Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bhagavad Gita Interpretations

What business you have got to poke your nose and give interpretation? Are you bigger than Krsna? Krsna left it for you? This nonsense going on. Big, big swamis, big, big yogis, big, big politicians, simply misinterpreting, he's spoiling his own life and he's spoiling others. Bas. This is going on. Very serious condition.

- Srila Prabhupada - Room Conversation Aug 14 1976 Bombay

Srila Prabhupada in many places criticized interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita by modern day scholars. Till date, I have not seen in writing these interpretations. I happened to browse Wikipedia and found the following interpretations of famous scholars and saintly people.

Personally, I think it is highly inappropriate to interpret the words of Krishna completely out of context. To add allegorical and symbolic meanings and conclusions to Krishna's words implies Krishna is a mythical figure. In the Bhagavad Gita, clearly, Krishna establishes Himself as the Supreme Being without par. By discrediting and extrapolating His words, scholars reject Krishna as the Supreme entity. It is precisely for this reason, Krishna Himself says to Arjuna that this mysterious science of the Gita can be understood only by His (Krishna's) friends' and devotees'. Others are not privy to this mysterious science.

Below are interpretations which are not directly mentioned anywhere by the original author Krishna.

Eknath Easwaran writes that the Gita's subject is "the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious" and "The language of battle is often found in the scriptures, for it conveys the strenuous, long, drawn-out campaign we must wage to free ourselves from the tyranny of the ego, the cause of all our suffering and sorrow."

Swami Nikhilananda, takes Arjuna as an allegory of Ātman, Krishna as an allegory of Brahman, Arjuna's chariot as the body, and Dhritarashtra as the ignorance filled mind.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, in his commentary on the Gita, interprets the battle as "an allegory in which the battlefield is the soul and Arjuna, man's higher impulses struggling against evil".

Swami Vivekananda also emphasized that the first discourse in the Gita related to the war could be taken allegorically. Vivekananda further remarked, "This Kurukshetra War is only an allegory. When we sum up its esoteric significance, it means the war which is constantly going on within man between the tendencies of good and evil." He continues, "If one reads this one Shloka (BG 2.3), one gets all the merits of reading the entire Gita; for in this one Shloka lies imbedded the whole Message of the Gita." (this is not the conclusion of the Gita according to Krishna!)

 In Aurobindo's view, Krishna was a historical figure, but his significance in the Gita is as a "symbol of the divine dealings with humanity",while Arjuna typifies a "struggling human soul".However, Aurobindo rejected the interpretation that the Gita, and the Mahabharata by extension, is "an allegory of the inner life, and has nothing to do with our outward human life and actions":

Swami Krishnananda regards the characters and the circumstances depicted in the Bhagavad Gita as symbolic of various moods, vicissitudes, and facets of human life. He highlights the universal applicability of the Gita to human life by saying that "It is not the story of some people that lived some time ago but a characterization of all people that may live at any time in the history of the world"

Swami Chinmayananda  writes, "Here in the Bhagavad Gita, we find a practical handbook of instruction on how best we can re-organize our inner ways of thinking, feeling, and acting in our everyday life and draw from ourselves a larger gush of productivity to enrich the life around us, and to emblazon the subjective life within us"

Hare Krishna

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fruits of work

Every day we see and hear so many good and bad things happening around us. We wonder normally, how such good or bad incidences happen without any apparent reason. We get a promotion in our office or get a bonus or have an innocent accident and end up in the ICU etc etc. While so many things happen around us daily and human beings are busy trying to troubleshoot them, rarely, do we inquire to the sources of happiness and distress in our lives? We normally attribute such good or bad to some known immediate cause or attribute it as “accident” (meaning unknown cause).

The Bhagavad Gita clearly explains that none of the experiences of our lives are an accident. It is predestined by our past actions which we make based on our free will. The consequences of our actions of our past come back to us as good or bad actions of the present. So it is imperative to know how to act and how not to.

Below are references (sixteen) from the Bhagavad Gita on work, and fruits of work. Our attachments to the fruits of our present work determines our future states of existence. 

You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty. 2.47

O Dhanañjaya, keep all abominable activities far distant by devotional service, and in that consciousness surrender unto the Lord. Those who want to enjoy the fruits of their work are misers. 2.49

Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme. 3.19

One who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth, O mighty-armed, does not engage himself in the senses and sense gratification, knowing well the differences between work in devotion and work for fruitive results. 3.28

Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings. 4.20

One who acts in devotional service, renouncing the fruits of his actions, and whose doubts have been destroyed by transcendental knowledge, is situated factually in the self. Thus he is not bound by the reactions of work, O conqueror of riches. 4.41

One who neither hates nor desires the fruits of his activities is known to be always renounced. Such a person, free from all dualities, easily overcomes material bondage and is completely liberated, O mighty-armed Arjuna. 5.3

One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water. 5.10

The steadily devoted soul attains unadulterated peace because he offers the result of all activities to Me; whereas a person who is not in union with the Divine, who is greedy for the fruits of his labor, becomes entangled. 5.12

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty. 6.1

But those who worship Me, giving up all their (fruitive) activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Pṛthā — for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death. 12.6-7

If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind. 12.12

Without desiring fruitive results, one should perform various kinds of sacrifice, penance and charity with the word tat. The purpose of such transcendental activities is to get free from material entanglement. 17.25

O Arjuna, when one performs his prescribed duty only because it ought to be done, and renounces all material association and all attachment to the fruit, his renunciation is said to be in the mode of goodness. 18.9

It is indeed impossible for an embodied being to give up all activities. But he who renounces the fruits of action is called one who has truly renounced. 18.11

That action which is regulated and which is performed without attachment, without love or hatred, and without desire for fruitive results is said to be in the mode of goodness. 18.23

Hare Krishna

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I want that stick

"I want that stick." (twigs of eucalyptus trees to use as toothbrushes).It was a very small one. Hrdayananda Maharaja heard Prabhupada. He said, "Prabhupada wants that. Come on, bring it down, bring it down." He wanted to give it to Prabhupada. So we made a pyramid of men, with three men on the bottom then two men on top of them, and one skinny devotee climbed on top. When the devotee stood and reached up, he was still about fifty centimeters short. But when he made an effort to reach it, the whole pyramid fell to the ground. Prabhupada was watching them, smiling and laughing. Again they made the pyramid bigger, and the devotee tried to reach it again, but again they fell down. Then more devotees tried. They became wet because of the grass, and Hrdayananda Maharaja was very excited, saying, "Come on, Prabhupada wants that. Prabhupada wants that. Keep moving." Prabhupada was smiling at the fun, sometimes watching the twig and sometimes watching the devotees. A third time they tried the pyramid, and it fell down. But the fourth time it worked, and the devotee stood up and broke the twig from the tree, He gave it to Hrdayananda Maharaja, who gave it to Prabhupada, Prabhupada held it in his hand, inspected it for a minute, and then threw it away.

- From "Prabhupada-lila" by HH Satsvarupa dasa Goswami

Hare Krishna

Monday, March 4, 2013

Forgiveness in Krsna consciousness

What is forgiveness and letting go in Krishna Consciousness? Is it that you have someone who has hurt you, but you forgive them in your mind and let go since you need to move forward? Or forgive them and continue talking to them as normal? How do you define forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a very critical part of character development. Forgiveness has a significant impact upon who we are *within*, i.e. how we conduct our internal lives. Forgiveness or the lack of it also very often defines the nature of our relationships with those who are close to us.

To forgive means to give up resentment, anger or bitterness towards another person. Even though an offense will often involve another person or persons, forgiveness involves just one person - us. It means that we, unilaterally and unconditionally, cease to be resentful. It does not require apriori that the offense has been rectified, or the offender has apologized. It simply means that we individually and unconditionally decide to move on.

Please note that forgiveness does not mean condoning the offense, nor does it mean that we are obliged to continue exposing ourselves to the offender. We may very well condemn the offense, while asking for its rectification; or we may distance ourselves from the offender, while forgiving at the same time. "Forgive the sinner, not the sin" is a Biblical teaching that applies nicely here. Essential is to clearly separate the good soul from the aberrant behavior. Lesson #1 in spiritual life is to see ourselves, as well as others, as spirit soul -- *not* merely a set of behaviors.

The "how-to" part of the forgiveness depends on how we are spiritually situated in our Krishna consciousness.

At a very basic level, forgiveness comes from the need for self preservation. Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We rarely take offense at what strangers do to us. So the issue of forgiveness comes typically with those who are close and important to us. Not forgiving causes these relationships to become bitter. When a person realizes this, then he or she forgives simply because it is difficult to survive the other way. A contemporary example of this is Andy and Kate Grosmaire who publicly forgave Conor McBride, the killer of their daughter. "We’re not offering a pardon to him,’’ Andy Grosmaire said. “The forgiveness frees us. It keeps us from going to prison with Conor." While this may seem to be a self motivated and material platform, it is in fact a very exalted platform in the mode of goodness, one that most of us are rarely able to even comprehend.

A person who is more spiritually advanced will forgive understanding that every thing is happening to him because of his own destiny only, or the law of karma. There is one and only one person who is responsible for the good and bad things - and that is he himself. In such a situation, a person forgives understanding that the other person is simply a tool to make this happen, "an instrument of one's own karma" Srila Prabhupada once described. A contemporary example of this is the forgiveness the Amish community at Nickel Mines in South Lancaster County gave to Charles Roberts who had shot ten of their school girls and killed five of them. The killer was an outsider to the community, who subsequently killed himself. What was remarkable about this forgiveness was that it was instantaneous and went beyond letting go of the resentment. Parents of the girls who were killed by Charles attended his funeral, comforted his widow and raised funds to provide financial aid for his family. When asked what was the driving force for this forgiveness they shared the following prayer to the Lord from the Bible, “Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who transgressed against us.” Even though there is no explicit acknowledgement of the law of karma, this comes very close to it. One who forgives is forgiven, and visa versa.

A person who is more spiritually advanced will forgive, understanding that everything is happening because of the mercy of Lord Krishna. Since he sees Krishna's hand everywhere, he understands that offenses which persons commit are for his own purification and thus does not hold the other person responsible. We see this described nicely in SB 11 Canto 23, sometimes called the Bhikhsu Gita sung by the Avanti brahman. This individual at one time was very prosperous but greedy. A series of events left him destitute and all his friends and family deserted him, insulted and derided him. Initially he resents them all. But, after going through some introspection, he forgives them with the following understanding (SB 11.23.28) . "The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Hari, who contains within Himself all the demigods, must be satisfied with me. Indeed, He has brought me to this suffering condition and forced me to experience detachment, which is the boat to carry me over this ocean of material life." Such an exalted platform can only be achieved by one firmly practicing Krishna consciousness.

Finally, at the most exalted platform of Krishna consciousness, there is no question of forgiveness, since such devotees are incapable of taking offense. When one forgives, there is a tacit understanding that I am right and you are wrong. Exalted devotees are so steeped in humility, so firmly anchored in their relationship to Krishna, that they are incapable of even seeing the offense of others. An example of this is the great devotee king, Ambarisa Maharaja, in SB 9, Cantos 4-5. Even though he was insulted, berated and even attacked by Durvasa Muni, he could not see any offense. Later, when out of the desire for self preservation Durvasa Muni begs for his forgiveness, Ambarisa Maharaja instead of feeling vindicated actually becomes ashamed. "When Durvasa touched his lotus feet Maharaja Ambarisa was very much ashamed, and when he saw Durvasa attempting to offer prayers, because of mercy he was aggrieved even more." SB 9.5.2, This is a symptom of genuine humility and the fact that a maha-bhagavat always sees every one and everything in relationship to the Lord.

In order to practice forgiveness, one must first understand the need for it; practice it according to one's adhikar or advancement in Krishna consciousness while aspiring to make spiritual advancement through careful practice of the process of devotional service to Krishna.

Answer by H.H.Romapada Swami

Hare Krishna

Saturday, March 2, 2013

cause-effect paradigm

As long as we are in the mode of cause and effect, we will not be able to understand God. This whole world is based on the concept of cause and effect. People are constantly trying to find the cause and evaluate its' effects.

For example, when the Gopis of Vrindavan left all causes such as husband, children, home, duties etc for seeing Krishna in the dead of night simply at the call of Krishna's flute, modern scholars study this pastime within the cause-effect paradigm and conclude that Krishna is a cheap man dancing with other men's wives'. When Krishna lifted the Govadhan Hill as a seven year old boy, the incident is treated with skepticism. How can a seven year old boy lift a large mountain with His pinkie finger of His left hand and keep it aloft for seven days without eating or sleeping? In order to reconcile this fantastic event, modern day scholars conclude these are mythological stories with some moral message. They say this because they determine Krishna's effects' as coming from another outside cause. In other words, they try to find a cause to the existence and pastimes of Krishna as separate from each other. His existence which is the cause is different from His pastimes which is the effect of His existential cause. This sort of thinking is due to material vision about Krishna.

Pure devotee scholars, however, nullify this material conception of cause and effect. In the spiritual paradigm, the cause is the same as the effect. Although there is variety and individuality, still the cause and effect are the same - non dual. Hence Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, that there was never a time that any of us did not exist. In other words, we existed in the past, exist in the present and will exist in the future. We did not come into being and will not come into being. We are eternal and primeval. Although Krishna is the cause of all causes, still from these verses, we infer that we are also causeless. Therefore if there is no tangible cause, how can there be a tangible effect arising from that cause?

Therefore in the spiritual paradigm, the cause and effect is always sat-chit-and-ananda - eternality-cognizance-blissfulness. To intellectually comprehend this phenomenon is impossible just as it is impossible to trace our fall down into the material world. We cannot trace our fall down because there is no tangible cause. One can also argue this in a different way - because there is no cause and effect, we actually did not fall down - we simply have forgotten Krishna hence it appears as if we are in the material world. I think (not fully sure) Srila Prabhupada gives this explanation in the book - Quest for Enlightenment.

So, when the Gopis abandoned all material causes to approach Krishna in the dead of night, their cause was love and their effect was also love. Similarly when we also abandon our desire to find good and bad causes within this material world, we will not lament and hanker for its effects. Only in this condition, can we single-mindedly focus our attention at the Lotus Feet of the Lord, thus focussing, achieve the goal of ananya bhakti or undeviating love for Krishna as the Cause of all Causes, just as the exalted Gopis did.

Hare Krishna