Bhagavad Gita, ch. 9

Krsangi Dasi - October 18, 2004 6:19 pm

Dear devotees


At our ninth Bhagavad Gita meeting we had quite a long discussion about devotional life and falling down. Bhrigu, Jani, Guru-Nistha, Eija, Kamalaksa and I all had our different opinions about these subjects but nonetheless enjoyed the evening.


Bhagavad Gita, chapter nine: Yoga of hidden treasure


In the beginning of chapter nine Krishna makes some confusing statements about his presence in the created beings. Kamalaksa pointed out that this is one of those passages in the Gita where you really understand that you need to read the purports to grasp the meaning of the verses, and come to appreciate the guidance we are given in the form of the purports.


I thought that maybe the point of these kind of mysterious statements in the scripture is to create a humble attitude in the reader, to make us realize that we can't understand Krishna with our limited intelligence and appreciate those who have some knowledge about him. Guru Maharaja says in his purport that Visvanatha Cakravati Thakur advises us to just fold our hands and accept Krishna's greatness. (But this could also be used as an excuse for not studying the scripture, so we probably should try to understand Krishna as well as we can and make an effort to learn more.)


In text 14 Krishna describes his devotees who are always chanting about him and striving firmly in their vows. We talked quite a bit about the balance between joyous devotional service and austerity. I strongly feel that when we're chanting we should really push ourselves to concentrate better, to reach a mood where we're begging for Krishna's mercy and lamenting our fallen situation. Kamalaksa said that he understands this but in his opinion it's dangerous to think of Krishna consciousness as a constant struggle, like a heavy load that we're carrying on our shoulders, because there's a danger that at some point we'll just get exhausted with the whole thing and drop it. People often say that they're fed up with making their lives extra complicated with Krishna consciousness, that they just want to live their lives happily without all the rules and regulations.


I think that this is an important point. We should be serious about spiritual life but in order for us to be able to keep it up for years, for decades, it should provide us with positive feelings and experiences. A close society of devotees who accept the different opinions its members may have about spiritual life will help us feel that this is a positive addition to our lives, and not just that, but its most important content.


In text 22 Krishna promises to look after his devotees, to carry what they lack and preserve what they need. This made me think about the saying that if Krishna loves someone he takes everything away from him. Bhrigu said that this probably means that Krishna preserves whatever we need to carry out our service for him, not that he'd preserve all out material belongings.


Bhrigu told us about some Christian children's songs that his wife Laura used to sing as a child, and that those songs still feel comforting to her. Sometimes we need things that make us feel safe and comfortable, but we don't have memories of devotional songs from our childhood so we have to find the verses and songs that will create those feelings in us. The human psychology is such that we can't get by with straightforward philosophy alone, we also need emotional encouragement.


Texts 30-31 are quite confusing: Krishna states in them that even a devotee behaving very badly should be considered saintly by others. "Very badly" can naturally mean a lot of things, but Krishna's statement is quite clear: undivided devotion will wipe away all sins. Kamalaksa remembered Guru Maharaja talking about this at a lecture he recently listened to and saying that at this point Krishna just goes mad out of love for his devotees.


Everyone's relationship with Krishna is naturally a private matter, and it's not our place to try to figure out if someone is a pure devotee or not. But devotional organizations have to define a person's position in it: to determine whether he or she is allowed to talk at public programs or even attend them. The Western justice system is largely based on the idea that if a person commits a crime and is punished for it he should not be condemned for his deeds afterwards. But a spiritual society also has its image to consider, so it's quite hard to decide whether a known pedophile should be allowed to give lectures and so on. Personally I feel that people should be given a second chance, but only if they understand that they've crossed the line and regret it.


We also talked about forgiveness and wondered if we can forgive someone for something he's done to someone else, or if it's only the victim who has the right to decide if he wants to forgive.


I definitely think that devotees who commit crimes against the material laws of each country should be turned in to the police and charged for those crimes in a material court. It's a bit more difficult if someone does something that's a crime in the eyes of other devotees, but completely legal on the material scale.


At the end of this chapter, in text 32, is the statement about women being of a lower birth that used to really bother me in Prabhupada's Gita. I must admit that this sentence, which is a minor detail in a great book, created a lot of doubts in my mind. Guru Maharaja has cleared those doubts by a single sentence in his purport, explaining that the "lower birth" means that women often have been subjected to discrimination and therefore might have more difficulties in studying the scriptures.


It's often said that we should completely surrender to Krishna and the guru, giving up all our doubts. I feel that it's very important that the little things that bother people about the philosophy are cleared out of the way so they can become whole-heartedly engaged in bhakti. I'm trying to give up my "this is nice, but..." attitude and really learn to trust Krishna to take care of me, but it's hard to give up the illusion of being in control of everything.