Thought on Bhagvad
A lot of us do not seem to know the difference between Shrimad Bhagvad
and the Bhagvad Geeta.
The Shrimad Bhagvad is a 'Purana' (ancient scripture) in which is narrated the
lives of the different Incarnations of God, the most important being the Lives
of Sri Ram and Sri Krishna. It also deals with the Creation of the Universe. It
exudes Knowledge and devotion. Its stories are pregnant with moral, symbolic and
The Bhagvad Geeta is 'The Song of God'. It is pure philosophy and is a dialogue
between Sri Krishna and His dear friend Arjuna, just before the great war of
Mahabharata was fought. The Bhagavad Geeta is part of the great Epic
'Mahabharata'. It is said that if the Mahabharata is a necklace, the Geeta is
If I were asked what I thought the message of the Geeta was in a sentence, I
would say: "Do your best, and leave the rest".
I have always believed that once one puts all efforts towards any cause to the
best of ones capacity, one is a winner, no matter what the consequences.
Krishna, in the Bhagavad Geeta states the above, in a more complicated way, in
the 47th verse of the 2nd Chapter.
A lot of people believe that Spiritualism is for those, who seek an escape from
life. If that is so, why is Krishna urging Arjuna to fight for what is
rightfully his? Does not that mean that life was not meant for escaping to the
hills but to face up to life's challenges?
However one must remember that Krishna tried his best to bring about a
reconciliation between the warring cousins, Also Krishna's message was directed
to a soldier whose dharma (roughly translated as duty) was to defend his
integrity, and the honor of his wife, on whom an attempt had been made to
disrobe in public.
Before we enter the Geeta, it is important that we know under what
circumstances, the Geeta was sung. The wisdom of the dialogue between Krishna
and Arjuna is independant of this story, but knowing how the Great War came
about is relevant for our understanding.
The Mahabhaarata is considered a Great Epic of India and was compiled by the
Sage Ved Vyaasa.
It tells us the history of Indian ancestors. It also describes to us their moral
values, their Dharma...
Dharma is generally explained away as 'religion, duty...In the Hindu concept
'Dharma' means a lot more. When the children are young it is the 'dharma' of a
mother to look after them, but as the children, come of age, it is the 'dharma'
of the same mother to 'let them go'
It is the Dharma of a soldier to fight and the dharma of an ascetic, not to.
Now read on:
The Mahabhaarata tells us the story that transpired in and around Hastinapura.
The story spans around 6 generations.
Though the Mahabharata has the story of many lives woven into one another, the
predominant narration is of 2 brothers and their families.
Dhritrashtra and Pandu were brothers. Dhritrashtra married Gandhaari and Pandu
married Kunti and Madri.
Pandu had 5 sons who are popularly known as Pandavas.
Dhriraashtra had 100 sons.They were called the Kauravas.
Pandu died and the Pandavas and Kauravas were brought up together.
The Kaurava’s maternal uncle Shakuni played a crucial role in the story of the
The Pandavas performed a great sacrifice (Yajna) which made Duryodhana, the
chief of the Kauravas jealous and greedy.
Shakuni invited the Pandavas for a game of dice and cheated in the game.
The Pandavas lost all their possessions including Draupadi, their wife.
The Kauravas wanted to humiliate the Pandavas and hence dragged Draupadi to the
main hall and tried to disrobe her in public.
She implored to Krishna who she affectionately called ‘Sakha’. Krishna came to
her aid and miraculously kept Draupadi draped, despite the fact that the
Kauravas kept pulling at her saree.
Finally, the Pandavas and Kauravas reached a settlement. The Pandavas were made
to go to the forest for 12 years. They had to live for one more year in the
forest incognito. The condition was that the Pandavas should not be traced by
the Kauravas. While the Pandavas were away, the kingdom was to be ruled by the
The 13 years of exile were completed successfully. The Pandavas approached the
Kauravas for their share of the kingdom.
However Duryodhana refused to part with as much land as would be covered by a
Krishna tried very hard that the Pandavas and Kauravas reach an amicable
agreement, but the Kauravas refused to relent.
War became inevitable. Both the Pandavas and the Kauravas wanted Krishna to help
them. The Pandava Arjuna was a devotee and friend of Lord Krishna. Arjuna chose
to have Krishna alone on his side, despite the fact that Krishna had warned that
the latter would not pick up arms in the battle.
Duryodhana was overjoyed at Arjuna’s decision and chose to have Krishna’s
powerful army to fight with him.
Just before the great war, Arjuna became despondent. He did not know which
course to adopt. Would it be better for him to fight and have so many people
killed, or should he renounce the Kingdom and take to a life in the forest.
This question also appears many times in a man’s life when faced with
When one is restless and life seems difficult, we would like to give up.
Krishna explains to Arjuna that to fight (to face difficulties) with courage, is
the right path. Arjuna asked Krishna many more questions which the latter
answered, in a simple forthright manner.
Krishna explained to Arjuna that he should only be concerned with performing his
duty to the best of his capacity, the fruits or results of the action, lie with
Karmanye Vaadhikaa rastey, maa phaleshu kadaachana
Maa karmaphal hetur bhoor
Maa te sangostwa karmani.
The above dialogue is recorded in the Mahabharata and is known as the the
It is said that if the Mahabharata can be compared to a priceless necklace, the
Geeta is the pendant.
The terrible war of Mahabharata was fought. The Pandavas emerged victorious.
It is important and a regular practice to offer obeisance to the Scripture
before entering into it. I have heard that if one perseveres in reading the
Scriptures, they open out their deeper meaning to you.
The following mantra can also be recited when one is going through troubled
Mookam karoti vaachaalam (pronounce oo like in room)
Pangum langhayatey girim (ey like in whey)u like in put
Yatkripaa tamaham vandey (aa like in car)
I salute that Madhava (Krishna)
the source of Supreme Bliss,
whose Grace makes the dumb man eloquent
and the cripple cross mountains
A dumb man eloquent? It could mean literally or it could mean that on some, the
Grace is poured where they become instruments to expound deep truths.
Cripple cross mountains? It could mean literally and also, by the Lord's Grace
some are able to go through difficult times, or to go where only their effort
alone would not be able to take them.
One worships Ganeshji before the start of anything auspicious. He is
resourceful. Ganeshji offered to write the Vedas as Ved Vyaasji dictated. But
there was a condition to fulfill. Ganeshji could not stop writing...It so
happened that Ganeshji's pen broke as he wrote. Without a moment hesitation he
used his broken tusk as a pen...So we hope that Ganeshji will always be there as
and when an obstacle arises...
The broken tusk symbolically means that Ganpatiji is beyond duality.
One of the famous mantras dedicated to Ganpati follows:
Vakratunda Mahaakaaya Suryakotee Sama Prabha
Nirvighnam kuru mey Deva
Sarva kaaryeshu Sarvadaa
Vakratunda means curved trunk
Mahakaaya means large bodied
Surya kotee ,million suns
Sama Prabha means with the brilliance of
Nirvighnam means free of obstacles
Kuru means make
mey means my
Deva means Lord
Sarva Kaaryeshu means in all work
Sarvada means always
O Lord Ganesha of Large body, curved trunk, with the brilliance of a million
suns, please make all my work free of obstacles, always.
(Introduction to Geeta)
Lord Krishna tried everything to bring about peace between the warring cousins.
Every effort failed. War became inevitable.
Durodhana from the side of the Kauravas and Arjuna from the side of the Pandavas
went to Dwarka to seek the help of Krishna in the battle.
Krishna was resting in a couch in his palace.
Duryodhana stood at the head of the couch while Arjuna stood near the feet.
When Krishna opened his eyes he naturally saw Arjuna first and therefore gave
him the first choice.
Arjuna was asked to choose between Krishna’s powerful army, called the Narayani
Sena or Krishna unarmed. (He would not participate in the battle)
Arjuna chose the Lord.
Arjuna knew that the Lord by his side was worth more than his powerful army.
This is the way a spiritual person thinks, and that is what is called ‘faith’
Duryodhana pretended to be disappointed and thought that Arjuna was foolish to
have made the above choice.
Duyodhana took Krishna’s mighty army to help the Kaurava side of the battle.
Geeta Introdution to Geeta
the Queen but more importantly Draupadi was 'Krishna's Sakhee'. 'Sakhee'
means friend. Krishna's special name for Draupadi was 'sakhee'. She was married
to one of Krishna's best friends, Arjun, the Pandava Prince. Draupadi was a
courageous queen with a dynamic personality. Even Duryodhan (a Kaurava)
grudgingly admitted to her greatness. She was in a way, the revolving kingpin of
the Mahabharata war. Draupadi was married to the five brothers (Pandavas) at the
same time. The above proves that it was acceptable, during those days for a
woman to marry more than one man. She lived as a wife to each brother for a year
in rotation. She was a beloved of all her husbands. The Kauravas (jealous
cousins of the Pandavas) had been rankled by a remark uttered by Draupadi in a
moment of weakness. They invited the Pandavas for a game of dice where the
Kauravas cheated and the Pandavas lost Draupadi in a gamble.
Indignant Draupadi proved that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Draupadi
questioned her husband Yudhishtra, if he had pledged her before or after he had
lost himself in the gamble. She argued that if he had pledged himself first, he
had no right over her as he was already a slave.
She later challenged the game as illegal as she argued that Duryodhan, a Kaurava,
had not placed his brothers and wife as a matching stake.
Because of evil omens that started to manifest, the old king Dhritrashtra tried
to appease Draupadi by asking her to ask for any boons of her choice.
Draupadi asked for the freedom of her husbands. The old king begged her to ask
for the kingdom.
Draupadi vehemently refused and proudly proclaimed that her husbands would win
back their kingdom and that she did not want the gift of a kingdom which was
theirs by right.
Draupadi took a vow that she would not oil or tie her hair until the Kaurava
Dushyaasan was killed. The latter was responsible for dragging her to court to
It is believed that the queen eventually oiled her hair with the blood of
The Kauravas wanted to humiliate the Pandavas and hence dragged Draupadi to the
main hall and tried to disrobe her in public. She implored to Krishna who she
affectionately called 'Sakha'(friend). Krishna came to her rescue and
miraculously kept Draupadi clothed, despite the fact that the Kauravas kept
pulling at her saree. Draupadi's faith in Krishna never wavered even though she
went through very difficult times.
Much later when her husband Yudhishtra wanted to renounce the world, Draupadi
rebuked him. She held him responsible for bringing sorrow to the family. She
reminded him that she had suffered intensely. Not only had she been deeply
humiliated, but she had unfairly lost her 5 sons in the war. Yet she opted to
Her 'Sakha' Krishna recognised Draupadi's qualities. He was aware of her deep
devotion and faith to him. He never let her down. He appeared whenever she
summoned. The most dramatic instance is when Dushyaasan tried to pull her saree
off her. She turned to Krishna as her husbands bowed their heads in shame. He
came to her aid yet once again. The saree became endless. Metres and metres were
added miraculously, until Dushyaasan gave up defeated.
Krishna's and Draupadi's friendship had withstood the supreme test.
Draupadi's five sons were killed by Ashwatthaama. Yet she spared the latter's
life because he was the son of the Pandava's guru. Draupadi ruled for 36 years,
after which she renounced worldly life and walked away to the Himalayas, when
her grandson Parikshit was crowned as king.
Lesson 8 The
Palace of illusions
I have tried to explain in such few words, the Mahabharat, Arjuna, Draupadi
before we enter the Divine Dialogue, the Geeta.
I have been reading The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The author has placed Draupadi in the forefront of the action…her joys, doubts,
struggles, triumphs, heartbreaks, achievements…
Presenting some of the excerpts that have touched my heart.
Dhai Ma says to young Draupadi:
…“Love comes like lightening and disappears the same way. If you are lucky it
strikes you right…I advise you to forget about love, princess. Pleasure is
simpler and duty more important. Learn to be satisfied by them”
Krishna says to Draupadi:
…“A problem becomes a problem only if you believe it to be so, and often others
see you as you see yourself”…
…“As for being pawns , ar’nt we all pawns in the hands of Time, the greatest
player of them all”…
When Draupadi asked Krishna what kind of palace He thought she should have,
Krishna said: “Already you live within a nine-gated palace, the most wondrous
structure of all. Understand it well: it will be your salvation or your
Draupadi said: “If I am a queen I owe it to my palace.”
Krishna frowned and said: “Don’t be so attached to what is, after all, no more
than metal and stone and asura sleight of hand. All things in this world change
and pass away—some after many years, some overnight. Appreciate the Palace of
Illusions , by all means. But if you identify so deeply with it, you set
yourself up for sorrow.”
… Krishna gazed into my eyes. Was it love I saw in his face? If so, it was
different in kind from all the loves I knew. Or perhaps the loves I had known
had been something different, and this alone was love. It reached past my body,
my thoughts, my shaking heart, into some part of me that I hadn’t known existed.
My eyes closed of their own accord. I felt myself coming apart like the braided
edge of a shawl, the threads reaching everywhere…
…Can’t you ever be serious? I asked mortified.
“It’s difficult,” He ( Krishna ) said. “There’s so little in life that’s worth
…”They’re saying the gods are angry at Sisupal’s death.”
“Priests like to say such things” Krishna replied. He didn’t seem too concerned
about the anger of the gods…
When Draupadi was being disrobed:
…The wind smelled of sandalwood. Krishna sat beside me on a cool stone bench.
His glance was bright and tender. “No one can shame you, He said, if you don’t
It came to me in a wash of amazement, that He was right.
Let them stare at my nakedness I thought. Why should I care? They and not I
should be ashamed for shattering the bounds of decency”.
Was that not miracle enough?
Krishna nodded. He took my hands. At His touch I felt my muscles relax, my fists
open. He smiled, and I prepared to smile back…
… “A situation in itself is neither happy or unhappy. It’s only your response to
it that gives you sorrow. But enough of philosophy, I am hungry…”
Krishna explains to Draupadi about hatred
…Suddenly Krishna reached out and pulled a half burnt stick from the fire. He
thrust it at me so that I flinched back.
“What are you doing?” I cried startled and angry.
“Trying to show you something. The stick—it scared you right? It may even have
hurt you, if you hadn’t been so quick. But look –in trying to burn you, It’s
consuming itself. That’s what happens to a heart---“
Draupadi thinks later:
“I know you want me to drop my hatred, Krishna ” I whispered, It’s the one thing
you’ve asked me for. But I can’t. Even if I wanted to. I don’t know how anymore”
Outside the hut, the shal trees bent and swayed, their leaves like sighs.
…I knew that the remedy lay not in finding a new flower but in what Krishna had
advised me over and over again: Let the past go. Be at ease. Allow the future to
arrive at its own pace, unfurling its secrets when it will. I knew I should live
the life that teemed around me: this clear air, this newborn sunlight, the
simple comfort of the shawl around my shoulders…”
Mantras for studies
I love the following Mantra and I am amazed at the wisdom of our ancestors.
It is a Mantra to be chanted before one starts one's studies.
But what amazes me is its last line which states that 'May we not (have ego
clashes) quarrel with one another. ie students and teachers.
The ancestors and Scriptures said that one has to have certain requisites before
becoming a student. One of them is to come with an empty clean vessel.
It is only then that the wisdom of the Scripture will fill one.
and now the mantra:
Om Sahana Vavatu, Sahanao Bhunaktu
Sahaveeryam Karvaa vahai
Tejaswee Naava Dheeta Mastu
Ma Vidvishaa vahai
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Loosely translated it means:
I pray that You (God) help me teach.
You (God) help me (student) learn!
May our study be brilliant and may we not misunderstand!(and quarrel due to our
Om Peace, Peace, Peace!
A prayer to Mother Saraswati (Goddess of Learning)
Mantra to be chanted before you begin your studies:
Siddhir bhavatu me sadaa
My humble prostrations unto Thee, O Goddess Saraswati,
You are the fulfiller of all my wishes,
I start my studies, with the request that I achieve perfection in them.
Chapter 1 Lesson 1
Dhritrashtra was the blind father of Duryodhana and his brothers (Kauravas).
(Explanations do not suggest that the Mahabharata is an allegory)
It was the extreme attachment of Dhritrashtra for his children that blinded him
to ‘dharma’ truth justice…
Dhritrashtra believed blindly that physical might would triumph.
Dhritrashtra asks Sanjaya: What did the Pandavas and my sons do, when they had
assembled on the holy land of Kurukshetra, eager to fight O Sanjaya?
The fascinating thing that happens now is that Sanjaya gives Dhritrashtra a
moment to moment account about what happens in Kurukshetra.
Less than a hundred years ago, one would have thought that it was fantasy, magic
or that Sanjaya had spiritual powers. Maybe Sanjaya did but now in the ‘Live
television broadcast’ zamana that we live in, it is so much easier to believe.
Chapter 1 Lesson 2
At Kurukshetra all the famous warriors from both sides (Pandavas and Kauravas)
had assembled. Hundreds of conches blared. Krishna was to act as the charioteer
of Arjuna. Arjuna requested Krishna to place the chariot between the two armies.
As Arjuna surveyed his opponents he saw fathers, grandfathers, teachers, uncles,
sons, relatives, friends…A feeling of despondency took over him. He wondered
whether the victory (if it came to him) would be worth the carnage. The bow
slipped from Arjuna’s hands and he turned to Lord Krishna for guidance.
The first chapter of the Geeta is called ‘The Yoga of the despondency of Arjuna’
Why is it called yoga?
There comes a point in everyone’s life when one has tried all means to control
situations to ones liking, when one just ‘lets the bow fall’ and that is when
the enquiry starts. All journeys start with the first step...the first step
towards the philosophic quest is the enquiry: "Athato Brahmn Jignasa"...
Then starts the sadhana, the spiritual effort the seeker puts in. The word
sadhana is derived from the root word 'sidh' which means 'to be accomplished' in
'seeking divinity' The quest starts 'out' and ends in the knowing that there is
You saw in the lesson (my note about Draupadi) that the Pandavas who were the
better ones were addicted to the game of dice. What is remarkable in the
Mahabharata is that characters are not black and white but shades of grey. Only
in some cases the grey is almost black. Awareness of imperfection allows us to
be less judgemental of others. Marguerite Theophil writes ‘This is not about
being satisfied with mediocre or about condoning evil or inhumanity it is about
facing reality and working with it rather than against it.
Working with ‘what is’ means to seek meaning within the absurd, peace within
chaos, light within darkness, joy within suffering- without the need to deny the
reality of absurdity, chaos darkness and suffering’.
Coming back to the Geeta,
It is interesting to note that Krishna first tries psychology to urge Arjuna to
Krishna tells Arjuna that if he refuses to fight and flee from the battle ,
people will be justified in considering him a coward. On the other hand if he
does his ‘dharma’ ie fights as a soldier, he will attain a high state (Could be
that of a great hero or heaven)
Geeta Chapter 2 Lesson 1
Kurukshetra all the famous warriors from both sides (Pandavas and Kauravas) had
assembled. Hundreds of conches blared. Krishna was to act as the charioteer of
Arjuna. Arjuna requested Krishna to place the chariot between the two armies.
As Arjuna surveyed his opponents he saw fathers, grandfathers, teachers,
uncles, sons, relatives, friends…A feeling of despondency took over him. He
wondered whether the victory (if it came to him) would be worth the carnage. The
bow slipped from Arjuna’s hands and he turned to Lord Krishna for guidance.
chapter of the Geeta is called ‘The Yoga of the despondency of Arjuna’ Why is
it called yoga?
comes a point in everyone’s life when one has tried all means to control
situations to ones liking, when one just ‘lets the bow fall’ and that is when
the enquiry starts.
All journeys start with the first step...the first step towards the philosophic
quest is the enquiry: "Athato Brahmn Jignasa"...
starts the sadhana, the spiritual effort the seeker puts in. The word sadhana is
derived from the root word 'sidh' which means 'to be accomplished' in 'seeking
divinity' The quest starts 'out' and ends in the knowing that there is no
Chapter 2 lesson 2
affected Arjuna at this stage was not a sense of righteousness but a weakness of
heart. It is like a doctor, surgeon, whose ‘dharma’ is to cut open a person to
cure but at the time of operation he places down his medical instruments and
says he cannot go through it. They had tried all methods for peace and
reconciliation, his wife Draupadi had been humiliated beyond imagination…(A
daughter-in-law, a queen was tried to be disrobed in an open assembly where her
husbands, brothers-in –law, fathers-in-law were present…Such a thing has never
ever happened in the history of mankind. Can you imagine it happening in our
parliament today ? Inconceivable!
constantly remember that Arjuna was a soldier. And as a soldier his ‘dharma’ was
to fight, to get what was rightfully his, to avenge Draupadi’s honour.
Chapter 2 Lesson 3
Krishna explains to Arjuna that the body dies but the Aatman is eternal. Wise
men do not grieve over the dead or the living. Krishna now touches upon
re-incarnation. He says: There was never a time when I was not, or when you or
these kings were not. Nor Will there be a time when we shall cease to be. The
soul or the Aatman cannot be cut burnt or dried as it transcends the five
elements namely the earth, water, fire, air and ether. Krishna urges Arjuna to
withdraw the senses from objects like the tortoise withdraws all its limbs
within. Krishna emphasized he who is balanced in pleasure, pain is fit for
My comment: The above is easier said than done. But it would be interesting to
note the connection that Krishna makes. The pleasurable things/experiences come
through our senses. We desire to see, smell, touch, smell, taste...We need a
certain amount of control over our desires which within balance are fine, but
when they turn into obsessions, they can bring about your ruin.
At this point a lot of questions will arise in your mind. But the wonderful
thing is that these questions also arise within Arjuna, and he will ask these
questions and Krishna will answer them...So wait and watch this marvelous
scripture unfold. Until then as Shidi Sai Baba says: Shraddha and Saburi, Faith
and Patience (is necesarry for progress in the Spiritual world).
Chapter 2 Lesson 4
Krishna goes on to say: The unreal has no
existence and the real never ceases to be.
What is unreal? According to Hindu
philosophy Creation is an illusion. The illusion is called Maya. Do you know
what maya literally means? That which is not.
Now one may argue how that is possible.
Well just like a dream seems real when one is sleeping.
Once Buddha was asked how he would describe
himself. The Buddha answered: I am awake.
Why is Krishna explaining this to Arjuna?
Because He is emphasizing the point that he need not grieve about something that
in any case is an illusion.
Shraddhey Swami Ramsukhdasji Maharaj.
The Lord declares that the be all and end all of the entire Gita is:
1)"Take refuge in Me alone," (Mamekum Sharanam vraja) and
2)"Do not grieve." (Ma Suchaha).
From reading these shlokas, complete sharanagati (surrender)as I understand it,
is acceptance of these two declarations.
Swamiji has taken taken the entire essence of the Gita and given
this to us in the form of "Nectar" in two simple affirmations:
"I am only God's and only God is mine."
Swamiji says, this is the quintessence of all spiritual disciplines.
one accepts that "I am God's and God is mine,"all defects such as
worry, fear, sadness, doubts are rooted out.
The reason we have these defects in the first place, is that all defects are
based on one's dependence on the world, including the body, and on one's
disinclination for God.
The criteria for our firm affinity (apnaapan) with the Lord are:
1)Free from worries (Nischint) i.e. no worries about our
shortcomings, even if thoughts and feelings have not been purified.
We are God's, no matter what we are.
2)Free from sorrow (Nishaukh) i.e. no grieving over the past, as
every action, incident, or circumstance destined by the Lord is for
our own good.
3)Free from fear (Nirbhaya) i.e. free from external and internal
fear, including having no fear whether our tendencies may be of an
evil nature, as these are not ours. It is being fearless like a
child in the lap of his mother.
4)Free from doubt (Nishank) i.e. We must not doubt whether the Lord
has accepted us or not. I am God's and God is mine without any doubt.
5)Free from testing our sharanagati, we must not put our surrender to test, that
we should possess such virtues, and if these virtues are not there, then it
means we have not taken true refuge since the signs of a true devotee are
missing in us.
6)Free from contrary resolutions, have firm resolve that our relationship with
God is permanent and eternal, and we are only His. The mistake that
we had once made is now wiped out forever...