‘Lord Krishna preaching Gita to Arjuna’ – Mahavir Prasad Mishra – Wikimedia
अहं सर्वस्य प्रभवो
मत्तः सर्वं प्रवर्तते ।
इति मत्वा भजन्ते मां
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
”I am the self, O Gudākesa!
seated in the hearts of all beings.
I am the beginning and the middle
and the end also of all beings.”
~ Lord Krishna (Bhagavad Gita)
There is an old and long Sanskrit story that arose in India around the fourth century BC. So long that it has been described as “the longest poem ever written“. So encompassing that the poem mentions about itself: “That which occurs here occurs elsewhere. That which does not occur here occurs nowhere else.”(XVIII.5.38). A story that is as big and epic as life and which took centuries to write, up until the fourth century AD. This masterpiece of universal literature, which influenced the thought, customs, and festivals of a whole civilisation and beyond, is called the Mahābhārata. It is composed of fables, myths, and tales of every kind, that are recipients for multiple religious, philosophical and political considerations. The eminent British film and theatre director Peter Brook wrote: “I sincerely believe that, of all the subjects that exist — including the totality of Shakespeare’s work — the richest, densest and most complete myth is the Mahabharata.”
Among the infinite number of episodes in the poem is concealed a jewel. A short 700-verse scripture — out of the 100 000 contained in the Mahabharata — composed of 18 chapters, that stands as a monument of Hinduism and one of the most highly praised spiritual text in the world. Written around the second century BC by the legendary sage Vyasa — also the main author of the Mahabharata — it has been named nothing less than the ‘Song of God’. This text, called the ‘Bhagavad Gītā’, is a magistral teaching given to the Pandava prince Arjuna by Lord Krishna, who happened to be his charioteer. It is set in the middle of the worst battle between two branches of the same family, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, for the control of the kingdom — a war whose story is the subject of the Mahabharata. So here we are, at the dawn of a horrific battle:
“And then all at once, conchs,
and kettledrums, and tabors,
and trumpets were played upon;
and there was a tumultuous din.” (I.13)
Krishna’s teaching is placed here at the precise moment of the most horrendous dilemma in Arjuna’s life. At this timeless moment when he is about to engage in a battle where he will have to kill his friends and family. “There the son of Prithâ saw in both armies, fathers and grandfathers, preceptors, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, companions, fathers-in-law, as well as friends.” (I.26) This moment is for the poem the occasion to hold, like in a breath, the synthesis of spiritual understanding and the solution to all misery and conflict. As if the raison d’être and resolution of a whole lifetime was contained in an infinitesimal portion of a great war — life itself. As if we had concealed in our life, hidden as a gem, a spark of understanding that, once released and manifested, contains the power of a thousand suns, the reverse of our previous established conception of life, and the dawning on us of the happiness that we have desired and owned all along, but was kept dormant. Such is the Song of God.
Arjuna is distressed and in sorrow. He wonders if he should renounce and leave before violence and death begin, or if he should fight, and why. ”Seeing these kinsmen, O Krishna! standing (here) desirous to engage in battle, my limbs droop down; my mouth is quite dried up; a tremor comes on my body; and my hairs stand on end; the bow slips from my hand; my skin burns intensely. I am unable, too, to stand up; (I.29-31) He continues: “I do not perceive any good after killing (my) kinsmen in the battle. I do not wish for victory, O Krishna! nor sovereignty, nor pleasures: what is sovereignty to us, O Govinda! what enjoyments, and even life?” (I.31-32)
“Having spoken thus, Arjuna cast aside his bow
together with the arrows, on the battle-field,
and sat down in (his) chariot,
with a mind agitated by grief.” (I.47)
Right now, at this timeless moment, maybe in a split of a second, maybe at the moment of sudden enlightenment, refracted as a whole teaching exposed, is revealed to Arjuna, by Lord Krishna himself, a reality, an ultimate truth, by which one will understand the nature of oneself, and find eternal peace and happiness. Such is the promise of Lord Krishna. But it comes at a cost. Arjuna bows and asks for Krishna’s guidance: “With a heart contaminated by the taint of helplessness, with a mind confounded about my duty, I ask you. Tell me what is assuredly good for me. I am your disciple; instruct me, who have thrown myself on your (indulgence).” (II.7) The Teaching begins:
“There is no existence for that which is unreal;
there is no non-existence for that which is real.
And the (correct) conclusion about both
is perceived by those who perceive the truth.” (II.16)
With this fundamental verse, Krishna means that all the things out there that can be separated from our being aware of them — thoughts, feelings, objects, the world, etc — never truly exist independently of their recipient as consciousness, hence their ‘unreality’. And consciousness — the recipient — never loses its reality or being even when it is seemingly veiled by objective experience, or when the body dies.
Krishna describes the nature of consciousness — “that which is real” — in this eloquent way: “It is not born, nor does it ever die, nor, having existed, does it exist no more. Unborn, everlasting, unchangeable, and primeval, it is not killed when the body is killed.” (II.20) He further adds “It is everlasting, all-pervading, stable, firm, and eternal. It is said to be unperceived, to be unthinkable, to be unchangeable. Therefore knowing it to be such, you ought not to grieve.” (II.25) He then emphasises to Arjuna the fact that truth, or self-realisation, is not to be found in objective experience:
“Your business is with action alone;
not by any means with fruit.
Let not the fruit of action be your motive (to action).
Let not your attachment be (fixed) on inaction. (II.47)
When a man, O son of Prithâ!
abandons all the desires of his heart,
and is pleased in his self only and by his self,
he is then called one of steady mind. (II.55)
Therefore, O you of mighty arms!
his mind is steady whose senses
are restrained on all sides
from objects of sense.” (II.68)
This song of the Lord — the ‘Gita’ as it is also called — holds in one embrace, uniting them, all possible paths or approaches to truth, and all levels of understanding, for it can speak equally to the beginner or the realised, to the lover or the intellectual, the religious or the householder. Now Krishna describes to Arjuna what is the right attitude to action when one is engaged on the path of self-realisation. “A man does not attain freedom from action merely by not engaging in action; nor does he attain perfection by mere renunciation.” (III.4) He then stresses that our true nature as happiness is free and independent from everything in and around us that is fleeting, changing, not fundamentally who we are. In consequence, action “must be performed, without attachment”. :
“The man who is attached to his self only,
who is contented in his self,
and is pleased with his self,
has nothing to do. (III.17)
He has no interest at all in what is done,
and none whatever in what is not done, in this world;
nor is any interest of his
dependent on any being. (III.18)
Therefore always perform action, which must be performed,
For a man, performing action without attachment,
attains the Supreme.” (III.19)
Krishna continues to describe the nature of the self, and how this relates with right action. “He is wise among men, he is possessed of devotion, and performs all actions, who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction. The wise call him learned, whose acts are all free from desires and fancies, and whose actions are burnt down by the fire of knowledge.” (IV.18 & 19) Being the supreme teacher, Krishna doesn’t look sight of Arjuna’s dilemma with action. Life is action, for everyone, and all the time. It is a crucial thing to understand the right relationship between action and understanding, or in other words, what is wisdom in action:
“Devoid of expectations,
restraining the mind and the self,
and casting off all belongings, he incurs no sin,
performing actions merely for the sake of the body. (IV.21)
Satisfied with earnings coming spontaneously,
rising above the pairs of opposites, free from all animosity,
and equable on success or ill-success,
he is not fettered down, even though he performs (actions).” (IV.22)
In this beautifully eloquent passage, Krishna emphasises the primary position of consciousness. It is viewed as the recipient in which all beings and things exist and evolve. To abide in consciousness, prior to everything with an objective quality, is the supreme knowledge and must be the guide and light of all your subsequent actions:
“The sacrifice of knowledge, O terror of (your) foes! is superior to the sacrifice of wealth, for action, O son of Prithâ! is wholly and entirely comprehended in knowledge. […] Having learnt that, O son of Pându! you will not again fall thus into delusion; and by means of it, you will see all beings, without exception, first in yourself, and then in me. […] As a fire well kindled, O Arjuna! reduces fuel to ashes, so the fire of knowledge reduces all actions to ashes. […] He who has faith, whose senses are restrained, and who is assiduous, obtains knowledge. Obtaining knowledge, he acquires, without delay, the highest tranquillity. […] Actions, O Dhanañgaya! do not fetter one who is self-possessed, who has renounced action by devotion, and who has destroyed misgivings by knowledge. Therefore, O descendant of Bharata! destroy, with the sword of knowledge, these misgivings of yours which fill your mind, and which are produced from ignorance. Engage in devotion. Arise!” (IV.33-42)
Krishna now explains that this abiding in the deep presence that is prior to everything objective, although a renouncing to the fruits of action, is nevertheless repaid with a deep sense of peace and happiness, which are the very qualities that one sought to obtain through one’s own attachment to objects. One finds here a life free of suffering. “He who, casting off (all) attachment, performs actions dedicating them to Brahman, is not tainted by sin, as the lotus-leaf (is not tainted) by water.” (V.10)
“One whose self is not attached to external objects,
obtains the happiness that is in (one’s) self;
and by means of concentration of mind, joining one’s self (with the Brahman),
one obtains indestructible happiness. (V.21)
For the enjoyments born of contact
(between senses and their objects) are,
indeed, sources of misery;
they have a beginning as well as an end. (V.22)
The devotee whose happiness is within (himself),
whose recreation is within (himself),
and whose light (of knowledge) also is within (himself),
becoming (one with) the Brahman, obtain the Brahmic bliss.” (V.24)
To abide in the self is to be as a result free from the fruits of action, liberated from the suffering contained in our attachment to objective experience, and blessed by the inherent peace present in our real self. Krishna then begins to explain the means by which we can be more established in our true nature. This is in fact true meditation. Krishna insists: “That devotion should be practised with steadiness and with an undesponding heart.” (VI.23) And “Wherever the active and unsteady mind breaks forth, there one should ever restrain it, and fix it steadily on the self alone.” (VI.26)
“(A man) should elevate his self by his self;
he should not debase his self,
for even (a man’s) own self is his friend,
(a man’s) own self is also his enemy. (VI.5)
As a light standing in a windless (place) flickers not,
that is declared to be the parallel for a devotee,
whose mind is restrained,
and who devotes his self to abstraction. (VI.19)
Thus constantly devoting his self to abstraction,
a devotee, freed from sin,
easily obtains that supreme happiness-contact
with the Brahman. (VI.28)
He who has devoted his self to abstraction,
by devotion, looking alike on everything,
sees the self abiding in all beings,
and all beings in the self. (VI.29)
To him who sees me in everything,
and everything in me,
I am never lost,
and he is not lost to me.” (VI.30)
Krishna now speaks of the immanent nature of the self, which he is now identifying himself with. Consciousness is not only prior and independent to all objects, but is also the very fabric of the universe. “There is nothing else, O Dhanañgaya! higher than myself; all this is woven upon me, like numbers of pearls upon a thread.” (VII.7) He’s pushing it further, stating that all things are made of ‘I am’, which he endeavours to describe in a long and poetical passage:
“Earth, water, fire, air, space, mind,
understanding, and egoism,
thus is my nature
divided eightfold. (VII.4)
But this is a lower (form of my) nature.
Know (that there is) another (form of my) nature,
and higher than this, which is animate, O you of mighty arms!
and by which this universe is upheld. (VII.5)
Know that all things
have these (for their) source.
I am the producer
and the destroyer of the whole universe.” (VII.6)
”I am the taste in water, O son of Kuntî! I am the light of the sun and moon. I am ‘Om’ in all the Vedas, sound in space, and manliness in human beings; I am the fragrant smell in the earth, refulgence in the fire; I am life in all beings, and penance in those who perform penance. Know me, O son of Prithâ! to be the eternal seed of all beings; I am the discernment of the discerning ones, and I the glory of the glorious. I am also the strength, unaccompanied by fondness or desire, of the strong. And, O chief of the descendants of Bharata! I am love unopposed to piety among all beings. And all entities which are of the quality of goodness, and those which are of the quality of passion and of darkness, know that they are, indeed, all from me; I am not in them, but they are in me.” (VII.8-12)
“The undiscerning ones, not knowing my transcendent
and inexhaustible essence, than which there is nothing higher,
think me, who am unperceived,
to have become perceptible. (VII.24)
All beings, O terror of (your) foes! are deluded at the time of birth
by the delusion, O descendant of Bharata!
caused by the pairs of opposites
arising from desire and aversion.” (VII.27)
In the next two chapters, Krishna is now being more and more lyrical in his description of his “supreme abode”, giving another magistral and majestic summary of his nature as the “supreme divine Being”, or ‘I am’, and describing the way to recognise its presence and abide in it:
“He who thinks of the supreme divine Being, O son of Prithâ!
with a mind not (running) to other (objects),
and possessed of abstraction
in the shape of continuous meditation (about the supreme), goes to him.” (VIII.8)
”He who, possessed of reverence (for the supreme Being) with a steady mind, and with the power of devotion, properly concentrates the life-breath between the brows, and meditates on the ancient Seer, the ruler, more minute than the minutest atom, the supporter of all, who is of an unthinkable form, whose brilliance is like that of the sun, and who is beyond all darkness, he attains to that transcendent and divine Being.” (VIII.9-10)
“To the devotee who constantly practises abstraction, O son of Prithâ!
and who with a mind not (turned) to anything else,
is ever and constantly meditating on me,
I am easy of access.” (VIII.14)
“On the advent of day, all perceptible things are produced from the unperceived; and on the advent of night they dissolve in that same (principle) called the unperceived. […] But there is another entity, unperceived and eternal, and distinct from this unperceived (principle), which is not destroyed when all entities are destroyed. It is called the unperceived, the indestructible; they call it the highest goal. Attaining to it, none returns. That is my supreme abode. That supreme Being, O son of Prithâ! he in whom all these entities dwell, and by whom all this is permeated, is to be attained to by reverence not (directed) to another.” (VIII.18 & 20-22)
“This whole universe is pervaded by me
in an unperceived form.
All entities live in me,
but I do not live in them.” (IX.4)
”I am the Mantra; […] I am the father of this world, the mother, the dispenser of the fruits of actions, and the grandfather; […] I am the sacred verse. I too am the sacrificial butter, and I the fire, I the offering. I am the father of this universe, the mother, the creator, the grandsire, the thing to be known, […] the goal, the sustainer, the lord, the supervisor, the residence, the asylum, the friend, the source, and that in which it merges, the support, the receptacle, and the inexhaustible seed. I cause heat and I send forth and stop showers. I am immortality and also death; and I, O Arjuna! am that which is and that which is not.” (IX.16-19)
“I am alike to all beings;
to me none is hateful, none dear.
But those who worship me with devotion (dwell) in me,
and I too in them. (IX.29)
(Place your) mind on me, become my devotee, my worshipper;
reverence me, and thus making me your highest goal,
and devoting your self to abstraction,
you will certainly come to me.” (IX.34)
Krishna reveals now the nature of his being as grace. He then endeavours to describe some of his qualities and potentialities — his “divine emanations” — in another beautiful poem on ‘I am’:
“The wise, full of love,
worship me, believing that
I am the origin of all,
and that all moves on through me. (X.8)
(Placing their) minds on me,
offering (their) lives to me,
instructing each other, and speaking about me,
they are always contented and happy. (X.9)
To these, who are constantly devoted,
and who worship with love,
I give that knowledge
by which they attain to me. (X.10)
And remaining in their hearts,
I destroy, with the brilliant lamp of knowledge,
the darkness born of ignorance in such (men) only,
out of compassion for them.” (X.11)
”I am the self, O Gudâkesa! seated in the hearts of all beings. I am the beginning and the middle and the end also of all beings. […] And I am mind among the senses. I am consciousness in (living) beings. […] I myself am time inexhaustible, and I the creator whose faces are in all directions. I am death who seizes all, and the source of what is to be. […] I am silence respecting secrets. I am the knowledge of those that have knowledge.” (X.20, 22, 33, 38)
“And, O Arjuna! I am also
that which is the seed of all things.
There is nothing movable or immovable
which can exist without me. (X.39)
O terror of your foes!
there is no end to my divine emanations.
Here I have declared the extent
of (those) emanations only in part. (X.40)
Whatever thing (there is) of power,
or glorious, or splendid,
know all that to be produced
from portions of my energy.” (X.41)
Having received Krishna’s guidance, Arjuna feels now ready to contemplate the truth in all its everlasting splendour. He makes his request with these words: “In consequence of the excellent and mysterious words concerning the relation of the supreme and individual soul, which you have spoken for my welfare, this delusion of mine is gone away. […] I have heard from you at large about the production and dissolution of things, and also about your inexhaustible greatness. […] I wish, O best of beings! to see your divine form.“ (XI.1-3) These excerpts where Krishna’s inextinguible power is revealed to Arjuna were recalled by Robert Oppenheimer — the father of the atomic bomb — as he conducted the first nuclear explosion in New Mexico: “If in the heavens, the lustre of a thousand suns burst forth all at once, that would be like the lustre of that mighty one. […] I am death, the destroyer of the worlds, fully developed, and I am now active about the overthrow of the worlds.” (XI.12, 32) Here is the description of the Lord’s inexhaustible form:
”Having spoken thus, O king! Hari, the great lord of the possessors of mystic power, then showed to the son of Prithâ, his supreme divine form, having many mouths and eyes, having (within it) many wonderful sights, having many celestial ornaments, having many celestial weapons held erect, wearing celestial flowers and vestments, having an anointment of celestial perfumes, full of every wonder, the infinite deity with faces in all directions. If in the heavens, the lustre of a thousand suns burst forth all at once, that would be like the lustre of that mighty one. There the son of Pându then observed in the body of the god of gods the whole universe (all) in one, and divided into numerous (divisions). Then Dhanañgaya filled with amazement, and with hair standing on end, bowed his head before the god.” (XI.9-14)
Arjuna has now seen and experienced in himself the full nature and power of the ultimate being. “Then Dhanañgaya filled with amazement, and with hair standing on end, bowed his head before the god, and spoke with joined hands.” He says thus:
“O god! I see within your body the gods, as also all the groups of various beings; and the lord Brahman seated on (his) lotus seat, and all the sages and celestial snakes. I see you, who are of countless forms, possessed of many arms, stomachs, mouths, and eyes on all sides. And, O lord of the universe! O you of all forms! I do not see your end or middle or beginning. I see you bearing a coronet and a mace and a discus — a mass of glory, brilliant on all sides, difficult to look at, having on all sides the effulgence of a blazing fire or sun, and indefinable. You are indestructible, the supreme one to be known. You are the highest support of this universe. You are the inexhaustible protector of everlasting piety. I believe you to be the eternal being.” (XI.15-18)
After this climactic portion of the teaching, Krishna chooses to put forward the importance of love and devotion — called ‘bhakti’ in India — in the recognition of our true nature. “Those who being constantly devoted, and possessed of the highest faith, worship me with a mind fixed on me, are deemed by me to be the most devoted.” (XII.3)
“As to those, however, O son of Prithâ!
who, dedicating all their actions to me,
and (holding) me as their highest (goal), worship me,
meditating on me with a devotion towards none besides me, (XII.6)
and whose minds are fixed on me,
I, Without delay, come forward
as their deliverer from the ocean
of this world of death. (XII.7)
Place your mind on me only;
fix your understanding on me.
In me you will dwell hereafter,
(there is) no doubt.” XII.8
Krishna then gives another beautiful, unsurpassed summary of the “supreme spirit in this body”, which he names as “supervisor, adviser, supporter, enjoyer, the great lord, and the supreme self also.” (XIII.23) This indeed is another breathtaking condensed description:
“Possessed of the qualities of all the senses, (but) devoid of all senses, unattached, it supports all, is devoid of qualities, and the enjoyer of qualities. It is within all things and without them; it is movable and also immovable; it is unknowable through (its) subtlety; it stands afar and near. Not different in (different) things, but standing as though different, it should be known to be the supporter of (all) things, and that which absorbs and creates (them). It is the radiance even of the radiant (bodies); it is said (to be) beyond darkness. It is knowledge, the object of knowledge, that which is to be attained to by knowledge, and placed in the heart of all. […] He who thus knows nature and spirit, together with the qualities, is not born again, however living.” (XIII.15-18 & 24)
“He sees (truly) who sees the supreme lord
abiding alike in all entities,
and not destroyed
though they are destroyed.” (XIII.28)
Krishna now ends up describing the difference between the ‘field’ on one hand — called ‘kshetra’ in Sanskrit, a term used for ‘battlefield’, and a direct reference to the battle which Arjuna is engaged in — and the ‘knower of the field’ (Kshetragña) on the other. He starts with these preparatory words:
“When a man sees all the variety of entities as existing in one, and (all as) emanating from that, then he becomes (one with) the Brahman. This inexhaustible supreme self, being without beginning and without qualities, does not act, and is not tainted, O son of Kuntî! though stationed in the body. As by (reason of its) subtlety the all-pervading space is not tainted, so the self stationed in every body is not tainted.” (XIII.31-33)
“As the sun singly lights up all this world,
so the knower of the field (Kshetragña),
O descendant of Bharata!
lights up the whole field (Kshetra). (XIII.34)
Those who, with the eye of knowledge,
thus understand the difference between [the field] and [the knower of the field],
and the destruction of the nature of all entities,
go to the supreme.” (XIII.35)
Now Krishna endeavours to replace his whole teaching in the context of human everyday experience. Until we have gone through the veil of separation and established ourself in our true nature, we have to live according to three fundamental forces of nature which are in the Indian tradition ’Sattwa’ — which is goodness, light and harmony, ‘Rajas’ — which is passion, both good and bad, and ‘Tamas’ — which is darkness, ignorance, inertia. Krishna explains further: “Goodness (Sattwa) unites (the self) with pleasure; passion (Rajas), O descendant of Bharata! with action; and darkness with heedlessness (Tamas), after shrouding up knowledge.” (XIV.9) Then he shows that when one truly abides in and as God’s being, one is not limited and afflicted by these three qualities or forces:
“Those who, resorting to this knowledge, reach assimilation with my essence, are not born at the creation, and are not afflicted at the destruction (of the universe). The great Brahman is a womb for me, in which I cast the seed. From that, O descendant of Bharata! is the birth of all things. Of the bodies, O son of Kuntî! which are born from all wombs, the (main) womb is the great Brahman, and I (am) the father, the giver of the seed.” (XIV. 2-4)
“He is said to have transcended the qualities, O son of Pându!
who is not averse to light and activity
and delusion (when they) prevail,
and who does not desire (them when they) cease; (XIV.22)
who sitting like one unconcerned
is never perturbed by the qualities;
who remains steady and moves not,
(thinking) merely that the qualities exist; who is self-contained; (XIV.23)
to whom pain and pleasure are alike;
to whom a sod and a stone and gold are alike;
to whom what is agreeable and what is disagreeable are alike;
who has discernment; to whom censure and praise of himself are alike; (XIV.24)
who is alike in honour and dishonour;
who is alike towards
the sides of friends and foes;
and who abandons all action. (XIV.25)
And he who worships me with an unswerving devotion,
transcends these qualities,
and becomes fit for (entrance into)
the essence of the Brahman. (XIV.26)
For I am the embodiment of the Brahman,
of indefeasible immortality,
of eternal piety,
and of unbroken happiness.” (XIV.27)
Krishna now describes the position of the supreme ‘Purusha’ or Self — “that imperishable seat” as he calls it, in the ”individual soul”. “Those who are free from pride and delusion, who have overcome the evils of attachment, who are constant in (contemplating) the relation of the supreme and individual self, from whom desire has departed, who are free from the pairs (of opposites) called pleasure and pain, go undeluded to that imperishable seat.” (XV.5) He then makes a distinction between an enlightened individual soul (the “unconcerned one” or “indestructible”), and God’s mind (the “being supreme” or “the inexhaustible lord”):
“The sun does not light it,
nor the moon, nor fire.
That is my highest abode,
going to which none returns. (XV.6)
An eternal portion of me it is, which,
becoming an individual soul in the mortal world,
draws (to itself) the senses
with the mind as the sixth. (XV.7)
There are these two beings in the world,
the destructible and the indestructible.
The destructible (includes) all things.
The unconcerned one is (what is) called the indestructible. (XV.16)
But the being supreme is yet another,
called the highest self,
who as the inexhaustible lord,
pervading the three worlds, supports (them). (XV.17)
And since I transcend the destructible,
and since I am higher also than the indestructible,
therefore am I celebrated in the world
and in the Vedas as the best of beings.” (XV.18)
Suddenly, Krishna resorts to describe the qualities to the “two classes of created beings in this world, the godlike and the demoniac”. (XVI.6) He first gives a full account of the divine colours contained in beings “born to godlike endowments”, and a lengthy one, crude and highly descriptive, of the persons “born to demoniac endowments”. Let’s only peer here on this milder description of the latter: “Ostentatiousness, pride, vanity, anger, and also harshness and ignorance (are) his, O son of Prithâ! who is born to demoniac endowments. Godlike endowments are deemed to be (means) for final emancipation, demoniac for bondage.” (XVI.4-5) Krishna then enjoins Arjuna to act with discrimination:
“Freedom from fear, purity of heart, perseverance in (pursuit of) knowledge and abstraction of mind, gifts, self-restraint, and sacrifice, study of the Vedas, penance, straightforwardness, harmlessness, truth, freedom from anger, renunciation, tranquillity, freedom from the habit of backbiting, compassion for (all) beings, freedom from avarice, gentleness, modesty, absence of vain activity, noblemindedness, forgiveness, courage, purity, freedom from a desire to injure others, absence of vanity, (these), O descendant of Bharata! are his who is born to godlike endowments.” (XVI.1-3)
“Therefore in discriminating between what should be done and what should not be done,
your authority (must be) scripture.
And knowing what is declared by the ordinances of scripture,
you should perform action in this world.” (XVI.24)
Krishna now gives an answer to Arjuna‘s question: “What is the state of those, O Krishna! who worship with faith?” (XVII.1) He describes three kinds of penance which he calls ‘bodily’, ‘vocal’ and ‘mental’. “This threefold penance, practised with perfect faith, by men who do not wish for the fruit, and who are possessed of devotion is called good.” (XVII.17)
“Paying reverence to gods, Brâhmanas, preceptors, and men of knowledge; purity, straightforwardness, life as Brahmakârin, and harmlessness, (this) is called the penance bodily. The speech which causes no sorrow, which is true, agreeable, and beneficial, and the study of the Vedas, (this) is called the penance vocal. Calmness of mind, mildness, taciturnity, self-restraint, and purity of heart, this is called the penance mental.” (XVII.14-16)
Krishna’s teaching is now coming to an end. He gives a few last recapitulating discourses, with some lovely affectionate accents towards Arjuna. “On me (place) your mind, become my devotee, sacrifice to me, reverence me, you will certainly come to me. I declare to you truly, you are dear to me.” (XVIII.65)
“A man possessed of a pure understanding,
controlling his self by courage,
discarding sound and other objects of sense,
casting off affection and aversion; (XVIII.51)
Thus reaching the Brahman, and with a tranquil self,
he grieves not, wishes not;
but being alike to all beings,
obtains the highest devotion to me. (XVIII.54)
By (that) devotion he truly understands
who I am and how great.
And then understanding me truly,
he forthwith enters into my (essence). (XVIII.55)
The lord, O Arjuna!
is seated in the region of the heart of all beings,
turning round all beings (as though) mounted on a machine,
by his delusion. (XVIII.61)
With him, O descendant of Bharata!
seek shelter in every way;
by his favour you will obtain the highest tranquillity,
the eternal seat. (XVIII.62)
Thus have I declared to you
the knowledge more mysterious than any mystery.
Ponder over it thoroughly,
and then act as you like. (XVIII.63)
Once more, listen to my excellent words
-most mysterious of all.
Strongly I like you, therefore
I will declare what is for your welfare. (XVIII.64)
On me (place) your mind,
become my devotee,
sacrifice to me, reverence me,
you will certainly come to me. (XVIII.65)
I declare to you truly, you are dear to me.
Forsaking all duties, come to me as (your) sole refuge.
I will release you from all sins.
Be not grieved.” (XVIII.66)
The ‘Song of the Lord’ or Bhagavad Gita ends here with Krishna questioning Arjuna on his progress. Then comes a touching conclusion by Sanjaya, who is the narrator of the poem in the Mahabharata:
The Deity said:
“Have you listened to this, O son of Prithâ!
with a mind (fixed) on (this) one point only?
Has your delusion (caused) by ignorance
been destroyed, O Dhanañgaya?” (XVIII.72)
“Destroyed is my delusion;
by your favour, O undegraded one!
I (now) recollect myself. I stand freed from doubts.
I will do your bidding.” (XVIII.73)
“Thus did I hear this dialogue between Vâsudeva and the high-minded son of Prithâ, (a dialogue) wonderful and causing the hair to stand on end. By the favour of Vyâsa, I heard this highest mystery, (this) devotion, from Krishna himself, the lord of the possessors of mystic power, who proclaimed it in person. O king! remembering and (again) remembering this wonderful and holy dialogue of Kesava and Arjuna, I rejoice over and over again. And remembering and (again) remembering that excessively wonderful form of Hari also, great is my amazement, O king! and I rejoice over and over again. Wherever (is) Krishna, the lord of the possessors of mystic power, wherever (is the (great) archer, the son of Prithâ, there in my opinion (are) fortune, victory, prosperity, and eternal justice.” (XVIII.74-78)
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
Om Shanti! Shanti! Shanti!
Bhagavad Gita verses by legendary sage Vyasa
Translated by Kashinath Trimbak Telan (1850-1893)
Accompanying text by Alain Joly
All excerpts presented here come from ‘The Bhagavadgita, with The Sanatsugatiya and The Anugita – translated by Kashinath Trimbak Telan – Volume 8, The Sacred Books of the East, 1882 – Oxford, The Clarendon Press’ at Internet Sacred Text Archive. You can enjoy there the Bhagavad Gita in its totality…
– ‘The Bhagavad Gita’ – Translated by Kashinath Trimbak Telang – (Digireads.com Publishing)
– ‘The Bhagavad Gita’ – by Eknath Easwaran – (Nilgiri Press)
– ‘The Bhagavad Gita’ – Translated by Laurie L. Patton – (Penguin Classics)
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