“Now hear, O son of Pritha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.1)Download this episode (right click and save)
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bigoted. I respect other cultures. Where I live people tend to be happy. We are very hospitable. I’m amazed when I travel to the cities and see how upset people are. They don’t even say ‘hello’ to one another. They walk past quickly, pretending that they don’t see you.
“I will admit that the images look a little strange. A blue God? A guy with four hands lying down on a serpent bed? A guy with four heads in the distance, attached to the same four-handed guy’s navel through a lotus stem? You must admit that people who aren’t familiar with such images would not be willing to accept them as factual right away.
“I understand that you would like it if I read your book, but I already believe in God. I have my religion. I am comfortable in that. I respect your right to practice religion. I will admit that some of the things you have told me are interesting, but I still don’t see the need to explore any further.”
These viewpoints are certainly understandable, but the Bhagavad-gita offers something to every person. Even the staunchest atheist is benefitted through a proper reading, where the many verses are explained in the disciplic tradition linking back to the original recipient, the warrior Arjuna. To the people already belonging to a particular faith, that faith can be strengthened in many ways through hearing the words of Shri Krishna.
1. God is unlimited
The Sanskrit word is ananta. Anta is an end or conclusion. God is without an end. There is no final chapter for Him. The important books around the world associated with Him describe Him to some extent, but there is no final word. In Vedic literature, there are countless books. Some of them are massive in length, like the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Still, God is always expanding. Proof of this is the universal form. Shri Krishna is the teacher in the Bhagavad-gita and Arjuna the student. The truths themselves are sufficient justification for looking at Krishna as Bhagavan, which means the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
To satisfy the doubters, Krishna also showed the universal form, the virata-rupa. In that amazing vision, made possible by a set of eyes granted to Arjuna by Krishna, there were unlimited planets, universes, and heavenly figures. Arjuna even saw so many mouths belonging to Krishna, into which all the assembled fighters were rushing.
2. There is always more to know
In one verse Krishna says that through a specific process a person can know Him free from doubts. The state represents completeness in the sense that nothing else is required to stay confident of the devotional path, which differs from the materialist path. We follow the latter by default, starting from the time of birth. Maya, or the illusory energy pervading the material world, makes sure that we stay on that path, considering the temporary body to be everything, while ignoring the spiritual nature of living things.
It is actually impossible to know God fully. Since He is ananta, He is always expanding. Consider time. It is infinite both forwards and backwards. Time is one representation of the Divine. Imagine if you could retain information of everything that has happened thus far. You would have complete knowledge of the past. There is still the present to account for. You would need to know everything going on right now and in the future. Then you’d have to be able to process the information.
Such knowledge is but one small aspect of God. This means that even if I have my particular book belonging to my faith, there is always more to know. The Bhagavad-gita and other such works give enough information to occupy sufficient time for many lifetimes of study. And the process is blissful throughout.
3. Learn about the soul
The opening dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna is profound. Those verses alone make the Bhagavad-gita stand above any other book ever to be found. Those verses discuss the nature of the individual. The premise is that Arjuna is afraid to continue in a war. He does not want to cause death and destruction. He has compassion for the opposing side, despite the fact that they have wronged him and his family for so long.
Krishna explains reincarnation in a single verse. The individual soul is different from the body. That soul travels through different phases. At the last stage, there is a complete change of body. It is something like changing clothes. Therefore a person shouldn’t be overly concerned with the body.
The soul is what matters, and Shri Krishna reveals so much about that soul. Krishna is spirit as well, but of a different kind. He is all-pervading and one, Paramatma, while we are individual sparks and localized, jivatma. There is always a link between the two; they are never separated. Atheism and passive theism are simply the result of forgetting that God is always with us and that we should serve Him.
4. Find out how God is great
Religion undoubtedly acknowledges that God is great. But what exactly does that mean? How is He great? The Bhagavad-gita provides some answers. The material and spiritual worlds come from Him. All truths rest on Him, like pearls strung on a thread.
“O conqueror of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.7)
Arjuna even addresses Krishna by different names. The Lord is Govinda because He gives pleasure to the cows and the senses. He is Janardana since He knows all people. He is Hrishikesha because He is the master of the senses. Indeed, the Bhagavad-gita is simply the beginning. The more lengthy Shrimad Bhagavatam describes the greatness of God in a way that no other work does.
5. Become more attracted to Him
Know God. Sure. Worship God. Okay. Fear God? Is that something worthwhile? Maybe if you are prone to sinful behavior, such as lying, cheating and stealing. The egregious violators of decency and etiquette in society certainly don’t fear God. In that respect it is healthy to have a little concern over punishment originating from the Divine.
In Vedic culture the goal is to love God. It is not difficult, in fact. Since God is all-attractive, He is known as Krishna. Knowledge and attraction go together; the change is automatic. The more you know about God, the more you will be attracted to Him. Soon the mindset will change from fear to unmotivated and uninterrupted service. You will think that I have to serve the Supreme Lord, because He has done so much for me. You will acknowledge that no other path in life is as rewarding.
Faith by my parents given,
Sins by my savior forgiven.
Why then Bhagavad-gita to read,
Of further knowledge what need?
Since always more of Supreme to know,
And how much great is He so.
Of the unlimited and the soul to learn,
Increased faith and attachment to earn.