Chapter 3, V 10, – “When creating living beings and sacrifice, Prajapati, the primordial creator, said: “By sacrifice will you procreate! Let it be your wish-granting cow!”
Chapter 3, V 15 – “Action comes from the spirit of prayer, whose source is OM, sound of the imperishable; so the pervading infinite spirit is ever present in rites of sacrifice.”
I have deliberately placed these two verses together in my notes in my Kindle edition of Barbara Stoler Miller’s, The Bhagvad Gita. To come to a better understanding of Lord Krishna’s teachings to His best pupil, Arjuna, I have to read before and after a verse that resonates with me. Here by placing verse 10 and 15 together, I came to the realization that prayer, sacrifice and action are closely related and lead from each other. My prayer, the Sanskrit chant – “Lokha Samasta Sukhenu Bhabantu,” is a call to action to make my thoughts, words and actions work together towards bringing universal peace and joy. In order to achieve that I have to make certain sacrifices. My little sacrifice of giving up a favorite treat becomes powerful when I put the money saved in a piggy bank to add up to a monthly contribution towards my favorite charity. My donating to the charity is accompanied with prayers and good wishes for the recipients. My prayer and small sacrifice becomes a significant action when I join the 5K organized by the charity. To accomplish my goal of running the 5K for my favorite charity I must get and stay physically, mentally and spiritually fit. Realizing and acting to achieve my prayers requires sacrifice and all together become a wish-granting cow. Lord Krishna enlightens my every breath and leads me back to Him in my prayers, sacrifices and actions.
Chapter 3, V 22, 23 – “In the three worlds, there is nothing I must do, nothing unattained to be attained, yet I engage in action.” 3-22
“What if I did not engage relentlessly in action? Men retrace my path at every turn, Arjuna.” 3-23
I am so fortunate that Lord Krishna is relentlessly engaged in action helping me to retrace my steps back to Him. I am currently in my second reading of Stephen Hawking’s, “A Brief History of Time.” I enjoy watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s, “Cosmos – A Spacetime Odyssey.” John Steinbeck’s, “Travels with Charley,” is one of my favorite all time reads. I am not seeking answers. I am broadening my horizon. There are a variety of activities I can engage in all the time and with every conscious action I can retrace my steps back to Krishna. I will evoke Tagore’s Rabingra Sangeet “He Moro Debota.” The poet states that the Lord makes him write, compose and sing so that through the poet’s song the Lord can celebrate His celestial mystery. Discovering that everything I do, think, enact, reflect, are retracing the path back to Krishna. Yes, the Lord cannot rest as he works tirelessly to lead us back to Him. In Arjuna and Lord Krishna I have friends for life.
C3, V33 – “Attraction and hatred are poised in the object of every sense experience; a man must not fall prey to these two brigands lurking on his path!”
Today, July 5, 2018, becomes a memorable day in my readings of The Bhagavad Gita. My wife handed me my mother’s copy of her Bengali Srimad Bhagavad Gita. It is a pocket book edition so she carried it with her everywhere. It is printed by Sri Ramkrishna Belur Maht. Her copy is reprinted December, 2001. The first release was on the auspicious day of Mahalaya, Thursday, October 12, 1939. The author is Swami Jagadishwarnanda. My mother’s copy has a hand sown red satin cloth cover with the word “গীতা”, Gita, sowed in gold colored thread. Now I have an intimate, personal invitation to continue my study and reflection on The Bhagvad Gita.
Today’s selection alerts me to the two distractions that often lead me astray from the path back to Lord Krishna. It is so easy to be attracted. When I do not get the object of my attraction, it sows hatred. The path back to Krishna is very long and narrow. It is my entire lifetime on earth. Fortunately for my faith in Krishna I am always on the path that leads me back to Him. I do fall prey to attraction and hatred. However, after some struggle, strife and soul-searching I feel Krishna tug at my heart. He looks after the weak and the strong. I return to my journey with renewed trust and faith. I will fall by the wayside again. Krishna will be there to lend me a hand.
Chapter 3, V31-32, – “Men who always follow my thought, trusting it without finding fault, are freed even by their actions.” (3, 3-31)
“But those who find fault and fail to follow my thought, know that they are lost fools, deluded by every bit of knowledge.” (3, 3-32)
I find this passage very persuasive when I have to chose an action, or later reflect on an action I performed. In Shakespear’s “Julius Cesar”, Cassius tells his friend Brutus, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” This phrase has been interpreted to mean that fate is not what drives men to their decisions and actions, but rather the human condition. If we listen carefully to Lord Krishna speaking to his friend and pupil, Arjuna, we can hear Him say the same thing. When my actions go wrong, or when events out of my control puts me in an awkward position, or brings about hardship, I quickly and easily blame fate. Did I stop to listen to the voice of Krishna guiding me? Usually they are in the form of doubts which I debate with my reasoning. I silence the doubts when I should silence my reasoning and instead listen intently with my heart. Learn to trust and follow my heart where Krishna resides. Let not what I think is knowledge, common place wisdom, become louder so I cannot hear by now the faint voice of Lord Krishna. I wish every time I can recognize the voice of Lord Krishna and let Him guide my path back to Him.
Chapter 3, V35 – “Your own duty done imperfectly is better than another man’s done well. It is better to die in one’s own duty; another man’s duty is perilous.”
When reading this verse I remind myself that the English word “duty” is not the equivalent of the Sanskrit “dharma”. However, “dharma” here does not equate to a religion, but better as in performing religiously my duty in life. That is with ardor and commitment accept and perform my duty. What I am unclear about is what “another” man is Lord Krishna referring to. If Arjuna were to follow the path of inaction, he would not be performing his duty or dharma. That duty, the duty of fighting the battle, even if performed imperfectly would be better than what “another” man’s done well. Dying in battle, Arjuna would still be performing his duty for himself, friend, family and foe. He will find immorality and be reunited with Lord Krishna. Yet, what other man’s duty would be perilous. Perhaps if Arjuna chose inaction and did not return to his dharma of protecting his family, friends and rightful kingdom in a righteous battle with his foes, while his foes performed their duties well, it would become perilous for his family, friend and kingdom. It would be the ruin of himself, family, friend and kingdom. Therefore Lord Krishna urges him to fight the battle and return to the path leading back to the Lord. Writing my thoughts out have led me to a better understanding of Krishna’s message. Stay steadfast in the face of challenges and perform my dharma. How sweet is the word of the Lord!
Chapter 4, V 3- “This is the ancient discipline that I have taught to you today; you are my devotee and my friend, and this is the deepest mystery.” (4,3)
I open the discussion on Chapter 4 of The Srimad Bhagavad Gita by referring to Ved Vyasa’s Sanskrit title of the chapter “Gyna Yoga”. When studying The Bhagavad Gita, I find it important to remember that reading the Gita is an integral part of my Yoga practices. I choose to use the word “practices” because the word “yoga” encompasses
Chapter 4, V 8 – “To protect men of virtue and destroy men who do evil, to set the standard of sacred duty, I appear in age after age.”
Ever since being gifted my mother’s Bengali Gita, I make it a point to read it alongside my Gita in English. The Bengali renderation of this verse, leads me to believe that this is also a prayer by Lord Krishna. That when “dharma”, our duty to do good and fight evil, is threatened by “adharma”, the forces that collude to subdue good and destroy men who stand for the good, Lord Krishna wishes to reincarnate again and again, amongst men to save, protect and rescue us. How beautiful it is to hear the Lord pray and wish that He is reborn amongst us to protect and lead us back to Him! We men, like Arjuna, are challenged to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect and save ourselves for honest and good causes. Imagine how benevolent Lord Krishna is that He wishes to be reincarnated in a world destitute and held captive by evil so He can rescue those amongst us who have courage to stand up for the good. My sacrifices and struggles to be good, do good pale against a loving God who is forever there to pick me up if I fall by the wayside or am lead astray. Just let me have the will to recognize Him and return to His path.
Chapter 4, V 11
“As they seek refuge in me, I devote myself to them; Arjuna, men retrace my path in every way.”
Lord Krishna stands by the wayside waiting for me to seek refuge in him. It’s so amazing and wonderful that when I do seek his refuge, he, Lord Krishna, devotes himself to me. What a loving and caring God! I only wish and pray that I remember and recall him always, all the time, with every living breath. Not ONLY when I am down and needy. I have a whole lifetime to work on making myself worthy of Lord Krishna. Rabindranath Tagore writes in his song, “Hey Moro Debota”, – I am his vessel. He pours his nectar in me, so he can drink, celebrate and rejoice with his creation. (Gitabitan, Puja, #85)
Chapter 4, V 17 – “One should understand action, understand wrong action, and understand inaction too; the way of action is obscure.” (Barbara Stoler Miller, The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War, 4.17)
I will begin today’s commentary by thanking those of you who are sharing their thoughts and adding comments. I wish to encourage all of you to occasionally share your personal understanding and experience related to the verse quoted. Finally you are welcome to post your own verse selection and commentary. This is of course my first reading with commentaries posted to our study group. Please check the pinned post for guidance on quoting The Bhagavad Gita and adding commentary.
Today’s verse applies to us in many ways. Interpreting the subtle difference between action, inaction and wrong action is exactly as Lord Krishna says “obscure.” In the context of the battle of Kurkshetra, Lord Krishna is trying to convince his best friend and pupil, Arjuna, that he should take up arms and proceed to perform his sacred duty of protecting friend, family and kingdom. To awaken from his stupor and strife. That his choice of inaction will be detrimental. We know Arjuna’s reason for inaction. He does not wish to do battle with family, friends and teachers for kingdoms on earth or heaven. To avoid wrong action he chooses inaction. But that is not his sacred duty, “dharma”. It is to protect his rightful rights of kingdom, and in so doing protect his family and friends, and, his religion. However, the way of action is fraught with perils, challenges, struggles, sacrifice. It appears obscure. Only that Lord Krishna who has devoted himself to his service will be there all the way, even as his family and friends fall like flies on the battlefield. Lord Krishna will show him the way back to him. The way of action is the right choice.
I am often challenged to look away from stressful situations. The path of action is too challenging to consider. Mostly because I am afraid that I will make a wrong choice and take a wrong and difficult turn. How do I learn to listen to Lord Krishna? If I am attached to the fruits of my actions, I am probably making the wrong choice. No wonder Lord Krishna will soon ask Arjuna to detach himself from the fruits of action. If I remember the Sanskrit slokha, “Lokha samasta sukhenu bhabantu,” I can hope that everything I do will promote peace and harmony in my life and contribute to the peace and harmony of all.
Chapter 4, V 35 -“Arjuna, when you have realized this, you will not descend into delusion again; knowledge will let you see creatures within yourself and so in me.”
Knowledge, “Gayna”, here is synonymous with wisdom. Wisdom that allows me to see within myself and see without. Such wisdom when granted by Lord Krishna will save me from descending into delusion, confusion, and inaction. Such wisdom will allow me to see Lord Krishna’s wonders everywhere and in everything. I will learn to trust my judgement illumined by the word of the Lord, choose the right path, and perform actions without seeking the fruits of my actions. When I can detach myself from my actions, I will not be afraid to act, to perform my “karma”, my “dharma” and all the time I will be growing in my love for Krishna and all of his creation. I will be able to walk steadily on the narrow path leading back to Him. Even as I live it out my life and abide my time in this world, I will not loose sight of my real purpose. To be reunited with Lord Krishna by humble submission, by asking questions, and by service; service to the Lord and to all of his creation.
Chapter 5, V 23 – “Since he knows that discipline means unbinding the bonds of suffering, he should practice discipline resolutely, without despair dulling his reason.”
I heed Lord Krishna’s advice. I would describe my mind, my thoughts, as a wondering mind in need of discipline. It is probably the reason for my suffering and despair. I do not suffer from lack of food, or shelter, or clothing, other comforts or even companions. I have been blessed many times over and enjoy the fruits of love and labor. For a long time I have sought to discipline my mind. I practice mindful breathing, teaching my mind to focus on following my breathing in and out. I also find joy in reading the Lord’s book, taking the name of my Guruji, spending more and more time in prayer and reflection. My despair is that I cannot discipline my mind to continue take the Lord’s name with every breath. That is the discipline I aspire.
Chapter 6, V 30 – “He who sees me everywhere and sees everything in me will not be lost to me, and I will not be lost to him.”
Just a few verses earlier, I had felt despair that I could not keep my mind, my thoughts entirely focused on the Lord for all living breaths. Now, here is my answer. With my eyes open or closed, I must find and see the Lord everywhere, in everything. It should not be tough to do this every time my mind wanders. Remind myself to know and recognize the Lord in everything, everywhere.