Two famous gitas are ascribed to Krishna: The Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the Mahabharata, and the Uddhava Gita which is a part of the Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). "Bhagavata Purana" means "Ancient stories of the Lord". The Bhagavata is one of the most celebrated sacred works among Hindus. Scholars generally agree it was probably composed around the 900s somewhere in South India. The work is made up of some 18,000 stanzas divided into 12 books.
Book 10 deals with Krishna's childhood and later years spent among cowherds. These stories are very, very popular in India. Book 11 of the work contains the Uddhava Gita (also called Hamsa Gita), which is the other famous "Song of the Lord": In it, Krishna's friend Uddhava is taught directly by Krishna shortly before Krishna leaves the world. Uddhava Gita accompanies the Bhagavad Gita in giving teachings on yoga and devotion. A few extracts and paraphrases from it are below.
As for Krishna stories, the basic sources are the epic Mahabharata and its appendix from the 400s, the Harivamsa - and the Puranas, particularly Books 10 and 11 of the Bhagavata-Purana
[EB "Bhagavata"; "Krishna"].
Along with the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, the Srimad Bhagavatam is among the most authoritative Hindu scriptures. Aldous Huxley once wrote of the Srimad Bhagavatam that it "expresses the essence of Indian religion almost as forcefully as does the Bhagavad Gita". Huxley also meant it contains great truths [cf. Sl].
Swami Prabhavananda made a very condensed version of it in 1943; about half was summary and paraphrase rather than translation. But the teachings of Sri Krishna to his disciple Uddhava in Book 11 of the long work, were "rendered without omission and with approximate literalness", Prabhavananda made clear at the onset. His main goal was to interpret the inner spirit of the Sanskrit text [Sl vii].
Today extensive translations of the Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) are on-line. On this page I present select verses. A complete translation is here to compare with or look into also.
This is the very essence of yoga. (Ch 16)
What follows are extracted and contracted sayings from the Uddhava Gita, which is contained in Srimad Bhagavatam's Book (kanda) 11. Insertions are in square brackets [ - ]. I give you twice distilled Uddhava Gita teachings: In The Wisdom of God (Srimad Bhagavatam) Swami Nikhilananda made a "half summary and paraphrase", he says in his preface [Sl vii]. From that offering again I have subsequently distilled the present paraphrases and contractions, chapter by chapter.
The selections add very, very little to the Uddhava Gita's text, but much is naturally left out. You may ascertain this by comparing this "twice distilled" gist with a complete translation. - Tormod Kinnes
We praise you,
After listening to these song praises, Krishna said,
"I have determined to leave the earth. My kingdom is established."
He also saw it best to have all his descendants killed first. His established kingdom was destroyed at the same time.
Krishna's disciple Uddhava stood nearby and heard all this. Then, finding Sri
Krishna alone, he drew near and addressed him:
Can we live apart from our very Self?
The perceived world is a projection of consciousness. It is transitory.
When you have gained knowledge and wisdom you can feel unity with all embodied beings.
When you know the Self and find delight in the Self, then you are free
[as they say].
Your Self is your true teacher.
By the Self alone is realised the highest good.
I exist in all beings, but the human heart is my favorite dwelling place.
Krishna goes on:
The noble Brahmin replied: "Hear who are my teachers: the earth, air, ether, water, fire, the moon, the sun, the pigeon, the python, the sea, the moth, the elephant, the bee, the honey- gatherer, the deer, the fish, the courtesan Pingala, the osprey, the child, the maiden, the arrow- maker, the snake, the spider, and a particular insect known as Vramara-kita. These are the twenty- four teachers I have learnt great lessons from and have gathered my wisdom from.
Never should a man of steady wisdom swerve from truth nor lose his poise.
A truly wise man remains quiet, steady, having realized his unity with Brahman.
He purifies all who revere him and who seek his company.
Birth and death belong to the bodies but not to the Self.
Changes such as birth and death pertain to the body and affect not the Atman.
The miserable man who has no poise, is tossed up and down by the currents of life, and through attachments comes to grief.
The wise man remains calm and unchanged.
One who is lustful is caught in a trap.
Like the bee, gathering honey from different flowers, the wise man accepts the essence of different Scriptures.
The wise man should never listen to sensual music.
The courtesan Pingala stood as usual at her door to conduct any chance lover to the trysting place. She fondly hoped that some rich man would come and lavish money on her. Finally, long past midnight, tired and impatient, she felt within herself a deep disgust; a clear light shone into her heart, and she saw her own folly, "I have-been a fool to expect happiness from men. Like a fool I courted man, who can never satisfy my desires, but who causes misery, fear, disease. In vain have I sought wealth and pleasure by selling my body to men, who are themselves greedy slaves to lust. The unchangeable reality alone delights the heart. He is the very Self in all living beings."
"Having gained this true discrimination, Pingala gave up all vain hopes and attained tranquillity.
Take delight in the contemplation of the Self.
The wise man is happy and free from care, like a little child - but unlike the child is happy through knowledge.
Where many dwell in one place, there is noise and quarrelling, and there may be harmful gossip.
Tranquillity comes to a heart which is no longer stirred by desires.
The sage makes little or no show of speaking words which are beneficial.
This body in time withers and falls away.
One can learn the Truth from many teachers.
The sense-perceived world is as unfruitful as revery.
Practice the primary virtues, such as doing no injury, truthfulness, non-covetousness, chastity; form regular habits of cleanliness, study, contentment; and devotion to Guru - serve a Guru who has become one with me.
Use your intelligence in eagerly seeking the Truth. Be free from envy.
Be not attached to your wife, or your children, or your house, or your possessions.
Know your Self as pure, free, divine, absolute.
Pray tell me how one may become free. How may a free soul be distinguished from one in bondage? How does one who is free live and act? How is it possible that the soul, eternally free, should become bound?"
My maya has within itself the power to bind as well as the power to liberate. The latter, Vidya maya, banishes ignorance; and then the soul knows itself to be free.
There are two birds of beautiful, golden plumage. They look alike and are inseparable companions. And they have built their nests, of their free will, on the same tree. One of them eats the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree, yet the other, which does not taste of its fruits at all, is greater in strength and glory. For it knows the Self.
The wise man looks upon himself as the unchangeable reality. He remains pure and unaffected, like the clear sky above. He delight in the blissful Self.
Sources of misery: a cow that no longer yields milk, an unfaithful wife, physical slavery to another, a wicked son, wealth in the hands of the undeserving, and words which do not express solid truth.
Unsullied by desires, enlightened himself, a sage can convey the Truth to others.
Trumpet not your own good deeds. Shun hankering for name or fame.
Give knowers of Truth hospitality and service.
Repetition of the sacred mantrams and righteous conduct are aids to spiritual unfoldment; and so is being in the company of the holy.
This whole universe exists in me and is an expression of my divine power. I am One without a second.
Some happiness and misery are fruits on the tree of transmigration. Though seemingly solid and eternal, in the light of the transcendent Self, it is gone.
People with discrimination feed on happiness.
Steady and watchful, with your axe of knowledge sharpened, cut down the tree of transmigration [by adequate meditation], and attain to freedom.
The three gunas - sattwa, rajas, and tamas - belong to the mind only. Rise above the gunas and know the Self.
The ignorant man has not the peace and tranquillity which arise from knowing the Self. He dwells on thoughts of sense pleasure and becomes attached to the senses.
The man of discrimination, even though moved by desires, hardly yields to their influence.
Sanaka and other spiritual sons of Brahma approached their father so as to learn the profound secret of yoga, and asked him, "How can one, seeking liberation, free himself from the clutches of attachment?" To this question Brahma found no answer.
A swan appeared before them and said, "Your inquiry is useless; for there is but one Self. Your inquiry is meaningless. See the one Self. The Self alone is real, and the eternal witness. Focus on the heart. Experience divine bliss, a facet to your true Self, and realise the Truth; this is the profound secret and the supreme goal."
Different temperaments and natures understand differently.
Work towards the highest good - the joy-Self - by such as truthfulness, gifts, and moral.
The universe is of bliss and saving grace too.
Self, a friend of the devotee, is attainable."
He who loves, tears of joy flow from his eyes; his heart melts, and he sometimes laughs or dances; such a devotee is a purifying influence.
Blessed are the pure in mind, for to them is given the wisdom of God.
Avoid the society of the lustful.
Please teach me how to meditate.
Sitting in an easy posture, with the body erect, place your hands on your lap and . . . practice pranayama. While practicing pranayama, meditate on the sacred word OM.
Imagine a lotus within the heart, its petals pointing downward, and, as as you meditate, the petals turn upward. Then see at the heart a sun, moon, and fire.
Behold within the fire the benign form of your preferred god or goddess, your Ishtam. Meditate on that one for a while.
Before undertaking pranayama and meditation, learn the processes in detail so as to do nothing wrong or harmful to yourself. It pays to get "professional" somehow.
Various occult powers come to the yogi while focusing intently. These include the power of getting everything one wishes, to read minds, and the power of clairvoyance. There are many more.
Uddhava: You dwell as the innermost Self of all. All that is you see.
I am the Self in all beings, their friend and benefactor. I am the All.
I am the life-principle of the living.
I am Brahma, the teacher of the Vedas.
Of all luminaries I am the sun, and of grain I am barley.
I am the study of the Vedas.
Of devotees I am yourself.
Of gems I am the sapphire. I am the lotus bud, kusa grass, and clarified butter.
I am the supreme Brahman. Nothing whatever exists without me or beyond me.
I am revealed in those who are pure in heart.
Control yourself by your Self, the fullness of life.
In the beginning, all men were equally endowed with knowledge, all were born knowers of Truth. In that primeval age, OM was the Veda; and charity and truthfulness were of duty. It was peoples' pleasure to meditate constantly on the absolute.
Later there came a division of men into classes: persons were differentiated by their varied temperaments and by their specialized duties.
A student should never consciously depart from continence. He should silently meditate and look on his guru as embodied divinity. The student is to please him, and by sound straightforwardness too.
After completing the life of the student, one may enter on either the family life, the hermit's life, or the monk's life.
One wishing to lead the life of a householder should marry a pure girl, and keep in mind that the ideal good is not enjoyment but attainment of knowledge in this life and of everlasting happiness hereafter.
After living a householder's life, it fits to enter into the life of retirement.
Who speaks noble truths, observes restraint of speech.
Who knows the one reality, loves me for the sake of love.
A free soul is above most rules of conduct and beyond all orders of life. Wise, he is childlike. He wanders about as one who knows nothing.
The one existence is seen as many beings.
Gaining self-control, approach the knower of Truth humbly and inquire into the truth that leads to oneness with Brahman. Serve your teacher with care.
Religion is not in the garb of a monk, nor in external forms.
The duties of a hermit consist of practicing austerities and learning discrimination.
I am the goal of the wise man, and I am the way. There is nothing dearer to him than I.
He who is endowed with knowledge and realization, has attained my supreme abode. He knows me, therefore is he dear.
Nothing is more purifying than sound knowledge. May your knowledge be of your Self.
You should know your Self.
I consider him wise who sees the one Self.
Absolute existence, the abiding reality, remains.
Now I shall tell you of the philosophy of love.
The practices of yama and niyama,, if rightly followed, can bring spiritual unfoldment.
Patience is bearing the burden of life cheerfully.
To know the Truth is to see the oneness of the Self with God.
The greatest gift is the gift of knowledge.
Work one must, till the heart has become tranquil and free from desires.
In the pure heart arise true wisdom.
Blessed is human birth, for true wisdom and pure love may be attained by man. Rare indeed is this human birth.
The human body is like a boat: The first and foremost use of it is to carry us across the ocean of life and death to the shore of Immortality.
Practice holding your mind steady in meditation on the Atman, the divine Self. And keep watching the thoughts that pass through the mind.
Meditation is also a way of atonement.
Reach your Self by going beyond the plane of intellect into bliss and the like.
To achieve purity of heart: cleanliness, austerities, compassion; and appropriate duties of life.
When a man loses the sense of right and wrong, he easily misses the purpose of life, knowing neither himself nor the supreme Self, and knows not what he does.
Doubts vanish when one attains tranquillity by realizing the heart of Truth.
The Atman is the indwelling Self in man, the reality in him.
At the moment of death the sum of all the experiences of life on earth comes to the surface of the mind - stored impressions of past deeds. Later there arises before man's mind the vision of his life to come, a vision regulated by his impressions of his past deeds.
After his next birth he no longer remembers his past life.
Conception, embryonic state, birth, childhood, boyhood, youth, middle age, and death - these are different states of the body and do not affect the real entity.
The Atman is the eternal witness.
Miseries, though belonging to the world of dreams, are of a certainty painful.
Learn to meditate on the Atman and maintain your equanimity.
You must strive to free yourself from evil and ignorance.
Someone used to hoard his money and never used it for any good. Suddenly he lost all his hoarded wealth, and saw: "I have vainly wasted my life in a mad quest for riches. Greed hardly ceases with the possession of wealth.
"Dissension and too low indulgences are said to be among outcomes of wealth.
"The strength and energy that are wasted by the ignorant in search of vain and unrewarding wealth, will lead, if wisely directed, to the door of freedom. During the remaining years of my life I shall therefore practice austerities and steadfastly devote adequate energies to spiritual practices that are conductve to the highest good. I will find joy in meditation on the Self."
He wandered away alone, at times singing to himself:
"The Self is the Lord, it is the witness of all thought. The mind can be stronger than the strongest.
"Can it be that the progress of time causes happiness and misery?"
In the beginning there was one existence, Brahman alone, One without a second.
That one existence, the absolute reality, the Brahman, transcends mind and speech.
Brahma, by the power of his tapas, created the three spheres with their respective rulers - the abode of the gods; of the spirits; and of mortals.
Good, pure, virtuous deeds lead one to the higher spheres and nobler births.
Whatever things or beings come into existence, minute or vast, slight or massive - all have their source in Purusha and prakriti. And Time is a factor in the modifications.
The universe eventually goes back to absolute reality, Atman.
Knowledge of the Atman drives away delusion.
The idea of me and "mine" comes from a mixture.
Poise and self-control
The gunas - sattwa, rajas, and tamas - arise from the mind
Sattwa, goodness [etc.], leads gradually to higher and higher births upward to the sphere of Brahma.
Faith in the Self is sattwika; food which is wholesome, pure, and easily procurable is sattwika; happiness arising from the contemplation of the Self is sattwika, but the happiness springing directly from knowledge of me is beyond the gunas.
Let the wise man give up all attachment to the gunas, poised.
Brahman is all-pervading existence.
A man ascends in his own being to Self. What more remains to be achieved by one who has learned "in Brahman", knowledge absolute?
Who lights up the heart, is the true friend. He is the very Self.
The individual man is the Atman associated and identified with the body, the organs of sense, the pranas, and the mind.
Brahman is self-existent and self-effulgent.
The Atman, the Self, is the reality, different from appearance.
"We must not think that we can act in any way we please." - SP
One should desire health and strength as a means of serving the Atman and attaining to Being. Then do men know themselves as the Atman, and the Atman as themselves. The Atman is self-luminous and birthless. It is beyond speech.
How may a man easily attain the highest end, the Self?
There are spiritual practices which are easy to follow.
Open your divine sight.
Every day calmly listen to truths of the Self.
EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica Online or the yearly edited DVD suite.
Sh: Raghunathan, N., trans. Srimad Bhagavatam, Vols 1-2. Madras: Vighneswara, 1976.
Sl: Prabhavananda, Swami, trans. The Wisdom of God. New York: Capricorn/Putnam, 1968.
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