Monday, May 29, 2017

Reading the Bhagavad Gita, Chapters 7-8

Chapter 7:
 “Lord Shri Krishna said: Listen, O Arjuna! And I will tell thee how thou shalt know Me in
my Full perfection, practising meditation with thy mind devoted to Me, and having Me
for thy refuge." (p.20)

First, though, Krishna extols himself:

"Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and personality; this is the eightfold division of
My Manifested Nature." (p.20)

I don't enjoy numerology for itself, but I do enjoy noting how different cultures construct different aesthetic views of the positive integers.  China lauds 5 and 60; Europe lauds 3,7, and sometimes 9 while avoiding 6 and 13; Japan avoids 4 because a kanji for death/die can be pronounced the same way as kanji for 4; the Indian subcontinent lauds 8.  This is not a complete list, of course, and is not a result of directed study, only omnivorous reading.  If you have an addition or correction, leave a comment!    

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Reading the Bhagavad-Gita, Chapters 5-6

“Arjuna said: My Lord! At one moment Thou praisest renunciation of action; at another,
right action. Tell me truly, I pray, which of these is the more conducive to my highest
Lord Shri Krishna replied: Renunciation of action and the path of right action both lead to
the highest; of the two, right action is the better...
 He who is spiritual, who is pure, who has overcome his senses and his personal self, who
has realised his highest Self as the Self of all, such a one, even though he acts, is not bound
by his acts.
Though the saint sees, hears, touches, smells, eats, moves, sleeps and breathes, yet he
knows the Truth, and he knows that it is not he who acts.
Though he talks, though he gives and receives, though he opens his eyes and shuts them,
he still knows that his senses are merely disporting themselves among the objects of
He who dedicates his actions to the Spirit, without any personal attachment to them, he is
no more tainted by sin than the water lily is wetted by water."(p.15)

Oh really.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Reading the Bhagavad-Gita, Chapters 3-4

Chapter 3: Karma-Yoga - the Path of Action

We start with Arjuna asking the question that was bothering me from chapter 2:

“My Lord! If Wisdom is above action, why dost Thou advise me to
engage in this terrible fight?
Thy language perplexes me and confuses my reason. Therefore please tell me the only
way by which I may, without doubt, secure my spiritual welfare.
Lord Shri Krishna replied: In this world, as I have said, there is a twofold path, O Sinless
One! There is the Path of Wisdom for those who meditate, and the Path of Action for those
who work.
No man can attain freedom from activity by refraining from action; nor can he reach
perfection by merely refusing to act.
He cannot even for a moment remain really inactive, for the Qualities of Nature will
compel him to act whether he will or no.
He who remains motionless, refusing to act, but all the while brooding over sensuous
object, that deluded soul is simply a hypocrite.
But, O Arjuna! All honour to him whose mind controls his senses, for he is thereby
beginning to practise Karma-Yoga, the Path of Right Action, keeping himself always
Do thy duty as prescribed, for action for duty’s sake is superior to inaction. Even the
maintenance of the body would be impossible if man remained inactive." (p.9)

Action or inaction of themselves are useless, but doing what you're told to is the superior path?  That is certainly very convenient for the powers of the status quo.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reading the Bhagavad Gita, Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2

Because I felt that a well-rounded person should be acquainted at least in passing with the various epics of the world. 

I will be reading a translation by Shri Purohit Swami, downloadable here for free if you want to read along.

From the preface: "The Bhagavad Gita, the greatest devotional book of Hinduism, has long been recognized as one of the world’s spiritual classics and a guide to all on the path of Truth."

The backstory: rival cousins, the 5 Pandavas and the 100 Kauravas, are going to war over who will rule the kingdom.  Our main character is one of the Pandavas, Arjuna, along with Krishna as his charioteer.  The two armies assemble at Kurukshetra and face each other, prepared for battle.  We begin as the rivals survey each other.

Conches are blown.  Like weapons, the conches are named: Krishna has Panchajanya, Arjuna has Devadatta, and other renowned warriors have renowned conches.  The noise shakes heaven and earth and the hearts of the Kauravas.

Arjuna asks Krishna to bring the chariot in between the forces, that he (Arjuna) may gaze upon the people of both sides.  Arjuna gazes upon the people assembled: teachers, fathers and grandfathers and fathers-in-law and  uncles and sons and grandsons and other relatives, and is stricken with sorrow.  He asks why everyone must fight, avows that he has no interest in kingship, and would rather die than see these people killed.  Further,

"The destruction of our kindred means the destruction of the traditions of our ancient
lineage, and when these are lost, irreligion will overrun our homes.
When irreligion spreads, the women of the house begin to stray; when they lose their
purity, adulteration of the stock follows.
Promiscuity ruins both the family and those who defile it; while the souls of our ancestors
droop, through lack of the funeral cakes and ablutions.
By the destruction of our lineage and the pollution of blood, ancient class traditions and
family purity alike perish."

Yup.  Because women's only value is breeding stock, they're not really people, while men can be as promiscuous as they like without consequences.  Also, racial purity!  How nice to see how far back terrible, dehumanizing ideas run, I suppose? 

I was seriously considering quitting right here, but the Bhagavad Gita isn't very long (55 pages of pdf, less of text), and I can blog about it and spread the misery to anyone else who might be interested in what a classic piece of literature actually says.  So I'll continue for now.  We'll see if I can make it all the way through.