Chapter III, Verse 20
Sri Nerode’s Translation:
Verily, Janaka, the Kingly Sage, and other saints attained blessedness by the performance of their allotted duty. Moreover, to leave an example for the guidance of people, thou should do thy duty (impersonally or without attachment).
India’s ancient King Janaka is widely regarded as an example of an enlightened king. Janaka achieved unlimited consciousness solely by following the method of living in the moment.
Intuitive translation: “King Janaka achieved unity with creation through impersonal fulfillment of the senses.”
To understand the commentary based on my non-traditional interpretation of this verse, it’s also necessary to know that this verse is addressed to Arjuna as Partha. Partha indicates the state of human consciousness that is innocent or naïve. Partha is related to the ida nadi which is the flow of energy primarily responsible for creating the objects of the senses.
This verse is used to clarify and affirm the meaning the previous verse, in which Krishna gave counsel for everyone to choose to be present now.
Vyasa, the enlightened sage who is the credited author of the Bhagavad Gita, offers the specific life example of King Janaka to show that this method of living is not only practical, but also desirable. Nothing is lost by a complete embrace and performance of the duties at hand. In fact, all sensual desires are quickly fulfilled through this method. To the worldly person, it appears contradictory that non-attachment to the senses and their objects would actually fulfill the capacity of both the senses and their objects. An enlightened perspective reveals that the only way to enjoy the senses completely is to have no particular desire for them.
Consider a water faucet closed tightly to be like the senses bound to the idea of one specific goal. For example, I want a spouse with specific physical, mental, and emotional attributes as well as family experiences that are virtually identical to the way I was raised. The human with this goal may spend a lifetime unhappy and unfulfilled because their expectations for a spouse were never fulfilled.
Now think about a faucet that has been loosened a bit and a trickle of water flows. This is like the person who has a general idea about the desireable qualities of an ideal spouse. Appearance may be less important than common goals, for example. The individual with fewer expectations of a spouse is more likely to meet one who meets their needs.
Finally, the faucet is open wide and the water rushes from it. This is like a person who has been raised to believe that marriage is not a selfish compact but rather one that supports and inspires personal growth. When the parents make a clandestine arrangement for a spouse for their child, all expectations are fulfilled and the marriage is successful.
I choose the example of marriage partners to evoke a more emotional response. However, any desire can be used. For example, if one has a specific favorite flavor of ice cream like Rocky Road then whenever that flavor is not available the ice cream eater will be disappointed. But if the individual likes the cool refreshment of frozen cream in any flavor, then whatever ice cream flavor is available will satisfy.
King Janaka had no expectations from his life. He was given duties to perform. Performing his duties cheerfully, to the best of his ability, without attachment enabled all of his sensual desires to be fulfilled and for his soul to be liberated from material bondage at the same time.
Whether you are a simple and naïve human or an intellectual savant, if you perform all duties of this moment with right attitude and without expectations, then you will become liberated from material bondage.
Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:
samsiddhim – usually interpreted as “perfection” in this verse. I disagree. The only perfection a human attains is absolute non-attachment. Every other attainment is relative and may be considered “imperfect” based on the perspective of the one who is judging. Instead, consider the parts of the compound:
sam = to join; siddhim = success; siddhi = super human powers, or the fulfillment of the senses. In other words, samsiddhim may be defined as the fulfillment of the senses. Thus satiated, the wise man has no further need for egotistical achievements or intellectual attachments.
samgraham – Again by intuitively considering the parts: sam = to join; graham = parts, collection, I do not arrive at the common translations of either “holding together” or “maintenance” as in loka-sangraham which is usually interpreted as “maintenance of the world”. Instead, I understand this to mean “unity.” For example, “King Janaka achieved unity with creation through impersonal fulfillment of the senses.”
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