Chapter II, Verse 56
Sri Nerode’s Translation:
He who is not worried at the sight of sorrow nor over-elated at the advent of happiness, who is free from the stress of passion, fear, and rage, is indeed a muni (a silent sage) of steady wisdom.
The three previous qualities are restated with an emotional lilt. No anxiety over human happiness or sorrow is born from nonattachment. No personal desires, no fear or anger, is born from a lack of personal motivation behind action. The sage who has neutralized the cyclic action between the positive and negative poles of duality has “no vibration” and has achieved the state of no-mind.
The series of verses from verse 55 through 59 remind me of the “ideal” Roman Catholic saint. The Catholic saint is “long-suffering”, detached from sensations and emotions and dedicated to the service of others in the name of Christ.
In 1858 Bernadette Soubirous saw “The Lady” in a city dump in France and brought forth healing spring waters from the ground with her own hands. Despite having the potential of a normal family life, she chose to be tormented by the church and eventually whisked away to a cloistered life within a convent where her Mother Superior continued to criticize her. Eventually, she became fatally ill and refused the treatment from the healing waters that helped many others. She simply stated, “The water is not for me.”
Baptized Giovanni Bernardone, the man now known as Saint Francis of Assisi (the pictured quotation is from St. Francis De Sales), lived a full sensual and worldly life until the age of 25. Guided by the “will of God” Francis became extreme in his lifestyle, not only giving up his clothes and food but also doing things like standing in the ice water of a frozen river during the Winter in order to subdue his sexual desires. He gave Christians a connection to nature by addressing animals and the natural elements as brothers and sisters. He also inspired a personal connection to the human aspects of Jesus by materializing the first crèche during a Christmas celebration. Despite many miracles of healing associated with his activities, his own ailments were often treated with cruel and unsuccessful remedies like using a hot poker from the fire to scar him from eye ball to temple in order to burn out an infection (probably pink eye).
Even in more recent decades, the positive services given to neglected street people by Mother Teresa of Calcutta were often stopped by indifferent bureaucracies. Two examples include: New York City blocked her mission because she refused to install an elevator in the building where she planned to help the poorest of the poor (direct service of carrying the disabled is part of the practice of her order), and the Roman Catholic Church administration looked the other way when a wayward priest sexually abused the sisters of her order based in Central America. Despite having a positive impact worldwide, Mother Teresa never owned anything and served the world’s unwanted humans often at great personal risk. Despite this, her energy for her mission never wavered and her sainthood has already been proclaimed.
The worldly Christian may admire saints like these, yet few have the conscious perception of Bliss that drove these individuals to lead exceptional lives. For these saints there was no difference between pain and sorrow nor between physical well-being and illness. These individuals may be considered Karma Yogis, or those who became anchored in wisdom through action and service to others. They exemplify the ideals expressed in this verse.
Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:
Manas (mind) versus Buddhi (intuition) – As a general rule, in the Bhagavad Gita, “manas” indicates the subtle mind of a human.
Manas is not the physical brain. Manas is the collection of thoughts that make the individual unique. Manas works with the ego and the intellect to enliven the ignorant person. Manas is fallible. Manas leads the individual astray through a series of positive and negative experiences. One influenced by manas states, “I am this person and I must act in this manner regardless of any other guidance.”
Bhuddi contains manas as a subset of experience, in the same way that a regular coffee contains cream and sugar. Bhuddi is still the unique formulation of qualities expressed by an individual, however bhuddi is intuitively connected to the role played by the individual. The one who expresses bhuddi may say, “I rarely understand the reason behind my current action, but this ‘felt’ guidance has always led me to greater joy, greater peace and greater understanding.
Muni – a muni is typically a sage who refrains from speaking. Here the usage of “silence” implies the lack of thought vibration found in the deepest states of concentration and meditation.
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