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Methods of self-improvement

Only one who is first free from any negative character traits can contribute meaningfully to social well-being
Last Updated : 17 April 2023, 22:13 IST
Last Updated : 17 April 2023, 22:13 IST

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While defining Yagna as any action done for the welfare of society, without any selfish motives and done in a spirit of humility, as an offering to the Lord, the Bhagavad Gita, in the Gnana Yoga chapter speaks of some of the ways in which this Yagna can be carried out. The first step for this is self-improvement. Man must first cleanse his inner self because only a purified mind can help in improving the tone of his inner being. Only one who is first free from any negative character traits can contribute meaningfully to social well-being. The basic prerequisites for this are - one must have a desire to first improve himself internally, there must be a firm resolve and one must pursue this path despite numerous challenges and pitfalls. The Gita now goes on to highlight the various types of Yagnas.

Yoga Yagna: Any action done to improve the quality and tone of one’s inner life to shed undesirable habits and qualities is called Yoga. Laziness, anger, greed, lust, jealousy, arrogance, vanity - the list of human behavioral drawbacks is innumerable. To overcome them, even a sincere effort in this direction is beneficial. Worship of one’s personal deity is also included here, which is called Upasana. Engaging in this activity, one acquires mental concentration and one-pointedness whereby unwanted thoughts and emotions are filtered out, leading to inner purification when done in a sustained manner.

Tapo-Yagna: All religions stress on the performance of various rituals and austerities like fasts, pilgrimages and so on. Contrary to the common misconception that such austerities are an end unto themselves, the Gita reminds us that they are the portal to purify our inner selves through shedding the baggage of prohibited and unwanted qualities and thus make us eligible for further progress in the journey of spiritual emancipation.

Swadhyaya Yagna: Reading the scriptures and works of spiritual masters in order to clearly understand one’s prevailing defects is called Swadhyaya. If one is able to get the guidance of a learned master, that helps. If not, making sincere and sustained self-efforts is also recommended. When man undertakes this activity, not only he understands his defects, but also attains knowledge which is like a fire that burns the forest of ignorance. The Gita thus shows the ways for self-improvement and thereby for social well-being.

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Published 17 April 2023, 18:50 IST

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