Moderation in the Gita and in Life

 

 

The Gita in Chapter 6 says that a wise person is on the path to God. Such persons are calm, fearless, think of God, and are measured in all their activities. They are careful to eat, sleep, work, and relax moderately: neither too much nor too little. Those who practice moderation and succeed in behaving on an even keel attain happiness and freedom from sin.

On the other hand, a respected colleague of mine once advised that everything should be practiced in moderation, even moderation. This notion is implicit in the term “moderation” which suggests that once in a while we can stray and binge a little. Occasionally, we should let ourselves over or under-eat or sleep, or work or play or whatever. We will rejoice in the excess and then regret the aftermath. That should lead to our reining ourselves in and once again returning to moderation. Perhaps from there, we can eventually progress toward a state of godliness.

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

 

The Gita: Epilogue

Aug. 21, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Epilogue

 The Mahabharata War fought at Kurukshetra was set in motion by jealousy, hatred and foolishness. It lasted eighteen days and ended with victory for the Pandavas, but the victory was not joyous. Young and old heroes fought and many died bravely. Among others, the great wise Bhishma and Arjun’s young son Abhimanyu fell. Duryodhana was killed and even at the moment of death he did not stop hating the Pandavas.

Years passed. Yudishtir ruled wisely and kindly. Gradually the sorrows caused by the destruction softened. Arjun and Hindus heeded the words spoken in the Gita by Lord Krishna who was Arjun’s charioteer and these words have left a lasting impression upon the world.

The Bhagavad Gita concludes with Arjun’s agreement to fight the Mahabharata War zealously. He accepts all that Lord Krishna tells him, truths that apply to all who respectfully and lovingly hear this conversation. It is taken for granted that the process of studying or listening to the Gita will convince its audience of the value of its message. Arjun asks many questions and expresses doubts to which the Lord carefully responds. But God’s answers are weighted and qualified. The Lord discourages skeptics and says that those who believe in Him are wise and blessed while disbelievers are ignorant fools doomed to destruction.

I pondered this statement, often reiterated in the Gita, and wondered whether it discourages honest thought and debate since the Gita lends itself to considerable inquiry. Then I realized that considering disbelief in God ignorant depends upon our understanding of what God is. The Lord defines Himself as all that is good and as the causation of existence. This definition leaves little or nothing to disbelieve. If we deny goodness, we are clearly unknowing and foolish. Nor can we deny causation. Something caused the universes and life to come into existence and God is as good a name as any for that force.

Furthermore, the Gita explains that we all contain a spark of God within ourselves. The spark is our soul or spirit. We can access this divinity and become one with it through love, faith, good behavior and practice.

Hinduism contains a vast body of literature, mythology, philosophy and science expressed in Sanskrit, a language that is unmatched in sophistication, breadth and precision. The Gita distills this body of knowledge and thought. It is brief and concise. It is focused on providing a way for those who seek enlightenment to uplift themselves. It offers alternative paths to become merged into God and attain eternal happiness. At the same time, it explains that these paths converge. Stepping on the path of goodness is enough improve your destiny and condition, although the goal of achieving ultimate oneness with the Lord may be distant.

The Gita explains existence. It deals with the vast unknown, but it fits with our knowledge and experience. It explains the relationship between karma and God. While the Lord transcends existence and non-existence, we make choices that determine our paths through life. The Gita assures us that within ourselves we contain a spark of great goodness and that we have the capacity to release this powerful potential for our own benefit and for the betterment of all creation.

Epilogue

Hus the was at Kurukshetra was fought. It lasted eighteen days and on each of these days brave warriors were killed. Young and old heroes fought and died with courage. The great wise Bhishma, Arjun’s young son Abhimanyu, the respected Drona, and Karna, son of Kunti and the son god, fell. Duryodhana was killed by Bhim and even at the moment of death he did not stop hating the Pandavas.

As last war ended and victory came to the Pandavas. But it was a bitter victory. They went once again back to Hastinapure, their family home, now a city of sadness and emptiness.

Years passed. Yudishtir ruled wisely and kindly. So, gradually the sorrows caused by the terrible war softened.

The Mahabharata War could not have stopped. Its wheels had been set turning by jealousy, hatred and foolishness. Arjun and his brother, as Kshatryas, had no honorable choice but to fight courageously.

Arjun understood all that Lord Krishna taught him on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. He finally arose and fought, understanding that it was his duty.

He trusted in God and did everything in his life for God.

Whoever is lucky enough to hear about God’s message in the Bhagavad Gita has a chance to understand the truth just like Arjun. Understanding the truth is being wise. Wisdom puts us on the path to God. This path leads to freedom from death and birth, to God Himself, and to everlasting happiness.

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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 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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Chapter 9: The Holy Secret

June 12, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 9, The Holy Secret

In Chapter 9, The Holy Secret, Lord Krishna says that He will share a beautiful, eternal, sacred secret that will protect Arjun from all evil. God (Bhagvan) explains the importance of this knowledge and the merits of accepting it. He discusses the relationship of His divinity to the world and He contrasts the goodness and wisdom of the persons who recognize Him with the foolish ignorance of those who do not.

This chapter continues the discussion of Chapter 8 which talks of God as a fundamental principle or force. It clarifies the way in which God exists and interacts with His creation, thus giving us a way to perceive Him in human terms.

The world, Bhagvan says, is filled with Him. He is not really a part of people but He is everywhere and people are in Him. He speaks of Himself in His unmanifest form, acknowledging the Hindu view that God can assume a physical form as well as an ideological one. In other words, He may come to earth as a living being or remain unseen. Either way, He is the powerful, omnipresent, and eternal reality.

Scholars and thinkers have considered how to understand the notion of God being everywhere without being a part of people while people are in Him. I think the best understanding of this concept is intuitive, though it can be illustrated using analogies. For example, our elders influence us. Their influence is ever-present in our minds and hearts, regulating our actions even when they are no more of this world. Similarly, a scent, a memory, or an image can remain real and vividly color our perspective, long after we experienced it. Lord Krishna gives the example of the air which fills space everywhere and in which we reside and upon which we depend to show how we are in Him and how He envelopes us without being a part of us.

God tells us that the world was born of Him and that at its end it reverts back into Him. Though the world is controlled by matter or nature during its existence, God is the cause and the essence of His creation. He is the heat in the sun and the water in the rain. He is the world’s Mother, Father, and Grandfather. He is the world’s maker and its dismantler. He is the beginning and the end. He is birth, death, and immortality.

With reminders of His powerful attributes, the Lord admonishes those who do not believe in His greatness and praises those who do. He says that disbelievers who consider Him nothing more than a man are deluded, while those who worship Him are wise and virtuous. Even sinners who love God quickly become good.

The wise and good love and worship God by praying to Him, by studying about Him, and by thinking about His many names and forms. Even those who pray to him with ulterior motives are destined to go to heaven, though they are also destined to return to the cycle of birth and death. But the best prayers, offerings, and actions are pure and made simply out of love for God. God says he accepts everything given to Him, a leaf, a flower, or even water. He says that those who do everything like eating or punishing themselves with Him in mind, reach Him.

Thus, the secret knowledge given in Chapter 9 is simple. It is secret because it involves spiritual experience as well as philosophical knowledge. It incorporates everything stated in the Gita. It puts us in touch with our spirit which is a spark of the great divine force that moves the world. It does not fail in leading us to God. The holy secret is that loving God, thinking of Him, revering Him, and trusting Him brings us to Him.

Chapter 9: The Holy Secret

Bhagvan said: To you, I will give the holy secret which will keep everything bad away from you.

This secret is the best, the loveliest, the holiest. It is a wonderful, everlasting secret.

The world is filled with Me, God, like a room is filled with air. This is how I am not really a part of people, but I am everywhere and they are in Me.

The whole world was My idea and was born from Me.

Arjun, at the end of the world, all living things get lost in Me and then at the beginning of the world everything is born again. Nature begins again and the world becomes alive.

A great wheel makes the world turn round and round and it makes the world get lost in God and get born again.

The world disappears and reappears like this many times because I want it to.

Fools don’t recognize God. They are silly and unhappy. They think I am just a man. But good and wise people know Me. They know I make the world and they worship Me. Good people call out My name and bow to Me, and pray to Me and think of Me all the time.

Good people love Me in different ways. These ways are studying about God and thinking about God and My many names and My many forms. I am prayers, and pujas, and ghee, and sweets, and the holy fire.

I am the King of the Universe. I am its Father and Mother and Grandfather. I am making things and I am taking things apart. I am the beginning and the end. I am being born and dying and I am living forever.

I am the heat in the sun and the water in the rain. I cause and I hold back showers.

People who pray to Me because they want something, go to heaven and rejoice there. But then they are born and they die again.

But people who pray just because they love Me, not because they want something, are the best and I take care of them forever.

If a person gives Me a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even just water, the person sees Me in his mind. I come and happily take whatever he gives Me with love.

Arjun, whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you give me as a gift, do it, and eat it and give it for Me. If you are sorry, punish yourself for Me too. If you do everything for My sake, instead of for yourself, You will do everything good and come right to Me.

I am everywhere. I do not hate or love. But the persons who worship Me live in God and can recognize God in themselves.

Even the worst people, even sinners, are good if they love Me with all their heart. The become good very quickly and become happy forever. Oh Arjun, you can be sure that this is true. Everyone who loves Me becomes happy.

The holy secret is this: By loving God, Me, you can come right up to God. Thinking of God, bowing to God, joining God, and trusting God is the way to God.

Come back next week for Chapter 10: God’s Glories. If you would like to purchase The Gita, by Irina Gajjar, please use this link to Amazon.

 

 

 

Chapter 8: Brahma

June 5, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 8, Brahma 

The word Brahma in English is the translation of the Sanskrit nominative form of Brahman which designates God, the ultimate reality. It is also and separately the name of the Creator in the trinity of Brahma, the Creator, and Shiva the Destroyer who personifies humanized aspects of God.

In Chapter 8 of the Gita, Lord Krishna -an incarnation of Vishnu- explains Brahma as the absolute divine reality. Arjun opens this chapter asking a simple though formidable question, “What is Brahma?”

I find it interesting and significant that this question asks what, not who God is. We can, therefore, understand that Brahma is not humanized or even visualized. It is the idea of a permanent, eternal force that gives rise to and is the spirit within all physical existence.

Hinduism as a religion and as a philosophy views Brahma or Brahman as a fundamental principle. It is the cause of everything, it exists everywhere and always, even when nothing else exists. One could say believing that God is the ultimate reality works as both a religious and philosophical truth. A religious belief may require a leap of faith. Indeed, how can we assume that something in the nothingness that anticipated creation caused universes to come into being without this leap? On the other hand, we know that worlds did come into being out of emptiness, so philosophically it is reasonable and rational to presume that there was a cause for this effect and to name this cause God.

Lord Krishna tells Arjun that Brahma is the everlasting spirit of God and the origin of all things. He says that whoever dies thinking of God comes to Him and once again urges Arjun to think of Him and fight.

The Gita’s explanations or descriptions of God are a blend of concepts that we can relate to in terms of our human understanding and also accept in light of our awareness that God is beyond the grasp of the human mind. This, I think, is the way most of us who give thought to and believe in the reality or the possibility of God imagine Him or Her or It to be.

God is the wise everlasting ruler of all. He shines like the sun past the darkness of ignorance and He can be easily reached by those who think of Him at all times. Those who do can remain with Him and escape the cycle of birth and death.

This chapter of the Gita concludes with a beautiful portrayal of time as it relates to Brahma. His days last a thousand ages and His nights a thousand more. When His days begin, the world is born and when His nights begin it disappears. This happens over and over again. The wise alone understand this. As God Himself is everlasting, those who love Him are also everlasting and indestructible.

Chapter 8: Brahma

Arjun asked: Lord Krishna, what is Brahma?

Bhagvan answered: Brahma is the spirit of God. It is everlasting and the origin of all beings. Those who die thinking of Me come to Me and become everlasting. So think of me, Arjun, and fight!

I am God, the wise, the everlasting ruler of all.

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

Arjun, I will tell you more about God. I can easily be reached by those who think of Me all the time. And if you reach Me, you will not need to be born again But you can stay with Me forever and ever.

Brahma’s day lasts a thousand ages and Brahma’s night lasts a thousand more. Only the wise know this truth about Time.

The world is born when Brahma’s day begins and it disappears when Brahma’s night begins. This happens over and over again.

But God is beyond this world which appears and disappears. God is everlasting. Those who love Him completely are also everlasting and past this world of birth and death.

God is permanent. He is not destroyed in the destruction of the world. God is the best resting place from which those who love Him do not have to return.

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The Gita, Chapter 7: Knowing God

May 29, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 7, Knowing God

Chapter 7 of The Gita expands Lord Krishna’s message to Arjun and to the world. Further to speaking of how we should behave to attain oneness with Him, He reveals Himself and tells us how we can know Him. The Sanskrit words for know and knowledge have a deeper meaning than their English translations. Knowing refers to spiritual knowledge rather than to informational knowledge and incorporates the notion of wisdom.

God says that by thinking of Him and loving Him Arjun can get to know Him and that He will help Arjun understand Him. The Lord acknowledges that very few people try to know Him and that of those, very few fully succeed. Nevertheless, He offers us insights into the divine nature. He says that while His lower nature consists of earth, water, fire, air, ether, reason and the self (or soul or spirit), His higher nature, called the “life principle,” is the cause of existence. Everything comes from God and turns back into Him.

Lord Krishna further describes Himself as the wetness in water, the light in the moon and sun, and Om in the Vedas. “Om” is the sacred syllable that represents God, divinity and permanence. God is the essence of all things and is the only reality. He is manliness in men, fragrance in the earth, the brightness in fire, life, the seed, wisdom, strength and He is the wish in our heart.

In Hinduism, permanence is the primary criterion for separating illusion or “Maya” from truth. That which is unchangeable and timeless is real, even though it is beyond our grasp. God tells us that He uses Maya, or make believe, to cause the unreal to seem real but things that perpetually change and do not last forever are mere illusions. Thus God is the only reality.

Lord Krishna tells us that deluded fools and evil people do not understand or worship God. Those who do worship Him fall into four categories: those who are distressed, seekers of truth, those who want material things like wealth, and the wise. While all these people are good, the best, of course, are the wise. The wise are those who love God the most. So, we see again that love for Lord merges with wisdom. They are one and the same and attaining understanding and wisdom comes through love and takes many life times.

The ultimate reward comes from shedding the confusion caused by foolishness. This process takes persistence and results in wisdom. It yields to liberation since only the wise understand that God alone is real.

An aside note: In addressing Arjun Lord Krishna uses many epithets that come from mythology and are known to Hindus. In this chapter alone Arjun is called Partha, Bull of the Bharatas, Dhananjaya, and more. A discussion of these terms is beyond the scope of this commentary.)

Below find Chapter 7. Please enjoy its colorful beauty and consider how you distinguish illusion from reality.

Chapter 7: Knowing God

Bhagvan said: Arjun, listen now to how by thinking of Me and loving Me you will know Me and be sure about Me. I will help you to understand and after you know Gid, nothing in the world will be a secret.

Of thousands of people, a few try to know Me. And of the few who try, just a handful of special ones really understand God completely.

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

Arjun, now you know that everything comes from Me and it all will turn back into Me. And there is nothing in the world but Me. And I am God.

I am the wetness in the water, the light in the moon and the sun; I am Om in the Vedas. “Om” is God’s magic word.

I am the manliness in men and the smell of the earth and the brightness in fire. I am life in living things.

I am the seed in all beings. I am the wisdom in men’s minds. I am the strength of the strong and the wish in your heart.

Everyone thinks that the things in the world are real, but only I, God, am real and unchanging. Everything else is make believe. Only people who understand God can understand  this. Only the wise can understand that God alone is real.

The world seems real because I use My divine Maya to make it appear. “Maya” is make-believe. It is magic. It causes the world and everything in it to seem solid and permanent.

But the things in the world are always moving and always changing. That is why they are not real and they do not last forever. Only God is forever real.

The wise who understand God pass beyond the world. They cross over Maya and reach Me.

Fools and evil people do not understand Me. They do not worship Me.

Four kinds of people do worship Me: Those who want something, those who are unhappy, those who want to know the truth, and those who are wise. Of these four kinds of people, the best are the wise because they love Me most. Wise people love God with all their heart and I love them back very much. But only a very wise person after many many lives realizes the truth: God is everything.

I let you worship and love Me in any way you like, any way at all, because loving God is always god. Loving God in every way, in every shape, and with every name is good.

I know all beings, past, present and future, But they do not know Me.

Not all can see Me because their minds are covered by foolishness and desire. They are confused by opposites, like wanting and hating, and their confusion covers up the truth which is God.

Oh Arjun, people in the world do not understand Me. But wise people, the best people, keep trying to understand God. And those who do not stop trying—ever—finally know Me and My secret.

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The Gita, Chapter 6: Self Control

May 22, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 6, Self Control

In Chapter 6 of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun that a person uplifts himself or lowers himself through himself and that he is his own best friend and his own worst enemy. He is his own friend if his spirit rules his own body and his own enemy if his body rules his spirit. To appreciate what this means requires an understanding of the Sanskrit word Atman. This word has no English equivalent. It is frequently translated as Self or as spirit or soul. Actually, Atman means the part of our consciousness that is a spark of the divine spirit or of God. Hence the term Self with a capital letter. The point made is that since the divine spirit resides within us, we can, through our actions, either befriend it and elevate ourselves or rebuff it and pull ourselves down

Hinduism considers that our spirit or soul or Self is a consciousness separate from our mind or our body. Our mental and physical activities affect the quality of that consciousness. It is interesting to note that though Western thought distinguishes the mind from the body, in Hindu thought the mind is considered a part of the body.

The nature of the body and the spirit is discussed in a later chapter of the Gita, but understanding the difference between Hindu and Western perspective bears upon the guidance Lord Krishna gives here.

The Lord goes on in Chapter 6 to say that the person who is ruled by her spirit is ruled by God. Such a person has self control, achieved through moderation, and through meditation. Moderation entails measured eating, sleeping, working, and resting. It is a way of life. Meditation is a practice that is part of yoga. To meditate a person should find a quiet spot, sit up straight, look at the tip of his nose and think peacefully only of God.

Yoga is a discipline that involves physical and mental exercises but also a balanced attitude and balanced behavior. While the practice of yoga leads to equilibrium, persons who behave in a balanced manner are more apt to practice yoga. Interestingly, tablets found in ancient India dating several millennia B.C. depict individuals seated cross-legged in yogic stances. From these, we gather that yoga in some form pre-dates the arrival of the Aryans and the Vedic culture they brought with them to the Indian subcontinent.

A yogi is a person who has mastered yoga. A yogi is calm, composed, and happy under all circumstances. She is untouched by anger or desire. She is unaffected by discomfort, criticism, or fear and equally unmoved by luxury, praise, or success.  Lord Krishna tells Arjun that yogis realize God is everywhere and they never lose God and that God never loses them.

Listening to this, Arjun notes that the mind is strong, jumpy, and as hard to control as the wind. He also wonders what happens to those who love God but cannot manage to control their minds. God replies that through practice, little by little, we can learn to control the mind. He adds that even the attempt to do so leads to good things and that no effort is lost. Though it may take years in heaven and multiple lifetimes, people who seek God will be pulled to Him.

Lord Krishna concludes Chapter 6 urging Arjun to exercise self control and to become a yogi.

Please enjoy Chapter 6 below:

Chapter 6: Self Control

 

Bhagvan said: Doing things for no reward, doing them for God’s sake is like climbing a ladder to God.

You should lift yourself to God by your own work. You should not lower yourself. You are your own friend and your own enemy.

You are your own friend if your spirit rules your body. You are your own enemy if your body rules your spirit.  Your spirit is part of God.

Because of this, the person whose spirit rules her completely is ruled by God. This person has self control. She is calm, no matter what happens. She is calm if she is comfortable or uncomfortable. She is calm if she is praised or criticized. The person who has self control never changes.

A piece of stone and gold are the same to her.

A wise person like this is called a Yogi.

The Yogi likes friends as much as enemies; he likes his family as well as strangers.

A Yogi who is alone should find a clean place on the grass and spread a cloth to sit upon. Here he should sit and control his mind. He should sit up straight and look steadily at the tip of his nose, not moving at all. In this position, a Yogi must think only of God until he finds everlasting happiness. Thinking peacefully of God is called meditation.

Oh Arjun, a Yogi cannot eat too much or too little. She cannot sleep too much or too little. She must measure everything: eating, sleeping, working, and relaxing. Everything she does should be just right and even.

A Yogi is never afraid.

The Yogi whose mind is concentrating on God does not shake. He is steady like a candle in a room where there is no wind. The Yogi’s mind does not move away from the truth.

To become a Yogi you have to practice being calm. You have to practice not fidgeting and concentrating on God.

And the Yogi who is perfectly calm is pure and free of sin. He is one with God and perfectly happy.

He understands that everything in the world is One. He sees everything in Me, God and God in everything.

The Yogi who realizes God is everywhere never loses Me and I never lose him.

Arjun said: But it is hard to control the mind. The mind is strong and jumpy and as hard to control as the wind.

Bhagvan answered: I know it is hard to control the mind. But you can control your mind little by little if you practice steadily.

Arjun asked again: What happens to people who love God but have not learned to control their mind even though they tried?

And Bhagvan answered: Nothing bad happens to such people if they have tried. Only good can happen to people who have really tried to reach God. They will go to heaven and after spending countless years there, they will be born again in a good family. Then they will try again to reach God. They will start where they stopped in their earlier life. They will not have to being all over because their spirit will remember what they learned before. They will feel pulled to God.

But the Yogi who controls his mind is perfect. He is forever happy.

For this reason, Oh Arjun, be a Yogi. Learn self control and love Me with all your heart.

 

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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.

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