VEDANTA HEART OF HINDUISM

Book: Hans Torwesten Review: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi Part 2 Krishna the Omniscient: The Message of the Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita, often referred to simply as the „Gita‟, is a tiny fragment of the giant epic the „Mahabharata‟, and has often been extolled as the „jewel of Indian literature‟; as a brilliant synthesis of all the important religious and philosophical currents of India; as the reconciliation of „Jnana‟ and „Bhakti‟ (the Path of Knowledge and the Path of Devotion to God); and finally as the „Song of Selfless Action‟, giving courage to Mahatma Gandhi, even while in prison. Gita is usually regarded as direct divine revelation and its authority is widely recognized. It most certainly plays a much greater role in the everyday life of the Hindu than do the Vedas. Public readings of the Gita are still quite popular in India today, and the Gita is probably the most widely read book of the Hindus in the West as well. The high place the Gita occupies in the edifice of Vedanta has never been disputed. Together with the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras it forms the three-fold foundation of Vedanta. In the Gita‟s universal view of things everything has its place. Its principle is allinclusive. Doing away with the either/or approach, it proclaims the typical Eastern view of things: “this as well as that” without thereby losing any of its seriousness and depth. Review: Satyendra Dwivedi
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A God of War? The Gita does not solve the problem of war: rather it thrusts us right into the heart of the problem of war, any struggle, and shows us by means of one example how easily in actual life we can be drawn into tricky situations and conflicts of conscience the likes of which hardly arises for the ascetics in forests and caves. Nobody can destroy the Atman, the true Self of the human being. That is the truth that is emphasized in the Upanishads as well as in the Gita, again and again – the immortal nature of the human being.

“This self is never born nor does it die; it is not something that having been born, it again ceases to be; unborn, eternal and everlasting, this ancient One is not killed when the body is killed.” [Bhagavad Gita 2.20] There is no question that the Atman teaching in the Gita points in a very positive sense to what is noble in man, to his innately divine nature. It reminds him never to forget that he is the „son of a king‟. Yet the path to the realization of the Atman must also not bypass what is human in man lest it lead to cruel indifference and inhumanity, instead of transcedency filled with divine light. Before we experience the invulnerability of the Atman we have to learn to be vulnerable and sensitive, we have to break out of the armor surrounding us. Anyone who has never been deeply affected by something should not take pride in his equanimity. Before we transcend mourning, we must be capable of mourning and this we can only do as long as we take people seriously as individuals and act responsibly. Rather than hindering this sensitivity, the Atman teaching should bring us closer to it, compelling us, as it does, to identify with all beings. The Path of Clear Knowledge: „Jnana - Yoga‟ In its teachings the Bhagavad Gita does not confine itself to one path alone but in accordance with differences in human make-up offers several possibilities for the realization of the Atman.

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The teachings of the „Jnana‟ path are barely distinguishable from the teachings of the middle and later Upanishads such as the Mundaka, the Katha, and Shvetashvatara Upanishads from which many verses are appropriated directly. The aim of spiritual discipline is first to overcome inertia (tamas) by activity (rajas) and making this activity more and more selfless (sattva). In the „sattva-guna‟ the light of the Atman is beginning to become visible. At this stage we are „purer‟, and, having purged ourselves of the grosser forms of ignorance and egoistically purposeful striving, we take pleasure in harmony, wisdom, and beauty.

“Of these, sattva, being stainless, is luminous and healthful. It binds, O sinless Arjuna, by creating attachment to happiness and attachment to knowledge.” [Bhagavad Gita 14.6] The Gita calls „passion‟ and „hate‟ “the two dangerous enemies on the road” whose power we should not underestimate:

The sense organs are tuned by Nature to react positively to certain sense objects or stimulants and negatively to others. As long as, the sight, or even the thought of certain things make us desirous of them, as long as we fly to them – or for that matter flee from them – we are not free. Vedanta begins with the negative path, the path of asceticism: one consciously reign in feelings of attraction and aversion in order to free oneself step by step from the world of the senses, thereby enabling one to become completely absorbed in the dimension of the drive. Of course, Krishna also knows that this is easier said than done. He knows human nature exceedingly well. A purely negative attitude will never lead Arjuna, or most of us, to the knowledge of the truth that makes us free, which is why turning away from sense objects must be accompanied by a more positive turning toward the divine. Krishna, although employing the negative imagery of the Sankhya Yoga, gives this negative type of Yoga a strongly theistic positive coloring: Review: Satyendra Dwivedi
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“The Yogi restraints them (the senses) all and remains intent on Me. [Bhagavad Gita 2.61] Without a firm foundation nothing can be firmly established. In the Gita this foundation is the divine – both the supra-personal Brahman-Atman reality, the divine ground, and the Personal Creator – God who is incarnate here as Krishna. To Krishna, what matters is not the physical manifestation itself but that the believer sees through this physical manifestation, this veil of „Maya‟, and recognize in it – in what seems like a limited historical phenomena – the eternal formless Lord of the Universe. The Path of Selfless Action: „Karma-Yoga Krishna says to Arjuna:

“Not by merely abstaining from action does a man reach the state of actionlessness, nor by mere renunciation does he arrive at perfection.” [Bhagavad Gita 3.4] Krishna also declares:

“He who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, he is wise among men…. Giving up attachment to the fruit of action and dependent on none, though engaged in work, he (the sage) does not work at all.” [Bhagavad Gita 4.18, 20] Most people achieve this maturity and wisdom only toward the end of a long-life of egodriven activity, perhaps after many lives; but God‟s wisdom is not the end result of anything, but beginning-less beginning itself. His has been non-attachment all along; he has no needs, not even the need to create. It is from this utter freedom that creation and renewal continue to flow as his offering. The Universal Lord of is no Hegelian absolute and does not depend on history for its realization. For Him creating is overabundance, and play. He is agent and onlooker all Review: Satyendra Dwivedi
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at once; he is both within and without all things. Those who do not yet understand identify too much with their actions. Krishna urges taking all one does seriously – regardless of the overall playfulness (“Yoga is skill in action”):

The path is at least as important as the goal – indeed, one should be “casting off attachment and remain even-minded in both success and failure”:

This even –mindedness is a great advice. It is an aid in becoming so absorbed in the process that the goal fades from memory, no longer something we cling to, constantly having an eye on the payoff really leads only to tension. It is better to do what we have to do without being tense, a condition also allowing for greater alertness. The Path of Loving Devotion: „Bhakti-Yoga‟ Because in spiritual love all works an offering to God, Bhakti-Yoga also quite naturally concerns itself more with Karma-speculations. This kind of devotion plays a major role throughout the Gita. Through it the devotee not only renounces all claim to fruits of his deeds – and thereby is free from pride and conceit – but also does not get caught up in feelings of guilt when something goes awry. He leaves all else to God; he does his best – that‟s all. The Gita represents a great step forward when it comes to both simplifying and intensifying man‟s relationship with the divine. Krishna says:

“Whoever offers Me, with devotion, a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water – that I accept, the pious offering of the pure in heart. Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give away, and whatever you practice in the way of austerities, O son of Kunti – do it as an offering to Me.” [Bhagavad Gita 9.26, 27] Review: Satyendra Dwivedi
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Thus in the end, through daily devotion, all existence becomes one joyful offering to God. Here at last „Jnana‟, „Bhakti‟, „Karma‟ and „Raja‟ Yoga all combine to become a single flame of knowledge, love, works, and meditation. Whether we call it „Atman‟ or conceive of it as the „Lord who pervades all‟, we always have to start with the tangible to reach the intangible, proceed from matter to energy, to the creative intelligence driving it. The knowledge of the „One‟ is needed, not the knowledge of the many. Krishna seems to be playing down the numberless manifestations so as to draw Arjuna‟s attention to his true nature, to the string holding all the bright and shiny pearls together. The Awesome Majesty of God

“If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth in the sky that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One.” [Bhagavad Gita 11.12] While in the Upanishads the realization of the Atman was the highest aim, in the Gita it is the vision of the all-sublime deity, the Bhagavan, which receives the highest praise.

“Neither by the Vedas, nor by penances, nor by alms-giving, nor yet by sacrifice, can I be seen in the form in which you have beheld Me.” [Bhagavad Gita 11.53] Gita is an enrichment. It does not represent a break with the Upanishads, the truths of which shine through strongly enough; indeed the Gita has made many of these truths popular with some believers who would otherwise perhaps never have been interested in the Upanishads. While the Atman teaching forms only part of the great edifice that is Gita, its essential features are indeed preserved there. [To continue] Review: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi

Review: Satyendra Dwivedi
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