Bhagavad Gita Training
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Bhagavad Gita Training
Good words are fit for the living. That is a basic stand, although there are many sides to it. A survey should help the beginners. Here is one:
Going to war, a polyandric archer called Arjuna gets confused, does as guru-encouraged, and ends up feeling empty and miserable after winning - and his four brothers feel similarly, they too, after a whole caste is wiped out. After some time the brothers decide to leave this earth and climb to heaven together. That is how the great Mahabharata ends. Seeing is believing: [Aha]
By Bhagavad Gita training is meant: Selecting fit points of the poem from a long time ago and apply them in one's own life as seems appropriate. After all, that is what matters the most - hypotheses or truths that are applicable to life to ease a successful living by and large. A successful life is marked by development in spirit, mind, body, social surroundings and over-all conditions - a balanced approach. That is a holistic approach.
At this point it should be fit to make a few things clear:
Do not let others limit you and block your decent and inherently fair and fit attempts at sane development. You can do better than becoming a sorry sectarian by earnestness blunders. You have to be tough enough to steer out of "cult-clubs" around. Fit ideas and concerns tend to help against becoming seduced by words and silly longings for belonging. Adequate ideas and skills are good, and many people manage to grow up and get adult enough without getting lorded over in countless ways - at least seemingly. Instead they grow up and become capable or skilled enough to run their own lives well in the long run. Some take care of others along such a road, and others have better things to do ...
Mere ideas - including good thoughts that are not made to blossom - seldom amount to much. Besides, it frequently helps to arrange salient points into a neat survey, and if you manage to put them in stepwise order - first flourish by this, next by that over-riding point, and so on through stepwise progress if conditions allow it in your case - that is very much recommended, and much could go better by it, such as writing theses. The steps may seem easy enough to accommodate to; it is the acting on some of them that tends to make weary. There is reason to advocate a good thesis guide right here, by "Wd". Just what this acronym stands for, is seen at the bottom of this page. Also: [Allround thesis work suggested]
Isolated ideas are hardly applied so well as when they are arranged in a neat, stepwise, allround or individually applied training program - that is, a scheme that is neither too taxing nor listless, neither too bizarre nor all conformity-ridden or subjugated. A helpful balance needs to be had, and that balance may in part be general, in part individual, and in part formed to conform well enough to the conditions. The Gentle Middle Way is the example; it may be applied to "anyone", I figure.
But let us get acquainted with the Gita, a teaching poem of ancient India. To understand various dictums from bygone times and conditions better, study usually helps against narrow dogmatism, which admittedly may become even a serious problem to some who get close to Hindu living too, with its cults and hybrids and all that. - Tormod Kinnes
Bhagavad Gita ("Song of the Blessed One", etc.) is a religious-philosophical teaching poem that is a part of the great Mahabharata - the most voluminous work of its kind, and a storehouse of brahmanic knowledge and thought. [Wy 8]
In the third phase of a long tradition's making of the poem, Krishna was identified with the all-godhead Brahman (from Skt. "brih", to expand), and Vedanta tenets got interspersed. In the beginning of that phase - during the first centuries AD - the poem got its present form as one of the most influential Indian religious texts ever. [Wy 11]
The Bhagavad Gita is of a later date than the major parts of the Mahabharata. It consists of 700 Sanskrit verses divided into 18 chapters. The poem is in the form of a dialogue and is didactic poetry.
In the Gita there are tenets from three of the six orthodox philosophical systems in Hinduism. Samkhya and Yoga philosophies solidly define the Gita teachings. [Wy 13]
The poem is part of the long epos Mahabharata
The Bhagavad Gita is a slender part of the Mahabharata, which was composed between the 4th century BC and the 4th century AD, a period of about 800 years. There were additions after AD 400 too. The epic is a blend of popular epic and theological didactic poetry, writes Dr. A. D. Pusalker. [Xmi 51-4]
The Mahabharata of today is of nearly 100 000 stanzas. Its origin has been traced back to the Vedas [Xmi 14]. There are differing recensions to reckon with: The northern is of some 82 000 stanzas, whereas the southern is of 95 000 stanzas [Xmi 52].
It is held that the jaya, bharata and Mahabharata speak of three main stages of formation down the centuries [Xmi 30, 51].
Together with the second major Hindu epic, the Ramayana ("Romance of Rama", "Rama's Way") of 24 000 stanzas, the Mahabharata is a great source of information about Hinduism during the period about 400 BC - AD 200. It reflects longings, customs, the servility, the beliefs and much else. These two long hero poems have served as culture-cementing identity-shapers throughout history in no small degree.
Evidence of Krishna
Krishna, a cult icon. The main character in the poem is called Krishna, Sri Krishna, Bhagavan Krishna, Hare Krishna, and so on. There is a huge cult devoted to him in India; perhaps 900 million Indians believe in Hare Krishna somehow, and to some degree: The formalised cult is called Vaishnavists.
The Krishna sources that we know of. Parts of the Krishna sources appear to belong to fiction made by good poets. Among the tales about the young Krishna, for example, there is an ancient myth about Indra, a myth that reappears with Krishna at the centre of it [cf. Xmd].
There are two or three short sentences about a purportedly historical Krishna in the sacred old literature of the Upanishads, which are religious-philosophical writings. The mentions are:
Ghora Angirasa has explained it to Krishna, the son of Devaki . . . he was free from thirst [commonly understood as desire] - Chandogya Upanishad 7.6 [Cf. So 115]
Two minor Upanishads also mention a Krishna. It could be the same one as mentioned in the Chandogya, but it is not established historically. The evidence is sparse, then:
So pious was Devaki's son ... [he perceived] him who dwell in all beings ... - Narayana Upanishad 5. [Cf. So 805]
Dr. Paul Deussen of Kiel University explains it better in his large Sixty Upanishads of the Veda: The Narayana Upanishad's fifth verse makes use of the older Atmabodha Upanishad passage. [So 803, 807-8]
That is Upanishad evidence, and it is fit to take into consideration that the upanishads are not historical evidence, basically.
Submerged Dwarka found. Recent excavations of what was Krishna's capital, Dwarka (also spelled Dvarka, Dwaraka, and Dvaraka), has led us to consider that Krishna as spoken of in parts of the Mahabharata, could well have existed: One cannot rule out that there existed a historical Krishna, in Danish Professor Poul Tuxen's opinion too. Also, Drs. J. van Buitenen and Cornelia Dimmitt give Krishna the benefit of doubt on top of the folk tale congruent Harivamsa. ("Genealogy of the God Hari", i.e., Krishna-Vishnu). Krishna is identified with Lord Vishnu in it. The Harivamsa is quite a late-coming summing-up work in the field, though, and singly it does not appear to be very good proof of his existence, but along with the recent excavations and significant descriptions in it the Harivamsa can be useful. Still, the Mahabharata evidence appears to be better, for it is older and parts of it conform with recent excavations. [Wy 12; Clh; Wikipedia, s.v. "Dwarka"]
Dionysos and Krishna
The Latin writer Ovid (43 BCE - AD 17) writes:
"The god Dionysos (later Bacchus) . . . has conquered the East as far as the land where swarthy India is watered by remote Ganges' stream" [Cf. Met 94]
Ovid here says that Dionysian orgies in woods spread eastwards in antiquity. Hare Krishna is hailed for orgiastic dancing with females in the woods; Similarities to what once took place in orgiastic rites dedicated to the Greek Bacchus, are there. [Cf Sh]
Different Elements Brought Together in the Song
Ancient Vishnu-centred thinking appears to be put in the mouth of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. There is another song of Krishna too, Uddhava Gita. It is less known than the Bhagavad Gita, but has been abbreviated-translated into English by Nikhilananda and abridged further here. [Sl] The Srimad Bhagavatam (Vol 2) gives the full text of the Uddhava Gita. [Sh]
Much system thinking of yoga is seemingly merged by Hare Krishna as he works to reconcile conflicting main tenets: The Bhagavad Gita combines many different elements from the orthodox Indian Samkhya and Vedanta philosophy. Ancient Samkhya denies the existence of God, but Yoga and Vedanta allow such an idea. Today's Samkhya denies the existence of Ishvara (God) still, even though some divergent views may be found on that subject.
Thus, for several reasons we may come across differing outlooks in different places, in part depending on the schools of different translators and commentators - whether their school of thought allow for the concept of 'God', and how they conceive of the relationship "soul vs God", among other things.
Chapter 14 begins like this in Prabhupada's text:
The Supreme Personality of Godhead [rendering of Bhagavan, which means the Blessed One or Blessed Lord] said; Again I shall declare to you this supreme wisdom, the best of all knowledge, knowing which all the sages have attained the supreme perfection. [14.1] By becoming fixed in this knowledge, one can attain to the transcendental nature like My own. Thus established, one is not born at the time of creation or disturbed at the time of dissolution. [14.2]
"Supreme", "best" and "highest", are often used words, so maybe they appear promising? Not least because "All living beings are but part of the Supreme [4.35]" and may rise to Sat, then. Sat means 'Existence' and is at times rendered into 'truth' that is fundamental and universal. Compare:
The Supreme Truth exists . . . inside of all living beings . . . He is subtle [and] far, far away [and] near to all. [13.16] My internal potency [is a] supreme universal form within the material world . . . This primal form [is] unlimited and full of glaring effulgence. [11.47] He . . . who makes Me the supreme goal of his life [free from awkward mental speculation], and who is friendly . . . he comes to Me. [11.55, abr.]
Means to elevate oneself by if things go well. Consider what are the means to rising into experiencing that, and the steps taken, and in which order they evidently work the best. In the rest of chapter 14 there are some clues, like purity; happiness and knowledge; by goodness rise upwards; transcend (rise beyond) the senses; remain unwavering, steady, and with noted equanimity or composure in stress, honour and dishonour - being equally disposed; and being justly unattached is worth fighting for too (18:51-53). To renounce well (get adept at renouncing) is much advocated.
As for renunciation, the Gita discerns among three kinds. Fit penance, charity, sacrifice, and proper duty (cf. 18.47) should not be given up, but used against what is binding, for elevating the human spirit. (18:4-30). Unbreakable determination sustained by fit yoga is also said to be able to awaken one to the rewarding happiness of "juicy" Self-realization. The Gita does not present "the best renunciation," however, as the Avadhut Gita does:
Renounce, renounce the world, and also renounce renunciation, and even give up the absence of renunciation. By nature all-pervasive as space . . . are you. [4:21]
There are still some who hold that view and walk about stark naked, and "roam free like a child upon the face of the Earth". Such mystics are free from sectarian ritual observance and affiliation, and play a significant role in the history of Yoga, Vedanta, Buddhadharma and Bhakti 'lineage', we are informed. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Avadhuta"]
Putting Gita keypoints together to try to live accoring to the highest
In rapport with Transcendence. Now, the Gita suggests proper living (dharma), and means to elevate or develop one's spirit toward Freedom inside, through yoga and cultivation of other means, such as detachment. What leads "upwards" helps, and a good measuring yard of what helps, is what brings one in rapport (harmony, conformity, accord, affinity) with Transcendence.
Developing the precious Spirit within also. The skilled ones do not rest at that, but seek to develop inwardness too. The Gita advocates "devotion", but "piousness" (being sincere and inward-turned at heart) is quite enough, since devotion often is tinged with dualism, and a tricky thing. In the Gita 'devotion' means both inward-turned intentness on the Self and a Self-manifestation. The latter is of dualism, and may (or may not) lead amiss. The term 'piousness' seems to be better than 'devotion' to some, in that it basically suggests "intentness of the soul on its own nature" and "intentness on the reality of the Self", and that is how the monist Shankara defines devotion fit for non-duality thinking. [cf. Crj 10-12].
Modern applications. In a daily schedule, how do we apply the basic tenets of the Gita to make them as helpful as well-nigh possible? We select the supreme takes and seek to group them in chunks that get stringed somehow, for step-by-step performance or trying-out for a time. In this way undetached but steady way we may not fail - and if something seems to be wrong or awkward, we may trouble-shoot our performance in the noble art of living, make corrections, amendments and adjustments till we feel in rapport with juicy happiness inside. We seek to adjust and monitor ourselves adequately as we trudge along, and great feedback may be a good thing, in part depending on who gives it, and how.
Accordingly, here is a suggestive, daily schedule, in a nutshell:
Wake up, meditate to transcend, focus intently on fit goals for the day or week ahead at the end of the meditation, and get to work and do your natural duties, whatever they may be. Some are caught in good circumstances, others in detrimental circumstances, but one should apply enough mental discerment and detachment to everything and all - in this way more balanced fairness may come to the fore. And at a few more times through the day and night one should meditate to transcend again and say thanks for the good things got, if any. And if not, for being alive still - quite as Buddha says:
"Let us all be thankful for today, for if we did not learn a lot, at least we learnt a little. And if we did not learn a little, at least we did not become ill. And if we became ill, at least we did not die. So let us all be thankful. - Buddha, attr.
It is not big words that does it - but sticking to a maturing all-round program that works smoothly. You do not absolutely have to parrot scriptures and flaunt your learning - you may develop in privacy aided by decent and effective methods and a nice schedule and fend enough for yourself: Learn to protect yourself and your special assets too. Good associates help too; do no be fooled to forego them. You may try all that and see what you come up with. If you get a kind guru's blessings, so much the better.
The Plain of Truth, the Battle of Life
A war on the plain of Kurukshetra is the central event of the Mahabharata. The traditional date for the war is 1302 BC, but historians prefer a later date.
The text of the Gita is typical of Hinduism in that it seeks to reconcile different viewpoints, however remote or incompatible they appear, and yet emerge with an undeniable character of its own, writes the Encyclopedia Britannica [A]
A battle is about to start, and an archer, Arjuna, asks Krishna to drive him in their chariot to some place between the two armies that are arrayed and ready to fight on a plain called Kurukesha (it is near modern Delhi). Many commentators consider the opening chapter of the Gita and parts of the battle as allegorical, for example as the translator Juan Mascaro does in his British translation [cf Masg]. Or the war to begin is part historical, part allegorical; there are other options too. Be that as it may, the plain is interpreted by some as a battle-field where qualities like truthfulness, gallantry, and skills in fighting are tried along with the mettle one possesses. Juan Mascaro selects "the plain of truth", but really, there are very many other options, also that of everyday living. Also, it does not have to be an either-or; it can be a both-and - that is, (Bhagavad) Gita wisdom can be applied to this and that as seems fit. [Dv]
This is how the war came about: Five sons of a certain king Pandu grew up in a court along with their cousins, the Kauravas (descendants of Kuru, sons of Dhrtarastra). The five brothers jointly married the same woman, Draupadi, and the arrangement lasted throughout long years of exile. They were exiled because enmity and jealousy between two lines of a royal house. They returned in between two exiles of twelve years each to experience some years of prosperity in a divided kingdom.
The feud between the Kauravas and Pandavas culminated in a series of battles on a field (Kuruksetra) which is north of modern Delhi, in Haryana state. All the Kauravas were killed. On the side that won only the five brothers and Hare Krishna survived. The feud covers a fraction (ca 1/5) of the total work and may once have formed a separate poem, called the bharata.
The five brothers set out for Indra's heaven along with their joint wife Draupadi and a dog who joined them. One by one the men fell on the way: Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva - they all dropped dead. [Yudhistira's dog]
Above all, the Mahabharata is an exposition on dharma (codes of conduct), including the proper conduct of a king, of a warrior, and ways to be freed from rebirth. The long poem has myths and legends interwoven in it. Different sections of the poem express varying and sometimes contradictory beliefs.
And here you are told to draw benefit from it. The question is how to select the most appropriate tenets under the canopy of heaven, and arrange them so neatly and well that you manage to live up to them throughout life.
Acm: Apurvananda, sw.: Acharya Shankara. University of Mysore. Mysore, 1983.
Aha: Subramaniam, Kamala, tr. Mahabharata. Bombay: Bharatiya Book University, 1982.
Ak: Yogananda, Pa.: Man's Eternal Quest. SRF. Los Angeles, 1975.
Bi: Satyeswarananda, sw., tr: Complete Works of Lahiri Mahasay Vol. II: The Bhagavad Gita Interpretations of Lahiri Mahasay. The Sanskrit Classics. San Diego, 1991.
Clh: Dimmitt, Cornelia, ed., and J. A. B. van Buitenen, tr. Classical Hindu Mythology. Temple University. Philadelphia, 1978.
Crj: Shankara. The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom and other writings of Shankaracharya. Tr. Charles Johnston. Covina: Theosophical University Press, 1946.
Dv: Berger, Peter og Luckmann, Thomas: Den samfundsskabte virkelighed. En videnssociologisk afhandling. 2nd ed. Lindhardt & Ringhof. Np. 1992.
Ins: Prabhavananda, sw: The Spiritual Heritage of India. 2nd ed. Vedanta. Hollywood, 1969.
Masg: Mascaro, Juan, tr. The Bhagavad Gita. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962.
Met: Ovid: The Metamorphoses. Translated by Mary Innes. Penguin. London, 1955.
Pa: Yogananda, Pa.: Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). Los Angeles, 1971.
Sh: Raghunathan, N. tr: Srimad Bhagavatam, vol 1-2. Vighneswara. Madras, 1976.<
Sl: Prabhavananda, sw. tr: The Wisdom of God. Capricorn/Putnam. New York, 1968.
So: Deussen, Paul tr: Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, vol 1- 2. Banarsidass. Varanasi, 1980.
Vip: Dutt, Manmatha: Vishnupuranam. 2nd ed. Chowkhamba. Varanasi, 1972.
Wara: de Bary, Waldemar and Embree, Ainslee, eds: A Guide to Oriental Classics. 2nd ed. Columbia University. New York, 1975.
Wd: Swetnam, Derek, and Ruth Swetnam. Writing Your Dissertation: The Bestselling Guide to Planning, Preparing and Presenting First-Class Work. 3rd rev ed. Begbroke, Oxford: How To Books, 2009.
Wy: Tuxen, Poul tr: Bhagavadgita. Herrens Ord. Gyldendal. København, 1962.
Xmi: Radhakrishnan, S. ed: The Cultural Heritage of India, vol 2. Rev. 2nd ed. Ramakrishna
Institute. Calcutta, 1958.
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