Inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita
"You don't need to read a lot of books. You can get all you need from the Bhagavad Gita and the Sermon on the Mount."
~ Shri Swami Rama of the Himalayas
Please enjoy these insights from Panditji on The Bhagavad Gita. Each month we will add another article on this most revered and treasured text.
Please click the links below to take you directly to that month's article:
Nov 2010 May 2011
Dec 2010 June 2011
Jan/Feb 2011 July 2011
March 2011 August 2011
April 2011 September 2011
All excerpts are from "Practical Lessons on the Bhagavad Gita" by Pandit Hari Shankar Dabral, Ph.D
"Bhagavad" means divine, celestial, the ever present divine Lord. And "Gita" means a song. The Bhagavad Gita is a song that is sung by the Lord. It is a Divine Song. The knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita is perennial because it comes from the eternal.
The Gita is a scripture that millions of people read daily. In India many people read the entire Gita once a day, but most read just one verse a day and try to apply what has been taught. The Gita is a book we can study our entire life, and it is so deep that it can take us a lifetime to understand. We can read it for years and years, and the beauty of the Gita is such that each time we read it, one profound meaning after another is revealed.
The Bhagavad Gita is a textbook for mastering the art of life. It is a very compact scripture that deals with the practical aspects of life. We need to understand the Bhagavad Gita as much as we can and follow its teachings. It is not enough to just read the book and intellectually know the stories and dialogues. The Gita is a very powerful book that states many things that we need to apply nowadays, in this society and in this environment. When we are in a crisis and are going through problems, rough times, hard times, when there is so much confusion in our lives, that is the time when we should apply the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita.
Personally I have found that the Gita is very practical, very consoling. It is such a beautiful scripture that gives so much comfort. Let's say that beloved guests came to your home and, of course, you want to please them. You would make your guests happy and comfortable. You would go to the store and buy their favorite foods and prepare meals very lovingly. That is why we say, "Make your guests feel at home." How nice it is when we know all their desires and habits, what kind of food they like, what kind of things they want to do. Then we know we can make them very happy. That is what the Bhagavad Gita does. That is the nature of the teaching that Krishna gives Arjuna.
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The essence of the Gita is taken from all the scriptures. The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the greatest epic of the world, the Mahabharata. The Gita consists of 700 verses. Krishna and Arjuna represent the ideal teacher and the ideal student. The Gita becomes a cow, the Lord Himself is the milkman, and Arjuna becomes a calf who drinks the milk or essence. The milk is amrita, which means Nectar of Immortality. Krishna is the force that attracts us towards the path of spirituality, peace and final liberation. He is the teacher who guides us on the right path.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches the philosophy of human psychology, how to operate in the world. During times of commotion we may feel unsure, fearful, tense and confused. The Bhagavad Gita comes into our life and gives us spiritual perspective to our attitudes, behavior and personality. The Gita gives answers for any problem in any relationship. The best philosophy, spirituality, psychology, religion and yoga is contained in the Gita.
"Krishna" means that aspect of the absolute Lord that attracts us. He represents the inner teacher who guides us on the right path. Krishna attracts us toward the path of sadhana, spirituality and liberation. The Bhagavad Gita, the Divine Song, is sung by the Lord right at the battlefield, because that is where we need Him the most.
Arjuna represents all of us. He is a student who is inquisitive and seeks guidance from a competent teacher. Swami Rama says that the word "Arjuna" means one who makes sincere efforts and who inevitably obtains the knowledge that directly flows from the center of consciousness.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches art of life and guides us in how to deal with daily circumstances and situations. It shows us how to perform our karmas, or actions with such skill that we are finally liberated from bondage. Krishna taught at the battlefield, at Kurukshetra. "Kuru" means to do, "kshetra" means a field, a place where we perform our duties or dharma.
This world is a battlefield for all of us. Each of us has our own battles, our own struggles in daily life. Many times we are confused, fearful and bound with attachments. All kinds of emotions (enemies) are involved in our Kurukshetra. We need a true teacher like Lord Krishna to guide us. The Bhagavad Gita is a very practical scripture that teaches about all aspects of our lives and personalities. One needs to understand the Gita and follow its teachings in the art of everyday living.
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"Dharma" means our duty in life. The Bhagavad Gita is a song telling about living honorably. This life is given to us to enjoy within the decorum that we are human beings. What are our dharmas and our obligations? While dealing with our obligations and dharmas, how can we create our spiritual lives so we realize our true nature? The battlefield of Kurukshetra is also Dharmakshetra. "Dharma" entails moral character, decorum, principle, and dignity coming into play. When a Kurukshetra is a Dharmakshetra, we are on the right path.
We all have a universe inside in the form of the individual soul, and that universe needs some kind of principle, some kind of discipline. If it is not disciplined, then chaos will occur. For example, when human beings don’t respect each other, then discipline has to be imposed. We need discipline from outside when we forget basic internal moral principles. It is like traffic lights – if they are taken away and people drive any way they want to, accidents will happen. If the entire police force is removed, there will be chaos. Discipline is imposed, so that society can function. But if people would invoke discipline from within, they wouldn’t need any imposed discipline from outside. When we have established law and order internally, it is easy for us to adhere to social rules of order. The Gita teaches how to re-establish law and order within ourselves and to become true human beings.
Many times we tell children or our friends, that something is not right, or that it is a lie. How can we say this is not right? Who tells us something is not right? There is moral guidance in all of us that is given by the Lord. Something in our mind tells us. That mind which is "I", that individual soul, which tells us something is not right. We may hear the inner voice for a microsecond and just go ahead with what we have an urge to do, but after we have already made a mistake, we will go back and say, "Gee, a thought did come to my mind that it was not right." This is proof that there is something inside that is guiding us all along. We need to become Arjuna and listen so that the Krishna within all of us can come in front of us. That is the teaching of the Gita.
The Gita: A Guide to the Art of Life
"I find solace in the Bhagavad Gita that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount. When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavad Gita. I find a verse here and a verse there, and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies-and my life has been full of external tragedies-and if they have left no visible, no indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita."
------Mohandas K. Gandhi, Young India (1925), pp. 1078-1079
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The Gita includes a study of the psychology of the human mind. How does the human mind operate? What happens when we are in a situation where we have the understanding but don't use it - where we go totally blank and are not able to make good choices? Afterwards, we feel very sorry. We feel guilty and ask, "Why did I do that?" We feel bad and keep remembering the event.
Many people in these modern times are living with so much on-going tension, which then creates mental commotion. Because of that, we often do not have a clear mind when making decisions. We have several opinions already but are not sure of ourselves, and so we seek the opinions of others. That is why the Bhagavad Gita is very useful and effective. When we systematically take just one principle at a time from the Gita and apply it to our life, we will see a great difference in ourselves. Our lives will change. Our attitudes will change.
The teachings of the Bhagavad Gita are universal. All the characters in the Gita exist within us. Once we see things from that point of view, we realize all the teachings apply to our own situation. It is a matter of being aware of all the different aspects of ourselves. We all know the content of the Gita within ourselves.
Na kaangkshe vijayam Krishna na cha rajyam sukhaani cha
Kim no rajyena govinda kim bhogairjeevitena va (1.32)
The Bhagavad Gita begins with Arjuna's despondency. At Kurukshetra, when Arjuna sees all his relatives, brothers, cousins, and teachers standing on the opposite side of the battlefield ready to fight, he is sad and confused. He drops his weapons, his bow and arrows (1:30) and says, "O Lord of the Senses, I do not need kingdoms or victory. What is the use, the purpose of all the pleasures and life itself? I may as well just beg for a living, and then die." (2:5)
Living in the world, we all go through ignorance, attachment and fears. In many situations in life, we are confused and not feeling inclined to do anything. The first chapter is about ignorance and Arjuna's attachments to his fears.
The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita begins when Arjuna admits he is not functioning well, that he is full of doubts and confusion. When one acknowledges weakness and fear within, this is a sign of moving forward, that the doors are open for learning. Arjuna says to the Lord, "I am your disciple, surrendering to you, and whatever definitely is better for me, do teach and guide me." (2:7)
When we find ourselves totally losing the battle within and are not seeing any solution to our problems, we need to sit down and look within, acknowledge the situation, surrender ourselves to the Guru or the Lord, and pray for strength, guidance and blessings. With surrender, we can allow ourselves to keep our heart and mind open. When Arjuna surrenders to the Lord and asks for teaching and guidance, then the Lord begins to teach.
The Blessed Lord says:
karmany evadhikaras te ma phalesu kadacana
ma karma-phala-hetur-bhur ma te sango-stv-akarmani(2:47)
"O Arjuna, you only have the right to perform your actions and never to the fruits of your karma. You should not perform the action only for the sake of the fruits, nor let yourself be attached to inaction." (2:47)
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The Law of Karma
Lord Krishna continues to tell Arjuna the secret of karma yoga, the path of selfless action. Performing your actions with a selfless attitude leads one to a deeper level of awareness and samatwa buddhi. This is a state of equanimity or equilibrium in the mind. The nature of those who have abandoned all desires and are free from ego and attachments is such that they receive peace and harmony. In verses 54 to 72 of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna describes the qualities of sthita-prajna (one who remains in samadhi).
The word "karma" comes from the Sanskrit verb root "kri," which means "to do". Anything that we perform physically or mentally becomes karma, an action. The philosophy of karma says that every action leaves an imprint.
Our goal or purpose is to realize the Self, to realize God within and free ourselves from the cycle of birth and rebirth. We are here because of our karma and to pay our debts. We are also here as a blessing from the Lord, as an opportunity to realize the true purpose of life.
A human being is bound to perform actions. We bind ourselves with those actions with exactly the same kind of karma we have performed. Karmas are like a golden chain. We become deluded and bind ourselves by our actions. One day we see we have bound ourselves so tightly that it is very difficult now to get free.
Who are we really, and why do we take birth and have relationships in the world? We have several relationships – son, father, mother, brother, sister, wife, husband. We play many roles when we come to this world and each role demands its own obligations and its own conditions and creates more karma.
Arjuna was taught the philosophy of karma in the second chapter. Krishna says, "You are performing your action because of your previous actions. The fruit you get here is because of the impressions you have created for yourself." (9:3, 14:5, 15:7-8 and 18:59-61). In the entire world, every problem from the environment – medical problems to relationships between families, friends or between countries, all has to do with karma.
The law of karma operates on the levels of manasa, vacha and karmana. Manasa means by our minds, vacha means through our speech, and karmana is by our actions. The moment a slight thought comes to our mind, we have performed a karma. Every karma is done through the mind first. A hand cannot be raised unless we first perform that very action in the mind. The law of karma, of action, means not only doing our duties in a right manner, it also involves our daily schedule, our food, our attitudes, our relationships in our society, our culture, and the environment as a whole.
The law of karma is a very fascinating and complex theory that is not easy to understand. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is taught to perform his karma and yet to know he is not the doer, he is not the one performing the karma.
Lord Krishna, explaining the law of karma, says, "Your duty alone is to perform your action with an awareness that you are surrendering each and every fruit of your action unto me, O Arjuna." (2:47-48, 3:30, 4:19-23, 5:8-14, 8:7, 12:6-8).
What happens when we have expectations? Half of the mind is with the expectation, so we actually perform our action with 50% of the mind. We aren’t there 100% because 50% of the mind is busy focusing on the fruit.
Kama means desire. The moment we have kama, we want to perform the action because we want the fruits. If our expectation is not fulfilled, we get angry with ourselves. We need to perform our obligations with pure love, trust and without expectations. This will never create any anger because we weren’t expecting anything. It will not create any sorrow because we weren’t looking for anything.
There are three kinds of karma: prarabdha, sanchitta and kriyamana. Prarabdha karmas have already begun to bear fruit. Sanchitta karmas are the ones that have been stored in the unconscious mind, and kriyamana karmas are those that we are performing at present.
Lord Krishna says, "Whenever you perform any action, think of me. I am everywhere. I am omnipresent." (7:3-7, 8:20-22, 9:4-19, 10:3, 10:12, 13:29-35) If we have that idea in our mind, we will always do that which is good for us, good for our families and good for our neighbors. "I am the one who is doing, you are not the doer. You are the medium." (5:8-14, 18:61)
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Atman - The True Nature of the Self
Lord Krishna says, "No one can cleave the Atman, nor can fire burn it, water cannot wet it nor wind dry it. O Arjuna, if you think you are going to kill your enemies, tell me who you think you are killing? No one can kill the Atman; no one can tear it apart." (2:11-30) The person who is born one day has to die. It depends on our karmas and samskaras and prayers. That is the only truth in the world.
"Krt-Atman" - "Atman" is the Self. "Krta" comes from the word "kri" which means "to do". The terminology "to purify your Atman" is not right because Atman itself does not need any purification. We are not fully aware that the Self is already ever-pure, ever-free, ever-wise. We are mostly aware of the things that cover the Self, such as our negative samskaras ,karmas, vasanas, our mind, our buddhi. To be aware of the Atman, we need to cultivate ourselves every single moment of our life.
The Six Ene