Friday, December 27, 2013

THE BHAGAVAD GITA – A RESPONSE

THE BHAGAVAD GITA – A RESPONSE

After all who am I to talk about the ‘Gita’. I am neither a saint nor a scholar or for that matter ‘God’. I have read it and tried to understand and assimilate what is said there. If you ask me if it has helped me, I would say ‘yes’. Then why should I want to talk about it here?

The motivation to write something came after reading the response of a person who has been described as an excellent mathematician and certainly not an ‘atheist’. I do not claim such credentials but I do have certain submissions to make in this context. Let me make it clear that I am not a diehard ‘theist’. There are times when I question the existence of such a concept. But I am certainly overawed by the existence of such scriptures and writings on the subject of God and how these have contributed to the continuation of mankind and brought it to this level, where we find ourselves in a position to question the roots of our own intelligence.

There are several noteworthy observations of this person which I shall highlight here and give my own opinions, for I guess everyone is entitled to one. I start with the very last sentence where he says –

“It is high time for everyone in the twenty first century to get rid of all kinds of spiritual brainwash”

I feel that it is time for me to get back to an earlier period in time because as per his statement it is ‘high time for everyone in the twenty first century’ for I believe I am still spiritually brainwashed as per his definition. The problem here is that he says ‘everyone’ and that is wrong, he should only talk for himself.

Next I go back to the very first sentence where he says -

“The only problem is that it is doubtful whether the Lord of the Universe ever said so. After all, this is a sloka written by a poet, probably Vyasa, who later imparted 'divinity' to the utterance”

Whether the Lord wrote it or not, my question is, do you find it relevant? What if it is written by a poet (he says ‘probably Vyasa’. He is not on sure ground there)? There could be several reasons why divinity has been attributed to it. To suggest blackmail by threatening that if these divine instructions are not followed one will be punished is tantamount to suggesting that all that has happened over the course of the centuries gone by is all wrong and we now have a chance to make it right. What a weird thought!

Next is the battle of Kurukshetra itself. If you listen to the discourses of the scholars, one would understand that the battle between the good and evil forces is within us. Kurukshetra is within everyone. It should not be tough for a man of the twenty first century to understand the metaphor involved. And of course it has to be told to a confused Arjuna on the battlefield when things come to a head. If he had been all knowing, there would have been no need to teach him, may be like the twenty first century man. A story is necessary for a man of lesser intelligence (pardon me for saying this) for it is difficult for him to grasp the meaning otherwise. Whether Krishna existed or not, whether he was God or not and whether there is a God or not, it cannot be disputed that these have served the purpose of knitting society together and bringing solace and order to the lives of so many.

Let us take another statement that has been made –

“There is even a suspicion among scholars that Adi Sankara interpolated the entire Gita in Mahabharatha, at a place and in a context that is most unsuitable and jarring for it”.

I am ignorant as to the scholars who said that. But if they have, then that is their own view point. May be they were greater scholars. I with my limited intellect find it the most perfect situation for expounding the ‘Gita’ for it has been already said that Arjuna was in a confused state. So when does anyone seek answers?

A reference is made to Swami Vivekanand who is supposed to have said

"Was there a stenographer present in the Kurukshethra battlefield to take down notes when Krishna was speaking?"

This is doing injustice to a great and realised soul. The problem I feel with whoever has written this response is that he has failed to understand what the Swami said in the larger context of things. Swami Vivekanand’s life itself was guided by the Gita and he himself expounded the paths of the four yogas as ways to realisation.

What the Buddha, JesusChrist, Adi Sankara, Mohammed and others have always emphasised is that God is one who is beyond comprehension and one can find him only within himself. Whether you believe there is God or not, you will always seek for answers. So what is the problem if you are enthralled by the Mahabharata and Lord Krishna’s Vishwarupam on the battlefield of Kurukshetra? What if it has been a written by a poet or God himself said it? The scriptures and the epics never cease to excite your imagination. I never fail to watch the Mahabharat on the television every Sunday morning.

But there is one thing that I agree with him when he says –

 “One thing that is certain is that the Lord of the Universe is too busy running the universe, to spend his valuable time talking to a chosen person in private”


I guess that is why we need others to speak to us.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Subbu, Your line of thinking is more or less similar to mine. I would only have this to say. Spirituality is a very individual "business" and nobody should call it brainwash. As regards whether the Lord of the Universe really preached Geeta, my personal view is that it does not matter. I find the philosophy preached in Geeta a great help for a peaceful living, at least at the stage I am at. It does not matter to me whether it came form the Lord. When we listen to so many different people in our life at different points in time and follow them, why not Geeta if I like it? Aam khanese matlab, ped ginane se nahin!

My point is simply that it is the content of Geeta that is the only relevant thing, not so much its context or whether it really "happened" etc. I like to compare it with Panchatantra and Aesop Fables. These are mere stories and yet we find them relevant for imbibing good principles. So why can't one look at Geeta also similarly? Who knows or can conclusively prove anything about its historical genesis?

Brain wash shouldn't be a "bad" word! Don't we keep doing that to ourselves all the time? For example, when faced with a tough situation or suffering or the death of a loved one, don't we "brain wash" ourselves with thoughts that can help us face the situation? So why not contemplation on liberation to be able to sail through life of inevitable ups and downs?

- Kishor Kulkarni

Varsha Nagpal said...

The issue is not between a believer and a non believer or theist and atheist. The issue is about an epic which has become a religious document. It was a story which has been added to by a lot of writers over a long period of time. A story of a fight between two sets of brothers for the possession of 5 villages, the evil of betting, the story of deception and also that sometimes deception can be resorted to.
The Gita does seem to have been added to at a later stage. The relevance of the teaching being told on the battle ground may be relevant but if the virat roop was shown to Arjuna before reaching the battle ground it would have appeared more reasonable. I cannot imagine a whole formation of warriors ready for battle and in the middle of that Krishna preaching and Arjuna understanding the full discourse. He must be under tremendous pressure! Nevertheless, the teachings of the Gita are said to be very practical and a lot of people follow those teachings religiously. It is perhaps good advice to follow in everyday life.
When the original blog writer says that "everyone should think about it" and you say that he should only speak for himself, I disagree with you. It is his view that he would like everyone to think about it. What is the harm in asking his readers to think?
The problem with brainwash is that people stop thinking, and accept teachings without understanding the rationale. That leads to blind faith. If a person understands, rationalizes and then follows a teaching then there is scope for improvement in the persons thinking too.
Every epic, religious or not, spoken by poets and wise people have relevance. They teach us a way of life and also tell us clearly to differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil. Yet the Pandavas have not really been shown in a bad light, although Yudhishtir was a gambler and gambled his kingdom, wife and brothers. He also agrees to utter a sentence which deceives his Guru. There are so many facets to the Mahabharat and Geeta.

Anonymous said...

Come to think about it, the issue boils down to giving more importance to the messenger and how and where he delivers the message than the message itself! Missing the tree for the wood?

- Kishor Kulkarni

GS Subramanian said...

KK your comment is very apt. A message when told in the form of a story can be assimilated faster. That's what the Mahabharatha is all about. It is an epic that encompasses all the facets of human emotions, positive and negative. It is our 'Divine Tragedy'. Throughout the war of Kurukshetra,Krishna is Arjuna's charioteer. The Vishwarupam that he shows Arjuna is the enlightenment which Arjuna achieves at the end after Krishna illumines him with the Gita. It is not a question why he should do it on the battlefield in in the midst of two armies arraigned against each other for battle, it is the battle between the good within us and Vishwaroopa Darshan is the ultimate enlightenment which he sees within himself. As to the dating of the Gita it does not really interest me and if Adi Sankara had done it at a later date then I believe he had a good reason to do so to effectively put forth Advaita Vedanta. Regarding the initial response of the person who had sent it as mail reply to a blog my objection is that he says 'everyone'.If he had said that was how he looks at it, I have no problems. I would also have appreciated if he had clarified what 'Spiritual Brainwash'is.

GS Subramanian said...

Ravi Easwaran NIce post Subu. However, as I said in an earlier post to Pattabhji, the original post is the writing of a man who has been educated in the system set up by Lord Maculay- He is a man in a brown skin but with British mind and thought. The Tragedy of such persons is that they are alienate themselves from the culture of their home nation and try desperately and unsuccessfully to integrate themselves with that of the west. Neither here nor there.
"Na Ya Zameen Ke liye , Na Aasman ke liye."

GS Subramanian said...

Ravi Easwaran My point of view is totally different. KK , You and I have have had many discussion on this point. As far as I am concerned, I accept the Vedas as a "Pramana"- a valid means of knowledge for gaining knowledge about the Atman, much in the same way that I accept my eyes -more accurately -the eye Indriya - as my means of knowledge about objects which I perceive. Just as I take whatever is revealed by my sense of sight as "correct" knowledge -given the necessary conditions -good light , unobstructed sight, healthy eyes, undemented brain etc, in the same manner I accept that what is revealed by the Vedas is the nature of the Atman. This also means that I accept the Vedas as apaureshya-not come out of the brain of mankind.

But here our differences end and I agree with KK on the ireelevance of whether Krishna was a historical personality or not- the BG anyway is a Smruti not a Shruthi. So no contradiction there.

A small point here Subbu- the BG prescribes only two paths- action and Jnana -not four paths. The other two Raja Yoga and Bhakti Yoga are all included in Karma Yoga. Even though many commentators include Upasana Yoga as a third Yoga in the BG.

Pattabhi Raman said...

I really enjoyed the fascinating discussion between three spiritually enlightened individuals..

Gita by itself lays down certain universal principles that are timeless and apply to all humanity and its source or authorship is of no relevance to its application and practice. I don't think anybody disputes this.

But I would like to humbly submit that it is not fair to expect all to have the same perspective and approach. I am reminded of a small cartoon piece in an old Ananda Vikatan Deepavali Malar (of 1949 or so) where there is a picture of a beautiful full-blown Lotus in a pond .. a poet looking at it writes a verse about its beauty; a devotee looks at it and prays to Goddess Saraswathi in all earnestness; a Botanist examines it closely and observes it is a
fine specimen belonging to the Nymphaeaceae family and its Botanical Name is Nelumbo Nucifera... and an ASS that is drinking water at a distance looks
at it longingly remembering the last time it had it as part of a delicious meal..is anyone's perspective or thinking superior to others? each has a
different perspective..one person's being/s perspective does not negate that of others..

As such if KS or Varshaji look at the Mahabharatha as a historical document (instead of as a spiritual/religious document) and Krishna as a historical
figure and try to analyse and comment, I don't see anything wrong in it..In fact these observations of KS are part of his comments on an article
"Krishna: History Or Myth?" by Dr N s Rajaram http://folks.co.in/blog/2009/08/23/krishna-history-or-myth/.

As many have pointed out, these epics are Shruti and Smriti literature that were heard, remembered and transmitted from generation to generation till
perhaps a system of physical recording came into being and it is possible that the final form in which they are seen now may be somewhat different from the original in certain details. Everybody made sure however that the core remains intact and nobody disputes it.

As for the "brainwashing" and "implementation by fear" point, it must be recognized that in very religion there are a few leaders and teachers who play on the gullibility of the uneducated/less educated and ignorant and create a sense of fear for ensuring compliance.. Garuda purana which describes the types of after-life-punishments for various transgressions is also part our Hinduism, whether we like or not.
( http://archanavedantam.blogspot.in/2009/07/punishments-for-ur-sins-garuda-purana.html,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garuda_Purana etc)

Krishna's life, his miracles right from his early days, his Ras leela with Gopis, Radha concept, the Draupathi concept, Kurukshetra war etc all have a higher metaphysical meaning for the enlightened, as well as a simple basic meaning for common people... and I don't see any contradiction in that or a
need for the enlightened to reaffirm the sanctity of their beliefs and convictions.

And let me assure that I am using the decription "enlightened" in all sincerity, humility, admiration and respect and NOT in sarcasm.

Suprabhat Ganguly said...

Well written, a befitting response.