Bhagavad Gita, ch. 5

Krsangi Dasi - July 10, 2004 8:59 pm

Dear devotees


We had our fifth Bhagavad Gita workshop last Tuesday. There were some new faces among us: our friend Kardama had returned from his travels in Central Europe and our other friend Mikko finally had a chance to come and join us. Sulochana and Jayanta Krishna also came with their two small kids Nanda and Priti, and our regulars Tume, Eija and Bhrigu were present as always.


I hope you can take some time to read about our discussion again, I know that our realizations won't make the earth move but maybe you might find some inspiration in them.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter Five: Yoga of Renunciation of Action


In the beginning of this chapter Guru Maharaja tells how the first chapters of the Gita add up to a whole, describing the relationship between knowledge and action. The contents of the book are much easier to grasp when they're broken up into smaller parts like this.


In text 13 Krishna mentions the concept of the city of nine gates. This example is really nice, you can really see the self in your mind, peeking out from the nine gates looking for enjoyment, or closing the gates to concentrate on spiritual life.


Guru Maharaja mentions many different versions of the Bhagavad Gita in his purports, and it's interesting to see how the different acaryas differ in their interpretations of the verses. Guru Maharaja doesn't try to soften the differences, and it's refreshing to note that there can be, and are, different opinions about philosophical issues in the movement, and there's no reason to get caught up in them.


In a way you could think of Bhagavad Gita as a work of art, as it's originally written as poetry, and the different commentators as artists creating their own variations of the theme. Naturally there are boundaries that can't be crossed if the writer wishes to stay in the realm of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, but inside those boundaries we need fresh angles to the philosophy to stay inspired.


In text 18 Krishna says that the wise see all living beings as equal. This always reminds me of Prabhupada who clearly saw everyone as Krishna's servants and tried to engage them in some kind of spiritual activities. (It's funny that dog-eaters are mentioned in this verse as people of low status, probably because the dog was considered unclean in ancient India, but if someone ate a dog in modern Finland he or she would be seen as a brutal, merciless killer, much worse than someone who kills a cow.)


In chapter five Krishna speaks several times about happiness. In texts 20-21 he says that a person fixed in intelligence isn't attracted to pleasant things but promises that a person united with God attains unlimited happiness. This lead us to think about the contrast between material happiness and real happiness. Real spiritual happiness probably is something completely different than the material happiness we experience now. Sulochana remembered her spiritual master Narayana Maharaja once saying that you should think twice before getting involved with Krishna consciousness, you might end up losing all your material possessions, living under a boat. And actually quite a few acaryas in our lineage were really eccentric, trying to avoid the general public with living in strange places and so on.


It's hard for us to let go of our material lives, to dive into the unknown world of spiritual joy. In text 22 these material sources of happiness are quite harshly described as wombs of misery, and this brought up a discussion about bhakti mixed with sense pleasure. Kardama remembered his days as a temple brahmacari, dancing like a maniac at the kirtans, and wondered if there was any real spiritual joy to it, or just young boys letting out some steam. Sulochana said that she believes that once in a while we do get glimpses of spiritual joy, and that's what keeps us going. But often our so-called bhakti is just a mixture of sense enjoyment and knowledge that this is what we're supposed to be doing as devotees.


In text 23 Guru Maharaja says that a person who's fixed in yoga is happy; he's a human being. This is quite interesting, as we compared this translation to Prabhupada's and Narayana Maharaja's commentaries which didn't mention anything about a person fixed in yoga being a human being. We understood this to mean that a living being can only be called a human being if he or she acts accordingly; someone who acts like an animal neglecting to use his or her human intelligence can't really be considered to be human. It's a great opportunity to be born as a human, and an even greater opportunity to meet a holy person who can instruct you about proper human behavior. We shouldn't miss this opportunity to chance the course of our lives.


In the last verse of this chapter Krishna describes his different aspects which attract different people. The last few sentences are especially encouraging, they tell us that if we are on intimate terms with the controller of everything there can't be anything lacking from us. We'll just have to keep on trying to awaken our souls from the deep sleep they're in.





PS. We're quite excited here at the moment: On Tuesday next week Guru Maharaja will come here to visit us. He'll be staying with us on an island in the archipelago in Southern Finland, and we're all immensely happy to get this chance to meet him again so soon.


Guru Maharaja ki jaya!