It Must Be Love

On a recent reading of Bhagavad-gita, I was surprised to recognise that Ramanujacarya (1017-1137 CE) had translated one of the verses from the end of the third chapter quite differently from other Vaisnava commentators. In the section of verses wherein Krishna responds to Arjuna’s question as to what impels us to do wrong (papam), the point is made that it is due to lust (kama) or excessive desire. Krishna explains that this passion resides in our senses, mind and intelligence; and that it is our insatiable enemy. In order to root out this lust, Krishna advises that the senses are superior to matter, the mind superior to the sense, above mind is the intelligence and superior to this is ‘he’(saha) or the soul (BG 3.42). Thus understanding that a person, as the soul, is superior, lust can be driven out by intelligence and regulation of the senses. What is interesting is that Ramanujacarya translates saha as ‘lust’ not the ‘soul’, meaning that above all, even our intelligence, is lust. Hence, in everything from the way we reason to the way we think and engage, all are under the influence of varying degrees of lust. We are impelled to act and think, not from a transcendent position but rather as impelled and influenced by the antecedent lust. In the commentary of Srila Prabhupada he teaches us that lust is a degradation of original love: ‘Lust is only the perverted reflection of the love of God which is natural for every living entity.’ (BG. 3.41, purport). Thus love when covered or turned entirely toward the self, as in self serving or narcissistic, no longer privileges the other or supreme Other (God) but turns to personal want. In the free state, the terminus a quo is love: the saha or he (in Ramanujacarya’s case) influencing our being on all levels and pouring forth selflessly and benevolently. Therefore rooting out the lust requires that at the inception of our material being, the centre or nucleus of our present existence; which exists before and within even our intelligence et al, the saha (lust) must be reconstituted as love. As such all others will become the object of our best wishes and actions, as opposed to us; giving will take priority over taking and selflessness replaces selfishness. The correct state of affairs in Ramanujan terms would then be: superior to matter is the senses, above which is the mind then intelligence, and standing supreme above and influencing all must be love. In addressing the origin of sin, or original sin, the world’s problems as they exist in environmental degradation, poverty and suffering would naturally be resolved.

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