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Knowledge for peace and contentment

How Can We Prevent Ourselves from Doing Bad Deeds?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

When you recognize the innate divinity in yourself and others, what could possibly compel you to commit a harmful deed? Harmful deeds are motivated by raga-dvesha—the compulsions to get what we want and run away from what we don’t want. In the absence of those compulsions, nothing can compel you to commit a harmful deed. In this way, this knowledge is the most purifying.

One who is established in the teachings of karma yoga finds that knowledge they seek in oneself.

The discovery that culminates in enlightenment can only occur in oneself, and that discovery cannot be made anywhere else. No guru or scripture can make you enlightened except for yourself. You have to look within yourself to make this discovery.

On the other hand, we can equally say that without a guru you won’t become enlightened. You won’t know what to look for without any guidance. If your current level of understanding is nothing, and you look within yourself to make some discovery, what do you hope to accomplish? With the help of guru and Shastra, you are led to the precipice of discovery. You are directed to a point where you cannot but see. 

What Factors Prevent One From Finding Spiritual Enlightenment?

The impediments that may prevent guru and Shastra from leading you to the precipice of discovery are addressed in the next two verses.

श्रद्धावान् लभते ज्ञानं तत्पर: संयतेन्द्रिय: |

ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिमचिरेणाधिगच्छति || 4.39||

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 Verse 39

Those whose faith is deep and who have practiced controlling their mind and senses attain divine knowledge. Through such transcendental knowledge, they quickly attain everlasting supreme peace.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 Verse 39 (English Translation)

If your innate nature is divine, it can’t be different from anyone else’s. The discovery of your divinity is always accompanied by the recognition of the divinity of all. 

Blind faith impedes spiritual growth. This is because in such a state we tend to rest content, and there’s no knowledge behind this. That person ceases to make any further effort to truly understand. 

The term Shraddha does not represent blind faith; instead, it means trust pending verification. For example, you accept the words of the scripture and the word of the guru pending verification. That verification takes place when you make the discovery within yourself. 

The words of Vedanta are not the goal; they are a pointer. Many get stuck on the words of Vedanta as the pointer to the truth, but they are only a guide to discovery. However, if you reject the words, that will also not lead you there.

When you fail to give the guru and Shastra the benefit of the doubt, you will not gain anything from the teachings. In order for these teachings to work, you must use them as a guide to discovering your true nature. 

Someone who is focused on gaining knowledge, without being driven by compulsion, and using the teachings to guide them in a process of self-inquiry gains absolute peace and contentment. They gain it immediately.

How Can Knowledge Lead to Immediate Peace and Contentment?

One who engages in karma yoga eventually gains knowledge. But here, Krishna says there is no time involved, and this knowledge leads immediately to perfect peace and contentment. How is this possible? These teachings lead you to discover your true nature as being divine. But was your true nature divine before these teachings? Of course. Your true nature was divine before you even heard of the word Vedanta. It was divine from the moment of your birth and in prior lives. These teachings reveal an already existent truth: the truth of your inner divinity. Your consciousness is the all-pervasive intelligence that is manifest as the entire universe. 

That’s an already existent fact that is not understood. Therefore, we could say it is the absence of the recognition of your true nature that prevents you from being enlightened. You don’t recognize who you already are, and what you already possess. 

If you are in a dark room and when you light a lamp, how long does it take to see what is present in the room? Whatever was in the room was already present, but you could not see it before. The sight of what is present in the room is instantaneous. In the same way, knowledge ignites and burns away the ignorance to reveal your true nature.

अज्ञश्चाश्रद्दधानश्च संशयात्मा विनश्यति |

नायं लोकोऽस्ति न परो न सुखं संशयात्मन: || 4.40||

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 Verse 40

One who is ignorant, faithless, and doubtful is destroyed. For such a doubtful person there is no happiness in this world or the next one.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 Verse 40(English Translation)

The ignorant people who lack shraddha (faith pending verification) never gain what they seek in life. Ultimately, we all seek peace and contentment. This person never finds peace and contentment in life.

How Do We Renounce Action and Become Inactive?

योगसंन्यस्तकर्माणं ज्ञानसञ्छिन्नसंशयम् |

आत्मवन्तं न कर्माणि निबध्नन्ति धनञ्जय || 4.41||

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 Verse 41

O Arjuna, actions don’t bind the one who has renounced actions through yoga, whose doubts have been removed by knowledge and who has discovered himself.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 Verse 41(English Translation)

One way of renouncing karma is through the recognition that no amount of worldly effort will lead you to perfect peace and contentment. This understanding shifts your attitude towards karma. Previously, you might have thought if you just worked hard enough, you might become permanently content. When that ordinary thinking is dismissed with the recognition that this is not the way, this shift of attitude is a kind of renunciation. Not that you stop living your life, just with the recognition that those things will never lead to perfect contentment and peace. 

You engage in daily activities, but not for the sake of the results of those activities. As a karma yogi, you are engaged in these activities as a part of spiritual growth. If you go to work in the morning for a paycheck, you are not a karma yogi. If you go for the sake of spiritual growth, you are a karma yogi. You are not fixated on the paycheck. Both of these renunciations are a shift in attitude, not physically giving anything up.

The person who has renounced all actions, whose doubt and confusion have been removed through the wisdom gained, has discovered their true nature as being full and complete, that person is not bound by their actions.

When you are compelled to chase after what you want, and run away from what you don’t want, these compulsions are a kind of bondage. To be a slave to your senses means to be compelled by raga-dvesha. To live a life chasing only after material comforts is absolutely a life of bondage. Without being driven by raga-dvesha, you are freed from this kind of enslavement. 

In your next life, you can again be a slave to your senses and dragged about by raga-dvesha unless you attain enlightenment.

How Does Knowledge Removes Doubts?

तस्मादज्ञानसम्भूतं हृत्स्थं ज्ञानासिनात्मन: |

छित्त्वैनं संशयं योगमातिष्ठोत्तिष्ठ भारत || 4.42||

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 Verse 42

Therefore cut the doubts that arise in your heart with the sword of knowledge. O scion of Bharat, establish yourself in Karm Yoga. Arise, and take action.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 Verse 42(English Translation)

Follow these teachings to cut away the doubt and confusion about your true nature that exists in your heart.

When things become extremely difficult in this life, use the sword of knowledge to stop your hesitation and engage yourself in meeting those challenges fully. Often when we hit hard times, we withdraw. But doing this does not solve anything. Don’t shrink back. Use the sword of wisdom to cut away your doubts and hesitancy. Engage yourself fully and completely in dealing with your difficulties, knowing that you are fully empowered to handle those difficulties. No matter how difficult the situation is, we come out the other end one way or another.

From childhood onwards, you have been driven by raga-dvesha thinking that the source of peace and contentment is outside, which is conventional thinking. Every single person grows up with that wrong conclusion. Knowledge in your mind can remove the ignorance that is present in the mind.

Arjuna still remains seated over the past three chapters, and Krishna commands him to stand up. Use the knowledge to cut away his reluctance to fight on the battlefield.

What the Gita Teaches Us

Knowledge is an essential part of one’s spiritual journey. If one recognizes the innate divinity of oneself and others, one will not feel compelled to commit harmful deeds. While teachings are helpful on one’s spiritual journey, they are not the goal. It is the absence of the recognition of our inner divinity that blocks enlightenment. During challenging times, knowledge serves as a tool that gives us strength.