With cane in one hand and the Jnana Mudra in the other. As human beings, we have a choice. No other creature is blessed with this choice. The choice we have is to pursue materiality and sensuality, chase the objects of the world with our senses and mind for fulfillment. Or turn inward and seek Atman, the Self. Extroverted, material seeking is symbolized by the cane while the jnana mudra represents spiritual pursuit. Krsna is portrayed in the classic pose holding a cane in one hand and jnana mudra in the other.

Krsna was a cowherd who took the cattle out to graze every morning and brought them back after sunset. The cattle represent the senses – eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. Everyday we go out into the world and allow the sense organs to graze in the pasturelands of the sense objects. And, like cattle that chew the cud, we ruminate over the enjoyments after the experience is over. Thus we create further likes and dislikes, desires in the mind. On the other hand we have the choice of seeking the higher indicated by the jnana mudra. The jnana mudra (shown in figure above) is formed when the index finger separates from the other three fingers and joins with the thumb to form a circle. The three fingers represent the body, mind and intellect. The index finger represents the ego, which points at others and reinforces the demarcations and distinctions between people. When the ego dissociates from the body, mind and intellect and surrenders to the Self, indicated by the thumb, one reaches the state of Realisation. Together, the index finger and the thumb form a circle. A circle has no beginning or end indicating Infinity. The association of Atman with the matter equipments – gross body, subtle body and causal body – creates the individual. When we detach ourselves from the matter layers and identify with Atman we become the infinite, all-pervading Reality.

It all depends on where our thoughts are vested. Think matter and we become matter. Think Spirit and we become Spirit. The choice is ours. But we must know the consequences of our choice and make educated decisions. Choosing matter, we condemn ourselves to a life of dependence, affectation and slavery to the world. As long as our egos remain associated with the body, mind and intellect, we remain finite, limited, conditioned. Therefore we suffer. Think Spirit and we release ourselves from the prison of the world and take off into the realm of Infinity. We do not have to give up anything. We just have to switch our attention from the body, mind and intellect and surrender to Atman.

It is interesting that only a human being is able to join the forefinger to the thumb to form a circle. No other creature has this ability. That’s what gives power to the thumb. It is with the thumb that we are able to do a variety of activities. Minus the thumb we are incapacitated. Therefore, it is the thumb that represents Atman.

The problem is whatever we do, wherever we go, the first and last thought in our mind is – How do I use this environment, this action, incident or person for my own gain. We know exactly what to ask for, exactly what to say, how to use the situation so that we derive maximum benefit even at the cost of others. When we do this, we actually lose. It was Christ who said, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it” and that’s what we are all doing. Then how else can we function in the world? “Whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” said Christ. We must set aside our self-interests and forget about how to manipulate the system to our advantage. We must do what we have to do and make way for excellence. Only when we lose ourselves, give our best without thinking ‘What will I gain from it?’ will we really gain. Surrendering to Atman may be a long way off. The first step to surrender is dissociating ourselves from body, mind and intellect at least for a few moments. Giving up this obsession with ourselves.

Thus, we are constantly making this choice between the cane and the jnana mudra. To eat healthy food is boring. But eating junk food gives instant gratification. What is good for health is painful in the beginning, but later on it gives lasting joy. This is the case in every aspect of life. So the world appears to be deceiving us as it were. This is why it is important to understand the rules of the game of life before playing it. We need to understand the way of the world, its transitory nature and hold on to that which will take us beyond it.

Cane in one hand and jnana mudra in the other. What are we choosing every moment of our lives? What are we doing with this life, our talents and abilities that we have been blessed with? Are we chasing objects of the world or are we opting for the Higher?