Bhagwad Gita

Bhagwad Gita

External Attributes Of An Enlightened Soul Are Unreliable

External attributes of an enlightened soul are unreliable

In the last post, “Characteristics Of God-realized Soul”, Shree Krishna explains internal attributes of an enlightened soul to Arjun. However, why did Shree Krishna not describe any external characteristics of a God-realized person?

Because there are no reliable outer attributes which could be defined. Externally, the person is still the same as they were before they became God-realized – they have only changed internally (as described earlier). There is no color of cloth or style of clothing that is worn by a God-realized person. There is no requirement to shave the head, or grow the hair, or grow a beard. There is no requirement to live in the jungle, or a cave, or an ashram. There is no need to be a sanyasi, to leave the family, or to leave the world. So if someone were to rely on these external markers to judge if a person was God realized or not, they would be wrong more times than not.

Shree Krishna even states that someone may renounce the world physically (deny themselves material enjoyments and comforts), yet his or her mind will continue to harbor thoughts of worldly pleasures.  They will only be free of such desires when they have attained God (chapter 2, verse 59). Thus, it would be wrong to conclude that just because a person has a high degree of physical renunciation, that they are God-realized. Conversely, the God-realized individual, although free from attachment and desire, still makes use of the material things (chapter 2, verse 64). They may live an ordinary life in the world, with a job and a family. They may even live an extraordinary life in the world, like Prahlad, Dhruv, Ambarish, and Janak, all of whom ruled great kingdoms. Therefore, to recognize a God-realized person requires getting to know what is in their heart and mind, and not just observing their external lifestyle and behavior.

In the end, Shree Krishna tells that just as the ocean is calm even as water from various rivers enters into it from all sides, similarly, one whose mind is fixed in God remains undisturbed, even while in contact with all the objects of enjoyment of this world.  Only such a person attains ultimate peace, not the one who wishes to fulfill material desires (chapter 2, verse 70).  He says that this is the state of one who has realized God.  Upon achieving this state, one is never deluded again.  Being fixed in this state, one is freed from the cycle of birth and death and attains Divine bliss forever (chapter 2, verse 72).

Even after hearing this explanation from Shree Krishna, Arjun still had more questions.  At the beginning of the third chapter, he questions why it is necessary to fight the war if the ultimate goal is to go beyond this world. We will discuss Shree Krishna’s answer in the next article.


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