Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda
All Experiences are Transitory
O Son of Kunti (Arjuna)! because sense pleasures spring from outward contacts, and have beginning and end (are ephemeral), they are begetters only of misery. No sage seeks happiness from them.
— The Bhagavad Gita V:22
Pleasures obtained through the senses are limited and transitory. Overtaxed, the senses give unhappiness. Eating to excess or listening to music continually produces discomfort instead of joy. A saint therefore speaks of all pleasures that arise from sense contacts as generators of grief; they often create unhappiness in the beginning and in the end. Even the desire for sense enjoyments and the process of indulging in them involve some form of suffering; if not in conscience or body, then in the thought that they must end.
Knowing that the transitory pleasures of the material world always end in sorrow, saints do not concentrate on deriving happiness from the impure source of the senses. (p.563)
O Son of Kunti (Arjuna), the ideas of heat and cold, pleasure and pain, are produced by the contacts of the senses with their objects. Such ideas are limited by a beginning and an end. They are transitory, O Descendent of Bharata (Arjuna); bear them with patience!
— The Bhagavad Gita II:14
The sense organs are reactively sensitive; their nature is to respond pleasurably or painfully to stimuli. They have been conditioned to have strong likes and dislikes; thus, liking produces enjoyment, and disliking causes repulsion, or pain. The sense impressions flow through the tunnel of fine nerve-points, using the life force and mind as the rivers to carry them along. When good and bad, or hot and cold, material objects contact the sensitive sense organs, the result is pleasure and pain, or heat and cold. These resultant sensations are transitory, fickle, evanescent. They come and go; man should bear them with patience, with mental evenness (titiksha).
An environment-enslaved body is a constant trouble to the mind, holding in bondage the potentially all-powerful mental faculties.
Man experiences sensations as the feelings produced by the contact of the senses with matter. A sensation or first-flowing feeling produced in the mind is elaborated initially as a perception. It is then expanded into conception by the action of the intelligence. And lastly, the conception changes into feeling, the faculty that passes judgment on the experience in terms of pain or pleasure of the body, sorrow or happiness of the mind, according to habitual attitudes of likes and dislikes. Therefore, the masters teach, if feeling can be neutralized— made impervious to transitory dualities of heat and cold, pleasure and pain—then all experiences will be merely intellectually cognized, ideas to be properly acted upon. (p.200)
Unaffected by joy and sorrow, praise and blame—secure in his divine nature; regarding with an equal eye a clod of clay, a stone, and gold; the same in his attitude toward pleasant or unpleasant (men and experiences); firm-minded;
Uninfluenced by respect or insult; treating friend and enemy alike; abandoning all delusions of personal doership—he it is who has transcended the triple qualities!
— The Bhagavad Gita XIV:24-25
An ordinary mortal is continuously stirred by the triple qualities while witnessing the motion picture of life. But the calm yogi observes the scenes without the prejudices and agitations of mind that in the common man arise from feelings of love and hate, attraction and repulsion. The yogi, turning within to the imperturbable joy of his soul, is not emotionally involved with a mere picture.
Personal experience of the dualities does not affect inwardly the detached, desireless yogi, whether he receives pleasure or pain; or encounters agreeable or disagreeable persons and experiences; or is allotted acclaim or censure, honor or disgrace; or meets friend or foe; or gains a piece of land or a stone mansion or a mass of gold—all experiences that may occur in the motion picture of daily life. The yogi beholds all mundane scenes with undisturbed tranquility, knowing them to be only lights and shadows: changing vibrations of the Cosmic Beam and the "technicolored" triple cosmic delusive qualities.
All contrasts seem to him to be similar, made of the same light-shadow fabric. It is not that he fails to understand the value of gold as being different from the value of clay, or that he does not discriminate between pleasant and unpleasant persons, or that he is coldly insensitive to life's experiences. But he no longer has a personal interest in the phenomenal world even though he lives in it. He avoids the entanglements of delusion by beholding all creation in its reality: passing shadows of atomic change. (p.922)
The Blessed Lord said: They (the wise) speak of an eternal ashvattha tree, with roots above and boughs beneath, whose leaves are Vedic hymns. He who understands this tree of life is a Veda-knower.
— The Bhagavad Gita XV:01
The metaphorical ashvattha tree, in this sense, alludes to the world of transitoriness and its beings, which are ever in the process of change—nothing remaining the same from the present moment to the next ("tomorrow," or "the future"). Prakriti's principles of creation, by their action and interaction, produce endless variations. And while these "products" do not endure in the same state or condition, the creative principles behind them, the life and seed of the ashvattha tree, are eternal. (p.927)