Chapter 6, V 41 – “Fallen in discipline, he reaches worlds made by his virtue, wherein he dwells for endless years, until he is reborn in a house of upright and noble men.”
Every time I come to this passage I wonder with amazement for Lord Krishna is such a loving and forgiving Lord. Arjuna asks what hope is there for men who strive and fail at discipline. Especially because the path of discipline is so challenging. Ordinary men falter and fall. But Lord Krishna is satisfied that he has tried to to be virtuous. Lord Krishna will wait for as many lifetimes it might take such a man to complete his journey to be reunited with his master and maker.
Chapter 1, V 1 – “Dhritarashtra – Sanjaya, tell me what my sons and the sons of Pandu did when they met, wanting to battle on the field of Kuru, on the field of sacred duty?”
I can sense the dead weight on Dhritarashtra’s heart and mind. Both sides are called to stand for their sacred duty to their family and friends. Yet only one side will emerge victorious. We know who that side is. Yet the side who will lose has chosen to fight for what they perceived to be their sacred duty. Or defend with their lives what they perceived as their sacred duty to their family and friends. Perhaps Sanjaya who has been the gift of seeing before, after and now, can already lift the heaviness that weighs down Dhritarashtra’s heart.
Chapter 1, V 46. “Saying this in the time of war, Arjuna slumped into the chariot and laid down his bow and arrows.”
On the battlefield Arjuna is tormented by the grief of having to slay his family members and teachers. Often the path to righteousness is strewn with obstacles near and dear to our heart. Some figuratively are relatives; you may call them distractions. They reside deep in our hearts and mind. Distractions and our attachment to them, make it very difficult to follow the righteous path, especially when the path is narrow and precipitous. Arjuna is fortunate he can turn to Krishna for guidance and wisdom. Later in the dialogue the Lord will tell us himself that when we put our trust in the Lord, His love for us will keep us from going astray or making wrong choices. Always trust in the Lord to show you the right way.
Chapter 2, V 14 – “When these cannot torment a man, when suffering and joy are equal for him and he has courage, he is fit for immortality.”
Arjuna is not afraid of death. Arjuna is not wary of the outcome of the battle. Arjuna’s dilema is that he does not wish to fight a battle where his loved and dear ones will be slayed at his own hands. Elders will not receive the traditional offering of rice ball and water. Corruption and pestilence will rule the world. How will his friend and master comfort him? Give him courage to wage a futile battle? Muster his armies? Lord Krishna leads his best pupil on a journey of discovery. Arjuna will come to understand that Krishna will never abandon him. Even when we forget the Lord in suffering or joy, all roads will lead to Him. In Him, known or unknown, we will see the bounty of the universe. Tagore writes in the Gitanjali, LXV, – the Lord pours and fills us with his “Amrita” or elixir so that He can drink thirstily.
Chapter 2, V 40 – “No effort in this world is lost or wasted; a fragment of sacred duty saves you from great fear.”
Lord Krishna is urging his pupil and friend Arjuna to take up his sacred duty. His message of selfless service in the sacred duty of preserving family and friends resonates with me as the call to serve mankind. My effort begins with remembering everyday to sincerely pray for universal peace, happiness and joy, especially for the poor and distressed. Since learning the ancient Sanskrit prayer – “Loka Samastha Sukhenu Bhababtu” – I repeat the prayer through out the day. Hoping that my effort will go a long way to help bring about universal peace, happiness and joy.
Chapter 2, V 55, – “When suffering does not disturb his mind, when his craving for pleasures has vanished, when attraction, fear, and anger are gone, he is called a sage whose thought is sure.”
Lord Krishna prepares his friend and best pupil, Arjuna, for the longest journey ahead. In the context of the Mahabharata and the battle of Kurukshetra, it is apparent it must be the impending battle, the suffering and grief clouding Arjuna’s judgement. Krishna wants Arjuna to look before and after the battle. Understand that all roads lead to him, for the philosopher, the man of prayer and discipline, for the soldier, for the weak and the strong, in suffering and joy, for kingdoms on earth, for the heavenly kingdom, steadfast in His belief all roads lead to him. Along the way we will surmount suffering, enjoy and subdue pleasure and attraction, overcome and look beoynd fear. Our hearts and mind as focused as a sage. Each of us a sage. Living our lives with the blessings of a loving and forgiving God, we shall all as sages be sure and steadfast in our journey to reunion with Lord Krishna. That is why The Word of the Lord, The Bhagavad Gita, is so sweet!
Chapter 2, V59, – “Even when a man of wisdom tries to control them, Arjuna, the bewildering senses attack his mind with violence.”
Lord Krishna could not have been less emphatic. Our senses confuse us and cloud our paths. Even as we consciously practice meditation to gain and maintain peace and sanctity, our senses distract us down to our very core. Memories, worries, dreams and hopes, nostalgia, relationships, claw and tear. Violently. We desert our meditation. In this context it might be best to recognize and become familiar with the teachings of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn. Thich, teacher in Vietnamese, is the author of many books on Mindful Breathing. Mindful Breathing is a practice that teaches me to trust my conscious breathing in and out to clear confusion. Thich teaches to recognize and rely on my natural act of breathing. Breathing is essential to my life. Mindful Breathing teaches me to breathe in and out calmly, consciously. I welcome my distractions, dreams and hopes, worries, pain and suffering. I let them dwell and coexist with my Mindful Breathing. I don’t struggle to DRIVE them away. After they have visited me, I return to listening and following my breathing. Trusting in Lord Krishna I will continue on my path and let Him lead me back to Him. Tagore writes in The Gitanjali song কুসুমে, কুসুমে, I shall not worry where the path leads, because I can still hear the flute playing, and the Lord leaves petals so I can trace His footsteps.
Chapter 2, V61-64 – “Brooding about sensuous objects makes attachment to them grow; from attachment desire arises, from desire anger is born.” 2, 2.61
“From anger comes confusion; from confusion memory lapses; from broken memory understanding is lost; from loss of understanding, he is ruined.” 2, 2.62
“But a man of inner strength whose senses experience objects without attraction and hatred, in self-control, finds serenity.” 2, 2.63
“In serenity, all his sorrows dissolve; his reason becomes serene, his understanding sure.” 2, 2.64
My reading of The Bhagvad Gita are insights into my own life. I confess I have attachments, desires, anger, and confusion. Yes, sometimes my confusion leads me to believe or mistrust a trail of events. At times the cloud of confusion is so dark, that I am led to believe my life is ruined. My attachments to family and friends and all their interactions brings about a lot of brooding. Especially in the sequence of events, the course of a conversation gone wrong that leads to confusion and anger. From broken memory understanding is lost. What was near and dear love is now apparently ruined.
To my rescue comes the words of Lord Krishna poured into the willing ears of his best pupil Arjuna. That Arjuna had confusion which almost led to his ruin, is also a comforting truth. Through Arjuna the Lord speaks to all of us. He teaches me how to discover and develop my inner strength and find serenity. When I trust in the Lord everything that seems lost is not ruined. With every Mindful Breath I feel Krishna’s love, joy and happiness. My plunge into ruins is halted by the rising sense of serenity as Krishna’s love for the weak rescues me. I must learn to objectively work through my attachments, desires, anger, confusion and loss of understanding. I must try to help Lord Krishna. I know He works tirelessly to help me through my journey back to Him. Only I must work harder to become and stay a man of serenity. I am thankful I am steadfast in my love of Krishna.
Chapter 2, V 65 – “Without discipline, he has no understanding or inner power; without inner power, he has no peace; and without peace where is joy?”
I quote this verse because I am reminded of the Sanskrit prayer – “Lokah Samasta Sukhenu Bhabantu.” In my practice of daily prayer, meditation and study of The Bhagavad Gita, I consciously chant this peace mantra. An acceptable English transcription I repeat after saying the Sanskrit mantra is – “I pray for peace, joy and happiness for all the people all over the world, and especially for those in struggle. I pray that my thoughts, words and actions contribute towards that world peace.” When I hear Lord Krishna tell his best pupil Arjuna that without peace there is no joy, I am deeply touched. We live in a world of growing global distress and distrust. Thousands go hungry and homeless brought about by our individual differences and failure to accept diversity in thought and action. I wish to rise above praying for self to praying for world peace and stability. Lord Krishna evokes this feeling in me. If we can all join in a moment of peace prayer, together we can make the world happy and joyful. How resonant is Krishna’s words to this day! May He help us all find peace, happiness and joy.
Chapter 2, V 72, – “This is the place of the infinite spirit; achieving it, one is freed from delusion; abiding in it even at the time of death, one finds the pure calm of infinity.”
Love and devotion (This) to Lord Krishna frees from delusion. For myself delusion is the belief that I am engaging my time in fruitful activities. Including time for prayer and reflection, time for household chores, time for gardening, time for financial management, time for planning trips. Deluding myself. How do I attain the night of the sages? When I am free from engaging my heart and soul from the fruits of action. Sinking into the eternal peace that is the infinite spirit of Lord Krishna. The calm of infinity. No further need to seek engagement. Especially of the mind. Living, breathing Sri Krishna.
The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, Gayna Yoga, Knowledge, Verse 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.” (Barbara Stoler Miller)
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.”(Barbara Stoler Miller, The Bhagavad Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in the Time of War)
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)