The Gita’s Premise

God is the Gita’s premise. Its message is that life’s purpose is to attain enlightenment and eternal bliss by 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, of knowledge, of what is knowable, of the universal and human cycles of birth, life, and death and He speaks the 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.

The Gita develops around the concept of a universal God who can be envisioned, though not understood on a human level, and around the idea that life’s purpose is to attain unity with God. This precept is implicit as are other fundamental beliefs like reincarnation.

When the Gita makes explicit references to such ideas that are a familiar part of Hinduism, it does so for emphasis or analogy rather than for evaluation. It reiterates them and alludes to them in different contexts, but the beliefs themselves are treated as givens, not as theories. They are considered beyond question, though not beyond interpretation:

 

She who always worships God faithfully
Crosses past the world
And becomes a part of God

(Gita 14:26)

 

This excerpt is taken from The Gita, by Irina Gajar. To learn more about the book, visit http://irinaspage.com/philosophy/the-gita-sacred/

Knowledge

In Chapter 7 of the Gita, Lord Krishna speaks of knowing God. It is hard to put the meaning of knowing God or knowing anything for that matter into words. But without a doubt, there are some things we know or at least we feel like we know.

I wonder what the difference is between thinking or feeling we know and actually knowing. I suppose the distinction only makes a difference when we speak of matters which others take seriously. To opine or feel or believe that we love someone is no different from loving someone. However, when it comes to science, or politics or faith, knowledge that does not conform to what others have confirmed or what our society may lead to dangerous action.

To know is not the same as to understand or to believe. Understanding and belief often lead to knowledge, but they are not knowledge itself.

Read more from The Gita at http://irinaspage.com/philosophy/the-gita-sacred/

Are We Really Seeing the Truth?

Many of us want answers to questions of our existence, the reality of God, eternity, the soul, the meaning of truth and other such matters.

On the other hand, most of us know or realize that these answers are not available to our human minds. Still we persist in our quest. I think we do this to a large extent because the exercise is mentally fun. Most of us who pursue such truths intellectually are not really prepared for revelations that evade or defy the limits of our understanding.

Lord Buddha taught that we should not worry about understanding that which is beyond our grasp, but should focus instead on virtuous behavior and our karma. Early Buddhism did not consider God at all, but later Buddhist could not manage without a deity and decided that Lord Buddha embodied God Himself.

See On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar

Goodness

In the view of Hinduism, sinfulness and goodness are mixed in or characters. Our natures contain different proportions of these qualities or tendencies and we should strive to behave in a manner that develops good tendencies and wipes out bad ones. While our goodness is helping others.

It is self-control and worshipping God and having pujas and studying the Vedas and the other holy books.

It is calling out God’s names and glories and suffering for your beliefs. Goodness is being straight and strong in body and mind.

Goodness is realizing God does things through you, that you do not do them by yourself.

Goodness is not wanting, being kind of all and not caring about the pleasures of your body.

Goodness is gentles and being ashamed of your mistakes and not being lazy.

Forgiveness, strength not being mean and not being proud are goodness.

These are signs of someone who is good.

(Gita 16:1,2,3)

This passage shows that goodness is not tied to any particular code of conduct nor does it arise from obeying a particular set of rules. There are no clear cut rules a person can follow to become good. Rather, acting virtuously cultivates goodness and the state of goodness causes a person to act virtuously. Vedic philosophy views goodness as a state of being that can be achieved through self-conditioning. It is  pursuit that lasts for lifetimes.

People who sincerely aspire to goodness attain goodness. Those who wish to become brave, pure, pious, disciplined, worshipful, knowing, tranquil, truthful, kind, gentle, modest, energetic, forgiving, and strong will become these things and will become good.

They will become wise and good decisions. They will perform noble deeds that will benefit the world. They will find themselves on the path to enlightenment and they will find happiness. They will attain salvation. Hinduism offers no shortcuts to salvation. It offers no single principle that people can embrace to be saved if they are not good. In order to be freed, a person must first become good.

 

Excerpt from On Hinduism by Irina 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 frenzy to satisfy our desires, treading on the toes of those who stand in our way. We should be at peace within ourselves 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 Ashimsa, they consider it differently. Buddhism bans killing along with stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, and intoxication. Jainism opposes all killing categorically. Hindu tenets are not so specific. They go to motive. Hinduism des not oppose killing. Rather, it opposes senseless killing. The distinction is difficult ti put into words. The effects of an act depends on the thoughts that engendered it. The doer of the act must decide whether an act is hurtful or not and whether it is necessary or not. It is the quality of the actor’s nature that determines if her or she makes the right and good 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 is 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 Mhabharata 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 and 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)

 

Read more from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar

The Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri Mantra, dedicated to the Goddess Gayatri, Mother of Vedas, is one of the most important chants in Hinduism. This mantra expresses the essence of the Vedas. It contains only fourteen syllables, but its compact, complex eloquence is difficult to express in languages other than Sanskrit. It means:

Om
Truth
Earth
Air
Heaven
May the Brilliant Glory
Of the Supreme God
Enlighten Our Minds
Enlighten Our Thoughts
Enlighten Our Meditation

(Rig Veda III.62.10)

Read more about the Gayatri Mantra in On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar.

 

The Universe in God

Then 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.

—The Gita, Chapter 11, verses 14, 15

 

Consider the idea of the whole universe, of everything imaginable, contained within the being of its Creator. This vision represents the vastness of all existence that lives in the confines of our imagination, reason, and belief. This is a remarkable perspective.

See Chapter 11 of The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar.

What Is Goodness?

We are told by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita that goodness is many things. It includes bravery, purity, contemplation of the soul, worship of God, study of holy texts, strength, straightforwardness, truthfulness, peacefulness, kindness, gentleness, the absence of anger, detachment, repentance for transgressions, forgiveness, humility, truthfulness and vigor.

This is a comprehensive set of qualities. Though most of us would agree that these qualities do represent the better side of humans, some might of us, particularly those of us who are not inclined toward orthodoxy, may question whether the worship of God and the study of holy texts equate with traits like kindness.

I wonder why God, who is all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere seems to have a great need to promote Himself and to persuade us to believe in Him [or Her?] Can’t we just take the force that is God for granted and move on from there?

See Chapter 16 of The Gita, a New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture.

A Skeptic’s Critique of the Hindu View of the Soul

In his introduction to my book On Hinduism, Ravi Heugle questions the validity of the soul’s existence. He equates the soul to the mechanism that moves a watch or clock. Ravi writes:

The soul will render itself superfluous to any consistent description of a life form. In describing a watch, if we understand all mechanisms and principles of operation, no additional idea or concept is necessary to explain its purpose, function of state. I have faith that I do not inhabit my body, but I am because of my body. The establishment of a unified blueprint of life by science will exile the soul and the assumption of the existence of the soul will prove itself to be invalid. Thereafter, the soul will solve serve as a potent synonym for human identity.

I believe this analysis disavows the soul because our human minds lack capacity to define their nature. Yet, lack of definition or explanation does not negate the soul’s existence, even if we can only grasp at the outer edges of its reality.

What is your view of the soul?

See A Skeptic’s Perspective in On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

Zero

The notion of zero is philosophical as well as mathematical in Hinduism. Here is an explanation:

The Sanskrit word for zero is sunya which translates as “nothingness.” Brahman, God in his formless, immutable, timeless, memory-less state prior to Creation, is called Nirguna Brahman or Brahman with no attributes. Nirguna Brahma exists in nothingness. With the happening of Creation, Nirguna Brahma becomes Saguna Brahma, the God with attributes who is Ishvar. Zero symbolizes God in nothingness. Zero added to or subtracted from any number does not change the number. The sum of zero and zero is zero. Zero added to or subtracted from itself remains zero. Multiplied by itself, zero is still zero. However, the addition of zero to the right of any number (without a decimal point) increases it up to infinity and its addition to the left of any number (with a decimal point) decreases it down to the infinitesimal.

Zero’s complement must be “everythingness.” Everythingness differs from everything just like “nothingness” differs from nothing. The idea of zero embraces the idea of its opposite, totality. We say God is everythingness and nothingness because we have no better words to describe the unfathomable existence or nonexistence that transcends itself. Thus, zero to Hinduism is more than a mathematical tool. It represents God’s truth that lies beyond human experience and the material world, truth that is just beyond the reach of the human mind.

See Chapter Three, Monotheism in On Hinduism, by Irina N. Gajjar