BEACH 10: Hinduism for the next generation



Wave  7: Bhagavad-gita in a single capsule


We are now going to talk about the Bhagavad-Gita in an elementary way. Bhagavan means the Lord Absolute. Gita means The Song. It is the Divine Song of the Lord. It is a poem of 700 verses in Sanskrit. It occurs in the largest epic of the world, known as the Mahabharata. The events described in this epic are historical events that happened five thousand years ago. They were chronicled in the form of an epic some time after that.  The latter half of the epic describes the Great War that took place, in which almost every king in India and his army were involved. Arjuna the foremost warrior of the younger generation of the times and his four brothers and their allies were on one side. On the opposite side were aligned the one hundred cousins of Arjuna, their allies, their massive armies, as well as their grandfather-symbol Bhishma, the famous veteran whom the entire country feared and revered. He was also the grandfather-symbol of Arjuna. Preparations had been made for this war months in advance and Arjuna himself had been getting ready for this war years in advance. But at the crucial moment, almost at the time of the blowing of the whistle, he decides to retreat. He says it is wrong to fight with elders, the grandfather, the teachers, and all these relatives. Compassion overwhelms him and he declares that he would rather retire to the forest as a renouncer, than kill his own kith and kin and his elders. Let me be killed by them, says he, and he throws away his bow and arrow. Lord Krishna was his charioteer. He tries to put Arjuna back on the track by saying elementary things like: Arjuna, this is not the time to retreat, people will think of you as a coward, you are a great warrior, get up and fight. No, says Arjuna, I won’t. Let me entreat you, Oh Lord, tell me clearly what is good for me. To fight or not to fight, that is the question. Teach me O Lord, as to what is right.


Krishna begins his long sermon with a philosophical note. Do not grieve, Arjuna, over things which are perishable. The soul is imperishable. It does not die. Nobody can harm it or damage it. What you see before you is only the outer self of everybody. Only the outer self dies. The inner Self is the imperishable soul. If you are in oneness with your Inner Self, then no grief can affect you. No sin will touch you. Merits and demerits touch only the outer self. Your outer self belongs to the warrior class. By nature you are a warrior-king. Your duty is to fight on the side of justice. You know you are on the side of justice. So you have to do your duty. Your duty now is to fight. You cannot retreat from that duty. But while doing your duty, let me tell you, never bring in any of the attitudes of the outer self. Anger, hate, jealousy, attachment, all pertain to the outer self. Do not be angry, do not hate, do not be clouded by attachment to things of the outer world, do not think of revenge, but fight. Do your duty of fighting as if you are an actor on the stage. What happens on the stage because of your action on the stage should not worry the real you. The real you is your Inner Self. It is known as the Atman. Pleasure and pain, like and dislike, happiness and misery, heat and cold, friend and foe, honour and dishonour– all these dualities are only for the outer self.  Your Inner Self, namely, the Atman, is never affected by these dualities of life or of the world. 


When Krishna goes on in this fashion, Arjuna asks a relevant question: If I am supposed to be in oneness with my Inner Self, why do you then ask me to fight?  Let me go and sit quietly in oneness with my Inner Self.  Krishna says: That will never happen. Sitting quietly, you will be thinking about all the happenings in your life. That is not oneness with your Inner Self. No man can sit quietly without even thinking. If you just make a show of physical renuciation, but keep on mentally dwelling on everything of the world, then you are only a hypocrite. What is wanted is mental renunciation. Though you are involved in all actions of the world, you should be mentally away from them. This means you should not attach yourself to any of your thoughts or actions. This is the great yoga of action. Yoga means the most efficient way of doing things.


I taught this yoga to the Sun-God long ago, says Krishna. Arjuna immediately jumps on him and says: Krishna, you were born only two years before me; do you want me to believe that you taught this to the Sun-God? At this point, namely the fourth chapter of the Gita, which has 18 chapters in all, the Lord begins to talk in an inspiring style. Upto this point the Gita reads like a philosophical discourse, carefully recorded by the recorder. But from here onwards it becomes a revealed scripture, given out by the very Lord Absolute. Arjuna, says the Lord, you do not know it, but I know, that you and I have taken many births and I know them all. Every time Good suffers terribly and the Bad predominates heavily, I come down on earth in person and manifest myself for the protection of the good and the destruction of evil. Know that I am the Absolute. I created this world and all the diverse varieties of nature. But know also that nothing touches me nor am I attached to any of my creations. You also be like Me. Be in oneness with your Inner Self and do all of your duties; nothing will touch you or pollute you. This living in identity with your Inner Self will give you the attitude of equanimity. An equanimous view of everything that you come across, whether it is men or material, is the ultimate goal of life. 


To obtain a firm hold of this equanimous view for ourselves, sit in meditation, says the Lord. But Arjuna points out: How can one control the mind and sit in meditation? The mind is so fickle that it does not stay with one object consistently. The Lord replies: Yes, you are right. The mind is fickle; it is in fact villainous, it won’t obey you. Know therefore that you should be in the driver seat of this vehicle, that is the body-mind-intellect. Every time the mind misbehaves, bring it back to the equanimous position by using your discretionary intellect. You have to do this constantly and continuously. Never chicken out. You may have to carry on this struggle life after life until you succeed. Succeed you will, if you have My Grace.


To obtain My Grace, you have to first recognize that nothing moves in this world except by My Will. I am the Master-Director of this universe. Everything has arisen from Me and everything will come back to Me at the time of dissolution. I am the One that exists ever, before and after. I am the Father of this Universe. What you see as this universe is only my show. It is only a projection from My Power. It will vanish in due time.


Arjuna is curious. If you are everything, My Lord, show Me your form where I can see everything. The Lord says you cannot see that cosmic form of Mine with your physical eyes but I will give you temporarily the spiritual eye that will open up to you My cosmic Form. And Arjuna is blessed. He sees the Cosmic Form. A little while ago the Lord has said: He who sees Me in everything and everything in Me, he is the one who has the right vision. Now He shows to Arjuna that form which proves that  everything is in Him. Arjuna sees the five elements emanating from the Lord’s form. He sees, in that form,  the entire universe with all its noblest expressions as well as the filthiest mundane horrors. The whole vision is fantastic no doubt, but also scaring. So Arjuna  prays to the Lord to get back to his normal human form and the Lord does so.


Now the Lord begins to explain some technicalities about how the Absolute which is nameless and formless expresses itself as the different multiplicities of this universe. He warns Arjuna and through him the rest of humanity, not to see the multiplicity before us but to seek the Oneness behind this multiplicity.  It is the basic Oneness that should be at the bottom of our minds. It is the Lord that we should see in everything and in particular, in every being. Once the Spirit within you and the Spirit within the other man is realised to be the same, then there is no difficulty in loving each other.  Jesus says: Love your neighbour. Here is the reason for that. Your neighbour and You are the same in spiritual essence. The basic Oneness is easy to recognize if one transcends the three basic qualities of Man. When in your bone of bones you feel a sense of glow that gives you satisfaction, like when you have done a noble deed, know that the divine quality is uppermost in you. When tendencies like greed, jealously, lust and anger shoot up,  know that the dynamic vibrant qualities of Man are uppermost in you. When laziness, disinterest, depression and ignorance are the order of the day in you, know that the dull qualities of Man are uppermost. Each man is a mixture of all the three tendencies: divinely noble, vibrantly restless and indolently dull. But the Lord says: The wise man transcends all these three qualities.  He is the One who can see the Oneness of the Lord amidst all the multiplicities of the Universe. Immediately Arjuna asks the question: How does one know that one has transcended the three fundamental qualities? And Krishna replies: Whether it is enlightenment, or involvement or delusion one should not hate what has come into one’s experience and one should not desire what has been missed in one’s experience. Such a person, Krishna says, is the one who is earmarked for ultimate Salvation.This is the final teaching of the Gita.


Krishna himself sums up in the last chapter by saying: Each man has gone through several lives and has picked up several mental imprints of thoughts actions and experiences and has brought them to the present life in the form of mental tendencies. These constitute the man’s nature in this life. If this nature helps in doing good and noble things well and good. If this nature only takes you into undesirable channels of activity, then you have to fight it internally. e does. HH  There is no other way. Arjuna, says the Lord, your inborn nature is the nature of a fighter. You cannot overcome it, do what you will. So do your duty of fighting. But transfer all your responsibilities to Me by keeping Me at the bottom of your heart all the time. In other words, surrender even your will to me. Then you become the instrument of My will and your actions will not bind you. Your actions will indeed turn out to be automatically good for the rest of the world because they are thereafter actions according to My Will. Once you surrender yourself like this to Me, I will take care of you both here and hereafter.


This is the Gita. Arjuna, at the end of all this, had no difficulty in saying ‘Yes, I will do as you wish’.  The Gita is thus an unusual scripture where God and Man have an inimitable dialogue about what to do in our daily life and how to do it. It is therefore most relevant even in  modern times. It applies to all of us alike, irrespective of age, sex, race, nation, or education. There are wonderful English translations available. Just one verse every day will take us through the gita in the course of two years. One who has done this will not fall back spiritually; because, that is the nature of the irresistible impact of the Gita. 


We shall therefore end up with one verse, just one verse from the gita. It is Chapter 11, Verse no.55, the last verse in that chapter. It says: He who does all his actions as a dedication to the Lord Supreme, whose only goal is that Lord Supreme,   who is a devotee of the Lord from his heart of hearts, who has thrown away all attachments,  and who has no sense of enmity towards any one – he reaches the Lord. Dedication of all actions to God is the yoga of action. Keeping the Lord Supreme as the only goal is the Surrender concept. Being a devotee of the Lord is the yoga of devotion.  To be free from attachments is the purpose of control and monitoring of the senses and the ego. To bear no enmity towards any one is the equanimous view. Thus this verse has all the five major teachings of the gita in it. In this sense this sloka maybe taken as Gita in a single capsule. We shall just state it in original Sanskrit just to honour what we said just now.


Mat-karma-kRn-mat-paramo mad-bhaktas-sanga-varjitaH /

Nirvairas-sarva-bhUteshu yas-sa mAm eti pANDava //




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Copyright ©  V. Krishnamurthy  June 18, 2002