Political, Religion, Social

The Gita: Chapters १ and २

वर्णानामर्थसंघानां रसानां छन्दसामपि। 
मंगलानां च कर्त्तारौ वन्दे वाणीविनायकौ

varṇānāmarthasaṃghānāṃ rasānāṃ chandasāmapi.
maṅgalānāṃ ca karttārau vandē vāṇīvināyakau

Translations of the above lines are: I offer my prayers to Goddess Saraswati who grants the means of communication and to Lord Ganesha who is the source of all knowledge. Both knowledge and speech are crucial when we are trying to summarize divine philosophies like the Gita, hence their blessings are important. Even Ramcharitmanas written by Tulsidas in 1633 starts in a similar fashion.  

The narration of the Gita takes place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, present in the modern-day Haryana, India. The story of the Gita has its foundation in the epic Mahabharata; hence for understanding the story of the Gita we need to understand the Mahabharata. This is a summary of the 18 chaptered epic; Pandavs and Kauravs are first cousins belonging to Kuru clan who ruled over Hastinapur. The Pandavas were the rightful heir of the throne but they were denied their kingdom. Then events such as public disrobing of Draupadi (the common wife of the Pandavas), sending of Pandavas to exile, public humiliation of the Pandavas and denial of their birthright led to the war of Kurukshetra. The Kauravs soaked in adhrama, are hungry for power. On the other hand, the Pandavas uphold dharma hence they are supported by Shri Krishna.

Chapter १ : When he doesn’t judge then why do we?

The Bhagavad Gita means God’s song and as we know a song or poem can have multiple meanings, according to the reader . The way I comprehend things won’t be the same as you comprehend them. We both observe the world differently. To show the importance of perception and observation the first chapter of the Gita is based on darshan or observation. How we perceive the Gita, it will benefit us in the same fashion. One whole chapter is dedicated to just questions asked by Arjun, Duryodhan and Dhritrastra, this show us the importance of asking questions.

The first lines of the Gita are spoken by Dhritrashtra, the blind father of the Kauravs and these are the only lines he says. This shows that before reading the Gita we are blind like Dhritarashtra limited by manmade boundaries. But then as we read the Gita we lose this blindness and see the set cosmic stage of Krishna.   

The Story:

The first chapter talks about all the armies assembling on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. It shows how Arjun, Duryodhan and Dhritrastra view the same battlefield. Dhristratra views the battlefield as the dharma-kshetra, thinking whether this battle and his decisions are correct or not. Duryodhan views the battlefield and becomes insecure, agitated and irritated and asks his teacher Drona whether his side is as strong as that of the Pandavas. Even though he has 11 armies, 4 more than that of the Pandavas but still he feels insecure. Then Arjun views the battlefields and sees his brothers, uncles and teachers ready for quenching the thirst of Earth with the blood and that too for a piece of land. Arjuna feels that killing of his family members whom he should protect and worship is wrong. He becomes anxious, his throat dries up, his bow the Gandiva slips from his hand and the weeping Arjuna falls on the seat of his golden chariot.    

The Philosophy: The Essence of Darshan

All three people who view the battlefield are looking with their eyes and just comprehending what they see. Duryodhan views the Pandavas as their enemy; Dhritrastra views Kauravas as his children but considers his nephews the Pandavas as intruders and Arjuna views his enemies as his relatives. All three men observe and divide the battlefield based on the boundaries created by them. That’s what we do, we make boundaries. Based on these boundaries we judge others and this leads to the division of society. The meaning of boundary is to create limitation and with these limitations how can we understand the limitless. 

In true darshan or observation, there is no judgment because there are no boundaries, no rules and no separation between right and wrong, mine and yours. When we see everyone without judgment then we can learn to love, which is the foundation of human dharma. Here Krishna does darshan, he does not see the Pandavas as the victims or the Kauravas as the oppressor he doesn’t judge. This principle of darshan is very evident in the Hindu mythology; unlike the western philosophies, we don’t have the concept of judgment day or Qayamat ka din because the Hindu gods don’t judge. Even in the Gita, Krishna only explains the architecture of the world. When we judge we lose our ability to see the bigger picture, we get lost in the artificial boundaries. Hence we should see the world without judgment and open ourselves to love.

My favourite verse from chapter 1:

Verse 37-38 (English Translation):

O Janardana (Shri Krishna), although these men, their hearts overtaken by greed, see no fault in killing one’s family or quarrelling with friends, why should we, who can see the crime in destroying the family, engage in these acts of sin

* Taken from Bhagavad Gita As It Is by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

These lines said by Arjuna make him a worthy recipient of the Gita. As we can see Arjuna sees the Kauravas not as his enemy but his brothers, hence he does darshan, even when he has many reasons not to.       

Chapter २: You and I will die, but still remain immortal

As discussed in the previous chapter darshan is without any boundaries, without any man-made demarcations and limits. But in this chapter, we will do darshan beyond death, where boundary death, is also overcome. Death brings fear, it even alarms devas and asuras; so much that they tirelessly churned the ocean of milk (Samudra Manthan, Bhagvat Puran) to obtain the nectar of immortality. Fear gives rise to Matsya Nyaya where the stronger feeds on the weak. The dharma for humans is to rise above the Jungle law; this can be done by overcoming fear. To overcome this fear of death Shri Krishna reveals the knowledge of Atma and rebirth. Arjuna in tears calls Shri Krishna as Madhusudana. Madhusudana means the one who killed the demon Madhu. This is symbolic, Arjuna wants Shri Krishna to kill his demon of misunderstanding like the way he killed Madhu and establish dharma for him. 

The Story:

There is no major development in the story, Arjuna is still weeping in his chariot. But this time Shri Krishna speaks and the conversation officially starts now. Shockingly, the greatest warrior on Earth, Arjuna declares to Govind (Krishna) that he will not fight. Krishna then tries to motivate Arjuna to battle, but this doesn’t affect Arjuna soaked in grief. Arjuna then submits to Krishna, and then Govind delivers the knowledge about Atma and rebirth to Arjuna. Krishna becomes Guru or teacher to Arjuna, when Arjuna submits to Shri Krishna. Showing us the importance of a teacher in the life of a student. This is a recurring theme in Hindu lore, that a teacher has the same status as the Gods.

The Philosophy: Knowledge of Atma

Arjuna does darshan but his knowledge is limited by death and birth. Hence he feels killing his kin would be wrong. He believes birth is the beginning and death is the end. But darshan should be without any limits, hence comes the concept of the immortal Atma or dehi which resides in mortal flesh or deha. Krishna describes the Atma as indestructible, immeasurable and immortal. No weapon can harm it and it can’t be cut into pieces. This means that when a person dies, the mortal flesh remains and the immortal resident then takes up a new body. So does it mean that all the knowledge we are gaining now would remain with mortal flesh and in our rebirth do we start from square one? This is not the case, Gyan or knowledge is the quality of Atma hence it stays with the Atma, hence we say that some have talents from birth. But one may ask for how long this cycle of rebirth goes? This cycle of rebirth goes on until the Atma doesn’t have enough means of incorporating with the param-Atma or Krishna. The means of incorporating of Atma with param-Atma is through Gyan or knowledge which the Atma gains in every Janam or birth.

Without the concept of rebirth, we only see half the picture which is often misleading. The Earth from ground appears to be flat, but as we move above from the ground we see the entire picture and see the round Earth. The story of Karna from Mahabharat is a great example of rebirth. Karna struggles his whole life because of his lower social status. He is denied education, Pandavas make fun of him, Draupadi insults him in front of all royals and also he is killed in a way which is against the law of war. Overall he seems to be a victim. But when we see Karna’s previous life we see that he was an asura who caused a lot of destruction. Hence he is paying for his actions, hence he no longer seems to be the victim. Hence if we do darshan beyond the boundaries of birth and death we would see everyone the same and love everyone.

Now with the concept of rebirth and Atma, even death is declared irrelevant. This is because our birth is not our origin and death is not our end, but they are simply re-birth and re-death. Now even our greatest fear of death is no limitation in our darshan. Also, the chapter 2 sets up the stage for chapter 3: karma yoga by talking about we having power only to perform our prescribed duties, but we are not entitled to the fruits of our actions. And talking about yoga. Hence we should do actions without thinking about the fruits of our work.

The Science

What we seek is what we find, hence on seeking science I found science. The concept of Atma discussed in Gita is elaborated in chapter 5 of the Svetasvatara Upanishad. Verse 9 of this chapter describes the size of the Atma which is exactly equal to the diameter of an atom.   Svetasvatara Upanishad, chapter 5 verse 9:

बालाग्रशतभागस्य शतधा कल्पितस्य च ।भागो जीवः स विज्ञेयः स चानन्त्याय कल्पते

vālāgraśatabhāgasya śatadhā kalpitasya ca
bhāgo jīvaḥ sa vijñeyaḥ sa cānantyāya kalpate

Translation: Know the embodied soul to be a part of the hundredth part of the point of a hair divided a hundred times, and yet it is infinite.    

The size of a hair strand is 0.017 millimetres and as mentioned the size of the soul is one ten-thousandth of the size of a hair, which is nearly 1 picometer. This is the exact size of an atom.

Gita describes the Atma to be indestructible and also that the Atma has no birth and no death. As many believe that the Atma or dehi is a form of energy. And if we recall the first law of thermodynamics or the law of conservation of energy we know that energy neither can be created nor can be destroyed but only change from one form to another. So if we see Gita describes the law of conservation of energy way before Rudolf Clausius. Energy not being created nor being destroyed shows the immortality of the Atma and changing of energy from one form to other shows the process of rebirth where Atma leaves one body and attains a new one.  

My favourite verse from chapter 2:

Verse 63-64 (English Translation):

From anger, complete delusion arises, and from delusion arises bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool.             

* Taken from Bhagavad Gita As It Is by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Anger is such a feeling which brings out our dark animal side. When we get angry then we lose our memory, due to which the memory of our relations and knowledge are lost. And without knowledge, we are simply animals and hence in anger behave like one.

This was an attempt to summarize my perspective of the Gita. It was an attempt to compile the infinite into finite. It was an attempt to bring to you God’s words. It was an attempt to bring you closer to Krishna. It was an attempt to do darshan beyond religion and bring to you the facts.

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About Rajat Saxena

I seek for order in chaos and patterns in randomness through equations and philosophy. I explore and write about my understanding of mythology. I have also authored physics research papers. I consider myself to be an artist but my art is in equations and philosophy.
View all posts by Rajat Saxena →

24 thoughts on “The Gita: Chapters १ and २

  1. Beautifully explained and well delivered. At a point I actually got really indulged into the science aspect where I almost felt and visualised it.

  2. Not everyday do you get to such a unique translation of the Gita with such historical accuracy and vivid detail.
    The scientific approach and writer’s comprehension of Gita’s philosophy is simply enthralling.

  3. The scientific reasoning behind the verses are so amazing, I had read these chapters before, but I literally never thought looking at them with a scientific perspective. Very well done Rajat ! 👏👏❤️

  4. Beautifully explained
    I’ve listened to a few of people talk about GITA and this is definitely one of the best explanations….
    Especially how you explain the science part
    AMAZING!!!

  5. Rajat, you have an excellent flair for writing. It is a vividly written and alluring piece of work where you have been able to break the complex issues with a rare simplicity and made it enjoyable for the young people.
    Well done!

  6. “This is not the case, Gyan or knowledge is the quality of Atma hence it stays with the Atma, hence we say that some have talents from birth.” —
    — this justification has bee used to maintain caste and societal division by indicating lower caste person is born due to their past sins… and has to suffer — as indicated with a story of Karna — so by this interpretation all social and caste inequalities are justified?
    Is carry-over to the next birth necessary for Gita to make sense — or some other interpretations which do not justify inequality?

    1. The Indian Caste system is a very sensitive topic, hence before commenting anything on the Indian Caste System, I need to read more about.
      I will surely get back to your question!

      1. Can I not justify all injustice in society as being not anybody else doing but their own past birth sins?
        Is treatment meted out to Karna’s justified because of past birth? Should he be not allowed good education because of his past birth? People laughing at him is justified? Should he be killed without any rules?
        — So if I am scammed — I must have scammed that person in my previous birth — so my past? Is there anything a free will or just past cause and effect?
        – Think about it

        1. People often confuse Karma yoga mentioned in the Vedas and the Gita with the biblical concept of “What you sow is what you reap”. But karma yoga is very different from “what you sow is what you reap”. For answering your question we need clarity on Karma Yoga. Imagine we sow a seed, but the growth of that seed depends on many external factors which are out of our control like the soil fertility, temperature, seed quality, sunlight and many more, hence there is no guarantee that the seed we sowed will grow as per our expectations. Similarly, we getting the results of our actions is not always necessary because the fruits of our actions depend on many external factors which are beyond our control. Hence if you get scammed it’s not always necessary it’s because of your actions in a previous life. Hence we will face the consequences of our actions, but what will the consequence be, no one knows. Even in the Gita Shri Krishna doesn’t give any guarantee about the fruits of our actions.

          For more insight on Karma please do read the summary of Chapter 3 and Chapter 4: http://thatsthetea.siddbetter.com/2020/09/11/the-gita-chapters-%e0%a5%a9-and-chapter-%e0%a5%aa/

          Also, many people confuse Karma with Justice, but Karma is not justice. Justice comes from one life philosophy. Justice, religion and caste system all these are man-made constructs and are a product of human imagination. It’s said Bhu-Devi or Prakriti smiles when she looks at our attempts of believing that there is only one truth. Justice is about one being right and the other being wrong but in Hindu mythology, there is no concept of right and wrong. No human is right and no human is wrong, a human is either knowledgeable or less knowledgeable. The knowledgeable one appears to be right to others. Hence there is no hero and no villain. Kansa who establishes dictatorship in Mathura kills innocent people and imprisons his own sister can be seen as a villain in Krishna’s lore until we know his full story. Kansa’s birth was a result of a rape of his mother, in the womb, Kamsa was cursed by his mother and on Kamsa’s birth, his mother wept and abused the newborn Kamsa. So is Kansa still the Villain?
          Hence there is no villain and no hero, no right and no wrong. Our senses are like the autocorrect we have on our phones, they feel something is wrong or right even before the sentence is completed. The concept of right and wrong, victim and culprit breakdown when we see the bigger picture.

          Let’s understand the concept of right and wrong with a story: Once lived a king whose name was Shantanu and his wife was goddess Ganga. But Ganga was very weird, every time they had a child Ganga would kill the baby. Shantanu tolerated this for 7 times but the eighth time he stopped Ganga from killing their son. On inquiring she answered that all the children she killed were divine sages who were cursed to take birth on Earth, to save them from the tyranny of human life she killed them just after their birth. But the infant Shantanu saved would now go through the hardships of human life and now that child’s life was a curse. Shantanu thought he was doing the right thing but his knowledge was limited and Ganga who he thought was doing wrong was actually saving the sages. Both Shantanu and Ganga are neither wrong nor right they just have different levels of knowledge. So if we follow justice who should we punish Shantanu or Ganga?

          Is there anything a free will or just past cause and effect?
          Our actions of the present will lead to consequences of the future. We have the free will to sow the seeds in our present. The past cause will bring us in a certain situation and with our knowledge and wisdom we face the situation and the results of these actions we will get more consequences in the future.

          The explanation I gave was just a summary, to explain it in detail we need 4 Vedas!

        2. Now that we have understood the uncertainty in the Karma Yoga, we can say that Karma yoga cannot be used to justify the caste system. Also, the people who have realized the self, the dehi don’t indulge in creating a hierarchy because for them every one is the same and they see Shri Krishna in everyone. Hypocrites with limited knowledge create a hierarchy so that it can benefit them. The concept of equality hurts the ego of such hypocrites. The people of knowledge never take the stories of the Puranas literally. The story of Karna and Krishna show that the caste of a person doesn’t describe the potential of a person. The action of Karna of a previous life results in his suffering and not his caste. The story of Karna was to break the caste system and not promote it. Vishnu himself breaks this system of the hierarchy so many times, his avatar of Parshuram takes up weapons like a Kshatriya even when he was Brahmin, Ram who was a Kshatriya gives up his kingdom and goes to the forest and gains knowledge from sages like a Brahmin, Krishna who was a cowherd becomes a Yadav nobleman and later a Sarathi or charioteer.

          What I had mentioned about Karna was just a small part from his story. Karna gets an education and that to from no ordinary teacher. He gets educated by Parshuram, who is an Avatar of Vishnu like Shri Krishna. Karna’s knowledge and skills are acknowledged by all the kings of Aryavarta. He lifts Shiv’s bow when no even could move it. Also, it’s said Krishna shows his Vishwaroop to Karna which he only showed to Arjuna. His Dan-veer nature is appreciated in all the three realms and even Krishna is impressed by him.

          Pandavas getting annoyed by Karna shows that the idea of equality hurts the egos of those who enjoy the benefits of hierarchy.

  7. Amazing Master Rajat Saxena.. I am really impressed by your understanding of the Epic… Your perceptions are well crafted with your words.. Keep it up child n may God bless you with all the happiness of the world.. Keep writing..

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