When in doubt, reveal to and meditate on your mentors.
Welcome to the podcast – Learn With Hari. I am Siddha Hari das a.k.a Sidharth chhabra. In this podcast, my goal will be to help the listener understand Vedic wisdom books and share a few practical takeaways from each passage. I am going to begin with the Bhagavad Gita. I recommend getting a copy of the Bhagavad Gita As it is by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. It will take us roughly 3 months to cover Bhagavad Gita.
Bhagavad Gita is the most widely read theistic science. It is part of the magnum opus Mahabharata, which has over a hundred thousand verses. In comparison, Bhagavad Gita has only 700 verses divided into 18 chapters. Mahabharata primarily gives an account of the war between Pandavas and Kauravas. Before the war began, Arjuna and Krsna had a lively conversation that came to be known as Bhagavad Gita. It is said one will find all the knowledge contained in other Vedic books in the Gita and more. It is considered to be the cream of milk ocean of Vedas.
— I congratulate you for choosing to drink this elixir of immortality —
The question may be asked if there is any qualification for studying or reading the Gita. Yes, there is one.
Although there are many personalities in the Mahabharata, the Gita primarily consists of two persons: Arjuna and Krsna. Krsna is the Supreme Person, and Arjuna is his friend and devotee. Srila Prabhupada writes in purport to 1.1 that one should read Gita very scrutinizingly with the help of a person who is a devotee of Sri Krsna and try to understand it without personally motivated interpretations. Arjuna heard the Gita directly from the Lord. Similarly, if someone is fortunate enough to understand the Bhagavad Gita in that line of disciplic succession without motivated interpretations, then he surpasses all studies of Vedic wisdom. In other words, one should find a teacher who has heard from a teacher who has in turn, heard from a teacher going all the way back to Krsna. This is known as disciplic succession.
Another prerequisite for understanding the Gita is to theoretically accept Krsna as the Supreme Person. In other words, although you may not have an experience of Krsna as God, yet you accept it as a hypothesis and follow the advice given in the book. This is just like a scientific experiment. Our hypothesis is Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The experimental procedure is the philosophy given in the Bhagavad Gita. When we apply that philosophy in our lives, we should compare the results. What are the expected results – transcendental happiness or inexplicable ecstasy!
In the first chapter of Gita, we hear about the military arrangement of two armies. On one side are the Pandavas, and on the other side are the Kauravas. They are related to each other as cousins. Kauravas had unjustly usurped the kingdom and had made numerous attempts to kill the Pandavas. Pandavas were forced into this war in order to earn their rightful empire and to establish virtue. At the onset of the war, Arjuna, who is the most prominent fighter amongst the Pandavas, expresses his doubts to Krishna. The first chapter also includes his apprehensions about seeing his family members standing on both sides of the battlefield, ready to kill each other. He expresses his discomfort to his friend and charioteer, Krishna.
Krishna, in the 2nd chapter, begins to relieve Arjuna of his misgivings and help him realize his dharma. While looking percursorily at this book, it may seem that Krsna is advocating war and violence. However, we will find out that Krsna is actually speaking of universal principles for humanity. It is these principles that have attracted millions over the last thousands of years to this book: Bhagavad Gita.
In this podcast, my goal will be to help the listener understand the flow of Gita and share a few practical takeaways.
Let’s begin. The first verse of the 2nd chapter is as follows:
Sañjaya said: Seeing Arjuna full of compassion, his mind depressed, his eyes full of tears, Madhusūdana, Kṛṣṇa, spoke the following words.
My teacher shared that Dhrtarastra, the father of Kauravas, was extremely happy to see the depressing mood of Arjuna. He was already dreaming of victory for his sons. Arjuna had once single-handedly defeated the whole Kaurava army before. Thus, Arjuna was the most important fighter on the side of Pandavas. Sanjaya, being the wise minister to Dhrtarastra, hints to Dhrtarastra by using the word “Madhusudana” in the first verse that his happiness is going to be short-lived. Madhusudana is another name for Krsna which means one who killed the demon Madhu. Sanjaya implies that just as Krsna destroyed the demon Madhu in the past, He would again destroy the demon of doubts in the heart of Arjuna. Krishna would empower Arjuna with his same mood of killing demons and would be the cause of the destruction of Kaurava’s army.
One may say that Arjuna is rightful in his emotional weakness and his desire to quit because wars lead to destruction. Why is Krishna speaking to him? We will deal with this question in elaborate detail later. However, in short, I want to share what Srila Prabhupada shared. He said that compassion for the dress of a drowning man is senseless. In other words, Kauravas due to their immoral behavior, deserved punishment. They had tried to disrobe Pandavas’ wife and had encroached over Pandavas’s rightful kingdom. Any compassion from Arjuna won’t desist them from their cruel acts. Compassion needs to be applied appropriately. If there isn’t any gas in the car, polishing the windows is not going to take us anywhere.
In the second verse, Lord Krsna chastises Arjuna heavily. The second verse is as follows:
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.
Krishna is surprised that even in His presence, Arjuna could have a depressing outlook towards life. Krishna is Arjuna’s best friend, his charioteer and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In spite of all this, Arjuna saw a bleak future for himself. Krishna questions that. Krishna tells him that Arjuna’s imagined path of renunciation is not going to be successful. When one deviates the path of dharma ascribed to an individual for another path that seems easy then one is bound to be dissatisfied.
On another but important note, in this verse, Krishna speaks for the first time in Gita and is addressed as Bhagavan. Srila Prabhupada elucidates on the term Bhagavan. He states that the absolute truth can be realized at three levels: Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. Brahman is the effulgence emanating from the Supreme Person. Many yogis or meditators have experienced blissful white light during their meditations. It is this Brahman. The second level of realization is Paramatma. Paramatma is the expansion of the Supreme Person that accompanies every soul. We all have experienced a voice in our hearts that always guides us towards virtue. Some yogis are able to connect fully and see Paramatma’s presence everywhere. Finally, we have Bhagavan realization. Bhagavan is the appellate meant for one who is full of opulence such as wealth, knowledge, renunciation, fame, strength and beauty. I can’t think of anyone except Krsna who exhibits these six opulences in full. An analogy to understand these three levels is the sun’s rays, the sun’s planet and the sun’s core. One who can reach the core automatically understands the function of the rays and planet. Similarly, one who can understand the message of Bhagavan, goes beyond the other two realizations.
In the third verse, Krishna continues his rebuke of Arjuna. The third verse is as follows:
O son of Pṛthā, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.
Arjuna might have argued that I only suggested giving up the battle because of my respect for my elders such as Bhishma. Krishna reads his mind and tells him not to fall for undue attachment. If one of our body parts turns cancerous, then the doctor would advise us to amputate that body part lest it destroys the body. Similarly, Arjuna was faced with family members who were not keeping dharma and the only way forward was to kill them. Arjuna had forgotten that his loving grandfather was beyond his material body. Due to an emotional outburst, Arjuna had difficulty finding the correct path. Krishna shakes him up. He asks Arjuna at once to give up his weak heart like a loving teacher. Krishna addressed him as Partha or, in other words, son of saintly Prtha. In doing so, Krishna inspired him.
- Arjuna shows us that even in the presence of the Supreme Person, one may have doubts about what to do. Therefore, it is alright to be doubtful. One only needs to express those doubts in front of Krsna or His representative. They will send us the sweet chastisement of correction.
- In this hour of confusion, Krishna reminded Arjuna of his connection with his saintly mother. Why? Kunti was more than a mother to Arjuna. She was a pure devotee of Krsna. She taught principles of devotion to Pandavas from an early age. When we encounter difficulties in our lives, we often meditate on our faults. Krishna suggests here that instead, we should remember our elders, teachers, and mentors who have invested so much in us. We should feel proud of our connection with them and derive strength from our relationship with them.