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God: Autobiographical Fragments from the Bhagavad Gita

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  • sanjulag
    This was put together by me. Hope it is enjoyed. ===================================================== God: Autobiographical Fragments from the Bhagavad Gita
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2006
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      This was put together by me. Hope it is enjoyed.

      =====================================================
      God: Autobiographical Fragments from the Bhagavad Gita
      =====================================================

      The Bhagavad Gita consists of seven hundred verses. Out of these,
      a massive 574 have been uttered by Krishna himself, giving us an
      unparalleled insight into the true nature of divinity. The title
      of the poem too suggests this, meaning the song (Gita) of God
      (Bhagavat).

      For example, at one point Krishna says:

      'Amongst the great sages (maharishis) I am present as Bhrigu.' (10.25)

      Now this sage named Bhrigu has an interesting history. Once, in
      order to test Vishnu's greatness, he charged up to the latter's
      abode and found him resting (as usual), on the coils of a
      venomous snake, with his wife Lakshmi lovingly massaging his feet.

      Illustration: http://www.exoticindia.com/artimages/he85.jpg

      Incensed that the Lord did not get up to welcome him, the saint
      mounted the serpent and planted a strong kick on Vishnu's chest.
      Bhrigu's temerity in doing so is however eclipsed by Vishnu's own
      reaction: He immediately got up and softly rubbed the aggressor's
      heels, saying: "O dear sir, my chest is hard and your legs soft.
      I hope I did not hurt you. I am blessed to have been so honored
      by your lotus feet whose imprint will always remain on my body."
      To this day, Vishnu carries on his chest this mark, known in
      popular parlance as the Shrivatsa. (Bhagavata Purana 10.89)

      It is well established that Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu;
      in fact, in many instances, they are indistinguishable. As for
      Bhrigu, he is venerated in ancient texts as a guru who exposes
      his disciples to torment and suffering, making them resilient and
      amenable to the inevitable ups and downs of life.

      Thus does God inspire us to maintain equanimity in the face of
      adversity, saying:

      "The calm man is completely composed in heat and cold, pleasure
      and pain, honor and dishonor." (6.7)

      "One who deals equally with friend and foe, who is free from
      attachment, he who takes praise and reproach alike, is silent and
      content with his lot (santushta), without a sense of ownership
      (for his house etc), and of a steady mind, such a devotee
      (bhaktiman) is dear to Me." (12.18-19)

      "He who regards a clod of earth, a stone and gold as being of
      equal worth, is wise and views censure and praise as alike.."
      (14.24)

      Why does Krishna have to subject himself to this apparent insult?
      To set an example, because:

      "Whatever the best one does, that others also do. Whatever
      standards he sets, the world follows. For me, in all the three
      worlds, there is nothing that I lack. Yet I am ever engaged in
      action (karma). For if I did not continue to work with alertness,
      humans would in every way follow my example. If I did not perform
      karma, these worlds would be ruined.." (3.21-24)

      Here it needs to be observed that in the above narrative, God is
      both the tormentor (Bhrigu) and the tormented (Vishnu).


      The God of Suffering

      Krishna's autobiographical intent is not restricted to a specific
      humiliating circumstance. His wish is to encompass the entire
      spectrum of human suffering:

      "Among the Rudras, I am Shankara." (10.23)

      Shankara is a synonym for Shiva, who is the God of destruction in
      the Hindu pantheon. Rudras are the class of deities responsible
      for making humanity grieve (rud: weep). Shankara is their leader
      and his name literally means one who grants welfare (sham). This
      verse is illustrative of the Hindu penchant for glorifying the
      enriching potential of suffering and indicates that adverse
      circumstances in life are as much a gift of God as are favorable
      ones. In fact, the philosophers of yore stated that it was only
      those who were his favorite did God thus bless, much like a
      mother who knows when it is best to shower her child with
      affection and when to yield the stick, both of which are
      necessary for the potential flowering of the infant's character.
      Only she knows when to apply which principle. She may distribute
      sweets equally to all children playing in a group; but will not
      chastise them in equal measure when they misbehave. Only her own
      beloved child has a right over her rod. Thus does Krishna also
      ensure our lasting welfare (Shankara), by exposing us to the
      rudras of life.

      Illustration: http://www.exoticindia.com/artimages/zl95.jpg

      Significantly, Vishnu (Krishna) here identifies himself with
      Shiva. This seems a contradiction in terms since the former is
      credited with the creation of the world and the latter with its
      destruction (death). However, God clarifies matters:

      "I am immortality (amrita) as well as death (mrityu)." (9.19)

      "I am the all-depriving death and also the source of all future
      beings." (10.34)

      In Indian philosophy, death is not the opposite of life but its
      timely fulfillment. Destruction is not the end of creation, but
      the beginning of a fresh cycle.

      Later, Krishna identifies himself with another, slightly
      different instrument of destruction:

      "Of weapons I am the thunderbolt (vajra)." (10.28)

      The vajra is no ordinary weapon, having being created when all
      other means failed to restrain the forces of evil wreaking havoc
      on the world. It was carved out of the bones of the celebrated
      saint Dadhichi, who readily gave up his mortal form for the
      divine cause. As the king of the positive forces in the world, it
      was the privilege of Indra to wield the thunderbolt.

      Illustration: http://www.exoticindia.com/artimages/hd77.jpg

      In fact, God also says:

      Amongst the demigods "I am Indra" (10.22) and "amongst the finest
      of elephants (gajendera) I am Airavata" (10.27). The latter was
      recovered when the demons and gods churned the ocean together to
      retrieve the nectar of immortality. It was later handed over to
      Indra as his mount.

      Illustration: http://www.exoticindia.com/artimages/dd81.jpg

      Not surprisingly, there is a marked preference for Indra, whose
      name literally means 'one who has conquered the sense organs
      (indriya)', an attribute which God immensely appreciates:

      "One who has controlled the sensory organs is superior." (3.7)


      The God of Evil

      What however, about the question of evil? Krishna states:
      "Everything is God" (Vaasudev Sarvam 7.19).

      Hence, whatever is present in this world is charged with God's
      own dynamism and the latter has no qualms about declaring:

      "Of the demons (rakshasas) and yakshas I am Kuvera (Vittesh)."
      (10.23)

      A rakshasa is someone who protects (raksha: protection). Here,
      Krishna is referring to those of us who lord over our wealth,
      jealously guarding it with our lives, inhibiting its circulation.
      A yaksha is one who is not of a clenched fist, but nevertheless
      uses money solely for his or her own consumption, without any
      intention of sharing it. In the latter case, though there is a
      flow of prosperity, since one man's expense is another's gain,
      nevertheless, because of the absence of altruistic intentions it
      lacks in spiritual merit (punya). Indeed, money can have only one
      of the following three kinds of mobility (it cannot remain immobile):

      1). Charity (daana)

      2). Selfish pleasure (bhoga), or

      3). Dissolution (naash).

      It would have been hardly surprising if Krishna had identified
      himself with the first characteristic. He however, speaks
      otherwise, saying that he is present in those individuals who
      consume money selfishly and also those of us who do not let a
      penny escape, thus affecting the dynamics of nature adversely,
      ultimately leading to the annihilation of wealth.

      The name Kuvera literally means one who has an ugly (ku) body
      (vera). Legend has it that he was born extremely poor but by
      extreme penance managed to please Lord Shiva who made him the
      guardian of the world's wealth. Our prosperity too is a boon of
      God and we may justify our conduct taking cue from Krishna above.
      It must be remembered however that the result is obvious for all
      of us to see. True to their names, Kuvera (and the yakshas), have
      been given grotesque horrifying forms in the Indian art tradition.

      Illustration: http://www.exoticindia.com/artimages/kuvera.jpg


      The God of Deception

      "Among deceitful practices I am dicing (gambling)." (10.36)

      The Bhagavad Gita is presented in the form of a dialogue between
      Krishna and his friend cum disciple Arjuna. The latter had
      suffered lifelong due to his elder brother's irresistible urge to
      indulge the dice. Thus Krishna here has a chosen a particularly
      potent metaphor, lightening the serious mood of philosophical
      discourse with the warmth of human interaction. This was one evil
      element Arjuna could easily relate to. Though he and his brothers
      lost their kingdom because of the deception of the group playing
      opposite, the end result was the destruction of the villains, the
      establishment of dharma, and the icing on the cake - a pertinent
      opportunity for God to deliver the discourse of the Gita.

      Truly God is present in all that is good and bad. The choice
      however remains ours. Being subject to the inexorable laws of
      karma, we will reap what we choose to sow. That is the reason he
      points out to us various specific and temporal manifestations of
      his otherwise endless and eternal glory. By following their
      biographical narratives to their logical conclusions, expressed
      through an autobiographical discourse in God's own voice, we gain
      a clearer roadmap for identifying, and making the correct choices
      in our own lives.


      The Female God

      "In women, I am virtuous reputation (kirti), fortune (Shri),
      speech (vak), memory (smriti), ability to imbibe things (medha),
      constancy (dhrti) and forgiveness (kshama)." (10.34)

      A well-known piece of humor has it that we can get a taste of
      heaven on earth if we have the following:

      1). An American salary to take home.

      2). Chinese food to eat.

      3). A British home to live in, and,

      4). An Indian wife to go home to.

      It is perhaps this fame of the virtuous Indian woman that Krishna
      is talking about. The reasons are not far to seek. When the Gita
      itself says that God resides in the steadfast woman, who lets
      only one man live in her memory (smriti), much like the goddess
      Shri (Lakshmi), the prosperity of one who has her for a consort
      is assured. Indeed, it is a belief in India that when a man and
      woman are bound in holy matrimony, it is a conjoining of their
      fortunes, and all sin (paap) and merit (punya) acquired by either
      is shared equally between the two. The lips of such a woman speak
      (vak) of no other than the one she has chosen to give herself up
      completely to. Since her very childhood it has been imbibed in
      her to remain committed to one only, till this chaste ideal
      becomes as integral a part of her character as much as her breath
      is to her physical existence. It is her infinite capacity to
      forgive and the forbearance inherent in womanhood that lets such
      a divine relationship blossom on earth.


      I am Me, You are also Me

      In the tenth chapter God says:

      "In the tribe called Vrishni, I am Krishna and amongst the five
      Pandava brothers, I am Arjuna." (37)

      Meaning, the one narrating the Bhagavad Gita (Krishna), is also
      the one listening to it, namely Arjuna.

      Illustration: http://www.exoticindia.com/artimages/rb06.jpg


      God in The Philosophy of Language

      "Amongst alphabets, I am the letter A, and of the different kinds
      of compounds in grammar, I am the copulative compound." (10.33)

      'A', pronounced as the first sound in the word 'amuse', is the
      immediate sound that springs from the mouth as soon as it is
      opened, even though it comes from the deepest levels in the
      throat. It is hence naturally the first letter of the Sanskrit
      alphabet and is a grammatical reminder that God is the origin of all.

      The second part of the statement refers to the fondness of the
      Sanskrit writer to make new, bigger words, by fusing together two
      or more of them. These combinations are of four types:

      1). Avyayibhava (Adverbial compounds): In this fusion, the first
      word retains its primary importance, while the latter may be
      reduced to a prefix. For example:

      vanasya (forest) samipam (near) becomes upvanam.


      2). Bahuvrihi (Possessive): None of the original words remain
      important, but a new one emerges, meaning something other than
      the constituents:

      neelam (blue) kanttham (throat) yasya (one who possesses) becomes
      Neelkanth (Lord Shiva)

      Illustration: http://www.exoticindia.com/artimages/bh85.jpg


      3). Tatpurusha (Determinative): The second word retains primacy:

      rashtrasya (of nation) pati (lord) becomes rashtrapati


      4). Dvandva (Copulative): Both the constituents retain equal primacy.

      Ram and Lakshman becomes Ramlakshmanau (au denotes duality).

      Evidently, the copulative compound in Sanskrit is also the most
      democratic, giving equal weightage to both its constituents,
      knitting them together in one 'advaita' identity, without
      destroying their individuality.


      The Fire in the Belly

      "I am fire" (9.16)

      "Know the fieriness of fire to be mine." (15.12)

      "Abiding in all living beings as the fire of life, conjoined with
      the two kinds of breaths (inhalation and exhalation), I digest
      the four kinds of food." (15.14)

      Ancient philosophy divides food (anna), into four categories;
      namely that one can chew, drink, swallow or lick. In all cases it
      is God, existing in our body as the warmth of life, generating
      the metabolic heat digesting it. He carries out this task not
      only in humans, but in every being (praninam).

      All fire needs air for ignition. Likewise, inflamed by the
      incoming breath (apana), and the other, which is expelled
      (prana), flushing out the residue from the furnace, the fire of
      life continues to pulsate in us.

      Truly, we have to be very careful with what we eat. It is not
      ourselves but God we are feeding, who consumes what we intake,
      much as the fire in the Vedic sacrifice devours the sacred fuel
      nourishing it.


      The Topsy-Turvy World of God

      "Of all trees I am the banyan (peepal)." (10.26).

      Krishna mentions the banyan tree again:

      "The wise speak of the imperishable banyan tree (ashvattha),
      which has its roots above and branches below. Its leaves are the
      Vedas and he who knows this is the knower of the Vedas. Its
      branches extend all about; nourished by the three attributes of
      nature (luminescence, mobility and lethargy), the sensory objects
      are its shoots and below, in the world of men, its secondary
      roots stretch forth, binding them in karma. Its real form (rupa)
      is not perceived here, nor its end nor beginning nor its
      foundation. Let man first hew down this firm rooted banyan tree
      with the strong weapon of detachment." (15.1-3)

      Illustration: http://www.exoticindia.com/artimages/cosmictree.jpg

      The banyan tree is unusual in that it can send forth from its
      branches secondary roots, often reaching down to the ground.

      Illustration: http://www.exoticindia.com/artimages/banyantree.jpg

      This is a daring, almost surrealistic metaphor - a tree with
      roots above and branches below. At the top of such a tree resides
      God and in the trunk is Brahma, responsible for the creation of
      all manifested existence. We are however accustomed to a very
      different kind of tree, exactly the opposite of the one thus
      described. Hence are appearances deceptive. Things are not what
      they seem at first sight. The richest are the poorest inside.
      Those who are seen smiling outside, feel terrible within, and the
      one successful is only sitting over his mound of failures. Once
      we gain this discriminating vision, what Krishna calls the "divya
      chakshuh" (11.8), only then can we see through appearances and
      perceive the root cause common to all - God.

      The farther we move (evolve) away from the top of the cosmic
      tree, the more distant we are from God himself and what we
      normally feel to be progression is in spiritual terms regression.
      Nevertheless, even though the branches and leaves may spread out
      far and wide, they are always joined to their root cause (mula),
      and therefore never separated from God, although perhaps at a
      remote distance from him.

      What we are able to see in the world is in truth the exact
      opposite of how things actually are. Conforming to this flawed
      vision our priorities too have become inverted. For example,
      spiritual activity is thought to be the opposite of worldliness.
      For those of us who have understood the true nature of the tree
      of life, living life inside out is the correct way to progress on
      the spiritual path. God acknowledges this when He says:

      "What is night for all beings is the time of waking for the
      disciplined soul; and what is the time of waking for all is night
      for the sage with vision." (2.69)

      How can we gain this vision? By standing detached from the world,
      very much like a person on the moon, who would perceive all the
      trees of the world to be hanging upside down, as they actually
      are, only because he stands apart from it all. Somewhat like
      Archimedes, when he said: "Give me a firm spot on which to stand,
      and I will move the earth." The eagerly sought spot is however
      not a geographical location separate from where we already are.
      It is the mental condition of unattached (asanga) equanimity,
      with which we need to cleave the flawed tree of our distorted
      perception.


      The Silent, Secret God

      "In things mysterious, I am silence." (10.38)

      "The silent one (mauni) is dear to me." (12.19)

      "Silence is the penance of mind." (17.16)

      A typical malady of the modern era is mankind's inner turmoil,
      the offshoot of an unnaturally fast pace of life. Silence (maun),
      means quietening this turbulence by withdrawing from activity and
      turning all effort inwards. The internal dialogue quietens
      gradually; and then, when the silence becomes profound, the voice
      of God speaks.

      Thus, the more we come near to hearing God's own voice, entering
      the ultimate of mysteries, our own need to speak becomes lesser.
      Shri Ramakrishna compared this to the honeybee, which hums only
      while hovering over a flower. No sooner than it lands and begins
      to suck the nectar, all humming ceases.


      The Serpentine God

      "Among snakes (sarpas), I am Vasuki." (10.28).

      "Among serpents (nagas), I am Ananta." (10.29)

      In consecutive verses, Krishna identifies himself with two
      different serpents. There is a fine distinction between them.
      While the sarpas are single-hooded and live on land, the
      multi-headed nagas dwell in water.

      Specifically, Vasuki adorns Lord Shiva's finger as a ring and
      served as a rope during the churning of the ocean. Ananta is the
      serpent on whom Vishnu reclines during his yoga-nidra (sleep).

      Metaphysically, Ananta represents the infinite potential energy
      lying dormant in us (Kundalini); and Vasuki, with one head, its
      singular uncoiling.


      Conclusion:

      The Bhagavad Gita is in many ways God's picture album filled with
      self-portraits. However, his voice is different from ours, and
      identification with one is not the negation of the other. When he
      says, "In the rivers I am Ganga" or "amongst birds I am Garuda",
      it is the underlying qualities making these manifestations
      special that he is calling to attention. The Great Teacher knows
      that human intellect is but naturally attracted to what it
      perceives to be extraordinary. This is made explicit when he
      defines himself to be "the brilliance of all that is brilliant
      and the splendor of all that is splendid." He is the invisible
      infinite, whose essence permeates all finite things, much as
      "gems beaded on a string" (7.7), poetically revealed as "the
      flavor (rasa) of water" (7.8).

      (This article is dedicated to the memory of Swami Ramsukhdas, who
      was never photographed and whom the author never met. He died
      early this year.)

      ===========================================

      References and Further Reading:

      Bhagavadgita, Srimad with English translation and transliteration
      (4th ed.): Gorakhpur, 2004.

      Chaitanya, Krishna. The Gita for Modern Man (3rd ed.): Delhi,
      1992.

      Chinmayananda, Swami. The Holy Geeta (8th ed.): Mumbai, 2002.

      Easwaran, Eknath. The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living (3 vols.)
      (5th ed.): Mumbai, 2005.

      Goyandka, Jayadayal. Shrimadbhagavadgita with word-to-word
      translation (54th ed.): Gorakhpur, 2004.

      Goyandka, Jayadayal. Srimadbhagavadgita Tattvavivecani (English
      Commentary) (19th ed.): Gorakhpur, 2004.

      Goyandka, Shri Harikrishandas (tr.) Shrimadbhagavadgita with the
      Commentary of Shankaracharya (25th ed.): Gorakhpur, 2004.

      Grimes, John. A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy
      (Sanskrit-English): Madras, 1988.

      Osho. Gita Darshan (Discourses on the Bhagavad Gita) (8 vols.)
      (3rd ed.): Pune, 2003.

      Radhakrishnan, S. The Bhagavadgita (21st ed.): New Delhi, 2004.

      Ramsukhdas, Swami. Gita Darpan Essays on the Gita (18th ed.):
      Gorakhpur, 2003.

      Ramsukhdas, Swami. Gita Gyan Praveshika (11th ed.): Gorakhpur,
      2004.

      Ramsukhdas, Swami. Gita Prabodhni (4th ed.): Gorakhpur, 2005.

      Ramsukhdas, Swami. God is Everything (4th ed.): Gorakhpur, 2003.

      Ramsukhdas, Swami. Sadhaka Sanjivani Commentary on the Bhagavad
      Gita (2 vols.) (5th ed.): Gorakhpur, 2005.

      Ramsukhdas, Swami. Sadhan Sudha Sindhu A Collection of
      Benedictory Discourses (17th ed.): Gorakhpur, 2003.

      Rangacharya, M. The Hindu Philosophy of Conduct Essays on the
      Bhagavad Gita (4 vols.) (2nd ed.): Delhi, 1989.

      Ranganathananda, Swami. Universal message of the Bhagavad Gita (3
      vols.) (2nd ed.): Kolkata, 2003.

      Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Bhaktiyoga (Discourses on the 12th
      chapter) (5th ed.): Varanasi, 1997.

      Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Gyan Vigyan Yoga (Discourses on
      the 7th chapter): Varanasi, 1999.

      Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Shri Purshottam Yoga (Discourses
      on the 15th chapter) (4th ed.): Varanasi, 1999.

      Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Vibhuti Yoga (Discourses on the
      10th chapter) (2nd ed.): Varanasi, 2004.

      Tapasyananda, Swami. Srimad Bhagavata: The Holy Book of God (4
      vols.): Chennai.

      Vanamali. Nitya Yoga Essays on the Sreemad Bhagavad Gita: New
      Delhi, 2004.

      Warrier, Dr. A.G. Krishna (tr.) Bhagavad Gita Bhasya of Sri
      Sankaracharya: Chennai, 2002.

      Yogananda, Sri Sri Paramahansa. God Talks with Arjuna (2 vols.)
      (2nd ed.): Kolkata, 2002.

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      Nitin G.
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