Friday, May 8, 2015

Talking About Rejecting The Starting Point

[Bhagavad-gita]“And I declare that he who studies this sacred conversation worships Me by his intelligence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.70)

adhyeṣyate ca ya imaṁ
dharmyaṁ saṁvādam āvayoḥ
jñāna-yajñena tenāham
iṣṭaḥ syām iti me matiḥ

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Friend-One: It’s amazing that so much philosophy comes from such a short work.

Friend-Two: You read a new book?

F1: No, silly. I’m talking about the Bhagavad-gita. Though the authorized translations and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada make for a formidable read, if you took just the verses from the original text found in the Mahabharata the book wouldn’t be that big.

F2: Yeah. Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is turns into an encyclopedia or a reference book the more times you read it and the more you know about the philosophy. I see what you’re saying, though. Even the size of that book is due to the verses themselves; which shows how profound and deep the words of Shri Krishna are.

[Prabhupada teaching Bhagavad-gita]F1: I mean every discussion we have points back to that book in some way. You bring up death - boom, you have that verse describing how death is simply the shedding of the body, like taking off clothes. You bring up happiness - bam, you have that verse about how a person should be steady in both happiness and sadness.

F2: The death thing is really important. Everyone is initially afraid of it. And why wouldn’t you be? You have no idea where you’re going next, if anywhere. The fact that the Bhagavad-gita provides so much insight into that mystery makes it worth holding on to for the duration of life.

F1: Here’s a potential issue I see when discussing with others.

F2: Okay.

F1: What if someone doesn’t accept the Bhagavad-gita?

F2: Because they’ve never heard of it? That’s our job. To the inquisitive and open minded, who is finally sick of wandering through the cycle of birth and death many times over, who is looking for the meaning to the seemingly perpetual existence, who is looking for the shore after being stuck out in the vast ocean of suffering for so long - to them this philosophy is like a life-saving boat. Shri Krishna Himself says that He is the swift-deliverer of this rescue.

ye tu sarvāṇi karmāṇi
mayi sannyasya mat-parāḥ
ananyenaiva yogena
māṁ dhyāyanta upāsate
teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā
bhavāmi na cirāt pārtha
mayy āveśita-cetasām

“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.6-7)

[Krishna offering a rescuing hand]Symbolically, and sometimes even literally, He arrives on His eagle-carrier Garuda and offers His outstretched arm, which is beautiful in every way.

F1: That’s pretty good, but it doesn’t solve the issue I’m talking about. Say that we bring up points from this rich philosophy, the secret of all secrets. Say that after doing so, the person responds with, “Well, the Bhagavad-gita is your book. I don’t accept it.”

F2: I see. So if you encounter something like dogmatic insistence, what should you do?

F1: Right. And to these people, we look dogmatic. We are worshiping a blue God who carries a flute and walks around with cows. I can understand why it would look strange to them. We seem to have a level of desperation too, asking people to immerse themselves in this philosophy or otherwise continue to be miserable.

F2: Well, here’s one thing. Any person can use the “my book says” argument. Anyone can use dogmatic insistence as justification for their way of life. The intelligent person would spot this and try to go beyond it. That’s really what the Bhagavad-gita is for. If you’re done with following blind faith, with just going along with the religion or way of life you inherited, this philosophy is worth reading. You will learn every other philosophy along the way. You will understand why there are different religions in the first place. You will see the face behind the abstract that is God. You’ll see the detail behind the bright light of transcendence.

F1: Again, that’s all true. But you’re not answering my question. What should we do if someone says they don’t accept the Bhagavad-gita as authority? We can’t really quote verses to them, then.

F2: But you have to think about what they are refusing to accept.

F1: What do you mean?

F2: The fundamental truth of Vedanta philosophy is that the living entity is not their body. That is what the Bhagavad-gita describes in the opening. This is done on purpose. This is the first mistake made by the living entity, and it remains until they are taught otherwise. Someone who refuses to accept the Bhagavad-gita as authority essentially rejects this fundamental truth.

F1: I see. And though it is included in a book that is considered religious or mystical, the truth is actually easy to see.

[Lord Krishna]F2: Precisely. Krishna doesn’t just tell us things. He shows us how they are true. That is the reason for all the comparisons. He is the one that tells us that death is like getting rid of clothes. Arjuna says that taming the desirous mind is like controlling the wind. Krishna describes the impersonal Brahman, which is equivalent to the concept of God that most people have. These are things that people accept already; they live within these laws of the material and spiritual natures.

F1: Oh, that’s good. I like that.

F2: The situation you described - it’s like trying to teach science to someone who refuses to accept gravity. It’s a waste of time. If someone told you that they refuse to accept that one plus one equals two, what use would teaching math to them be?

F1: No use at all. If they don’t accept something basic like that, how will they learn anything else?

F2: Krishna gives so many pathways in the Bhagavad-gita. He doesn’t even dismiss the worship of the impersonal Brahman outright. He does not force surrender. You can read the Bhagavad-gita and keep your obstinacy, but your ignorance won’t remain for long. It begins with a little open-mindedness. If that is missing then so is the chance of becoming truly enlightened, which only the human being has the potential for.

In Closing:

Bhagavad-gita everything to explain,

Knowledge of all religions to gain.


If at the outset to reject,

And basic facts not to accept.


If unwilling towards truth to be led,

Then no point in moving ahead.


Like for math two plus two knowing,

From soul’s identity then going.