Chapter 8: Brahma

June 5, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 8, Brahma 

The word Brahma in English is the translation of the Sanskrit nominative form of Brahman which designates God, the ultimate reality. It is also and separately the name of the Creator in the trinity of Brahma, the Creator, and Shiva the Destroyer who personifies humanized aspects of God.

In Chapter 8 of the Gita, Lord Krishna -an incarnation of Vishnu- explains Brahma as the absolute divine reality. Arjun opens this chapter asking a simple though formidable question, “What is Brahma?”

I find it interesting and significant that this question asks what, not who God is. We can, therefore, understand that Brahma is not humanized or even visualized. It is the idea of a permanent, eternal force that gives rise to and is the spirit within all physical existence.

Hinduism as a religion and as a philosophy views Brahma or Brahman as a fundamental principle. It is the cause of everything, it exists everywhere and always, even when nothing else exists. One could say believing that God is the ultimate reality works as both a religious and philosophical truth. A religious belief may require a leap of faith. Indeed, how can we assume that something in the nothingness that anticipated creation caused universes to come into being without this leap? On the other hand, we know that worlds did come into being out of emptiness, so philosophically it is reasonable and rational to presume that there was a cause for this effect and to name this cause God.

Lord Krishna tells Arjun that Brahma is the everlasting spirit of God and the origin of all things. He says that whoever dies thinking of God comes to Him and once again urges Arjun to think of Him and fight.

The Gita’s explanations or descriptions of God are a blend of concepts that we can relate to in terms of our human understanding and also accept in light of our awareness that God is beyond the grasp of the human mind. This, I think, is the way most of us who give thought to and believe in the reality or the possibility of God imagine Him or Her or It to be.

God is the wise everlasting ruler of all. He shines like the sun past the darkness of ignorance and He can be easily reached by those who think of Him at all times. Those who do can remain with Him and escape the cycle of birth and death.

This chapter of the Gita concludes with a beautiful portrayal of time as it relates to Brahma. His days last a thousand ages and His nights a thousand more. When His days begin, the world is born and when His nights begin it disappears. This happens over and over again. The wise alone understand this. As God Himself is everlasting, those who love Him are also everlasting and indestructible.

Chapter 8: Brahma

Arjun asked: Lord Krishna, what is Brahma?

Bhagvan answered: Brahma is the spirit of God. It is everlasting and the origin of all beings. Those who die thinking of Me come to Me and become everlasting. So think of me, Arjun, and fight!

I am God, the wise, the everlasting ruler of all.

God is beyond what your mind can understand. God shines like the sun far beyond the darkness of ignorance.

Arjun, I will tell you more about God. I can easily be reached by those who think of Me all the time. And if you reach Me, you will not need to be born again But you can stay with Me forever and ever.

Brahma’s day lasts a thousand ages and Brahma’s night lasts a thousand more. Only the wise know this truth about Time.

The world is born when Brahma’s day begins and it disappears when Brahma’s night begins. This happens over and over again.

But God is beyond this world which appears and disappears. God is everlasting. Those who love Him completely are also everlasting and past this world of birth and death.

God is permanent. He is not destroyed in the destruction of the world. God is the best resting place from which those who love Him do not have to return.

You can purchase a copy of The Gita through Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4: The Sword of Knowledge

May 8, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 4, The Sword of Knowledge

Bhagvan begins Chapter 4 of the Gita by telling Arjun that He will share the secret He taught the Sun God named Vivaswan long ago. Vivaswan shared it with his son who shared it with his son and so on. The reason the Lord now shares it with Arjun is because Arjun loves Him and is the Lord’s friend. Arjun wants to know whether God taught at the beginning of the world. God’s answer is that both he and Arjun have undergone many births but that while Arjun does not remember them, He remembers them all.

Lord Krishna’s reply incorporates the principle of reincarnation which is viewed as a given and underlies Hinduism. The Lord further explains to Arjun that He is born and comes to earth from time to time when the good need his protection. On such occasions, His purpose is to destroy the bad and help the good. God adds that those who understand that His birth is divine can escape the cycle of birth and death.

The Lord’s remarks regarding His birth purposed to destroy the evil and help the good raise this question: Are we humans in the hands of God who is the force behind our existence or are we responsible for the course of our lives, of our world and of our planet? The Gita does not consider this question as a question or as a dichotomy. Rather it considers that our karma, born of our free will, is intertwined with the karma of our nation, our times, and of those who connect with us and that all karma acts in concert under God’s auspices. So while we make our destiny, our maker helps us nudge it along. Imagine that worlds resemble multi-dimensional nets, populated by living, singing and dancing beings. The worlds evolve, brighten darken and devolve until they are destroyed to come again into being.

Karma works hand in hand with the notion of reincarnation. Literally, karma means action or doing. Philosophically it means action and its fruit. The different types of karma are discussed in my book On Hinduism, but overall karma is the effect of cause that we set into motion. For example, if we toss a glass, it will fall and break. Thus, Karma involves choices that once made either limit or expand our future destinies and choices. While God is not responsible for our karma, He is considered its merciful dispenser. At the same time, like Arjun, we are God’s instrument in the implementation of karma that has ripened into destiny.

To understand the concepts expressed in the Gita, we should remember that the Lord’s words are words that we humans put into His mouth. Even granting that these words are divine revelations, they come to us in human language. The teachings that we attribute to God represent our deepest, best, and kindest wisdom. They bridge the gap between reason and knowledge and between belief and faith. They carry us from hypothesis to thesis.

Lord Krishna concludes this phase of His discussion explaining that people have become pure and attained oneness with Him by concentrating on God. He adds that as people look for God, He looks for them.

Then, the Lord says that He created the caste system which divided society into four castes. While this organization does not comport with twenty-first century values in India, or for that matter anywhere, the Gita acknowledges it as the social order of the times. Later the castes come up again to illustrate the merit of the respective duties of people that comport with their natures as priests, warriors, business people, and servants. In the context of this chapter, the reference is meant to urge Arjun who is a kshatriya, or warrior, to wage a righteous war.

Overall, Chapter 4 promotes the goal of becoming one with God. It teaches that we can attain freedom from action by acting dutifully, and by distinguishing good action from bad action and inaction. Lord Krishna reiterates that we can reach happiness by acting for the Lord’s sake. He also elaborates on the merit of rituals, on the meaning of sacrifice, on the virtue of faith and on the value of knowledge which means knowing the truth. These themes are now familiar to Arjun as well as to all of us who have been reading or hearing God’s words in the Gita and we can appreciate both their nuance and the interplay between them.

Lord Krishna concludes Chapter 4 telling Arjun that the sword of knowledge will cut doubt out of his heart and once again encouraging him to stand up and fight!

Now, please enjoy this Chapter as cited below:

Chapter 4: The Sword of Knowledge

Bhagvan said: I have taught the truth to Visvaswan, the Sun God; Visvaswan taught it to his son Manu and Manu taught it to his son Ishvaku. And today I teach it to you, because you love Me and are My friend. This truth is very secret.

Arjun replied: But Vivaswan lived long ago. Did you teach at the beginning of the world?

Bhagvan answered: You and I have passed through many births. I know them all but you do not remember. I am born from time to time whenever the good need my protection. I am born to destroy the bad and help the good. My birth is divine and those who understand this become part of Me and do not have to be born again.

Many people have become pure. They have become wise and they have concentrated on Me. They have become part of Me. People look for Me and I too look for them.

I made the four groups of people for the world and divided people according to their natures and work. These groups are priests, warriors, business people, and servants.

From very early times, people who wanted to reach Me and become part of Me did not stop doing everyday things while they concentrated on Me. But even wise men do not understand how to do this. So I will explain the truth to you. I will tell you how you can be free from action without stopping it.

If you become free from action, you do not have to be born again and again. You will not need a new life to finish what you started in your old life. You will not be tied to the circle of birth and death. But you do not have to stop doing things to be freed from the things you do. You can act and still be free.

I will explain good action, good things; bad action, doing things which are not allowed; and inaction, doing nothing. All this is a real mystery. All this is hard to understand.

It is hard to understand that the wise are free because they do nothing while they do their duty. The secret is doing your duty for God’s sake.

A person who does everything just for God’s sake is wise. She is always happy. She does not want or need anything so she is free. She is calm while she does her duty. Her mind is doing nothing except concentrating on God.

A person who is wise never sins. She is always cheerful. She is not jealous. She is past happiness and unhappiness.

The wise person is free. He does not have to be born again. The things he does do not give him any punishments or rewards, so he does not need another life in which to be punished or rewarded.

A person who does everything for God’s sake is free and becomes a part of God. Doing your duty only for God’s sake is the secret.

A puja is a ceremony for God. It is a sacrifice. The puja is Brahma. The fire which is part of the puja is Brahma. The person who performs the puja is Brahma.

Brahma is God’s absolute, everlasting power. We cannot see or hear or feel Brahma. Reaching Brahma and understanding Brahman is the reason for the puja.

A sacrifice is giving something up for God. It is doing something for God’s sake. Some people give things up for God. Some people suffer for God’s sake. Some study for God’s sake. Some breathe for God’s sake. All these people sacrifice for God and their sins are washed away.

But sacrifice that is knowledge is better than giving up things. Learning the truth for God’s sake is the best sacrifice.

To get knowledge means to learn the truth. To learn you must bow down with respect to the wise. You must serve them and wait on them with a pure heart and they will teach the truth to you.

Then, Arjun, when you know the truth, you will not doubt any more. You will not be mixed up. You will see the whole world in your own heart and then in God.

Even the worst sinner can become good and reach God through Knowledge. Knowledge is like a boat which takes you across the ocean of sin.

Like fire burns wood to ashes, the fire of knowledge burns the things you do to ashes and these burnt actions give you no punishments and no rewards. This is how knowing the truth makes you free.

Knowing the truth takes you right to God.

If you have no faith, no trust God, you will doubt and lose God and be unhappy.

Oh Arjun, do everything for God’s sake. The doubt in your heart is the doubt of not knowing the truth. With the sword of knowledge, cut this doubt out. Be free. Do your duty for God’s sake. Stand up and fight!

 

Read more from Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com.

God’s Power and Grandeur

 

Perhaps the most awesome verses in the Gita are those that speak of God’s power and grandeur, depicting Him in all aspects and all forms. God is earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, reason, the seed of all beings, Om, and the Self. Gold lives in the heart of all living things. Everything that is glorious or brilliant or strong is a spark of His brightness. He is the essence of life. God is Brahma, the Creator who caused the world to be and from whom all things come. He is Vishnu, the Preserver. In this form God is a wonderful sight adorned with jewels and weapons, and heavenly garlands, and covered with fragrant paste. He holds the whole world by just a flicker of His divinity. As the Destroyer, He is Shiva who makes all the worlds afraid. He appears in multiple colored forms. He has large shining eyes and a wide open mouth filled with terrible teeth. His awful brightness burns the universe.

Yet, howsoever the ancients described God millennia ago and however we may visualize God today, the Bhagavad Gita explains:

God is beyond what your mind can understand.

God shines like the sun

Far beyond darkness of ignorance.

(Gita 8:8)

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. To read more or to purchase the book, visit Irina’s website at www.irinaspage.com.

Hindu Texts

Hindu texts contain the oldest documented repository of modern day philosophical and scientific knowledge. Vedic tradition distinguishes eternal unchanging reality, which begins with a breath, from temporal ever-changing unreality, which begins with infinitesimal particles of matter. It recognizes the existence of multiverses. Ideas that today float between science and science fiction—precursors of scientific discovery—abound and astound in ancient Hindu scriptures and legends.

In Hindu thought, God alone creates, sustains, and destroys time. God also has the power to expand and contract time. As time cannot be realized apart from God, God is time. Brahma sleeps, the universe ceases to be.

 

When He awakens, He recreates it.

Brahma’s day lasts a thousand ages

And Brahma’s night lasts a thousand more.

Only the wise

Know this truth

About Time

(Gita 8:17)

This excerpt is from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar. You can purchase the book from Amazon or read more from Irina at www.irinaspage.com.

Unity with God

Though Hindus know deeply that the ultimate aim of their faith is to achieve unity with God, daily life and worship generally focus on more immediate results. Karma may take ages to play out, but the laws of cause and effect that are its foundation may also operate more quickly. Divine intervention works hand in hand with karma that is created by human behavior. Thus, worship is a path to enlightenment and simply setting forth on this path has its own validity. Progressing on the path to God is not only about reaching a destination. Making the journey earns merit in itself.

Hindu scriptures and customs consider a wide range of activities as worship: fulfillment of duty, prayer, pursuit of knowledge, honoring elders and teachers, tending to shrines in the home, visiting temples, going on pilgrimages, bathing in holy waters, practicing moderation, fasting, performing rituals, chanting, engaging in meditation and yoga, attending and participating in ceremonies, listening to preachers, performing classical dance, and so on. These activities are incorporated into secular life. Though none of them are singly defining, it is virtually certain that routine customs and occurrences will engage just about every Hindu in some overt forms of worship. Mindsets may differ regarding the value or effect of these variegated activities, but participating in some of them unavoidable.

The vast array of practices that make up worship in Hinduism may befuddle strangers to such rituals. Although most ritualistic acts and sacrifices have specific and generally known purposes, collectively their aim is to enhance the mind’s focus and thereby to extend consciousness. These ceremonies as well as actions undertaken in the name of God or goodness acknowledge and revere a power higher and greater than the power of the human mind or the human heart. Whatever form worship takes, be it worship of God or of another deity, worship in any form acknowledges the existence of something greater than humankind. Chapter four of the Gita, “The Sword of Knowledge,” explains:

 

A puja is a ceremony for God.

It is a sacrifice.

The puja is Brahma [God].

The fire which is part of the puja is Brahma.

The person who performs the puja is Brahma.

Brahma is God’s everlasting power.

We cannot see or hear or feel Brahma.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. Learn more about the book at www.irinaspage.com

Notions of God

In Chapter 8 of The Gita, Lord Krishna gives us a descriptive view of God’s characteristics. Even assuming we believe in a supreme divine force, this view stretches the limits of our intellect and

imagination. Lord Krishna Himself acknowledges that Brahma, the spirit of God, exists beyond what our mind understands. But He encourages our efforts to grasp what we cannot grasp because, He tells us, God can be reached by the wise.

Brahma exists beyond ignorance and shines like the sun. Brahma is Time. He endures for thousands of ages consisting of thousands of days and thousands of nights. Brahma Is permanent and indestructible. He is beyond the world. Brahma is the origin of everything and He is the resting place of those who are liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

Regardless of whether or not we believe or hope to believe, the possibility of Brahma can fill a huge void in our spirit. If we carry a spark of divinity within ourselves, we have a place and a role in the universe.

See On Hinduism, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar.

Hindu Myths and Legends

 

Hindu myths and legends illustrate Hinduism’s world vision in vibrant color. They portray worlds inhabited by people, by super people, by gods and demons, by legendary heroes and evil doers, by fantastic creatures endowed with extraordinary powers, and by great warriors wielding remarkable weapons.

These tales tell of places unbound by time or space, places that exist in our imagination, and places we can visit today. They tell of flight through the heavens. They discuss creation and destruction. They speak of God’s manifestations and God’s power. They bring laughter and tears and they thrill, frighten, comfort, and teach generation after generation of Hindus. Ancient stories told and retold never lose their fascination. They weave themselves into the fabric of Hindu life and take on new life when fresh miracles come about or when nature and science amaze us with feats that we once thought could not be performed outside of our imaginations.

Among the most intriguing narratives in Hindu mythology are the stories related to the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, in the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The term avatar is understood to mean incarnation or manifestation, but the actual translation from Sanskrit is “descent.”

People do not worship all the avatars and all are not human. Hindus adore Rama and Krishna above Vishnu’s other incarnations, but Vishnu came as a savior in all of them. Hinduism has consistently viewed Vishnu as the savior. While Brahma is the Creator who starts cosmics and Shiva is the Destroyer who ends them, Vishnu, the Preserver, is the one who strives to maintain cosmic order, intervening whenever needed. It is interesting to note that the order of the avatars’ appearance parallels the sequence of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Vishnu’s first descent is in the form of a fish, a creature of the water. Matsya saved a ship attempting to escape from a great flood and guided it to safety. The second avatar was in the body of Kurma, a tortoise who restored the nectar of immortality to the gods. The tortoise is a reptile, a life form that followed fish in the evolutionary sequence. Lord Vishnu incarnated for the third time in the body of a land animal, Varaha, the boar. Varaha saved the Earth from the demon who carried her to the bottom of the ocean. After a battle which lasted a thousand years, the boar rescued Earth and restored her to her rightful place in the universe.

Narasimha, the giant man lion, was Vishnu’s fourth descent and the last which took place in the Satya Yuga, the earliest age in Hindu cosmology. Narasimha symbolizes the emergence of mankind from the animal kingdom. Vishnu manifested in this form to save Prahlada from his father, a demon who was enraged by his son’s devotion to Vishnu. Narasimha destroyed the demon and made Prahlada ruler of the earth and the underworld.

The fifth, sixth, and seventh avatars of Vishnu take place in the second age known as the Treta Yuga, a period when man progressed from the stone age, to the iron age and then to a society ruled by kings. Thus, while Vishnu’s first four incarnations relate to struggles with demons and the forces of nature, the next three are about social and political struggles among men.

In His fifth incarnation, Vishnu appeared as Vamana, the dwarf who restored heavenly and earthly power to the gods and in his sixth, He appeared as Parashurama, Rama with an ax. His mission was to rid the world of evil and Parashurama went around the world twenty-one times killing bad kings and re-establishing the rule of the virtuous ones. Vishnu’s seventh incarnation was as Lord Rama, widely worshipped and glorified in the epic Ramayana.

Vishnu’s eighth avatar is as Lord Krishna who came to earth to preach the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna is probably the most deeply beloved of God’s avatars. His descent occurred in the third age known as the Dvapara Yuga. Vishnu’s ninth avatar, as Lord Buddha, the Enlightened One, took place in the fourth and current Yuga known as the Kali Yuga. Buddha preached a doctrine of reform that became Buddhism.

 

Read more of The Gita on Irinaspage.com or purchase your Kindle copy today at Amazon.com.

 

The Hindu Calendar

Excerpt from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar

time

In Hindu thought, God alone creates, sustains, and destroys time. God also has the power to expand and contract time. As time cannot be realized apart from God, God is time. Brahma’s sleep and wake cycles make time happen.

When Brahma sleeps, the universe ceases to be.
When He awakens, He recreates it.
Brahma’s day lasts a thousand ages and Brahma’s night lasts a thousand more.
Only the wise know this truth about Time. (Gita 8:17)

Hindu astronomical and astrological studies measure time differently for different worlds and differently again for God. Fine-tuned calculations show that ancient sages perceived our planet as part of a much bigger universe or universes or multiverses brought in and out of being by God.

Several parallel worlds exist with their own space-time on multiple planes. As humans we have just begun to skirt their edges but using our minds as vehicles and our calculations as fuel, we have been traveling throughout the universe for millennia.

Human time is limited. It is short. According to the ancient Hindu calendar, a human year consists of 360 days divided into twelve solar months or thirteen lunar months. The lunar months are divided into fortnights of about 14 days each that are composed of one waxing and one waning lunar cycle.

Two months make a season and three seasons a semester, or half a year. Two semesters add up to a year. An extra month added every third year reconciles the lunar calendar to the solar calendar.

Ancestral time is the time experienced by our ancestors who have moved on to other worlds and other dimensions. Their time lasts much longer than human time. A human fortnight consisting of approximately fourteen days equals one ancestral day. An ancestral year is 5,040 human days.

The lifespan of ancestors is one hundred of their years or 504,000 human days which equate to nearly one thousand four hundred human years. Time experienced in the worlds of gods and demons—superhuman powers endowed with divine and demonic characteristics—is even longer.

A human year, calculated as three hundred and sixty human days in the Hindu calendar, equals one day and night cycle for gods and demons. Thus, the one hundred year lifespan of deities and demons adds up to about thirty-six thousand human years.

Far greater than any other time is Brahma’s time which Hinduism reckons in kalpas or eons that in turn are composed of ages. Hindus have divided Brahma’s kalpas into four ages or yugas during which cosmic order has consistently deteriorated and human behavior worsened. The yugas become progressively shorter in duration.

The earliest yuga lasted over one million, seven hundred thousand years and the current yuga, known as the Kali Yuga which dawned about 3000 bce is expected to last for only 432,000 years. According to Hindu cosmology, Brahma undertook creation of the cosmos two kalpas ago. This works out to 8.64 billion years, several billion years less than the estimated age of the universe according to modern science.

The most recent scientific calculation estimates that the universe came into being after the big bang about 13.7 billion years ago give or take one hundred and twenty million years. Hinduism envisions Brahma’s existence in terms of billions and even trillions of years. It visualizes the scope of creation as infinite.

Modern science has not really spoken on how much longer the universe or world or our planet will last. Nor has it spoken on what its scope may be. It is reasonable to consider these two questions interlinked. The duration of the universe must depend on what it encompasses.

The Hindu vision is of a universe that expands and contracts in time and space, one that moves in and out of reality and in and out of consciousness, a universe that dissolves and regenerates itself, that is created by God and that is God. But God is more than the universe. God’s greatness is enormous but it can also be miniscule and even if the universe ceases to be, God does not. Thus, God and creation are as infinitesimal as they are infinite.

To Read More from On Hinduism, visit Irina’s Amazon Page or website.

 

 

God’s Three Acts: Shiva, the Destroyer

shiva

Act Three – Shiva, the Destroyer

Hindu Philosophy understands that the universe appears and disappears in space-time. Its destruction is performed by God. Though essentially unfathomable, Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, represents the human knowledge that existence can be frightening.

The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva embodies a human depiction or explanation of the forces that create, preserve and destroy existence.

Read the the first two acts here:

Act One: Brahma the Creator

Act Two: Vishnu the Preserver

See On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar

The God of Hinduism

hinduism

 

From earliest times, Hindus have thought and written about one God called Brahman. Brahman is an all-encompassing truth who has no shape or form but as the essence of Divinity, He flows into many manifestations.

“As Creator of the world, God is called Brahma. As Preserver, God is called Vishnu. As Destroyer, He is named Shiva. These three aspects together form the Trinity, the totality of a single God. From the Trinity, originate God’s thousands and thousands of forms and names.”

from About Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar [to be published soon].