Feb 23, 2023 The Bhagavad Gita | Chapter 1 to 3

NEW SERIES ALERT! ūüďĘ This week, we're kicking off a new series within¬†#TheologyThursdays¬†to help distill the greatest Hindu text of our times: the Bhagavad Gita.

Over the next couple of months, we'll share a new chapter each week in an effort to share its teachings with simplicity.

Although we've been running #TheologyThursdays for a couple of years now, this feels a bit outside the comfort zone for me. I'm listening and taking your feedback, so PLEASE let me know what you think because, ultimately, this is meant to help us all (including me) learn.

And if you do love it, please share, share, share!!! It would be criminal to keep all this cultural wholesomeness to yourself ūüėĄ

Let's do this! ūüôĆūü§ď

What is the Bhagavad Gita?

Once upon a time, there was a great warrior named Arjuna, who was caught in the middle of some major family drama, which escalated to a full blown war at the Battle of Kurukshetra. 

The war was against two sets of cousins, the Kauravas and Pandavas. Picking a side wasn't so simple since there were mutual friends and family members on both sides.

Leading up to the war, one cousin from each opposing side visited Krishna to seek help. Krishna granted a choice to each cousin: they could either have Krishna or his army on their side during the war. Arjuna chose wisely, while Duryodhan chose the army.

However, once Arjuna approached the battlefield, seeing loved ones on both sides made him lose heart. He refused to take part in their demise.

Since Krishna was riding Arjuna's chariot, he felt it was the right time to give Arjuna a pep talk.

The Bhagavad Gita is essentially this "pep talk" -- if you will -- the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna, on what constitutes right action, proper understanding and, ultimately, the meaning of life.

One of the things that makes the Gita so timeless is that its teachings are relevant in all walks of life, even thousands of years since its origin. Since it's comprised of 700 verses, it would be impossible for me to pick even one to share, but given the spirit of Christmas, I couldn't help but identify with this one in particular today...

CHAPTER 17, VERSE 20:

dńĀtavyam iti yad dńĀnaŠĻĀ dńęyate ‚ÄėnupakńĀriŠĻáedeŇõhe kńĀle cha pńĀtre cha¬†tad dńĀnaŠĻĀ sńĀttvikaŠĻĀ smŠĻõitam

Roughly Translated:

A gift is pure when it is given from the heart to the right person at the right time and at the right place, and when we expect nothing in return.

Chapter 1

Text conversation 1 reading: I can't believe it's come down to this. All 100 of my sons -- my Kauravas -- are on the battlefield right now! person 2: Well, they are there to defend you and your throne as the King of Hastinapura. person 1: Yes, but I didn't want things to escalate this far. person 2: Your sons have a massive army by their side, compared to the Pandav brothers. You have nothing to worry about.
Text conversation 2 reading: Person 1: How can there be any winners when my sons are fighting against their own blood, their cousins? Person 2: Then consider it your good fortune that you are blind and cannot see the carnage that is about to occur. person 1: And consider it your bad luck that you've been given the magical power of  distant vision. I need you to tell me everything you're seeing on the battlefield. person 2: As you wish, your highness.
Text conversation 3 reading: Your nephew, Arjuna, just asked his charioteer, Lord Krishna, to draw the chariot to the center of the field so he can clearly see his opponents. Oh my, looks like Arjuna is already giving up. He just said to Krishna, "He would rather lay down his weapons and be killed by the Kauravas than kill his own kinsmen..." Good, looks like he has come to his senses, after all.
Once upon a time...

There was a great warrior named Arjuna, who was caught in the middle of some major family drama, which escalated to a full blown war at the Battle of Kurukshetra.

The war was against two sets of cousins, the Kauravas and Pandavas. Picking a side wasn't so simple since there were mutual friends and family members on both sides.

Leading up to the war, one cousin from each opposing side visited Lord Krishnato seek help. Krishna granted a choice to each cousin: they could either have Krishna or his army on their side during the war. Arjuna chose wisely, while Duryodhan chose the army.

However, once Arjuna approached the battlefield, seeing loved ones on both sides made him lose heart. He refused to take part in their demise.

Since Krishna was riding Arjuna's chariot, he felt it was the right time to give Arjuna a pep talk.

The Bhagavad Gita is essentially this "pep talk" -- broken down into 18 chapters -- of the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna, on what constitutes right action, proper understanding and, ultimately, the meaning of life.

Baby Krishna illustration

 

Chapter 2

King Dhritarashtra: So, has Arjuna retreated his army and returning home now?

Sanjay: Well actually, it sounds like Lord Krishna is reminding Arjuna that crying doesn't suit him, and I quote, is "unmanly."

King¬†Dhritarashtra: ūüėŹ

Sanjay: Ya know, I have to say... I've seen many warriors but none as compassionate as Arjuna. Take a listen to their chat for yourself:

Arjuna: Krishna, how can you expect me to hurt guys like Bheeshma and Droncharya? They literally taught me how to fight!

Besides, we have no idea which way this war will end. How could I live with myself knowing I killed them and others?

Even if we win, I would feel like I've lost, knowing what I did. I am SO torn. Please just tell me what to do, Krishna!!!


Lord Krishna: I'm so glad you asked because that's exactly why I'm here. I have a LOT to say so make yourself comfortable in this chariot.

Arjuna: Gladly. I'll do anything to stall me from going out on the battlefield.

Lord Krishna: Look, I know you're stressed. But these feelings are fleeting perceptions -- none of it is permanent. You have to learn to not let ANY emotion -- good or bad -- control you.

What you're crying over, truly isn't worth it. The wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.

There was never a time when neither of us did not exist. And nor will there ever be. Do you understand what I'm saying?

Arjuna: I do, but what does it have to do with this war that I don't want to fight?!!?

Lord Krishna: Because you're worried about killing people yet fail to understand that the true essence of someone's being can never be taken away -- not by you or anyone.

Our soul can't be killed because it moves from one body to another. The only thing that will perish at death is the body, which is like an armor for the soul.

The soul can neither kill nor can be killed. But death is certain for anyone that was born, as is rebirth for anyone that dies. So why be sad about the inevitable?

Arjuna: I hear what you're saying but still... to have to kill people who I consider to be my family and mentors... how can I?

Lord Krishna: Because as a warrior, this is literally your one job and the path to salvation. You're fighting for righteousness.

And TBH, for a guy like you, you'd probably wish you were dead than be labeled as "the coward who ran away."

It's really a win-win situation, if you think about it: you'll either be killed and go to heaven, or rule your kingdom.

Arjuna: If my kingdom and the throne are my rewards, then is all this brutality really worth it? It just doesn't seem right...

Lord Krishna: Fight because it's your duty. That's it. Don't focus on anything else. Don't worry about how you feel about it or whether you'll win or lose.

Simply focus on performing your prescribed duties -- not the fruits of your actions. Stop chasing actions for their rewards. Those who do, are the miserable ones.

Is that clear? Because I'm now going to move onto the next portion of my TEDx talk: Buddhi Yog, or the Yog of the Intellect.

Arjuna: Wait, then what was all the stuff you were just talking about?

Lord Krishna: Oh, that was Sankhya yog, knowledge about the soul. So, as I was saying... learn to keep your mind clear and focused.

The path to heaven isn't filled with fancy rituals, because all that is just performative.

Arjuna: Okay, so then... what exactly does an "enlightened person" look like? How am I supposed to act?

Lord Krishna: It's someone who's not disturbed by misery or joy, doesn't crave pleasure, is free from attachment, fear, and anger,

You see... attachment leads to desire, and desire leads to anger. Anger leads to clouded judgment, which results in confusion. When you're confused, the intellect gets destroyed; and when the mind is destroyed, you're practically ruined.

Just as a strong wind can sweep a boat off its course on water, so can a distracted mind. If you can give up all material desires and live without greed, ownership, and ego, you will feel at peace.

 

Chapter 3

The Gist

  • We're all born with a specific role to play and responsibilities to perform.
  • Fulfill your actions without getting attached to them.
  • Don't let desire cloud your judgement.

Arjuna: So let me get this straight: the mind is considered superior to action... but I still have to fight this war??

Lord Krishna: It's not that one is more important than the other. It's that you cannot have one without the other. Everyone is obviously engaged in some type of work or action -- or at least, should be -- at any given moment. The key is to practice karm yog -- "the yog of action" -- where you diligently fulfill your responsibilities externally, but mentally, you must remain detached. Of course, there are hypocrites who claim to "renounce" things and yet continue dwelling on them internally.

Arjuna: So, I should still fight the war because it's the Vedic duty assigned to me, but mentally detach myself to the act of killing?

Lord Krishna:¬†Well, yes -- but that kind of makes you sound like a sociopath.¬†What I'm saying is that you and everyone else in this war are a part of God's creation and you each have a role and responsibilities to fulfill.¬†Lord Brahma didn't create humankind in isolation. Each of you was born with duties. Treat these duties as yaj√Īas (sacrifices), and you'll get all that you wish for.

Arjuna: So there's a catch. I can't simply enjoy wins in life without making some sacrifices.

Lord Krishna: You can... but that would make you a thief because you're simply taking without giving anything in return. You see, everything is connected. Everyone has to play their part in this cycle. Even if you consider it as an obligation to God. Otherwise you're living in sin.

the cycle of sacrifice: Perform yaj√Īa  (ie: Do the work you were born to do) Vedas prescribe yaj√Īa (sacrifices) God will be happy God will bless you with material gains ...For example, rainfall ...Which helps crops grow Food sustains life on earth

Arjuna: What about the "enlightened souls"? Do they get a free pass from doing work?

Lord Krishna: While they're not obligated to fulfill their bodily responsibilities, they cannot abandon their social duties.

Arjuna: How come?

Lord Krishna: Because what message would that send to people who look up to them for inspiration? By setting good examples, they're reminding others to not abandon their prescribed duties prematurely.

Arjuna: You're right. We have a tendency to follow people we admire (#influencers).

Lord Krishna: It's far better to do the role you were born to do -- even if done with flaws -- than it is play someone else's role with perfection.

Arjuna: Why do people commit sin, even unintentionally, as if by some force?

Lord Krishna:¬†ÔĽŅOne word: lust. Just how a fire becomes clouded by smoke, desire tends to cloud one's judgement. The senses, mind, and intellect are all breeding grounds for desire. So, keep them in check.

 

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