Previously, from the shloka ‘Tad viddhi pranipãtena pariprashnena sevayã; Upadekshyanti te gnãnam gnãninastattvadarshinaha’ (Gitã 4.34), we saw how Shri Krishna explained that to attain knowledge one must attain the three qualities of bowing, asking and serving. Alongside these three qualities, Shri Krishna mentions three other qualities that a disciple must imbibe.
Shri Krishna Bhagwan says, ‘श्रद्धावान् लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संयतेन्द्रियः। ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिम् अचिरेणाघिगत्व्छति॥’ – ‘Shraddhãvãn labhate gnãnam tatparaha samyatendriyaha; gnãnam labdhvã parãm shãntim achirenãdhigachchhati.’ – ‘Those with faith, who are keen to abide by the guru’s wishes, and have self-control attain knowledge. On attaining such knowledge, they attain ultimate peace’ (Gitã 4.39).
‘Shraddhãvãn Labhate Gnãnam’
The Gitã tells us that the faithful attain knowledge. Here, knowledge and faith are both presented together, where knowledge is the ultimate goal and faith is the means to attain it. Realization is the fruit of faith, and peace is the fruit of realization. This is the gist of the shloka.
Faith Means Trust
The word faith means trust. To trust means to believe in and accept something that one has not directly experienced. There are many things in this world that exist, but of which we are completely unaware. To accept the existence of such unknown things is a form of trust. The truly wise are very trusting. It is their trust that leads them to experience the unknown.
Trust is a special part of life. Just like breathing enables us to live, trust breathes happiness into life.
Trust is imbibed in every action and every aspect of life. For example, we may know of cases of a brother killing his own brother, a husband deceiving his wife or a wife poisoning her husband, nevertheless, if we are at ease while eating, it means we trust whoever has made the meal. Earthquakes can happen at any time and anywhere, nevertheless, if we can comfortably live in a multi-storey building and travel merrily through narrow alleys, it means we are living in trust. We are well aware that thousands of travellers die in accidents every day, and we even inform others of such news; yet, if we joyously travel at ease by car, train or plane, it means we have trust in the driver and much more. Many buildings are robbed; even entire doors are removed and houses robbed of valuable items. We know of this too, yet, when we lock our flimsy doors with a flimsy lock and go out without any worries, it means we have great trust in an ordinary lock. In this way, we continuously live by trust. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we would not even be able to breathe without trust.
Here, the words ‘shraddhãvãn labhate gnãnam’ associate trust with knowledge. This clarifies the relationship with the guru – one must surrender to the guru to obtain knowledge. Upon surrendering, one must have complete trust in him. The guru naturally showers his grace on a trusting disciple and the disciple’s life is automatically filled with peace and knowledge. More work is done in less time.
Today, there is a common belief that to obtain knowledge one must raise as many arguments and doubts as possible. The effects of this can even be seen in today’s education system. One who questions attains knowledge, or one who doubts attains knowledge seem to be the new maxims. As a result, this has affected man’s lifestyle and relationship with others. But, the Gitã’s stance on this is clear: if you want to attain knowledge, you must first trust; that is a principle. Here, knowledge refers to knowledge of the atman. The means to gaining experience is to go to an experienced guru who is spiritually realized.
To trust the guru means to first accept his spiritual form and calibre. Further, to have faith in the form of the guru is to believe that the guru one has attained is truly wise, has realized Paramãtmã, experiences the ultimate bliss of Paramãtmã, is divine, has countless virtues, is flawless, is omniscient, and that he will enable one to experience that bliss of Paramãtmã, make one brahmarup like himself and liberate one. Only such trust leads to true surrenderance and true association.
Secondly, to trust the guru means to believe his precepts as the highest truth. Bhagwan Swaminarayan has explained this in the Vachanamrut, saying that one who has discretion ‘accepts whatever words of advice God and the Sant offer as the highest truth’ (Vachanamrut Gadhada I 16). The highest truth refers to principles in which no further improvements or additions are necessary, and in which there is no further need for debate, discussion or speculation. This is a liberating lesson for how the disciple should treat the guru’s words.
We deal with a great number of people in our lives. We hear a lot from a lot of people. We think about what we have heard, then, based on our experiences or the doubts that have arisen in our minds, we decide what is appropriate and what is not. Then, we may or may not think about following it. This is how we examine the words of others. Such scrutiny gives us discretion as to what is and what is not appropriate. In a social world, such scrutiny is helpful.
Nevertheless, if the same method of scrutiny were applied with a true spiritual guru, a great loss would be incurred. The guru is no ordinary person. The relationship one has with the guru should be different to that with others. The guru’s words are not like an ordinary person’s; we cannot listen to the guru’s words in the same way we listen to an ordinary person’s. We cannot take the same approach with the guru as we take to the ideas of people the world thinks are intelligent. The guru’s words are our lifeline; his words are spoken from his state of realization. Whatever he says, he does not merely believe, he experiences. He has imbibed the principles that Paramãtmã has given for the ultimate liberation of the atman, and thereafter teaches them to us. Therefore, these principles are the utmost truth and, here, Shri Krishna tells us that those who trust attain that ultimate true knowledge.
Which of the guru’s words require such trust? Foremost are those regarding conviction in the form of Paramãtmã. Furthermore, faith is needed in words explaining the form of the atman, the feeling of the atman being brahman, and Paramãtmã as residing within the atman. For example, Bhagwan Swaminarayan says, “‘You are distinct from the mind, body, indriyas and prãns; you are satya; you are the knower of the body, indriyas and prãns, which are all asatya’ – he accepts this to be the truth. He then behaves as the atman – distinct from them all – but never follows the instincts of his own mind” (Vachanamrut Gadhada I 16). Here, the instincts of the mind imply one’s own thoughts. The viveki put aside their own thoughts and follow the guru’s principles with complete faith. Generally, one who eats, walks, sits, stands, etc. aptly is considered to be viveki; that is true. But Bhagwan Swaminarayan considers the trusting to be viveki. This is indeed a definition worth deeply thinking about. We respect the guru by speaking to him politely, not raising our voice, obeying his wishes, standing on his arrival, etc., but to attain knowledge we must show respect to him in the form of trust.
Thereafter, to explain the importance of faith, or trust, Shri Krishna acquaints Arjuna with those things that hinder knowledge. He says, ‘अज्ञश्र्चाश्रद्धानश्र्च संशयात्मा विनश्यति। नायं लोकोऽस्ति न परो न सुखं संशयात्मनः॥’ – ‘Agnashchãshraddhãnashcha sanshayãtmã vinashyati; nãyam loko’sti na paro na sukham sanshayãtmanaha.’ – ‘Those who are ignorant, without faith and doubtful are ruined. For such people, neither this world or the afterworld exist, and they never attain happiness’ (Gitã 4.40).
Doubt and lack of faith are the two major hindrances to attaining knowledge. This shloka shows how much damage they do.
One meaning of lack of faith means distrust. To distrust means to disbelieve and to not accept the truth. We do not believe the words spoken by certain people to be true; that means we do not trust them. Our opinions and beliefs regarding a person form the basis for whether we trust or distrust his words and ideas. To distrust the guru is destructive. If we do not trust one from whom we are to obtain knowledge, we should accept that our ignorance is irremovable.
The second point is that of doubt. ‘Sanshayãtmã vinashyati’ – doubt invites destruction. Doubt makes life poison. Doubt and happiness are never found together. Doubt tends to paralyze a person with fear, anxiety, uncertainty and indecisiveness. Doubt can ruin relationships and even destroy one’s life. While trust is our lifeline, doubt is deadly. There is no substance to the lives of the doubtful – things happen randomly. Fundamental principles themselves are doubted, and so even though life continues, it is without fulfilment. There is a constant feeling of uneasiness and emptiness. Thus, doubt is a terrible thing, especially if cast upon the life, words and principles of the guru. Doubt distances the disciple from the guru. It is the wickedness of the heart. Therefore, the Gitã awakens us to this fact.
On the topic of obtaining knowledge, along with trust, distrust and doubt, logic should also be considered. Logic involves reasoning. People use reason and logic to prove their own thoughts to be true. Logical thinking is considered a skill. It signifies intelligence. But, it is important to remember that logic cannot give a definite decision. It is, however, possible to use logic to confuse and overturn decisions that have already been made. Logic does not have a ‘side’. It aids even opposing views.
Furthermore, logic is a result of the human intellect. The intellect is formed from experience. Experiences are momentary, incomplete or even mistaken. They are inconsistent, repeatedly proven to be false and then rectified, and constantly fluctuating. How can logic formed from such experiences lead one to the ultimate truth? Therefore, our shastras have clarified that spiritual truths are beyond logic.
This does not mean that logic and reasoning should not be used at all. It is a matter of not being misled by them. Argumentative reasoning has a place, but it is not to establish principles. Instead reason should be used to reaffirm principles that already exist, and that too, only if necessary. Those who trust have peace of mind and do not have the hassle of having to decide on eternal principles. They, if necessary, use reason as a tool to affirm the principles that the guru has revealed to be true. They experience the bliss of the guru’s grace.
In this manner, Shri Krishna alerts Arjuna not to let flaws such as distrust and doubt affect him.
Moreover, by instilling an air of trust, the Gitã makes the guru-disciple relationship healthy and strong.