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A prison with golden bars is still a prison

February 10
21:51 2015

Swami NikhilanandIn the last article, we saw that although Shree Krishna explained to Arjun that if he did
his duty by fighting the war, he would be rewarded with the pleasures of this world or of swarg. However, this was not sufficient incentive to motivate Arjun to fight the war. He was convinced that both worldly pleasures and those of swarg are temporary and unfulfilling.

Both good actions (punya) and bad actions (pap) are binding. Punya sends one to swarg, and pap sends one to narak, but in either case one is still stuck in the cycle of birth and death and under the bondage of karm, time, and maya.

Whether you put poison in a sweet ball that tastes delicious, or you put poison in a bitter drink that tastes terrible, it is still poison. Whether you go to swarg and enjoy, or whether you go to narak and suffer, you are still under maya, and you still end up being reborn in this world.

Swarg is like a prison with golden bars, and this world is like a prison with iron bars, but both are within the realm of maya. After having understood the reality of Swarg, Arjun wanted to go beyond it. Shree Krishna told him that He is going to explain karm yog, by practicing which he can be freed from the bondage of karm and the cycle of birth and death (chapter 2, verses 38-40).

Beyond the Ved
Surprisingly, at this point Shree Krishna tells Arjun that he must go beyond the teachings of the Ved. Why would Shree Krishna say such a thing? After all, the Ved is the foundation of Sanatan Dharm, and all other scriptures like the Gita are based on the teachings of the Ved. Here we must remember that the Ved and other scriptures of Sanatan Dharm are a fully coordinated, multi-tiered educational system that has something for everyone, depending on their level of spiritual advancement, and the goal they wish to attain.

The lowest level of this system teaches people how to be good, and gives them incentive to develop discipline and the positive qualities of their mind. This is handled by the karm kand of the Ved, which comprises 80% of the one hundred thousand mantras of the Ved.

It tells the law of karm, what is punya, what is pap, and what are the rewards for punya, and the punishments for pap. In other words, it tells all of the do’s and don’ts that a person should live by. This is called the vidhi and nishedh of the Ved.

By understanding this, a person who desires to enjoy this world – but does not yet desire God – will be motivated to perform good actions in order to secure more worldly prosperity for himself in the future, and to avoid the punishments of bad karm.

However, as explained above, this can only take a person so far. After many lifetimes of such good actions, a person may start to wonder if there is something more – if there is a state of perfect happiness beyond the cycle of birth and death and beyond the sufferings of this world. This means that this person has sufficiently evolved the good qualities of his mind (through following the do’s and don’ts of the Ved) that he is now ready to go to the next level. At this time, he must transcend the mere do’s and don’ts of the Ved and learn how to reach God.

Striving for the Divine goal
Thus, Shree Krishna tells Arjun that the teachings of the karm kand of Ved are limited to the three qualities of maya (sattva, raj, tam), and must be transcended. Instead of making the attainment of worldly happiness his goal in life, he should make the attainment of God the goal of his life (chapter 2, verse 45). God is absolute bliss and knowledge, and the one who attains Him becomes equally blissful and knowledgeable.

After attaining God, Who is the unlimited ocean of bliss, a person has as much use for the pleasures of the world as a person in possession of an ocean would have for a small puddle (chapter 2, verse 46). Karm yog is one of the ways of attaining God, which Shree Krishna proceeded to explain to Arjun.

What is karm yog?
To perform karm yog, you must not be attached to the outcome of your actions, nor must you be attached to inaction (chapter 2, verse 47). While keeping your mind in God, you must perform your duty free of attachment and be unaffected by either success or failure (chapter 2, verse 48). Then you will transcend good and bad actions and attain freedom from the bondage of karm (chapter 2, verse 50).

By performing your actions while renouncing the fruit of those actions, you will be freed from the bondage of birth and death and will attain a perfect, eternal Divine state (chapter 2, verse 51). This is how Shree Krishna presents the practice of karm yog to Arjun, which brings up several questions.

How can one perform an action without being attached to the outcome? By nature, when we undertake an action, it is with a specific goal in mind – so how could we not be attached to the outcome? How is it possible to keep the mind in God while performing any action?

The involvement of the mind is required for the performance of any action, so how can the mind be in two places at once? How does karm yog free one from the bondage of karm? How does karm yog free one from the bondage of birth and death? How does karm yog result in the attainment of God? All these questions will be addressed in the next article.

Disciple of Shree Kripaluji Maharaj
Swami Nikhilanand Ji is a Canadian born Hindu spiritual leader based in Austin, Texas. He is a sanyasi disciple and pracharak of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj.

Attracted to the teachings of Hinduism from a young age, Swamiji eventually let his deep spiritual longing lead him to India, where he was most fortunate to come under the guidance of Shree Kripaluji Maharaj.

Thereafter, living in the ashrams of JKP, he extensively studied Hindi, the philosophy of the prime Sanskrit scriptures (Vedas, Darshan Shastras, Gita, Bhagwatam), and practiced meditation in the tradition of raganuga bhakti. In 2003, he was given sanyas.

Now, with the blessings of his Guruji, he offers satsang programs throughout America, engaging audiences with his clear explanations of Hindu philosophy coupled with inspired chanting of Sanskrit mantras and shlokas and charming nam sankirtan. His informative and compelling speeches provide practical insight into how to adopt the teachings of Sanatan Dharm into our daily lives, and inspire us to awaken our inner spiritual potential.

To stay in touch with Swami Nikhilanand Ji, like his Facebook page at or follow him on twitter at

Swami Nikhilanand



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