“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)Download this episode (right click and save)
raso 'ham apsu kaunteya
śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu
In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that, among other things, He is the light of the sun. The statement is found within a series of verses in which Krishna compares Himself to the essence of something. The light of the sun is what makes the sun. Therefore the essence is the light, and by extension Krishna is that essence. For ascetics, penance is what gives meaning to their occupation. With water there is the taste. Krishna, or God Himself, is the essence of all of these things.
The comparison to the sun is important because the living entities are born into the darkness of ignorance. This is the default condition. There are plenty of efforts made to dissipate this darkness, but a bird from ancient times reveals the true way out. Named Kakabhushundi, he says that even if you were to set the entire world on fire, the light produced would not be able to take away the darkness of night. Only the sun can do that. The Supreme Lord is compared to that sun. The darkness is maya, or illusion, and it cannot be completely removed by any other means.
Have you lied recently? Did you take something that didn’t belong to you? Did you lust after something? There is the process of atonement to remove the impending negative reaction. It is something like taking a bath after getting dirty. Yet penance alone won’t do the trick, since there is an underlying desire to enjoy separately from the Supreme Lord. That is the real definition to sin, and so even if a person can remove some negative effects temporarily, if the desire to sin is still there the darkness of maya will remain.
Do you crave pizza and ice cream too much? Do you want to give up smoking cigarettes? Try quitting cold turkey. To take away the negative influence of the sense objects, remove those objects. Take them away as possible avenues of indulgence. This process is known as austerity. In Sanskrit the word is tapasya. Indeed, there is the recommendation that the human life is meant for tapasya. In no other species can the living being voluntarily give up something for the purpose of receiving a higher benefit.
ya āste manasā smaran
mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate
“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)
Shri Krishna addresses this kind of renunciation in the Bhagavad-gita. He says that if a person gives up these objects but still harbors some attachment on the inside, they are a pretender. They haven’t really renounced anything. They have tortured themselves to avoid indulging in harmful behavior. They have made a step forward, but the darkness of maya is still there.
If you want to know why it’s important to stay detached, then study scripture. This process of gathering knowledge is known as jnana. Vairagya, detachment, and jnana, knowledge, are two integral aspects to spiritual life. They go hand in hand. You gather knowledge so that you can stay detached from objects in illusion. You follow detachment so that you’ll be better equipped to assimilate higher truths.
Nevertheless, study is only theoretical. You can give all the right answers to questions on a test, but do you follow the principles in real life? Are you above the darkness of ignorance or do you just know that ignorance is bad?
A good way to break free from distractions is to concentrate. In Sanskrit the word is dhyana. Concentrate so that your mind won’t wander here and there. Indeed, in the Bhagavad-gita Arjuna says that to control the mind is akin to trying to control the wind. That is how restless the mind is.
cañcalaṁ hi manaḥ kṛṣṇa
pramāthi balavad dṛḍham
tasyāhaṁ nigrahaṁ manye
vāyor iva su-duṣkaram
“For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it is, it seems to me, more difficult than controlling the wind.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.34)
Dhyana is wonderful, but on what should you concentrate? If you don’t know, then there will be little pleasure derived from the process. The spirit soul is ananda, or blissful. It needs to feel pleasure from activity. If pleasure is missing from dhyana, the mind will go elsewhere to find it.
The real meaning of yoga is to link the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. When discoursing within the realm of spirituality, yoga refers to the ancient practice of mysticism, wherein a person can acquire different siddhis, or perfections, as a result of dedicated practice.
Yoga by itself won’t remove the darkness of maya. The reason is that the siddhis must be used for a tangible purpose. It’s pretty neat to be able to become lighter than air or travel from place to place without bringing the body along with you. If the mind is still focused on exploiting the material nature, then these abilities really bring no advancement.
The only way to dispel the dark night of maya is to have the association of the spiritual sun that is the Supreme Lord. His full association comes only through bhakti, or devotion. That devotion can flow through any activity. As a way of life, bhakti-yoga can include meditation, renunciation, knowledge, or mysticism. Yet devotion to God is never dependent on any single factor. Even a child can find the shelter of the Supreme Lord. A person does not have to be knowledgeable; they simply have to be surrendered.
For light of spiritual sun to see,
Person only surrendered need be.
Not having knowledge the highest,
Or resolve in austerity the strongest.
Knowledge may not even be there,
Of higher matters not aware.
Only when coming the light of the sun,
There to be darkness of ignorance none.