Ahimsa

Ahimsa, or nonviolence, is a Hindu principle that means we should live in harmony with the universe. We should be considerate of all creatures and all natural forces and live in balance with them. We should be compassionate. We should exercise self-control and not go into a frenzy to satisfy our desires and with the world. We should not needlessly hurt others in any way. However, we should do what our duty demands.

While Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism all endorse the doctrine of Ahimsa, they consider it differently. Buddhism bans killing along with stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, and intoxication. Jainism opposed all killing categorically. Hindu tenets are not so specific. They go to motive. Hinduism does not oppose killing. Rather, it opposes senseless killing. The distinction is difficult to put into words. The effects of an act depend on the thoughts that engendered it. The doer of the act must decide whether an act is hurtful or not and whether is necessary or not. It is the quality of the actor’s nature that determines if he or she makes the right decision and that sets karma in motion, for better or for worse. While a wise person performs acts that are in keeping with universal harmony, an anger driven fool is likely to commit acts of unwarranted violence.

Violence and destruction are not always harmful. Burning fields to improve their fertility is a good thing. It is different from starting a wildfire that will burn and destroy forests. The Gita speaks of a moral war, explaining that the soul cannot be killed and that the body does not matter at all. The Mahabharata and the Gita illustrate rather than explain what constitutes a moral war. Lord Krishna speaks on the “Battlefield of Dharma.” The noble hero, Arjun, does not want to slay his enemy. He does not want a kingdom, or victory, or pleasures. He would rather his enemy kill him than kill them. Lord Krishna convinces Arjun to fight, leaving the outcome of the war in God’s hands:

Do not care if your fighting brings pleasure or pain,

Victory or defeat.

Just do your duty.

In this way you will be free.

(Gita 2:38)

This excerpt is from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar. To purchase the book, visit our Amazon Link.

 

What Is Your Ideal in Life?

 

In Romania, where I was born, there is a description of philosophical conversations, or semi philosophical conversations. They are called discussions of the philosophy of a matchstick. My father loved such conversations in which participants inevitably wanted to show that their notions had more profundity and nobility than their friends’ notions.

My father thought up questions and he had a few favorites. One was, “What is your ideal in life?”  One afternoon this came up and when it was my father’s turn to state his answer, he said, “I want to grow.” Clearly, he meant he wanted to grow intellectually and in other good ways. However, his friend came up with a disparaging retort. He said, “How absurd! Even a garbage pile grows.”

I have not zeroed in on my ideal in life. The Bhagavad Gita promises that union with God brings us ultimate liberation and bliss. But I cannot quite focus on the ultimate. Mostly I seek avoidance of pain to my loved ones and myself along with avoidance of discomfort. Since these objectives do not qualify as ideals, I guess I don’t have any ideal in life.

How about you?

 

Chapter 11: God Shows Himself to Arjun

June 26, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 11, God Shows Himself to Arjun

Chapter 11 is the most dramatic chapter of the Gita. It begins with Arjun thanking Lord Krishna for His secret words and His goodness. Arjun says he now is free of his mistakes because he has heard the truth. He accepts all that God tells him and begs God to show Himself. God does so in a spectacular fashion.

The Lord says He appears in hundreds of thousands of forms, colors, and shapes. The thirty-three gods of the Hindu pantheon can be seen in His body as can wonderful forms that have not been seen before. Hinduism believes in one God – ever present as an unmanifest power who manifests at His will or when needed. However, it also acknowledges a pantheon of gods, the superior beings with many powers who populate myths and legends. The Lord tells Arjun that the whole universe can be seen in His body. Furthermore, He says that Arjun can see in Him anything he wishes to see.

The notion that humanity can see anything at all in God is remarkable. It suggests that our perception of God is limited only by our imagination. But the Lord says that because human eyes cannot see Him, He will give Arjun a divine heavenly eye. We can make of this what we will, but Gita’s clear message is that it takes transcendental vision to grasp the reality of God.

What Arjun sees next is an awesome sight. The Lord appears before him transformed, with multiple mouths and eyes and faces on all sides. He wears heavenly jewels, garlands, and garments. He carries divine weapons. He is covered with perfumed pastes. He glows with a light that exceeds the glow of a thousand suns all shining together in the sky.

Full of wonder, Arjun indeed envisions the entire universe in God. He bows down and tells the Lord that he sees thousands of beings in Him as well as the Lord Himself but that he cannot find His beginning, middle, or end. Arjun describes and comments on all that he sees. He says that God is the protector of goodness, that God fills the space between heaven and earth, that the worlds are frightened of God’s wonderful and terrible form and that crowds are entering into God and calling out praises to Him. Arjun himself admits that he fears God’s large shining eyes and His faces with terrible teeth that are like a fire burning the world.

Arjun sees the warriors on both sides of the Mahabharata war rushing into God like rivers rushing into the sea, like moths rushing into a fire toward destruction and he sees the world burning with God’s terrible brightness. He says he cannot understand the reason for this frightening form.

God answers that He is revealing Himself as burning Time, The Destroyer of the World. His purpose is to destroy Arjun’s enemies who will not live even if Arjun does not kill them. God explains that Arjun is merely His instrument and urges Arjun to fight and conquer his foe.

Shaken, Arjun says that he now understands that God is everything real and unreal and beyond both. He sees that all beings are in God and acknowledges God as the Creator, indeed as the father of the Creator. He begs forgiveness for his earlier failure to recognize God’s perfect greatness and asks to again see God in the gentle four-armed form of Vishnu (of whom Krishna is an incarnation).

God agrees and shows Himself garlanded and crowned, holding His disc, club, and conch. He praises Arjun and once again reminds us all of the Gita’s essential message: Whoever works for the Lord alone, whoever loves and trusts Him alone and is filled with kindness toward all beings reaches the Lord.

 

Chapter 11: God Shows Himself to Arjun

 

Arjun said: Thank you God for your secret words. Thank you for your goodness to me. Now all my mistakes have disappeared because I have heard the truth from you.

Oh Lord, You are all that You tell me. But I am longing to see You. Oh God, Oh Krishna, if you think I am good enough to see how You look, Oh God, show Yourself to me.

Bhagvan said: Look! I am in hundreds of thousands of different forms, and colors, and shapes.

See in Me all twelve sons of Aditi, the eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras who are gods of destruction, the twins who are the gods’ doctors, the forty-nine wind gods, and many many other wonderful forms never seen before.

Arjun, see in my body, the whole world and anything else you want to see.

You cannot see Me with your human eyes so I will give you a devine heavenly eye. With it you will see My power and My greatness.

Sanjay said: After saying this, Krishna showed Arjun His divine universal form.

Arjun saw God with many mouths and eyes, a wonderful sight, with divine jewels and weapons, and heavenly garlands and clothes, and covered with fragrant paste, full of wonder, endless, and having faces on all sides

The glow of a thousand suns all shining together in the sky would hardly be as bright as the shine of God.

The Arjun saw in God the whole universe. Then Arjun, full of wonder, with his hairs standing on end, bowed down to the Lord and pressing his hands in prayer said:

Oh Lord, I see all the gods and thousands of beings in You: Brahma sitting on his lotus; Siva, and the wise men; and heavenly serpents.

Oh God of the Universe, I see You with many arms, many bellies, many faces and many eyes. Oh Lord, I cannot see Your beginning or Your middle or Your end.

I see You with a crown, a club, a chakra, all round and bright like the fire and sun, shining on all sides.

You are the protector of goodness. You never end.

I see You with no beginning, no middle and no end, with unending power and countless hands, with the moon and sun for eyes, and fire for Your mouth burning the world with Your brightness.

The space between heaven and earth is filled by only You. Oh Lord, seeing this wonderful and terrible form of You, God, all these worlds are frightened.

Crowds of divine forms are entering You; some with joined hands are calling out Your names and glories. Some are saying “let there be Peace” and praising You. All are looking at You and are amazed.

Lord, the worlds are afraid, seeing all Your faces and eyes and arms and legs and bellies and teeth, so am I.

Arjun went on: Your many colored forms and wide open mouth and large shining eyes frighten me. Your faces with terrible teeth like fire burning the world frighten me.

Bhishma, Drona, and Karna with some of our warriors are entering You. All the sons of Dritarashtra with kings and warriors are entering You. They are rushing into Your fearful mouth with terrible teeth. Some are stuck between Your teeth with their heads smashed. Like the rivers rushed in the seas, so these warriors are rushing into Your burning mouths. They are going to be destroyed like moths rushing into a fire. Oh God, You are swallowing through Your burning mouths. You are licking all those people. Your terrible brightness is burning the whole world, filling it with light.

Lord, tell me who You are, looking so terrible! I bow down to You. Be kind. Oh God! I wish to know You because I do not understand the reason for Your frightening form.

Bhagvan said: I am burning Time, the destroyer of the world. My reason now is to destroy these armies. All your enemies will not live, Arjun, even though you yourself do not kill them.

So arise, fight, and win glory! Enjoy victory. These warriors, your enemies, will be killed by Me, God, not by you. I am just using you, Arjun, to destroy them.

Kill Drona and Karna and others who are already killed by Me. You will be sure to conquer your enemies and win, so fight!

Sanjay said: Hearing these words of Bhagvan, Arjun trembled and bowed down and spoke in a very frightened and shaky voice.

Arjun said: It is right, Oh God, that the world rejoices and is filled with love by singing Your names and glory. Frightened demons are running away and the saints are bowing to You.

Oh God they bow to You because You are the greatest of the great. You are the Lord of Heaven. You are Sat, what is real. You are Asat, what is not real. And you are beyond both.

You are the main God, the oldest God; You know; You are the knowable. You fill the whole world in different shapes.

You are the wind god, Vayu; the god of death, Yama; and the fire god, Agni. You are the moon god. You are Brahma, the Creator. Indeed, You are the father of Brahma, the Creator.

I bow to You. I bow to You a thousand times. I salute You and I salute You again and again.

Oh Lord of endless strength, I salute You from all sides. I salute You who have endless power, who fill everything. You are all.

Oh God, I did not realize Your greatness. I thought of You only as a friend. I treated You as a friend. Oh God, I beg You to forgive me. Please God, You are perfect. Forgive me!

You are the father and also the greatest teacher. No one can be as great as you. How can anyone be greater?

So, Oh Lord, I bow at your feet and bow low. I want to please You, the ruler of all. Please forgive my mistake. Forgive me like a father forgives his son, like a friend forgives his friend, and like a lover forgives his beloved.

After seeing what was unseen before, I feel happy. At the same time, my mind is afraid. Please show me again Your divine for of Vishnu with four arms, Oh Lord.

I wish to see You again with a crown, and a club, and a chakra, wheel in Your hands. Oh God with a thousand arms, appear again in Your calm four armed form.

Bhagvan said: Arjun, I am happy with you so I have shown you my Universal form which no one before has ever seen. Arjun, in this world no one except you can see Me like this.

Oh Arjun, do not worry or feel afraid from seeing this terrible form of Mine. Feel calm and unafraid. Look, see Me again in my same four armed form, with the conch, the chakra, the club, and the lotus.

Sanjay said: After saying this, Bhagvan appeared again in his gentle four armed form and comforted Arjun.

Arjun said: Oh Krishna, seeing Your gentle form again, I am calm.

Bhagvan replied: This form of Mine is very hard to see. Even the gods are always anxious to see it.

I cannot be seen in this form through studying the Vedas or through suffering. I cannot be seen through charity or in ceremonies.

But by endless love I can be seen in this four armed form. By endless Love I can be known. By endless love I can be entered into.

Oh Arjun, whoever works for My sake alone, reaches Me. Whoever trusts Me, loves Me, loves nothing else, and is full of kindness toward all living beings, reaches Me.

To purchase The Gita, by Irina Gajjar, visit our link on Amazon.

 

 

 

Chapter 5: The Two Paths

May 15, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 5, The Two Paths

 

Hinduism teaches three paths to oneness with God, a state often described as self realization. Yoga means union. Thus, I use the term oneness with God to describe the joining of the divine spirit within us to the great divine spirit of God, howsoever we visualize or understand Him or Her. The three paths to union with God are Karma Yoga, the yoga of action, Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge -which refers primarily to spiritual knowledge- and Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of loving worship.

In Chapter 5 of the Bhagavad Gita we find that Arjun remains perplexed regarding the merits of the paths of action and knowledge. Again, Lord Krishna explains. He says that knowledge is knowing truth while action is doing good. He says both are excellent paths to God, but that doing good is best because it is easiest. A person who does good by doing his duty for God’s sake is known as a Karmayogi. But such a person is also a Sanyasi or a person who has given everything up for God.

Generally, Sanyasis are considered ascetics who have renounced the material world. However, here Lord Krishna equates a Karmayogi to a Sanyasi since both have relinquished themselves as well as the fruit of their activity to God. In effect, Bhagvan’s (God’s) unequivocal message is that both paths are the same:

Only fools think the paths
of knowledge and action are separate.
Because a person reaches God by either path.
The wise man understands
that both paths are really one.

The balance of this chapter describes and praises those who act with detachment as well as those who know and appreciate the nature of God. Such people recognize that they are God’s instrument. A true understanding of God is reflected both in action that is fulfillment of duty and in giving up actions that attach us to bodily pleasures which are really pains because they come to an end. Persons who have given up desire and advanced on the path to liberation are happy, calm, free from anger and at peace. Their souls shine brightly. In describing such people Lord Krishna depicts them in the act of meditation: Their minds shut out everything except God. Their eyes look straight ahead. Their breathing is steady. They want nothing. They are free.

In His discussion of the paths of karma yoga and jnana yoga, Lord Krishna expands upon now familiar ideas. He reminds us that those who seek God are the same as those who are good. They are pure and as untouched by sin as a lotus leaf is by water. The image of a beautiful lotus that thrives in muddy waters is a common Indian visual and reference. It is lovely to see it incorporated in the Gita.

While the path of bhakti yoga, that of loving worship, is not directly addressed in this chapter, it is implicit here because love of God is the ultimate motivation of persons who are selfless and act only for the Lord. It is however discussed in a later chapter which again sees all who follow God’s teachings as dear to Him.

The last verses of Chapter 5 are particularly interesting. While we repeatedly read or hear that Lord Krishna seeks out, helps and loves those who understand Him, those who act on His behalf and those who trust Him, God now goes further. However, He does not speak of Himself. Rather He says that those who love and know Him realize that He is the friend of all beings and the Lord of all worlds.

So, if you wondered what God’s relationship is to those who do not specifically seek Him out or worship Him or love Him, you can take it as a given that God loves and keeps us all anyway.

Please read and enjoy Chapter 5 as presented below:

Chapter 5: The Two Paths

Arjun said: Lord Krishna, You praise knowing the truth and then You praise doing good. Please tell me clearly which of the two is best.

Bhagvan answered: Knowledge is knowing truth; action is doing good. Both are excellent paths to God. But doing good is easier and so it is best.

The man who does good, the man who does his duty for God’s sake alone is called a Karmayogi. Such a man is also a Sanyasi, which means a person who has given up everything for God. This man is beyond the world and is part of God.

Only fools think the path of knowledge and action are separate. Because a person reaches God by either path. The wise man understands that both paths are really one.

He who sees that action and knowledge are the same sees truths.

The Karmayogi does everything for God. His mind is on God while he acts. He wakes, sleeps, hears, sees, touches, smells, speaks, and breathes, thinking of God. He understands that he himself does nothing but that God does everything through him. God uses him to get things done. The person who offers all he does to God is as untouched by sin as a lotus leaf by water. The Karmayogi is pure.

The person who does everything only for God is peaceful and becomes part of God. The Karmayogi is past the world. God does not share the punishments or rewards of people.

God shines like the sun on the wise. The wise are mixed in God.

They are part of God. They adore Him and their sins are washed away.

The wise give the same love to a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, or a dog. They understand God is in all. The wise live forever.

The wise person considers happiness and unhappiness the same. He is always happy because he is with God. His mind is strong because it is with God.

Pleasures that come from the body are really pains because they come to an end. That is why a wise man does not care about them.

The wise person can stand here on earth and not care about his body which makes him want things and then get angry.

The happy person is wise. His soul shines brightly. The happy person is peaceful. He reaches God and God is peace.

The happiness and joy of the wise man come from inside himself.

Wise happy persons shut everything out of their mind except God. Their eyes look straight ahead. Their breathing is steady. Their mind is calm and concentrates on God. Such persons want nothing. They are not angry. They are not afraid. They are free.

Those who truly love Me know I am God of the whole world.

They know I am the friend of all. They who really love Me know everlasting peacefulness and everlasting happiness.

You can buy The Gita by Irina Gajjar on Amazon.com using this link.

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.

Becoming a Yogi

A person’s karma—or self-created destiny—determines whether the new body that his or her soul acquires will be born in the world of the wise and pure or in the lower world in the body of a senseless deluded being. The Gita is a guideline for uplifting the soul so that it ascends to the world of higher beings.

The passages in the Bhagavad Gita that pertain to “science of yoga” instruct humankind on how to better its karma and ultimately attain enlightenment. They intermingle with the “scripture of knowledge” passages which are philosophical in nature and pertain to the unmanifest world of spirit. Yoga in its broadest sense means the path to union with God which can be described as the joining of individual consciousness to the universal consciousness. A yogi is a person who has attained a consciousness that approaches the universal consciousness. Such a person, ruled more by spirit than by body, is wise.

Many passages in the Gita describe yogis and instruct us on how to become yogis:

The person whose spirit rules her completely is ruled by God.

The person has self-control.

She is calm no matter what happens.

She is calm if she is cold or hot.

She is calm if she comfortable or uncomfortable.

She is calm if she praised or criticized.

The person who has self-control never changes.

A piece of stone and gold are the same to her.

A wise person like this is called a yogi.

(Gita 6:6, 7, 8)

 

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. Learn more about the book at http://irinaspage.com/philosophy/on-hinduism/

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.

The Bhagavad Gita’s Message

 

While the Bhagavad Gita embodies orthodox Hindu belief, there is considerable flexibility in the interpretation of this belief. In my view, the Gita sets forth pathways to the achievement of goodness which leads to complete happiness. Such goodness brings us revelation and release from the cycle of birth and death.

There are several pathways to become totally good and to attain the bliss faithful Hindus presumably seek. They all result in detachment from the material world and a merger into God. This merger can be achieved through devotional worship, or through pursuit of knowledge, or through performance of good deeds.

The question remains as to how God is defined. What is that which starts out as a spark within us and ends up as the God whom we absorb or who absorbs us?  In the Gita, The Lord Himself provides extensive explanations as to who He is, but in the end the explanations are so inclusive as to become just about everything. God even tells us He is everything, though everything is not God.

It is often said that journeys are not about reaching a destination, but about the journey itself. But the journey of life cannot be meaningful without a destination and for believers the Gita gives meaning and to both.

For more information, check out Irina Gajjar’s book The Gita at http://irinaspage.com/philosophy/the-gita-sacred/

 

Knowledge

Hinduism defines knowledge as more than the acquisition of information. Knowledge pertains first and foremost to knowing God. This covers everything from seeking God, to knowing about God, to understand God, or to feeling God. Chapter seven of the Bhagavad Gita, “Knowing God,” offers a road map to the unveiling of the mystery of life. It explains that of the countless people who exist, only a few seek God and that of those few, only a handful gain a true understanding of divinity.

True knowledge pertains to understanding the Creator who causes the worlds and is the “life principle” or the essence of life. In his incarnation as Lord Krishnas, God says that He is composed of earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, reason, and the self. He tells us that He is the wetness in water, the light in the moon and sun, and the sacred symbol Om which encompasses God and the Universe:

 

I am the manliness in men

And the smell of the earth

And the brightness in fire.

Ia m life in living things.

I am the seed in all beings.

I am the wisdom in men’s minds.

I am the strength of the strong and the wish in your heart.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. To read more or to buy the book, visit the www.irinaspage.com/onhinduism 

 

(Gita 7:9, 10, 11)

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