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Bliss and Contentment

How Can I Achieve Perfect Peace and Contentment? Let’s Find Out from Gita

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Many of us seek perfect peace and contentment in our lives. However, it can be challenging to find these states of mind, and often we are misdirected in our pursuit. Here are is what the Gita has to say about those who are misguided:

यामिमां पुष्पितां वाचं प्रवदन्त्यविपश्चित: |
वेदवादरता: पार्थ नान्यदस्तीति वादिन: || 42||
कामात्मान: स्वर्गपरा जन्मकर्मफलप्रदाम् |
क्रियाविशेषबहुलां भोगैश्वर्यगतिं प्रति || 43||

The flowery words ignorant ones proclaim, O Arjuna, delighting in Vedic rituals, saying, “There is no other way”…desirous, eager for heaven, intent on rituals bestowing good karma and better composed of many specific steps which bestow pleasure and power.

||Bhagvad Gita 2.42-43||

The Vedas are divided into three sections. These are: Karm-kāṇḍ (ritualistic ceremonies), Jñāna-kāṇḍa (knowledge section), and Upāsanā-kāṇḍ (devotional section). The Karm-kāṇḍ section teaches the performance of ritualistic ceremonies for material gains and promotion to the celestial abodes (Heaven). 

The Vedic scriptures have been designed for all kinds of people. If the śhāstras did not contain instructions for worldly-minded people, they would have gone further astray. So Vedas have content for materialistic people too, that helps  them rise from the mode of ignorance to passion, and from passion to goodness.

In other words, misguided people believe that the only way to find peace and contentment is through external means—by performing rituals and ceremonies. They focus on the pleasures of the senses rather than looking within for lasting happiness.

Vedic rituals are performed for the sake of specific goals; specifically, pleasure and contentment now (kama), later (artha), and in later life (dharma). 

Those who revel in those teaching of the Veda have not discerned that the ultimate source of contentment is within. Since they have not recognized this crucial factor, they perform sacrifices and rituals to achieve happiness in the next life.

It’s not that rituals and ceremonies are bad, but we must remember that they are only a means to an end. The real goal is to find lasting peace and contentment within ourselves, and this can be achieved through our own spiritual practice.

Letting Go of Power and Pleasure to Seek Moksha

भोगैश्वर्यप्रसक्तानां तयापहृतचेतसाम् |
व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धि: समाधौ न विधीयते || 44||

…for those attached to pleasure and power, whose minds are overcome by this, well-ascertained teachings will never lead to samadhi.

||Bhagvad Gita 2.44||

Some minds are carried away by their attachment to power and pleasure. In other words, those who are misguided are swayed by their desires. They see only what is pleasing to the senses, and because of this, they are easily swayed by temptation. Yet, the pursuit of kama, artha, and dharma can never lead to complete peace and contentment. Any results achieved through karma will always be limited. 

For example, if you work really hard, you receive a paycheque, but that paycheque is a finite amount. Similarly, you collect religious merit  if you perform many rituals, but that religious merit is also finite. We desire uninterrupted contentment, yet finite solutions cannot attain that state.

On the other hand, shifting your attention away from kama, artha, and dharma, and towards moksha, you are now seeking the true source of contentment. Once you have found that true source of contentment and peace, you will in fact enjoy unbroken, perfect contentment and peace. 

For those who are attached to pleasure and power, the recognition of what can be gained by moksha is missed. When seeking moksha is in your number one position on your to-do list, that is the proper discernment. But for these people who are committed to Vedic rituals and going to heaven, this recognition will not arise for them.

The Shift From External to Internal Pursuits

त्रैगुण्यविषया वेदा निस्त्रैगुण्यो भवार्जुन |
निर्द्वन्द्वो नित्यसत्त्वस्थो निर्योगक्षेम आत्मवान् || 45||

Vedic rituals deal with worldly matters; break free from worldly matters, O Arjuna. Be impartial, always established in goodness, free from acquiring and safeguarding, self-possession.

||Bhagvad Gita 2.45||

The subject matter of the Vedas are kama, artha, and dharma. These are gained by following the Karma Kanda of the Veda.

Worldly pursuits are matters concerned with outwardly turned pursuits, as opposed to an inward-turned pursuit, such as the pursuit of moksha. This is the key distinction of that discernment. That discernment is a radical shift of orientation where it shifts away from what is external to what is internal (moksha) and that which transcends the world.

The section of the  Vedas that is  concerned with worldly matters, and Krishna expresses that Arjuna should be free from such matters. This means that Arjuna should reject the Karma Kanda of the Veda. This is a rejection of the excessive ritualism of ancient times. Krishna refers to a pure state of mind in which you can break free from pursuing kama, artha, and dharma, and instead pursue moksha.

Krishna suggests that Arjuna turn his back on seeking these three pursuits, not by avoiding them completely but by making moksha the number one priority. The message is to break free of the conventional worldly pursuit of chasing after what you want, and running away from what you don’t want. For this to be achieved, one must be established in a state of mental purity where the mind is available to pursue moksha.

Rituals Are Superfluous

यावानर्थ उदपाने सर्वत: सम्प्लुतोदके |
तावान्सर्वेषु वेदेषु ब्राह्मणस्य विजानत: || 46||

As much value as for a wall surrounded by water on all sides, such is the value of all Vedic rituals for a wise brahmana.

||Bhagvad Gita 2.46||

Imagine your priorities have transferred, and you are no longer focused on pursuing kama, artha, and dharma. Instead, you are focused on gaining moksha. Having gained that discernment, what would be your perspective on all of these Vedic rituals?

Krishna uses a metaphor to illustrate this shift of orientation from external to internal. In dry parts of India and other places, it’s not uncommon for villagers to dig a well in a dry stream bed as one might presume water sits close to the surface. Suppose when the rains come, the dry stream bed is no longer dry and is now running with water. The villagers built that well in the middle of a dry stream bed, but now it is surrounded by water. Krishna uses this metaphor to question the use of the well after it becomes surrounded by water. The well becomes superfluous. 

The discernment that the pursuit of worldly goals is not worth the effort turns one’s orientation from worldly pursuits and seeking the answer within. Just as the well surrounded by water is superfluous, the ritualism taught in the Vedas becomes superfluous.

What the Gita Teaches Us

The Gita teaches us that real peace and contentment come from within. It is not something that we can acquire externally, but rather it is something that we develop as a result of our own spiritual growth. As we become more purified and self-realized, we come to know our true nature –which is blissful and eternal. The more we connect with this inner essence, the more at peace and content we can be.