Hindu Mythology

 

The crown jewels of Hindu mythology are its two grand epics, Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These reflect Vishnu’s incarnations as Rama and Krishna. Both epics are literary masterpieces containing a wealth of history, legend, philosophy, and ideology. They are post Vedic works considered smiriti or recollection rather than sruti or revelation.

The Ramayana was composed by Valmiki, a bandit turned saint and poet. Lord Brahma inspired him to write the Ramayana, a dramatic poem consisting of seven books divided into five hundred stanzas and 24,000 verses. It is believed to have been recorded about 500 BCE or earlier. The story is an intricate one with a large cast of characters including gods, demons, humans, super humans, animals, and birds who personify good, evil, or both. The well-developed characters act out their karma with elegance and might. The master plot containing intricate subplots takes many twists and turns and contains many diversions designed to keep its listeners riveted to every adventure and full anticipation up to the very end.

—This excerpt is from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar

Read more from Irina at www.irinaspage.com.

Mankind’s Journey

Arjun’s journey from doubt to faith symbolizes mankind’s journey. The journey is premised on a belief in a principle greater than ourselves and on a belief that we can ultimately transcend our human limits. Meanwhile, as we travel on the road to enlightenment, we can improve our human condition. But the journey must begin with the idea or hope that the end will have meaning.

God is The Gita’s premise. Its message is that life’s purpose is to attain enlightenment and eternal bliss merging into God. This message is a familiar one. However, its new and concise formulation coalesced Hindu thought and its fresh expression has guided Hindu behavior into the twenty-first century. In the revelation that is the Gita, God delivers His word with beauty and simplicity. This scripture contains eighteen chapters and seven hundred verses upon which uncounted commentaries have been written and continue to be written.

In the course of responding to Arjun, God as Lord Krishna unclouds Arjun’s vision, opens his mind and touches his heart. He speaks of His own nature and power, of human nature and human duty, or worlds, knowledge, of what is knowable, of the universal and human cycles of birth, life, and death and He speaks truth. Questions related to these matters intersect and overlap and they give rise to further questions and answers. In the end, the Gita paints an integrated picture of our human role in the vast scheme of things that is beyond us but not beyond our wonder.

Read more from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com

What Is the Core Message of the Bhagavad Gita?

 

The Bhagavad Gita’s or the Gita’s core message can be stated in a single sentence. It is this: Overtime and lifetimes, each of us can elevate ourselves to a higher plane until we become one with God. On one hand, this is a simple goal and the Gita tells how we can accomplish it. But on the other, it requires an appreciation of the Hindu view of God, virtue, reincarnation, and karma as well as of how these elements interact. While such appreciation comes naturally to Hindus, it requires others unfamiliar with Hinduism to ponder with an open mind.

The Gita answers questions that human beings have about matters we cannot fathom. Most of us have the same questions but not all of us agree upon the answers that religions and philosophies offer. Yet many of us feel that these answers given by preachers, teachers, scholars, and thinkers touch us and make some sense. Teachings proposed over millennia across the globe have often coincided and resulted in civil societies based on customs, laws, and traditions derived from religious or philosophical principles.

Ancient Hindu writings are classified as “Smriti” and “Sruti.”  Myths, legends, and the like that were passed on from person to person are Smriti, or recollections.

Sacred writings that are believed to have come directly from God are Sruti or revelations. The Gita, constructed as a conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjun, is Sruti and contains the essence of Hindu belief. It explains and seeks to persuade all who read or hear its words that life’s purpose is to attain the ultimate ecstasy of merging into God.

Considerable debate exists about the date that the Gita was crystalized and recorded in its present form. Though some allege it dates back to earlier than 5000 B.C.E. [before the common era], it was most plausibly written shortly before 500 B.C.E. By this time Hindu philosophy, thought, and culture were well established on the Indian subcontinent. Ideas regarding matters like the nature of God, of truth, of duty, and of the spirit were generally accepted. For example, most people believed in karma, in reincarnation, and in the existence of multiple planes with differing dimensions of time and space. These ideas or theories are rooted in the Vedas, the rich body of Hindu scriptures that antedate the Bhagavad Gita.

The Gita itself is part of the Mahabharata, the great epic which culminates on the battlefield known as Kurukshetra. God in the form of Lord Krishna is Arjun’s charioteer. He explains why Arjun’s duty is to fight bravely even if it leads to killing or being killed. In the course of eighteen chapters, the Gita persuades Arjun to act vigorously in fulfillment of his duty as a warrior. God explains that Arjun’s karma and the karma of his allies and enemies is determined, that the soul is eternal, and that for these reasons Arjun should put his faith in God and do his best without considering the consequences of his actions.

Lord Krishna concludes with these words:

 

No one is dearer to Me than a person

                                                    who loves Me.

                                                And whoever has heard or read My words

                                                        in this conversation with you, Arjun

                                                      loves Me.

                                             Whoever has thought about my words

                                                          carefully, worships Me with wisdom.

                                                Whoever understands these words          

                                                       I have just spoken to you, is wise.

                                                Whoever has listened, full of faith to My

                                                         message

                                                 will be sure to get goodness and happiness.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, verse 70, 71,72

 

See On Hinduism and The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

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.

 

The Principles of Dharma

Dharma gives every human being a place and a role within which individuals have a chance to improve their position in the world until they are free of its bindings. They have an opportunity to write their own destiny to make things better for themselves and to make a difference in the world. To do so, they have to think about what is good. Hinduism teaches that responsibility, compassion, spirituality, piety, selflessness, and renunciation are good and these ideas have become ideals. Scripture, society, and culture have translated Hindu ideals into values that in turn determine behavior. Hinduism expects its followers to engage in behavior that promotes the greatest good and this entails living by the principle of dharma.

Dharmic principles mandate behavior that relates to family life, social life, and spiritual life. These principles are not exclusive to Hinduism, but they are specifically integral to Hindu thought. Dharmic laws are both natural and learned, passed on from generation to generation.

Teaching children Sanatana Dharma which is the heart of the Hindu value system has become a challenge in the twenty-first century. As families are separated, as Hindu live more and more in the midst of other communities, as mothers and grandmothers work, and as information overload impinges upon time, it takes more and more of a focused effort to raise children in accordance with traditional values. Customs that passed on from generation to generation naturally now have to be passed on purposefully.

While children used to learn, understand, and practice Hinduism effortlessly, now families must teach its meaning. In the past, children grew up speaking the languages of their ancestors, languages full of symbolism and meanings that cannot be well expressed in other tongues. Today parents must persevere in the teaching children the languages and ways of their elders.

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

 

 

 

Fourteen Worlds

Vedic scriptures speak of fourteen worlds. Seven of the worlds exist of three higher planes: Bhuloka, the first world or earthly plane; Antarloka, the second world or the subtle, astral plane, and Brahmloka, the third world or the causal plane of God. These three planes can also be viewed as dimensions.

Bhuloka is the dense outermost dimension of being and consciousness. It is the physical world perceived by the senses. Antarloka is the intermediate dimension, the sphere of gods and higher beings, that exists in between the earthly plane and God’s plane. It is a subtle, astral dimension of consciousness. Brahmaloka belongs to Lord Brahma, the Creator. It is both the highest and the innermost dimension. It is pure spirit. Brahmaloka is also known as Karanaloka, the causal plane or as Sivaloka, the plane of Lord Siva the Destroyer who, through destruction, causes a new cycle of creation. To reach this plane is to become entirely absorbed or dissolved in the Divine Spirit and to merge into or become One with the eternal God. To enter Brahmaloka is to end the cycle of birth and death.

The seven lower worlds described in the Vedas are located in Naraka, the netherworld belonging to demons and souls that have become distanced from goodness and God. Naraka is the plane of lower consciousness. Its regions are temporary hells of the mind and the universe. They are places where souls way wander for many ages or for just moments. Ancient scriptures accepted the relativity of time and space. Thus, according to Vedic literature, the duration of any soul’s existence in any world depends upon whether the time experienced by a particular soul expands or contracts and upon the time scales that are in play when souls migrate from world to world.

 

 

The Gita: Epilogue

Aug. 21, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Epilogue

 The Mahabharata War fought at Kurukshetra was set in motion by jealousy, hatred and foolishness. It lasted eighteen days and ended with victory for the Pandavas, but the victory was not joyous. Young and old heroes fought and many died bravely. Among others, the great wise Bhishma and Arjun’s young son Abhimanyu fell. Duryodhana was killed and even at the moment of death he did not stop hating the Pandavas.

Years passed. Yudishtir ruled wisely and kindly. Gradually the sorrows caused by the destruction softened. Arjun and Hindus heeded the words spoken in the Gita by Lord Krishna who was Arjun’s charioteer and these words have left a lasting impression upon the world.

The Bhagavad Gita concludes with Arjun’s agreement to fight the Mahabharata War zealously. He accepts all that Lord Krishna tells him, truths that apply to all who respectfully and lovingly hear this conversation. It is taken for granted that the process of studying or listening to the Gita will convince its audience of the value of its message. Arjun asks many questions and expresses doubts to which the Lord carefully responds. But God’s answers are weighted and qualified. The Lord discourages skeptics and says that those who believe in Him are wise and blessed while disbelievers are ignorant fools doomed to destruction.

I pondered this statement, often reiterated in the Gita, and wondered whether it discourages honest thought and debate since the Gita lends itself to considerable inquiry. Then I realized that considering disbelief in God ignorant depends upon our understanding of what God is. The Lord defines Himself as all that is good and as the causation of existence. This definition leaves little or nothing to disbelieve. If we deny goodness, we are clearly unknowing and foolish. Nor can we deny causation. Something caused the universes and life to come into existence and God is as good a name as any for that force.

Furthermore, the Gita explains that we all contain a spark of God within ourselves. The spark is our soul or spirit. We can access this divinity and become one with it through love, faith, good behavior and practice.

Hinduism contains a vast body of literature, mythology, philosophy and science expressed in Sanskrit, a language that is unmatched in sophistication, breadth and precision. The Gita distills this body of knowledge and thought. It is brief and concise. It is focused on providing a way for those who seek enlightenment to uplift themselves. It offers alternative paths to become merged into God and attain eternal happiness. At the same time, it explains that these paths converge. Stepping on the path of goodness is enough improve your destiny and condition, although the goal of achieving ultimate oneness with the Lord may be distant.

The Gita explains existence. It deals with the vast unknown, but it fits with our knowledge and experience. It explains the relationship between karma and God. While the Lord transcends existence and non-existence, we make choices that determine our paths through life. The Gita assures us that within ourselves we contain a spark of great goodness and that we have the capacity to release this powerful potential for our own benefit and for the betterment of all creation.

Epilogue

Hus the was at Kurukshetra was fought. It lasted eighteen days and on each of these days brave warriors were killed. Young and old heroes fought and died with courage. The great wise Bhishma, Arjun’s young son Abhimanyu, the respected Drona, and Karna, son of Kunti and the son god, fell. Duryodhana was killed by Bhim and even at the moment of death he did not stop hating the Pandavas.

As last war ended and victory came to the Pandavas. But it was a bitter victory. They went once again back to Hastinapure, their family home, now a city of sadness and emptiness.

Years passed. Yudishtir ruled wisely and kindly. So, gradually the sorrows caused by the terrible war softened.

The Mahabharata War could not have stopped. Its wheels had been set turning by jealousy, hatred and foolishness. Arjun and his brother, as Kshatryas, had no honorable choice but to fight courageously.

Arjun understood all that Lord Krishna taught him on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. He finally arose and fought, understanding that it was his duty.

He trusted in God and did everything in his life for God.

Whoever is lucky enough to hear about God’s message in the Bhagavad Gita has a chance to understand the truth just like Arjun. Understanding the truth is being wise. Wisdom puts us on the path to God. This path leads to freedom from death and birth, to God Himself, and to everlasting happiness.

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

Chapter 18: Giving Yourself Up to God

August 14, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 18, Giving Yourself Up to God   

Arjun asks God in Chapter 18, the final chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, what giving everything up for Him means. The Lord answers that some people think it means giving up action altogether while others think it means doing your duty but giving up attachment. Those people believe that we should continue doing good things without considering the outcome or worrying about how things will turn out.

The Lord then says He will tell Arjun what He Himself believes. He says Arjun should not give up helping others or perfuming rituals but should do the things holy books say are good and will purify him. He should do these things for the sake of God without considering what the result will be. This is means giving up the fruit of your actions. Surrendering the fruit of your actions for God brings freedom and happiness. It is giving yourself up to God. Wise people do their duty without caring about whether it is enjoyable or disagreeable. Doing your best will make you Godlike. It will make you sinless, unselfish, strong and calm.

People who act focused on the outcome of their actions are greedy. They do not do things for God, but for a reward. Such people are happy one moment and unhappy the next. Their mood keeps changing and they often get angry. But by doing your duty, even by killing you do not sin.

The Lord, Bhagvan, describes three kinds of action, three kinds of knowledge, three kinds of reason, three kinds of firmness and three kinds of joy. These things have qualities like those of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas which are good, passionate and dull, respectively. He tells Arjun that the best action is performed for God’s sake, that action performed for selfish pleasure is bad, and that the worst action which hurts the doer and others is done out of ignorance and foolishness. Knowledge is also of three types. The best knowledge sees God as One in all beings. Lower knowledge thinks that all beings are separate. The worst knowledge, which is false, believes that beings exist without God.

God explains that reason means choosing between right and wrong. The best kind of reason understands that things like goodness, bravery and freedom are right. Reason that confuses right and wrong is bad. The worst reason is dull. It idiotically insists that good is bad and bad is good.  Similarly, firmness or determination is good when it steadily focuses on prayer and thoughts of God and goodness. It is passionate and bad when it sticks to the quest for riches and pleasures. But the worst firmness arrogantly sticks to unhappiness, fear and anger. Joy or happiness can also be good or bad. It is good when it comes to prayer and devotion but not when it comes from getting what you want. The worst joy comes from laziness and fooling yourself.

It may be challenging to think that anyone could or would fool themselves into happiness or cling to unhappiness. However, when our happiness is superficial and merely the result of satisfying a material desire, it will end up in anger and discontent. Thus, seeking to hold on to such joy is delusional and dull. It is fooling yourself and being unwilling to pursue deeper and lasting happiness. The Lord explains that while the pursuit of fun and pleasures seems appealing at first, it becomes bitter as we find the true and beautiful happiness that comes from the pursuit of goodness and God.

As the Gita comes to its conclusion, it references and justifies the duties of the four castes into which Hindus were divided at the time of its formulation. While the duties are ranked in favor of the higher castes, the Gita acknowledges that the spirituality of the Brahmans, the bravery of the Kshatriyas, the agriculture and trade provided by the Vaisyas and the service of the Sudras are all needed for the functioning of society. The problem of the caste system was not so much in the allocation of responsibilities but in the total absence of mobility and the terrible disparagement of the lower castes. However, the Gita acknowledges that the duties performed by all the castes can lead to perfection and the attainment of oneness with God.

The perfect person eats lightly, lives quietly, controls her mind by fixing it on God, controls her body, is calm, and is not selfish, angry, greedy or proud. The perfect person is cheerful, wants for nothing and loves God. He keeps on doing his duty and gives up the fruit of his actions. God will always come to help those who do these things. But those who do not will come to destruction and ruin.

The Gita ends as it begins, with an exhortation to Arjun to fight as demanded by his nature and his duty, to trust God and to go to Him for protection and peace.  God reminds Arjun that He lives in the heart of all beings and asks him to think about the secret words he repeats out of love. He says:

Think of Me, love Me, worship Me,

bow down to Me

and you will surely reach Me.

I promise you.

Give yourself up to Me

and I will forgive all your mistakes.

Do not worry.

My secret should not be told to anyone

who does not love God or to anyone

who does not want to hear it.

But whoever tells it to people who

love Me, God, will be sure to come to Me.

 

The Lord continues telling us all that no one is dearer to Him than a person who loves him and that whoever hears or reads His conversation with Arjun will love Him. Whoever has thought about this conversation and understood it is wise. Whoever has listened with faith to His message will get goodness and happiness.

God asks Arjun if he kept his mind on His words, if he understood their significance, if he now knows the Truth and if his confusion and unhappiness have gone away. Arjun replies that, thanks to God’s mercy, he knows the truth and will fight.

Sanjay, who related the Gita to King Dhritarashtra, expresses his joy at having heard the Gita and says that wherever there is Lord Krishna and brave Arjun, there will be happiness, victory, glory and truth.

OM TAT SAT

Please enjoy Chapter 18 Below.

Chapter 18: Giving Yourself Up to God

Arjun said: Oh Mighty God, I want to know what giving everything up for You means.

Bhagvan answered: Some people believe it means giving up doing things altogether. They think you should give up action completely because action is bad.

But otherwise men think it means doing good things for God. They believe you should do your duty without attachment. Without attachment is without thinking or worrying about how everything will turn out.

Now I will tell you what I, God, believe.

Oh Arjun, listen. You should not give up helping others. You should not give up religious ceremonies like pujas and only sit doing nothing. You should not give up things which the holy books say are good. Those things make you pure and good.

You should not give up your duty just because it is hard. That is wrong.

You should do your duty and not think about how the things you do will turn out. Just do your best and do not worry about anything. This is called giving up the fruit of your action. This is very good. Giving up the fruit of your action will make you free and happy. Giving up the fruit of your action is giving yourself up to God.

Wise people do their duty without caring whether it is enjoyable or disagreeable.

The things you do may turn out to be good or bad. But if you have done your best and do not care about how your actions turn out, you will be happy and free. You will be like God. You will be sinless. You will be unselfish, strong, and calm.

But people who care about what their actions will get them are greedy. They do not do things for God. They do them for a reward. Their mood keeps changing. They are happy one moment and unhappy the next. They are often angry.

If you do your duty wisely for God’s sake alone, even by killing you do not sin.

Oh Arjun, there are three kinds of action. The best action is done for God’s sake. Action done for selfishness or only for pleasure is bad. The worst is action done out of ignorance or foolishness. The worst thing to do is to act without understanding. Such action hurts others and hurts yourself.

There are also three kinds of knowledge. The best kind sees God as One in all beings. Knowledge which thinks that all beings separate is lower. But the worst knowledge is thinking that beings can exist without God. Such knowledge is false.

And there are three kinds of reason. Reason means choosing between right and wrong and understanding what is good. The best kind of reason understands goodness, bravery and freedom. Reason that mixes up right and wrong is bad. But the worst reason is sure that wrong is right and that right is wrong. It stupidly says that good things are bad and that bad things are god. There are also three ways of being firm and sticking to what you do. The best way is being firm and steady about praying and thinking of God. Another way of being firm is sticking to riches and to pleasure. That is bad. But the worst way is sticking to unhappiness, fear and anger.

Now, Oh brave Arjun, I will tell you about three kinds of joy.

The best comes from praying and thinking about God. The second kind of joy is not as good. It comes from getting things you like. And the third kind of joy is bad. It comes from fooling yourself and from laziness.

At first, praying and thinking quietly of God seems boring and bitter as poison. Having fun and getting things you like seems wonderful. But later, thinking of God, loving Him, and understanding Him are wonderful and beautiful. Then just getting what you want seems bitter and foolish.

And Arjun, there are different kinds of duties in life for different kinds of people.

The Brahmin’s duty, for which he is born, is self control. The Brahmin’s duty is studying holy books and concentrating on God. The Brahmin should be peaceful, pure, forgiving, wise, honest and full of faith in God.

The Kshatriya’s duty is to be a soldier. It is to be a good warrior and a good ruler. The Kshatriya’s nature is to be brave and generous. His duties fit the Kshatriya’s nature.

The Vaishya’s duty is to plant food, to protect cows and to do business. These jobs are right for the Vaishya.

The Shudra’s duty is doing work for the other groups. This is his duty for which he is born.

Each and every person can reach God by doing her own duty well. Each person can become perfect simply by doing her duty. It is better to do you own simple duty than someone else’s greater job.

No one should give up her duty, whatever it may be.

Now I will tell you what a perfect person is like.

The perfect person eats lightly and lives quietly. She controls her mind and keeps it thinking of God. She controls her body and is calm. She is part of God. She and God are joined. They are One.

The person who is good enough to join God is not selfish, angry, greedy or proud.

The perfect person is cheerful. She is never sad. She never wants or needs anything. By loving God she gets to know God and becomes part of God.

The perfect person keeps on doing his duty. He keeps on doing things. He does not give up action. He only gives up the fruit of action. This means he does everything for God’s sake.

So, you see, you should do everything for Me. Give up your actions to e. Give yourself up to Me. Concentrate on Me all the time.

If your mind is always on God, I will always help you when you need help. But if you do not listen to Me, you will be destroyed. You will be completely ruined.

You are proud and silly, Arjun, if you, a Kshatriya, say, “I will not fight.” Fighting is your nature. It is your duty and your own nature will make you fight.

Oh Arjun, remember God lives in the hearts of all beings and makes them act. Trust God. Go to God for the protection and peace.

Oh Arjun, this is My secret. Now I have given it to you. Think about it and do whatever you wish.

Arjun, listen again to My final most secret words. I will tell them to you for your own good because I love you.

Think of Me, love Me, worship Me, bow down to Me and you will surely reach Me. I promise you.

Give yourself up to Me and I will forgive all your mistakes. Do not worry.

My secret should not be told to anyone who does not love God or to anyone who does not want to hear it.

But whoever tells it to people who love Me, God, will be sure to come to Me.

No one is dearer to Me than a person who loves Me.

And whoever has heard or read My words in this conversation with you, Arjun, loves me. Whoever has thought about My words carefully, worships Me with wisdom. Whoever understands these words I have just spoken to you is wise. Whoever has listened, full of faith to My message will be sure to get goodness and happiness.

And now, Oh Arjun, son of Kunti, did you keep your mind on everything I have said to you? Did you understand My message? Do you now know the Truth? Have your confusion and your unhappiness gone away?

Arjun said: Lord Krishna, because of your mercy I know the Truth. I will be firm and do what you wish. I will fight!

Sanjay said: And so I heard the marvelous exciting conversation between Krishna Bhagvan and Arjun. Through God’s grace I heard this most secret Yoga. I think, Oh King, of this wonderful holy conversation and I am happy. I rejoice again and again.

I keep remembering how wonderful Lord Krishna looked and I am happy delighted again and again.

Wherever there is Lord Krishna and brave Arjun, there will be happiness, victory, glory and truth.

OM TAT SAT

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

 

 

 

Chapter 12: Loving God

July 3, 2020, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 12, Loving God

Arjun opens Chapter 12 of the Gita with a question. He says some people love God in His unmanifest form, as a nameless, formless, endless divinity and others love Him in His manifest form, with a picture of Him in mind and he asks Lord Krishna which is best. Lord Krishna’s answers suggest that both are equally best, though loving God without imagining what He looks like is difficult.

The Lord explains that those who love, trust and think of Him are best but that those who are calm, good, and who have self-control also come to Him. He says that He rescues from birth and death everyone who loves Him alone and who worships Him and who acts for Him.

God tells Arjun and us all that if we think of Him, we will love Him. If we cannot think of Him steadily as in meditation, we should practice, and if we cannot do that, we should perfect ourselves by doing everything for His sake. If we cannot act for Him, we should simply remember to detach from the results of our actions which means we should not worry about them and not plan beyond them. This advice puts the Gita’s message in a nutshell.

As to the specifics of the best way to worship and understand God, the general principle stated is clear yet open ended. It is ambiguous unless we see that all the ways merge into one. Lord Krishna says that knowledge is better than practice and that thinking steadily of God is better than knowledge. The best however is doing your duty for God’s sake by renouncing the fruit of your actions. Again, while this seems different from the earlier verse which says those who love and trust Him are best, we need to remember that the ways of worship are interwoven and that they all lead to peace.

In the rest of Chapter 12, Lord Krishna speaks of the persons who are dear to Him. He speaks of an array of traits that such persons possess. This array is comforting because most of us see many of these qualities present in ourselves as well as in others. Many are consistent with our notions of human goodness. Others require effort or understanding. Particularly renunciation of outcomes and detachment from comfort or pain is not easy to appreciate or achieve. However, understanding that detachment and not caring are active and not passive attitudes help. Actively doing the right dutiful thing regardless of results to the best of our wisdom and ability is liberating and brings us calmness and happiness.

God says the persons who are dear to Him include those who are friendly, kind, and unselfish and who hate no one, those who do not mind suffering or pain and those who are happy and forgiving without hoping for pleasures. Also, those whose minds belong to God and whose bodies obey their minds are dear to Him. Those who do no harm, who love the world, who are calm and do not waiver from excitement one moment to anger the next are dear to Him and the unafraid are dear to Him too.

People who want nothing and who are pure and faithful and those who understand that their actions are really God’s actions are dear to Him as are those who do not jump with joy and those who do not hate or suffer or want things. Those who are disinterested in good or bad outcomes and love only God are dear to Him. Those who treat friends and enemies in the same way and who do not care if they are praised or criticized or if they are hot or cold or pleased or displeased are dear to Him.

It is interesting to note that the very attitudes which make us happy in turn make us godly or good and that our happiness and serenity endear us to God. Most if not all these attitudes have been introduced in previous contexts in the Gita, but now they are presented together as qualities we should strive to develop within ourselves. They endow our journey through life with goodness, purposefulness, and stability.

Lord Krishna sums up His devotion to humankind saying that whoever understands and follows His teachings and whoever loves God alone is dear to Him.

Please enjoy Chapter 12 below.

Chapter 12: Loving God

 

Arjun said: Some people who love You, have a picture of You in their mind. Other people love You just as a formless, nameless, endless God. Which people are the best?

Bhagvan answered: I think those who love me and trust Me most always think of Me are the best. But those who have self control and are calm and do good to all also come to me. Those who never stop loving God, even without imagining what God is like, they too come to Me.

Of course, it is harder to love God without imagining what He is like.

But I quickly rescue from birth and death whoever loves only Me and does everything for Me only and worships Me all the time.

So think of Me and you will surely love Me. If you cannot think of Me steadily, without stopping, then you must practice. If you cannot even practice, then do all you can for My sake. You will become perfect just by doing things for My sake. If you cannot manage even this, then just remember not to worry about the results of what you do.

Do not plan for things to turn out the way you want them to, but simply do your best. Do your best and don’t think about what will happen next.

Knowledge is better than practice and thinking steadily of God is better than knowledge. But best of all is doing your duty for God’s sake.

She who hates no one, who is friendly, kind and unselfish is dear to God. She who does not worry about suffering or pain is dear to Me. She who does not hope for pleasures and is forgiving and always happy is dear to Me.

He whose mind is joined to God, whose body obeys his mind, and whose mind belongs to God, that person is very dear to God.

He who does no harm in the world and who loves the world is dear to Me. He who is always calm and who is not happy and excited one moment but angry the next, is dear to Me. He who is unafraid is dear to Me.

He who wants nothing, who is pure and faithful is dear to Me. He who understands that all he does is really done by God, that person is dear to Me.

She who does not jump with joy or hate or suffer or want things is dear to Me. She who gives up both good and bad, and loves only God is dear to Me.

She who treats friends and enemies alike is dear to me. She who doesn’t care if she is praised or criticized, or if she is hot or cold, or happy or unhappy, She is dear to Me.

They who understand and follow all these teachings of Mine are dear to Me. The person who loves nothing but God, only God, is very dear to Me.

The Gita is available for purchase on Amazon. Buy your copy today!

 

 

A Note from Irina

Dear Friends and Followers,

We are happy to announce that starting today; we will be discussing The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture in its totality. My translation differs from its predecessors’ in that it flows evenly and clearly in late-twentieth-century English. Thus, the Gita’s beautiful message can be easily appreciated. In the printed book, each page of the English appears along with the Sanskrit manuscript,

Today I will give you an overview of the Gita and its origins. Next Friday, April 17th, I will introduce and present Chapter 1. Each Friday, we will have a new post featuring the next chapter or portion of a chapter, along with commentary, until all 18 chapters of the Gita are completed.

The exact date that the Gita or Bhagavad Gita -meaning Song of God- came into existence is disputed. No doubt, its origins extend further back than we can substantiate. We do know that this remarkable text, which first existed as an oral tradition, stems from a chain of thought going back at least to about 1500 B.C.E. [before the common era]. However, scholars attribute the Gita in its present crystallized form to about 500 B.C.E.

The Bhagavad Gita is written in Sanskrit, a beautiful, complex, and sophisticated language which explains elaborate concepts with clarity. Because of its precision and its richness, Sanskrit is viewed not merely a language but also as an extension of philosophy.

This teaching represents the essence of the Vedas, sacred texts that are the foundation of Hindu belief, philosophy, theology, and ritual. It is considered sruti meaning a revelation coming directly from God. Self-described as a “Sacred Scripture of the Knowledge of Brahma and the Science of Yoga,” the Gita is structured as a dialog between the Lord and the great hero, Arjun. It is part of the Bhagavad Gita Upanishad. The reference to Brahma refers to the holy trinity of Brahma, the Creator, Krishna the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. The Upanishads, also sruti, are a series of sacred texts that expound on the Vedas.

The Gita is inserted into the Mahabharata, a great epic which along with the Ramayana has made Hindu mythology exquisitely three dimensional. Both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are post Vedic writings and are known as smriti or recollections.

 

As an aside, it is interesting to note that televised airings of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana in the late 1980’s changed the rhythm of life and the Hindu perspective. Around 80 to 100 million people, one-eighth of the Indian population watched the epics on Sunday mornings resulting in shops and businesses closing more on weekends than on lunar holidays.

The Mahabharata is the story of the Great Kurukshetra War involving two families, the Kauravas, and the Pandavas.  Since Lord Krishna preaches just before the onset of this war, its story sets the stage for the Gita.

The Pandavas were led by Arjun and his brothers Yudhishtir, Bhim, Nakul, and Sahadev. They were sons of King Pandu of Hastinapura but born in the forest after their father became ill and left his throne. The boys were gifted by the gods and were said to have been born brilliant with heavenly light. As they were still young at King Pandu’s death, they returned with their mother, Kunti, to Hastinapura to find their cousin Duryodhana ruling. Duryodhana, son of the blind King Dritarashtra, was the eldest of the hundred Kauravas, and he was fiercely jealous of the Pandavas, especially of the praise showered upon them by the people of Hastinapura. Though Duryodhana and the Kauravas pretended to welcome the Pandavas, they secretly plotted their ruin.

The Pandavas grew up to be fine men, well educated as Kshatriyas or warriors, and they successfully protected themselves from Duryodhana’s plots. The five of them won the princess Draupadi and shared her as their wife.

Finally, the Kauravas heeded the advice of wise elders and agreed to make peace with the Pandavas giving them a small empty piece of land to rule. Yudhishtir became king there and ruled wisely. Soon he turned this land into a rich, happy kingdom. He built a new city, Indraprastha, and made it his capital. The Pandavas became so wealthy and strong that Yudhishtir could perform the Rajasuya sacrifice, which proved him to be the most powerful and greatest ruler in the country.

The more Duryodhana saw of the Pandavas’ glory, the more he hated them and determined to destroy them. Eventually, he decided to capitalize on Yudhishtir’s love of gambling and invited him to a game of dice. Despite his misgivings, Yudhishtir accepted. He and his brothers entered the new hall built for this match. The teacher Drona, Bhim – wise uncle of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas- along with others, sat with the old blind Dritarashtra and watched with heavy hearts.

Yudhishtir staked and lost a pearl necklace, jewels, and the gold and silver in his kingdom and lost it all. Then he staked and lost his chariots, elephants, horses, cattle, his slaves, his kingdom, and finally his and his brothers’ freedom. Then, losing all his self-control, he staked his and his brothers’ wife, Draupadi, and lost her too.

When Dritarashtra saw this, he could not bear the burden of Draupadi’s dishonor and misery. So, he promised to grant her whatever she might wish. She asked only that she and her husbands be freed and given their weapons. The blind old King begged the Pandavas to accept the return of Indraprastha, and thus the brothers and Draupadi returned home.

When Duryodhana heard what had happened, he was enraged. He then challenged the Pandavas to a final game of dice. The stakes were that if Yudishtir lost, he and his brothers would go into the forest for twelve years and spend a thirteenth year hiding in disguise. Should they be discovered, they would have to return to the forest for twelve more years.

Yudishtir agreed and played and lost again. So the Pandavas and Draupadi went into the wilderness for twelve years and decided to spend the thirteenth year working in the court of King Virata in Matsya. They succeeded undiscovered. But when they returned, the Kauravas refused to give them back their kingdom. Duryodhana refused to give them any land at all, not even as much land as would cover the point of a needle. Thus, the Kauravas set the stage for war.

Both sides made preparations and asked for Lord Krishna’s help. Krishna agreed to give his whole army to one side and to give himself as charioteer

to the other.  Duryodhana chose the army, and the heroic Arjun, Yudishtir’s brother and the leader of the Pandavas in this fight chose Krishna to drive his chariot. At this point, the Gita begins giving us a picture of the warriors, their complex relationships, their state of mind as well as a feel for the scene of the battle.

As Chapter 1 unfolds, we are introduced to the overarching question Arjun raises. He is distressed by the prospect of war and killing, and he asks Lord Krishna whether it would not be better to die and lose his life than to fight and kill. This question opens the door to the other questions Hindus, believers, and even atheists ask about life, death, honor, duty, virtue, destiny, knowledge, God, goodness, evil, faith, and truth.

Arjun’s journey from doubt to faith and resolve symbolizes mankind’s journey toward belief in a principle greater than ourselves, a journey that can transcend the limitations of humanity.

With this brief introduction, I leave you to await Chapter 1 of the Gita, one of the most significant scriptures of all time. I hope you will participate and contribute to this and the following presentations. I look forward to learning your thoughts, to perhaps answering your questions and I thank you and look forward to your feedback.