Shri Guru Charan Saroj Raj Nij mane mukure sudhar Atha shrimadbhagavadGita
श्रीगुरु चरन सरोज रज, निज मनु मुकुरु सुधारि। अथ श्रीमद्भगवद्ग
The first 2 lines are taken from Hanuman Chalisa written by Tulsidas in the Awadhi dialect and the last lines are the Sanskrit words which mean “and now the Bhagavad Gita”. They are two independent verses which I have combined and together they mean: with the dust of the feet of my teacher I cleanse my mind and now begin the Bhagavad Gita.
1. Difference between doubt and question
Some say one should not doubt (शंका) when talking about Krishna. But as I mentioned in the previous summary of chapter 1 we should ask more questions, but both statements seem to be contradictory. To solve this dilemma let us see the definition of both the words; doubt means a feeling of uncertainty and question means a sentence or phrase that asks for an answer, they are two very different words but they are interconnected. To strengthen ones bhakti one should ask questions, because when we ask questions then we can differentiate between right and wrong, bhakti and andh-bhakti (blind bhakti/faith), dharma and adharma. Some people get lost so much in bhakti that loose this power of questioning and unknowingly perform wrong actions. Not asking questions can transform bhakti into andh bhakti. Doubt may arise but can be cleared by asking questions. Hence asking questions is important because asking questions can clear doubt and clearing of doubt will lead to the strengthening of one’s bhakti. Doubt rises due to lack of knowledge and by asking questions we can fill this void and increase our Gyan to such a level that we no longer have voids in our knowledge and hence no doubts.
Asking questions may also increase doubt but if questions are answered from an excellent source (like the Bhagavad Gita) not only the doubts are cleared but also increase bhakti and Gyan based on which we can do great karma or actions. Similar things happen also in the Gita; Arjuna keeps asking questions to clear his doubts from the source of all knowledge, Shri Krishna.
2. Battle of Religion with Science (something out of context but necessary)
In the first chapter of the Gita, we discussed darshan, which is observation without any boundaries and limits. But science has strict boundaries, for example, we can’t go faster than the speed of light, we can’t go smaller than the plank length and we can’t go lighter than the plank mass; hence science has limitations. We have no understanding beyond these limits. Hence Science has well-defined boundaries.
So, is the Gita against the ways of science? The answer is no. Gita shows great importance to Gyan or knowledge. And as we know science in Hindi is called Vi-Gyan; science or vi-Gyan is a subset of Gyan or knowledge which the Gita talks about. With Vigyan or science as the foundation, we can obtain Gyan which is one of the pillars of the Gita and then realize the self. In chapter 2 of the Gita, Krishna describes two ways of realizing the self; one of them is Sankhya yoga (description of dehi or Atma) which is the analytical study of nature of the soul and matter, which we call Science. Hence Science leads to Krishna.
Chapter ३: When Krishna performs his duties then why don’t we?
The chapter starts with Arjuna’s question, which again shows us the importance of asking questions. In this chapter the word Karma will be recurringly used, the word Karma means actions.
In chapter 3, Shri Krishna calls Arjuna as Kaunteya or the son of Kunti. The mentioning of Arjuna as the son of Kunti in context to karma is symbolic. Krishna suggests that we should act selflessly, serving others before ourselves and do actions out of love; our actions should be like that of a mother. She works round the clock not because she is expecting something in return; she does these actions out of love and selflessness which we often take for granted. The role of a mother is a key aspect with Krishna’s lore, the mention of early years of Krishna in the Bhagavad invokes Mamata or motherly love in the reader. The works of Surdas showing stories of Krishna and Yashoda reflect the mother-child relationship. Krishna in Marathi is called Vithal; he is also called Vithai or mother Krishna, again showing the importance of Mothers. Krishna being a householder’s deity shows us the high significance of mothers in a family.
There is no development in the story, Arjuna instead of weeping now listens to Madhav (Krishna) and occasionally asks questions. After the knowledge of Sankhya yoga (about the Atma) Arjuna believes that knowledge is greater than action and hence he should not take part in the bloody war. Then Shri Krishna clears his doubt by describing the science of Karma yoga and shows the importance of action.
The Philosophy: Karma Yoga
We as a householder will always do actions, our bodily activities are also actions hence when we stop all action then we seize to exist. Whether we have the knowledge or not but still we do actions. These actions when done without knowledge gives birth to selfishness, lust and establish Matsya Nyaya. Arjuna asks Shri Krishna that why people are impelled to do sinful acts as if engaged by a force? Krishna describes this force as lust. This lust not only includes sexual but also material desires; its lust that drives us towards sin. Lust is born out of this material world and caused because of attachment. Like fire is surrounded by smoke, in a similar way a person is wrapped in many layers of lust. When the lust is not satisfied it burns and smoke produced by its fire covers the knowledge and bewilders a person on the path of sin.
So how do we overcome lust? This can be done by detaching from the fruits of our work and through self-realization. One should know that he is transcendental to the material senses and body; he is the Atma who is just residing in this mortal flesh. One should realize he is not the senses but the Atma residing in the body. People always seek for validation and accordingly form their own identities, when one seeks external validation then he gains ego but when one seeks internal validation then finds the immortal Atma. The senses are limited, bigger than the sense is the mind; intelligence is bigger than the mind and bigger than intelligence is the soul, which is infinite. All these are in increasing order, from the limited to the finite then to the infinite. Hence you are not the finite senses, but the immortal dehi or Atma.
When one knows he is just an Atma and the others are also Atma, and understands the fact that Atma is a part of param-Atma or Krishna then our hearts will be filled with love and there would be no place for lust.
Krishna describes that our actions should be selfless. Krishna compares our activities with yagna*, as we do in a yagna we put a small sacrifice in the fire and not our entire property. Similarly, we should also make sacrifices but not give up on our duties. We should sacrifice like a householder not like a hermit. Our actions should be for the welfare of others. One should do actions without being attached to the fruits of activities; one should act as a matter of duty. Krishna then describes leading by examples, so that common men also follow the trail. Following his own words, Krishna leads with an example; he says that he is the Narayan of the world he doesn’t want anything nor does he need to obtain anything but still he gets engaged in doing his prescribed duties. We should surrender all our work to Krishna and work without attachment and with zero desire for profit. Krishna explains karma yog using the example of the activity of eating. He explains that we should eat at the last after serving everyone else, which means before us we should serve others.
*Yagna is the Indian practice in which a sacrifice is made to the fire. It’s an exchange between us and the demigods. The Vedas have described Yagna is great detail, this Yagna has enabled great things in the past; granted special powers and divine knowledge. The birth of Ram Chandra and his brothers, Draupadi (common wife of the Pandavas) and Dhrishtadyumna (Army Chief of the Pandavas) was possible because of Yagna.
Krishna gives so much importance to actions because people of knowledge renounce from the world, and people of ignorance are left to drive it which can create a society which follows the jungle law. One cannot free from Maya only by theoretical knowledge hence actions are necessary. As Sir Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”. A person with knowledge who doesn’t act, his knowledge is in vain.
Why does Krishna say that we shouldn’t care about the fruits of our work and just perform our duty?
Let’s understand this with a thought experiment, imagine you a farmer with minimal knowledge of seeds. Out of many seeds, you select a few believing that they are seeds of Papaya, but are they actually seeds of Papaya, no one knows. So you with complete faith that they are Papaya seeds sow them and start dreaming about the wealth you will gain after selling those Papayas. But there is this uncertainty that the seeds you have sown are actually of Papaya or not and due to your lack of knowledge you cannot also confirm the seeds. So if the seeds grow to give Papaya, you will get delighted. BUT if the seeds you sowed were of some wild plant, then you will get disappointed and blame Krishna, but you will not see the lack of knowledge you had earlier. Hence the actions you do, you might feel they are right but when you broaden your perspective they might not as right as you think. Hence to sow the right seed there are 2 options we have; one is we gain complete knowledge about the seeds but that takes a lot of time. How much time, you ask? Maybe many-many births. The other option is not caring about the fruits of our seeds and being happy with whatever you get. This way you won’t face disappointment and have no barriers to obtain knowledge. Here the seeds are your actions, the farm is your life, the book you would use to gain knowledge about the seeds is the Shrimadbhagwat Gita and the fruits of your actions will be the love for Krishna.
Let’s broaden our perspective by comprehending a small part from the Ramayana. Kaikeyi’s words prevent the coronation of Ram by sending him to 14 years of exile so that her own child becomes the king. Here actions of Kaikeyi reflect wickedness and can be considered as wrong. But if we see that if Ram hadn’t gone to the forest then Ravana’s cruel rule would have continued, we would never get introduced to Hanuman and dharma wouldn’t be established. All this was only possible because of Kaikeyi’s boon. So does Kaikeyi still appear to be wrong? Wrong and right are simply illusions, caused by our senses. When we have incomplete knowledge (like when we don’t consider events which happened later in Ramayana after Kaikeyi’s boon) then some things appear to be wrong and some as right. But when we gain more knowledge then wrong may become right or vice versa. The concept of right and wrong is not very evident in the Hindu lore.
My Favorite Verse from Chapter ३:
Verse 22 (English Translation):
“O son of Partha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need to obtain anything-and yet I am engaged in prescribed duties”Taken from Bhagavad Gita As It Is by
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
This is the first time we get the reference to the fact that Krishna is God. Krishna in the previous verses mentions that one should act without being attached to the fruits of our actions and act as if it’s our duty. Then he mentions that one should guide the ignorant by leading by examples. Following his words, Krishna leads by example stating that he also performs his duties even when he doesn’t need hence he doesn’t care about the fruits but still performs his actions. If Shri Krishna doesn’t perform his duties then the whole order of the cosmos will get chaotic. Even Krishna doesn’t refrain from his duties, then why do we?
Chapter ४: You and I don’t know it, but we are a part of Krishna
In chapter 3 we for the first time get to know Krishna is God. In Chapter 4 we will get more references suggesting the fact that Krishna is Bhagwan. This chapter also contains the lines that many predict to be the lines which describe the caste system of India. Dr B. R. Ambedkar, the father of the Indian constitution and D. D. Kosambi, the Indian mathematician criticized the Gita for its mention of this caste system, about which we will discuss in detail, ahead.
Shri Krishna explains the importance of action in the previous chapter. Shri Krishna says that before narrating the science of Gita to Arjuna he had given this knowledge to sun god: Vivasan. Then Vivasan educated Manu (the first human) in the Gita philosophy, and then Manu passed it on to the first king Ikshvaku. But with time this knowledge was lost. Arjuna is naturally startled; Ikshvaku and Manu existed long before the birth of Krishna, so how did Krishna narrate it to them? Shri Krishna explains this with the concept of rebirth, Krishna had taken many births previous to his current life, he remembers about all his previous lives, that of Shri Ram, Parshuram and many before him. Then Krishna says that he takes birth every time there is a loss of Dharma or humanity, to establish the dharma and lead by example. Krishna remembers about all his previous lives but not Arjuna, this is because Shri Krishna has complete knowledge. Shri Krishna dies with a smile; because he knows this not the end on the other hand Arjuna dies with a frown on his face.
The Philosophy: Aham brahmasmi
In this chapter Shri Krishna continuous the knowledge of Karma yog, which he started in the previous chapter. It’s repeated that one should act without caring about the fruits of his actions. The one who is steady in failure and success is never entangled because for him they are the same. Here Shri Krishna makes a comparison between two types of people; one who make offerings for quick and non-permanent results and performs activities like animal sacrifices, Vastu shastra, numerology and other flowery words of Vedas. The other kinds of peoples are the ones who sacrifice their judgmental senses in the fire of knowledge. Shri Krishna then mentions the pranayama which is the process of controlling the breath. All these methods are described to tame the mind and also set the stage for Dhayana yog which will be coming up in the next chapters. Taming of the mind is the way out of lust.
Krishna then describes the importance of sacrifice by stating that sacrifice is the root of happiness and the way to reach God, but this sacrifice should be for others. Krishna then suggests that one should have a teacher who can guide us on the right path. Then Krishna shows our connections with him. He says that with true knowledge we will realize that we all are part of the divine, we all are Atma and he is the param-Atma. In all of us resides Krishna, but realizing his presence in our selves is the Goal we all should focus on. We should remember that we are not God, but simply a part of him. If we believe the opposite then we gain ego and lose the God within. For understanding it better let us translate aham brahmasmi as I am part the part of God instead of I am God.
The thirteenth verse of chapter 4 contains the lines which many believe to be the lines which support the Indian caste system, but I don’t agree with it. In the previous chapters Krishna guides us to do Darshan which is without boundaries, but if Krishna suggests us to break all manmade boundaries then why would he support Casteism? Also, casteism is a manmade concept; Krishna’s words were manipulated to establish this hierarchy. Krishna himself fought the caste system his entire life.
*I don’t endorse the caste system and the inequalities it creates.
I have 2 speculations about this verse but both suggest the same thing that Krishna can’t suggest casteism.
- It is quite possible that some hypocrites would have purposely made changes in this divine text so that it could benefit them and give them a higher status. Or maybe the verses were misunderstood or wrongly translated.
- The second possible thing is that the four divisions Krishna is talking about are not that of human society but of the world. Hindu mythology constantly talks about the four-fold division of the world represented by the swastika. Here also the division is based on action. Elements (sky, water, fire etc.) form this world but don’t feel it hence they perform no actions; even if they do we cannot fathom it. Then we have plants and animal whose actions are driven by fear (Jungle law or Matsya Nyaya). Then humans who have the choice to behave like animals or realize the self and find Krishna within.
My Favorite Verses from Chapter ४:
Verses 7 and 8:
Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata
Abhythanamadharmasya tadatmanam srijamyaham /4.7/
Paritranaya sadhunang vinashay cha dushkritam
Dharmasangsthapanarthay sambhabami yuge yuge /4.8/
Many translate these lines as: Krishna manifests whenever there is a decline in Dharma and rise of Adharma. He manifests to preserve the good and destroy the wicked and establish dharma. But I find a problem here, good and bad or right and wrong are subjective things, hence what you feel is right, may not be right for me. 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 Krishna who is the most knowledgeable is considered to be the most righteous. The concept of being right and wrong is simply an illusion. None is ever wrong but simply has limited knowledge. So I propose a new perspective for the above 2 verses: whenever people are confused between what is wrong and right and have limited knowledge. Krishna manifests to restore knowledge and bring on track the bewildered by providing them with the knowledge and leading them on the right path by setting examples.
Krishna: Beyond the conch blowing city builder
In the Gita and Mahabharata, Krishna is shown to be a very intimidating, manipulative and fearsome person. But Shri Krishna is the opposite of all this. He can be imagined as dark flute playing cowherd surrounded by Gopis who are dancing in circles to the flute of the Manmohan. He is infinite (Vishnu) who has taken a finite form. He arouses love and fills the hearts with joy. He is Leela Purushottam, the one who breaks rules, unlike Ram who is Maryada Purushottam, the one who upholds the rules at any cost. He keeps challenging the traditional belief of God. He is the only deity whose statues have a charming smile. He is the father of Kamadev; hence Krishna arouses love but not lust. He constantly reminds that know the thought behind your actions.
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.