Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Gita Snapshot

Hari OM
'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

Bhagavad Gita summary. Actually, 'summary' might be overstating it. The aim here is simply to give a sketch of how the Gita progresses from the worldly to moksha. This beacon text is extracted from the much larger itihaasa, the Mahaabhaarata. In that tale, we follow the dynasties of the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Shri Krishna is in amongst it all as a cousin of Arjuna, one of the Pandavas. Many adventures and misadventures, betrayals and general family disorder and disagreement take place leading up to the battle of Kurukshetra. Here, Arjuna finds himself leading his family against the Kauravas, including those whom he counted as relatives and friends.

There are eighteen chapters and they can be divided into three 'themes'. The first six chapters respond directly to the plight of Arjuna when in the first he falls to his knees before his wise cousin Krishna and begs to be relieved of starting this war. Krishna now sees that the cowering prince is ready to receive the Knowledge. He begins in ch.2 by stating the nature of dharma and what the purpose of life is - in essence, He gives His own 'nutshell' version of Vedanta! Having prepared Arjuna that he is about to receive a lengthy response to his plea for escape from his own dharma, and Arjuna seeing that moksha is something to desire, Sri Krishna launches into ch. 3. Here we are introduced to the essentials of karma, the law of action and reaction. Reaching for the Higher is all good and well, but in the meantime, we have to deal with the events around us. For this reason, Arjuna is told, there can no escaping this war. Ch. 4 is an expansion of the theme, telling fully what is expected of karma yoga, the practice of action in the world. The history of how karma came about is outlined, as are the trigunas, the three qualities of life, and in shloka 24, an offering prayer to be recited prior to taking food. This chapter is ended by a plea from Krishna to Arjuna to understand that one can act in the world without being attached to such action and that is essential it is done, according to dharma.

Now, having introduced the prince to the concepts of moksha through sannyaasa yoga, and dharma through karma yoga, Arjuna wishes to know which is the better of the two. In ch. 5, Krishna-ji explains that sannyaasa, although it may look like an easier, faster path,  is actually much more difficult, as there is a certain depth of understanding needed before one can truly be a renunciate. It is not for beginners. Karma yoga actually prepares one for sannyaasa, but it is not a particular practice, like pranayama. Ch.6 has the Lord teaching Arjuna that even in karma, there must be a level of sannyaasa, insofar as there must be no attachment to the doing. Meditation as a methodology is also raised and that there are those who are born to the spiritual life.

Moving into ch.7 and the next section, we learn more about the Knowledge itself. Formation of the world, Purusha, and the nature of causation are all covered. Ch. 8 Brahman is discussed and the need to chant OM to assist 'Realisation'. There is also a discussion on the nature of time and the epochs as well as the clarification that death does not bring moksha and neither can any number of rituals and prayers, only Knowledge of Brahman can do this. Ch.9 has Krishna revealing that simply hearing the teachings of Brahma-vidya was not enough. Indeed, often they are heard, but they are simply not understood. It is an advanced learning, to the point of being almost secretive. But with total commitment, compassion, faith, grace and devotion, success is near. A mature mind is needed for spiritual knowledge and these virtues, when cultivated, lead to maturity. Ch.10 is purely devotional, a song to the glories of the Higher. Which leads very neatly into ch.11, wherein Arjuna asks about the appearance of 'God' and Shri Krishna reveals Himself to the prince. Arjuna is awestruck and fearful and begs apology for his ignorance. Returning to human form, Krishna-ji continues, in ch. 12, to explain the very nature of devotion - bhakti - and how it is the application of bhakti in one's actions which assist in the attainment of sannyaasa.

The third section, chapters 13 to 18, deals with the nature of the individual spirit, the jiiva, and the Total Spirit, Aatman. Ch. 13 explains the knower and the known. Ch. 14 fills in more understanding of the triguna - sattva, raja, tamas. Ch.15 states that everything is that Self and that the Self is in everything - sarvaatma. The Lord says that vairaagya - detachment - is the key to seeing through the delusion. Ch. 16 goes back to basics in the sense that the mental makeup of the seeker will determine the success in spiritual pursuit. There are pointers as to what moods and behaviours are hurdles to progress and which are favourable. Ch. 17 explains that shraddha as another important element to the spiritual path. Without faith, nobody moves forward. However, shraddha is also subject to the predominant guna of the personality. There is also mention of non-violence (ahimsa), cleanliness (saucham), honesty (aarjava), self-restraint (brahmachaarya) and careful speech (vaktapas). Further, keep silent (mauna) when no need to talk, keep cheerfulness of being (manaaprasaada) and be generous (dana). Om Tat Sat is also explained.

The final chapter is dedicated purely to the nature of sannyaasa, its desirability, and that meditation is the key tool.

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