I was born a Christian, raised a Christian, and I'll die a Christian. Nevertheless, I enjoy learning about many different religions, and one of my favorite courses in college was “World Religions.” I read portions of many sacred texts, and have since wanted to read them more extensively - starting with the Bhagavad Gita.
I am not Hindu. I have never been to a Hindu place of worship, and I have had very few conversations with practicing Hindus about their religion. Hence my understanding of the Gita may be very flawed, and very inadequate. But I read it, and this is what I thought. If there are gross misunderstandings on my part, please don’t take offense. My intent is to learn, and to help others understand a small portion of a religion I am attempting to understand.
What is the Bhagavad Gita?
It is a portion of the Hindu scripture called the Mahabharata. As I understand, it is the most well known and widely read and quoted portion of the scripture. It takes place in the middle of a war. Arjuna is the commander of his army, and feels a moral dilemma about fighting his own cousins. Lord Krishna explains to him his duties, and then expounds the meaning of life, the cycles of reincarnation, and how one can finally escape this life and become one with God. He does this through the Vedantic philosophies, the different Yogis, the Gunas, and other examples and analogies on life.
The main lesson is to go through life doing good, but to avoid attachment. We should work hard, serve others, do our best, but never care about the outcome. Whether we are rewarded are punished, should not matter. The goal is to be one with God. We should act and feel the same toward our friends and foes, saints and sinners, family and strangers. We should be moderate in all things, disciplined in all actions. The level to which we do this determines the state of our reincarnation. Hopefully we will eventually attain perfect union with God, forsake all attachment, and escape the reincarnation cycle.
Quotes, and some of my thoughts about them.
“There was never a time when either I, or you, or these rulers of men did not exist. Nor will there ever be a future when all of us will cease to exist.”
The soul of man is eternal. Nothing can change that.
“The foolish do not respect me in this human form, failing to know My supremely excellent form, that of the highest Lord of all creation.”
It seems this is true of all prophets or Gods in all religions. I can compare it easily to Christ, who was scorned and hated by those of his own religion in his time, and was eventually killed by his own people. They would not recognize him for who he was.
“Even those who become devotees of other deities and, with faith, perform sacrifices to them, they too sacrifice to Me…though not in the manner prescribed.”
Lord Krishna appreciates all worship of all religions, saying that there is only one God (him), and all are worshiping him, though some in the wrong way. I believe the same thing, there is only one God, some are worshiping him the way he desires, but all who worship a supreme being are worshiping him.
“But you cannot view Me with these eyes of yours. I am bestowing supernatural sight upon you – behold My divine Yoga.”
“Were the radiance of a thousand suns to blaze forth at one go in the sky, it might approximate the magnificence of this exalted being.”
“I am the intelligence of the intelligent.”
These descriptions of the glory, brightness, and intelligence of the Supreme being ring very true, and the same descriptions are found in other sacred texts.
“Man is composed of his faith – as his faith is, so is he”
We are what we believe we are, or at least we become so.
“I shall consider whoever studies this conversation on dharma between us as having worshiped Me by performing a Sacrifice of Knowledge.”
Lord Krishna says that he will accept the reading of this scripture as worship of him. I appreciate the fact that even an attempt to understand is counted for good.
“Just as a man casts off worn-out clothes and puts on others which are new, likewise the embodied soul, casting off old bodies, is united with other, new ones.”
“There is nothing in this world as purifying as knowledge.”
“Both renunciation of action and its selfless performance lead to salvation, but of the two, the selfless performance of action is superior to its renunciation.”
“Since wisdom is veiled by ignorance, all creatures are confused.”
“A man should not raise himself, and should not demean himself.”
“For the mind, O Krsna, is unsteady, turbulent, powerful and obstinate. Controlling it, I think, is as difficult as enveloping the wind.”
“Out of thousands of men, hardly one attempts to reach perfection.”
“A man who contemplates the objects of sense develops an attachment to them; attachment gives rise to desire, and desire results in anger. Anger gives rise to confusion, confusion to loss of memory. Loss of memory destroys intelligence and, once a man’s intelligence is destroyed, he perishes.”
When I read the text, I highlighted about 160 passages. When I typed up those that interested me the most, I typed up 62. I have included here 16. If anyone would like to see the rest of the passages that I typed up, just ask me and I’ll post them.
7/21/2012 - Per request, here are all 62 with their citations.
1:35 - “These I would not wish to kill though they have risen to kill us.”
1:37 - “Having killed out own folk, how can we be happy?”
1:40 - “In the annihilation of a family, its time-honored rites are destroyed, and when these rites perish, lawlessness overpowers the entire family.”
2:5 - “It is better to live by begging in this world rather than by killing one’s revered elders.”
2:12 - “There was never a time when either I, or you, or these rulers of men did not exist. Nor will there ever be a future when all of us will cease to exist.”
2:22 - “Just as a man casts off worn-out clothes and puts on others which are new, likewise the embodied soul, casting off old bodies, is united with other, new ones.”
2:27 - “For one that is born death is certain, and to one that dies; birth is certain This being unavoidable, you ought not to grieve.”
2:38 - “Regarding as a like pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat, prepare yourself for battle. If you act thus, you shall not incur sin.”
2:47,48 - “Do not perform action with an eye to its fruits…accepting alike success or failure. Such equanimity is known as Yoga”
2:62,63 - “A man who contemplates the objects of sense develops an attachment to them; attachment gives rise to desire, and desire results in anger. Anger gives rise to confusion, confusion to loss of memory. Loss of memory destroys intelligence and, once a man’s intelligence is destroyed, he perishes.”
3:17 - “The wise man should not unsettle the faith of the ignorant one’s attachment to action, but should himself become a doer of deeds in the spirit of yoga, and enjoin others to do so willingly.”
3:32“Those who fault My teaching and do not follow it, are foolish beyond redemption, thoughtless, and are utterly ruined.”
3:41 - “Control your senses first.”
4:8 - “I come into being from age to age to protect the good, destroy the wicked and establish righteousness.”
4:34 - “The wise who have seen the truth will instruct you in knowledge if you show humility in reverence, inquiry and service.”
4:38 - “There is nothing in this world as purifying as knowledge.”
5:2 - “Both renunciation of action and its selfless performance lead to salvation, but of the two, the selfless performance of action is superior to its renunciation.”
5:15 - “Since wisdom is veiled by ignorance, all creatures are confused.”
5:20 - “One should not be glad on getting what is desired nor sad should the undesired occur.”
5:22 - “Those pleasures arising out of contacts with external objects are only the origin of unhappiness, for they have a beginning and an end.”
6:5 - “A man should not raise himself, and should not demean himself.”
6:9 - “He whose attitude is the same towards benefactors, friends, foes, towards the neutral, impartial, or hateful ones, relatives, saints and even sinners, is said to be of special merit.”
6:17 - “He who is moderate in food and play, disciplined in his actions, and controlled in sleep or keeping awake achieves a yoga which destroys all pain.”
6:32 - “The yogin who looks on everything in the same way as if it were his self, be it in pleasure or in pain, is held to be a perfect yogi.”
6:34 - “For the mind, O Krsna, is unsteady, turbulent, powerful and obstinate. Controlling it, I think, is as difficult as enveloping the wind.”
7:3 - “Out of thousands of men, hardly one attempts to reach perfection.”
7:10 - “I am the intelligence of the intelligent.”
7:16-18 - “Of four kinds are the virtuous people who worship me…
1. Those in distress
2. Those who seek knowledge
3. Those who seek wealth
4. The men of knowledge
All of them are good, but I regard the man of knowledge as equal to Me. For having united his mind in Me he is fixed in Me, the highest goal.”
7:21 - “Whatever form or deity a devotee with faith may wish to worship, I make his faith unswerving.”
8:7 - “Remember me at all times”
8:13 - “In the one syllable ‘Aum’, the form of Brahman, the one who thinks of Me as he leaves his body attains the highest state.
8:15 - “Having attained Me, these noble souls are not subjected to the transitory abode of misery, rebirth, for they have attained the highest perfection.”
9:11 - “The foolish do not respect me in this human form, failing to know My supremely excellent form, that of the highest Lord of all creation.”
9:23 - “Even those who become devotees of other deities and, with faith, perform sacrifices to them, they too sacrifice to Me…though not in the manner prescribed.”
9:27 - “Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever your gift, whatever austerity you observe…offer all that to Me.”
10:4,5 - “Reason, knowledge, freedom from confusion, mercy, truth, self restraint, tranquility, happiness, unhappiness, being and non-being, fear and fearlessness, non-violence, evenness of temper, contentment, austerity, charity, glory, ill-repute – the different characteristics of living creatures – are born of me.”
11:4 - “O Lord, if You hold that it is possible for me to behold it, then, O Lord of Yoga, show me Your imperishable form.”
11:8 - “But you cannot view Me with these eyes of yours. I am bestowing supernatural sight upon you – behold My divine Yoga.”
11:12 - “Were the radiance of a thousand suns to blaze forth at one go in the sky, it might approximate the magnificence of this exalted being.”
11:16 - “But I do not perceive Your end, or Your middle or beginning.”
11:51 - “Even were you not here, all the warriors, standing variously arrayed in the different armies, shall be no more…I myself have already killed these earlier. Become merely the instrument.”
12:2 - “Those who, focusing their thoughts on Me, always ardent, worship Me with the highest faiths are, in My opinion, the best among the yogins.”
12:5 - “The Imperceptible is perceived with difficulty by those with physical bodies.”
12:16,18,19 - “He who expects nothing, is pure and works well…he who is the same toward enemies or friends…gives equal weight to censure and praise…such a devotee is beloved of Me.”
THE THREE GUNAS
14:5,6,7,8 - “Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, the three gunas born of Prakrti, keep bound in the body the unchangeable being which resides in the body.”
Sattva holds creatures in bondage through attachment to happiness and to knowledge.
Rajas holds creatures in bondage through attachment to action.
Tamas arises out of ignorance, keeping them in the bondage of neglect of duty, sloth, and sleep.
16:1,2,3 - “Fearlessness, purity and sweetness in temperament, perseverance in the yoga of Self-knowledge, charity, endurance, sacrifice, study of the scriptures, austerity, honesty; nonviolence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, equanimity, abstinence from malicious talk, compassion for all creatures, freedom from greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, splendor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, absence of malice, and absence of pride - these are some of the qualities of those endowed with divine virtues”
16:8,9,10 - “They say that the entire world is unreal, without foundation, without a Supreme Lord, created without a causal link... Adhering to this view, these soul-less people, with small intellect and cruel deeds, spring into existence only to destroy the world. Taking refuge in insatiable sensual desire, imbued with hypocrisy, pride, and arrogance; deluded into the wrong conclusions; they act with impure intentions.”
17:3 – “Man is composed of his faith – as his faith is, so is he formed”
17:20“It is one’s duty to give”
17:24 - “Uttering the word ‘Aum’…always begins all rites and sacrifice, charity and penance laid down in the scriptures.”
18:5,6 - “Sacrifice, charity, penance and action should never be abandoned. They must be performed, for sacrifice, charity, penance, and action cleanse even the wise…even these acts should be performed, detachedly and abandoning the fruit.”
18:42 - Peace, self-control, self-restraint, honesty, all-forgiveness, and also simplicity, wisdom, use of own knowledge, knowledge about the Divine — such is the duty of a Brahmin, arising from his nature.
18:43 - Valor, grandeur, firmness, agility, and also inability to flee from battle, generosity, the nature of a ruler — such is the duty of a Ksatriya, arising from his nature.
18:44 - Agriculture, cattle-rearing, trade are the duties of a Vaisya, born of his own nature;
The work of a servant is the duty of a Sudra, arising from his nature
18:47 - “In performing ones naturally ordained duty, a man does not commit sin.”
18:66 - “I shall release you from all sins, have no more fear.”
18:70 - “I shall consider whoever studies this conversation on dharma between us as having worshipped Me by performing a Sacrifice of Knowledge.”