An interview with Sunandaji on Chapter 4 of the Bhagavad Gita, featured in DNA India.
So what's the focal point of this chapter?
The chapter deals with the subject of Action. Action is inevitable in human life because every single day of our life is unavoidable. But how do we bring the highest quality of action in our lives? You could do whatever you want and ultimately nobody can really stop you. But if you pause and think, you will realise that there is a consequence for every single action. It's going to come right back to you. And then, what if you don't like the consequences? In that sense, there is no good luck or bad luck, it is all about reaping the consequences of our own past actions. Nobody wants negative consequences. Yet, whatever we face in life is our own doing. We need to know the best quality of action to take in order to reap the best consequences. When we do so we will find both success and peace in life, not just one of the two.
How does one distinguish between 'good' action and 'bad' action?
No action is good or bad per se, or rather it cannot be judged good or bad on its own. It depends on the intention with which it is committed. It's always the intention behind the action that makes it good or bad. For example a person may put a knife into another. It could be a surgeon performing a surgery to heal a person or someone doing it in anger in order to hurt or maim another person. If a surgeon performs a surgery on a person with best intentions and in spite of that the person dies, it cannot be judged as a bad action.
So what is this system of thought all about....could you elaborate?
The philosophy behind it is very scientific. Vedanta springs from the Bhagvad Gita and it says that you must understand yourself first. It's like when you buy a piece of equipment you get a manual along with it that instructs any person how to operate it. Similarly, the Gita is a manual for life.
People would love to commit positive actions every time but often they get caught up in a vortex of emotions that prevent them from doing so. So how can one overcome this?
Greed, anger, passions – they belong to the realm of the mind. The mind is the sum total of feelings, impulses, desires, needs etc...There is also a superior instrument called the intellect. No other creature apart from a human has intellect.
For example, it can be generally said that anger occurs when desire is interrupted. So, we need to modify desire. In some religions desire is considered as devil. But we say desire in itself is not wrong. Many people desire knowledge, some desire a partner, some desire welfare of their family – which are all worthy desires. But when the mind is not in control of the intellect then desire becomes disproportionate. It leads to greed, obsession and a loss of control. Desire, when out of control, is destructive. Through studying the Gita, we can develop a strong intellect which can help us modify negative emotions like desire and anger, which lead to the attainment of happiness. Not just happiness but we become more efficient and successful in life as well.