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Jnana Yajna, 29 March – 1 April 2013

The Ilford (UK) students of Swamini Atmaprakashananda invited her to hold a jnana yajna over the Easter weekend this year and provided a local venue, the Nagrecha Hall, for the purpose.

During her four talks she showed the clear purport of Chapter Three of the Bhagavad Gita. It is a vision of Karma Yoga, not as a set of prescribed activities, but as action done with a certain attitude in order to prepare the mind for knowledge, jnanam.

“The attitude,” she said, “is three-fold: Ishwara arpana buddhi, Ishwara prasada buddhi and Dharma aviruddha karma.

Ishwara arpana buddhi means an attitude, buddhi, of offering, arpana, all one's actions to Ishwara. This offering is not a frequently repeated event, it is an attitude born of understanding that all action is ultimately for happiness. Nothing is ever done by anyone except it be for happiness; and that happiness that we each seek in every action (no matter how small or large — no matter how misguidedly!) is intrinsic to us as our own true nature. We are the happiness we seek. This happiness, being all and everywhere the same — and the essence of all — is Ishwara, the Lord. Having understoond this properly, all actions are thereby known to be dedicated to that happiness that is Ishwara. Such knowledge brings a new focus and perspective on life, a focus that clarifies aspiration, a perspective that helps bring enduring ease and quiet to the mind.

Ishwara prasada buddhi is the attitude of regarding all that happens (whether pleasant or unpleasant) as Ishwara's prasada, beneficence.

She showed that this attitude depends, firstly, on understanding that the universe is an ordered, systematic expression of law, dharma. These same natural laws are explored by science and employed by the arts; without them, and the consistency they provide, fire would sometimes not burn and ice be randomly warm or cool to the touch; but more than this, without orderly, mutually-responsive, laws governing the world, there would be no world at all. Without a systematic order, intelligently putting it together and maintaining it, no manifestation of any kind could even be begun! This order is also Ishwara.

Secondly, the attitude Ishwara prasada buddhi depends on understanding that the results of action, being the manifestation of law, are determined by those laws and hence are not under our control. Some actions and events turn out as we wish, some partially so, and some not at all!. If events were under our control they would always follow our bidding. A moment's thought shows this is not possible: we have no means of knowing, let alone controlling, all the factors that go to make up even the smallest event.

Ishwara's laws alone provide the results of action: when bare hands are brought together briskly a clap of sound is unavoidable. We do not produce this sound, we merely intend it. Not only do we not produce it, we can do nothing to stop it (other than choosing not to clap). Neither can we expect a clap to result from bringing our hands together very slowly and gently. At best it can be said we have choice over action, not over the results.

Yes, we can learn to work within these natural laws and thereby improve the likelihood of reaching a desired outcome — the skill of the artist or craftsman exemplifies this — but the actual results of action are delivered by the laws, the dharma, of Ishwara. Acknowledging this fact kindles an attitude of acceptance, an acceptance that, firstly, what is being experienced is Ishwara's will (manifest as law) and secondly that the present expression of that will is a just and natural outcome of action. It is now only a small step to accepting such an outcome as the prasad, the beneficence, of Ishwara — even if it is sometimes not what we would have wished.

Knowing this, the karma yogin is aware of the ubiquitous presence of this system of law. Respect and then reverence for it become natural for him/her, and more importantly, reverence for that of which dharma is an expression. In this way, the karma yogin begins to develop a relationship with Ishwara, the very reality of dharma. Thus begins the birth of the religious and soon the spiritual person.

Seeing all this, the karma yogin sees the necessity of avoiding action that is out of step with dharma. His actions, karma, are unopposed, aviruddha, to dharma. This too, the third aspect of karma yoga, is also an attitude, not an action.

The result of living a life of karma yoga is that the thrall of raga, attachment, and dvesha, aversion, is weakened. These likes and dislikes no longer command centre stage. Gradually, as their influence wanes, the yogin's mind becomes freer from the passions, the rages, and later the mere disquiet they bring. Quietened from their clamorous demands and no longer preoccupied with the foolishness that raga-dveshas (and their children lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride and jealousy) insist upon, the yogin's mind becomes ever more peaceful and pure. Such a mind alone is fit for knowledge, for only such a mind is able to listen, to hear, to understand and to retain what is said by the teacher when unfolding the sruti.

This attempt at a summary of some of the elements of Swaminiji's discourses in no way does justice to what was said. If it encourages you to watch the video recordings of her talks, or listen to the audio recordings, it will have done enough.Top of page

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