Stages to Moksha
The Bhagavad Gita shows Arjuna going through 4 stages before becoming a seeker of liberation (Moksha), which apply to all of us:
- Discovery of the fact that I have a problem (samsara)
- Discovery of my helplessness to solve my problem (karpanya)
- Surrender to the one who can help me solve it (guru sharanagati)
- Pursue Self-Knowledge as the permeant solution to my problem (Atma Jnanam)
Most of us do not even appreciate we suffer from the problem of attachment, sorrow and delusion (Samsara) until it’s too late. It’s too late if the problem of sorrow has already overwhelmed us, after which it is much harder to deal with its root cause (attachment). Just like Arjuna who, at the crucial moment when he supposed to lead his army into battle, has an emotional breakdown. That problem of sorrow was lying dormant within him, like a cancer that lies dormant within the body and suddenly manifests when the time comes. This problem is called Samsara. Chapter 1 of Bhagavad Gita aims to show Arjuna discovering the problem of Samsara – but this is only stage 1.
Stage 2 involves discovering that I simply cannot solve this problem on my own, in spite of my best efforts. This is not so easy to discover – our ego does not like to admit it’s helpless. Hence, I (ego) will arrogantly try to solve the problem by changing job, changing friends, changing clothes, changing appearance, changing qualifications…but after several decades of trying these changes – none of the seem to actually solve the problem! Even Arjuna thinks he can solve his problem by becoming a monk and running away from the battlefield. It takes a certain humility to admit that “I don’t know” how to solve this problem of Samsara. There is no shame in saying “I don’t know” if I genuinely do not know. In fact, it’s a very matured thought and has the benefit of opening us up to the possibility to stage 3 – asking for help.
Stage 3 requires us to humbly seek help from whoever is capable of helping me. In this case a Guru with Self-Knowledge. This is only possible if I am humble and honest enough to admit I have a problem and don’t know how to crack it. Also, a Guru needs to be available. This ‘asking’ for help implies I am open minded, without any pre-conceptions ready to receive what is good for me (shreyas) from a trustworthy Guru. This is physically represented by the student (shishya) bowing down to the Guru in a symbolic act of surrender (sharanagati). Obviously, the Guru must also be of a certain character to be capable of guiding a student. Luckily for Arjuna, he had the world’s best Guru driving his chariot – Sri Krishna himself! But only in Chapter 2 verse 7 did he realise this and finally surrenders himself to Sri Krishna and asks for help. Only then, Sri Krishna begins teaching. The general rule in shastra is: do not offer advice, unless asked.
Once asked, then stage 4 can come – the actual solution to the problem of Samsara can be given by the Guru. What is the solution? Is pranayama, or a Kundalini Yoga? Perhaps some puja? No…there is only 1 solution spoken of in Shastra: Self-Knowledge. Knowledge of Atma. This is where Vedanta begins. Sri Krishna only actually teaches Self Knowledge from Chapter 2 Verse 11 onwards which we will see next.
Om Tat Sat