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.

 

Chapter 14: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas

July 17, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 14, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas

 Chapter 14 of The Gita discusses the three attributes of the body. These are known as Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. The Lord explains this to Arjun and others to share an important truth which enables believers to become one with the Lord. By understanding these attributes, we can escape from repeated births and deaths and avoid suffering when the world is destroyed at the end of an age.

Birth takes place when the spirit and the body join together. The spirit is God, the Father, and the body is the Mother. At embodiment, we all are made up of the three attributes or qualities -Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas- known as gunas which tie the soul to the body. While we are a blend of the three, the predominance of one or the other determines our nature.

Sattva is good, happy, and calm. Rajas is not good. It arises from attachment and is greedy and passionate. Tamas is bad. It comes from ignorance and is sluggish and flawed. When Sattva is strongest in us, we are wise. When Rajas is strongest, we forever want things and are jumpy. When Tamas is strongest, we live in darkness and are dull and lazy.

If when we die, we are mostly Sattva, we will be born again in a world of purity and wisdom. If we are mostly Rajas, we will be born again in our world of attachment. If we are mostly Tamas we will be born again in the body of a dumb and unwitting being.

The fruit of Sattva is goodness. From Sattva comes wisdom. The fruit of Rajas is sorrow. From Rajas come passion and greediness. The fruit of Tamas is ignorance. From Tamas come pain and mistakes. However, the spirit of those who understand that God is beyond Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas will be freed from their bodies. They will not need to be born again and will attain eternal life and oneness with God.

Arjun asks how someone can become free of the three gunas that bind the soul and how such a person who is filled with goodness can be recognized. God answers that whoever worships Him faithfully and is detached from actions crosses beyond the world and the gunas and becomes free. Such a person is unconcerned about her body or about pleasant and unpleasant experiences. She is wise and feels the same about stone and gold. She treats friends and enemies alike and she does her duty, not caring about praise or criticism. She becomes part of God.

The Lord concludes this chapter saying that He is God, that He is the home of Brahma, God unmanifest, that He is everlasting and unchanging and that He is endless goodness and happiness.

Chapter 14: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas

Bhagvan said: Arjun, I will share the greatest truth with you again. Knowing this, people become part of me and do not have to be born when the world is created. Knowing the truth, people do not have to suffer when the world is destroyed.

Everything is born when the body and the spirit join together. The body is the Mother and I, God, am the Father.

The body has three parts or three gunas called Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. These three tie the soul to the body. We are made up of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.

Sattva is good. It is clean and shining. It is healthy and has no faults. Sattva is happy and calm. Rajas is not good. It is greedy and active and causes strong feelings.

Tamas is bad because it comes from ignorance. It is full of faults and mistakes. Tamas is lazy.

These three things are mixed up in us, but the strongest part makes us good or bad. When Sattva is the 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.

If when we die, we are mostly Sattva, our spirit gets born again in the world of the wise and the pure. If we are mostly Rajas, our spirit gets born again on earth. If we are mostly Tamas, our spirit gets born in the body of dumb, ignorant being.

The fruit, or the result, of Sattva is pure goodness. The fruit of Rajas is sorrow. The fruit s Tamas is ignorance.

But if you understand that God is past Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, your spirit will be freed from the body. It will not have to be born again and you will go straight to God.

The Arjun asked: How can I recognize a person whose spirit is freed from her body? How can we go past the three gunas which bind the soul?

Bhagvan answered: The person who is free does not care what happens to her body. Whoever feels the same about pleasant and unpleasant things has crossed beyond Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Whoever likes stone as much as gold is wise. Whoever treats friends and enemies the same way, and does her duty, not caring if she is praised or scolded, is free. Such a person has gone past the three gunas.

She who always worships God faithfully crosses past the world, and becomes a part of God.

I am God. I am Brahma’s home. I am everlasting and unchanging. I am unending goodness and unending joy.

 

 

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!

 

 

Chapter 10: God’s Glories

June 19, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 10, God’s Glories  

In Chapter 10 of The Gita, God describes Himself as the best essence of His creation and the cause of all that exists in the universe, leaving Arjun in awe.

Lord Krishna explains that not even the wisest people really understand the extent of His greatness and His power. They do not understand that He is the source of everything. Truth, wisdom, forgiveness, self control, happiness, unhappiness, bravery, fear, peacefulness, fame, and shame all emanate from Him. Yet the good know that the Lord has no birth and no beginning.

God continues saying that the great sages of the world were born because He willed them to be. The world moves because of Him and the wise and good worship Him and are happy because they know this to be true. In return, God gives them wisdom and pushes away darkness by shedding the light of truth upon them.

Arjun asks to know more about God’s glories and God says they are endless. He says He is in the heart of all living things and that he is their beginning, their middle and their end. He is the elite of beings and qualities.

The Lord tells us He is Vishnu (The Preserver), He is the sun and the wind, and He is the moon. He is Indra (the King of the gods). He is mind and energy. He is the destroyer and He is richness and fire. He is the tallest mountain, the chief priest, the strongest general, and the ocean. He is Om, the infinite, absolute spirit of God. Om is the most powerful word in Hindu philosophy. The phrase “Om Tat Sat” encapsulates the totality of Hindu belief. Om represents the highest energy that transcends existence and non-existence. Tat, literally meaning that in this context means God is reality. Sat means truth. Thus “Om Tat Sat” can be translated as God is the Truth, provided we appreciate the expansiveness of this concept.

The Lord further says He is the holiest of trees, the musician of heaven, and the wisest of men. He is the wonderful snow-white horse (named Ucchaisravas) born when the ocean was mixed with honey, the white elephant, the heavenly cow, and the cause of love and procreation. He is the snake god, the water god, and Yama, the god of death.  He is time.

He is the lion of beasts, the Garuda of birds on whom Lord Vishnu rides, the alligator and the holy Ganges of rivers. He is the letter A. He keeps the world alive and He is death and the future. He is the feminine qualities of fame, richness, speech, memory, smartness, consistency and forgiveness. He is music, spring, victory, Arjun, and all of us. He is everything and He is endless. Nothing can exist without God.  Just a fraction, a spark, of His splendor sustains the world.

See the beautiful descriptions of God’s glories in Chapter 10 below.

Chapter 10: God’s Glories

Bhagvan said: Arjun, listen to Me again. I talk to you because you love Me. I talk to you for your own good.

No one knows the secret of My power. Not even the wisest people know the secret of My origin. I, God, am the cause of everything in the universe.

I am God, the Lord of the world. I have no birth and no beginning. People who know this are good.

Everything comes from Me, only from Me, truth, wisdom, forgiveness, self control, happiness, unhappiness, bravery, fear, peacefulness, fame and shame all come from God.

All the great makers of the world were born because I wanted them to be. I started the world. The world moves because of Me. Wise, good people worship Me because of Me.

The wise think Me; give up their lives Me; each other about God and are happy because of Me.

I love those who worship Me and I give them wisdom. I live in their heart and push away darkness and shine the light of truth on them.

Arjun said to God: You are the great everlasting God. Saints say You are God and You are blessing me by telling me all about Yourself.

Krishna, I believe everything You tell me.

Oh Lord, how can I know You? How can I pray to You? How can I imagine You?

Please Krishna, tell me again exactly about Your strength and about Your glory because I can never stop wishing to hear more about You, Oh God.

Bhagvan said: Arjun, I will tell you more about my glories. They are endless.

Oh Arjun, I am in the heart of all living things. I am their beginning, their middle, and their end.

I am Vishnu. I am the sun and the wind. I am the moon.

I am Indra. I am the mind. I am energy.

I am what destroys things. I am richness. I am fire. I am the tallest of mountains.

I am the chief priest and the strongest general. I am the ocean. I am a mind reader. I am Om.

I am the holiest of trees, the musician of heaven, the wisest of men.

I am the horse that was born when the ocean was mixed with honey. I am the white elephant. I am the King.

Of weapons, I am the most powerful thunderbolt. I am the heavenly cow. I make men and women love each other and have children.

I am the snake god and the water god. I am Yama, the god of death. I am Time.

Of beasts, I am the lion and of birds, I am Garuda on whom Lord Vishnu rides.

I am the wind that purifies the air. I am Rama.

I am the alligator. Of rivers, I am the holy Ganges. I am the letter A. I keep the world alive. My face is on all sides. And I am death. And I am the future.

I am the feminine qualities of fame, richness, speech, memory, smartness, steadiness, and forgiveness.

I am divine songs and verses. I am spring. I am victory and I am the goodness in all that is goof. I am you, Arjun, of the Pandavas.

I am the secret keeper. I am truth in those who know. I am the seed of everything. Nothing alive or lifeless exists without Me.

Oh Arjun, there is no end to all that I am. There is no end to My divine forms.

Everything that is glorious or brilliant or strong is a spark of My brightness.

I stand and hold the whole world by just a spark of My magic.

 

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The Gita, Chapter 3: God Explains Right Action

May 1, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 3, God Explains Right Action

Chapter 3 of the Gita continues to explore the ideas and values that are introduced in Chapter 2. Arjun remains bewildered and troubled by doubt. He does not understand why God, who has said that He can be reached through wisdom or knowledge of truth, wants him to fight and kill. He says that God is mixing him up and asks for a clear answer to this dilemma.

Lord Krishna responds by explaining the virtue and necessity of action, but He makes it clear that only detached action undertaken as a fulfillment of duty brings merit. Action is inevitable. Our bodies compel it. Even God must act to keep the world from coming to an end and to prevent confusion, trouble, and destruction. But a person who acts without self-control and in order to satisfy his desires instead of for the sake of the world is unworthy. A person who merely pretends not to care about his body is a hypocrite and a fool, whereas a person who cares for his body for the sake of God will reach God.

People, the Lord explains, come from food which comes from rain, which comes from prayers which are actions. Prayers come from the Vedas which come from God. Thus, actions come from God. So, action is best.

Though elsewhere in the Gita other paths are glorified, at this juncture Lord Krishna tells Arjun and that he must act with a sense of duty, for the right reasons and not out of desire. Arjun’s duty is to fight, even if fighting leads to his death. Each individual’s duty is greater than anyone else’s duty. But actions undertaken as a duty must be performed with trust in God because such trust eliminates doubt. In Lord Krishna’s words, “Those who trust God are on the road to Me. Those who do not trust Me are lost.”

The concept of pathways to God is an important theme in the Gita and an integral part of Hindu belief and philosophy. The paths are aspects of Yoga. The Yoga of Action specifically teaches that good action can lead to liberation which means freedom from the cycle of birth and death and oneness with God. Attaining this state—believed to be total ecstasy—is the long-term goal of our existence. But the merit of other paths remains to be studied as does the relationship between them.

As Arjun listens to Lord Krishna and absorbs his teaching, his mind seeks to grasp the notion of duty and to understand why some people are unable to act righteously but instead are moved to sin. To understand specifically why Arjun is perplexed, it is important to understand the full meaning of “dharma” which translates into duty. Dharma has a deeper and broader meaning than duty. It includes cosmic order, harmony, and destiny or karma, all directed by positive energy. From this perspective, Arjun asks Lord Krishna why some people cannot help sinning and doing wrong things.

Bhagavan, or God, answers that wanting makes us sin. Desire creates greed, evil, and anger. He says that when our greed is satisfied, we merely want more and that therefore we must stop wanting. Desire covers truth like dust covers a mirror or like smoke covers fire. Further, liking and hating separates us from God.

The way to control these enemies, the Lord says, is to remember that our mind is greater than our desires and that reason is greater than the mind, but that our spirit is greatest of all. Through our mind and our reason, we can reach our spirit and our spirit is God. Self-control helps us to stop wanting which is difficult but, with the help of reason, we can use self-control as the means to stop sinning.

Chapter 3 ends on this note, preparing the ground for further exploration of the precepts that Hinduism embodies.

Please enjoy Chapter 3.

 

Chapter 3: God Explains Right Action

Arjun asked Bhagavan: Oh Krishna, if the wisdom of knowing truth is even better than good action, they why are you telling me to do this awful thing?

Why are you telling me to fight and kill?

You are mixing me up. Oh God, please tell me clearly. The one way I can reach You.

Bhagvan answered: Arjun, earlier I told of two ways to reach God, the way of knowledge which Is wisdom and the way of action which is doing your duty.

A person cannot ever really give up action because a person cannot stop doing things, not completely, not even for a minute. Our body forces us to do things. 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.

But a person who really and truly does not care about her body is good. She still takes care of her body and uses it to do good things for God’s sake because she is good. This is why I tell you action is best. It is best to do your duty well. Do it for God’s sake and not for your own sake and you will reach God.

People grow from food. Food comes from rain. Rains come from prayers and prayers are actions. Actions come from the Vedas and the Vedas come from God. So action comes from God.

Arhun, life must follow this wheel which turns and causes being born, growing, and dying. Otherwise life has no meaning.

A man who cares only about himself doesn’t do his duty. So always do your duty. Do it as well as you can, and don’t worry about how things will turn out.

Wise men like Janak have become perfect in this way and set an example for other people to follow.

Oh Arjun, there is nothing I, God, want but even I work. If I stop working, great trouble would come to the world, for people would follow my example. If I, God, give up actions, if I stop doing good things, the world would come to an end and I would be the cause of confusion, trouble, and destruction.

Arjun, a fool does things for himself. A wise woman does things for the world. A wise woman knows she does things only through God.

So go ahead. Do everything you should for My sake. Do not wonder. Fight!

Those who trust God are on the road to Me. Those who do not trust Me are lost.

People need self-control to stop them from doing things just because they feel like it. People must do things which are their duty whether they feel like doing them or not. Your own duty is greater than anyone else’s, even if your duty is to die.

The Arjun asked: Why do some people sin? Some people cannot help sinning. They cannot help doing wrong things.

Bhagvan answered: Wanting things, desire makes people sin. Wanting is bad. It is greedy and evil and causes anger. Getting what you want makes you greedy for more, and not getting it makes you angry. You must stop forever wanting things for your body.

Desire covers the truth like dust covers a mirror or like smoke covers fire. Control yourself, stop desire and you will see the truth and you will not sin.

Keep away from liking and hating, two enemies who separate you from God.

Remember, your mind is greater than your body. And reason is even greater than your mind. But your spirit, deep inside you, is even greater than reason.

The mind controls the body and tells it what to do. Reason tells the mind what is good and what is bad. With reason, you can control yourself. With reason, you can reach your spirit which is God.

Oh Arjun, control yourself. Stop wanting one thing after another. It is very hard to stop this, but your reason will help you. Control yourself and throw away sin.

Learn more about The Gita, by Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com

 

 

 

Chapter 2, God Answers Arjun

April 24, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Scared Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 2, God Answers Arjun

The message of the Gita begins to take shape Chapter 2 as we are introduced to several of the themes that make up this scripture. We begin to see that while each chapter is discrete, it is not independent and that together they represent the philosophy and values that are the heart of Hinduism.

The language of the Gita in Sanskrit is pure, transparent, and beautiful. The goal of my translation was to keep these qualities in the English version. To this end, instead of translating each Sanskrit verse separately, I altered the construction to let complete thoughts flow smoothly and accurately in English. In the print version of my work, the English text faces the Sanskrit manuscript handwritten and illuminated by Navin J. Gajjar, my husband.

An additional goal in my work was to let the text speak for itself. I believe that, since it is crystal clear, no explanation is required. Each reader or listener can understand the Gita’s message without interpretation. Moreover, as this scripture is believed to be a revelation from God, it should be presented without bias. Ambiguities are deliberate and attempt to resolve them are misleading. For example, the Gita discusses different ways to achieve oneness with God. When Arjun asks which is best, Lord Krishna’s answers are inconsistent. Yet they connect and lead to a consistent conclusion.

So, Chapter 2, God Answers Arjun, begins with an exhortation by God [Bhagvan in Sanskrit and Indian vernaculars] to a dejected Arjun whose eyes are filled with tears. Lord Krishna tells him that he is silly, that if he does not fight he will be laughed at, will not go to heaven, will not be famous but will be weak and unmanly. He urges Arjun to be brave and to conquer his enemies. Yet Arjun continues to resist though he admits his confusion, saying, “We do not know what to do, to fight or not to fight.” He asks for guidance and for a clear answer to his doubts. Then again he repeats, “I will not fight” and keeps silent.

In the remainder of this chapter Lord Krishna further explains why Arjun should take on the battle. His first reason is that Arjun pities those whom he should not because the souls of the Kings who are his enemies are everlasting. The soul, Lord Krishna says, is eternal. It does not change. It cannot be killed. It simply moves on to another body. Just like a man changes clothes, the soul changes bodies. It is formless between lives, but takes on a form between birth and death. This concept introduces the principles of reincarnation and karma which future chapters explore in greater detail. Orthodox Hinduism does not debate either principle but takes them for granted as premises.

Next, the Lord tells Arjun that it is his duty to fight a war for a good reason. He is a Kshatriya, a member of the warrior class, and engaging in battle will lead him to God, whereas failure to do so will be viewed as cowardice.  Krishna Bhagvan or Lord Krishna further explains that the way to fight without committing a sin is to be detached. This means Arjun should make up his mind to wage battle without considering how the fight will turn out. He should not be concerned about winning or losing but only about doing his duty. Thus, Arjun’s mind will be clear, focused, and concentrated on God. Doing his duty well will make Arjun wise.

Lord Krishna’s comments lead to the next focus of Chapter 2. Now Arjun asks how he can recognize a wise man, how a wise man behaves, how he sits and walks and talks. God answers that a wise man wants nothing. He is satisfied and content within his soul. He is without hatred, envy, anger, or fear. He controls his mind and is calm and focused on God. The Lord adds that this is difficult but not impossible. In contrast, a person who keeps wanting things gets disappointed, angry, and confused. She has no peace. Her mind wanders like a boat lost on the water and carried here and thereby the wind.

Chapter 2 concludes with God’s answer to Arjun’s question about recognizing a wise person. He explains that a wise person can be recognized because she is one with God and stays calm like the ocean when rivers flow into it. She is at peace, she understands the truth, and she is forever happy.

The subjects of wisdom and truth arise in other contexts in future chapters. These are fundamental questions. Understanding them is essential to an understanding of the Gita. They are two of the many threads that weave into the rich fabric of Hinduism. While the answers may not be absolute, the questions are.

Now, please enjoy Chapter 2 of the Gita.

Chapter 2: God Answers Arjun

 

Sanjay said: The Lord Krishna talked to Arjun, who was sad and full of pity. Arjun’s eyes were filled with tears.

Bhagvan said: Arjun, how can you be so silly now? You will be laughed at by everyone. You will not go to heaven and you will not be famous. Do not be unmanly. It does not suit you. Don’t be weak. Be brave. Rise and conquer your enemies!

Arjun said: 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.

We do not know what to do. To fight or not to fight. We do not know if it would be better for us to win or to lose and be conquered. The sons of Dritarashtra, the Kauravas, are lined up against us and we do not want to stay alive by killing them.

I am confused. I do not know what to do. I do not know what my duty is. I pray to you, tell me clearly what is right and good for me. Sadness is drying up my mouth.

Sanjay spoke to Dritarashtra: Oh King, after saying this Arjun told Lord Krishna a second time, “I will not fight” and then he kept quiet.

So Lord Krishna, smiling, spoke to sad Arjun who was still standing in the middle of two armies.

Bhagvan said: You pity those whom you should not pity. Wise men do not pity those who are dead nor those who are alive. The reason is simple.

I, God, have always lived. You and those Kings you pity have always lived too. And all of us will never stop living.

The soul of the little boy, the young man, and the old man does not change even though the body changes. And even if the soul moves on to another body after the body dies, the soul stays the same.

So you see, you do not have to feel sad at all. You cannot kill someone else’s soul and someone else’s soul cannot kill you. And the body doesn’t matter. Do not worry about killing the body.

Oh Arjun, do not worry about the body at all. A wise person does not care about heat and cold or about pleasure and pain. These things belong to the body. They come and go. They are not permanent and so they are not real.

Only the soul is real. And the soul can never be killed. A wise person understands this. For this reason, Arjun, go and fight!

The soul is never born. It never dies. It does not have a beginning and so it has no end. It is everlasting and immovable.

As a man takes off old clothes and changes them for new ones, so the soul removes its old body and replaces it by a new one.

The soul cannot be cut by knives or burned by fire, or wet by water, or dried by the wind.

The soul cannot be seen nor described nor imagined. The soul never changes. It has no form, but it is everywhere. So do not worry about the soul.

Oh Arjun, birth leads to death and death leads to birth, so do not grieve over something that cannot be helped. Everyone died before he was born and was born before he died. So what is there to be sad about?

All creatures are formless before birth and formless after death. They only have form during life which is between birth and death.

Some see that the soul is wonderful; some people say that the soul is wonderful, and some hear that the soul is wonderful. Yet some, even hearing, do not know the soul.

The soul which lives in the body cannot be hurt or destroyed, so do not worry about it.

Besides, you have to think of your duty. You are a Kshatriya, a warrior, and to fight a war for a good reason is your duty.

You are lucky to have the chance to fight in this war for your duty will take you to God. And if you do not fight, you will be giving up your duty. Giving up a duty is a sin.

People will laugh at you. You will be ashamed. The shame will be worse than death. People will think you were afraid to fight. Your enemies will say shameful things about you.

But if you fight, you will either go to heaven or win victory. SO, Arjun, arise. Make up your mind to fight. Fight and do not worry about how the war turns out. Do not care if you win or lose. Do not care if your fighting brings pleasure or pain, victory or defeat. Just do your duty. In this way you will be free.

If you are not worried about winning or losing, about killing or being killed, you will be able to do your duty very well because you will not be afraid. Your mind will be on your duty and not scattered her and there.

Oh Arjun, do not care about opposites like pleasure and pain. Just work. Do not care how your work turns out. Do your work well. This is being wise and being wise takes you to God. Being wise, you will not be confused. Your mind will concentrate on God.

Then Arjun asked: Oh Krishna, how can we recognize a wise man whose mind is concentrating steadily on God? How does a wise man speak, and sit and walk?

Bhagvan answered: A wise man is he who is always satisfied because he wants nothing. He is happy by himself, inside himself within his soul.

Because he is always satisfied, the wise man neither feels joyful when he gets something good, nor sad when he gets something bad. He has no hate or envy. He is not afraid. He is not angry. His mind is always calm.

A wise man is he who tries to control his mind and senses. This means he tries to separate himself from outside objects, even though this is very difficult. Yet wise man controls his mind and concentrates on Me.

By thinking of objects, a person starts to want them. And a person who always wants things cannot have them all. Then she gets disappointed. Her disappointment makes her angry. Her anger confuses her. She loses her mind and is ruined. She has no peace.

But a person who stops wanting things is free from attachment. She is free from loving things and free from hate. Such a person is on the path that leads to peace.

How can a person without self-control have peace? And without peace, How can she have happiness?

A person whose mind wanders is like a lost boat on the water carried here and there by the wind.

But a person who has self-control is calm and happy. She is never sad. She goes right inside God. The wise woman who is part of God sees beyond night and day.

Like the ocean stays calm when rivers flow into it, so a person with self-control stays calm no matter what flows into her mind.

Oh Arjun, You can easily recognize the wise man who is one with God. He is at peace. He understands truth. He is calm and he is forever happy.

End Note

We look forward to discussing and presenting Chapter three to you next Friday, May 1st.

Please note that for those interested, I will occasionally be writing blogs regarding general matters in between the presentations of the Gita. These will not appear Fridays or regularly but from time to time as certain events or recollections strike me as relevant. Hopefully, they will not distract from the Gita but rather offer a change of pace. Recently I discussed the state of the world as we cope with Covid-19. Since the Gita represents a way of life, it is valuable to seek ways to integrate it into our responses to daily challenges and incorporate into our thoughts regarding personal and public events.

You can purchase The Gita using this link.

The Gita: Chapter One, Arjun’s Sadness

 

 

April 17, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 1, Arjun’s Sadness

Chapter 1 of the Gita concludes with the doubt Arjun expresses to Lord Krishna, a doubt that distresses Arjun and fills him with sadness. It gives rise to questions regarding the human condition, our relationship with God, the nature of wisdom, and other issues. Later we will see how the Gita addresses these overlapping themes some of which predominate in certain chapters, pop up in different contexts and intertwine with related questions explored elsewhere in this scripture.

But as the Gita is placed in the Mahabharata, the great epic describing the conflict between the Kauravas and the Pandavas and the subsequent war, the first chapter opens on the battlefield. We get a vivid picture of the armies and their leaders assembled on the field of Kurukshetra. Sanjay, the blind old King Dritarashtra’s charioteer, is the narrator who describes the scene to the King and to us all.

Kurukshetra is a city named after the legendary King Kuru, ancestor of both the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Its battlefield is also known as Dharmakshetra, the place of Dharma [duty and righteousness in Hinduism] or the Holy City. We can see that the symbolism of these names resonates in the minds and consciousness of most Hindus.

On this battlefield of duty, warriors on both sides are eager to fight. Prince Duryodhana, Dritarashtra’s son, is prepared to lead the Kauravas and the heroic Arjun along with his mighty brother Bhim  -considered to have the strength of ten thousand elephants- are prepared to lead the Pandavas. The glorious uncle Bhishma, son of a king and the river goddess Ganga, roared like a lion to cheer Duryodhana on. Conches, drums and trumpets blared. Brave warriors stand ready. Lord Krishna’s army assists the Kauravas and Lord Krishna himself, as Arjun’s charioteer, guides the Pandavas.

At this moment, Arjun hesitates. Facing his relatives and elders, he doubts the merit of fighting. He feels sorry and dejected. His legs shake, his mouth is dry, his hair stands on end, his bow falls from his hand, his skin burns and his mind spins. In this state, he cannot bring himself to himself to stand up. He cannot see any purpose in pursuing this war. He believes that even victory would not vindicate the evil of killing. He asks Lord Krishna, “What is the use of killing my relations in battle? I do not want victory or a kingdom or pleasures.  What use are three things? How can we ever be happy again after killing our own relations?” He thinks it would be better to die than to kill and that killing is sinful. He believes that nothing but destruction will lay in the wake of this battle, regardless of the outcome.

Sanjay relates all this to King Dritarashtra telling him that Arjun, his mind full of sorrow, put down his weapons, and sat sadly in the corner of his chariot.

Thus Chapter 1 ends, preparing us for Chapter 2 in which Lord Krishna answers Arjun specifically and introduces the immediate themes that arise from Arjun’s doubts. Actually, the entire Gita addresses these doubts and further matters that develop from them. In Chapter 2 we begin to explore the richness and the simple complexity of God’s teachings. While the terms simple and complexity may appear to be contradictory, they are not. The teachings are profound and complex as they pertain to our lives and behaviors, but the Lord’s explanation is clear and easy to grasp, so it makes them simple.

Before leaving you to the text of Chapter 1, I would like to explain why I interchanged the words Lord Krishna and God in this introduction. God is a broad idea, defined and envisioned somewhat differently by believers of many religions including Hinduism and even by agnostics and atheists. Overall, believers generally view God as the eternal and loving [though sometimes avenging] Creator of the universe or multiverses and/or as the Great Spirit and/or the supreme being empowered to protect and guide His creation. Some of us also attribute inexplicable events, or events we do not understand to God. Such power interacts with the free will He bestows upon beings so, in my view, God cannot be held responsible for everything.

Lord Krishna is God, but He is not as vague as God undefined. Krishna is the eighth incarnation of Vishnu who in turn is part of the Holy Trinity of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. These functions represent the reality of cosmic functions that support existence and embody the three essential aspects of the single God who appears in many avatars or manifestations. Thus, Hinduism is clearly a monotheistic faith, though one that encompasses all aspects of human thought and imagination. Note that references to gods and goddesses (lower case) do not refer to God or to the Lord, but rather to semi divine beings worshipped for their God like qualities. These are not One and they are not absolute.

Chapter 1: Arjun’s Sadness

 

King Dritarashtra asked Sanjay: Oh Sanjay, what did my sons, the Kauravas, the sons of my brother Pandu, the Pandavas, do standing on the holy field of Kurukshetra all ready and anxious to fight each other?

Sanjay answered: When the Pandavas’ army was all ready, your son, Prince Duryodhana, saw them and said: The mighty army of the Pandavas is prepared! It is strong. But in our own army there are heroes just as brave as the Pandavas. Our own heroes are just as strong as Bhim and Arjun. Our army is unconquerable.

Then the glorious old uncle Bhishma roared like a lion and blew on his conch to cheer Prince Duryodhana on.

The conches, drums and trumpets blared forth and there was a great noise.

The Arjun of the Pandavas blew on his heavenly conch in reply. Arjun sat in a glorious chariot pulled by white horses. Lord Krishna himself was Arjun’s charioteer.

Lord Krishna also blew a conch; Bhim did too. King Yudishtir, Nakul, and Sahadev all blew their conches as well.

And there was a terrible sound echoing through the heaven and earth and it tore the hearts of Dritarashtra’s sons, the Kauravas, and made them afraid.

At this moment, Arjun, Pandu’s son, lifted up his bow and spoke to Lord Krishna, saying:

Lord Krishna, place my chariot between the two armies. Keep it there until I have seen all the warriors and decided against whom to fight.

Then Sanjay continued: Arjun saw both armies. He saw in both armies his uncles and teachers and cousins and brothers and sons and grandsons and friends. Seeing all his relations ready to fight him, he felt very sorry and sad.

In his sadness, Arjun said to Lord Krishna: Oh Krishna, I see my relations here ready to fight and my legs shake. My mouth is dry. My hair is standing on end. My bow is dropping out of my hand. My skin is burning. My mind is spinning. I cannot stand up.

And I cannot see any use in this war. What is the use of killing my relatives in battle?

Oh Krishna, I do not want victory, or a kingdom or pleasures. What use are these things?

Oh Krishna, I do not want to kill my relatives even though they may kill me.

Oh Krishna, what joy can there be in killing Dhritarashtra’s sons? They are my family. Only sin can come to us for killing. It is wrong to kill Kauravas. They are cousins. How can we ever be happy again after killing our own relations?

Even if they do not understand this, we do. We know that it is a sin to kill our own family. Our family will be ruined. Our women will become bad. Our caste will become mixed. Our race will be destroyed. It would be better for me if I let Dhritarashtra’s son kill me.

Sanjay said: Arjun spoke those words on the battlefield. His mind was full of sorrow. He put down his bow and arrows and sat down sadly in the back corner of his chariot.

This excerpt is from The Gita, by Irina Gajjar. You can buy the book on Amazon.com.

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.

The Knower and the Known

Although God cannot be understood by the mind, God can be known by the spirit. In chapter seven of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that he will understand God after knowing him. God says that He knows all beings, but they do not know Him. People cannot see God because confusion and desire cover their minds, but they can reach God by seeking Him.

The Sanskrit language distinguishes between spiritual knowledge (seeing, knowing) and rational knowledge (understanding). We can come to know God only by seeing Him. Trying to understand God is a path to knowing Him, yet we cannot understand God without knowing Him. This is an apparent paradox, not a real one. It means that we must take steps toward understanding God in order to experience God. While the absolute cannot be understood by our finite mind, it can be known by our infinite soul. However, the soul can only experience the truth if the mind strives for it to do so. Reason or understanding is a path that leads to spiritual knowledge, but only spiritual knowledge has the power to reveal God.

The Gita understands God to be both the knower and the known, or that which we wish to know. He is the great soul, the individual soul called Atman. He is spirit. God is the knower of the universe and the knower of the “field” which means the human body as well as all embodiment. “Field” refers to place or area, like “field of knowledge.” The term field implies that the body is a place where action or conflict occurs. Lord Krishna delivered the Bhagavad Gita on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, also known as the field of Dharma or righteousness.

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