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If all qualities come from Krishna, why call some virtuous?|| Acharya Prashant, on Bhagvad Gita(2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
9 min
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बुद्धिर्ज्ञानमसम्मोह: क्षमा सत्यं दम: शम: ।

सुखं दु:खं भवोऽभावो भयं चाभयमेव च ।। 10.4 ।।

अहिंसा समता तुष्टिस्तपो दानं यशोऽयश: ।

भवन्ति भावा भूतानां मत्त एव पृथग्विधा: ।। 10.5 ।।

buddhir jñānam asammohaḥ kṣhamā satyaṁ damaḥ śhamaḥ

sukhaṁ duḥkhaṁ bhavo ’bhāvo bhayaṁ chābhayameva cha

ahinsā samatā tuṣhṭis tapo dānaṁ yaśho ’yaśhaḥ

bhavanti bhāvā bhūtānāṁ matta eva pṛithag-vidhāḥ

Intellect, knowledge, non-delusion, forbearance, truth, restraint of the external senses, calmness of heart, happiness, misery, birth, death, fear, as well as fearlessness, non-injury, evenness, contentment, austerity, benevolence, good name, as well as ill-fame — (these) different kinds of qualities of beings arise from Me alone.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10, Verses 4-5

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Questioner (Q): It's said here that all attributes, like misery, happiness, good name, and even ill-fame, arise from the Lord. What then is the role of free will for a human being when everything is arising from the Lord himself?

Also, why are certain qualities stated to be virtuous or vicious?

Acharya Prashant (AP): All these things that are said here are not with respect to the Lord, sir. They are with respect to you.

Intellect—does the Lord carry intellect? The Lord is absolute Brahma. The Lord is the Truth itself. Does the Truth carry intellect, operate via intellect? No. Intellect is yours.

Knowledge—is the Truth full of knowledge?

Non-delusion—is the Truth ever deluded, that non-delusion would be a relevant word?

Forbearance—is the Truth ever in illusion or is the Truth ever reactive? When the Truth has infinite patience, why would the Truth deal with a word like ‘forbearance’?

Restraint of the external senses—is the Truth sensual?

Calmness of heart—is that Truth ever agitated?

Happiness—is the Truth dualistic, living in happiness and sadness?

So, you see, all these words, they pertain to you, right? What is being said here is that you and all your experiences are ultimately in some way related to the Truth. What that way is, we will understand.

Whatsoever is happening with you, whatsoever is experiential, has a fundamental relationship with the Truth. Be it happiness, misery, birth, death, fear, fearlessness, non-injury, evenness, contentment, austerity, good name, ill-fame—all this has something to do with Truth. All these things that I mentioned here have no relation with Truth that is attributeless. These things bear a relationship with you, the reader, right? So, all that is happening to you is related to the Truth, correct? And then the question says, “If all is related to the Truth, then what is the role of free will?” The role of free will is that it exists. It exists. Had it not existed, then these things wouldn't have existed for it.

By its very definition, by its very name, free will carries a certain freedom about itself. It’s not just will: we call it free will, right? So, it does have at least a modicum of freedom about itself. That's what free will is. The appearance, the feeling, the belief that one is free to have this experience or that experience, that one is free to have this course in life or choose that other path—that's what free will is. It is with respect to the free will that all these things exist.

Sri Krishna is saying, "Whether you go this way or you go that way, ultimately you are coming to Me because both these things have been given by Me." You will not come to know that both these paths have been given to you by Krishna, unless you see that your very basic desire to walk on either path is actually because you want to meet Krishna. It's just that one path is more suitable to you, and the other path is not very suitable to you.

That's why with respect to you, only in your reference is one path called as ‘virtuous’, and the other as ‘not virtuous’. Otherwise, there is nothing good or bad. There is no virtue or vice involved in anything. ‘Good’, ‘bad’, all these things are not absolutes: they are relatives. They exist with respect to you. For you something is good, for you something is bad. What is good for you? That which takes you to your deepest desire. What is the deepest desire? Your deepest desire is relaxation, Liberation. You could call it Krishna attainment. They all point towards the same thing.

So, you are the one who thinks of himself as free—at least partially free. You are the one who calls his desires as instances of free will. Because you think that you are free to choose this way or that way, therefore right and wrong exist for you.

Obviously, if there are two choices, one will be good for you, one will be not so good for you. Had there been no choice, had there been no free will, there would have been nothing good and nothing bad because you would have been totally choiceless. If you are totally choiceless, what can be good and what can be bad? Even that which we consider as a vice, which is evil, which is sinister, is chosen because you wanted to reach Krishna, but in a very haphazard way. Your mind was not clear. You thought your bad choice will give you a good result, but deep down the intention was to do good to yourself. This ultimate goodness that you want to bring to yourself is called 'Krishna'. But irrespective of the desire to attain that ultimate goodness, in absence of realization, in absence of attention, we frequently make wrong choices.

We fail to understand ourselves—that’s the reason. There is an impulse arising from within—we do not understand what it is saying. Therefore, we treat it in totally the wrong way.

Let's say there is a child, and the inner impulse, the central tendency is like a little kid; it shows very little maturity. So, let’s say there is a kid, and the kid is yelling. And the kid is not yet grown enough to express its needs and demands very clearly. All it does is yell. It cries, shrieks, rolls on the ground, throws about its limbs—that’s what the kid does—and you are not paying attention to the kid. You are just irritated by the kid's noises. You want to just somehow silence the kid. So, instead of understanding and appreciating what the kid really needs, you just pick something up and force it down his throat.

First of all, you are assuming that the kid is yelling because the kid is hungry. The kid is not yelling because the kid is hungry for some worldly food, for some material comfort—first thing.

Secondly, you have not even bothered to investigate what kind of food is good for the kid. Just because you don't like the noise, just because you feel impelled to do something about the situation, you hurriedly, very carelessly give some kind of treatment to your situation moment-after-moment. The inner kid keeps agitating, and you keep feeding it the wrong stuff; you keep treating it the wrong way. You think it is hungry for food—maybe it is hungry for love. How will you know if you are not in touch with yourself? That’s what I call 'self-inquiry'. Go into yourself and ask and see what your inner kid is craving for.

Once you know what your inner kid is craving for, you are in a situation to feed it the right thing. That’s Krishna attainment.

So, the kid inside wants one thing, but there can be a right response to the kid’s agitation and a wrong response. Right and wrong exist with respect to our choices. We could choose to do the right thing to the kid, which is ourselves, or we could do the wrong thing to the kid, which is ourselves. Whether you do wrong or right, depends on how well and how deeply you understand yourself.

But, understanding oneself is a task in humility. When you go about looking at yourself in a really honest way, it's not pleasant things that you see. Therefore, I say, "Humility is needed." If you are someone who holds fancy notions about himself, then self-inquiry will be too much for you.

The moment you turn your sight inwards, you’ll not like the stuff that you see. Therefore, you'll not want to look inwards at all. That's the reason why most people avoid self-inquiry, and that's the reason why people keep on deteriorating year after year, moment after moment. You don’t want to look at yourself, because the insides are dirty, and because you don't look at yourself, the insides keep getting dirtier and dirtier. Vicious cycle.

Now, do you see what virtue and vice mean? There could be a virtuous cycle, and there could be a vicious cycle.

Virtue is to look at yourself even if it hurts—and it would hurt. Vice is to avoid all that which hurts, run away—and running away is never an incident. Running away is always a habit that keeps getting deepened after every successive incidence of escapism.

Run away once, and you'll have greater incentive to run away twice.

Escape away once, and you have sealed your fate. Next time, it will be easier for you to escape away.

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