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

Vaishnavites

Vaishnavites are the largest denomination within Hinduism. Vaishnavites worship the personal form of Lord Vishnu and all his avatars, particularly Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. Their belief merges dualistic Dvaitism and with monistic Advaitism. Dvaitism views the soul as pure love of God and as separate from consciousness. However, Dvaitist philosophers maintain that the soul and consciousness merge when the soul becomes enlightened and frees itself from the body. Thus they consider Bhakti Yoga, or the Yoga of devotion, as the best means of attaining the perfection of spirit that enable the individual soul to become on with the universal soul.

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The Five Layers of Being

In Hindu philosophy, goodness, truth, and God are one. God is absolute goodness and eternal truth. The Absolute Soul that is God illuminates the soul of all beings. However, human goodness is a material human trait. The human traits of goodness and evil both pertain to the body, not to the spirit. In Hindu though, the mind is part of the body. It is the energy that powers our intellect, our judgment, and our ego, but it is temporal and it is shed when the soul is released from the bondage of repeated reincarnations. The body and mind are matter whereas the soul is spirit. A particular life comes into being when the spirit and the body join together and it ends when the soul and the body separate at death.

When it embodies, the soul, the kernel that is our innermost divine spirit, is covered by four layers of being. The soul itself is counted as a fifth layer, though it is pure essence and is devoid of matter. It is the unchanging soul named God. The five layers of being are called kosas. The four layers surrounding the soul can be understood to be sheaths, shells, or husks, or vessels. The kosas increase in density as they move outward, further away from the spirit. The layers closest to our soul make up our ethereal astral body whereas the outermost layer is heavy with matter.

The fourth sheath, nearest to the soul, is knowledge. It is the highest level of understanding and sensitivity that is closest to God. The third sheath is the mind. It is intellect and it contains our memory, causes dreams, and processes the information that we have taken in through our minds and senses. It also manages the collective information we may call human instinct or intuition. This collective information belongs to all mankind. The second sheath is vitality. It is the vital force that moves the body and makes it work. This is the subtle body that controls our senses and actions as well as internal bodily functions like the pumping of the heart. The fourth outermost sheath is the dense physical body itself.

The living body has three attributes or properties called gunas. These attributes are our tendencies or natures. Ranking from highest to lowest, the three gunas are sattva, rajas, and tamas. Sattva is the tendency of the highest and purest of beings. It is true and good. Rajas is the tendency of dynamic beings filled with energetic or frenetic passion. It is not good, but not evil. Tamas is the tendency of ignorant and inert beings. It is bad. People are a mixture of these three traits but our nature depends of which trait is strongest:

 

When Sattva is strongest we are wise.

When Rajas is strongest, we are greedy

and we cannot keep calm or still.

When Tamas is strongest,

we are lazy foolish, and covered by darkness.

(Gita 14:11, 12, 13)

 

This excerpt is from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar.

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

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Ramayana and the Mahabharata

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.

—Excerpt from On Hindusim, by Irina Gajjar

Read more from Irina at www.irinaspage.com.

 

Truth

truth

If the core of Hinduism had to be summed up in a single word, that word would be truth, perhaps more appropriately Truth with a capital letter.

The holy syllable “Om” represents the totality of the absolute, the infinite spirit and truth.

Om is defined by the phrase Om Tat Sat meaning “Om That True.”  However, each of these words represents a concept. Thus rendering Om Tat Sat in English requires a judgement call. I think a good way to say Om Tat Sat in English is “Om is the real and true infinite spirit.”

The totality of Hindu philosophy and thought is subsumed under the notion of Om Tat Sat. While the notion these words encompass may seem complex, it is really quite simple and most Hindus grasp it easily. The underlying belief of Hinduism is that only truth is real and worthy of our devotion.

The Hindu concept of God as ultimate truth is comparable with Biblical explanation given to Moses. In Exodus 3:14 God says I AM WHO I AM. SAY THIS TO THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL. I AM HAS SENT ME TO YOU.

See Chapter 9 of On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar to explore the meaning of Truth in Hindu philosophy.

Hindu Multiverses and Myths

 

hindumyth

In my view, Hindu thought acknowledges the existence of multiple universes which flourish on multiple planes and/or in multiple dimensions. Hindu philosophy embraces much that goes beyond human experience and even beyond what we can fathom.

For example, ancient myths speak of many eras, many creatures and many frames of time. Time is different in the worlds of humans, of ancestors and of gods or demons. But beyond myths, ancient mathematical calculations fully anticipate the most recent and sensitive numbers regarding matters like the speed of light. Thus myths and science intersect.

Like science fiction, myths are a blend of history, prediction, fantasy and symbolism. We should not pooh pooh them as nonsense. These tales contain more grains of truth than we might think. In my view, an important truth is validation of the idea that we humans have the potential to become a multi-planetary if not multi-universal species.

See On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar

The Gita on Body and Mind

bhagavad-gita

 

According to traditional Hindu philosophy, the mind is part of the body.

Our bodies consist of ether, air, fire, water and earth which are the five subtle elements and of the mind. The mind in turn incorporates the five senses (touching, hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting). It also embraces understanding and emotions like wanting, hating, happiness, unhappiness and courage

Thus the body and mind are allocated to the material world as distinct from the world of spirit or soul or eternity.

See Irina Gajjar’s The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, 13: 5, 6, The Body and The Spirit