Bhagavad Gita, ch. 16

Krsangi Dasi - June 5, 2005 1:28 pm

Dear devotees


A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from our friend Jananivas das. He was asking me if we'd like to arrange some kind of a program on Nrisimha Caturdasi. I liked the idea, so we decided to have our 16th Bhagavad Gita meeting then, as well as some extra program in honor of Lord Nrisimhadeva.


But a few days later I received an SMS from Jananivas, who had forgotten that he actually had to work on Nrisimha Caturdasi, so he wouldn't be able to come to the program. Kamalaksa and I found this quite funny. Nonetheless, Bhrigu turned up as usual, as well as Hanna, so we had a nice day of reading, singing, cooking and perhaps even eating a bit. :blink:


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16: Yoga of Discerning Godly and Ungodly Natures


In the beginning of this chapter Krishna describes the godly and ungodly natures. Reading them, I got the feeling that my position is somewhere in between these two: I can't claim to have all the godly qualities, but neither do I recognize the ungodly ones in myself. We agreed that the ungodly qualities are so unpleasant that it's quite hard to honestly say if one has them. Who admits to being a hypocrate?


It feels quite strange at first to read about these qualities, as they're describes as being something you're just born with: you're either godly or ungodly, and there's nothing you can do about it. But actually there's a way to transcend these qualities, as Guru Maharaja points out in his purport to verse 16.5. The Gita's entire message can be expressed by two words: Don't worry (ma sucah). A devotee doesn't need to be concerned with being born in either godly or ungodly nature, our only concern should be Krishna.


The description of the ungodly found in verse 16.8. is a familiar one. They believe the world to be without truth, without a basis and without a God. We often see these kinds of thoughts expressed by atheistic intellectuals, who claim that all moral is just based on an agreement. Still I believe that everyone has some things that they consider sacred, there are some moral limits for everyone. Even criminals always have some kind of borders that they don't want to cross.


In verse 16.10 Krishna mentions that the ungodly adopt impure vows. It has been understood to refer to the "left-handed" tantric practises, but it made me think of the incredible self-discipline people sometimes have when they're working towards a goal they've set for themselves. There was a girl who studied graphic design with me who later on wanted to compete in a fitness competition, and she trained for six months for it. She would do really hard excercise daily, only eat certain types of food, and during the last month of training she was on a very strict low-calorie diet in order to get in shape for the competition. So she was constantly hungry, exhausted and cranky for half a year. And the result? She ended up finishing last in the competition. I'm just hoping that some day I'll be able to put as much energy into Krishna consciousness as she did to the fitness competition, especially since you really can't finish last in bhakti.


Another example of ruining your life with ungodly qualities came to my mind when we read the following verses, which begin "Beset with worry beyond measure...". This made me think of my grandmother who died about 10 years ago. She was living in a nice apartment, her relatives were visiting her regularly, and she didn't need to worry about money, but yet she could never be truly happy. She was constantly worried that something terrible would happen to one of her grandchildren, or that the Russians would attack Finland, or that she would become ill and have to move away from home. I see some of her qualities in myself and am trying to get rid of this worst-case-scenario-lifestyle, but it's hard to stop worrying.


Bhrigu and I noticed that we share the same tendency to become obsessed with "getting things done". This means that we can't peacefully go to sleep in the evening if we haven't completed enough tasks that day. This is much alike the thoughts described in verses 16.13-15. We want to be someone important and do something big.


In verse 16.17 it's mentioned that the ungodly do sacrifices in name only. Sometimes I get the feeling that celebrities who do charity are just in it for the free press coverage, and don't have much real concern for the cause. In the 90s lots of models wouldn't wear fur because it was trendy to be againts fur at that time, and nowadays you see the same models happily wearing long fur coats as the trends have changed and it's now cool to wear fur.


All in all, it's quite remarkable how well these descriptions of godly and ungodly people fit into the modern Western world, even though they were written in a completely different time and place.


At the end of this chapter Krishna states that scripture should be seen as the authority in determining what is to be done and what is not to be done. It's also good to remember that the scripture comes to us in two forms: the book and the person representing the book. The guru can act as an objective authority in our lives, and save us from hypocrisy and egotism.