By Pancha Tattva dasa
I was taken aback to read a recent piece on your website by Mother Abhaya Mudra dasi, the author, who said that Krsna “never really answers the question asked by Arjuna” in verse 54 of the second chapter of Bhagavad-gita:
Arjuna said: “What are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in Transcendence? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?”
The author says that this is “the one question left unanswered in the epic conversation between Krsna and Arjuna,” and explains that “a Vaishnava is never to be judged by his exterior manifestations.”
But Krsna does answer Arjuna’s question - completely. To suggest otherwise does not do credit to the speaker of Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Lord Himself. It would have been far better to write that Krsna answers Arjuna’s question, but in a way differently than what one might expect if he is thinking only of external symptoms.
It may seem to be a matter of symantics, but the author has clearly said - twice
- that Krsna did not answer Arjuna’s question - and that’s simply not true. The bona fide spiritual master is competent to answer all questions on the transcendental subject matter. And the original spiritual master, Lord Krsna, is certainly qualified and competent. He would not fail to answer such a serious question from His disciple. To suggest so is misleading, at best.
In “Surrender to Me” by Bhurijana dasa, the excellent supplement to Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the author cites the Bhagavad-gita commentary of Srila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura to show that Krsna answers each part of Arjuna’s question, in detail. Bhurijana explains that “although these questions seem to deal only with such a person’s external behavior, Srila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura reveals each question’s internal meaning.”
Bhurijana relates that Arjuna’s question may be accepted in four parts: 1) what are the transcendentalist’s symptoms, 2) how does he speak and what is his language, 3) how does he sit, and 4) how does he walk?
Arjuna’s first question regarding the transcendentalist’s characteristics is answered immediately by Krsna in verse 55:
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O Partha, when a man gives up all varieties of desire for sense gratification, which arise from mental concoction, and when his mind, thus purified, finds satisfaction in the self alone, then he is said to be in pure transcendental consciousness.”
Bhurijana Prabhu writes: “The sthita-prajna reveals his position by having no material affection. He is detached from both happiness and misery. Rather, he is fully satisfied by fixing his consciousness on the self.”
Bhurijana goes on to cite the internal meaning of Arjuna’s next query: How does the transcendentalist speak? “This question means: ‘How are his intelligence and words affected by another’s affection, anger or neutrality? In other words, how does he respond?’” Krsna answers this question in verses 56 and 57:
“One who is not disturbed in mind even amidst the threefold miseries or elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind. In the material world, one who is unaffected by whatever good or evil he may obtain, neither praising it nor despising it, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge.”
Arjuna’s next question is: How does he sit? According to Srila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, this means “How does he not engage his senses? What is his mentality when his senses are restrained from their objects?” Lord Krsna answers in verses 58 and 59:
“One who is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects, as the tortoise draws its limbs within the shell, is firmly fixed in perfect consciousness. The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.”
Then Bhurijana explains that Arjuna’s last question is answered beginning with text 64 and running until almost the end of the second chapter: “How does the transcendentalist walk?” Bhurijana writes, “The purport of this question is: ‘How does a man in transcendence engage his senses?’”
Krsna says: “But a person free from all attachment and aversion and able to control his senses through regulative principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord. For one thus satisfied [in Krsna consciousness], the threefold miseries of material existence exist no longer; in such satisfied consciousness, one’s intelligence is soon well established… etc.”
In conclusion, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krsna, answers Arjuna’s question perfectly, by citing the internal symptoms of the stitha-prajna transcendentalist. I humbly refer the reader to Srimad Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and his mature disciple Bhurijana Prabhu’s supplemental guide, “As They Surrender to Me,” for a deeper understanding. I have quoted only briefly from both texts.
Pancha Tattva dasa