Practical Spirituality – Laying the Path
I tried to complete this article thrice before, but somehow or the other it didn’t turn up in a way I wanted. I have rewritten this article thrice. And yet I am not satisfied with the outcome. It just makes me wonder if my current disposition is so bad, because of all the traveling I have been doing and the food that I am eating. Being a very strict vegetarian, having proper food is an austerity, almost a penance, while on travel, especially to a place where not even plain rice is vegetarian, except at the few Indian restaurants. My teacher on several occasions had mentioned that not only the food we eat, but also the person cooking it, the person who bought the raw materials and so on, all have influence on our mood, behavior and disposition. Guess I am having that experience firsthand. So, I am leaving this to my ‘flow’ of thoughts.
I was having lunch with a group of engineers who were discussing some highly sophisticated technology stuff and as the lunch began to take effect, the topic drifted to focus on a guy who claimed he was into hatha-yoga for the last one year and on how it has been extremely beneficial for him. And as the initial conversation was winding down to the normal ‘yeah, yeah, that’s right…’ kind of semi-disinterested agreement, one person quipped that “yoga is all about breathing, you know”. I suppressed a ‘whoa! Hold on!’ and continued spooning the food in to me.
Several years ago, when I was about 20 or so, we had arranged a family pilgrimage to several temples in Kerala. We were about 11 people in a van and in due course of time, our conversation came to discussing about how my studies with Bhagavad Gita were progressing and what impact it was making on me. Not many of the ‘elders’ really gave any importance to what I had to say, but one of my uncles suddenly turned to me and said “All this is not required. Just chant ‘Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya’… all bad things will go away, you will study well, get good money’… “. I was kind of amused but had to resist the urge to debate him, merely out of respect to an ‘elder’ person.
I even had my father yell at me once because he thought I was getting too much in to ‘this unproductive stuff’. He is supposedly a very religious person and he boomed, “This stuff is for people above the age of 50, when they get all the time they need for this kind of time pass!” I didn’t mean to be disrespectful but I shot back. “Appa, YOU are above 50. I don’t see you spending time on this ‘stuff’. Instead, you just sit around when you DO get time and watch only the stupid mega-serials.” That stopped him short. He glared at me for a few moments and walked away.
Couple of lessons learnt from the above incidents:
1) The tendency to show that ‘oh, I know something’ about a topic, especially when it is related to spirituality, is pretty hard for a normal person to resist.
2) It is only by sustained practice and ‘living the philosophy’ can we actually hope to transform anyone’s opinion. Even then, there is a risk that it might only inflame anger as well as enviousness and not acceptance.
I just wanted to share these with you all before actually getting to the topic at hand.
So, we see people going to temples, churches and mosques every day. We see them immersed in prayer, with some people weeping, some serene and a few whose prayer style borders on eccentricity. But I was standing at a restaurant counter, when a man came and stood next to me. After giving the token, he kept smiling and talking to himself. After a minute or so, he took his mobile out. I saw the wallpaper was a nice picture of Tirupati Balaji. He started mumbling something, touched the mobile to his eyes, and kept it back in to his shirt pocket. He did this a couple of times until his food packet got delivered.
Is this man spiritual? Some might think of him as a weirdo. Others might marvel at his ‘devotion’.
If you are born in a Brahmin family, or grown up around one, you would have seen the myriad of pujas and homams (fire sacrifices) being conducted. The young kids do sandhya-vandanam meticulously and the morning and evening times resonate with chanting of the vedic hymns. It is really an indescribable experience. May be not these days, but the families usually follows so many rules, Acharam and Anushtanam, and what not, right from the time of waking up to eating and sleeping.
Are these (we?) ‘brahmins’ spiritual? Also, some think of the myriad of rituals and hymn chanting as a waste of time. Others think of it as a necessary burden for the discipline that spiritual practice requires.
I used to work as a teaching assistant during my Master’s course. I had this boy who came to the class and instead of listening to what I was saying, was busy reading the bible. This repeated itself over the entire semester. I did try to tell him subtly to focus on the class, for the money he had paid, but yeah, it didn’t work. I heard another TA describe this boy as being “addicted to the bible”. He was usually very quiet in class and never troubled anyone, did not too bad in study but he kept praying now and then.
Is the boy spiritual? Some might say that he is a ‘Jesus-freak’. Others might see him as being devoted.
I had a friend who was my junior in the same university. A Muslim, if you hadn’t guessed already. He was the normal devout Muslim who never bothered anyone except me, of course. Don’t take it in the wrong way, he was good friend.
(I just thought I will mention this, not wishing to leave any Muslim friends here feel bad… no question for this part).
So, individual perceptions vary because people have varied (sometimes pretty weird) notions of spirituality. I once read an article where a mother was feeling proud of her son who had become very thoughtful after going to some Osho classes and now silently munches on a chicken burger at breakfast (I assume he did it noisily before)! Some people think they can just live as they want, but just have to do a little good here and there. Some think building schools and hospitals gives them spiritual uplift. There are some others who think they need to put an external show of ‘religiosity’ in order to feel ‘spiritual’ and convince others as such. The increasing number of fake swamis these days is proof enough.
The point I am trying to get to is this. Do we actually know what spirituality is? Who is a spiritual person? What does it take to become and remain a spiritual person?
Note: It is impossible to teach Spiritual Science without an associated ‘philosophy’. Whatever I am going to present in this series is fully based on Vaishnava Siddhanta.
We can say a spiritual person is one who has realized his actual identity as an eternal, undivided, indestructible ‘anu-atma’, an infinitesimal spirit soul. This in common terms can be termed as ‘self-realization’. So, spiritual science starts off with this fundamental understanding that we are the spirit souls. And the purpose of this science is in realizing one’s true nature and purpose of existence in relation to the Supreme Lord.
There are many versions of ‘self-realization’ going around. Some term it as ‘realizing oneself as the divine’. The more popular version is ‘realizing that God is in everything, so everything is God’. I keep coming to these statements over and over again since these ideas have taken over so many millions of people in a deadly grip of self-glorification, and false hope of ‘becoming God’ one day.
There are also so many people who subtly demand to be glorified and worshipped by projecting themselves as ‘self-realized’. So, in order to make proper spiritual progress, it is critical to understand that we are not the body, but it even more critical to understand that we are NOT God and the commonly stated goal of spirituality, Moksha, does NOT mean oneness or nothingness. I know that there would be many people who subscribe to the ideas of this oneness or even nothingness quoting Aham Brahmasmi, Tat tvam asi etc. It would suffice to say that I do not follow Advaita and it is not my interest to try and prove to anyone as to why it is so.
Nowadays, to say that we believe in the existence of the soul is to invite the ire of the ‘modern scien-tellectuals’. They say that there is no soul, because they do not have any evidence of the same. The Vedas repeatedly say that the soul is not a gross material entity, which by default makes it beyond the reach of our material senses, skills and our contraptions. So we cannot realize the existence of the soul by direct experience or direct perception. The only way we do this is through ‘Shabda’, which are the ‘Vedas’. If one does not accept the Vedas as an authority, they have no business commenting on spiritual matters that stem from the Vedas.
Let’s take a look at around us. There are so many machines around us. Billions of buildings are being built and have been built. You see flights taking off or landing, ships afloat on water. Computers rule the world these days. But there is one thing that will bring all this to a stop if removed from the scene.
Us. The ‘living’ beings.
Without the presence and touch of a spiritual entity, gross matter can NEVER gain conscious abilities or the inspiration or impetus for creativity. Without the spirit inside, even this body will have no capabilities, even though it might be perfectly healthy from a ‘medical’ point of view. So to believe that all that is around us was somehow manifested by chance is gross foolishness. It takes that ‘spark’ of spiritual energy to…
Anyway, let’s get back to topic. We have seen what self realization is. How does one get self realized? Spiritual science is actually very simple and extremely complex at the same time. This is not word play. For a person who accepts the Veda pramana, this science is very simple. For one who wants to get to the spiritual stage by logical analysis, it is very complex and difficult to understand.
This spiritual science comes with its own set of rules and regulations, just like modern science. But unlike modern science, there is an additional component that renders the outcome of a spiritual experiment as unpredictable sometimes: personal resolve. It does require a person’s undivided attention and resolve to progress on the spiritual path. This resolve comes from faith, built through proper ‘sanga’ or ‘association’, properly guided by the grace of one’s Guru and by the mercy of the Supreme Lord Krishna.
It only takes humble service and truthful enquiry to an Acharya, to understand spiritual science. And it is the same thing that makes this that much more difficult. Through experience I can say that when you in search of spiritual knowledge and are sincere, when you are ready, it is actually your Guru who finds you. This is difficult to grasp logically, but that is how it works in the spiritual dimension.
I know my focus has been in all directions in this article, but I hope that my condition will improve. From the next article onwards, I would like to take things in a more easy pace, starting with the basic regulatory principles for spiritual practice. Thank you for your patience.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Perfection of Yoga
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Perfection of Yoga
In my last article, I had addressed the details on who can be a Guru and how to identify a bonafide spiritual master. In the article before that, we saw Lord Krishna addressing Arjuna’s despondent pleas. Instead of going through a chapter-wise discussion as I had planned earlier, I am taking a thematic approach on presenting the conclusions made by the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna on various paths of Yoga as he explained in the Bhagavad Gita. This will reduce my effort significantly, thereby helping me to spend time on the discussions that might follow.
“Yoga” means “linking of our consciousness with the Supreme Absolute Truth”. When the linking process is predominantly through fruitive activities, it is called Karma Yoga. If it is done through empirical means, it is called Jnana Yoga. If it is done through unalloyed devotional service to the Supreme Lord, it is called Bhakti Yoga.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches us of a “Yoga Ladder”, a series of steps made of yoga practices which ultimately lead to the Perfection of Yoga. Following this process, a conditioned soul can purify its existence gradually in this material world and reawaken its spiritual consciousness.
The first step in the ladder is called “Karma-Kanda”. This step has no spiritual objective. In this stage, a conditioned soul/ person, is introduced to regulated sense enjoyment, and to the Vedas which dictate the performance of sacrifices for the sake of results. This basically increases faith in the sastras.
Read BG 2.31, BG 3.11, BG 3.16.
Next is the step of “Karma Yoga”, which is performance of fruitive activities. The person begins to get frustrated with the sense enjoyment and shows inclinations of detachment. But he is still too attached to completely stop working for his own enjoyment.
When a person works for his own enjoyment but has a spiritual objective interlinked to the effort, the stage is called Sakama Karma. Continued practice of work in partial detachment to the results of fruitive activities leads to Nishkama Karma, work which is uncontaminated with material desires and has a pure spiritual objective.
Since any sense enjoyment leads to frustration in the end, a person gradually elevates himself through Karma Yoga to a stage where he begins to examine the ‘Jnana’ section of the Vedic literature. Here, as described by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 06, one gives up all societal obligations and sets on a pursuit in search of knowledge of the Brahman. This path of realization is not easy at all to follow, as correctly pointed out by Arjuna and Lord Krishna in the chapter 06 of Bhagavad Gita.
Read BG 5.2.
Beyond Jnana Yoga, once the Jnani achieves knowledge of the Supersoul, the Paramatma, and begins to lead a life of austerity and meditation on the Paramatma, he enters the stage of “Ashtanga Yoga”, an eight fold process as the name implies. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Prathyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are the 8 steps.
Read BG 6.30, BG 6.31
At the pinnacle of this Yoga ladder is “Bhakti Yoga” or “Unalloyed, pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord”. This is best summarized by Lord Krishna himself:
BG 9.34: Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.
BG 18.65: Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.
BG 18.66: Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.
And what does the Lord have to say about the other paths?
BG 6.46: A yogī is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogī.
Note: The ascetic is the ‘tapasvi’, the empiricist is the ‘jnani’ and the fruitive worker is the ‘karmi’.
BG 6.47: And of all yogīs, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me — he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.
So, you see, the Bhagavad Gita offers devotional service to Lord Krishna as the Perfection of Yoga, with pure devotional service being the goal. There are several stages of Bhakti too, but this is too premature a point in this series to get in to that. Bhakti Yoga is the path recommended for this age of quarrel, the Kali-Yuga. We do not reject the other paths, but making progress in them is extremely difficult, if not impossible, in this age. This was stated very clearly by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Although one passes through one level or another of the previous stages even while trying to take to the path of Bhakti, it is much easier and the effect seen on oneself as well as the progress gained towards liberation is permanent.
I have tried to summarize the entire siddhanta of Bhagavad Gita within 900 words above. Now, there are certain issues which I would like to clarify upon.
I have read several articles on Bhagavad Gita where the author has very elaborately discussed on the merits of Bhakti Yoga as described in the Bhagavad Gita. Throughout the text, the author says “Krishna said this, Krishna said that”… and finally concludes “Krishna is instructing us to be surrender to the impersonal, all pervasive, inscrutable Brahman”. Throughout the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says “Surrender unto me”, means surrender unto Krishna… not something within him. I am sure the Lord as well as Vyasadev knew enough Sanskrit to state exactly what they wanted to state. Sure, Lord Krishna talks about people who want to ‘mingle’ with the Brahman as their final goal… but he does NOT conclude it is the ultimate goal or is the easiest way. Here’s what he says on that issue:
BG 12.5: For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.
BG 12.6-7: But those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Pṛthā — for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.
I have stressed upon one point so many times in the series till now and I am doing so again. The current trend seen among ‘spiritualists’ is basically to take the Bhagavad Gita, pick and interpret just a few specific verses completely out of context to suit their own philosophy, and present their own speculation in an (pseudo)authoritative manner. If one has to take reference from Bhagavad Gita, the conclusion arrived at MUST be the one presented by Lord Krishna and as it is accepted by Arjuna, as below.
BG 18.73: Arjuna said: My dear Kṛṣṇa, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.
Giving any other conclusion on the Bhagavad Gita, anything different from what is being said by Lord Krishna, is akin to cheating, no matter how popular or scholarly the person giving the different conclusion might be.
With this article, I would like say that enough foundation has been laid for any sincere seekers of Truth to go forward on their own. I hope the comments and the discussion in my previous articles as well as the ones that are to follow would add more fuel to their interest. If and when required, my help would always be available.
From here, I would like to get in to addressing issues that we face on a day to day basis and how the knowledge received through our ancient scriptures can help us even now. So, if the readers have any topics on which they would like me to elaborate with relevance to our current position in time, please feel free to add the suggestion as a comment.
The next article title from me would be “The Caste System – as it should have been”. I hope to complete it another week or so.
Understanding the concept of God – Part 13 Panchathanmatras
Panchathanmatras (Physical transformation of energies)
The intelligence in the Consciousness & the force together functioned & designed this beautiful body with the help of the energy particles. How does the energy inside the body converts into pressure, light, taste, smell & sound to experience this world? The energy inside the body rotates fast & magnetism is formed due to the attraction & repulsion which you know already. Just as the electrical energy is converted into light energy & heat energy, magnetism formed is transformed into light, taste, smell & sound. I would like to explain what is soul before that.
The outer layer of man is the physical body. The inner layer is the “astral body” which is the aggregate of the life force particles, that penetrative and circulate throughout the physical structure. The third layer is the “causal body”, which is the aggregate total of the bio magnetism existing & functioning in the physical body.
As a general law of Nature, anything that circulates or spins forms its own intensified centre. Under this principle the bio magnetism also get intensified & forms its own intensified centre. This centre automatically forms at the centre of the physical body & this is called the “genetic “ centre. Here, the genes with their chromosomes accommodate the intensity of bio magnetism, sexual vital fluid & the heavier life force particles. This is a divine magnetic domain of compressed characteristics of the 3 layers of man. This is called “soul” This soul experiences everything with the help of the sense organs.
Just as the bulb is made in such a way to transform the electrical energy into light, the magnetic wave which goes through the sense organs are structured to experience what is around. Certain amount or unit of energy goes out of the body in the form of magnetic waves as pressure, light, sound, smell & taste. Because of the conversion & consumption process of bio- magnetism into electricity & chemicals, elimination of a certain degree of pressure, sound, light, taste & smell from a body is continuously going on through the respective senses (skin, ears, eyes, tongue, & nose) & the outgoing electricity & chemicals are spreading & mixing with the atmospheric field all around the body.
This is the process of physical transformation of life energy, naturally common to all living beings. According to the magnetic, electrical & chemical intensity & the quality of the living beings, the degree of elimination of the above said five results may vary from one species to another from time to time.
Normally when we take a sweet say for example laddu. The first one will be very tasty & if we take another one, it might be still tastier for someone but if you are forced to eat another one you will not like the taste & you might even feel like vomiting. Why is it like that? What makes it so? Have we ever thought about it? We simply say that it becomes stale. How does the staleness come? What happens in the tongue?
If the laddu has the sweet taste then it should have the same sweetness even if we eat 10 or even more. Actually it is not so. The mixture of all the ingredients have some chemicals which when put in the mouth , induces the sweetness in the tongue due to the bio- magnetism. The limited amount or unit of energy is going out through the tongue as bio magnetism. When the laddu touches the tongue & the level of the bio magnetism gets accelerated & we feel it very sweet & tasty. The more we eat the laddu, the bio -magnetism rises & leaves from the tongue & we are not able to feel the taste. So it is the bio magnetism that makes us feel the sweetness & when lot of the energy depletes from us, we are not able to feel the taste. The best example is a dog bites the bone & blood comes out from it’s own mouth, but the dog thinks that the taste is from the bone & keeps on biting the bone injuring itself.
In the same way we think that the taste of any food comes from the food. In fact, it is the conversion of our own bio magnetism that makes us feel the tastes of food. This is what is Maya & the same happens with the other organs like the eyes, ears & nose. Another example is that when we enter the theater in the noon, at first we will not be able to see the seat & only after some time we see the seats & the people clearly. Why is it so?
We are in the bright sunlight & our bio magnetism will be in an accelerated level say about 20 units as light waves. Once we enter the theatre, the light coming out from the screen will be 10 units. So the magnetism from our body should reduce to 10 & below. Only then will we be able to see the people around. After some time when the magnetism reduces & comes to the same level we can see the people around clearly.
If the accelerated conversion is within the tolerable limits of the senses & conversion of magnetism releases surplus energy, the feeling will be pleasurable. When the conversion- level of magnetism exceeds the tolerable limit of the senses or depresses the stock of bio- magnetism below the critical level required to maintain the existence & survival of the living being, the feeling is pain. Only the plus- degree will accelerate our feeling to result in perception.
Man has to keep all his enjoyments within a certain limit because every pleasure is the significance of expenditure of his own bio- magnetism.
For the the previous posts under “Understanding the Concept of God” by Radha Chandran , click here
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Guru
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Guru
In my last article, we saw how Lord Krishna began addressing Arjuna’s concerns. I also mentioned that we will see what was Arjuna’s response and Lord Krishna’s opinion of Karma yoga. Instead, I am going to get in to a topic that I consider as very important and it is the source of much controversy these days.
During the long exchange of comments with Mahesh Kalaal in my previous article, he asked “Who is Qualified? Who is Spiritual? Who is master?” His questions are the same ones that haunt every neophyte spiritualist. And in general there seems to be this idea that when it comes to spirituality, anything and everything goes and it is based on one’s convenience and whim.
These factors show up in some of the arguments many people against accepting a Spiritual Master. It seems like accepting someone as superior is anathema to their self-respect and, if I may add, self-importance.
In school, students do experiments in labs and write voluminous records on the results (remember, the same experiments year after year) under the guidance of a teacher. And they learn exactly the same thing without any doubt.
In spiritual science too, the same mood of experiment, analysis and results is allowed, under the supervision of a qualified master. Why years… everyday there are people who can attest to the fact of verifying what is being taught by one’s spiritual master.
Oh wait!! The teachers at the schools and colleges are ‘qualified’. They have a degree from a famous college and are easily identified. They are respected for their knowledge and are experts! We cannot be sure about a Spiritual master in that manner.
Do people send their children to a school only after looking at who are the teachers for different subjects? Do they actually look in to the qualification of each and every teacher? They simply trust the school administration… on basis of recommendations of people who have already sent their children to that school or based on news of how the school’s exam results are outstanding! What about the character of the teachers? Do they set positive role models for the children? How did their previous students fare in life or in studies? I don’t think anyone asks such questions. My point is that we are all so superficial in things in which we ought to be thorough.
In any case, people simply are made more aware of such modern things like degrees and such as they have been forced to fall in line with mainstream community, based on modern scientific development which is driven mostly by just 2 factors: economic opportunism and military expansionism. Just because majority of the people don’t know how to identify a qualified spiritual teacher, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist or cannot be found.
One basic misunderstanding is that nowadays people expect a degree for anything and everything. There will be a day when even unclogging a drain or cleaning toilets will require a ‘degree’!
Spiritual science has a different set of measures to determine who is qualified or bonafide and who can be or cannot be spiritual master. So, next time you search for a bonafide Guru, keep in mind that he doesn’t give you a visiting card with 2 or 3 letter degrees behind his name.
So, we come to the question who is Guru? How can we identify a bonafide Guru?
1. He belongs to one a bonafide sampradayas sanctioned and starting with the Supreme Lord himself, and must have been authorized to act as a Spiritual Master (Refer dharmaḿ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītaḿ – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 6.3.19 and the next two verses)
2. He never presents any invented, self-made teachings (which are then considered as influenced by the defects of a conditioned living entity), but always simply repeats what the scriptures and Supreme Lord say, without any modification or distortion.
3. He follows Sastra strictly and guides his followers on the path of liberation away from material attachment.
4. He does not claim himself to be God, nor does he claim anything and everything as God.
So, putting this in perspective of our previous discussions, let’s see what Srimad Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam have to on this topic (click on the links to read the actual texts).
BG 2.54: Arjuna said: O Kṛṣṇa, what are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in transcendence? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?
BG 2.55: The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O Pārtha, when a man gives up all varieties of desire for sense gratification, which arise from mental concoction, and when his mind, thus purified, finds satisfaction in the self alone, then he is said to be in pure transcendental consciousness.
BG 2.56: One who is not disturbed in mind even amidst the threefold miseries or elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.
BG 2.57: In the material world, one who is unaffected by whatever good or evil he may obtain, neither praising it nor despising it, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge.
BG 2.58: One who is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects, as the tortoise draws its limbs within the shell, is firmly fixed in perfect consciousness.
BG 14.21: Arjuna inquired: O my dear Lord, by which symptoms is one known who is transcendental to these three modes? What is his behavior? And how does he transcend the modes of nature?
BG 14.22-25: The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: O son of Pāṇḍu, he who does not hate illumination, attachment and delusion when they are present or long for them when they disappear; who is unwavering and undisturbed through all these reactions of the material qualities, remaining neutral and transcendental, knowing that the modes alone are active; who is situated in the self and regards alike happiness and distress; who looks upon a lump of earth, a stone and a piece of gold with an equal eye; who is equal toward the desirable and the undesirable; who is steady, situated equally well in praise and blame, honor and dishonor; who treats alike both friend and enemy; and who has renounced all material activities — such a person is said to have transcended the modes of nature.
BG 14.26: One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.
SB 11.3.21: Therefore any person who seriously desires real happiness must seek a bona fide spiritual master and take shelter of him by initiation. The qualification of the bona fide guru is that he has realized the conclusions of the scriptures by deliberation and is able to convince others of these conclusions. Such great personalities, who have taken shelter of the Supreme Godhead, leaving aside all material considerations, should be understood to be bona fide spiritual masters.
Do I see people staring in disbelief? Ok, shake your head couple of times, take a deep breath and relax. So, it is not a simple procedure to go in search of a spiritual master. If you are to ensure that a person has all the attributes as listed above, you basically need to be a bit knowledgeable yourself.
Instead of any further elaboration, I will close by quoting my teachers:
“Choosing a spiritual master is quite different from a mundane exercise of ‘choosing’ some physical article or a relationship in this material world based on the mind’s likes and dislikes. Going by personal appeal or by some superficial criteria such as popular acclaim or some other external traits, or making comparison — these are likely to be misleading. Rather, one must look for the symptoms of a self-realized soul manifesting in the person of such a spiritual master, in the light of scriptural directions as stated above.
In the course of this process, the most important criterion on the part of the aspiring disciple is to nurture and strengthen their own internal convictions, sincerity and commitment for spiritual life. If the disciple harbors ulterior motives for some temporary, material benefits, then one is likely to be misled in the search for a guru. Therefore one should progressively cultivate one’s own sincerity of purpose in seeking a bona fide spiritual master competent to guide one to ultimate spiritual perfection. (jijnasuh shreya uttamam SB 11.3.21).
When the disciple’s heart is ready and prepared in this way, Lord Krishna reciprocates with such sincerity and prayers by sending the bona fide spiritual master into the devotee’s life. It will become amply clear who one’s spiritual master is at that time and the earnest disciple will be able to readily recognize and thus proceed to solidify that relationship as described above.”
Article written by Ambi.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – śrī-bhagavān uvāca
Śrī-bhagavān uvāca means “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said”.
Bhagavān is how Lord Krishna is addressed by Srimad Bhagavad Gita. It means one who has the six opulences, namely Wealth, Strength, Fame, Beauty, Knowledge and Renunciation, unlimitedly. If you read the list carefully, you will see that almost all so-called celebrities of this world are known for having the opulences stated above, one or more at any time. But even they do not compare to Bhagavān, who is the Lord of everything that is and has all the opulence in unlimited quantity.
In my last article, we saw how Arjuna is overcome by grief and refuses to take up arms against his kinsmen. Being such a ‘nice person’, one would have thought that Lord Krishna, as God, would have been very happy and said “Arjuna, I am so proud of you! You are non-violent! That’s just great!”
Did he? NO. Krishna, in fact, scolds Arjuna in the strongest of words. Here it is, Bhagavad Gita Chapter 02, verse 2-3:
kutas tvā kaśmalam idaḿ
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.
klaibyaḿ mā sma gamaḥ pārtha
naitat tvayy upapadyate
O son of Pṛthā, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.
I do not think that Krishna’s words need any explanation here.
Arjuna is shocked! He asks Krishna how can he encourage slaying men worthy of worship, being his teachers. He declares it’s better to live of begging than to live at the cost of these great souls. Then he accepts that he is confused with miserly weakness and that he is now Krishna’s disciple and then requests Krishna to dispel his grief. Then he says “Govinda, I shall not fight” and became silent.
What comes next is a very, very important section of Bhagavad Gita. The Supreme Lord begins his instruction to his surrendered devotee. Since his instructions carry the essence of the entire Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 02 is termed as a summary of the contents of the Bhagavad Gita. This will be quite a long article if I were to address all the instructions, so I will summarize on the main topics that are being addressed.
Lord Krishna begins with the explanation of the soul or atma by reprimanding Arjuna and calling him unwise for speaking like a learned man (because he made so many emotional arguments) but grieving for things that don’t deserve grief and also that the wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead. The very next statement he makes to Arjuna on this topic is this:
na tv evāhaḿ jātu nāsaḿ
na tvaḿ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
sarve vayam ataḥ param
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” – BG2.12
This statement is a damning rebuttal of the theory which states that all souls merge in to the brahma-jyoti, losing their identity, and also of the theory where individuality is said to be an effect of illusion or Maya. In a way, it also is a statement that refutes the theory of evolution, where life is proclaimed to come from matter and has no purpose or prior or future existence. The next statement explains the core principle of Transmigration of the Soul:
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraḿ yauvanaḿ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” – BG2.13
So, what are the characteristics of this spirit soul? In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, verses 16-25, this is described clearly. A spirit soul is eternal, indestructible, cannot be cut in to pieces, cannot be burnt by fire, cannot be moistened by water or withered by wind, immutable, invisible and inconceivable.
And so, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna that he shouldn’t lament for the person who dies, since it’s only the body that is slain. After that, Krishna explains why Arjuna must fight, by telling how people would speak ill of Arjuna if he didn’t do his duty, and how the generals would think him to be weak. Krishna also begins talking about how Arjuna should do his duty for the sake of doing it, without considering the result. This, Lord Krishna says, would let Arjuna avoid sin.
He also conveys to Arjuna that what he has heard till now was only from the analytical point of view. So, Krishna begins explaining the same principles in terms of working without fruitive results. It is in this section he speaks the famous verse 47 in Chapter 02 (made popular, thanks to the Mahabharata serial on TV and countless pseudo-philosophers who claim this as the essence of Bhagavad Gita)
karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te sańgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”
The Acharyas explain that the Lord is talking about prescribed duties here, but we normally, wrongly, take this to mean that Krishna is talking about day to day mundane activities. So, one must do his prescribed duty, without attachment to success or failure. Allow me to deal in this a bit more. Lord Krishna does not say here that results are to be ignored or that we should carry out our duties carelessly. Since the Supreme Lord is the proprietor of everything, he owns the results too. We must understand that our self is just one of the five factors that influence action. This is from Chapter 18, verse 14.
adhiṣṭhānaḿ tathā kartā
karaṇaḿ ca pṛthag-vidham
vividhāś ca pṛthak ceṣṭā
daivaḿ caivātra pañcamam
“The place of action [the body], the performer, the various senses, the many different kinds of endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul — these are the five factors of action.”
So, unless the results are dedicated to the Supreme Lord, Krishna, then that work causes bondage and suffering. How we should understand this is simply that as a spirit soul, we have to be engaged in activity. We have capacity for work and are intermediate causes, but material nature creates result and it is controlled by Lord Krishna. This is mentioned in Chapter 09, verse 10.
“This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, producing all moving and nonmoving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.”
So, we don’t really have a claim over results which are actually created by something which is not under our control. If we align our freewill through actions based on the Lord’s instructions, it does not cause any bondage.
One other important point to be noted from Krishna’s response is how he explains the root cause of all problems. Let’s hear it from him directly, shall we?
Lord Krishna says in Chapter 02, verses 62-64:
“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger, complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool. But a person free from all attachment and aversion and able to control his senses through regulative principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord.”
So, Lord Krishna declares that attachment and the lust that arises from it to be the real problem. The senses must be engaged in some real activity, and if they are not used in the service of the Supreme Lord, then they will be engaged in service of materialism. But for a person who is devoid of attachment or aversion and follows the regulative principles properly, he can achieve the highest state of becoming conscious of the Supreme Lord. Artificial renunciation won’t help when the desire to enjoy is still present in the mind and even the slightest agitation of the mind will pull down a person who is even on the verge of the ‘liberation’ often spoken about as the goal of life.
I will end this article with one of the verses which has influenced me in my personal life very much. Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 02, verse 66:
nāsti buddhir ayuktasya
na cāyuktasya bhāvanā
na cābhāvayataḥ śāntir
aśāntasya kutaḥ sukham
“One who is not connected with the Supreme [in Kṛṣṇa consciousness] can have neither transcendental intelligence nor a steady mind, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?”
This relates directly to how I started writing this sequence of articles, on request from our very own Lakshmi Rajan. I started off by saying everyone wants to be happy, forever. And above is the clear solution to that! Without the mind being peaceful, there can be no happiness. And for the mind to be peaceful, one must be on the devotional platform.
So, how does Arjuna respond to Lord Krishna and what question he put forth to the Lord? What does Lord Krishna say about Karma Yoga? These I will address in the next article, which should be ready by early next week.
This completes the brief summary of Chapter 02 of Srimad Bhagavad Gita. I have tried to compress the whole chapter of 72 verses in to less than 1800 words. So if I have missed out on any important aspects or given incomplete explanations, it is only due to my fault and oversight, for which I pray forgiveness and understanding from my teachers as well as the readers. Please do not hesitate to ask for any clarification as required and I will try to clarify to the best of my ability.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Arjuna’s Dilemma
In my previous article, we saw the 5 main topics that Bhagavad Gita deals with. That forms the foundation for understanding the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Now, let us see why Arjuna loses his composure just before the battle began and what his dilemma was about. This article mainly covers Srimad Bhagavad Gita Chapter 01 – Observing the Armies on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra. This sets the scene for the Krishna’s response to Arjuna’s questions.
The first chapter of Bhagavad Gita begins with the blind King Dhrtarashtra enquiring to his charioteer, Sanjaya, as to what the Pandavas and his own sons, the Kauravas, did after assembling at the pilgrimage site of Kurukṣetra with the desire to fight. It is significant that the King mentions the holy nature of Kurukṣetra, since he knows Lord Krishna is on the side of the Pandavas, and he was wondering if these factors would influence his sons in to a compromise, which he did not want.
Sanjaya, who was blessed by Sage Vyasadev with divine sight, could view the happenings on the battlefield and narrates them to his King. Sanjaya assures the King that his sons did not ask for any compromise, by terming Duryodhana, the eldest son as ‘Raja’ or ‘King’. Then he describes what Duryodhana speaks to his teacher, Dronacharya. At the end of the talk with Drona, the Grand Sire of the Kuru dynasty, Bhisma blows his conch-shell, signalling the start of the war. His call is drowned by the transcendental sounds of Lord Krishna blowing his own conch-shell, Pancajanya and that of other Pandava warriors.
Then Arjuna, in a chariot with the flag of Hanuman on its spire, with Lord Krishna as his charioteer, takes his bow, looks at the army assembled on the other side and suddenly makes a request.
Bhagavad Gita Chapter 1 verse 21-22
senayor ubhayor madhye
rathaḿ sthāpaya me ‘cyuta
yāvad etān nirīkṣe ‘haḿ
kair mayā saha yoddhavyam
“Arjuna said: O infallible one, please draw my chariot between the two armies so that I may see those present here, who desire to fight, and with whom I must contend in this great trial of arms.”
It is explained that Arjuna was put in to illusion by Krishna at this crucial moment for the benefit of the world, so that Krishna himself can speak out his instructions. Though the Pandavas were dragged in to this Great War by their evil cousins, their assent for the war was based on consultation with many saintly persons and finally with Lord Krishna himself. Arjuna wanted to have a good look at his family members who were assembled against him, but he was overwhelmed by grief at the thought of the deaths that were to ensue. It was the best moment for spiritual instruction. And seeing the great warrior and his transcendental charioteer engaged in a discussion in the middle of the battlefield, the generals of both sides held their ground and watched with respect and curiosity.
From the middle of the battlefield Arjuna saw his grandfathers, fathers, uncles, brothers, friends, teachers, sons, grandsons and well wishers all arrayed on the opposing side. Compassion filled him. His body began quivering, hair stood on its end, mouth dried up, skin felt like burning and his mighty bow, Gandiva, slipped from his grip. Then he addresses the Lord.
He asks of what use are a kingdom, happiness or even life when all those for whom it is desired for are now arrayed on this battlefield. He also says he is not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this earth.
Then Arjuna begins to substantiate his claims with what he thinks will happen if he goes with the war. He says that “With the destruction of dynasty, the eternal family tradition gets vanquished, and thus the rest of the family becomes involved in irreligion. When irreligion is prominent in the family the women of the family become polluted, and from the degradation of womanhood comes unwanted progeny. An increase of unwanted population certainly causes hellish life both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. The ancestors of such corrupt families fall down, because the performances for offering them food and water are entirely stopped. “
Arjuna continues, saying that he has heard by disciplic succession that those who destroy family traditions dwell always in hell and so it is better for him if the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, weapons in hand, were to kill him unarmed and unresisting on the battlefield. And thus, Arjuna cast aside his bow and arrows, and sat down in the chariot.
It is to be noted that such a compassionate and soft-hearted soul, like Arjuna, is fit to receive self-knowledge. There are a couple of significant points to be noted in Arjuna’s lament. He points out that if the women of a family are not protected and the chastity of women is not maintained, it will bring down the entire family line in which they live in.
Arjuna’s laments hold a lot of relevance in these days, when it has become fashionable to be ‘broad minded’ and ‘progressive’ in every sense. I don’t think this point needs any further elaboration since I believe anyone reading these blogs can understand it clearly.
Arjuna also mentions that he has gained knowledge through a disciplic succession. This is a prime requirement to ensure that the knowledge is passed on unchanged! Imagine there is a mango tree with ripe mangoes at the top. At different heights, on branches, there are people seated and all are relishing the ripe mangoes! How? The person on the topmost part is plucking the mangoes and passing it down carefully. Now, you go to the tree and wish to get some of the mangoes. What do you do? There are several choices. One, you can take some stones and try to hit some of the mangoes and collect them from the ground, in whatever shape they are in after falling through. Or request the person in the lowermost branch for a mango, and he shares what he is getting from the top.
The first case, where you throw stones, is akin to the way people are trying to get scientific knowledge. You may or may not get the mango and even if you do, you will not find the mango intact. The second case, where you get the mango by the mercy of the person on the lowest branch, is akin to the disciplic succession. You get the mango properly and intact. Consider the mangoes to be Knowledge and people in the tree as the guru-disciple line… you get the idea. (Don’t even think of climbing the tree yourself… it indicates time!)
Therefore, one has to stress on the importance of hearing from a bonafide sampradaya or disciplic succession. The specialty in our Vedic system is that nothing is taken for granted. A philosophical theory is not just accepted on whim and wish. It has to be verified by the standard checks and balances, namely acceptance by one’s Guru, other Sadhus and then by the final anchor, Sastra.
Although anyone and everyone can claim to be enlightened, using the flowery words of the Vedas or by putting forth pure speculation as a philosophy, one must enquire about which parampara or sampradaya such a person belongs to… just like you don’t accept any tom, dick and harry to be a doctor or an engineer! Accepting someone as a Guru is no simple task. It is not a sentimental activity involving blind faith. One has to enquire in to the qualifications of such a person, his spiritual background, what is the siddhanta he follows, does he compromise on his philosophy to earn cheap adoration, is the philosophy he advocates or his modifications accepted or endorsed by other bonafide Sadhus and Sastra etc. For that, one must have some basic understanding on who can be considered as a Guru or Acharya.
The fact that the even Lord Krishna in, his Lila, also accepted a Guru, even though he is the fountainhead of all knowledge, demonstrates the importance of a Guru. Krishna also mentions this in Chapter 04, verse 34. As well, Arjuna demonstrates this again in the middle of the battlefield by accepting the Supreme Lord as his Guru.
So, how did Lord Krishna respond to such a grief stricken plea? How did he begin to clear Arjuna’s doubts? These I will address in my next article.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Main Topics of Srimad Bhagavad Gita
In my previous article, I had concluded stating that if we want our understanding of the Bhagavad Gita to be perfect, one must understand it as Arjuna understood it. We now begin our journey through the vast ocean of knowledge that is the Bhagavad Gita.
There are five basic truths that Bhagavad Gita addresses
They are as below:
1. Īśvara – Supreme Lord, the supreme controller, the supreme soul
2. Jīvas – the living beings that are controlled, spirit souls.
3. Prakṛti – the material nature
4. Kāla – Time
5. Karma – Activity
Can anyone point the odd one out in the above? No? Well, it so happens that the Supreme Lord, the spirit souls, material nature as well as Time are all eternal. Karma, activity, is the only one which is temporary. (Amusing, isn’t it? It takes 4 eternal entities to create something that is temporary!)
Now, let’s see how these topics are addressed.
Srimad Bhagavad Gita establishes the superiority of Īśvara above everything else. And Lord Krishna is established as the Supreme Controller of everything that is there, throughout Gita. Krishna himself declares it in Chapter 10, verse 8:
ahaḿ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaḿ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māḿ
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.”
In fact, Arjuna understood this perfectly. And that is the reason why we should try to understand Bhagavad Gita in a submissive mood, as a devotee of Lord Krishna, accepting him as the Supreme God (even if just theoretically), because otherwise the import of his teachings will be lost. We will see this in detail when I start addressing the chapter contents later on.
Next in line come the Jīvas, the living entities or spirit souls. While the subject of Īśvara is dealt in detail only at a later stage, the subject of the spirit soul is dealt with by Krishna in Chapter 02, verses 11 to 31. It is explained in Bhagavad Gita, as well as by the Acharyas, that each of us is a spirit soul (atma), infinitesimal sparks that are qualitatively the same as Īśvara, God. But just as a water droplet from the ocean of water cannot compare to the ocean itself even though being qualitatively same, we cannot compare ourselves to God in any manner. We are subordinate to the Supreme Lord and as such do not have the capabilities attributed to him.
Then we come down to Prakṛti or material nature. Bhagavad Gita clearly establishes that material nature is completely controlled by the Supreme Lord.
In Chapter 09, verse 10, Krishna states this:
“This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, producing all moving and nonmoving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.”
Previously, he also states in Chapter 07, verses 4 and 5:
bhūmir āpo ‘nalo vāyuḥ
khaḿ mano buddhir eva ca
ahańkāra itīyaḿ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego — all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.”
apareyam itas tv anyāḿ
prakṛtiḿ viddhi me parām
yayedaḿ dhāryate jagat
“Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.”
Here, Krishna states that he is the Lord of the material nature and makes a clear distinction between himself and his energy. He also states that the living entities, the Jivas, are part of his superior energy whereas material nature is part of his inferior energy. Now, since the Jivas are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, they have the tendency of trying to lord over the material nature. The only problem is that they are not the Supreme Lord and hence cannot exercise full control over it.
While we stay on the topic of material nature, I wish to clarify an important point. What we are in, is part of material nature. It is real. But because material nature continually manifests and unmanifests itself under the effect of yet other energy of the Lord, Eternal Time, its manifestation is considered to be temporary. But its manifestation, this world and countless others, is never illusionary or false.
So, that brings us neatly to our next item: Time. Krishna mentions in Chapter 10, verse 30 that “kālaḥ kalayatām aham”, meaning “of the subduers I am Time”. As energy of the Supreme Lord, Time wears down everything. We see time only in relation to existence and movement in the material nature, whereas it does not have an end or a beginning. Since this is very difficult to understand at the outset, we will deal with this as and when we encounter it during the course of our study.
Last in line is Karma or activity. It is not activity performed just now. It includes everything from time immemorial, and by the laws of which our enjoyment and suffering are determined. Karma is affected by all the eternal entities. Activities arise due to the effect of combinations of 3 mode of Material nature (Goodness (Sattva), Passion (Rajas) and Ignorance (Tamas)), along with the influence of time. Karma, though its effects can stretch across millennia, is still temporary as we do have the ability to change our karma and hence the reactions to our Karma, based on perfection of our knowledge. Chapter 05 of Bhagavad Gita talks about Karma and Karma Yoga in detail and I will present that in due course of time.
(Phew, that was a heavy dose? Well, that is required as a foundation to proceed further. So, I will take a more relaxed pace from now.)
So, the next question anyone should ask is
How does one go about getting this knowledge perfectly?
If you want to learn or earn a degree in physics or nuclear medicine, I think you would pretty much know how to go about it. One has to go through 14 years of schooling, 4 years of college, another 2 years as post grad, and probably a Ph.D, before one can be considered as an expert in that field. Now, it so happens that for learning Spiritual science, there is a process to be followed. One must be humble in searching for the truth, must be able to identify a bonafide Guru, render service to him and inquire from him submissively. If you are wondering “Oi… hold it! That’s all? Are you sure you aren’t making this up?” well, here’s what Krishna says in Chapter 4, verse 34:
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaḿ
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.”
There. Satisfied? But note that I never said this is easy, since most of us (including me) fail miserably in the first criteria, which is humility. It is only by the mercy of our teachers that we are somehow dragged in to a higher level of understanding, regardless of whether we are taught modern science or Spiritual science.
(For a detailed description on the process of gaining knowledge in the Vedic methodology, please have a look at the article “Descending Knowledge” which I posted on my blog a while back.)
What made Arjuna lose his composure before the battle? What did he lament about? How does that relate to our current times? These I will address in the next article.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern relevance – Introduction to Srimad Bhagavad Gita
What is happiness?
If you ask anyone, ‘what is happiness?’ I am sure that the answers that you would get from most people would be similar. Good health, nice family, enough money, time to enjoy the little pleasures of this world, love, peace… it is not hard to imagine what would make people happy. Everyone in this world aspires to be happy all the time. The only problem is what WE define and seek as happiness, once gotten, doesn’t last forever. A few hours or days at best, that’s all. And then the rigors of the material world seize and engage us.
We use so many tools to aid us in our search for happiness, good health and why, even immortality! As a result of that relentless endeavor, modern science has enabled us to do so many things seemingly better than before, compared to natural alternatives. Life has become so dynamic that many people started professing that ‘change’ is the only constant in this world.
All these attempts at improving our condition of life, all the progress that we made, ignore the four other constants that come by nature in material life: Birth, disease, old age and death. Whatever efforts we make to improve our lives, and to be happy, the four constants always manage to get the better of us. And with death, everything comes to a very efficient end.
An intelligent person begins to think as to why he is forced to suffer, when all he wants is to be happy. A natural progress of that thought process would lead to questions like where did I come from, what am I doing here, where I would go after death and culminates in asking the most fundamental question which forms the basis of Vedic philosophy:
‘Who am I?’
The Vedas and associated Vedic scriptures offer great insight in to life’s mysteries. These ancient treasure troves of wisdom and knowledge, being coeternal with God and infallible in their own right, direct us to change our attention from the temporary towards the permanent, from matter to spirit, from the body to the soul.
They teach us that our endeavors to be happy through gratifying our senses would lead to only misery. They also inform us about our original spiritual nature – that each of us are not the body but infinitesimal spiritual sparks, Spirit Souls, that are not of this material world and that the only way to have eternal happiness to revive our natural relationship with the Supreme Soul, God, of whom we are all part and parcel of, yet different.
The Vedic knowledge was primarily transmitted orally in the previous ages. In order to make the Vedic knowledge easily accessible to the people in the Kali Yuga (the present age), the great literary incarnation, Sage Vyasa, compiled the entire knowledge in to principally the 4 Vedas, 108 Upanishads, 18 Puranas and 2 Itihaasas (epics, namely Ramayana and Mahabharata).
Understanding the Vedas, which are compiled in exquisitely perfected Sanskrit, is a nightmare even for the most erudite scholar these days. Learning Sanskrit itself would take close to 12 years of study and then one has to study the various siddhantas (philosophies) and Bhashyas (commentaries) as expounded by the great Acharyas of the past, to grasp even the basics of complex texts like Vedanta Sutras.
Of the texts that form the Vedic scriptures, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, which is found in Mahabharata, is the most important section. It is the essence of all Vedic knowledge. It is also called Gitopanishad, and is the consolidated description of the most intense, hair-raising dialogue between the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna and his dearest friend, the warrior-archer, Arjuna. Running in to 700 verses over 18 chapters, it is described in much simpler Sanskrit, which leaves absolutely no room for interpretation and logical debating which is allowed by the Vedanta sutras.
This dialogue starts with questions asked by Arjuna, who is feeling very confused, dejected and sad on the eve of a great battle against his cousins, the Kauravas and their army. Arjuna is one of the ‘Mahajanas’, and being a friend to the Lord, he is above all ignorance. But the Acharyas explain that he was put in to this situation specifically to enquire about problems of life so that Sri Krishna himself can explain it for the benefit for future generations, namely, us.
(It is to be noted that this great dialogue was spoken on the eve of battle, in the middle of two armies standing ready to fight. It lends credence to the practicality of such a philosophy, much against a common belief that any spirituality or philosophical pursuit is meant for practice only in peaceful times or in a forest away from common day to day works.)
The spirit with which one should hear and accept the teachings of Srimad Bhagavad Gita is shown by Arjuna in the course of his discussion with Lord Krishna. When a physician gives a medicine, you take it only by following his directions. Similarly, the instructions given in Bhagavad Gita are to be taken only as Lord Krishna means it and not as per one’s own whim and wish. The perfect example for such a proper acceptance is shown by Arjuna himself. In the second chapter, verse 7, Arjuna surrenders:
pṛcchāmi tvāḿ dharma-sammūḍha-cetāḥ
yac chreyaḥ syān niścitaḿ brūhi tan me
śiṣyas te ‘haḿ śādhi māḿ tvāḿ prapannam
“Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.”
Here’s how Arjuna accepts Lord Krishna’s instructions, in chapter 10, verse 12 thru 14:
paraḿ brahma paraḿ dhāma
pavitraḿ paramaḿ bhavān
puruṣaḿ śāśvataḿ divyam
ādi-devam ajaḿ vibhum
āhus tvām ṛṣayaḥ sarve
devarṣir nāradas tathā
asito devalo vyāsaḥ
svayaḿ caiva bravīṣi me
“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Nārada, Asita, Devala, and Vyāsa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.”
sarvam etad ṛtaḿ manye
yan māḿ vadasi keśava
na hi te bhagavan vyaktiḿ
vidur devā na dānavāḥ
“O Kṛṣṇa, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me. Neither the demigods nor the demons, O Lord, can understand Your personality.”
So, to conclude, one must understand the teachings of Bhagavad Gita as Arjuna understood it. Only then, that understanding is considered perfect. Only when one hears it in a submissive mood, in devotion to the Supreme Lord, one can understand the teachings of Bhagavad Gita as understood by Arjuna, which is to say, correctly and perfectly.
What do Arjuna and Lord Krishna talk about? What subject matters does Bhagavad Gita address? How does one go about getting this knowledge perfectly? These I will address in the next article.
Understanding the concept of God – Part 12 (imprints of sins & its dissolution)
Imprints of sins & its dissolution
You must be knowing by now that all our experiences through our 5 senses get recorded in the energy particles & get stored in the genetic centre. Already stored experiences before one’s birth is called sanchit karma. This karma makes one’s prarabtha karma from the day of birth up till now & the 2 karmas together makes the real personality of a person. This is the ahamya karma which shows one’s future. The purpose of this life is to enjoy & at the same time clear off the karmas. Now, how do we know that we have sin imprints? Disease in one’s body & 3 impurities (ego, sin imprints & maya) in our thoughts show that we have sin imprints.
There is the cause & effect for every action we do. So if we suffer then we are sure to know that we had done a bad deed. Sow good & so shall the reap.
God + 3 impurities = Man
Man – 3 impurities = God
So far what is stored is done without our knowledge. So to avoid further storing, one needs certain awareness in whatever one thinks , speaks & acts. How do we clear off the past karmas? This is through expiation, dissipation & dissolution. Let us see all the three in detail.
Expiation: Whenever one does even a small mistake & if he regrets for it , the first thing he should do is to ask sorry to the concerned person & make him forgive for the wrong thing done. This will not create karmas. For example, we might shout at a person not knowing the truth of his mistake done & when we come to know it, we feel bad & so to avoid guilty feeling, ask him excuse at once. There are certain people who will not forgive & that has to be ignored.
Dissipation: Do good deeds so that the stored bad karmas doesn’t come out to make our life a miserable one. This can be explained by an example. Normally recorded audio or video cassettes , if it’s recorded with a movie can be over recorded with some good lectures of a master, nice music & so on. What was recorded cannot be seen or heard when played.
Dissolution: This can be done through meditation. The more we go deeply to lower frequencies thoughts get reduced & for a moment we experience thoughtless states. When one gets this experience, many of his karmas are erased. This is again compared to a cassette which in order to make it blank is made to simply “play record” & everything in the cassette is erased , but nothing is recorded. So through meditation many karmas(imprints) are made to dissolve or erased through thoughtless states in meditation. What we need is constant awareness or watchfulness to ourselves instead of unnecessarily watching others.
Understanding the Concept of God – Part 11 ( Moralization of the 6 bad qualities )
The 6 major bad qualities are strong desire (passion), anger, miserliness, immoral sexual passion, vanity & vengeance. All these qualities arise only when one is in beta level, as normally everybody will be in this level due to their constant thinking of some matters or problems that come across their life. The level swings from beta to alpha according to our thoughts & emotions. So it is in our hands to see that we don’t go beyond a certain level. (To know further about various levels read part 7)
The six qualities, if we are aware of , can be changed into 6 good qualities & they are satisfaction, patience, charity, chastity, equality & forgiveness. If one is satisfied in life with what they have, they will not feel jealous with others, out of greediness for more money & many unwanted happenings can be avoided. That doesn’t mean one should not have ambitions. Once you achieve or earn a lot of money, one should not go on for more money or increasing their properties. Until one knows about himself he will not have satisfaction in life. His expansion goes in hoarding money, increasing knowledge & gathering more & more properties. Once he knows his true self, outward requirements becomes little. Then satisfaction comes in life all the other good qualities comes automatically & we know the way to lead a peaceful & enjoyable life.
Strong desire changes into satisfaction.
Anger into patience.
Miserliness into charity.
Immoral sexual passion into Chastity.
Vanity into equality.
Vengeance into Forgiveness.