The Gita: Dialog Between God and Arjun

The Gita is structured as a dialog between God and Arjun. The first chapter describes Arjun on the battlefield facing his enemies. Earlier, both he and his opponents called upon Lord Krishna for help. Krishna offers his entire army to one side and Himself as charioteer to the other. Arjun chooses Lord Krishna.

But even with God by his side, Arjun feels dejected and filled with doubt. His mind starts spinning. He sees his wise old uncle, his teacher, and his cousins facing him and he cannot make himself fight:

How, Krishna, can I fight Bhishma and Drona with arrows on the battlefield?
I respect them.
It is better to live as a beggar, but without killing,
Because after killing them
Our hands will be stained with their red blood.

(Gita 2:5,6)

Lord Krishna’s response is the Gita. After hearing God’s word, after receiving God’s answers to his many questions, and after seeing God’s powers, Arjun is both humbled and strengthened. He no longer doubts or fears. He finds faith and courage. He stands ready to fulfill his duty as a warrior and to fight for his honor:

 

Lord Krishna,
Because of your mercy
I know the Truth.
I will be firm and do what you wish.

(Gita 18:73)

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.

 

The Body and the Spirit

 

Chapter 13 of the Gita explores the relationship between the body and the spirit. The Lord explains that the body is called the field and that the spirit is the knower of the field.  Our spirit is the glow of God. It is the spark of creation that exists beyond our physical, emotional or intellectual being.

In this chapter Lord Krishna discusses the role of knowledge in human existence. He describes knowledge, the opposite of ignorance, as many good things and particularly as awareness of God.

The ultimate purpose of knowledge is for us to reach the state of enlightenment which enables us to become one with God.

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

Choices

To some extent, our lives are determined by the choices we make. But to what extent are our choices real? This question underlies most human dilemmas.

Arjun’s doubt about whether it would be better to be killed than to fight and kill his enemies is the focus of The Gita which synthesizes Hindu philosophy. Here, God explains why Arjun must fight and He shows us that Arjun really does not have a choice.

Yet, human decisions though tethered are not fully predetermined. They depend upon our nature, our capacity to judge, our circumstances, our mood and upon the choices we made in the past. At the same time, our current actions and inactions affect our future as well as the futures of all who are touched by what we do or do not do. Thus, as much as our choices arise from our karma, they create it.

Fortunately, we are not always aware of the many big and little choices we make throughout our days. If we were fully aware of them, we would probably go crazy. Still, though fettered or made in haste, our decisions matter. So, we must do the best we can, heeding our consciences and the advice of those we respect.

      See Chapter Six, Karma and Reincarnation in On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar.

Goodness

 

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 thought, the mind is part of the body. It is the energy that powers out 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.

Read more from On Hinduism at www.irinagajjar.com.

 

Battlefield of Sharma

 

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 Mahabharata and the Gita illustrate rather than explain what constitutes a moral war. Lord Krishna speaks on the “Battlefield of Sharma.”

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)

These lines make it clear that Ahimsa, or nonviolence, is not strictly a pacificist doctrine. It may not even be a doctrine as much as awareness, a consciousness of what human beings need to do to maintain universal harmony and balance.

Read more from On Hinduism at www.irinagajjar.com.

 

The Legend of Ganesh/Ganpati

 

Several legends explain how Ganesh/Ganpati got an elephant’s head. The most popular one tells that his mother Parvati created him out of the sandalwood paste on her body and of the river Ganges. Then she told him to guard her bathroom while she bathed.

Lord Shiva, Parvati’s husband, had been away and when he returned he did not recognize his son and was angry at Ganesh for keeping him away from his wife. As a result, Shiva struck off Ganesh’s head.

Parvati became devastated. To comfort her, Shiva promised to restore Ganesh to life. He told his attendants to bring him the head of any sleeping being they found who was facing north. In a while, the attendants returned with an elephant head which Lord Shiva affixed to Ganesh.

Parvati was not consoled. She told Shiva that no one would respect her son with a big elephant head on his shoulders. So Lord Shiva promised that all worshippers would forever pray to Ganpati before praying to God and would invoke Ganpati’s blessings before beginning any important undertaking in life.

In this manner, Ganpati became the leader of the people, the lord of success, the remover of obstacles, and the destroyer of evil. He is honored in most Hindu homes and establishments and people celebrate him every year in a big ten-day-long festival held in August or September. True to Shiva’s word, Ganpati has become a part of every Hindu’s life.

 

You can read more from On Hinduism and other titles, by Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com.

Paths to God

 

The Karmayogi does everything for God.

His mind is on God while he acts.

He wakes, sleeps, hears, 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.

(Gita 5:6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

 

 

Yoga is the path which people can follow to become one with God. It is the path of attaining perfection so that we can know God and then merge into Him. A variety of paths can take us perfection, but they all come together at the end. However, the twists and turns along the way have created many views within Hinduism.

Hindu schools of thought are organized into different systems that go back to Vedic times and continue to evolve and flourish today. The distinctions between them turn on slightly different perspectives of God’s nature and of what the best paths to the goal of self-realization may be. Self-realization means finding God within ourselves. It is enlightening or seeing God’s light and becoming freed from the cycle of birth and death. Enlightenment leads to becoming one with the absolute eternal spirit that transcends the universe.

Read more from On Hinduism, by Irina Gajjar at http://irinaspage.com/philosophy/on-hinduism/

See the World in God

Goddess Aditi

 

God 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.”

                                              Gita, Chapter 11, verses 5, 6, 7

 

Aditi is the mother of the gods. Her twelve sons represent the signs of the zodiac and the Vasus represent the elements of the universe or aspects of nature. It is Lord Krishna’s intention in this verse to encompass the totality of creation and to open the vision of everything to us. Not only that, but additionally He tells us that everything is whatever we wish to see.

 

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

Hypocrites in The Gita

The Gita sums up the definition of a hypocrite as follows:

A person who pretends not to care about the body,

but who really keeps on wishing for enjoyable things

is called a hypocrite.

Such a person is a fool.

The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 3, verse 6

In order to attain Oneness with God, the Gita teaches that we must become detached from the feelings and desires created by our bodies. The above verse warns against faking piousness and pretending detachment rather than striving to achieve it.

Hypocrisy is tempting to those who wish to appear devout and even to those who wish to view themselves as devout. But in the Gita Lord Krishna repeatedly tells us that just trying to become close to God is very good and leads to happiness and wisdom. Regardless of how we view God or our truth, we should face ourselves honestly and be real.

Learn more about the the Gita in my book, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture.