Arjuna does not immmediately recognize Krishna as a teacher

In typical traditional pictures of the Gītā scene, Arjuna is shown with palms joined in reverence, looking at Kṛṣṇa in an attitude of devotion and faith. But this is not what is described by the Gītā itself, in which Arjuna shows from the very beginning that he does not really recognize Kṛṣṇa as a teacher …

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Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18 is said by some commentators to be a summary of the teachings

Like Chapter II, the Bhagavad Gita Chapter XVIII Conclusion is said by some commentators to be a summary of the teachings of the Gītā. It begins by recalling the familiar distinction between: (1) physically giving up (saṃnyāsa) actions, except for a few semi-automatic ones which preserve the body, and (2) energetically performing the actions proper to one’s …

Read moreBhagavad Gita Chapter 18 is said by some commentators to be a summary of the teachings

The Field is body, mind, also the deep causal layer that holds them together

Chapter 13 of the Bhagavad Gita is said by Śaṅkara to be mainly a Knowledge-chapter. It begins with the knowledge of the Field (body, mind, also the deep causal layer that holds them together) and the Field-knower, which is the witness-consciousness that sees and is not affected or bound by what it sees. The Gītā itself …

Read moreThe Field is body, mind, also the deep causal layer that holds them together

It is not a question of simply repressing desires and fears for a time only

It is not a question of simply repressing desires and fears for a time only. An Indian visitor went to see a service in a synagogue; he was impressed and he thought the worshippers were impressed too, but as they came out he heard one man say to another triumphantly “23 per cent I tell …

Read moreIt is not a question of simply repressing desires and fears for a time only

The merchant quoted the illustration of the sun in the water and said that he had used it to develop the Way of the Merchant.

There is a story that illustrates several of the points. A high official in a traditional Indian State government came to know a merchant, and was impressed by his character. He said to him: “When we have big changes in the government it is an anxious time for everyone. If things go one way some …

Read moreThe merchant quoted the illustration of the sun in the water and said that he had used it to develop the Way of the Merchant.

In Chapter 15 of the Gita, Shri Shankara describes multiple reflections in jars of water

In Chapter 15 of the Gita, Shankara makes it the sun instead of the moon and he describes multiple reflections in jars of water; the sun shines from each pot of water. Now this is an illustration of the Lord projecting himself into many bodies: the pots can be carried about, and it seems that …

Read moreIn Chapter 15 of the Gita, Shri Shankara describes multiple reflections in jars of water

Yoga training means to bring a living realisation of the Supreme Self onto the main track of life

Moon in the Lake and Moon in the Sky Then there is an important point from these illustrations. It is true to say the moon in the lake is the moon in the sky; but it is not true to say the moon in the sky is just the moon in the lake. Let us …

Read moreYoga training means to bring a living realisation of the Supreme Self onto the main track of life

The moon in the water is a familiar illustration and it is also a yoga practice

The moon in the water is a familiar illustration and it is also a yoga practice. Swami Rama Tirtha, a fellow disciple of my teacher Hari Prasad Shastri, used to take a little boat on the river Ravi at night and meditate on the reflection of the moon in the water. And our teacher referred …

Read moreThe moon in the water is a familiar illustration and it is also a yoga practice

After God-realization new actions will normally not be initiated.

It was expected, as a natural result of the Knowledge I am Brahman’, that the surviving body-mind complex would continue to move for a time under its own momentum. Śaṅkara gives the example of the arrow. In medieval times, a battlefield message could be sent by binding it round an arrow, which was then shot …

Read moreAfter God-realization new actions will normally not be initiated.

The soul of man is not, and cannot be satisfied with what is called self-interest

Some think only of themselves. Their health, prosperity, possessions, comforts and pleasures are their main concern. The pressure of the social instincts naturally implanted in man, make him think of his family, country and the instruments of his enjoyment called friends. All these instruments play one and the same tune, direct or indirect selfsatisfaction. Old …

Read moreThe soul of man is not, and cannot be satisfied with what is called self-interest

Don’t use the priceless methods of spiritual training in order to gain some petty worldly advantage

Dr Shasrti used to quote verse 2 of the Gita. “Even a little of this Dharma relieves from anxiety”. Here the word dharma refers to the practice of karma yoga and the word translated here as anxiety is bhaya, fear.   But he said that little bits of yoga must not be practised merely for some …

Read moreDon’t use the priceless methods of spiritual training in order to gain some petty worldly advantage

Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fifteen is a summary presentation of the Gita teachings

XV is a summary presentation of the Gita teachings, as the chapter itself declares in the last verse.  It is also one of the shortest chapters, only twenty verses.   Anyone who seriously intends to practise the yoga of the Gita must learn some central part of it by heart, in order to get some inner …

Read moreBhagavad Gita Chapter Fifteen is a summary presentation of the Gita teachings

Caste and Action in the Bhagavad Gita

“The action in accordance with one’s innate disposition, O son of Kunti, though accompanied with imperfections, One should not give up; For all undertakings are surrounded by imperfection, As afire with smoke.” This Gita text is addressed directly to the disciple Arjuna, whose mother was Queen Kunti of the Kshatriya or warrior caste. The previous …

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In the Vedanta psychology, the mind is recognised to function on two planes

In  the Vedanta psychology, the mind is recognised to function on two planes. On the emotional plane (called manas), in which it lives as a prey of passions and prejudices, it is relatively uncontrolled by the Self ; it dithers aimlessly ; like Shakespeare’s Rumour, it “is a pipe, blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures ”, …

Read moreIn the Vedanta psychology, the mind is recognised to function on two planes

There are two paths of Yoga, as the Bhagavad Gita says again and again

The Bhagavad Gita declares the truth of the supreme Self, which manifests the universe as a magical show, and enters it as limited selves. It further declares Yoga. By Yoga, a limited self can thin out and then dissolve the magical limitations. There follows realization of its original identity with the supreme Self. There are …

Read moreThere are two paths of Yoga, as the Bhagavad Gita says again and again

Shri Shankara’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gītā (Song of the Lord) is an ancient Indian mystical poem, declaring that the world-process is a divine trick-of-illusion, into which the Lord himself has entered as the inner light of consciousness seemingly held fast in each individual self. He has set himself the problem of struggling free into his universal nature. The …

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Life becomes like walking over open countryside towards a clear objective

When the three elements of karma-yoga have been practised for a long time, or a shorter time with more intensity, things become simpler. Independence of the opposites, acting in evenness of mind, and samādhi-meditations on aspects of the Lord, produce an inner peace and energy. Life becomes like walking over open countryside towards a clear …

Read moreLife becomes like walking over open countryside towards a clear objective

Verses on independence of the opposites come in nearly every chapter of the Bhagavad Gita

Verses on independence of the opposites come in nearly every chapter. The instruction is first about physical effects: II.14 It is the contacts with material things that cause heat and cold, pleasure and pain; They come and go, impermanent as they are. Do you endure them bravely. Śaṅkara points out that some, such as heat …

Read moreVerses on independence of the opposites come in nearly every chapter of the Bhagavad Gita

Traditionally, the verses of the Bhagavad Gita are held to be divinely inspired

The Gītā is a poem, which sets out the practice for realization of the Supreme Self. That Self is all-pervading, one, unchanging, imperishable, and beyond the grasp of thought. Though it is ever-present, man clings to personal identity, namely restrictions which he thinks are his self. Clinging to limited personality obstructs awareness of the universal …

Read moreTraditionally, the verses of the Bhagavad Gita are held to be divinely inspired

Shankara’s presentation of the paths in theBhagavad Gita

Yoga means a method, and in the Gītā several times the Lord teaches two methods: the method of Action (karma-yoga), and the method of Knowledge (jñāna-yoga). Note that Knowledge too is a method, which is often called Renunciation, because that is its chief characteristic. In a few places, the Lord says that the Action path …

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Madhusudana Sarasvati’s introduction to the Bhagavad Gita

Madhusudana Sarasvati is one of the greatest lights of the school of non-duality, famous not only for his skill as a philosopher but also as a devotee. He lived in the sixteenth century, under the emperor Akbar, but almost nothing is known about his personal life; he scarcely refers to himself in all his works. …

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Many famous people received a shock from this great cry

In the great battle of Kurukshetra, which lasted several days, the key figure on the Pandava side was the general Arjuna. He was invulnerable to ordinary weapons, but one of the opposing warriors named Kama possessed a celestial arrow which could not be checked by any force whatever. Kama knew that Arjuna must be killed, …

Read moreMany famous people received a shock from this great cry

Shankara established his standpoint by commenting on sacred texts such as Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita

Śankara established his standpoint by commenting on sacred texts such as Upaniṣad-s and the Gītā. The latter is the Upaniṣad-s put into verse for aspirants heavily involved in worldly concerns. He insists that he is presenting nothing new. He wrote a short commentary on the Chapter of the Self in one of the law-books, and …

Read moreShankara established his standpoint by commenting on sacred texts such as Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita

The three main pillars of Yogic conduct are worship, gift and austerity, each practised without clutching after results of some kind

The main part of this chapter, and a good bit of the next (XVIII.18–45) are centred on the effects of the guṇa-s. What the Gītā calls man’s ‘selfnature (sva-bhāva) consists of tendencies he is born with, as an effect of the saṃskāra dynamic latent impressions laid down in previous births. A selection of some of …

Read moreThe three main pillars of Yogic conduct are worship, gift and austerity, each practised without clutching after results of some kind

The future is partly determined and partly undetermined

The chapter begins with Arjuna’s confident belief that his delusion has been dispelled. He has by now heard the supreme mystery of adhyātma, in the Lord’s declarations of his own glories. Arjuna has forgotten that in Chapter VIII  the adhāyatma was explained as the self-nature (sva-bhâva) in every man, not only the Lord outside. Again, he …

Read moreThe future is partly determined and partly undetermined

The mystical tradition and the intellectual tradition

The Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord) is an ancient Indian mystical poem, declaring that the world-process is a divine trick-of-illusion, into which the Lord himself has entered as the inner light of consciousness seemingly held fast in each individual self. He has set himself the problem of struggling free into his universal nature. The …

Read moreThe mystical tradition and the intellectual tradition

Fatalists twist the doctrine of karma to excuse themselves from making efforts

My teacher, Hari Prasad Shastri, brought out particularly strongly that we must not be fatalists.   Some holy text can be used to support fatalism, to make people members of apathetics anonymous. “Whatever will be, will be”, they echo the rich gentry and aristocrats in the last act of the Viennese Opera Die Fledermause. These are …

Read moreFatalists twist the doctrine of karma to excuse themselves from making efforts

The Bhagavad Gita is a book of practical mystical instruction.

The Gītā is a book of practical mystical instruction. Though there are descriptions of the world-scheme, it is not an argued metaphysical treatise. The text is in beautiful but simple Sanskrit verse, easy to memorize, and arousing devotion, energy, intuition, and finally peace in the memorizer. To know exactly what the Gītā text says, read …

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The doctrine of the three guṇa-s or basic elements of the cosmos is presented in the Bhagavad Gita.

The doctrine of the three guṇa-s or basic elements of the cosmos is presented in the Gītā. It is not a central Upanisadic doctrine. The Gītā prescribes a knowledge of them as an aid to practice in daily life. The treatment is mainly in Chapters XIV and  XVII, with a group of verses in  Chapter XVIII. …

Read moreThe doctrine of the three guṇa-s or basic elements of the cosmos is presented in the Bhagavad Gita.

Sages see Brahman everywhere and always are not upset by the changes of the world

Arjuna reinforces his refusal, or rather inability, to fight by gilding it with moral sentiments. He presents himself as seeing things from a higher standpoint; from that elevation, he condemns what he had till now wanted to do, but suddenly finds he does not want to do. He had been enthusiastic about the righteousness of …

Read moreSages see Brahman everywhere and always are not upset by the changes of the world

The setting of the Bhagavad Gita with Krishna, a warrior chief who is an incarnation of God

Queen Kuntī has been given the boon of a night visit in successive years by six gods of her choice. By them she has six sons who are thus half-brothers. Five of them are adopted by her husband King Pāṇḍu, and thus called Pāṇḍavas. The eldest, Yudhiṣṭhira, is to inherit the kingdom. The next two …

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The method of teaching down is used extensively in the Bhagavad Gītā

The usual way of teaching a subject is to build up information to higher and higher levels, each resting on the lower ones, which cannot be dispensed with. It could be called Teaching Up. But there is another method, Teaching Down, for cases where the final knowledge is already there but not recognized. The method …

Read moreThe method of teaching down is used extensively in the Bhagavad Gītā

The Bhagavad Gita states that actions must be performed in evenness of mind

‘Act, but do not re-act’, Dr. Shastri used to tell his pupils. He taught that action should be calm, well-directed to a right objective, and efficient. But it was not to be accompanied by reactions. Sometimes, in the very midst of an action, we find ourselves reacting to the situation: How am I doing?  Is …

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Hearing the truth, reflecting continuously on the truth, and profound meditation and Samadhi

Discipline and Liberation is generally understood, the yogic discipline consists of two elements first, complete detachment from the desire for limited egoistic experience in this or another body ; and second, desire for and meditation on the consciousness of immortality and bliss which follows the realization of the true Self in the form ” I …

Read moreHearing the truth, reflecting continuously on the truth, and profound meditation and Samadhi

A single cough from a fully realized man alters the whole being of a real aspirant

The Gita on “I do nothing” “I do nothing at all”- thus should the Truth-knower think` concentrated This is the first line of a Gita verse. Lethargic people quote it energetically (it may be the only energetic thing they do)` though few of them know where it comes in the Gita. And they do not …

Read moreA single cough from a fully realized man alters the whole being of a real aspirant

Supreme Self is ever free, and has nothing to do with ideas of binding or freeing

When karma-yoga practice – endurance of the opposites, samādhi practice, and performance of actions in evenness of mind – has purified the basis of the yogin’s being, Knowledge arises. Sometimes it is said that the Lord gives the Knowledge; sometimes that the Lord in the heart lights the flame of Knowledge, sometimes that Knowledge comes …

Read moreSupreme Self is ever free, and has nothing to do with ideas of binding or freeing

Proficiency in yoga requires moral discipline, mental discipline, and meditation on OM.

Another point brought out by Dr Shastri, not stressed in the Gita itself, though is there, was: creativity.   Yoga must make us creative.   He used to give examples from the history of science and literature of extraordinary inspirations and told us to look out for them.   One  such, which happened after he died was a …

Read moreProficiency in yoga requires moral discipline, mental discipline, and meditation on OM.

In yoga practice there are small confirmations almost from the very beginning.

Yogic action begins with following the traditional instructions on life, but it cannot remain a question of obedience, sometimes cheerful and sometimes reluctant. There might be no time to think, ‘What ought I to do?’ If yoga has been practised faithfully, habits of right action are set up which cover most cases. But the time …

Read moreIn yoga practice there are small confirmations almost from the very beginning.

Even Self-knowledge and realization can be clouded by desire and anger

The third chapter of the Bhagavad Gita has more on the two paths, and particularly action, including self-interested righteous action which is not yogic at all. Near the beginning there is a description of the principles of performing largely ritual sacrifices as worship of the gods, in the justified expectation that they will make a …

Read moreEven Self-knowledge and realization can be clouded by desire and anger

Experimental religion is the method of Self-realization presented in the Bhagavad Gītā

Experimental religion is the method of Self-realization presented in the ancient sacred text called Bhagavad Gītā. Here faith is not blind. Its conclusions, provisional at first, are to be confirmed fractionally in the early experiments; on that basis, faith stretches out to further experiments, in the reasonable expectation that these too can bring confirmations. The …

Read moreExperimental religion is the method of Self-realization presented in the Bhagavad Gītā

The created universe has been taught as a projection from a divine intelligence

Overseer and approver, supporter, experiencer, Great Lord, Highest self – so is he called, That dweller in the city of this body. Bhagavad Gita, XIII.22 This verse contains two riddles, one individual and one cosmic. The individual riddle is posed by the final words: ‘dweller in the city of this body’; the cosmic riddle is …

Read moreThe created universe has been taught as a projection from a divine intelligence

The Gītā text mainly recommends actions based on traditional virtues

In karma-yoga defined by Śaṅkara in II.39 commentary, there are three elements: (1) calm endurance of opposites, (2) yogic action, (3) samādhi practice. The first of these can be roughly summed up as Independence, and was looked at in a previous chapter. This chapter is concerned with the yogic action, from which karma-yoga takes its …

Read moreThe Gītā text mainly recommends actions based on traditional virtues

Shankara points out that reality cannot be defined in words which are based on illusion

The Gītā has presented the supreme Self as unthinkable, but directly experienced. It has been hinted at as the end of all grief, fear, and delusion, and positively as the bliss of Brahman. When the word Brahman, absolute Reality, first comes in the Gītā, Śaṅkara defines it by three Upanisadic texts, one of which is: …

Read moreShankara points out that reality cannot be defined in words which are based on illusion

In the bhagavad Gita the secrets are made available to all.

Bhagavad-Gita means literally ‘Sung by the Lord’. What are sung are extracts from the Upanisad-s, early Indian mystical texts, here put into 700 verses of simple Sanskrit. The Upanisad-s had not been taught openly: in the Gita the secrets are made available to all. It has been called the Bible of India, but corresponds rather …

Read moreIn the bhagavad Gita the secrets are made available to all.

There are two courses of training in the Gita: Karma yoga and Jnana yoga

A Gita Verse on Karma Yoga: Renouncing all action in Me, with self-awareness, free from hope, free from selfishness, devoid of fever, Fight!   (III.30) There are two courses of training in the Gita: Karma yoga or the yoga of action, and Jnana yoga or the yoga of knowledge. The first is for one who is …

Read moreThere are two courses of training in the Gita: Karma yoga and Jnana yoga

In chapters IX and X of the Bhagavad Gita, there is a flood of pictures for meditation and devotion

In chapters IX and X of the Bhagavad Gita, there is a flood of pictures for meditation and devotion. The aspects of the Lord are not restricted in time or place. There are some Indian references, but they are incidental; the main presentation is in terms of the whole world. This is not worship in …

Read moreIn chapters IX and X of the Bhagavad Gita, there is a flood of pictures for meditation and devotion

Krishna says that he has had many births, and so has Arjuna also

Chapter IV of the Bhagavad Gita begins with a statement by Kṙṣṇa that the ancient yoga has now been taught. Elaborating on a single word – purā, of old – in III.3, he gives briefly its history. He taught it to the first king, and it was handed down through king-sages (not through priests, an …

Read moreKrishna says that he has had many births, and so has Arjuna also

The Bhagavad Gītā several times refers to the four classes: Brahmin, warrior, businessman, and server

IV: 13 The four-class system was created by Me In accordance with distinctions of guṇa-s and results-of- actions (karma). XVIII.41–4 The actions of Brahmins, of warriors, of businessmen, and of those who do service, Are distinguished according to the guṇa-s that come up out of their inborn nature. Calm, self-control, austerity (tapas), purity, patience and …

Read moreThe Bhagavad Gītā several times refers to the four classes: Brahmin, warrior, businessman, and server

The first time that Karma Yoga is mentioned in the Gita is not till II.39

The first time that Karma Yoga is mentioned in the Gita is not till II.39, which says: ‘You have heard the wisdom concerning Sankhya: now hear about the method of Karma or action yoga. The wisdom concerning Sankhya here in the Gita meant the wisdom of the Supreme Self, attributeless and unchanging action of the …

Read moreThe first time that Karma Yoga is mentioned in the Gita is not till II.39

Knowledge can be of different degrees, and the lowest is false knowledge

This article is based on certain key verses from Chapter IX of the Bhagavad Gita, which is called the Royal Secret. Knowledge (jnana) and realization (vijnana) of the secret lead one beyond all limitations. The teaching begins: ” By Me this whole world is pervaded` by My form unmanifest.” This is the secret which is …

Read moreKnowledge can be of different degrees, and the lowest is false knowledge

Interpreting yogic experiences as merely psychological experiences

The accusation is often made by missionaries that ‘you Westerners bring your Christian morality even when you are not believing Christians any more, you bring your Christian morality with you and then when you study yoga, or Buddhism, or something like that, you assume that there is Christian morality.  Then there is the yoga doctrine, …

Read moreInterpreting yogic experiences as merely psychological experiences

The liberation of the soul can come only from knowledge proceeding from spiritual grace

The liberation of the soul can come only from knowledge proceeding from spiritual grace.  (Shri Shankara) The spiritual aspirant practising service, study, meditation and worship, may well come in time to that dry arid desert in which he recognizes the inadequacy of personal effort. At such a time the concept of grace as the crucial …

Read moreThe liberation of the soul can come only from knowledge proceeding from spiritual grace

The Lord describes himself as the essential quality in things

 Chapters V and VI of the Bhagavad Gita have been mainly on samādhi-meditation. For karma-yogins, it was described as performed by individual effort: for Knowledge-yogins, it is a natural continuation of their realization. The four chapters that follow, VII to X, are mainly for karma-yogins who cannot find the resources in themselves to control their …

Read moreThe Lord describes himself as the essential quality in things

Pleasures are impermanent, and if they become urgent impulses, they lead to pain

Verses on independence of the opposites come in nearly every chapter. The instruction is first about physical effects: II.14 It is the contacts with material things that cause heat and cold, pleasure and pain; They come and go, impermanent as they are. Do you endure them bravely. Śaṅkara points out that some, such as heat …

Read morePleasures are impermanent, and if they become urgent impulses, they lead to pain

A man is what his faith is. As his faith is, so is he, undoubtedly

XVII.2 Deep-seated in the nature of man is faith, which is threefold: of the nature of Light (sattva), of Passion- struggle (rajas) and of Darkness (tamas). A man is what his faith is. As his faith is, so is he, undoubtedly. Dr Shastri says: ‘This chapter starts with a description of the basic tendency in …

Read moreA man is what his faith is. As his faith is, so is he, undoubtedly

There is a laughter and a radiance at the heart of every atom.

The raw material of the first “atom-bomb” was a particular kind of Uranium.  When a little heap of this is seen under a weak fluorescent light, it shines with a greenish radiance. The radiance is caused by the particles which are continually being emitted from uranium, which is what is called a radio-active element. The …

Read moreThere is a laughter and a radiance at the heart of every atom.

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