“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conquerer of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)
इच्छाद्वेषसमुत्थेन द्वन्द्वमोहेन भारत।
सर्वभूतानि संमोहं सर्गे यान्ति परन्तप।।
icchādveṣasamutthena dvandvamohena bhārata।
sarvabhūtāni saṃmohaṃ sarge yānti parantapa।।
“What does it mean to be overcome by attachment and aversion? I hear this often from saints of the Vedic tradition. This idea of being equal in gain and loss. Not getting too high over success, and not overly lamenting at failure.
“I don’t really understand what that means. You are telling me to consider up and down as the same? But one is up and the other is down. That ketchup bottle is either open or closed. I either got the job or I didn’t.
“I passed the class at school or I received a failing mark. I am either married or single. I am a man or a woman, determined at the time of birth. You see where I am going with this? These are dualities; obviously. They are inverse conditions, with respect to each other.
“How is someone overcome by these dualities, though? We are living it right now. I can’t very well say that I reside in one city, when in fact I am physically located thousands of miles away. People will think I am crazy.”
The idea from the point of view of the transcendentalist is that both conditions are essentially the same. The long-term picture provides clarity. We can take something basic like occupation. One person is proud of how much money they earn. They command a high salary on the open market. There are multiple bidders for their services, and they can pick and choose what benefits them the most.
Another person is toiling away at a job they don’t like, with a mean boss and little to no benefits. The pay is not great; it is barely enough to put food on the table. In other words, they can get by, but no one would envy their position.
In reality, both people are in the same situation. They are both working. They are eating, sleeping, mating and defending the same. One may have a false sense of heightened ego, but what difference does that really make? I could imagine that I am a billionaire and I would still have the same troubles throughout the day.
Apply the same perspective to the entire lifetime experience and you see how the dualities overcome a person. Shri Krishna says that the living entity is born into the delusion. They cannot see clearly from the start.
It is for this reason that the second-birth has added significance. A human being should become dvija. This second birth is through contact with the spiritual master. An ideal teacher to guide us through the darkness of ignorance, to help us do more than reach elevated heights on the ladder of duality.
At the time of death, none of the temporary situations or positions matter. Whether I leave behind a million dollar endowment to my relatives or they are cursing me for how much debt I never repaid, everything will be in the past regardless.
At the time of birth, everything starts anew. A fresh start. The same opportunity to see clearly, but also the same vulnerability to the dualities of attraction and aversion. I hate where I work today, and I desperately want that other job. After making the transition, I desperately seek a return to the old way. I hate this new position; I wish I never fell victim to the false ego of increased prestige tied to salary.
As Prahlada Maharaja teaches, there is really no such thing as a friend or enemy. These explain temporary juxtapositions, in how we deal with others, but at the end of the day every living entity is similarly situated in this material world.
The lone constant factor is the source of the energies. The person who created the shadow copy of the spiritual realm, who is inside of every being and aware of every space, who hears every prayer offered and witnesses every deed carried out in solitude.
Though I am overcome by attraction and aversion, if I seek the assistance of the Supreme Lord, connecting with Him through the via medium of the spiritual master, then the changes in condition will no longer affect me. Whether I have the most affectionate father like King Dasharatha or a loathsome lineage with Hiranyakashipu, I will stay connected to Bhagavan, who can quickly rescue me from the land of birth and death.
By dualities overcome,
Up and down the same,
Whether in loss or gain.
Principle from Krishna teaching,
Down to acharya reaching.
So that with proper vision to see,
And of steady mind to be.