism. Vishwanath Brahmachari of Bombay (Galgoan) also returned many “no-castes” to Hinduism by giving them a caste status based on guna and karma. Like the Arya Samaj, he also enabled many non-Indians to also adopt Sanatana Dharma in the fullest traditional manner, assigning them a caste, as well.

The gurukula

In primeval Indian society, the male children were sent at an early age to live in a gurukula, the home of a teacher, until reaching adulthood. The vastly comprehensive education in a gurukula could last from fifteen to twenty years. At the end of his education, the young man returned to his parents, was married, and established his own household. By that time it was necessary that his caste be known so he could fulfill his caste duties. The gurukula was the place where his caste was determined by careful observation on the part of one or more teachers. Only after careful analysis of his personality was his caste determined.

Although there are many progressive educational institutions in India that are based on a spiritual viewpoint, it was only in the schools of Swami (later Paramhansa) Yogananda Giri that the ancient gurukula system was revived in its fullness. Yogananda drew up a Psychological Chart for the use of the teachers in his schools. Through the years each student was observed by those teachers and was finally classified according to his guna and karma, just as it had been done thousands of years before. This was something absolutely extraordinary and revolutionary, and even today is hardly recognized for what it is (was). If he had not come to America, who can say what modern Hinduism might have become through Yogananda’s influence.

Personal meaning

For us living in the West in the twenty-first century, caste has meaning for us since knowing the character of our guna and karma is part of the knowledge that can lead to Self-knowledge. Although it may be a purely personal matter, it is good for us to know what our caste is, and live our lives accordingly.

In reality, each one of us is a kingdom, a “nation” to ourselves, and all four castes can be found within our psychological makeup. There are times when we must be shudras, others when we must be vaishyas, and so on. When there is “caste mixture”–that is, when in one aspect of our life we live according to a manner inappropriate to it–great harm can result. For example, in religion we must not be vaishyas, turning it into a business, nor must we be kshatriyas, trying to use it to coerce others to accept our spiritual ideas. Instead we must be brahmins–simple and self-contained, oriented only toward our spiritual development, making our religion truly a matter of consciousness, free from materiality. On the other hand, in practical (including economic) matters we must not be materially indifferent brahmins or aggressive kshatriyas, but worthy vaishyas. When considering principles of personal conduct or dealing with negativity, we must be valiant kshatriyas, giving no thought to economic gain or loss, or conciliatory compromises.

The subject of caste merits our attention and application as sadhakas. For caste duty is more than social, it is the way to hasten and facilitate our endeavors in personal evolution.

Back to the Manu Smriti.

Dividing his own body, the Lord became half male and half female; with that (female) he produced Viraj. But know me, O most holy among the twice-born, to be the creator of this whole (world), whom that male [purusha], Viraj, himself produced, having performed austerities. (1.32-33)

The basis of relative existence is duality. God and the divine Self in all sentient beings are non-dual. But for sentient beings to experience relativity and evolve within it, duality is necessary, even if only temporary. Therefore God had to “become” dual–at least in the creative Will-Thought that is projected as creation. Nothing exists in relativity but things that are both positive-active and negative-passive in polarity. Everything must have a counterpart to exist. It is posited that every star in the universe has a counterpart star–otherwise it could not exist in time/space. God is both masculine and feminine, male and female. A religion that does not hold this principle produces an imbalance in its adherents, for viable religion affects the whole person which embodies this inherent duality.

There is a hierarchical chain of manifestation in the realm of relativity. The original self-born being in relativity was Viraj. Viraj is defined as: “The macrocosm; the manifested universe; the world man–the masculine potency in nature in contradistinction to the feminine potency.” Related to this are the two terms Virat/Virat Rupa and Viratpurusha. Virat/Virat Rupa is the Macrocosm; the cosmic form of the Self as the cause of the gross world; the all-pervading Spirit in the form of the universe. Viratpurusha is the deity presiding over the universe; the cosmic or universal aspect of the deity.

Next in the Manu Smriti are sixteen verses that list many of the things created/manifested by Viraj, saying in conclusion:

These, which are surrounded by multiform Darkness [Tamas], the result of their acts (in former existences), possess internal consciousness and experience pleasure and pain. [And] the (various) conditions in this always terrible and constantly changing circle of births and deaths to which created beings are subject. (1.49-50)

From highest to lowest, those sentient beings who are subject to constant rebirth in the entire range of manifested being–and as a result are overwhelmed by the experiences which draw their awareness outward from their true Self–possess a witnessing (internal) consciousness which experiences pleasure and pain alternately and incessantly, even though the Self within all sentient beings is by nature peace and joy (ananda). This condition is an age-long nightmare from which they must in time consciously seek to awaken. Until they awaken the misery goes on, causing them to think it is their true nature and therefore they are helpless in stopping it. This is a terrible picture; and we are all in it right now.

But God as Viraj is in it, too! Manu continues:

When he whose power is incomprehensible had thus produced the universe and men, he disappeared in himself, repeatedly suppressing one period by means of the other. (1.51)

This is, having gone through many expansions and transmutations in order to project the countless levels of relative existence, he withdraws from them one by one back into his original state–although he is immutable and unchanging! As I have often said to people regarding the adoption of Sanatana Dharma: If you can’t think in two directions at once you won’t manage! Therefore it can be symbolically said:

When that divine one wakes, then this world stirs; when he slumbers tranquilly, then the universe sinks to sleep. But when he reposes in calm sleep, the corporeal beings whose nature is action, desist from their actions and mind becomes inert. When they are absorbed all at once in that great soul, then he who is the soul of all beings sweetly slumbers, free from all care and occupation. Thus he, the imperishable one, by (alternately) waking and slumbering, incessantly revivifies and destroys this whole movable and immovable (creation). (1.53-54, 57)

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So we know from Sir Isaac Newton. And it is true throughout all modes of existence. So since God sends for the creation there must be a withdrawal of creation. But why is there not just one projection and withdrawal? God does not need a rest, however anthropomorphic the above two verses may be. But the individual beings within the creation do, for they “experience pleasure and pain. [And] the (various) conditions in this always terrible and constantly changing circle of births and deaths to which created beings are subject.” They need a rest psychologically and an assimilation of their experiences to enable them to emerge into the next creation ready for more growth and development. This is essential for relative, conditioned beings, just as all such beings need sleep–the cycle of day and night being miniature creations/dissolutions.

When, being clothed with subtle particles [energies], it enters into vegetable or animal seed, it then assumes, united (with the subtle body), a (new) corporeal frame. (1.56)

Thus the individual jiva passes from life-form to life-form again and again in the material universe until it become evolved enough to no longer need physical embodiment and continues to evolved through the astral and causal worlds until it is freed from the need for any vehicle to inhabit. In that state it can remain bodiless or become embodied at will. Such liberated siddhas can return as avatars to any lower world and there help the jivas in their upward evolution.

Mind, impelled by (Brahman’s) desire to create, performs the work of creation by modifying itself, thence ether is produced; they declare that sound is the quality of the latter.

But from ether, modifying itself, springs the pure, powerful wind, the vehicle of all perfumes; that is held to possess the quality of touch.

Next from wind modifying itself, proceeds the brilliant light, which illuminates and dispels darkness; that is declared to possess the quality of color;

And from light, modifying itself, (is produced) water, possessing the quality of taste, from water earth which has the quality of smell; such is the creation in the beginning. (1.75-78)

It says in the Bible that humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27, 5:3, 9:26. II Corinthians 4:4). This is implied here in the Manu Smriti. For both the universe and the individual human being come into manifestation in this order which is totally a matter of mind and will.

First the primeval pattern is produced in the element (tattwa) ether (akasha), the basic “substance” of relative manifestation. This is the etheric body of both the universe and the human being, known as the anandamaya kosha (body or level) which is the seat of the will, and whose characteristic faculty-power is sound–shabda.

Next appears–or is modified from ether–the element of air (vayu), whose characteristic faculty-power is the sense of touch, and is the jnanamaya kosha.

Next appears the element of fire (agni), whose characteristic faculty-power is the sense of sight, and is the manomaya kosha.

Next appears the element of water (apah), whose characteristic faculty-power is the sense of taste, and is the pranamaya kosha.

Next, and last, appears the element of earth (prithvi), whose characteristic faculty-power is the sense of smell, and is the annamaya kosha. This is the level of gross, atomic matter. The fire and water bodies are formed of astral energies, and the etheric body is formed of causal energies.

Although the elemental bodies and the basic elements can be thought of as concentric circles, one above the other, from earth to ether, they actually pervade and penetrate one another. Thus the entire human being consists of atomic, astral and causal energies interacting with one another and reflecting one another. It is complex–as is all relative existence. The only simple, unitary thing is spirit, which is the source of all these while remaining simultaneously beyond them, pervading them and manifesting as them. This is the primal condition or state which manifest as the three gunas: Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. One and many simultaneously.

Now we come to the subject of the Yugas, the ages through which the world passes and which are reflected in the general state of consciousness and evolution of the human race. This is a very complex matter involving mathematical calculations and is virtually not understood in either East or West. Anyway, here is what Manu has to say about the yugas and their character is relation to Dharma.

In the Krita (Satya) age (Yuga) Dharma is four-footed and entire, and (so is) Truth; nor does any gain accrue to men by unrighteousness. (1.81)

In Satya Yuga the general level of human consciousness is at its full potential level. Dharma is perfectly understood and followed by nearly all people. The truth of all things, physical, mental and spiritual is known by them. Because of the vibration of the earth itself and the total consciousness of the populace it is impossible to make any gain by wrongdoing in any form. It is immediately detected and people cannot be deceived. So gain by unrighteousness is literally impossible. This condition is truly heaven on earth.

In the other (three ages), by reason of (unjust) gains (agama), Dharma is deprived successively of one foot, and through (the prevalence of) theft, falsehood, and fraud the merit (gained by men) is diminished by one fourth (in each). (1.82)

Dharma is at its fullest in the Satya Yuga, three-fourths in the Treta Yuga, one-half in the Dwapara Yuga, and only one fourth in the Kali Yuga.

(Men are) free from disease, accomplish all their aims, and live four hundred years in the Krita age, but in the Treta and (in each of) the succeeding (ages) their life is lessened by one quarter. (1.83)

The ideal lifespan in the Satya Yuga is four hundred years; in the Treta Yuga, three hundred years; in the Dwapara Yuga, two hundred years; and in the Kali Yuga one hundred years.

The life of mortals, mentioned in the Veda, the desired results of sacrificial rites and the (supernatural) power of embodied (spirits) are fruits proportioned among men according to (the character of) the age.

One set of duties (is prescribed) for men in the Krita age, different ones in the Treta and in the Dwapara, and (again) another (set) in the Kali, in a proportion as (those) ages decrease in length.

In the Krita age the chief (virtue) is declared to be (the performance of) austerities, in the Treta (divine) knowledge, in the Dwapara (the performance of) sacrifices, in the Kali liberality [charity] alone. (1.84-86)

This should be pondered. In the matter of personal dharma we must realize that individuals are in various states of consciousness which can be considered as corresponding to the four levels of human development, the four castes, implying that we all pass through four “ages” or “yugas.” These are four broad classifications or levels of personal evolution: one-fourth, one half, three-fourths and four-fourths or complete.

A Shudra is only developed to one fourth of human potential; a Vaishya to one half; a Kshatriya to three-fourths; and a Brahmin is complete in development: four-fourths. In the Kali Yuga most humans are at the Shudra level; in the Dwapara Yuga at the Vaishya level; in the Treta Yuga at the Kshatriya level; and in the Satya Yuga at the Brahmin level. According to one’s psychological “caste” is his personal dharma determined as indicated in these verses.

In this [Manu Smriti] the sacred law has been fully stated as well as the good and bad qualities of (human) actions and the immemorial rule of conduct, (to be followed) by all the four castes (varna).

The rule of conduct is transcendent law, whether it be taught in the revealed texts or in the sacred tradition; hence a twice-born man [dwija: any member of the three upper castes that has received the sacred thread (yajnopavita)] who possesses regard for himself, should be always careful to (follow) it.

The sages who saw that the sacred law is thus grounded on the rule of conduct, have taken good conduct to be the most excellent root of all austerity [tapasya]. (1.107-108, 110)

From this last verse we see that tapasya–spiritual practice, especially yoga sadhana–is impossible without the foundation of right conduct, which even Buddha declared is part of the Noble (Aryan) Path. For the yogi, good conduct is the strict observance of the rules of yama and niyama.

Yama is Restraint; the five Don’ts of Yoga:

1) ahimsa–non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness;
2) satya–truthfulness, honesty;
3) asteya–non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness;
4) brahmacharya–continence;
5) aparigraha–non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness.

Niyama is Observance; the five Do’s of Yoga:

1) Shaucha: purity, cleanliness;
2) Santosha: contentment, peacefulness;
3) Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline;
4) Swadhyaya: self-study, spiritual study;
5) Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God.

Only those who follow these principles can engage in effective spiritual practice–the yoga life.

A wise man should strive to restrain his organs (indriyas) which run wild among alluring sensual objects, like a charioteer his horses.

Those eleven organs which former sages have named, I will properly (and) precisely enumerate in due order:

The ear, the skin, the eyes, the tongue, and the nose as the fifth, the anus, the organ of generation, hands and feet, and the (organ of) speech, named as the tenth.

Five of them, the ear and the rest according to their order, they call organs of sense, and five of them, the anus and the rest, organs of action.

Know that the internal organ (manas) is the eleventh, which by its quality belongs to both (sets); when that has been subdued, both those sets of five have been conquered.

Through the attachment of his organs (to sensual pleasure) a man doubtlessly will incur guilt; but if he keep them under complete control, he will obtain success (in gaining all his aims). (2.88-93)

The main point of these verses is that the mind, the manas, is the key to the purification and mastery of the indriyas. The indriyas are like wild, untamed animals because of the countless number of lives each one of us has lived in animal forms and shaped our minds accordingly, as well as the countless number of human lives we have lived when the habits and states of consciousness inherited from animal incarnations were given free reign without question as normal–even considered human.

Simple, externalized modification of thought and behavior proves helpless against this self-tyranny. The power necessary to work any lasting change and ascension to higher consciousness and life is only one: the power of the ever-free Self, the Atman–the essence, the essential nature of each sentient being. And there is only one means to awaken and function as the Self: yoga sadhana. All the self-help books, teachings and endeavors must fail, for they cannot reveal or establish us in Atmajnana, direct knowledge of the Self, and Atmabhava, awareness of the Self: “I Am The Self.” Yoga, on the other hand, is the direct and unfailing way to attain this knowledge and awareness and be permanently established in it. For only knowledge-experience of the Self bestows liberation (moksha) from ignorance and bondage.

In the Bhagavad Gita we are told: “Triple is the gate destructive of the Self: desire [kama], anger [krodha] and greed [lobha]. Therefore one should abandon (renounce) these three” (16:21). The root of these three is kama, desire, for thwarted desire makes us angry and greedily resolved to fulfil our desire. Since is this so, Manu assures us:

Desire is never extinguished by the enjoyment of desired objects; it only grows stronger like a fire (fed) with clarified butter (ghee). (2.94)

An honest person will admit that this is the truth. Throwing more sensuality or materiality into the fire of desire can only make it stronger and therefore more destructive and hard for us to control and eliminate. For elimination is the only acceptable solution. Not Slow, but Stop.

If one man should obtain all those (sensual enjoyments) and another should renounce them all, the renunciation of all pleasure is far better than the attainment of them. (2.95)

Experience proves this, though most people do not want to accept it. They think they choose pleasure, but really they choose pain because that is the inevitable result of sensual pleasure. “Truly, pleasures born of contact [with the senses] are wombs of pain, since they have a beginning and an end. The wise man is not satisfied (content) with them.

“He whose Self is unattached to external contacts, who finds happiness in the Self, whose Self is united to Brahman by yoga, reaches imperishable happiness.

“He who is able to endure here on earth, before liberation from the body, the agitation that arises from desire and anger is steadfast, a happy man.

“He whose happiness is within, whose delight is within, whose illumination is within: that yogi, identical in being with Brahman, attains Brahmanirvana.

“The seers whose evils have been annihilated, whose doubts have been dispelled, whose inner being is mastered, who rejoice in the welfare of all beings, attain Brahmanirvana.

“Released from desire and anger, with thoughts controlled, those ascetics who know the Self find very near [to them] the bliss of Brahmanirvana.

“Excluding outside contacts, turning up the eyes toward the two brows, equalizing the inhalation and exhalation moving within the nostrils,

“With his senses, mind and intellect controlled, with liberation as his highest aim, free from desire, fear, and anger: such a one is forever free.

“Let this dissolution of union with pain be known (understood) as yoga. This yoga is to be practiced with determination (absence of doubt), with an assured (positive; optimistic) mind.” (Bhagavad Gita 5:21-28; 6:23)

Those (organs) which are strongly attached to sensual pleasures, cannot so effectually be restrained by abstinence (from enjoyments) as by a constant (pursuit of true) knowledge. (2.96)

“The abstinent run away from what they desire but carry their desires with them: when a man enters Reality, he leaves his desires behind him” (Bhagavad Gita 2:59). Human beings are rational creatures, though through ignorance a lot of irrational and foolish things are done by them. Simply not doing something does not eliminate the affinity or attraction for it. But insight into its nature can eliminate affinity and attraction. When we were children we wanted and liked things that as we matured we completely lost interest in or considered silly and worthless. True knowledge consists of two things: the way to transformation and the result of that transformation. Since the highest reality is the Paramatman and our true Self, the jivatman, yoga sadhana is the only way to transformation and true knowledge. “Therefore be a yogi” (Bhagavad Gita 6:46).

Neither (the study of) the Vedas, nor liberality, nor sacrifices, nor any (self-imposed) restraint, nor austerities, ever procure the attainment (of rewards) to a man whose heart is contaminated (by sensuality). (2.97)

This is true, but how can the materialistic, sensual contamination be eliminated? The answer has just been given: “When a man enters Reality, he leaves his desires behind him” (Bhagavad Gita 2:59) in the fulfillment that comes only by establishment in the consciousness that is the Self. Addiction is replaced with indifference which is freedom from materialistic, sensual enslavement.

That man may be considered to have (really) subdued his organs, who on hearing and touching and seeing, on tasting and smelling (anything) neither rejoices nor repines. (2.98)

“The enlightened, the Brahman-abiding, calm-hearted, unbewildered, is neither elated by the pleasant nor saddened by the unpleasant” (Bhagavad Gita 5:20). Self-realization is the only way to total peace within and without.

But when one among all the organs slips away (from control), thereby (man’s) wisdom slips away from him, even as the water (flows) through the one (open) foot of a (water-carrier’s) skin. If he keeps all the (ten) organs as well as the mind in subjection, he may gain all his aims. (2.99-100)

This is essential knowledge. Yoga is the way when supported by complete and constant observance of yama and niyama.

Unless one be asked, one must not explain (anything) to anybody, nor (must one answer) a person who asks improperly; let a wise man, though he knows (the answer), behave among men as (if he were) an idiot. (2.110)

Unless one be asked, one must not explain (anything) to anybody. This is the way of the true, original yogis, the Nath Yogis, as is seen in Light of Soham. A Nath Yogi teacher or sadhaka will never volunteer or offer his knowledge unless asked. Nor will he reveal his knowledge in the presence of those who have not sought his counsel. He will only speak in private about sadhana to genuine seekers.

Nor (must one answer) a person who asks improperly. Someone who asks offhandedly without real interest or aspiration, or asks in a challenging or argumentative manner, or asks in a disrespectful, aggressively skeptical or mocking attitude is asking improperly and should not be told anything.

Let a wise man, though he knows (the answer), behave among men as (if he were) an idiot. Even if remaining silent causes others to consider him ignorant, incompetent or a fool, the yogi still should say nothing at all. Nor should he make some response to protect his ego such as, “I am not allowed to tell,” “I may not speak of this,” or “I do not wish to speak of this,” so others will think he has knowledge but chooses to be silent or is forbidden by some hidden tradition or “masters” from speaking freely.

In such (soil) sacred knowledge must not be sown, just as good seed (must) not (be thrown) on barren land. A teacher of wisdom should rather die with his knowledge than sow it in barren soil.

Sacred Learning approached a Brahmana (teacher) and said to him: I am thy treasure, preserve me, deliver me not to a scorner; so (preserved) I shall become supremely strong. But deliver me, as to the keeper of your treasure, to one whom you shall know to be pure, of subdued senses, chaste and attentive. (2.112-115)

This is certainly clear!

He who desires happiness must strive after a perfectly contented disposition and control himself; for happiness has contentment for its root, the root of unhappiness is the contrary (disposition). (4.12)

We think that happiness results from having a pleasant experience or getting something we like. But here Manu shows us that it is our fundamental state of mind and outlook–our bhava–that determines happiness. The first step is self-control, self-discipline. Then we can become aware of our inmost being, our Self, which is satchitananda. The root of unhappiness is unawareness of the Self. Sadhana is the means to establish our consciousness in the reality of the Self.

Let him not, out of desire (for enjoyments), attach himself to any sensual pleasures, and let him carefully obviate an excessive attachment to them, by (reflecting on their worthlessness in) his heart. (4.16)

Desire for and attachment to the false distractions of the senses immerse us in material experience and prevent the inner experience of the Self. By intelligent analysis of their ultimate pain and misery we enable ourselves to turn from them and become through sadhana able to seek and find the inner happiness that is the very nature of the Self.

Unrighteousness, practiced in this world, does not at once produce its fruit, like a cow; but, advancing slowly, it cuts off the roots of him who committed it. (4.172)

This is the absolute truth. Wrong thought, desire and action will inevitably destroy us by cutting us of from the very root of our being: the Self. Even more, they push us towards the mirage of false goals which end in the desolation of misery and emptiness.

Giving no pain to any creature, let him slowly accumulate spiritual merit, for the sake (of acquiring) a companion to the next world, just as the white ant (gradually raises its) hill.

For in the next world neither father, nor mother, nor wife, nor sons, nor relations stay to be his companions; spiritual merit alone remains (with him).

Single is each being born; single it dies; single it enjoys (the reward of its) virtue; single (it suffers the retribution of its) sin.

Leaving the dead body on the ground like a log of wood, or a clod of earth, the relatives depart with averted faces; but spiritual merit follows the (soul).

Let him therefore always slowly accumulate spiritual merit, in order (that it may be his) companion (after death); for with merit as his companion he will traverse a gloom difficult to traverse.

(That companion) speedily conducts the man who is devoted to duty and effaces his sins by austerities, to the next world, radiant and clothed with an ethereal body. (4.238-243)

Daily the Theravada Buddhist monks recite: “I have nothing but my actions; I shall never have anything but my actions.” That is true of all human beings: we have only our karmas–both actions and the reactions to those actions. That alone goes with us after death. Therefore spiritual merit (punya) in the form of positive karma should be our primary concern in life along with sadhana, for sadhana creates the highest form of karma–spiritual karma.

We often let our attachment or fear of others and their reactions determine our actions, but this is the worst folly. We must live every moment in the awareness of our own responsibilities and destiny, for they alone will be with us throughout our life and beyond. Others come and go in our lives, but we are with ourselves forever. Awareness of the reality and consequence of our actions and the reactions to them in the form of karmas and samskaras should be always in our minds as we move through the experiences of this life.

Spiritual merit is accumulated steadily by steady self-discipline and sadhana. Those devoted to right conduct and who purify themselves daily by spiritual practice–especially meditation-will rise into higher realms of existence through the presence of right and truth in their subtle bodies.

Let him who desires to raise himself ever form connexions with the most excellent (men), and shun all low ones.

A Brahmana who always connects himself with the most excellent (ones), and shuns all inferior ones, (himself) becomes most distinguished; by an opposite conduct he becomes a Shudra.

He who is persevering, gentle, (and) patient, shuns the company of men of cruel conduct, and does no injury (to living creatures), gains, if he constantly lives in that manner, by controlling his organs and by liberality, heavenly bliss. (4.244-246)

Each human being possesses a divine Self. But we are not just “naked” spirits; we are clothed in subtle bodies which are shaped by all our past desires, thoughts and deeds. And they vary from very low to very high, from completely veiling the consciousness of the Self to revealing the consciousness of our Self. And they are responsive to external influences. Yogananda often said, “Company is greater than will power.” Yogis should be very careful about the company they keep, because they are more sensitive to subtle psychic influences emanating from other people. I have seen very ethical and conscientious people turned into coarse and vulgar people because they fell into evil company and became like those they associated with. Four of them were aspiring yogis whom I met in India. When I next met them here in America, I literally did not recognize them, they were so completely altered physically and mentally by the negative conditions they had fallen into. It was a horrible and frightening thing to see. As Saint Peter wrote, “Beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness” (II Peter 3:17).

Keeping only good association is a matter of spiritual survival.

Continuing this subject, some verses later Manu advises the yogi:

Alone let him constantly meditate in solitude on that which is salutary for his soul; for he who meditates in solitude attains supreme bliss. (4.258)

The yogi should not be antisocial, but he should to some degree be non-social–not mixing constantly with those who have no spiritual aspirations and who consider such aspirations worthless and foolish–even abnormal and harmful. This is why the Bhagavad Gita describes a yogi as “remaining in solitude, alone [6:10],…frequenting (living in) secluded places, having distaste for crowds of people (association with many people) 13:10],… dwelling in (frequenting) a solitary place,… constantly devoted to yoga meditation (dhyana yoga), taking refuge in vairagya” (18:52).

The Lord of creatures (Prajapati) created this whole (world to be) the sustenance of the vital spirit; both the immovable and the movable (creation is) the food of the vital spirit. (5.28)

This is not speaking only of material food that is eaten by the body, but by experiences which shape the mind and heart. Our subtle bodies can pick up the magnetism and behavior of the objects and perceptions of this world. Thus we must be careful what we “eat” through the senses and our actions in this world. The Self is unchangeable and ever perfect, but our subtle bodies are not. And they can absorb harmful, negative vibrations and energies through our physical senses and our external actions.

We, too, can contribute to the destructive vibrations of the world by both our own wrong conduct and our assent to others’ wrong conduct. Therefore Manu declares:

He who injures harmless beings from a wish to (give) himself pleasure, never finds happiness, neither living nor dead.

This covers a lot of territory, from killing animals to eat their flesh or wear their skins (this includes the use of leather) to making part of their bodies into medicine. To enslave an animal for any purpose is also prohibited by Manu. (5.45)

He who does not seek to cause the sufferings of bonds and death to living creatures, (but) desires the good of all (beings), obtains endless bliss.

He who does not injure any (creature) attains without an effort what he thinks of, what he undertakes, and what he fixes his mind on. (5.46-47)

This indicates that siddhi for the attainment of good, both internal and external, comes to him who is perfect in ahimsa–harmlessness.

Logically, we come to the subject of harmlessness in diet.

Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to (the attainment of) heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun (the use of) meat.

Having well considered the (disgusting) origin of flesh and the (cruelty of) fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let him entirely abstain from eating flesh.

He who does not eat meat like a Pishacha, becomes dear to men, and will not be tormented by diseases. (5.48-50)

A pishacha is a vampiristic spirit or demon, sometimes called “a blood drinker,” though it really depletes its victims of prana, the life force. Those who eat meat are the equivalents of a pishacha, according to Manu.

The result of eating meat given by Manu is interesting. He indicates that violence in word and deed are fostered by the eating of meat. This is sensible, since according to the Chandogya Upanishad the food we eat becomes our mental energy. So the energy of an animal will produce the mind of that animal–not a happy prospect for anyone who values the human status.

The result of a vegetarian diet is absence of disease, whereas meat-eating is poisonous in nature and produces misery in mind and body. Read Diet For a New America by John Robbins and What’s Wrong with Eating Meat? by Vistara [Barbara] Parham. But most important: try it out for yourself.

He who permits (the slaughter of an animal), he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells (meat), he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, (must all be considered as) the slayers (of the animal).

There is no greater sinner than that (man) who seeks to increase (the bulk of) his own flesh by the flesh of other (beings). (5.51-52)

No honest person can get around this, much less a serious yogi.

By subsisting on pure fruit and roots, and by eating food fit for ascetics (in the forest), one does not gain (so great) a reward as by entirely avoiding (the use of) flesh. (5.54)

This is certainly an incentive to be an absolute vegetarian.

The wise declare that the real meaning of the word flesh (mam-sah) is “me, then you” in the next life. (5.55)

Whether this means the animal will devour its eater in the next life of the astral world (astral hell) or in a future incarnation on earth, both consequences are gruesome and certainly to be avoided. A wise person takes to a vegetarian diet joined with intense sadhana and dissolves his carnivore karma here and now.

The body is cleansed by water, the internal organ is purified by truthfulness, the individual soul by sacred learning and austerities (tapasya), the intellect by (true) knowledge. (5.109)

There are two forms of true knowledge: the knowledge gained by reading and understanding the scriptures and the teachings of the enlightened, and the knowledge of the Self: “that innermost secret: knowledge of God which is nearer than knowing, open vision direct and instant” (Bhagavad Gita 9:1), that comes only from perfection (siddhi) in yoga sadhana.

By the restraint of his senses, by the destruction of love (raga) and hatred (dwesha), and by the abstention from injuring the creatures (ahimsa), a person becomes fit for immortality.

This does not say that the mere absence of raga, dwesha and ahimsa makes one immortal, but that a person cannot successfully pursue liberation (moksha) unless these obstacles to immortality are totally removed. (6.60)

By deep meditation let him recognize the subtle nature of the supreme Soul, and its presence in all organisms, both the highest and the lowest. (6.65)

Profound yoga meditation is the sole means for realization of the Paramatman (Supreme Soul) and awareness of Its presence in all things.

When by the disposition (of his heart) he becomes indifferent to all objects, he obtains eternal happiness both in this world and after death.

He who has in this manner gradually given up all attachments and is freed from all the pairs (of opposites), reposes in Brahman alone.

All that has been declared (above) depends on meditation; for he who is not proficient in the knowledge of that which refers to the Soul (Atman/Self) reaps not the full reward of the performance of rites. (6.80-82)

When through sadhana he truly sees the inmost nature of all things as well as his Self, he becomes indifferent to the mere appearance of things and knows the Reality that is behind and within all. The Bhagavad Gita describes such a yogi in this way:

“He must be forgiving, ever-contented, self-controlled, united constantly with me in his meditation. His resolve must be unshakable. He must be dedicated to me in intellect and in mind. Such a devotee is dear to me.

“He neither molests his fellow men, nor allows himself to become disturbed by the world. He is no longer swayed by joy and envy, anxiety and fear. Therefore he is dear to me.

“He is pure, and independent of the body’s desire. He is able to deal with the unexpected: prepared for everything, unperturbed by anything. He is neither vain nor anxious about the results of his actions. Such a devotee is dear to me.

“He does not desire or rejoice in what is pleasant. He does not dread what is unpleasant, or grieve over it. He remains unmoved by good or evil fortune. Such a devotee is dear to me.

“His attitude is the same toward friend and foe. He is indifferent to honor and insult, heat and cold, pleasure and pain. He is free from attachment.

“He values praise and blame equally. He can control his speech. He is content with whatever he gets. His home is everywhere and nowhere. His mind is fixed upon me, and his heart is full of devotion. He is dear to me (Bhagavad Gita 12:14-19).

Contentment, forgiveness, self-control, abstention from unrighteously appropriating anything, purification, control of the organs (indriyas), wisdom, knowledge (of the supreme Soul), truthfulness, and abstention from anger, (form) the tenfold law.

This is clear and should be a checklist for those who honestly examine themselves to determine if they are on the right path to the Eternal. (6.92)

Karmic reaction alone governs all created beings, karmic reaction alone protects them, karmic reaction watches over them while they sleep; the wise declare karmic reaction (to be identical with) the law. (7.18)

Karma is the basic force behind all our experiences in this world. All sentient beings are subject to it, from the lowest evolved beings to the highest evolved beings. Obviously, the more complex the organism, the more complex the karma will be. Because of our negativity and inner (usually unadmitted and ignored) guilt karma is a bugaboo for many, a reason to fear and be apprehensive about.

But Buddha told the truth, as contrasted with the simplistic silliness that usually prevails in Hinduism and Buddhism today. Buddha taught that karma is not some divine police action on the part of the universe or some abstract metaphysical force external to us that can control our life. Rather: KARMA IS SOLELY IN THE MIND–in our consciousness. Therefore when our mind is purified and clarified, our karma is expunged to some degree and when our consciousness is centered in the Self we no longer have any karma at all because the Self is beyond karma.

This is why when some people came to Yogananda and made complaints about others he walked out saying quietly, “Change yourselves.” It is the same with our karma. If we change ourselves our karma is changed, and if we eliminate our ignorance through meditation our karma evaporates like the mirage it actually is. You do not have to “work out” your karma.

Consider how mistakenly inconsistent it is to speak about delusion and illusion and even the fundamental unreality of the world and the ego, and then to look upon karma as a basic and inescapable reality!

Notice that Manu says that karmic reaction governs, protects and fosters us. So it is positive for the positive, and sadhana is the way of genuine, positive change.

(On a comparison) between vice (apunya) and death, vice is declared to be more pernicious; a vicious man sinks to the nethermost (hell), he who dies, free from vice, ascends to heaven. (7.53)

Apunya means non-meritorious acts, unvirtuous (sinful) deeds. Such deeds are themselves a kind of death because they darken and degrade the mind and produce negative karmas, which result in negative conditions both after death and in future lives.

The Self (Atman) itself is the witness of the Self, and the Self is the refuge of the Self; despise not your own Self, the supreme witness of men. (8.84)

This is why the intelligent yogi knows that the Self is the beginning and end of the whole matter. His Self is always with him and is the matrix around which his entire life is lived. It is the karma created by his Self which brings him into this world and out of world. When his Self departs from this world it departs alone and returns alone. The Self has lived in many bodies that have all fallen away and disintegrated. And each time the Self alone remained because it alone is the reality of his being. Consequently the wise yogi knows that the only real course open to him is the path to Self-realization–that the Self is the beginning, middle and end of all life-journeys. We must not ignore or disregard our Self or identify with anything but the Self, knowing that the entire universe has but one purpose: evolution of the Self and its eventual freedom (moksha). All this creation and all life within it exists only for the Self. The Self is ultimately all there is. Therefore:

“What is man’s will and how shall he use it? Let him put forth its power to uncover the Atman, not hide the Atman: man’s will is the only friend of the Atman: his will is also the Atman’s enemy.

“For when a man is self-controlled, his will is the Atman’s friend. But the will of an uncontrolled man is hostile to the Atman, like an enemy.

“That serene one absorbed in the Atman masters his will, he knows no disquiet in heat or in cold, in pain or pleasure, in honor, dishonor” (Bhagavad Gita 6:5-7).

Or to put it more briefly and to the point: “Therefore be a yogi” (Bhagavad Gita 6:46).

The wicked, indeed, say in their hearts, “Nobody sees us;” but the gods distinctly see them and the purusha within their own breasts.

The sky, the earth, the waters, (the Self in) the heart, the moon, the sun, the fire, Yama and the wind, the night, the two twilights (sandhyas), and justice know the conduct of all corporeal beings. …If you think, O friend of virtue, with respect to yourself, “I am alone,” (know that) that sage who witnesses all virtuous acts and all crimes ever resides in your heart. (8.85-86, 92)

And it is this Self that must be sought, seen and known as our sole Reality. Again: yoga is the way.

Gambling and betting amount to open theft;…. In a former age this (vice of) gambling has been seen to cause great enmity; a wise man, therefore, should not practice it even for amusement. (9.222, 227)

There are various forms of gambling and an intelligent yogi should be aware of that and scrupulously avoid them. “For fun” and “for not much” is not a viable excuse. The very state of mind evoked is to be avoided. Also, by indulging in “innocent” forms of these, deep-seated samskaras of addiction from past lives may awaken and manifest.

The entire Mahabharata epic centers around the vice of gambling and the consequential destruction of countless lives resulting from the domino effect that arose from it. This is referred to by the statement that “In a former age this (vice of) gambling has been seen to cause great enmity.”

Intoxicating drinks and decoctions and flesh [meat] are the food of the Yakshas, Rakshasas, and Pishakas; a Brahmana… must not partake of such (substances).

When the Brahman which dwells in his body is (even) once (only) deluged with spirituous liquor, his Brahmanhood forsakes him. (11.95, 97)

This is very severe, but totally realistic and true without exceptions.

A yaksha is a kind of ghost, goblin, or demon. A rakshasa is a cannibal demon or goblin, enemy of the gods. Meat-eating human beings are classed as rakshasas. A pishacha is a vampiristic spirit or demon, sometimes called “a blood drinker,” though it really depletes its victims of prana, the life force. All three are killers.

Action [karma], which springs from the mind, from speech, and from the body, produces either good or evil results; by action are caused the (various) conditions of men, the highest, the middling, and the lowest. Know that the mind is the instigator here below, even to that (action) which is connected with the body. (12.3-4)

Thought, speech and bodily action produce positive or negative karma. According to the accumulated karmic force a person’s life is spiritually “the highest, the middling, and the lowest.” There are no exceptions, for this is cosmic Law. Ultimately they all proceed from the mind, the commander of the will and therefore of all action.

(A man) obtains (the result of) a good or evil mental (act) in his mind, (that of) a verbal (act) in his speech, (that of) a bodily (act) in his body. (12.8) 

Action is mental, verbal and physical, and a human being is affected by all three forms on his own mental, verbal and physical levels.

That man is called a (true) tridandin in whose mind these three, the control over his speech (vagdanda), the control over his thoughts (manodanda), and the control over his body (kayadanda), are firmly fixed.

That man who keeps this threefold control (over himself) with respect to all created beings and wholly subdues desire and wrath thereby assuredly gains complete success. (12.10-11)

A tridandin is someone who has attained mastery over mind, speech and body–or thought, word and deed. It also can mean a sannyasi who carries three long staffs tied together so as to form one in symbolizing and reminding him of the necessity for this threefold mastery.

Know Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas to be the three qualities (gunas) of Prakriti which pervades all forms of relative existence.

When one of these qualities wholly predominates in the mind or body, then it embodies that quality. (12.24-25)

Guna means a quality, attribute, or characteristic arising from Prakriti itself–a mode of energy behavior. As a rule, when “guna” is used it is in reference to the three qualities of Prakriti, the three modes of energy behavior that are the basic qualities of nature, and which determine the inherent characteristics of all created things. They are: 

  1. Sattwa: the quality of light, purity, harmony and goodness.
  2. Rajas: the quality of activity, passion, restlessness and desire for an object or goal.
  3. Tamas: the quality of dullness, darkness, inertia, folly, and ignorance.

Everything in relative existence has a predominance of one of these gunas, and usually is a blend of all three, though only one is predominant.

Sattwa is declared (to have the form of) knowledge, Tamas (of) ignorance, Rajas (of) raga and dwesha; such is the nature of these (three) which is (all-)pervading and clings to everything created.

When (man) experiences in himself a (feeling) full of bliss, a deep calm, as it were, and a pure light, then let him know (that it is) among those three (the quality called) Sattwa.

What is mixed with pain and does not give satisfaction to the soul one may know (to be the quality of) Rajas, which is difficult to conquer, and which ever draws embodied (souls towards sensual objects).

What is coupled with delusion, what has the character of an undiscernible mass, what cannot be fathomed by reasoning, what cannot be fully known, one must consider (as the quality of) Tamas. (12.26-29)

I will, moreover, fully describe the results which arise from these three qualities, the excellent ones, the middling ones, and the lowest.

The study of the scriptures, austerity, (the pursuit of) knowledge, purity, control over the organs, the performance of meritorious acts and meditation on the Self, (are) the marks of the quality of Sattwa.

The craving after sensual pleasures is declared to be the mark of Tamas, (the pursuit of) possessions and wealth (the mark) of Rajas, (the desire to gain) spiritual merit the mark of Sattwa; each later-named quality is better than the preceding one. (12:30-31, 38)

This requires no comment.

12.39. 1 will briefly declare in due order what transmigrations in this whole (world a man) obtains through each of these qualities.

12.40. Those endowed with Sattwa reach the state of gods [devas], those endowed with Rajas the state of men, and those endowed with Tamas ever sink to the condition of beasts; that is the threefold course of transmigrations.

12.41. But know this threefold course of transmigrations that depends on the (three) gunas (to be again) threefold, low, middling, and high, according to the particular nature of the acts and of the knowledge (of each man). (12.39-41)

“The condition of beasts” can mean two things: the psychological condition of animality (“two-footed beasts”) or literal birth in an animal body. As Yogananda pointed out, a human being usually creates human karma, so birth in animal form is rare. However, persistence in subhuman conduct may throw a person back to animal form through his animal samskaras from earlier rebirths. Also, those who are cruel to animals may come back as an animal to suffer cruelty from human beings. In this instance they will be human inwardly and animal outwardly and will realize why they are undergoing such suffering. Also there have been instances of a person who was deeply attached to animals, and since he died thinking of them he was reborn as an animal. This, too, is rare but not impossible. Mind is everything, as Sri Ramakrishna said. Once he told a spiritualist medium, “My boy, think of ghosts and you will be come a ghost; think of God and you will become a god. Which do you prefer?”

In proportion as sensual men indulge in sensual pleasures, in that same proportion their taste for them grows.

By repeating their sinful acts those men of small understanding suffer pain here (below) in various births. (12.73-74)

No comment needed, but it should be heeded!

(If you ask) whether among all the virtuous actions, (performed) here below, (there be) one which has been declared more efficacious (than the rest) for securing supreme happiness to man, the knowledge of the Self is stated to be the most excellent among all of them; for that is the first of all sciences, because immortality is gained through that. (12.84-85)

However, knowledge of the Self is not an action, it is a result. Knowledge of the Self comes from yoga sadhana alone.

“When the mind comes to rest, restrained by the practice of yoga, beholding the Self by the Self, he is content in the Self” (Bhagavad Gita 6:20).

Therefore yoga sadhana is not just the most efficacious way, it is the ONLY way.

He who sacrifices [offers] to the Self (alone), equally recognizing the Self in all created beings and all created beings in the Self, becomes self-sufficient and self-luminous. (12.91)

The highest sacrifice–yajna or offering–is meditation. But the yogi must always be aware that everything is a form or projection of the Self. Such a one attains the vision/experience of Unity and becomes swayamprakash–self-illumined–as was Buddha.

Let [a yogi], concentrating his mind, fully recognize in the Self all things, both the real and the unreal, for he who recognizes the universe in the Self, does not give his heart to unrighteousness.

The Self alone is the multitude of the gods, the universe rests on the Self; for the Self produces the connexion of these embodied (spirits) with actions.

He who thus recognizes the Self through the Self in all created beings, becomes equal (-minded) towards all, and enters the highest state: Brahman. (12.118-119, 125)

It seems odd for Manu to say that a yogi should “fully recognize in the Self all things, both the real and the unreal,” but truly nothing exists apart from the Self whether real or illusory. That is, the perception of the world and its illusions exists in the Self as their perceiver. The Self is the all-embracing reality behind both relative reality and relative illusion.

“Those who, renouncing all actions in me, intent on me as the highest [goal] worship me, meditating on me with single-minded Yoga–of those whose consciousness has entered into me, I am soon the deliverer from the ocean of mortal samsara. Keep your mind on me alone, causing your intellect to enter into me. Thenceforward, without doubt, you shall dwell in me.”(Bhagavad Gita 12:6-8).

In other words: “Therefore be a yogi” (Bhagavad Gita 6:46).

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Chapters in Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Religion

About Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Religion

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