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Myths related to the Bhagavada Gita By Prashant Saxena
Sunday, February 6th, 2011 | Posted by Editor
Myths related to the Bhagavada Gita
By Prashant Saxena
Bhagavada Gita, in brief, is not just a conversation between Arjun and Lord Krishna. It is a spiritual knowledge imparted by Krishna to Arjun, who in despair seeing his relatives, teachers and friends as his enemy, was confused and shattered. Gita, imparts the knowledge of karma yoga, importance of gyana yoga, consciousness and the truth about the ultimate reality.
Myth 1 : Krishna is the only god (Usually advocated by the people who identify the ultimate reality with a human form and a name ‘Krishna’)
The ancient Indians only believed in the concept of ultimate reality which is called by various names and symbology. They never used words like monotheism or polytheism. They believed that the different aspects of the nature like fire, wind, sun etc are all parts of the nature. Hence in Vedic hymns one can find reveration to the individual elements of the nature in a metaphorically personified form. E.g fire, personfied as agni-dev and sun as surya-dev. The Upanisadic texts proclaim that the Brahman is the one and only Godhead, in the Kathopanisad it is called Visnu and in the Mandukyopanisad it is called Sivam. So it is said in the Vedas: “Ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti”, which means that the truth is called by different names.
The chapter 10 of Bhagavada-Gita alone teaches of the various conceptions about the ultimate reality idenitifed by different names.
BG 10.20: I am the Supersoul, O Arjuna, seated in the hearts of all living entities. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings.
BG 10.21: Of the ?dityas I am Vis?n?u, of lights I am the radiant sun, of the Maruts I am Mar?ci, and among the stars I am the moon.
BG 10.22: Of the Vedas I am the S?ma Veda; of the demigods I am Indra, the king of heaven; of the senses I am the mind; and in living beings I am the living force [consciousness].
BG 10.23: Of all the Rudras I am Lord ?iva, of the Yaks?as and R?ks?asas I am the Lord of wealth [Kuvera], of the Vasus I am fire [Agni], and of mountains I am Meru.
BG 10.24: Of priests, O Arjuna, know Me to be the chief, Br?haspati. Of generals I am K?rtikeya, and of bodies of water I am the ocean.
BG 10.25: Of the great sages I am Bhr?gu; of vibrations I am the transcendental om?. Of sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy names [japa], and of immovable things I am the Him?layas.
BG 10.26: Of all trees I am the banyan tree, and of the sages among the demigods I am N?rada. Of the Gandharvas I am Citraratha, and among perfected beings I am the sage Kapila.
BG 10.27: Of horses know Me to be Uccaih??rav?, produced during the churning of the ocean for nectar. Of lordly elephants I am Air?vata, and among men I am the monarch.
BG 10.28: Of weapons I am the thunderbolt; among cows I am the surabhi. Of causes for procreation I am Kandarpa, the god of love, and of serpents I am V?suki.
BG 10.29: Of the many-hooded N?gas I am Ananta, and among the aquatics I am the demigod Varun?a. Of departed ancestors I am Aryam?, and among the dispensers of law I am Yama, the lord of death.
BG 10.30: Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahl?da, among subduers I am time, among beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garud?a.
BG 10.31: Of purifiers I am the wind, of the wielders of weapons I am R?ma, of fishes I am the shark, and of flowing rivers I am the Ganges.
BG 10.32: Of all creations I am the beginning and the end and also the middle, O Arjuna. Of all sciences I am the spiritual science of the self, and among logicians I am the conclusive truth.
BG 10.33: Of letters I am the letter A, and among compound words I am the dual compound. I am also inexhaustible time, and of creators I am Brahm?.
BG 10.34: I am all-devouring death, and I am the generating principle of all that is yet to be. Among women I am fame, fortune, fine speech, memory, intelligence, steadfastness and patience.
BG 10.35: Of the hymns in the S?ma Veda I am the Br?hat-s?ma, and of poetry I am the G?yatr?. Of months I am M?rga??rs?a [November-December], and of seasons I am flower-bearing spring.
BG 10.36: I am also the gambling of cheats, and of the splendid I am the splendor. I am victory, I am adventure, and I am the strength of the strong.
BG 10.37: Of the descendants of Vr?s?n?i I am V?sudeva, and of the P?n?d?avas I am Arjuna. Of the sages I am Vy?sa, and among great thinkers I am U?an?.
BG 10.38: Among all means of suppressing lawlessness I am punishment, and of those who seek victory I am morality. Of secret things I am silence, and of the wise I am the wisdom.
BG 10.39: Furthermore, O Arjuna, I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being — moving or nonmoving — that can exist without Me.
Myth 2 : Krishna was egotistical as he asked to worship him (Usually propagated by the anti-hindus)
This kind of criticism is usually done by the anti-hindus. In Gita, there are several places where Lord Krishna articulates with pronouns like “I am, Me”. The most critical part in that understanding is as to what that “I, Me” actually refers to? This is the explanation given in the whole of Bhagvada-Gita. It is the explanation of ultimate reality which consists of spiritual energies, knowledge, material manifestations etc, every thing that emanates out of that ultimate reality or that definition behind “I, Me” (BG 12.3-4, 12.5-7, 10.2-3, 10.12-13, 9.4, 9.10-11, 10.8). This further explains the concept of avatar in Hinduism. An avatar is simply a divine and living manifestation of the supreme reality according to hinduism.
Gita is a divine knowledge and nowhere Lord Krishna force Arjun to acknowledge his words. He only says, it his opinion.
BG 6.36: For one whose mind is unbridled, self-realization is difficult work. But he whose mind is controlled and who strives by appropriate means is assured of success. That is My opinion.
BG 18.63: Thus I have explained to you knowledge still more confidential. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.
It was only Arjun who asked Krishna to help him as he was depressed and disturbed to see his relatives, teachers and friends in the battlefield (as explained in chapter 1 and 2). Krishna was only trying to help him.
Actions, Maya and the Ultimate Reality
The Shape of the Ultimate Reality
August 24th – Happy Hungry Ghost Festival and Raksha Bandhan!
Tags: Arjun, bhagavada gita, Gita, krishna, myths
4 Responses for “Myths related to the Bhagavada Gita”
February 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm
Prashant very interesting article but i have a question .I thought Hinduism was monotheist and according to Iskcon Lord Krishna is suppose to be supreme and all other gods including Shiva demi gods..Can u elaborate on that ..thanks
Prashant Saxena says:
February 6, 2011 at 7:03 pm
@HariShiva : I’m glad for your genuine participation. To understand the hindu scriptures, you need to decondition your mind especially from the western terminologies and secondary sources. We all talk about Veda and Gita. Many people glorify them. But the question is how many have genuinely read them and comprehended them from their own frame of understanding? If people start glorifying blindly, then it is possible that they may overlook the miscomprehensions and distortions and end up glorifying these non-scriptural additions too. Coming to your question, it has two parts :
1) You thought Hinduism was monotheist.
What you thought itself speaks what I’m trying to explain. What exactly is theism? Theism is an english term and when mapped to sanskrit it can lead to major communcation gaps. Theism is a word that is also used to connect to the abrahamic gods. But the concept of “godly” in context to Hinduism is very different from that of western concepts of god. The Vedas, which is a part of shruti, is well versed in a metaphorical way where the different elements are personfied. Everything that is essential for the life is treated as divine. Thus the sun which is the source of life on the entire earth is revered and personfied as “Surya Dev”. Agni which is essential part of nature is revered as “Agni-Dev”. The hymns you’d find in Veda characterise these elements with their properties and simply rever them.
As per western concepts, god is isolated from the nature and he is the creator of the world. He has his own set of miracles that we can’t see. And one who believes in god and his miracles is a theist. But, from a hindu point of view, the Vedas emphasize on the characteristics of different elements of the nature which are metaphorically and poetically called as “deva”. e.g Agni-deva ( a personification of fire element), vayu-deva ( a personification of air element). Some of the elements are even personified with feminine names and hence showing how Vedas rever women. E.g laxmi. ( personification of wealth ).
The sanskrit term Astik which is usually mapped to theist, according to the vedic definition means the one who, with a skeptic mind, accepts the vedic knowledge and values and considers the elements of nature as divine. Again, divinity ( or godly) in Vedic context does not mean relating to the western definition of god, but something that is essential for the existence of human life and peace. Thus, Sun, heat, water, air etc are all considered as divine. Verses like “matri devo bhava, athiti devo bhava” ( treat mother as god or godly, treat neighbour as godly ) simply mean to show respect to your mother and to the neighbours for a peaceful existence.
Vedas which are a part of the the shruties are considered as the most sacred and they do not contain any stories or historical accounts of prophets as we have in western religions. Vedas and Gita themselves promote the spirit of enquiry/questioning and hence astik in Vedic context means one who accepts the Vedic ideas and knowledge i.e a scientific and spiritual bent of mind. Thus again we can see that there is hardly any connect in the western definition of god and the sanskrit meaning of “astik”.
Theism as per western concepts, relates to a set of beliefs where spirit of enquiry and questioning is undermined, whereas “astik” relates to adherance to vedic knowledge, spirit of questioning and free thinking. Thus in India, you’d hardly find any conflict between modern science and the Vedic science.
Thus when we map a sanskrit term to an english term, we need to remap the english to sanskrit also to verify if it still means the same. We need to stop looking at the Hindu scriptures from a western point of view.
2) According to Iskcon Lord Krishna is suppose to be supreme and all other gods including Shiva demi gods.
I have had discussions with a few ISKONites. But I guess it is not right to generalize on what they think. If we anlayze the statement, then it flaws as it is again based on the western view of “god” or theism. For example, Science is a subject which has different categorizations like Physics, Chemistry, Biology etc. These names like ‘Science, Phyisics, chemistry etc’ are given only by the humans. How will a science student select his area of study if their is no name given to that particular specialization or field? Similarly, we must understand that names like Brahman, Shiva, Vishnu etc are the names to the individual conceptualizations related to the ultimate reality. The other names to the conceptualizations are Indra, SuryaDev etc. Feminine names include Laxmi (Goddess of wealth, again a personfication).
What you are referring to is essentially these verses of GITA from chapter 9.
BG 9.22: But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form — to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.
BG 9.23: Those who are devotees of other gods and who worship them with faith actually worship only Me, O son of Kunt?, but they do so in a wrong way.
BG 9.24: I am the only enjoyer and master of all sacrifices. Therefore, those who do not recognize My true transcendental nature fall down.
The demigods are nothing but the physical or mental manifestations of the ultimate reality which are divine. Material manifestations include Sun, Earth, Water etc. Whereas, mental manifestations include knowledge, consciousness, thought etc. If we treat a human body as a whole, then how can a whole body be complete without a hand, leg or a brain? If, for analogy, these individual components of a human body are treated separately and compared to demigods, then it is only natural that the whole body ( analogous to ultimate reality here) should take bath. Does it make any sense to clean the individal body parts (analogous to worshipping or revering the demi-gods individually)? Another, If a business man worships Laxmi (wealth) and cuts the trees for generation of wealth, then it means that for the generation of wealth, he is abusing the nature. Thus, according to BG-9.23, this is inappropriate.
From verses, BG.12.3-7, you’d understand what I have just said. But as stated before in the article, nowhere in GITA, Krishna tells Arjun to identify that ultimate reality which is unmanifested, unborn with a name “Krishna”. He doesn’t say to worship someone called “Krishna”. Krishna had other names like ‘Kanhaiya, Devki nandan, janardan, Keshav etc’. In chapter 9,10 he tells his other names too which are identified with the manifestions for other roles just like science has physics to serve a different category and biology to serve another.
From 9.23 you’d also find that no matter what demi-god you worship, you are worshipping that ultimate reality only or the definition of “I or Me” that Bhagvad GITA expounds.
If we swap the names like Physics and chemistry, would it really change the explanation and the meaning of that branch? Would hydrogen fuse differently with oxygen if we start calling that field as XYZ? The science of detachment with the knowledge is what really needed as a final hammer to that understanding and to be able to see the truth. If a person is reducing that ultimate reality to a human for and a name and cannot realize the higher nature of that ultimate reality, then according to GITA he is of lesser intellect.
BG 9.11: Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord of all that be.
Dr. O. P. Sudrania says:
February 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm
As the very flavour of a food tells you its taste, so did a cursary reading with a glance at both your article as well as the comment. I loved it and not being a sanskrit scholar, I loved your nice references with their metaphorical legends. I was looking for an article like this and it is perhaps the divine grace that has come through you. God bless you Prashant and keep going strong. I shall make reference to your this excellent article in my own modest work.
Dr. O. P. Sudrania
Posted by Free Thinker at 9:52 AM
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