Articles by Sri Rajen Vakil


Article 69 - Surrender


(Continued) The word ‘Shikha’ means epitome or the highest point at the top. The word ‘Shikhandin’ means one who has reached the highest point, the one who has risen beyond male and female. At the top, one is free of opposites.

In our world we are bound by the opposites. Every moment we either like or dislike something and our whole lives we swing from one end to the other, hypnotised by events, trying to avoid pain and running after pleasure. Shikhandin has swung between the two opposites and has freed himself from them, whereas we keep swinging between the opposites. Our brains are wired such that we can see only one pole.

When we fall in love, we think that the love will last forever. We do not see that everybody has a hidden side, and in that hidden side there always is the opposite of love, that is hatred. Life is a polarity but in our normal way of thinking, we see only one pole (of the polarity) and we try to make that one part the whole.

What is the significance of Arjuna standing behind Shikhandin in the chariot? Bhishma represents the ego in all of us. Whenever the ego expresses itself in any way, the keyword is aggressiveness; many a time this is hidden below a cover of humility. Deep down all of us want our way, all the time. Man represents the aggressiveness or macho behavior, whereas woman represents the receptive energy. Shikhandin, from a woman has become a man; thus, representing the female surrender in the form of man. This is the art of dropping aggressiveness and this can only be done by shifting from aggressiveness to acceptance and surrender.

Surrender is not something we do just to a teacher, but something which as students of spirituality we try to live every moment of our lives. As we practice dissolving the ego in every situation of life, there comes a moment – a moment within an event, which we would have disliked and run away from, and yet the dislike does not manifest. We remain calm and stable; this is the moment of equanimity which we have practiced for. This balance, or as Krishna calls it ‘samatvam’, is the highest form of yoga.


Article 68 - Shikhandin


Shikhandin was born a girl, the daughter of King Dhrupad of Panchala. In her previous life, she was Amba, the daughter of the king of Kashi and was in love with the prince Shalva. Before she could choose him to be her husband, Bhishma abducted her and her two sisters from their swayamvara for the prince Vichitravirya. When she told Bhishma of her love for Shalva, he set her free. As she had been abducted once, Shalva refused to marry her. She went to Bhishma and told him that as he had abducted her, it was now his duty to marry her. Bhishma stuck by his pratigya and refused to marry her. Amba then vowed to be the cause of his death. She did tapa of Lord Shiva who granted her the boon that in her next life she would be born a girl to become a man later – the one who would be the cause of Bhishma’s death. Upon receiving the boon, Amba did not wait to live out her life; she immediately jumped into the fire and killed herself.

Hence, Shikhandin was born a girl. A heavenly voice told Dhrupad that she would become a man one day and hence, was brought up a boy. She was married to King Hiranyavarma’s daughter as a man, but the daughter came to know of the deceit and left Shikhandin. Shikhandin then went into the forest where she met Sthunakarna, a ‘yaksha’ or demigod. He heard her story and agreed to exchange his manhood with Shikhandin for some time. The Lord Kubera was Sthunakarna’s master and when he heard what had happened, he cursed Sthunakarna that he would only be able to get his manhood back after Shikhandin’s death.

The Pandavas, led by Yudhisthira, on the ninth day of the Mahabharata war, go to Bhishma and ask him how they could kill him. Bhishma knew the time had come to repay Amba’s debt and he told them that if a woman came in front of him on the battlefield, he would put down his weapons. Krishna knew that Shikhandin had been born a woman and so asked Arjuna to put Shikhandin in his chariot and fire arrows at Bhishma. On seeing Shikhandin, Bhishma put down his weapons and Arjuna’s arrows felled Bhishma.

Article 67 - Invitation to Pain


A very profound statement by Dr. Maurice Nicoll is, “We cannot change the events of life; we can only change our reactions to them.” In Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff, Dr. Nicoll says that a great deal of what brings pain in our lives comes from what he calls internal considering. This is a form of inner accounting. Say someone has insulted me, cheated me or for that matter passed a comment about me. In such a case, I am settling accounts with him all the time, putting him in his place in my imagination. Nearly everyone is a victim of this form of daydreaming, or as my teacher would call it brooding.

The law of karma says that nothing in life is a coincidence. It is something within us that invites every event in our lives. The shastra calls this 'samskaar' or memory patterns. If these patterns change, the events of life change automatically. Every person has a whole library of samskaar and what we call 'sadhna' is the effort made to change and be free from these patterns. These patterns express themselves in our reactions to events and so by changing our reactions, we change the kind of events in our lives.

One pattern which causes the greatest pain is known as ‘pitru’. Normally it is thought to mean ‘forefather', but it also means an unfulfilled desire that is causing pain in our lives. This is actually a deeply embedded pattern in the unconscious mind. Again, ‘pitrus’ are of two kinds - one in which an unconscious desire has to be appeased, and the other which has to be done away with because it keeps pestering us and upsetting our lives.

Internal considering is of the second kind. Many a time a sense of justice is attached to it, giving us a sense of righteousness, making it all the more dangerous. So if someone has taken my money, I tell myself I have a right to ask for it. Yes I may have a right to ask for it but not to brood over it.

Yes, this inner accounting is what brings the most pain in our lives.

The Inner Sanjay

Article 66 - The Inner Sanjay


There are four characters in the Srimad Bhagwad Gita - Dhrithrashtra, Sanjay, Arjuna and Sri Krishna. Together they represent the complete scale and ladder of human consciousness, the lowest being Dhrithrashtra and the highest Sri Krishna.

We all live in a kind of psychological sleep wherein we are hypnotised by every event, emotion and thought in our lives. Patanjali calls this state ‘avidya’ or the absence of light. This is our lowest state and this darkness is symbolised by Dhrithrashtra who is depicted as a blind king. His physical blindness is symbolic of his inner state of blindness, the chief cause being his attachment to his son.

Sanjay is employed by the king but never misses a chance to tell him the truth. Even on the day his ten sons have died on the battlefield, Sanjay tells him that it is his fault they are dead. The first step in any spiritual journey is to awaken the Sanjay within us. It is the awakening of our own conscience which tells us what is right and wrong, what should be done or not done. Not our normal conscience which is conditioned by education, religion and upbringing, but a deeper conscience which is universal. Every moment, Sanjay will tell us the truth about our actions so we do not continue living in self-illusion.

Sanjay is a kind of retrospect awareness. The rishi Vyasa has given him Divine Sight to tell Dhrithrashtra what is happening on the battlefield. For the first ten days of the battle, Sanjay does not use this sight. However, on the tenth day, a messenger comes to Dhrithrashtra to tell him that Bhishma has fallen in the battlefield. This shocks Dhrithrashtra and he asks Sanjay to recount everything that happened. This is why the Gita is in the past tense.

When we start observing the workings of our psyche, we can initially only study emotions in retrospect. That is, we are aware of the anger or irritation only after it has happened. This is self-study and after long practice, we come to a state in which we are able to observe while the anger is happening.

This is the awakening of the inner Arjuna who is guided by Sri Krishna, the highest state of consciousness.