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The New Ethic Of The Bhagavadgita

( Originally Published 1922 )



WE have noted how in the Rig Veda there were to be seen what might have been the beginnings of a truly ethical religion, had not the stream of religious thought been diverted into other channels. In later literature we have seen an almost complete severance of morality from religion. This severance was not absolute, for we have seen in our study of the Upanishads how much of their ethical teaching was the outcome of their peculiar metaphysical and theological position, and down through the history of early Indian thought ethical doctrine was influenced in various ways by religious and philosophical conceptions. But the prevailingly pan-theistic philosophy which had become dominant in India had little place in it for morality in the usual sense of the term. In the highest flights of religion morality was simply transcended. Moral as well as other distinctions were resolved in that experience in which the individual soul realized its unity with the Supreme Soul.

Hinduism, however, has always been mindful of the needs of all who have belonged to its fold, and also of the needs of the various sides of human nature, and it has not failed to provide practical guidance to man. In the Law Books we have teaching regarding practical life in all the varied relationships into which men enter, and in all the various stages of its development. It is not the business of the expounders of the Law to deal with ultimate questions, and, as we have seen, they contradict themselves or one another when they attempt to estimate the relative values of different expressions of human activity. So, though the legal literature is in one sense our most important source of information regarding Hindu ethics, it is so chiefly indirectly as furnishing us with knowledge of the forms of conduct actually practised. For it is important to observe that the duties inculcated in the Law Books have but a remote connexion with the true end of ones being. In the various lines that philosophical speculation has taken ,the thought has remained constant that mans true being is not realized in worldly activity, that man, in so far as he is absorbed infinite experience of any kind, is missing his true vocation, is deluded and ensnared, and that his true goal lies in deliverance from the bonds of finite existence and realization of his identity with the Absolute. Accordingly, the ethical belongs to a sphere essentially distinct from that in which mans true end is attained. It has its value for men at a certain stage of development, but the tendency is to hold that when one attains to the higher the ethical is simply negated—one rises above good and evil. So in the Law Books while the details of the moral life are expounded, the significance of the moral life in itself is left in obscurity. The various details of good conduct are laid down with great exactness, but one is left wondering what is the meaning of the whole. Religious sanctions, no doubt, are offered for moral actions, but this fact only serves to bring into clearer light the essential unsatisfactoriness of a religious position which admits of two standards not simply related to each other as higher to lower, but implicitly contradicting each other.

To the Western student such a way of regarding the ethical seems thoroughly unsatisfactory. To use a phrase of the late Professor James, the moral struggle `feels like a real fight. If there be experiences of a higher order than the ethical, they transcend the ethical not by way of simple negation but by way of fulfilment. There must have been thinkers from an early date in India who felt that in ethical experience they were more closely in touch with reality than a logical interpretation of much of the teaching of the philosophers would admit. Even in the Upanishads the validity of moral distinctions is frequently emphasized. But, at the best, good deeds only help the soul on towards a state of being from which the attainment of emancipation becomes easier. They contribute to the acquisition of merit, but in no way to the breaking of the wheel of karma, which is the true goal. That is to say, morality is, strictly speaking, non-essential to emancipation ; in the highest religious experience it has no place.

The tendency to take morality more seriously expressed itself perhaps earliest and most definitely in the Bhagavadgita. This is a work the origin of which remains to this day known with but little certainty. It has come down to us as an interpolation in the great Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, where it is set forth as a conversation which took place between Arjuna and Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Krishna was acting as Arjunas charioteer, and before engaging in battle the latter paused, appalled by the prospect of slaughter, and put to Krishna the question whether it was right to engage in the slaughter of his fellow-men.

Many questions have been raised regarding the origin of the work, and to most of these no certain answer has as yet been returned ; but Professor Garbe has made some suggestions, which the latest scholarship has rejected, but which have this great value that they have served to bring into clear light the lines of contradiction running through the work. Put very briefly Garbes position is that the Bhagavadgita in the form in which we now have it is a composite production. The original work which was composed possibly in the second century B.C., and which represented the faith of the Bhagavatas, modified by the introduction of elements from the Samkhya-Yoga, was overlaid, probably in the second century A.D. by Vedantic doctrine, the result being that in the work as we now have it there is an irreconcilable confusion of theistic and pantheistic ideas. He thinks it is quite easy to separate the later additions from the original work, in which we have Bhagavata doctrine presented from the authors peculiar point of view. If Garbes theory be sound, then the thought of the Bhagavadgita becomes comparatively consistent and intelligible. If it be unsound, he has at least done us this service that far more thoroughly than any preceding writer he has analysed the work for us in such a way as to make clear to us the diverse elements which in it have been confused together, so that we can study them in isolation as actual tendencies of thought. We need not accordingly commit ourselves to any judgement as to the merits of the case, not even to an expression of opinion regarding the prior question of the compositeness of the work, a question raised by other writers before Garbe. The glaring inconsistencies which it contains seem to be best explained on the hypothesis that it is composite, but if the truth be otherwise we should still have to say that the author had a definite and intelligible doctrine, in his exposition of which he was hampered by the fact that he had failed to free his mind from the influence of the teaching of another and contradictory philosophy. It is from this point of view, at any rate, that we propose to examine the ethical teaching of the Bhagavadgita, taking its essential teaching as representing, in the words of Garbe, ` a Krishnaism based on the Samkhya-Yoga philosophy.

The religious foundation of the thought of the Bhagavadgita is supplied by the faith of the Bhagavatas. Many questions to which no certain answer can be given have been raised in regard to the origin and early history of this movement, but Sir R. G. Bhandarkar and other scholars have believed that it is to be traced back to Krishna Vasudeva, who is represented in the older parts of the Mandbharata as a heroic warrior. He worshipped the Bhagavan or the Adorable, and his followers were accordingly called the Bhagavatas, ` Worshippers of the Adorable. This religion spread, and in course of time Vasudeva himself came to be identified with Bhagavan. The sources of this religion, which came to exercise so wide and profound an influence, is a subject for inquiry which concerns the student of the history of religion. What is of importance for us here is the fact that it was a religion which tended to be definitely monotheistic, and that the One Supreme God was conceived as a God of grace, in fellowship with whom men found the true end of their being.

In the Bhagavadgita we see this monotheistic religion in alliance with the Samkhya and Yoga philosophies. These systems will be discussed in a later chapter, to which the reader is referred. At the time of the writing of the Bhagavadgita they had not reached their final form, but the main ideas which enter into them had been formulated by schools of thinkers, the predecessors of those who in later times gave to the systems the form in which they have become familiar to us. It will be sufficient at this stage to draw attention to one or two of the outstanding features of these philosophies. The Samkhya is a dualistic philosophy. It assumes the existence of two ultimate realities, Purusha and Prakriti, from the union of which phenomenal existence takes its rise. Prakriti, the material cause of the universe, is lifeless and dark, till vivified and illuminated by Purusha, the efficient cause. The actual forms which existence takes are determined by the three Gunas, cords or constituent elements, qualities or moods, which belong to Prakriti. These are Sattva, or the goodness mood, Rajas, or the passion mood, and Tamas, or the darkness mood, all of which enter in varying proportions into all phenomenal existence. So far as conscious individual existence is concerned, it is the dominance of the moods which determines its continuance, and deliverance from individual existence with all the evils which it involves can be attained only when the domination of the moods is broken by that act of discrimination, viveka, in which Prakriti and Purusha are discriminated, and the phenomenal, now understood, is transcended.

The Yoga is less a system of thought than a system of practice. As a philosophy, it is but a modification of the Samkhya, the main conceptions of which are accepted. The one important difference in their intellectual position is that the Yoga holds to the existence of a Lord, Isvara, for whom there is no place in strict Samkhyan thought. There is no serious contradiction between the two systems. The goal is understood by the Yoga as it is by the Samkhya, but the Yoga prescribes practices the object of which is to bring the self into its essential form ; but these exercises would seem to be regarded in the most typical expressions of Yoga thought as rather aids to viveka than as substitutes for it. This is the position, at any rate, of the author of the Bhagavadgita. He says :

The simple speak of the School of the Count, Samkhya, and the School of the Rule, Yoga, as diverse, but not so the learned.

It is remarkable that we should find in combination these various lines of thought which meet in the Bhagavadgita, in particular that the Samkhya-Yoga should be pressed into the service of a religious movement with which it might have well been supposed to have little in common. We are far from knowing all the conditions that determined the union, but we are less concerned with these than with the fruit which sprang from it in the Bhagavadgita.

While we are impressed by certain features in the work that strike one as almost marking a revolution in thought, it is well that we should recognize the strongly conservative character which, in certain respects, it maintains. Various scholars 2 have pointed out that much of the influence which it had and still has over the minds of men is to be accounted for by the fact that the new has been brought into line with the old. It has been said that it was one of the characteristics of the Western part of what is known as the Outland that it was less radical in its speculation than the Eastern part, the Magadha country, where the Buddhist and Jain heresies were born. At any rate there are conservative elements in the poem which colour it to a considerable degree. The Upanishads are still given their place of authority, many passages being quoted directly from them. The truth of the conceptions of karma and samsara remains unquestioned. The validity of the established social order is maintained. Sir R. G. Bhandarkar even maintains that the doctrine of bhakti was not entirely new, holding that the germs of it are to be seen in the Upanishads.

But we are concerned here less with these more general questions than with the important ethical aspects of the teaching of the book. Let it be remembered that the discussion which forms its content arose out of a question relating to moral conduct. Arjuna was faced by what seemed to be a conflict of duties. On the one hand there was the duty imposed upon him as a warrior of fighting ; on the other hand there was the duty of maintaining the established social order, a duty which he seemed to be in danger of transgressing by slaying men, incurring the guilt of destroying a stock. The way in which he regards this sin is very interesting.

In the destruction of a stock perish the ancient Laws of the stock ; when Law perishes, Lawlessness falls upon the whole stock.

When Lawlessness comes upon it, O Krishna, the women of the stock fall to sin; and from the womens sinning, O thou of Vrishnis race, castes become confounded.

Confounding of caste brings to hell alike the stock-slayers and the stock ; for their Fathers fall when the offerings of the cake and the water to them fail.

By this guilt of the destroyers of a stock, which makes castes to be confounded, the everlasting Laws of race and Laws of stock are over-thrown.

For men the Laws of whose stock are overthrown, O Troubler of the Folk, a dwelling is ordained in hell ; thus have we heard.

Krishna does not accept this view, but, as we shall see, his reply to Arjuna implies an equally full acceptance of the importance of the social organization. That is to say no question is raised as to the validity of dharma. This is assumed. The question discussed concerns its practical application, and the outcome is that dharma itself is given a meaning in some respects new and deeper.

The essential idea in the reply which Krishna offered to Arjuna was that through the discharge of the duties of ones station without thought of fruit one was on the way to salvation. In places it is laid down in more strict Samkhyan fashion that salvation is the outcome of that intellectual intuition by which one discriminates Purusha and Prakriti. Strict Samkhyan doctrine involves an ethic as other-worldly as anything which is to be found in the Upanishads, and the author does not deny that salvation may be found in this way. He makes statements as to the efficacy of knowledge as definite as this :

He who knows thus the Male and Nature with the Moods, however he may be placed, never again comes to birth.

But the author of the Bhagavadgita seeks to show that there is a better way. The Samkhya teaches that works are essentially evil, and are to be renounced. But this utter worklessness is unattainable, and the evil which has been supposed to cling to all works belongs in reality not to works in themselves, but to the longing which men have for the fruits of works. If that attachment to the fruits of works be destroyed, then there can be attained all that is supposed to follow from the relinquishment of all work.

He who beholds in work No-Work, and in No-Work work, he is the man of understanding among mortals; he is in the Rule, a doer of perfect work.

In one important aspect this idea is by no means new. Passages have been already quoted from the Upanishads in which it is maintained that it is possible for the individual to attain a state of mind in which works no longer leave their mark on him who does them. Among the most notable are such passages as the following :

As water does not cling to a lotus leaf, so no evil deed clings to one who knows it."

And he who knows me thus, by no deed of his is his life harmed, not by the murder of his mother, not by the murder of his father, not by theft, not by the killing of a Brahman. If he is going to commit a sin, the bloom does not depart from his face.

But there are very vital differences between these points of view. In the Upanishads we have certain characteristics of the state of him who has reached the goal described ; in the Bhagavadgita this indifference to works is represented as a means to the attainment of the end. Also, whether justifiably or unjustifiably, the Bhagavadgita elsewhere teaches that it is only works which are in accordance with dharma, the performance of which without attachment may be under-taken without sin. There can be no doubt that we have here a conception which marks a great advance in ethical doctrine. The noblest morality has perhaps always been the outcome of this spirit of absolute devotion to the dictates of duty, men following right because it is right ` in scorn of consequence. But the difficulty which we feel in the case before us is that no principle is provided by which the content of `right may be discovered. For the content of morality we are pointed to dharma. If we ask why we should follow this strange amalgam of ethical, social, and ritual principles, no answer seems to be given. The authors case for orthodoxy explains his position, but does not justify it. Why may not a man without attachment practise other forms of conduct ? No reason is given. We have simply the dogmatic statement :

There is more happiness in doing ones own Law without excellence than in doing anothers Law well. It is happier to die in ones own Law ; anothers Law brings dread.

So if the law as conceived in the Bhagavadgita has the same stringency as Kants categorical imperative, it has at the same time a content determined in a way that is even more unsatisfactory. It may be that in making this criticism we seem to be demanding too much of a work which was not written with a view to the scientific exposition .of doctrine, but which was intended rather to furnish guidance for practical life. It naturally did not deal with problems which had never been raised ; and the validity of dharma was unquestioned. But still its uncritical attitude to dharma must impair its value for the modern reader. We must not on that account, however, close our eyes to the great advance that is marked by the conception of a moral imperative to which obedience is demanded for its own sake.

This attitude to dharma involves an attitude to the Vedic conception of the efficacy of works, different from that which we find in earlier works. The belief was generally held that through the performance of ritual and of good deeds merit was acquired which led to certain kinds of rewards. We have seen in some of the Upanishads the operation of the double standard thus set up—works leading to a finite reward, knowledge of the identity of the self with Brahman, on the other hand, leading to that deliverance from the bonds of individuality which was regarded as the summum bonum. The practice of the lower, however, was supposed to be of value as a preparation for the attainment of the highest. In the Bhagavadgita, on the other hand, this lower level of moral endeavour is condemned. Krishna speaks with contempt of those

who hold fast to the words of the Veda, and say `there is naught else,

whose spirit is all lust, whose supreme end is Paradise,—(speech) appointing births as meed of Works, and dwelling much on various rites for reaching pleasure and empire

that (speech) steals away the wit of such lusters after pleasure and empire, and their understanding, being not sure, cannot be brought to concent.

Man attains his true end only when he ceases to be moved by hope of such reward.

For under the Rule of the Understanding, prudent men regard not fruits of Works, and loose themselves from the bond of Birth, and go to a land where no sickness is?

At the same time, it must be noted that the observance of Vedic rites is condemned not on the ground that they are ineffective but on the ground that the reward to which they lead is one which is of no value.

Men of the Threefold Lore that drink the soma and are cleansed of sin, worshipping me with sacrifices, pray for the way to paradise ; winning as meed of righteousness the world of the Lord of Gods, they taste in heaven the heavenly delights of the gods.

When they have enjoyed that wide world of paradise and their wage of righteousness is spent, they enter into the world of mortals ; thus the lovers of loves who follow the Law of the Three Books win but a going and a coming.

The man who fulfils his own dharma without thought of reward is the true Yogi, the true follower of the Karma Yoga. But the performance of works in this spirit represents but the first stage of Yoga, the performance of ones duties without attachment taking the place of the various exercises pre-scribed by the orthodox Yoga doctrine. That this workless performance of works is not by itself sufficient is due to the fact that man meets with obstacles in his pursuit of the highest good. His lower nature is a foe to be combated. The Fiery Mood asserts itself, expressing itself in love and wrath, which lead to the confusion of the Bodys Tenant. On this account exercises leading to final deliverance are prescribed.

The Man of the Rule shall ever hold himself under the Rule, abiding alone in a secret place, utterly subdued in mind, without craving and without possessions.

On a pure spot he shall set for himself a firm seat, neither over-high nor over-low, and having over it a cloth, a deers skin and kusa grass.

On this couch he shall seat himself with thought intent, and the workings of mind and sense-instruments restrained, and shall for purification of spirit labour on the Rule.

Firm, holding body, head, and neck in unmoving equipoise, gazing on the end of his nose, and looking not round about him, Calm of spirit, void of fear, abiding under the vow of chastity, with mind restrained and thought set on Me, so shall he sit that is under the Rule, given over to Me.

In this wise holding himself ever under the Rule, the strict-minded Man of the Rule comes to the peace that ends in extinction and that abides with Me.

Through such exercises he is enabled to rise beyond the Moods and to enter into that ideal state which is the goal of all endeavour. Even if deliverance be not attained as the immediate outcome of these Yogic exercises, at least the individual is put in a more favourable position for the attainment of deliverance in a future birth.

The Man of the Rule who labours stoutly, when cleansed of defilements and brought to adeptship through many births, goes thence by the Way Supreme.

We have now been able to get a general view of the typical teaching of the Bhagavadgita as to the way to deliverance. It is the typical teaching, for there is recognized the other way—the way of Jnana-Yoga, which is followed by the strict Samkhyas. It too leads to the same goal, but it is precarious and difficult to follow. This on the other hand leads certainly to the goal and it is easy to follow.

But throughout this discussion we have left out of account one element of the highest importance. The Samkhya has sometimes been stigmatized as an atheistic system, and not altogether unjustly. It is a dualistic system, the two terms of which are Prakriti and Purusha, and there is no recognition of any higher Unity in which the dualism is overcome. In the Yoga a place is found for God or Îsvara, but he is not the Supreme but an exalted particular soul. In the Bhagavadgita God is recognized as ` the One without beginning, great lord of the worlds. He is supreme over all, standing above both Purusha and Prakriti, the creator and director of the Universe. Himself unfettered by karma, he controls the destinies of men, rewarding them according to their works.

Exceeding dear am I to the man of knowledge, and he to Me. Accordingly he delivers from sin those who come to him.

Surrendering all the Laws, come for refuge to Me alone. I will deliver thee from all sins ; grieve not.

Krishna is an incarnation of this Supreme God, one of the many incarnations which He has vouchsafed to the world.

For whenever the Law fails and lawlessness uprises, O thou of Bharatas race, then do I bring myself to bodied birth.

To guard the righteous, to destroy evil-doers, to establish the Law, I come into birth age after age.

Now it is in the peculiar religious attitude which is enjoined towards the Lord that the special interest of the Bhagavadgita lies. Through love to God the individual is led with certainty to deliverance. And it is important to observe that bhakti in itself is sufficient. Works are excluded as rigidly as they are in the Pauline theology, so far as they are claimed to be a ground of salvation. And the way of deliverance is accordingly open to all who belong to the four castes. There is in the declaration of a way of deliverance to all, qualified though it be in this way, the admission of a principle, of which previously there had been comparatively little trace. One passage is very striking :

Even though he should be a doer of exceeding evil that worships Me with undivided worship, he shall be esteemed good ; for he is of right purpose.

Speedily he becomes righteous of soul, and comes to lasting peace.

O son of Kunti, be assured that none who is devoted to Me is lost.

For even they that be born of sin, O son of Pritha,—women, traffickers, and serfs,—if they turn to Me, come to the supreme path ; how much more then shall righteous Brahmans and devout kingly sages ?

The last part of the passage does not seriously detract from the value of the first part. There is involved in it nothing more than an admission of the fact that there were some who had been placed in positions in the world which made the way easier for them than it was to others. What the Law was to the Jews, a paidagogos to bring them to Christ, that their position of special privilege was to those of the higher castes. It is to be noted also that the teaching of the passage, rightly understood, is not Antinomian in tendency. It is well to make this clear, because there is much religious literature in India of which the same cannot be said. In the Bhagavadgita bhakti does not take the place of a righteous life, so that the religious man does not require to manifest his religion in a good life. The worship of the Blessed One does not express itself in mere ecstasy. In it the whole of ones being is engaged ; ` He is of right purpose. In this rightness of purpose there is the guarantee of righteousness in deed. There are no doubt indications of a tendency to exaggerate the significance of the more strictly ecstatic aspect of this loving devotion. Much importance is attached to the thoughts of the dying man, as when it is said :

He who at his last hour, when he casts off the body, goes hence remembering Me, goes assuredly into my being.

Whatsoever being a man at his end in leaving the body remembers, to that same he always goes, O son of Kunti, inspired to being therein. But even here it is clear that what is important is the direction given at the time of death to the whole soul.

We cannot fail to be struck in this part of our study with the similarity of the bhakti doctrine as expounded in the Bhagavadgita with the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith. The same problems arise as to the relation of faith to works, and the same danger besets the bhakta of falling into the Antinomian error of imagining that his faith or bhakti serves to lift him above moral distinctions. For this position there is no more ground in the Gita than there is in the Epistles of St. Paul. But it is a doctrine that is easy of misinterpretation, and which actually came to be misinterpreted by thinkers whose ethical sense was less sound than that of the author of the Bhagavadgita.

We may now consider the question of the more strictly ethical outcome of the doctrine of the Bhagavadgita. One important point has already been dealt with—the duty of performing ones dharma without thought of reward. In this we see morality taking to itself a content far more definitely positive than it has had in the other writings we have studied. The ordinary business of every day is given a meaning and a worth that it does not have even in the Law Books. But it is doubtful whether Krishnas teaching on this subject is quite satisfactory. The question has already been asked why one should follow ones dharma. Dharma does not seem to have any meaning in relation to the fundamental principles which are operative in the universe. It does not help us much to be told that it was created by the Supreme, or that for its maintenance He incarnates Himself from time to time, or that in His relations with the world He is free from attachment. Indeed these considerations serve to intensify the difficulty, for in the light of them it is difficult to see the meaning of the phenomenal at all. The wise man should do his appointed work, it is said, without regard to the fruit of works, in the same spirit as the Supreme performs His works. What does unattachment to the fruit of works here mean ? In some places at any rate one is forced to the conclusion that it involves the idea, as an essential element in it, of absence of purpose. In the Bhagavadgita we have a conception of the world different from that of the orthodox Samkhya. Behind both Prakriti and Purusha there is the Supreme who is in some way expressed in both. So the phenomenal world is no longer the outcome of the mere lighting up of Prakriti by Purusha, but it is created and continued under the direction of the Supreme. We seem to be forced to the conclusion that God created the world, imposing laws upon nature and upon man, and yet that in all this He remained free from attachment, not loving His creation, not seeking the fulfilment of any purpose through it; but at the same time, mans dharma, established by the Supreme without attachment, is to be performed by man with similar absence of attachment. The finite world, and dharma with it, thus lose all meaning. We have an implied distinction similar to that which Descartes drew in later times between the Will and the Understanding of God, and the primacy in this case as in the case of Descartes is assumed to belong to the former. God has willed things to be as they are. By the mere fiat of His will he might have made them otherwise. This is not a very satisfactory basis either for knowledge or for morality. So here, dharma is dharma. It is to be performed because God has ordained it, but beyond that no purpose is fulfilled by it. Let man resolutely perform it, regardless of its fruits.

In the light of this statement we can see that we cannot without some qualification say that morality receives in the Bhagavadgita a positive content. It certainly does so, but it is a content cold and lifeless, fixed and immutable, not a content which becomes ever richer and more vital to him who seeks to perform it.

So, we do not wonder that, when the qualities which characterize the moral man are dealt with in detail, the emphasis is rather on those connected with absence of attachment than on those connected with the performance of positive duty. Take one passage in which there are detailed the qualities which fit a man for the course which leads to final redemption.

Fearlessness, purity of the Goodness-Mood, abiding in knowledge and the Rule, almsgiving, restraint of sense, sacrifice, scripture-reading, mortification, uprightness, harmlessness, truth, wrathlessness, renunciation, restraint of spirit, lack of malice, pity towards born beings, unwantoning sense, tenderness, modesty, steadfastness,

Heroic temper, patience, constancy, purity, innocence, and lack of overweening spirit are in him that is born to Gods estate, O thou of Bharatas race.

It will be observed that in such a passage as this it is the passive virtues that are most prominent. There are several positive virtues in the list, but it is worthy of note that, while in the case of passive virtues it is chiefly the inner attitude that is emphasized, it is mainly overt actions that are mentioned when positive virtues are in question. For example, almsgiving, scripture-reading, and sacrifice are overt actions which are prescribed in the manuals of dharma. So is ahimsa or harmlessness. The most interesting of the positive virtues enjoined is that of heroic temper, energy, or vigour. It may be taken as marking a more positive way of regarding the character of the good man.

Another passage deals with the duties that are laid upon the members of the different castes.

Restraint of spirit and sense, mortification, purity, patience, uprightness, knowledge, discernment, and belief are the natural works of the Brahman.

Valour, heroic temper, constancy, skill, steadfastness in strife, largesse, and princeliness are the natural knightly (Kshatriya) works.

Tilling the ground, herding kine, and trading are the natural works of Traffickers (Vaisyas) ; and the natural work of the Serf (Sara) is service.

These works are natural because determined by the Moods. In the case of the two lowest castes reference is made simply to their peculiar worldly occupations, discharge of the duties of which is considered as the proper work of the caste, while the exercise of qualities more distinctively ethical is involved in the performance of the work of the two highest castes. But the striking thing is that recognition is given at all to those qualities of mind and heart which serve to fit a man for the discharge of the duties and responsibilities of his station. Not indeed that they should simply be recognized, for that is no new thing, but that it should be recognized that in the exercising of these qualities a man was not simply making good karma, but in a more direct way making for the attainment of the end of his being. For this is the most remarkable thing in the ethical teaching of the Bhagavadgita that for it there is no sharp division between the worldly life and the religious life.

The common round, the daily task Should furnish all we ought to ask.

It may be that it is at the expense of logic that qualities like valour and heroic temper are given a place here. They may not be consistent with that freedom from attachment to the fruit of works inculcated by the Bhagavadgita. But after all it is not in the consistency of its thought that the value of the Bhagavadgita lies. From the ethical point of view we are impressed most of all by the fact that, however hesitatingly, a pathway to reality was found in the fulfilment of the ordinary duties of life.

This interpretation may seem to be inconsistent with the main trend of the teaching of the book. It might be maintained with much show of reason that the worklessness referred to is not synonymous with absence of purpose, the Supreme in His works being devoid not of all purpose but only of that craving which seeks satisfaction in something that is to be gained through works ; and that the individual in his works must remain unmoved only by selfish desire. But even so the difficulty is not removed. The Supreme finds satisfaction, it is said, in the devotion of his devotees. But if this be so, it would seem that in some way this purpose had to do with the institution of the conditions under which such devotion should be possible, and so with the dharma which He established as mans law. The difficulty would not be so acute if a distinction had been consistently maintained between the kinds of fruits which works produce. As it is, no such distinction is clearly drawn. The fruits of works are thought of as something irrelevant. Now as a matter of fact the consequences of any act are innumerable and of many kinds, and the moralist judges its worth as a moral act by reference to the motive from which it has sprung. That is to say, the question is, which of the many consequences of the act was that which the agent foresaw, and for the sake of the realization of which he performed the act ? An act and its consequences cannot be isolated from each other, nor can it be judged apart from them. The value of the ethical teaching of the Bhagavadgita is impaired by failure to recognize this, at any rate explicitly; and the injunction to perform works without attachment to their fruits amounts to a denial of the value of all acts performed with purpose—a position which it is of course impossible to maintain consistently.

If the reply be made that there is implicit in the teaching of the Bhagavadgita that distinction which is found so widely in Hindu thought, between the finite fruit which works produce and that higher fruit which consists in deliverance, it might be admitted that this was no doubt in the writers mind, but at the same time the question would have to be raised whether it had any logical justification. The tendency in Hindu thought has been to regard all finite goods as belonging to a different plane from the supreme good. One of the great merits of the Bhagavadgita is that it brings the ideal into relation with the activities of ordinary life. But to do so effectively there must be recognition of the value of lower objects of desire, when sought not for their own sakes but in accordance with a principle by which all ideals of practice take their value from the relation in which they stand to the highest. Such a principle is lacking in the Bhagavadgita. No examination of the end will furnish us with any clue to the details of duty, and the relation of ("dharma to the end is an external one.

While we offer these criticisms, we must not forget the immense influence which the Bhagavadgita has exercised on the minds of the Hindu people both religiously and ethically. It is in connexion with the school of bhakti, of which this is the first great classic, that we find some of the highest manifestations of Hindu religion and morality. The conception of God as a personal being, gracious towards those who seek him, however inadequately and confusedly it may have been presented here, is one which has done much to enrich the moral life of many of those who have received it. As for the Bhagavadgita itself, its ethical influence has been made manifest through particular lofty passages rather than through its doctrine as a whole.



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