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Parnika Featured: Gita Jayanti

Gita Jayan­ti

10 DEC 2016

CONVERSATIONS WITH SHRI. JAGANNATHAN

Gita Jayan­ti is the day when Bha­ga­van Shri Krish­na revealed the Gita to Arju­na in the bat­tle­field of Kuruk­shetra. On 10th Decem­ber 2016, peo­ple from all over the world chant­ed select­ed vers­es from the Gita at 6.00pm IST. In this arti­cle, Shri. Jagan­nathan shares his thoughts on the sig­nif­i­cance and rel­e­vance of Gita. Anaadi’s Gita Chant Along App can be accessed at : https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.anaadifoundation.chantalong

The traditional significance

The first is the tra­di­tion­al and reli­gious con­text of this day. It is believed, that on the Vaikun­ta Ekadashi day, which falls once in a year in the month of Mar­gashir­sha (called Margazhi masam in Tamil), in the bat­tle­field of Kuruk­shetra, Lord Krish­na deliv­ered the ser­mon called the Bha­gavad Gita, the Song of God, to Arju­na. On this Vaikun­ta Ekadashi day, peo­ple under­take an impor­tant fast and wor­ship Lord Vish­nu. Jayan­ti means birth, so we are cel­e­brat­ing the birth­day of the Gita. The Bha­gavad Gita was born on the Vaikun­tha Ekadashi day – that is the reli­gious sig­nif­i­cance of the day.

The Gita as the manual for life

Now let us try to look at the sig­nif­i­cance of the day from the per­spec­tive of every­day life. If you look at the Bha­gavad Gita as a body of knowl­edge, it has a lot of insights to address the mul­ti­tudi­nous prob­lems and chal­lenges that a human being faces in his life. And if you look at it from the con­text of the Mahab­hara­ta, there is this very well-pre­pared, extra­or­di­nar­i­ly capa­ble, high­ly intel­li­gent per­son by name Arju­na, who is fac­ing the most dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion in his life­time. He is los­ing his self-con­fi­dence and in that hour of cri­sis, the knowl­edge of the Gita is impart­ed to him by the Lord Him­self. So in that way, the Gita has a very direct impli­ca­tion as a man­u­al to face chal­lenges and crises of life. These chal­lenges and crises were not just unique to Arju­na, but are are faced by any human being in his life­time. There­fore the rel­e­vance is not lost just because the Gita is old. It is rel­e­vant even today, because if you take a cou­ple of shlokas from the Gita, you will see that all the gems of wis­dom, that are need­ed by a per­son to live his life hap­pi­ly and suc­cess­ful­ly, are con­tained in it. There are a lot of impor­tant insights and point­ers in the Gita, that address var­i­ous aspects of life, such as — why it is impor­tant to be emo­tion­al­ly intel­li­gent, why it is impor­tant not to lose one’s patience, what hap­pens if one does not prac­tise what is called delayed grat­i­fi­ca­tion, in mod­ern ter­mi­nol­o­gy. Now a lot of peo­ple are talk­ing about delayed grat­i­fi­ca­tion. What is meant by delayed grat­i­fi­ca­tion? All of us are human beings with sense organs and there are many sen­so­ry plea­sures around. It is being found that indi­vid­u­als who are able to with­hold them­selves, and delay the grat­i­fi­ca­tion of sen­su­al plea­sures seem to do well in their life. This was found through research by mod­ern psy­chol­o­gists. Even man­age­ment stud­ies have found that great lead­ers prac­tise this qual­i­ty of delayed grat­i­fi­ca­tion. So why it this impor­tant? Why one should not get car­ried away by sen­so­ry plea­sures and what hap­pens if one indulges him­self sole­ly in the enjoy­ment of sen­su­al plea­sures? To all these, the Gita pro­vides answers and pow­er­ful reme­di­al actions to enrich one’s expe­ri­ence of life. The Gita is very pow­er­ful, as one can get a lot of insights for using them in day-to-day liv­ing sit­u­a­tions.

Remind, reorient and inspire

Typ­i­cal­ly, we all have our own dai­ly rou­tine and dai­ly activ­i­ties. We also have our own chal­lenges and prob­lems and are so engrossed in this whole thing, that we for­get that there is this pow­er­ful tool called the Gita. We know that there is a tool avail­able, but since we are so engrossed and lost in our imme­di­ate prob­lems and issues, that we some­times tend to for­get that we have this use­ful, pow­er­ful tool in our hands. So usu­al­ly if you see, all the tra­di­tion­al fes­ti­vals cel­e­brat­ed in India, are a way to remind us that there is some­thing avail­able and reori­ent our think­ing towards the basic phi­los­o­phy behind which the par­tic­u­lar fes­ti­val is cel­e­brat­ed. One rea­son why such fes­ti­vals and days are cel­e­brat­ed is to remind and reori­ent us. Anoth­er, very impor­tant rea­son for cel­e­bra­tion is to enable us to find inspi­ra­tion by revis­it­ing. That is why usu­al­ly there is a rit­u­al that is attached to most of the fes­ti­vals that are cel­e­brat­ed. So typ­i­cal­ly on a Gita Jayan­thi day, in many places in the coun­try, peo­ple will have a plan to fast, because it is Vaikun­tha Ekadashi day, and also, they will do what is called as parayana, or the recita­tion of the 700 and odd vers­es of the Bha­gavad Gita. The pur­pose behind this is to draw inspi­ra­tion from the deep wis­dom of the Gita. Then there are peo­ple who take up a chap­ter, read it, try to under­stand the com­men­tary, try to get insights and get inspired — so it is a reori­en­ta­tion day, to under­stand that there is a tool that is avail­able right here in our hands. So that is the prac­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance of cel­e­brat­ing the Gita Jayan­thi day. And this habit of read­ing the Gita, and under­stand­ing its rel­e­vance to one’s life can be very pow­er­ful because when we look at the Gita and try to under­stand the mean­ing of the vers­es, we get fresh inter­pre­ta­tions, and new solu­tions keep evolv­ing. That is why you will find, right from tra­di­tion­al com­men­ta­tors like Bha­ga­van Adi Shankara, Ramanu­ja, Mad­havacharya, and all those tra­di­tion­al Gurus to the Gurus of mod­ern times, many Mahat­mas want­i­ng to write com­men­taries on the Gita, because it is so rel­e­vant, and that is why peo­ple wish to revis­it it and go deep­er into it. So this is one of impor­tant rea­sons why this day is so sig­nif­i­cant.

The Gita Jayanthi resolution!

If a per­son can start mak­ing it a prac­tice to read atleast one shlo­ka per day, it becomes very use­ful for reflec­tion and to get new insights. So one can prob­a­bly start this exer­cise, just as one takes new year res­o­lu­tions. For­tu­nate­ly, by the cal­en­dar, Gita Jayan­thi falls in the month of Decem­ber, towards the fag end of the year. So one can prob­a­bly take one shlo­ka, which one finds inspir­ing, and take some insights from that and say,” Hey, the whole of the next year, I am going to try to fol­low this – let me exper­i­ment, let me play with this con­cept.” It is not about blind fol­low­ing. The beau­ty of such scrip­tures is that every­thing is log­i­cal, and the unique­ness and the spir­it of Indi­an cul­ture is that one is allowed to ask ques­tions, one is allowed to dis­agree, one is allowed to per­son­al­ize a con­cept in his own life, in a unique way — that is the flex­i­bil­i­ty that is avail­able, the band­width that is avail­able. So this could be a nice way to have one’s own new year res­o­lu­tion, prob­a­bly the Indi­an way! So I think this cap­tures the sig­nif­i­cance of the Gita Jayan­thi with respect to day-to-day life.

The deeper spiritual significance

At the spir­i­tu­al lev­el, if you see, the dia­logue that has hap­pened between the char­ac­ters of Bha­ga­van Krish­na and Arju­na in the Gita, is at a deep­er lev­el, actu­al­ly a dia­logue that I would say is pos­si­ble between the indi­vid­ual self — what is usu­al­ly called the ego, the “me”, and the High­er Cos­mic Intel­li­gence. If the indi­vid­ual egoic self or the “me” can actu­al­ly have a sin­cere, deep need, a quest, a burn­ing ques­tion, then actu­al­ly the High­er Intel­li­gence has to respond and there is a pos­si­bil­i­ty for a dia­logue — a com­mu­ni­ca­tion — that can hap­pen between the indi­vid­ual lit­tle self and the High­er Con­scious­ness. So I would say, at a deep­er spir­i­tu­al lev­el, Bha­gavad Gita is noth­ing but the com­mu­nion or the dia­logue between the Cos­mic Intel­li­gence and this lim­it­ed, indi­vid­u­al­ized ego. This is my own under­stand­ing of what I see — the real Gita Jayan­thi day is the day when this dia­logue starts between one’s own lit­tle self and the High­er Cos­mic Intel­li­gence. That is the real Gita Jayan­thi day, and this Gita Jayan­thi day should be in a way, to push us, to remind us, to prod us, to give us an inspi­ra­tion, for us to aspire for that high­er, real Gita Sam­va­da to hap­pen, with­in our­selves.

The young mind and the fire of discontent

Now, one may ask,”How can youth can take up the read­ing of the Bha­gavad Gita? How is the Gita rel­e­vant for youth?” What are the beau­ti­ful char­ac­ter­is­tics of a young mind? I am very care­ful, I am not speak­ing of “youth” with respect to the body, but with respect to the mind. I would say, the impor­tant char­ac­ter­is­tic that actu­al­ly defines a youth­ful mind is the mind which is con­stant­ly is in a state of dis­sat­is­fac­tion. When I use this word dis­sat­is­fac­tion, I am not talk­ing about dis­sat­is­fac­tion from a mate­ri­al­is­tic stand­point, like — “Ah! I don’t have an iPod. I don’t have an iPhone” or what­ev­er gad­gets, the lack of which cre­ates dis­sat­is­fac­tion. Nei­ther do I mean the lack of some kind of mate­r­i­al com­fort, like — “I don’t have a bike. I don’t have the lat­est mod­el of this car.” I am not talk­ing about dis­sat­is­fac­tion from the mate­r­i­al lev­el. When I say dis­sat­is­fac­tion, I am talk­ing about not find­ing ful­fill­ment in the actu­al things that are there in life, and dis­sat­is­fac­tion about the con­tra­dic­tions that are there in the soci­ety. It is only that young mind that is con­stant­ly dis­sat­is­fied about all these things. So if that dis­sat­is­fac­tion is not present, then that mind is an old mind. By age some­body may be 15 years old, but if they do not have this dis­sat­is­fac­tion, then their mind is already old. This dis­sat­is­fac­tion is fire, it is a fire that has cre­at­ed great human beings on this plan­et earth — who­ev­er has real­ly inspired the human race, be it Christ, Bud­dha, Vivekanan­da, or who­ev­er — they all had this fire of dis­sat­is­fac­tion, this deep­er fire of dis­sat­is­fac­tion, which was always kept alive and burn­ing with­in them­selves. If this fire is not there in the mind, then that mind is already old, and I would say, that in the longer run, that kind of a non-dis­sat­is­fied mind is a dead mind. So what dif­fer­en­ti­ates the young mind from an old mind is this qual­i­ty of dis­sat­is­fac­tion — “I am not okay with what is hap­pen­ing, I don’t know what to do, that is a dif­fer­ent thing, but I just can’t be sat­is­fied” — so this is what is actu­al­ly a sign of youth – I am talk­ing about the col­lec­tive young mind in the whole world, the whole human race. So the Gita has got some bril­liant point­ers, which can actu­al­ly be food for thought for dis­sat­is­fied minds only. Gita is not rel­e­vant for old and dead minds. There­fore it has a direct sig­nif­i­cance and direct appli­ca­tion to youth. This is the con­nec­tion.

Even if you look at the men­tal con­di­tion of Arju­na at the time when the Gita was giv­en to him, he was a dis­sat­is­fied per­son. He was not sat­is­fied with what was hap­pen­ing, he did not want to kill, but there was a fun­da­men­tal dis­ori­en­ta­tion, dis­sat­is­fac­tion and all these are char­ac­ter­is­tics. When I say one is dis­ori­ent­ed, I don’t mean one is lost. There is a dif­fer­ence. Lost is dif­fer­ent, dis­ori­ent­ed is — “I don’t know where to go, what to do”. So for such a mind that is dis­sat­is­fied and dis­ori­ent­ed, there are plen­ty of point­ers and insights that are avail­able in this beau­ti­ful dia­logue between the two great friends. I would say this is applic­a­ble to youth, because again, the Gita is a dis­cus­sion, a dia­logue between two great friends, Krish­na and Arju­na. There­fore the youth can relate to friend­ship. Friend­ship is some­thing that is so beau­ti­ful that hap­pens main­ly dur­ing youth. Even if one looks at it with respect to age, it is only in youth that one gets the oppor­tu­ni­ty to have great friend­ships. So that way again, the Gita is a dis­cus­sion, a dia­logue between friends, and there­fore it is applic­a­ble to youth — “Hey, what are these two friends talk­ing about?”. So as a young per­son, I am excit­ed, I am want­i­ng to know what these two great friends are dis­cussing. So here is a clear rel­e­vance to youth. The Gita gives one a lot of insights. To one who is fun­da­men­tal­ly dis­sat­is­fied and dis­ori­ent­ed, the Gita gives point­ers, it gives a map, it gives a com­pass. But remem­ber, a map is only a point­er, it is not the des­ti­na­tion. So one has to have the capac­i­ty, the patience, to be with the solu­tion, to remain with the point­ers that are pro­vid­ed, absorb them, keep it alive in the mind, and prob­a­bly one day it will open up some­thing. So that is the sig­nif­i­cance and rel­e­vance of Gita to the youth.

Understanding desire

I also wish to share a per­son­al favourite. This is a very use­ful and very pow­er­ful insight and it can have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on a human life. I think that it is a bril­liant point­er because one thing that great­ly impacts human life is desire. I think you will be able to appre­ci­ate what is being said. Desire is what cre­ates every­thing in this uni­verse, but if desire is not prop­er­ly under­stood it can wreak hav­oc. In the Gita, there is a par­tic­u­lar por­tion in the sec­ond chap­ter, where the impor­tance of under­stand­ing the oper­a­tion of desire — the sequence of events from desire to action is beau­ti­ful­ly explained by Bha­ga­van Krish­na. That sequence is very pre­cise­ly cap­tured, and it is crit­i­cal for any human being who wants to have a sen­si­tive and sen­si­ble life to under­stand this. So I wish to share that insight, and it is one of my favourites –the 62nd and 63rd shlo­ka in the 2nd chap­ter:

“Dhyay­atho vishayan pum­sah, san­gas­theshu pajay­athe

san­gath sam­jay­athe kama­ha, kamath krod­hob­hi­jay­athe”

“Krod­hath bha­vathi sam­mo­ha­ha, sam­mo­hath smrithi vibrama­ha

smrithi bramshadh bud­dhi nasha­ha, bud­dhi nashath pranashy­athi”

By think­ing of objects, attach­ment to them is formed in a man.

From attach­ment is born desire, and from desire, anger grows.

From anger comes delu­sion, and from delu­sion, loss of mem­o­ry. From loss of mem­o­ry comes the ruin of dis­crim­i­na­tion, and from the ruin of dis­crim­i­na­tion, he per­ish­es.

So it talks about what hap­pens when one is under the influ­ence of desire, and if it is going to be unguard­ed, how it ulti­mate­ly leads to the end, the destruc­tion of the human being. ‘Dhyay­atho vishayan pum­sa­ha’, which means the seed of desire starts to sprout when an indi­vid­ual starts to con­stant­ly think about a par­tic­u­lar thing, dhyana means con­stant think­ing and vishaya means the objects of the world, pum­sah means human beings. So by this con­stant dhyana, san­ga hap­pens — there is an attach­ment that hap­pens to that par­tic­u­lar object, and it becomes strong where one’s mind starts to get attached to it. San­gath sam­jay­athe kamah — from attach­ment, desire aris­es. Now till this point, there is no prob­lem, if I am able to iden­ti­fy what is hap­pen­ing, being care­ful and remain­ing very atten­tive, then until this point there is no prob­lem. Just before it takes the shape of kama, or desire, that is the only place where I can actu­al­ly escape from the trick; if I allow that to hap­pen, then that is my fall — that is why kamath krod­hob­hi­jay­athe, mean­ing, when that desire becomes very strong and if I find an obsta­cle – per­son, a thing, a sit­u­a­tion, or a cir­cum­stance that is obstruct­ing me in pur­su­ing that desire, I become mad, ‘krod­ha’ and after krod­ha comes sam­mo­ha, a com­plete delu­sion where clar­i­ty of thought is lost, there is com­plete bewil­der­ment, and I am not think­ing at all because I am in rage. And because of sam­mo­ha, smrithi vibrama­ha hap­pens – the lessons of wis­dom learnt by past expe­ri­ence, fails me -”Who is who? To whom am I speak­ing? What am I doing?” The impor­tance of using one’s pre­vi­ous knowl­edge, in rela­tion­ships – be it my mom, my dad, my teacher, I don’t care about any of it, because I am in rage. Smrithi bramshath, bud­dhi nasha­ha, when I for­get my past knowl­edge, my intel­lect fails and my capac­i­ty to dis­crim­i­nate and under­stand is lost. Bud­hi nashath pranashy­athi — and at the end, when I lose my dis­crim­i­na­tive capa­bil­i­ty, it results in death. The word pranashy­athi does not mean phys­i­cal death here, it is the death of the spir­i­tu­al per­son, the spir­i­tu­al per­son has fall­en, I fall as a human being, because I will end up doing some­thing very stu­pid for which I will regret lat­er.

Dhyay­athu vishayan pum­sa­ha – think­ing about an object is fine, and is quite nor­mal. When I see some­thing of beau­ty, of aes­thet­ics, it is nat­ur­al for me to feel nice about it. It is absolute­ly not a prob­lem to feel nice about some­thing — a beau­ti­ful tree, a very well-designed car, or a well-designed phone, or what­ev­er else that is beau­ti­ful. That is prob­a­bly why Keats said “A thing of beau­ty is a joy for­ev­er.” There is no prob­lem in admir­ing a thing of beau­ty, but once I see that and when it moves to the next lev­el, of becom­ing desire, where I start feel­ing, “I want it”, then the prob­lem begins. So one can actu­al­ly watch this sequence in one­self. This process of sen­so­ry con­tact with the sense objects is not a prob­lem and is alright, because one can­not avoid it, but the moment the desire to own it, to pos­sess it, aris­es, all the prob­lems begin. And, not all desires turn into prob­lems. A cer­tain desire becomes a prob­lem only when we, being true to our­selves, know that it is not appro­pri­ate for us to pur­sue that desire. If one pur­sues a desire in his mind, which he knows that it is not appro­pri­ate for him, then it turns into a prob­lem. This is my favourite insight from the Gita which real­ly gives me a lot of inspi­ra­tion and I felt it very crit­i­cal to share here.

Bhagavan Krishna’s advice – going beyond the dualities of experience

There is anoth­er beau­ti­ful insight in the 2nd chap­ter, which is again, rel­e­vant for youth. There­fore I will share it. Some­where along the way, because we have been a lot of com­forts in our lives — our par­ents, in their love for us, and want­i­ng to pro­tect us, have giv­en us a lot of crea­ture com­forts – but there are instances in life, when we encounter a sit­u­a­tion where we don’t have these com­forts. Then we feel frus­trat­ed, we feel dis­sat­is­fied, we curse that sit­u­a­tion, we get dis­turbed and we feel stressed out. Now, there is this beau­ti­ful shlo­ka which gives us an impor­tant insight, and if we can apply that at that par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion, a lot of ease and calm­ness would come to our mind. That shlo­ka is -

“math­ra spar­shas tu kaunteya, sheethosh­na sukha dukha dah

agama­payi­no nithyas, thams thithik­shas­va bhara­ta”

Expe­ri­ences of heat and cold, of pain and plea­sure, are born, O son of Kun­ti, only of the con­tact of the sens­es with their objects. They have a begin­ning and an end. They are imper­ma­nent in their nature. There­fore, bear them patient­ly, O Bhara­ta

This is the advice that Krish­na gives. Matra spar­shasthu kaunteya — any kind of expe­ri­ence that hap­pens to you through the sense objects are aga­ma, they come and they go, it is not for long, there­fore the advice giv­en is, thams thithik­sha svar, bear with it. Many times we don’t bear with it. Sit­ting in the room, if the pow­er goes out, we cry and com­plain, “Ah, cha! This gov­ern­ment is bad, this elec­tric­i­ty depart­ment is bad, this con­spir­a­cy.…” and so on, we waste so much ener­gy, we get frus­trat­ed, we spoil our mood, and we spoil the mood of the peo­ple around us. At that time if we can remem­ber Bha­ga­van Krish­na’s advice, “Math­ra spar­shas tu kaunteya, agama­payi­no nithyah.” We can remain cool and com­posed -” What is the prob­lem? The elec­tric­i­ty will come back. Let us do what­ev­er work we can in the mean­time.” Imag­ine the amount of relax­ation that will come in by remem­ber­ing this shlo­ka. It is as sim­ple as that. Say if we are forced to stay in a hot room because of work or because some oth­er sit­u­a­tion requires it, if we can remem­ber this shlo­ka, how cool we would be, even if it is hot out­side! It is because we don’t remem­ber this insight at that moment that we fret and fume. If we sim­ply remem­ber this insight, it would give us the inner space to remain relaxed and calm. I feel this insight is also rel­e­vant to youth.

Aligning with the present moment

In fact, this insight from the Gita is relat­ed to what Eck­hart Tolle, the Ger­man spir­i­tu­al teacher, talks about — “sur­ren­der­ing to what is.” When we accept the present moment for what it is, with­out labelling it as, “Yech! This is bad”, “this is ter­ri­ble” and so on, it helps us set­tle down with­in our­selves and be at ease. This is a very impor­tant and beau­ti­ful insight, because what is is the only real­i­ty. The past and the future is not real. It is only the present that is real. If we are able to accept that, then we have lived that moment com­plete­ly. That is why it gives us the sense of being able to feel at ease. That is the deep­er Truth behind it, because what is, is only the now. Now is the only Real­i­ty. The past and the future is not real, because even if we are talk­ing or think­ing about the past or the future, it is only in the now, there­fore that is the beau­ty of that Real­i­ty. So if we are able to be com­plete­ly avail­able to the now, it gives us a lot of strength, it gives us a lot of inner space, which keeps us calm and com­posed. In anoth­er deep­er sense, when there is align­ment with the moment, the “me” the fic­ti­tious enti­ty, the self can nev­er oper­ate. It can nev­er oper­ate in the now. And there­fore the Cos­mic Intel­li­gence can oper­ate, so to put it very col­lo­qui­al­ly, ”you” shut up for That to act. That is why we see peo­ple who have under­stood and who are liv­ing this Truth, they are all the time able to remain very peace­ful. Even in the face of so called cri­sis, they are very com­posed, because they know that this lit­tle ego can’t real­ly respond to the chal­lenge, and that allows the High­er Intel­li­gence to oper­ate through the body and mind com­plex. And that is why their response, and not reac­tion, to the sit­u­a­tion is very dif­fer­ent from the nor­mal peo­ple. This insight is very impor­tant, it is some­thing very pow­er­ful and fan­tas­tic. I would say that it is the great­est and most pre­cious gift that a per­son can have.

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