2.45 Who Am I?

trai-guṇya-viṣayā vedā
nistrai-guṇyo bhavārjuna
nirdvandvo nitya-sattva-stho
niryoga-kṣema ātmavān

The Vedas deal mainly with the subject of the three modes of material nature. O Arjuna, become transcendental to these three modes. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the self. Bhagavad Gita, verse 2.45

The human experience begins with seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The Vedas guide us on our journey while we are in human body. While they teach us to regulate our senses, the ultimate goal of the Vedas is to bring us to the level of unconditional love. Time has witnessed that living being remain caught up in their gross experiences and the repercussions thereof.

Consider how the authorities have regulated drugs and sex in Amsterdam, a notable hub of sense pleasure. When things went out of control, the authorities decided to change what was once illegal into legal, but in a regulated way. Those who lost control over their lust for drugs and sex and were illegally enjoying were now asked to enjoy under the hood of a regulated system. Why was there a need to regulate? The unleashed acts of abusing drugs and sex led to crime and deterioration of both mind and body. The regulation imposed by authorities helped to some extent. Addictions gradually came down, but addicts couldn’t grow out of their compulsive habits fully. An everlasting change takes places only when the consciousness is transformed.  Along with leashing the senses, we should focus our consciousness on a higher purpose.

The Vedas teach us how we can fulfill our fleshy desires and yet honor the religious principles and respect the Supreme Lord. Due to the nature of their teachings, the Vedas deal with the matter of the three modes of nature namely Sattva, Rajas, Tamas. The Vedas have prescriptions for all the living beings no matter which mode of nature they are dominated by. An example of regulation from the Vedas is offering meat to Devi Kali by chanting some mantras. Eating meat ignites violence not only to the animals but also in the consciousness of those who eat flesh. What can mantras do? Those mantras, if chanted with knowledge and awareness, begin to change the consciousness of the meat eater. The chanters of the mantras say to the living being who was killed “As we have killed you to satisfy our senses, you may kill us too in another birth.” Who follows the Vedas in this age? Very few! The culture has deteriorated so much that instead of transcending the Vedas, we have descended to the level where we don’t bother about the teachings of the Vedas. Worst, we write our own rules according to what satiates us.

Krishna is advising Arjuna to transcend the modes of nature that make us work towards our gains and securities. A country attacks another country to misuse its resources. The other country fights to ensure its safety. These activities take place in the influence of the three modes of nature. The root of all the dramas in the world is the three modes of nature.

Krishna says transcend the modes and be established in the self. That is, regain your lost identity and become fixed in it. Who am I? is the starting point of the our rescue mission. The Vedanta-sutra (1.1.1) states, athato brahma jijnasa: “Now one should inquire about Brahman – The absolute truth, the transcendental, spiritual nature.” With this inquiry begins our journey to our selves. This inquiry leads us to the Truth, and we begin to get in touch with our original nature. In our original nature, our agenda is to love the Supreme and its part and parcels. To serve with love is the goal. Before we achieve the culmination of pure love, we should feel impelled to question our identity. And, we should do all that which is necessary and prescribed in the bonafide scriptures to regain our original nature.

Knowing the identity and nature is not enough. Without walking the path we can only gain theoretical understanding. If the understanding remains theoretical for a long time, it first turns into pride and the frustration. So, we need to take the journey no matter what.  On our journey we should be armed with a solid commitment and unwavering enthusiasm as distractions will prick our souls and thorns will try to slow us down. For a sustained realization of who we are and to remain fixed in our identity, prayers are our Brahmastra and mercy our savior.

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