Log in

Exploring the Gita's Journal
[Most Recent Entries] [Calendar View] [Friends]

Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Exploring the Gita's LiveJournal:

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009
10:35 pm
Chapter 3, 3.1 - 3.7
My cat knocked my copy of the Gita off the shelf the other day, reminding me that it was long past time I got into Chapter Three. It is fitting that an action brought me back to this task because Chapter Three is all about actions.

On a modly note: I have deleted the previous post not because it was offensive, but because it was time-sensitive and had run its course.

3.1 "If thy thought is that vision is greater than action, why dost thou enjoin upon me the terrible action of war?"

3.2 "My mind is in confusion because in thy words I find contradictions. Tell me in truth therefore by what path may I attain the Supreme."
Has Krishna contradicted himself or is Arjuna not hearing the whole of what he has said?

3.3 "In this world there are two roads of perfection, as I told thee before, O prince without sin: Jñana Yoga, the path of wisdom of the Sankhyas, and Karma Yoga, the path of action of the Yogis."

Indeed, in 2.11 to 2.39, Krishna taught of the wisdom of the Sankhya, the vision of the eternal and the Spirit. In 2.39 to 2.53, he speaks of Yoga, the path of the eternal and freedom from bondage. He speaks of working in the peace of Yoga.

3.4 "Not by refraining from action does man attain freedom from action. Not by mere renunciation does he attain supreme perfection."

The quote, "Not to decide is to decide" is attributed to theologian Harvey Cox, but here we see a far earlier rendition of the sentiment. One does not absolve oneself of the responsibility to act in a given situation simply by not acting. The situation still remains. Not acting is an action in and of itself, and carries consequences that are often worse than those of acting.

When Krishna first speaks to Arjuna of the consequences of not fighting, he stresses that whether Arjuna wins or loses, the outcome is far better than not fighting at all.

The second sentence is worth study in and of itself. "Not by mere renunciation does he attain supreme perfection." While renunciation is an honored path, if it is not meant to be a means of escape from one's work, whatever that may be. As in other spiritual traditions, withdrawing from the world is not to be done in a sense of running away from worldly obligations, but running toward spiritual duties.

3.5 "For not even for a moment can a man be without action. Helplessly are all driven to action by the forces of Nature."

3.6 "He who withdraws himself from actions, but ponders no their pleasures in his heart, he is under a delusion and is a false follower of the Path."

I know that I cannot read this line without thinking of the times I have thought myself clever in sitting back and letting things work themselves out as "God intended". Was that God's intention or laziness on my part when I should have stepped up and taken action?

3.7 "But great is the man who, free from attachments, and with a mind ruling its powers in harmony, works on the path of Karma Yoga, the path of consecrated action."

So it is not merely acting, but doing so without attachment and and in a mindful way.

Current Mood: productive
Thursday, September 11th, 2008
8:41 pm
Chapter 2, 2:66 - 2:72
Thank you for your patience with me. In the past few days, I have been reminded of the Gita in many ways from many sources. I took this as a sign that it was high time I returned to this commentary. And so, we complete Chapter 2!

2:66 "There is no wisdom for a man without harmony, and without harmony there is no contemplation. Without contemplation there cannot be peace, and without peace can there be joy?"

The roots of peace are within ourselves. If we fail to attend to our own inner harmony, we cannot achieve true peace and joy. Everything hinges on quieting our inner turmoil so that we can, through contemplation, open ourselves to wisdom. So it is that the Gita suggests meditation as a foundation of life.

2:67 "For when the mind becomes bound to a passion of the wandering senses, this passion carries away man's wisdom, even as the wisdom, even as the wind drives a vessel on the waves."

We Americans put a lot of stock in passion. We throw the word "love" around to describe everything from our spouse to our cars to brands of cat food. We are exhorted at work to be passionate bout our jobs. We argue passionately about our politics. We are taught that allowing ourselves to be carried away is not only desired, but expected.

To pursue a contemplative life has never been easy. If it were so, we would not need roadmaps like the Gita.

2:68 "The man who therefore in recollection withdraws his senses from the pleasures of sense, his is a serene wisdom."

Think back on 2:66. The route to joy is through contemplation, not "the pleasures of sense". True joy is gained through pursuing wisdom, not passions. Think of the radiant joy you feel in the presence of one like the Dalai Lama. Serene wisdom.

2:69 "In the dark night of all beings awakes to Light the tranquil man. But what is day to other beings is night for the sage who sees."

In reading this, I am reminded of the treatise of St. John of the Cross: The Dark Night of the Soul. Writing perhaps 2000 years later, St. John of the Cross describes coming to the peace and love of God through a metaphorical night of suffering (the following link is to Loreena McKennit's adaption of the stanza):

"Upon that misty night
in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
than that which burned so deeply in my heart

That fire t'was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come"

The night becomes brighter than the day to the man who lives in the serenity of wisdom. What others would see as an impediment, the wise man finds the path to God. Even suffering becomes a part of the road to enlightenment.

2:70 "Even as all waters flow into the ocean, but the ocean never overflows, even so the sage feels desires, but he is ever one with his infinite peace."

The wise man does not become an inhuman machine, rather, he feels the same desires and even passion. The difference is that he takes them in stride rather than allowing them to overcome him. He lives in a state not just of peace, but of "infinite peace", one that can take the assault of emotions and remain undisturbed.

2:71 "For the man who forsakes all desires and abandons all pride of posession and of self reaches the goal of peace supreme."

Abandoning "pride of posession and of self" is not something commonly sought by people nowadays. We are absorbed in getting the newest, biggest, shiniest posessions and showing them off. We are taught that pride of self is not only desired, but essential to get along in this world. Again, the wise man walks the opposite path.

2:72 "This is the Eternal in man, O Arjuna. Reaching him all delusion is gone. Even in the last hour of his life upon Earth, man can reach the Nirvana of Brahman -- man can find peace in the peace of God."

Once again, St. John of the Cross:

"I lost myself to him
and laid my face upon my lovers breast
And care and grief grew dim
as in the mornings mist became the light
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair."

Current Mood: peaceful
Friday, July 18th, 2008
10:34 pm
Hello all,

Please do not think I have abandoned this effort. I am merely on a brief hiatus owing to the fact that I am moving house. The next entry will be up as soon as I can slow down long enough to properly think on it. There is a time for action, and a time for contemplation. My time for contemplation will resume soon.

Current Mood: busy
Saturday, April 5th, 2008
10:44 pm
Chapter 2, 2:60 - 2:65

2:60 "The restless violence of the senses impetuously carries away the mind of even a wise man striving towards perfection."

So much is said in one little sentence! Sense themselves can be violent, and lead the mind astray. Even the man striving for perfection is at their mercy. In one way, it is a caution. In another, it says that we not uniquely at risk of succumbing to our senses.

2:61 "Bringing them all into the harmony of recollection, let him sit in devotion and union, his soul finding rest in me. For when his senses are in harmony, then his is a serene wisdom."

This is a very important verse to the Krishna conciousness movement. Swami Prabudhapa, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement (International Society for Krishna Consciousness or ISKC) translates it: "One who restrains his senses, keeping them under full control, and fixes his consciousness upon Me, is known as a man of steady intelligence." In the verse, Krishna is saying that sitting in devotion and fixing the mind on Him will help bring about harmony of the senses. It is interesting to note that Mascaro uses the term wisdom where Prabudhapa uses intelligence.

This is also more generally a verse supporting Bhakti, or devotional yoga.

But Krishna does not stop at defining the yoga of devotion. Over the next few verses, he give practical instructions.

2:62 "When a man dwells o the pleasures of sense, attraction for them arises in him. From attraction arises desire, the lust of posession, and this leads to passion, anger."

2:63 " From passion comes confusion of mind, then loss of remembrance, the forgetting of duty. From this loss comes the ruin of reason, and the ruin of reason leads man to destruction."

See the Second Noble truth: the root cause of suffering is desire.

2:64 ""But the soul that moves in the world of the senses and yet keeps the senses in harmony, free from attraction and aversion, finds rest in quietness."

The third Noble Truth: the end of suffering. Suffering ceases when a man rids himself of desires.

Neither Buddhist doctrine nor the verses here are advocating ridding oneself of senses or avoiding them by retreating from the world. It is desire that is faulted.

2:65 "In this quietness falls down the burden of all her sorrows, for when the heart has found quietness, wisdom has also found peace."

Current Mood: peaceful
Thursday, February 21st, 2008
11:32 pm
Chapter 2, 2:51 - 2:59
2:51 "Seers in union with wisdom forsake the rewards of their work, and free from the bonds of birth, they go to the abode of salvation"

The sanskrit word Mascaro translates as "seers in union with wisdom" is buddhi-yuktaḥ. There are many translations of this term: "a man engaged in devotional service", "the yogi of equal mindedness" or "one endowed with spiritual intelligence". The meanings are equivalent: the man living in the wisdom of work, living Yoga, does not do so for reward: the work itself is important. Living in this manner, they go outside of the world of success and failure, good and bad, and break the cycle of rebirth.

2:52 "When thy mind leaves behind its dark forest of delusion, thou shalt go beyond the scriptures of times past and still to come."

Wisdom becomes inherent, and reference to outside sources is unnecessary (if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him).

2:53 "When thy mind, that may be wavering in the contradictions of many scriptures, shall rest unshaken in divine contemplation, then the goal of Yoga is thine."

The seer in union with wisdom comes to find that all scripture is one; that it is only contradictory on the surface. The person comes to rest in simple contemplation of the divine.

2:54 "How is the man of tranquil wisdom, who abides in divine contemplation? What are his words? What is his silence? What is his work?"

2:55 "When a man surrenders all desires that come to the heart and by the grace of God finds the joy of God, then his soul has indeed found peace"

Note the wording here: "When a man surrrenders all desires...". The choice of the word surrender is quite telling. Men often struggle with desires as though at war with themselves. Surrender is a voluntary process of letting go, and does not require outside influence.

2:56 "He whose mind is untroubled by sorrows, and for pleasures he has no longings, beyond passion, and fear and anger, he is the sage of unwavering mind."

It is worth noting that the above passages illustrate the similarities and differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. The ideal in both is to go beyond desires, passions, anger, fear, pleasure and sorrow. However, to the Buddhist, one acheives this goal within one's self, and not "by the grace of God". Of the same base scriptures of the Vedanta have come two different approaches.

2:57 "Who everywhere is free from all ties, who neither rejoices nor sorrows if fortune is good or ill, his is a serene wisdom."

Freedom from extremes once again is similar to the Middle Path.

2:58 "When in recollection he withdraws all his senses from the attractions of the pleasures of sense, even as a tortoise withdraws all its limbs, then his is a serene wisdom."

Even in recalling fond memories, the yogi does not indulge in the sense of pleasure they bring.

2:59 "Pleasures of sense, but not desires, disappear from the austere soul. Even desires disappear when the soul has seen the Supreme."

Here, Krishna acknowledges that desires are a difficult burden to release one's self from. But, coming into enlightenment, desires can be released as well.

Current Mood: cheerful
Sunday, January 27th, 2008
10:29 pm
Chapter 2, 2:47 - 2:50
2:47 "Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward. Work not for a reward, but never cease to do thy work."

What is your work? In Arjuna's case, it is fighting. For someone else, it may be constructing a building, or writing about the news, or pushing a broom. Whatever work you are called upon to do in your life, out your heart into it. It is a mistake to think of work in terms of reward. Recall 2:43 and 2:44, where Krishna warns against making a heaven of selfish desires, and praying for pleasure and power. Working in anticipation of rewards, whether cash, privilege or power, means that your heart is is on the reward, not the work.

It is the same when considering spiritual work. When doing your practice, your mind should not be on what you will gain, but on your practice. Simply meditating or praying or doing yoga to show that you are the most pious or the most limber may gain you prestige, but it does nothing to develop your soul.

The second admonition Krishna makes is to never cease working. Putting aside thought of reward does not mean that working or earning money is beneath you, quite the contrary, it means that you are putting all of your concentration and heart into whatever job you do, regardless of reward, so making money is neither good nor bad.

2:48 "Do thy work in the peace of Yoga and, free from selfish desires, be not moved in success or in failure. Yoga is evenness of mind --a peace that is ever the same."

When work is done without anticipation of reward, success and failure become meaningless. When you are satisfied that you have put your entire heart into your work, success or failure doesn't matter. For Arjuna, whether he lives or dies is immaterial because he has satisfied his soul. The opinions of other people also become meaningless. Without the pressure of meeting someone else's expectations, it is possible to live in the peace of knowing you have done your work.

Yoga is not about ecstasy or despair, it is about staying in balance and harmony.

2:49 "Work done for a reward is much lower than work done in the Yoga of wisdom. Seek salvation in the wisdom of reason. How poor are those who work for a reward!"

It is possible to be rich and poor at the same time.

2:50 "In this wisdom a man goes beyond what is well done and what is not well done. Go thou therefore to wisdom: Yoga is wisdom in work."
2:51 "Seers in union with wisdom forsake the rewards of their work, and free from the bonds of birth, they go to the abode of salvation."

There are those who renounce all reward, yet they do their work. This is one way to assure to go beyond the cycle of rebirth.

Current Mood: mellow
Monday, December 24th, 2007
2:28 am
Chapter Two 2:39 - 2:46

2:39 "This is the wisdom of Sankhya -- the vision of the Eternal. Hear now the wisdom of Yoga, path of the Eternal and freedom from bondage."

Now that we know all about the nature of the soul and its immortality, it is time to turn to how the soul can acheive freedom by how we live this life. The next few verses explain the nature of Yoga. The term "yoga" has come into common use in the West to mean the physical exercise of postures or asanas, as in Hatha yoga or Bikram yoga (I shall, for convenience, adopt the convention of referring to this meaning with a lower case "y"). In its broader context here, however, Yoga is a pathway, a holistic approach to creating peace within in order to carry the soul forward toward enlightenment.

2:40 "No step is lost on this path, no dangers are found. And even a little progress is freedom from fear."

Anything we do on the path is of value and the path itself is not dangerous. As we progress, we experience less fear.
This is an interesting note in that it tells us a way to judge progress.

2:41 "The follower of the path has one thought, and this is the End of his determination. But many branched and endless are the thoughts of a man who lacks determination."

Yoga is goal oriented, and the practitioner concentrates on the desired outcome, not on the method of getting there. If we don't have a specific goal in mind it is not possible to direct energies toward it. This is very much like the method used in the popular book The Secret.

2:42 "There are men who have no vision, and yet they speak many words. They follow the letter of the Vedas, and they say: 'There is nothing but this.'
2:43 Their soul is warped with selfish desires, and their heaven is a selfish desire. They have prayers for pleasures and powers, the rewards of which is earthly rebirth.
2:44 Those who love pleasure and power hear and follow their words: they have not the determination ever to be one with the One."

Okay, so I mentioned The Secret. The authors talk about using single-minded, goal-oriented concentration to achieve the heart's desires; to use the Universe as "your catalog" and get whatever you want. It appears that the Gita is saying, yes, that works, but it will buy you another rebirth here on earth for your trouble. You can spend a lot of time and effort building your dream home, but, in the end, it gets you nowhere.

Oh - and just because you read the Vedas doesn't mean you know everything.

2:45 "The three Gunas of Nature are the world of the Vedas. Arise beyond the three Gunas, Arjuna! Be in Truth eternal, beyond eartly opposites. Beyond gains and possessions, possess thine own soul."

The three Gunas are Sattvas, Rajas and Tamas: light, fire and darkness. A man living in harmony in the world, as a base, lives in equilibrium of these three. Krishna is telling Arjuna to rise above even that level and into a level beyond it, one that transcends the effects of all three Gunas instead of merely keeping them in balance. In such a way, he becomes master of his soul.

2:46 "As is the use of a well of water where water everywhere overflows, such is the use of all the Vedas to the seer of the Supreme."

Why would you continue to use a well if the water came to your door? If you have an understanding of the principles underlying the Vedas, you are beyond their use. So, it really isn't about memorizing the textbook, it is about understanding the theory. And you get to keep taking the course over again until you pass...

Current Mood: content
Thursday, November 15th, 2007
12:28 am
Visions from God(?)
Hello everyone!
I am new to the group and I thought that I would make my first post, though I am not sure if it is appropriate, the mod(s) may delete it if need be. It has been a while since I have studied the Gita and other Hindu scriptures in depth (which I am starting to dig back into). My copies are not available to me at the moment and reading books online is not the best for my eyes, so I thought that I would come here and ask...

In the Gita...Collapse )
Friday, November 2nd, 2007
6:49 pm
Chapter two, 2:34-2:39

2:34 "Men will tell of thy dishonour both now and in time to come. And, to a man that is in honour, dishonour is more than death."

I puzzled over this verse for a long time. Why, I thought, should an enlightened one be concerned with how others think? The previous discussion pertains. Arjuna is a kşatriyasya, and honour is the life blood of a warrior. To one whose life's cause is protecting others from harm, honour would be key, for the warrior would not only be protecting lives, but livelihoods and, indeed, the honour of those in his charge. To be known as a man of dishonour would cause him to be unable to do his duty.

2:35 "The great warriors will say thou hast run from the battlefield through fear; those who thought great things of thee will speak of thee in scorn."

One must also remember the tactical advantage of being thought a great warrior. Battle have been won on reputation alone, and a great warrior without his reputation is fighting encumbered. This is a persuasive argument for a warrior.

2:36 "And thine enemies will speak of thee in contemptuous words of ill-will and derision, pouring scorn upon thy courage, Can there for a warrior be a more shameful fate?

2:37 "In death, thy glory in heaven, in victory, thy glory on earth. Arise, therefore, Arjuna, with thy soul ready to fight."

Even Krishna himself does not know the outcome of the battle, but he knows that Arjuna's own victory lies in joining the battle and not turning from it. It would seem, then, that the only option for a warrior is to fight. We must again fall back on the notion that the war is a righteous one, and fought with honour.

2:38 "Prepare for war with peace in thy soul. Be in peace in pleasure and pain, in gain and loss, in victory or in the loss of battle. In this peace there is no sin."

You know the cause is righteous. You know you are fighting with honour. You know that your soul will not die, nor will the soul of your enemy. Given all this there any reason to fear?

2:39 "This is the vision of Sankhya -- the vision of the Eternal. Hear now the vision of Yoga, path of the Eternal and freedom from bondage."

Here begins the detailed description of yoga, so I will leave that for the next entry.

Current Mood: busy
Wednesday, October 31st, 2007
11:05 pm
Further remarks on 2:31
Since we were talking about righteous wars in the comments, and since war is so much on many of our minds lately, I thought perhaps a more in-depth examination of verse 2:31 is in order. If you will recall, Macaro translated the verse in this way:

2:31 "Think thou also of thy duty and do not waver. There is no greater good for a warrior than to fight in a righteous war."

The actual Sanskrit transliteration of the verse is:
svadharmam api cāvekşya na vikaamptum arhasi dhamyhāddhi yuddhāc cheryo ʼnyat kşatriyasya na vidyate

In another translation :
api...moreover; avekşya...considering; svadharmam...your natural righteousness; na arhasi...you should not; vikampitum...falter; hi...indeed; kşatriyasya...for upholders of justice; na vidate...there does not exist; anyat śreyah...a more appropriate endeavor; dharmyat yuddhāt...than a battle for righteousness.

One key element of this verse is the word "kşatriyasya". There are four orders of social administration, or keeping good order in society. Of these, the second is kşatriya. "Kşat" means to hurt, "trāyate" to give protection - so a kşatriya would give protection from harm, whether it be from an encroaching animal or enemy army. It is not the duty nor the fate of a kşatriya to take the path of a sannyāsan (renunciate) and eschew violence. In the scheme of things, a killing made by a kşatriya in his capacity as protector is considered righteous, as is a sacrifice of an animal by a brāhman in the performance of sacred duty. The animal is reincarnated into human life and the brāhman advances toward liberation.

It is not suitable for everyone to be a kşatriya, just as it does not suit everyone to be a sannyāsan.

Thank you to everyone who brought this up - it was a pleasure to delve into it more deeply.

Current Mood: mellow
Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
12:53 am
Chapter Two 2:29-2:33

2:29 "One sees him in a vision of wonder, and another gives us words of his wonder. There is one who hears of his wonder; but he hears and knows him not.

There are some who can readily envision and understand the concept of the soul, and some who are able to speak at length about the nature of the soul. Yet there are those who have heard all about the soul and do not believe in it.

Having a soul does not automatically make one aware of its existence, nor its properties.

2:30 "The Spirit that is in all beings is immortal in them all; for the death of what cannot die, cease thou to sorrow."

The soul exists in all beings, not just people, and it is immortal in all beings. While the existence of a soul in people is not in dispute in other religions, the presence of a soul in an animal is not widely accepted (at least by religious leaders. Pet owners have their own ideas).

2:31 "Think thou also of thy duty and do not waver. There is no greater good for a warrior than to fight in a righteous war."

Having explained about the soul, Krishna moves on to speak of duty. We know already that Arjuna is a warrior. That is his path. Unlike Christianity, which argues that a man's fate is a foregone conclusion, predestined or predetermined, Hinduism holds that a man has a place in life, a dharma, yet he makes choices to adhere to his duties or stray from them all his life. Thus, while it may be that life is revered, a warrior fighting a righteous war is free from stain on his karma for killing because he was merely fulfilling his duty. If that same warrior were to kill a romantic rival in cold blood, the death would certainly not be righteous.

It also brings up the concept that a war may be righteous.

2:32 "There is a war that opens the doors of heaven, Arjuna! Happy the warriors whose fate it is to fight such a war.

2:33 But to forgo this fight for righteousness is to forgo thy duty and honor: is to fall into transgression."

Not only is a warrior free from stain on his karma for fulfilling his duty in fighting a righteous war, but if he demurs, his soul does not advance in this life.

-Death is not to be mourned, for the soul is immortal
-killing another person is okay, even required, in the context of being a warrior doing one's duty
-war is okay if for a righteous purpose.
Wednesday, July 25th, 2007
1:30 am
Chapter two 2:25-2:28
Hey folks -
Back from a bit of an hiatus during which I managed to catch a Nada Yoga workshop with Bhagavan Das (the fellow who convinced Richard Alpert to go to India to meet Neem Karoli Baba, as the result of which he became Ram Dass). If you have a chance to attend such a workshop, avail yourself, regardless of your spiritual bent (or lack thereof). He, quite simply, makes sense.

2:25 "Invisible is he to mortal eyes, beyond thought and beyond change. Know that he is, and cease from sorrow."
We continue to speak of the soul. So many important points are made. The soul cannot be seen with the mortal eye; it takes a different sort of eye to discern it. While you may sometimes feel as though a priest is who is staring at you is looking into your soul, if he is using his eyes, he is not. It is even beyond thought, you cannot simply reason out the depth of another's soul. Stay tuned for talk about samadhi. Once again, a soul cannot be changed.

2:26 "But if he were born again and again, and again and again he were to die, even then, victorious man, cease thou from sorrow."
Remember that, every time the body dies, the soul is reborn. Neither is an occasion for sorrow. If the soul has not achieved enlightenment, another birth, another opportunity awaits, so why grieve? Krishna is using the title "victorious man" to emphasize that Arjuna is a warrior, and that is his destiny.

2:27 "For all things born in truth must die and out of death in truth comes life. Face to Face with what must be, cease thou from sorrow."
According to Karma, he is born into a situation best suited to allow the soul to make good debt from previous births and begin anew. This is to be "born in truth" . To "die in truth" is to have died having followed your path, without suicide, needless suffering or murder, for example. Arjuna's path is as a warrior, and he is destined to fight the armies of his uncle. He needn't be sad about this because it will lead him toward life.

Think about how much needless suffering people endure in trying to cheat death, how they deny and fight against death when they could be happily spending time with their loved ones.

The Bible says, in John 11:26-27 "...I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he dies, he shall live.
And whoever is alive and believes in me shall never die..." It is quite similar, however, the Christian concept of eternal life (the term I will use to distinguish it from Hindu reincarnation) differs from reincarnation by a few very important points. First, eternal life requires belief in the Christian God, in this case, specifically in the form of Jesus. Secondly, this is not rebirth, but resurrection; not new life, but continuation of the old and is a finite process. Finally, the sins are washed away automatically by belief, not atoned for via the wheel of karma.

2:28 "Invisible before birth are all beings and after death invisible again. They are seen between two unseens. Why in this truth find sorrow?"
The soul exists in a binary state: seen and unseen. One and zero.

I have an ongoing debate with a friend as to whether zero is a number. She is an artist, not a mathematician. I am more scientifically oriented. Trying to explain that the soul exists after death is very much like trying to prove the physical existence of the number zero to someone who does not believe in the concept. Think about it some time. How would you describe "zero"?

Then describe a soul without a body.

Current Mood: contemplative
Sunday, June 10th, 2007
4:16 pm
Chapter two 2:23-2:24
2:23"Weapons cannot hurt the Spirit and fire can never burn him. Untouched is he by drenching waters untouched is he by parching winds."

The soul cannot be touched by human hand, nor by natural means. No matter what happens to you, whatever weapon someone uses against you, whether you are burned, drowned or left to die in the elements, nothing can hurt what is essentially you.

2:24 "Beyond the power of sword and fire, beyond the power or waters and winds, the Spirit is everlasting, omnipresent, never-changing, never-moving, ever One."

The soul does not die. Its existence, being outside the realm of time and space, it not tied to time and space. It has no beginning or end because it does not change. It remains always part of the whole.

For the geeks in the room: Does anyone else see the First Law of Thermodynamics here? Energy is neither created nor destroyed. Above, it states that the soul is neither created nor destroyed.

How about the Third Law? Oneness sounds like a quantum ground state that we are approaching as though we are in a sort of spiritual entropy.

The only problem is the Second Law. That can be explained in that it uses time as an entropy base, and the soul is described as outside of time. Is this too geeky or what?

Current Mood: calm
Saturday, May 19th, 2007
8:19 am
A Digression - 1:21
1:21 "...Drive my chariot, Krishna immortal, and place it between the two armies.

I hope you will pardon a short digression back into Chapter One. There were a couple of things that particularly struck me about this verse as I lamented some less than ideal circumstances in my life.

For the first, one must recall that Arjuna is a warrior of great renowned. He has fought bravely in many battles and his skills are legendary, yet it is Krishna that drives his chariot. Even though Arjuna is the great warrior, he must trust someone else to drive and see to it that he is in the best place at the best possible moment to put his skills to greatest use.

So it goes with anyone. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they have a very succinct phrase, "Let go and let God". That bit of bumper sticker philosophy is meant to convey the same concept: that no matter how great your skills are, at some point, you must trust that some other force will rive you into the correct place to use them.

The second realization that comes from this snippet of verse begins with the phrase, "...Drive my chariot, Krishna immortal..." Arjuna knows Krishna is a God, he says so. Yet he tells him rather than asking him to drive his chariot. Krishna serves Arjuna, just as Arjuna serves Krishna.

I'll leave this up as it is for now, then go back and simply revise the Chap 1 post for posterity...

Current Mood: contemplative
Tuesday, May 8th, 2007
11:53 am
Chapter two 2.17 - 2:22
2:17 "Interwoven in his creation, the Spirit is beyond destruction. No one can bring to an end the Spirit which is everlasting."

The soul is eternal, we know that is a basic doctrine of Hinduism. This small verse also tells us why: souls are integrated into creation itself.

2:18 "For beyond time he dwells in these bodies, though these bodies have an end in their time; but he remains immeasurable, immortal. Therefore, great warrior, carry on thy fight."

The soul is not only immortal, but immeasurable. There were attempts in the last century to weigh the dying person at the moment of death the prove the existence of a soul by noting the difference between the weight of a dead versus living body. These experiments were debunked. Krishna tells us here that the soul is immeasurable. We must take its existence solely on faith.

2:19 "If any man thinks he slays, and if another thinks he is slain, neither knows the ways of the truth. The Eternal in man cannot kill: the Eternal in man cannot die."

Uh oh. Does this mean, then, that man has leave to kill indescriminantly? No - it only speaks of the condition of the soul, not the consequences of the act. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. There are two parts to this. The part of a man that is eternal - the soul, cannot kill because the soul cannot be killed. It is not the soul that is doing the harm but the current body. A body can kill a body.

2:20 "He is never born, and he never dies. He is in Eternity: he is for evermore. Never-born and eternal, beyond times gone or to come, he does not die when the body dies."

Here is an interesting notion. Is eternity timeless? Could this imply that reincarnation may not be (or does not have to be) linear? A soul could be reincarnated in a preceding era rather than solely in a succeeding era?

At the very least, it says that the soul does not age because it is never born; it simply is. It is beyond the measure of time

2:21 "When a man knows him as never-born, everlasting, never-changing, beyond all destruction, how can that man kill a man, or cause another to kill?"

Here is the answer to 2:19. If a man kills, it must be to higher purpose, otherwise, there is nothing gained by killing because man cannot die.

2:22 "As a man leaves on an old garment and puts on one that is new, the Spirit leaves his mortal body and then puts on one that is new."

Thinking about this concept is very freeing. It makes everyday life a lot less important. This life is not you. It is merely as a garment. Of what use is pride? What is important is only that which affects the Eternal self.
Saturday, April 28th, 2007
10:58 pm
Chapter two, 2.9 -2.16
I found a 3 (thick!) volume edition of the Mahabharata in a used book store the other day - unfortunately, it was quite expensive and I was short on cash. Hoping it is still there when I get some income.

From what I understand of Bhakti yoga, Arjuna's relationship with Krishna is held as the primary example of devotion as a friend, just as Hanuman's relationship to Ram is the primary example of devotion as a servant. Throughout the conversation, Arjuna and Krishna speak as friends, but there is no doubt that Arjuna reveres Krishna at the same time.

2.9 "When Arjuna the great warrior had thus unburdened his heart, 'I will not fight, Krishna, ' he said, then fell silent."

This statement is quite moving. Arjuna denies his very nature as a warrior, hoping, in his despair, to save those he loves. This is not cowardice, it is love, and concern.

2.10 "Krishna smiled and spoke to Arjuna -- there between the two armies the voice of God spoke these words:'

Imagine the face of your truest friend, radiantly smiling at you! What utter beauty! Then think of the fact that, as Krishna is saying all of this, He is smiling. He is happy to help a friend.

2.11 "Thy tears are for those beyond tears; and are thy words words of wisdom? The wise grieve not for those who live; and they grieve not for those who die -- for life and death shall pass away."

So much is said in this short verse. Arjuna's grief is misplaced because life and death are not at issue here because no one has died or will die. He is caught up in thinking of what may happen, and even if it does happen, it is not worth grieving over. Krishna is asking Arjuna to think in a new way.

2.12 "Because we have been for all time: I and thou, and those kings of men. And we all shall be for all time, for ever and ever.

2.13 As the Spirit of our immortal body wanders on in childhood, and youth, and old age, the Spirit wanders on to a new body: of this the sage has no doubts,"

Outwardly, here is the concept of reincarnation, plain and simple. The soul does not die. Inwardly, a man may go through many trials, but he is still the man he is. If he ceases to despair his life continues anew.

2.14 "From the world of the senses, Arjuna, comes heat and comes cold, and pleasure and pain. They come and go: they are transient. Arise above them, strong soul.

2:15 The man whom these cannot move, whose soul is one, beyond pleasure and pain, is worthy of life in Eternity."

Here lies the possibility of moving beyond the pains and pleasures, and the notion that it is a goal to work toward.

2:16 "The unreal never is: the Real never is not. This truth indeed has been seen by those who can see the true.

What is real? Could it be that what we think is real is not true? The everyday "pains and pleasures" we experience are not real?
Monday, April 16th, 2007
12:35 am
Chapter 2 v2:1 -2:8
I had thought to break here and make a transitional post comparing Arjuna's dilemma with that of Job. Stated simply - both are in despair over the loss or potential loss of all that they hold dear. In the case of Arjuna, he turns to his friend Krishna. In Job's case, his friends also play a part, though it is a far darker one. Where Krishna, as we will soon see, is the voice of reason, Job's friends serve as a foil to discuss all the ways a man can fall from his path. Job is the one speaking reason, yet he is still in need of divine intervention. Just assume that I made some huge post about this, and we'll move on.

2:1 Then arose the Spirit of Krishna and spoke to Arjuna, his friend, who with eyes filled with tears, thus had sunk into despair and grief.

2:2 Whence this lifeless dejection, Arjuna, in this hour, the hour of trial? Strong men know not despair, Arjuna, for this wins neither heaven nor earth.

2:3 Fall not into degrading weakness, for this becomes not a man who is a man. Throw off this ignoble discouragement, and arise like a fire that burns all before it.

It is quite apparent, taken literally, that Krishna is Arjuna's close friend and confidant. But what of the context of Arjuna's struggle with his internal demons? Who, or what is Krishna? The answer lies in Sanjaya's narration: "Then arose the Spirit of Krishna and spoke to Arjuna". Krishna is, then, the voice of spirit or faith.

One of the problems with reading the text in English vs. Sanskrit is wondering whether the tone is the same. I read these two verses and thought Krishna was saying, "Yo, be a man, suck it up!"

Another reading of these passages and I conclude that Krishna is admonishing Arjuna that despair will get him nowhere at this point. Arjuna is known as a mighty warrior, and it is against his nature to simply lay down and succumb to despair. Krishna is calling on him to be the radiant person he really is.

2:4 I owe veneration to Bhishma and Drona. Shall I kill with my arrows my grandfather's brother, great Bishma? Shall my arrows in battle slay Drona, my teacher?

2:5 Shall I kill my own masters who, though greedy of my kingdom, are yet my sacred teachers? I would rather eat in this life the food of a beggar than eat royal food tasting of blood.

Arjuna acknowledges here that "killing" his old way of thinking is killing things that taught him valuable lessons - got him this far in life.

2:6 And we know not whether their victory or ours will be better for us. The sons of my uncle and king, Dhrita-rashtra, are here before us: after their death, should we wish to live?

2:7 In the dark night of my soul I feel desolation. In my self-pity, I see not the way of righteousness. I am thy disciple, I come to thee in supplication: be a light unto me on the path of my duty.

2:8 For neither the kingdom of earth, nor the kingdom of the gods in heaven, could give me peace from the fire of sorrow which thus burns in my life.

As one who has been in despair, I recognize Arjuna's response. He knows what he is doing, He knows he is in a state of self-pity, yet he can conceive of no way out. This reminds me of one of my college professors, she taught Abnormal Psychology, and she was the first one I heard say, "Insight is the booby prize". Knowing the fact that you are in a state of self pity is not the same as getting out. Arjuna appeals to Krishna for help in the dark night of his soul.
Thursday, March 29th, 2007
12:05 am
Chapter 1 v1:34 -1:47
1:34 "Facing us in the field of battle are teachers, fathers and sons, grandsons, grandfathers, wives' brothers, mothers' brothers, and fathers of wives.

1:35 These I do not wish to slay, even if I myself am slain. Not even for the kingdom of the three worlds, how much less for a kingdom of the earth!

1:36 If we kill these evil souls, evil shall fall upon us: what joy in their death could we have, O Janardana, mover of souls?

1:37 I cannot, therefore, kill my own kinsmen, the sons of King Dhrita-rashtra, the brother of my own father. What happiness could we ever enjoy, if we killed our own kinsmen in battle?

1:38 Even if they, with minds overcome by greed, see no evil in the destruction of a family, see no sin in the treachery to friends;

1:39 Shall we not, who see the evil of destruction, shall we not refrain from this terrible deed?

Arjuna begins a different rationalization here. He assumes the moral high ground. If we attack and kill them, he reasons, we will be just like them. He makes excuses for his enemy because he has already identified with his enemy. He has to distinguish himself and his own behavior from their behavior.

In the deeper struggle within, if he gives in to his darker thoughts, he will be consumed by his darker thoughts; he will become them. Arjuna fears the evil of the darker side of himself, the enemy within himself. He does not want to keep that part of himself, yet he thinks twice about destroying it.

1:40 "The destruction of a family destroys its rituals of righteousness, and when the righteous rituals are no more, unrighteousness overcomes the whole family.

1:41 When unrighteous disorder prevails, the women sin and are impure; and when women are not pure, Krishna, there is disorder of castes, social confusion."

Arjuna carries his argument further - like dominoes, the entire fabric of society fails.

1:42 "This disorder carries down to hell the family and the destroyers of the family. The spirits of their dead suffer in pain when deprived of the ritual offerings.

1:43 Those evil deeds of the destroyers of a family, which cause this social disorder, destroy the righteousness of birth and the ancestral rituals of righteousness.

1:44 And have we not heard that hell is waiting for those whose familiar rituals of righteousness are no more?"

For Arjuna, there is no solution. Either way, his society is condemned, or, if you will, his mind is condemned, for there is no answer for his conundrum. He is still the person he was, even if he expunges the evil thoughts, they will still be part of him.

1:45 "O day of darkness! What evil spirit moved our minds when for the sake of an earthly kingdom we came to this field of battle ready to kill our own people?"

This statement could be applied to many wars.

1:46 "Better for me indeed that the sons of Dhrita-rashtra, with arms in hand, had found me unarmed, unresisting, and killed me in the struggle of war.


1:47 Thus spoke Arjuna in the field of battle, and letting his fall his bow and arrows he sank down in his chariot, his soul overcome with grief and despair.

(end of chapter one)
Monday, March 19th, 2007
10:51 pm
Chapter 1 v1:22-1:33
1:21 "...Drive my chariot, Krishna immortal, and place it between the two armies.

1:22 That I may see those warriors who stand there eager for the battle, with whom I must now fight at the beginning of this war."

On the eve of battle, Arjuna wants to see the enemy he is fighting. In his mind, he characterizes the opposing army as evil, but when he actually looks at the two warring armies, what strikes him is that both are made up of his own family and friends.

With this revelation, he is devastated.

1:28 "When I see all my kinsman, Krishna, who have come here on this field of battle,

1:29 Life goes from my limbs and they sink, and my mouth is sear and dry: a trembling overcomes my body, and my hair shudders in horror..."

1:31"And I see forebodings of evil, Krishna. I cannot foresee any glory if I kill my own kinsmen in the sacrifice of battle."

Here is the archetypal battlefield revelation: the soldier realizing that those he is fighting are people, just like him. He looks over the battlefield and sees that both sides are made up of the same men. The world is suddenly no longer black and white, friend and enemy, like and unlike, but an homogeneous mixture of people, all related.

The shock Arjuna feels is not only for placing those around him in context, but himself in context. The recognition that he is related to all of these people makes him a part of the larger whole and not an observer.

1:32 Because I have no wish for victory, Krishna, nor for a kingdom, nor for its pleasures. How can we want a kingdom, Govinda, or its pleasures or even life,

1:33 When those for whom we want a kingdom , and its pleasures, and the joys of life, are here in this field of battle about to give up their wealth and their life?"

Arjuna thinks it through. If his comrades die in battle, where is the joy in his retirement from the field, with no one to join him in his desired kingdom?

Once more, the classic dilemma: How can I keep my cake and eat it, too?

Returning to the observation that this is an internal battlefield, here is a man caught in an existential argument: my actions adversely affect my friends and family. How can I go on in good conscience?

On even deeper level, he knows there are parts of himself that are evil. If he gets rid of them, will he be the same person, capable of having fun, experiencing joy?
Saturday, March 3rd, 2007
12:00 am
Chapter 1, v1.1-1.21
"On the field of Truth, on the battlefield of life, what came to pass...?"

So begins the Mascaro translation of the Bhagavad Gita. Many are inclined to skip over this portion of the text due to its expository nature, but there are points to be made in it.

This is a tale told by Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra, whose sons are at war with the sons of his own brother, Pandu. First, Dritarashtra's son Duryodhana describes the opposing forces, including the legendary archer Arjuna and his own son Saubhadra. We learn that Arjuna is Pandu's son, and therefore Dhritarashra's nephew. They are all intimately realted.

There is a colorful description of war cries, the sounds of conch shells and mustering of forces. It is in this atmosphere that we find Arjuna and Krishna, Lord of the Soul, ready to begin the battle.

These are the things to be noted if reading the text literally. But remember that we are on the field of Truth, on the battlefield of life. Arjuna is also girding himself to battle his own self. He sees treasured parts of himself on both sides of the battlefield, things he likes and dislikes but is equally unable to set aside This is the ultimate battle - the battle for the inner self. He goes forward with great confidence, sounding his horn, in the manner of a great and powerful man.
About LiveJournal.com