God’s Glories

In Chapter 10 of the Gita, God describes Himself to humankind. We have differing views about creation as well as about the existence and nature of a higher power. Some of us question the validity of any assumptions about these notions.

But Lord Krishna speaks in light of orthodox Hindu opinions. He answers doubts about what the Divinity represents by telling us He is the best of whatever the human mind can imagine.

God says He is the most powerful of weapons, the lion of beasts, the holy Ganges of rivers, the cleansing wind, life, death, and the future. He tells us that He is beyond time and He is time itself. He is both the cause and the source of everything. He explains that while no one understands His power, the wise know He causes and moves the world.

See The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture, by Irina Gajjar, Chapter 10.

Personal Beliefs

One of the vows in Hindu marriage ceremonies illustrates the importance of freedom of personal belief. Both the bride and the bridegroom encourage one another to develop their personal faith through worship that is free from interference.

The Gita crystallizes Hindu thought but it is too subject to interpretation. It does not require a Hindu to believe anything in particular. Instead, it glorifies goodness and truth and makes references to beliefs that are taken for granted. It addresses human doubts, questions, and fears and inspires physical and spiritual courage. This teaching illustrates the meaning of merging into God, soul, worship, knowledge, good deeds, karma, and reincarnation. It sets forth diverse and sometimes opposing criteria for attaining enlightenment or becoming on with the infinite which, according to Hindu theory, represents ultimate bless.

God is implicit, though debated in Hinduism. He is an idea that cannot be grasped by the human mind, a presumption regarding an absolute, awesome eternal energy worthy of adoration.

God is separate and distinct from the gods of mythology who romp about as did the gods in Greek and Roman myths. God is also separate from His human incarnations. Both in myths and in scripture, Divine Avatars act on behalf of God’s invisible, unfathomable form. Lord Krishna, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, who is believed to be the source of all other Avatars, explains:

 

I am born from time to time

Whenever the good need my protection.

I am born to destroy the bad and help the good.

(Gita 4:7)

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

The Road Map to Our Actions

The Bhagavad Gita fills our minds with imagery that corresponds to our emotions and our imagination. It provides something of a road map to help us direct and manage our actions. Perhaps most significantly, it responds to questions that human intelligence cannot answer yet never stops asking. These questions have been posed by philosophers and scientists, by seekers of God and seekers of truth, by people who wonder and by people who doubt. Lord Krishna’s answers go beyond what we know, but do not contradict what we know. What His words really tell us, is that if we look hard enough and long enough and if we care enough the answers will be revealed.

Read More from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.

 

Why Did God Create the World, If He or She or It or They Did?

Our world’s religions tell varying tales of creation, but for the most part, they involve God in some way. We hear stories of how and why and how quickly our world came to be. According to the Bhagavad Gita, in which many Hindus believe, either literally or symbolically, the world was God’s idea. Furthermore, Lord Krishna, in Chapter Ten, explains that He causes the world to appear and disappear simply because He wants it to.

At the same time, the whole purpose of life in the view of many religions is to obtain happiness in the afterlife.

I think these notions are somewhat odd. They suggest that our existence is an exercise in futility. We and the whole world did not exist. Then God creates the world and us and then it all will disappear. Yet our goal in this life exercise is to be as good as possible in order to make our non-existence blissful.

Many of us recognize that in the course of our activities and behaviors, our journeys mean more than reaching our destinations. So, though we are focused on our goals, most of our energy is expended in transit. We also recognize that the effects of our journeys are what we leave behind.  But to what end?

Why do you think we exist?

Read more from Irina Gajjar at www.irinaspage.com

Life Principle

The mind and body are part of nature and matter rather than an essential or integral part of the God, although God is everywhere. In his manifest form, God personifies the same subtle elements that make up the body plus mind, reason and the self:

 

I am made of the earth, water, fire, air,
ether, mind, reason, and the self.
These eight things are one side of Me
is what makes the whole world exist
and is called the “life principle.”

(Gita 7:4, 5)

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

 

Atman

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.

Hinduism sees the body and the mind as one unit, separate and distinct from the soul:

The body is a collection of many things.
It is made up of ether, air, fire, water, and earth.
These are called the five subtle elements.
The body is also made up of mind
and the five senses of hearing,
touching, tasting, and smelling.
Wanting, hating, happiness, unhappiness, and courage
are also part of the body.

(Gita 13:5, 6)

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

To Know God

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 the 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 seeking 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.

This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. If you’d like to read more from On Hinduism, you can find the book here.

How We Visualize God

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 considered beyond question, though not beyond interpretation:

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

(Gita 12:26)

Perhaps the most awesome verses in the Gita are those that speak of God’s power and grandeur, depicting Him in all aspects and all forms. God is earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, reason, the seed of all beings, Om, and the Self. God lives in the heart of all living things. Everything that is glorious or brilliant or strong is a spark of His brightness. He is the essence of life. God is Brahma, the Creator who caused the world to be and from whom all things come. He is Vishnu, the Preserver. In this form God is a wonderful sight adorned with jewels and weapons, and heavenly garlands, and covered with fragrant paste. He holds the whole world by just a flicker of His divinity. As the Destroyer, He is Shiva who makes all the worlds afraid. He appears in multiple colored forms. He has large shining eyes and a wide open mouth filled with terrible teeth. His awful brightness burns the universe.

Yet, howsoever the ancients described God millennia ago and however we may visualize God today, the Bhagavad Gita explains:

God is beyond what your mind can understand.
God likes the sun
far beyond the darkness of ignorance.

(Gita 8.8)

 

From Doubt to Faith

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

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)