Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda
Verily, nothing else in this world is as sanctifying as wisdom. In due course of time, the devotee who is successful in yoga will spontaneously realize this within his Self.
—The Bhagavad Gita IV:38
Any insufficiency or disturbance in a devotee's attunement with cosmic wisdom causes Nature's twenty-four elements of sensory perception to spring forth as dilutions of his consciousness of Oneness, God. The deluded man sees not his Source, the Spirit, but only the body, which is a mere conglomeration of the twenty-four inner elements of maya—twenty-four veils that shroud the Spirit. The scriptures call man "fallen" or "evil" when his consciousness is identified with "original sin"—the twenty-four-armed Mother Nature whose sole function is to divert man from Spirit to matter.
Of all qualities the purest is wisdom. Its unpollutable flame of light is the only effective adversary of darkness, ignorance. In due course of time, when the yogi reaches the ultimate success of freeing his consciousness from the gross perception of the body and the cosmic elements, he realizes, within himself—in the Self or soul—his lost-and-found wisdom as the sole liberator.
The mention of "time" in this stanza is significant. Man's mind, operating as a part of Nature's twenty-four elements, is engrossed in the material manifestations wrought by the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether, which are subject to the law of relativity and time—the divisions of the timeless, eternal now into the progression of past, present, and future. To escape the flux of time, the devotee must rise to the Spirit beyond Nature's compartments of relativity. The Absolutness of Cosmic Consciounsness is the only cure for the relativity of mortal consciousness. (p.521)
The ignorant, the man lacking in devotion, the doubt-filled man, ultimately perishes. The unsettled individual has neither this world (earthly happiness), nor the next (astral happiness), nor the supreme happiness of God.
—The Bhagavad Gita IV:40
Those who are ignorant (ajnas) and refuse to strive for knowledge; those who are without any devotion (shraddha) to spiritual things, the guru, and God; and, in particular, those who remain in an unsettled mental state (samshaya) about the value of the soul—all gradually decay in spiritual evolution. The ignorant man suffers dumbly, hardly aware of his ignorance. Those without devotion to high ideals have dried-up hearts; they cannot enjoy the real beauty in life. The doubt-afflicted are captives of their own imaginative responses to delusion. The ignorant, the nondevotional, and the doubtful hamper their orderly natural evolution toward God, both here and in the hereafter.
Even the worldly man who yet has a desire for knowledge, and who is devoted and active in acquiring it, automatically climbs the ladder of spiritual evolution. But soul decay sets in for the man who refuses to know, being satisfied with the senses—who does not want to acquire wisdom nor to bestir his mind, lest he learn something!
The man of doubt or irresolution is even worse off than the man who is habitually ignorant and does not know any better; the latter is placidly content in his ignorance.
The man with an unsettled mind, however, lacking commitment to any thing, neither enjoys the innocent joys of earthly life nor is he eligible for the joys of the hereafter (because astral happiness is a reward for man's earnest endeavors in performing good deeds on earth). The man of doubt is restrained by inertia—paralyzed into inaction, he remains stationary, a motionless object out of harmony with a world in constant flux.
It is better to work hard for material accomplishments than not to work at all; the man of action receives various benefits by exercising his mental and physical faculties. A man of spiritual action goes definitely forward. But the man with a doubting disposition depresses all his desires for activity. By lack of motion he converts himself almost to a state of paralysis—hardly a man at all! A human being has been sent into a world of activity and motion; unless he pursues spiritual motion and action by relinquishing doubts, he cannot progress.