The Bhagwad Gita

Chapter 18: The beautiful conclusion (Part 2 of 2)

Number of verses: 41 – 78

Introduction: This narrative, marks the end of the conversation between Krishna and his disciple-friend Arjuna, on the battle-field that day. In this chapter, Krishna talks to Arjuna about the roots and the basis of the Hindu Caste-system and how duties have been designated under these four castes based on the inherent characteristics of men born in them.

Further, Krishna touches a little upon the topic of karma as he had elaborately described earlier (chapter 2 of the Gita) by stating firmly that performance of one’s own duties, even if sloppily, is much better than the dexterous performance of someone else’s.

He moves on to explain to Arjuna, even when not asked, about the characteristics and symptoms of men who eventually unite with him on the path of devotion. Such men think of Krishna, even when they may not know it themselves and have chosen to shun physical pleasures and sensory gratification, with a single-minded goal of uniting with the supreme power. This they have managed with the help of Krishna’s divine consciousness or bhakti-yoga, he claims.

Towards the end, he makes a promise to his friend Arjuna, of taking care of him in this world and the next, if only Arjuna should seek his refuge without a trace of doubt, malice and hesitation. No one is dearer to him that a pure devotee, Krishna claims, once again highlighting the superiority of bhakti or devotion over any other form of knowledge or spiritual advancement.

In the end, when all doubts in Arjuna’s mind have been dispelled and he is ready to fight the war against his kith and kin in the name of righteousness, Krishna makes a promise to all those who will carry this knowledge forward by spreading its magical contents among the believers and also to those, who with a pure mind and open ears shall bask in the glory of its contents.

He shall take personal care of all such people, he promises.

What more could one want?

Translation:

Krishna to Arjuna:

The duties of the four castes[1] – the Brahmins (the priestly class), Kshatriyas (the warrior class), Vaishyas (the trader class) and the Shudras (the helper class) have been determined on the basis of their inherent nature.

The following are the chief characteristics of the Brahmins – calmness, self-restraint, purity, knowledge, intellect, truthfulness and faith.

The following are the chief attributes of the Kshatriyas – valour, determination, presence of mind, charity, leadership and administrative ability.

Agriculture, raising of cattle and trade are the primary duties of a Vaishya. The primary function of a Shudra is to serve the other three castes above him.

That human who is engaged in performing the duty designated to him eventually attains salvation. Now hear from me about it in detail.

That supreme Lord from who this very world and all its living beings have stemmed, can be attained by different human beings by the performance of duties designated for the caste in which he has been born.

Better than the dexterous performance of another man’s job, is the sloppy performance of one’s own duties. For that man who is forever engaged in the performance of his own work never acquires sin in the course of his work.

O Arjuna! Just as fire always remains shrouded with black smoke, all deeds and action in this world is covered with sin of some kind. Therefore, one’s own designated duty, however sinful, must never be abandoned.

The purest reward of renunciation, sanyasa, can be attained simply by self-control, self-restraint, renunciation of desire for physical objects, and the abandonment of physical pleasures. This is the pinnacle of reward from sanyasa.

O Arjuna! Hear from me about how spiritually advanced individuals reach the zenith of spiritual bliss.

The man who with a pure mind and a spiritual thought-process, succeeds in controlling his mind, and in this manner, renounces all sensory objects of physical pleasure, frees himself of the dualities of attachment (raaga) and abhorrence (dwesha), eats only the required quantities of food in a clean, silent place, controls his thoughts and speech, remains occupied in the thought of spiritual communion with the ultimate power, manages to renounce false human ego, the illusion of power, lust and anger and having shunned the pleasure he once derived from the collection and accumulation of physical possessions, becomes tranquil and calm, definitely manages to discover the supreme light in his own being, in this very life.

This illumined man experiences the divine bliss at all times in this current life. He neither grieves, longs nor desires. He maintains compassion and equanimity towards all beings. In this state of consciousness, he attains the pristine consciousness I grant to devotees, the bhakti-yoga.

The Bhakti-yoga or the divine consciousness is the very tool with which a man can comprehend the complete nature of my supreme presence, the brahman. Having known me thus, such a man immediately enters my abode of no return, the vaikuntha.

That devotee who in my name and my for my sake, keeps himself occupied with the performance of his daily duties, with no desire to benefit from its outcome (the karma-yogi), eventually unites with me.

Being placed in bhakti-yoga, such a devotee thinks of me twenty-four hours in a day and surrenders from the depth of his heart, all his being and all he does to my name and benefit.

Men who thus surrender to me, gain the necessary spiritual power to sail through the worst nightmares this life has to offer. However, those who out of ego and false pride, do not heed my words and do not acquire the skill of working and acting with selflessness are eventually destroyed.

Know this Arjuna, it is your pride that eludes you to believe that you choose to not fight this battle, even against my wish or recommendation. The truth is that this determination of yours is but an illusion. Your very nature, your own being, will eventually push you into fighting this war.

O son of Kunti! The same act that you do not wish to perform out of mere delusion and your massive sense of ego, even at my recommendation, you will end up doing because of the compulsion that your own mind will create.[2]

O Arjuna! The supreme light, the creator, dwells in the heart of all each living being there is. It is that divine and magical force that at all times, is responsible for dictating what each being, encased in a physical body, does and performs.

O Arjuna! In every manner possible, go seek the refuge of that light that shines within you. It is only with the will and blessing of that divine power, that you will ever manage to attain eternal peace and divine communion.

So far I have narrated only for your sake my dear friend, this super-confidential spiritual knowledge. Having known this now, brood over it and then decide for yourself, what you deem fit.

Of all that I have told you so far, I will summarise for your benefit, the most important and powerful bit of information. You are very dear to me Arjuna, and thus, I repeat myself.

Every day and at all times, think of me with immeasurable love and surrender your life to me. Think of me and worship me alone. In this manner, you will finally arrive at my doorstep, and I make this promise to you dear friend, for you are one of those I hold most dear to myself.

Shun all your faith and all other beliefs, and come into my arms my friend! Do not worry when you have me – I will take care of you and redeem you of everything that is not auspicious.

Never narrate this confidential spiritual knowledge to a man who has not yet acquired control over his mind, or an atheist who cares not to hear this, or a man with no devotion at all and even to one who abhors me or my name.

The man who spreads the secrets of this poem I narrated to you, the Gita, among believers, shall without a trace of doubt, be blessed with the power of devotion that I shall confer on him (bhakti-yoga) and this man will finally, return to me, back in my arms.

There is no other devotee dearer to me than this man, in all the worlds there are, and shall never be.

It is my declaration today that any man who will revisit this sacred conversation of the Gita, as it takes place between you and me today, I shall bless with knowledge that will help him find me.

Also for those men who without doubt, hesitation and malice, will hear these sacred words of the Gita, with devotion and belief, shall be reborn in the planets of wise men, having ridden themselves of all sins.

O Arjuna! Have you heard these words of mine with complete attention and have these succeeded in dispelling the doubt and ignorance in your mind?

Arjuna to Krishna:

O Krishna! O Achyuta[3]! Thanks to your narrative, all my doubts are now dissolved and I have regained my good sense. I now stand here clear in my head, determined to carry out what you ask of me.

Sanjaya to Dhritrashtra:

In this manner, I managed to hear this fabulous and exciting conversation between two saints – Krishna and his disciple Arjuna.

Thanks to this blessing received from Sage Vyasa, I have managed to enrich myself with this spiritual revelation by none other than the supreme Lord Shri Krishna to his friend and disciple Arjuna.

O King! As I recall the magical conversation between Krishna and Arjuna that I have just finished narrating to you, my hair stands on end. The memory seems to excite me more and more with every passing moment.

O King! The memory of that magnanimous form of Lord Krishna gives me goose-bumps. I can barely control my happiness each time I think of his almost surreal form.

Where co-exist the master of illusion and magic, Krishna and also his archer-friend Arjuna, shall belong all the riches and prosperity of the world, and also all things good – fame, victory, mental power and the strategy of the winner. This is my opinion.

Image taken from Google images

Acknowledgements:

“The Bhagavad Gita As It Is”, by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

http://www.aboutdays.com/geeta/

I am glad I could finish the task, even when not so much on time.

A heartfelt thanks to Krishna for helping with the translation from Hindi to English.

[1] These four represent the four categories spelled out by the Indian Caste system or varna system. These four castes are further divided into sub-castes (jaati) and sub-sub-castes (varnas).

Of course, over time, the caste system has become a social evil, a system whose roots are too deep to dig into and get rid of.

[2] Here Krishna probably talks about the power that the supreme Lord can exercise on the minds of human beings who choose not to comply with his wish.

 

[3] Literally, ‘the incomparable one’ or one that is one of his kind.

Advertisements

Chapter 18: The beautiful conclusion (Part 1 of 2)

Number of verses: 40 of 78

Introduction: This chapter is the longest and probably the simplest in the entire Bhagwad Gita. It must be so, for it is the last one which plays the role of wrapping up everything that has been exchanged so far between spiritual guru Krishna and the dutiful disciple, Arjuna.

This chapter opens with Arjuna’s questioning of Krishna about the nature and essence of sacrifice (tyaga) and renunciation (sanyasa), an important concept in the Hindu tradition. Krishna, as always, beautifully explains, this time without much ambiguity. He claims that no human being, however accomplished, is in a position to give up action or karma completely. By doing this, even survival is not possible.

Therefore, the best one can do is to renounce not the action, but the desire to benefit from it. This in his opinion, is the best form of sanyasa or complete renunciation. Additionally, he states that three actions must never be abandoned in life – sacred offerings, penance and charity. These must be performed as one’s moral duty.

Krishna then goes on to talk about (even when not explicitly questioned by Arjuna about this) the forces that convert all human effort into success. There are five forces he claims – the physical body of the doer, the real doer or the aatman, the five senses of the doer’s body, the doer’s effort and finally, the Supreme Lord. Men who understate the role of the Lord in converting action into success are mistaken, he claims. Such men consider themselves both the doer of action as well as the judge of its fruit.

These words of Krishna corroborate his words in chapter 2 when he suggests to Arjuna that his only duty is to perform his action to the best of his ability and leave the rest to the almighty. He can control his actions, but not their fruits, to be precise.

Finally, in the rest of the shlokas, as well as the rest of the chapter, Krishna shifts his attention to the three attributes or gunas of physical nature, prakriti and provides detailed classifications of various actions and thought-processes through this lens. For instance, he explains how the intention of performing karma, knowledge, action, the nature of the doer, the intellect, the levels of consciousness, and even pleasure itself can be classified differently based on the guna that governs the personality of man.

Translation:

Arjuna to Krishna:

O mighty-armed! O Hrishikesha![1] O slayer of the demon Keshi! I wish to know from you the essence of sacrifice (tyaga) and renunciation (sanyasa), individually.

Krishna to Arjuna:

O Arjuna! The renunciation or abandonment of the fruits of one’s actions has been deemed to be sacrifice (tyaga) by learned men of all time. The same thing is considered sanyasa by wise men.

There are two schools of thought regarding renunciation. While one group believes in the renunciation of all actions is this world owing to the bondages they create for their performer, the other and more lenient group believe that sacred offerings (yagya), penance (tapa) and philanthropy (daan) should never be abandoned.

O Arjuna! Now hear from me, my personal views about sacrifice and renunciation. O the best of all men! The holy scriptures, the Shastras, enumerate three types of sacrifices.

One should never think of giving up these three kinds of actions, namely yagya, tapa and daan. Their performance is man’s moral duty. Undoubtedly, performance of these three cleanse the souls of even the purest of men.

O Arjuna! Therefore, one should perform these three moral duties of offerings, penance and charity, without any anticipation of any personal benefit therefrom. These should never be abandoned. This is my view.

One’s daily duties should never be given up. Such abandonment arising out of attachment and delusion is precisely what is termed ‘tamas’ in the religious texts.

Those men, however, who consider the performance of daily duties painful for the body that carries them out, and thus choose to give them up, gain nothing despite such renunciation. This tendency must be considered as belonging to men governed by ‘rajas’.

However, O Arjuna! There are men who carry out all their actions with a sense of duty, without the ego of a ‘doer’ and with no expectation to benefit from the outcomes of their own actions. The sacrifice by these men is in its truest form, that of a ‘saatvik’ nature.

That saatvik-minded man who neither abhors painful tasks nor clings to pleasant ones, has all his work-related doubts erased owing to the stillness of his mind.

Since the aatman enveloped in the physical body can never completely give up action, the only renunciation possible for the living being is that of the fruits of actions and not the action itself.

Men who perform fruit-laden actions (sakaam-karma) must after death, avail of three different kinds of fruits resulting from their own actions – happiness for good deeds, grief for bad and a mixed emotion. However, those who perform without attachment to fruit (karma-yogis) must not be bound by these on death.

O mighty-armed Arjuna! There are five forces that result in the conversion of all actions into fruit. Hear from me about these.

As per the ancient Sankhya philosophy, these five forces are the physical body of the doer, the true doer (the aatman), the five senses of the doer’s body, effort and the supreme Lord himself.

All actions that humans beings undertake with the help of their mind, speech and body, whether in line with or against the preaching of the scriptures, stem out of these five forces I just mentioned to you.

The man who fails to comprehend the role of these five forces of action and considers himself the doer and the winner of the fruit is indeed deluded and mistaken.

On the other hand, he who is not bedazzled by the false ego of the human, and whose mind remains unclouded, never ends up binding himself by anything he does. Such a man, if he were to slay the whole world, would actually end up slaying none.

Hear from me now, about the motivators of all action and also their basis.

The three forces that motivate all human action are knowledge, that which is worthy of being known and the knower himself. The three bases of all action, on the other hand, are the five senses, the action itself and the doer, the aatman.

Based on the three gunas of prakriti, different types of knowledge, action and the doer can be classified into three categories. Hear from me about these distinctions.

That knowledge which enables a man to comprehend an all-encompassing, undivided reality among millions of divided and separate living beings, must be considered saatvik.

That knowledge through which a man sees realities of different shapes, sizes and power among distinct and separate living beings, must be considered rajas.

On the other hand, that knowledge that prompts a man to be wholly engaged in futile and useless activity at all times, that which is entirely disconnected from reality and is of the lowest order, must be considered tamas.

Let me classify karma or action for you now.

That karma which is performed with a sense of duty, as stipulated by the scriptures, without the ego of the doer and with no sense of either abhorrence or fondness and that which is devoid of any anticipation of gain whatsoever, must be considered saatvik.

That karma however, which is undertaken with a lot of pain and struggle resulting from the passion of the doer, who is unduly attached to the outcome of his own actions, must be considered rajas.

That karma which is undertaken without any consideration as to the larger picture, the consequences, the use of violence, the loss of righteousness, and even one’s own capacity for completing it, motivated entirely by attachment and delusion, must be considered tamas.

Let me tell you about the classifications of the doer or the karta now.

The doer who is devoid of any kind of worldly attachment and false sense of the self (the ego), who is flowing with positive energy and unflinching determination and courage, who is indifferent to the success or failure of his own projects, must be considered saatvik.

That doer who is completely coloured by his hope for consumption, who is driven by the desire to benefit out of everything he does, who is greedy and never satisfied, who is hateful of others around him, who is impure, and unduly shaken by all happiness and grief that comes his way, must be considered rajas.

That doer who is forever occupied in pursuing activities explicitly forbidden by the Shastras, is extremely materialistic, stubborn, treacherous, skilled at humiliation, lazy, depressed, and slow must be considered tamas.

O Arjuna! Now hear from me about the three classifications of the intellect (buddhi) and consciousness (dhriti), separately.

O Arjuna! That understanding or intellect that fully comprehends the distinction between action and passivity, duty and futile acts, fear and fearlessness and finally, bondage and salvation must be considered saatvik.

That intellect however, that cannot discriminate between that which is right and which is forbidden, between one’s duty and all that is undoable, must be considered rajas.

That intellect on the other hand which being completely shrouded with darkness and ignorance, considers righteousness to be wickedness and vice-versa and is at all times, engaged in making progress only in the wrong direction, must be considered tamas.

O Arjuna! Let me talk to you about the different types of human consciousness or dhriti.

The unwavering and precious consciousness that is acquired through disciplining of the mind with the practise of yoga, and with the help of which the human being succeeds in taming his mind, life, and the functioning of the senses, must be considered saatvik.

That consciousness which keeps a man glued to physical concepts like wealth, sensory satisfaction and physical pleasure must be considered rajas.

On the other hand, that consciousness which causes an ignorant man to be clouded with fear, bad dreams, sadness, attachment and regret at all times, must be considered tamas.

O Arjuna, the best of the Bharatas! Now let me tell you about the three different types of pleasures (sukh).

That pleasure which initially tastes vile as poison itself but eventually feels sweet as honey, that which drives a man to the shore of salvation from which there is no return, that pleasure which takes a man towards self-discovery and union with the divine is indeed saatvik.

That pleasure on the other hand, which initially soothes as nectar and intoxicates, but eventually results in poisonous outcomes must be considered rajas.

That pleasure which is blind to self-discovery and in all manner, only creates trouble through rampant laziness, drowsiness and intoxication must be considered tamas.

No being on this earth, including the demi-gods and goddesses on the higher heavenly planets is spared from being affected by these three gunas of physical nature, prakriti.

Image taken from Google images.

 

[1] Literally, master of the senses.

Chapter 17: The three personality types

Number of verses: 28

Introduction: This chapter starts off by Arjuna posing a question to Krishna about the nature of men who undertake good deeds with complete devotion, albeit without following the guidelines of the holy scriptures.

Krishna uses Arjuna’s question as a platform to educate him about the three personality types governed by the physical forces of prakriti, with reference to sacred offerings (yagya), penance (tapa) and philanthropy (daan). Every human being is a mixed bag of these traits, but continues to be dominated by one of these personality types. Krishna explains in great detail, the thought process of men in these categories, their intentions in undertaking good deeds and even their preferences for food!

Krishna talks to Arjuna about the three words that hold huge importance in Hindu religious texts – ‘Om Tatt Satt’. He claims that it is from these words that both the creator and the creation came into being at the dawn of the universe.

The takeaway from this chapter is Krishna’s emphasis on selflessness and detachment for he stresses again and again, in different ways, that even the best of deeds when performed with personal motives in mind, can never be beneficial to the doer – not in this birth, nor the next.

Translation:

Arjuna to Krishna:

O Krishna! What about those men then who with great devotion, worship the demi gods and goddesses, even when they do not tread the path laid down by the Shastras, the holy scriptures? What in your opinion are such men – sattva, rajasa or tamas?

Krishna to Arjuna:

Such faith of human beings, in the absence of knowledge of the scriptures, can arise only out of the spiritual knowledge they have acquired over their previous births. Such dedication carried forward from the good and spiritual acts of previous lives is called swa-bhavaja. Such a dedication, however, can be of any of three types you mentioned – sattva, rajasa and tamas.

O descendent of Bharata! Know this – the faith of all men is an exact mirror image of their innermost consciousness. Every man believes to be true what he is himself.

While men in sattva worship demi gods and goddesses, those in rajasa worship demons. On the other hand, men in tamas worship ghosts and evil spirits.

Men in rajasa defy the ways of the shastras and are full of ego, a massive sense of the self, selfish desire, attachment and haughtiness about their power.

Also hear about those who are hell-bent on causing pain and grief to the divinity that dwells in their heart (the sacred aatman) by worshipping spirits and ghosts in various forms. Such men of low intelligence must be considered of the demonic type (tamas).

Not only behaviour, even preferences for food differ across the three categories of prakriti. Similarly, hear from me about the three different types of offerings (yagya), penance (tapa) and philanthropy (daan).

Men in sattva prefer moist, oily food that tends to benefit the body for a long time after it has been consumed. Such food enhances age, health, intelligence and fitness.

Men in Rajasa men prefer food that is pungent, acidic, spicy, and dehydrated. Such food is responsible for causing disease, mental illnesses and worry.

On the other hand, men in tamas prefer semi-cooked food that is stale, smelly and unhygienic.

Hear from me about the three types of sacred offerings (yagyas) based on the intention with which these are carried out.

A saatvik yagya is one which is performed as one’s sacred duty, in line with the procedures outlined in the shastras. Such a yagya is done without any anticipation of benefiting from it, in any form.

However, O Arjuna! Those yagyas that are undertaken with a mere desire to avail its fruit, should be definitely considered Rajasik.

Tamasik yagya, on the other hand, is one that is completely devoid of the instructions of the shastras, performed without donating grains (anna-daan), without chanting the holy mantras, without expressing gratitude to the Brahmins present and of course, without faith in the act itself.

I will now tell you about penance, tapa.

Reverence for one’s teachers, elders, and the demi gods, simplicity, purity of the mind and body, celibacy and non-violence are collectively considered to be physical penance or tapa of the body.

Control over one’s speech which is well-thought, sweet, truthful and beneficial for all, and that which comes out of reading holy texts and chanting the holy names is simply called the tapa of the speech.

Happiness of the mind, calmness, the tendency to think of God and his nature, purity of thoughts, and contentment are deemed to be the tapa of the mind.

All these three tapas of the body, speech and the mind, when performed by men out of sheer devotion, without any anticipation of benefit, are deemed to be saatvik.

These three tapas, when performed out of greed, selfish desire, ambition or fame, merely constitute sham. With such intentions, tapas bear only momentary benefits for the doer and must be considered rajasik.

Those tapas, however, that are performed out of foolishness, stubbornness of the mind, and with an intention to harm the interest of another, must be considered tamasik.

I will now talk to you about philanthropy- daan.

The daan which is undertaken as one’s moral duty, with a view to help someone in need, without the intention to oblige the receiver, must be considered saatvik.

The daan that is undertaken with a selfish motive, which could be to gain name and fame, to accumulate good deeds, to be free of illness and attain higher worlds after death, or the like, must be considered rajasik.

The daan that is given not as one’s duty, but as an obligation to the receiver, with disdain for the needy, must be considered tamasik.

Know that the three words – Om, Tatt and Satt are the holy words that represent the holistic nature of God. It is from these that the creator Brahma, the holy Vedas and sacred offerings germinated at the start of civilisation.

Given that, any spiritual mission or sacred offering made by sensible men begins with the holy syllable Om, which is nothing, but the name of the eternal divine light.

The word Tatt signifies that everything worthwhile in this world is ultimately for the benefit of the Supreme Lord. It is with this feeling that spiritually-illuminated men perform yagyas, tapas and daan. It is this knowledge that enables them to be unattached to the fruits of any activity that they may perform.

The word Satt symbolises ultimate truthfulness and all that is good and beautiful. Hence, O Parth, this word is often brought to use at the time of undertaking large projects with public welfare in mind. All acts when performed with a sense of moral duty, with complete surrender to the Lord, are termed as satt[1].

O Arjuna! Any sacred offering (yagya), penance (tapa) or philanthropy (daan) or for that matter any good deed, undertaken without faith and belief in the Lord is beneficial to its doer neither in this world nor in those yet to come. Such deeds are in all sense, asatt.[2]

Image taken from Google images.

[1] This word also forms the root of the word ‘sattva’.

[2] This is the exact opposite of ‘satt’, meaning falseness.

 

Chapter 16: Divine and demonic tendencies

Number of verses: 24

Introduction: Yet again, this is a very short chapter of the Gita, also being one of the most straight-forward and non-ambiguous.

Here, Krishna explains to Arjuna, in great detail, the characteristics of men born with divine and demonic tendencies. While his description of the qualities of a divine human being are not new, for we have heard his version of an ideal devotee several times in the previous chapters, his account of demonic tendencies takes us by surprise.

Unexpectedly, Krishna is extremely detailed in his description and somehow, at the end of the chapter, he succeeds in the reader being able to form a mental image of such men.

For me, the take-away of this chapter has been to take a more realistic look at the two personality types for ultimately, all of us, in any geography, gender or age-group will fall in one of two categories enlisted by Krishna. Needless to say, both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ attributes he talks about will be present in each of us, but this sort of list with a clear bifurcation will probably be useful in attaining higher standards through a conscious change in behaviour over time.

Towards the end, Krishna takes a firm stand and suggests to his friend and cousin Arjuna, to get rid of three vices immediately – lust, anger and greed. These are open doors to hell, he claims. This again gives us an added motivation in life, to at least try, on some occasions, to not let these emotions plague our thinking. For it is how we think, that we act.

Translation:

Krishna to Arjuna:

O Arjuna, the descendant of Bharata! I will now talk to you about the qualities of men blessed with a divine consciousness. Such men are characterised with complete faith in the almighty, fearlessness, the need for self-purification, determination in seeking the Supreme, surrender to the Lord, self-restraint and control, promptness in performance of daily duties, the urge to know the self, and simplicity.

Such men can never hurt anyone, are completely non-violent, are the same in thought and speech, possess complete control over their anger, lack a sense of ego, possess the desire to control emotional imbalances, lack negativity and the need to criticise, have compassion towards all beings, remain free of greed, remain detached from sense objects even in the midst of them, are soft in attitude, experience guilt on wrong behaviour and display determination even in failure.

They also possess the divine glow on the countenance, forgiveness for the sins of others, self-control in all situations, purity of the mind and body, complete lack of envy and comparison, lack of desire of being acclaimed. These taken together constitute the signs of a man born with godly qualities (daiviya swa-bhava).

O son of Pritha! Pretence, haughtiness, anger, hard-heartedness and ignorance – these are all characteristics of men born with demonic tendencies (aasuri swa-bhava).

While divine characteristics enable men to attain salvation, demonic tendencies tend to create bondages. O son of Pandu! You have no cause to worry, for I can tell you that you have been born with divine tendencies.

O Arjuna! Of all men that take birth in this world, there can be only two types – divine and demonic. While I have already given you an account of the divine qualities, hear now about demonic characteristics.

Men born with demonic qualities fail to differentiate between the good and the bad, not knowing the difference between that which is worthy of pursuit and that which is absolutely forbidden. They are unclean, both from the inside and the outside. They seldom engage in good behaviour and with them, one can associate no goodness or truth.

Such men claim that the world is a bad place, without a basis or creator. They disregard the existence of God, believing the world to have come to existence merely by the sexual communion of man and woman. For such men, the only worthwhile driver of activity is sexual desire. Men who have accepted such silly notions as the ultimate truth lose their sense of righteous thinking, remaining capable of only such actions that hurt the universe and its beings.

Such men, armed with futile notions and ensnared by insatiable physical urges, a false sense of the self, and the drive to attain physical possessions, forever remain fixed in unhealthy resolves. Owing to their thinking, such men remain ridden with innumerable worries and fears till the time of their death. This must be so for their sole objective in life is to satisfy their senses and their physical urges.

Tied tightly to hundreds of ropes representing their physical desires, they remain vulnerable to anger and lust. This dangerous desire to satisfy their senses urges them to gain and hoard endless wealth, even by illegitimate means.

Such men are constantly calculating the levels of their existing possessions – the wealth yesterday, that today and that which they shall be able to acquire in the future. With their extreme sense of being ‘the doers’, they consider themselves to be the slayers, the supreme Lord, the one worthy of enjoying the luxuries the world has to offer, the most powerful and the happiest of all men there are.

With their false sense of ego, such men have thoughts of being the most prosperous of all men, the most well-connected to other men of power, the incomparable and ultimate authority. They aim at making donations (daan) and performing religious sacrifices (yagya) only with the single-minded goal of accumulating good deeds in their kitty so that they can enjoy life even more.

Disillusioned with thousands of worries and fears, such men become the slaves of their own desires and eventually fall in hell and the lower worlds.

Such men consider themselves the best of all beings, the most influential. Being thus disillusioned by their own ego and sense of the self, such men perform even the best of deeds and rituals with haughtiness and without a real sense of the method and technique.

Bewildered by their false ego, anger, pride and power, these men are forever envious of other men around them, thus disregarding the presence of me, the Lord himself, in all these other human beings they dislike.

Such men are envious, hard-hearted, brutal and faithless. I always strive to ensure that even in subsequent births, they continue to be born with the demonic qualities they shed their previous body with.

O son of Kunti! Thus born again and again with this demonic nature I talked about, such men never manage to attain my abode. On the other hand, they keep getting degenerated to the lower worlds and attain lower physical forms at every rebirth.

O Arjuna! Remember this – the three attributes that are sure to drive a human being to hell are lust, anger and greed. Given their dangerous nature, they should be shunned immediately.

O son of Kunti! The man who frees himself of these three perpetual enemies of the soul, begins to make progress on the path of spirituality and self-knowledge. This way, he finally attains me.

On the other hand, he who becomes a slave to his own desires and shortcomings and shuns the ways of the scriptures by doing as he pleases, attains neither good deeds, nor happiness or even salvation.

O Arjuna! The ultimate authority on acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for any human being are the Shastras or the religious scriptures. One should therefore, aspire to know them well before he sets out to act.

Image taken from Google images.

Chapter 15: The mystical tree

Number of verses: 20

Introduction: One of the shortest, this chapter is also one in which Krishna does all the talking. He introduces to Arjuna, the concept of the ‘worldly tree’, a huge, mighty tree that symbolises the weird ways of the physical world we live in. For instance, its roots face the sky while its branches grow towards the earth. This description, though hard to imagine, is probably a mysterious explanation of a more nuanced phenomenon or could simply be an illustration used to indicate weirdness and mysticism.

Such a tree is without a beginning and an end, claims Krishna and the only way to free oneself of its clutches of rebirth is detachment.

In this chapter, Krishna repeats his idea of an ideal devotee, though very briefly. Such men, he claims, ultimately unite with him in his brightly-lit abode that is illuminated neither through the sun, nor the moon or even fire. There is no return to the land of pain and sorrow for the man who has managed to reach this far.

An important take-away from this chapter is Krishna’s ‘carry-forward theory’, as I like to call it. It means that the aatman enjoys sense gratification sitting deep inside the body. When it is time for it to shed the body and move on to a new one, all the actions and deeds performed in the previous body are simply carried forward or moved with the aatman into the new body. While this concurs with the theory of karma, this could also imply for instance, that spiritual learning and even slight progress on this path never really go waste. Even if one must die before a milestone has been accomplished, the aatman may be able to restore its agenda or complete unfinished projects, via the new body.

Towards the end, Krishna talks about his pervasiveness in performing the vital functions of the body such as digestion and nourishment. The chapter closes with Krishna’s promise to all men who attempt to understand his words in the same way as he said them, with spiritual intellect and success in all actions.

Translation:

Krishna to Arjuna:

O Arjuna! This world has been termed as the ‘eternal tree’. It is unusual you see with its roots upwards facing the sky and its branches facing the earth. The leaves of this worldly tree are the divine words of the Vedic scriptures. Only those who understand this tree and its nature are the true knowers of the Vedas.

The wide-spreading roots of this tree depict the various physical forms the divine soul assumes and its branches are nourished by the three physical natures (gunas) of prakriti. The gorgeous buds that grow on this tree are in fact sense objects that lure senses all the time. Also know this – the roots of this tree, albeit growing upwards also bend towards the earth, symbolising the bondages humans create for themselves by acting selfishly and with the desire for fruit.

No one can ever comprehend the nature and appearance of this worldly tree while one lives on the earth, for this humongous tree has no beginning, no end and no pillar for support. This mighty tree firmly affixed to the ground can be brought down only with the axe of detachment and selflessness.

After successfully redeeming oneself from the clutches of this tree using detachment, one should aim at seeking the road to ultimate truth, the final abode, from where there is no return to this mortal world. A sensible human being should aim at surrendering himself completely to the Lord for it is he who sustains and nourishes this immortal, unborn worldly tree.

The man who is free from the desire of name and fame, is unattached, has renounced the company of men too deeply embroiled in gratification of their senses, is at all times fixed in the consciousness of the Lord, whose worldly desires have been burnt down once and for all, and who remains indifferent between happiness and grief, ultimately succeeds in finding the route to the ultimate truth.

He eventually reaches the final abode, which is illuminated by neither the sun nor the moon or even fire for that matter. It is my eternal abode Arjuna, from where one must never return to this land of sorrows.

O Arjuna! The divine speck of light in the body of every living being in the world, is but a speck of my eternal energy. This aatman dwells in the body and acts as per the six sense organs including the mind and the guna of prakriti that governs the being at any given point of time.

The aatman thus carries forward with it, all actions and behaviour performed by the six senses and with this baggage, moves on to a new body[1]. This process is as swift and unfailing as the movement of the wind that carries fragrance from spot to another.

Just as in the previous body, the aatman once again enjoys sensory pleasures using the six senses of the new body (the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, the tongue, the skin and the mind).

The manner in which the aatman is capable of shedding an old body, how it dwells in the body, and how it enjoys sensory pleasures on the basis of the gunas, are matters that foolish men can never comprehend. Only such men can understand these nuances whose sense of sight has been illuminated with spiritual light.

Only men constantly endeavouring to meditate are finally able to witness the aatman dwelling in their hearts. Men without inclination can never witness such a spectacle despite best efforts.

O Arjuna! The light that is stored in the sun, the moon and in all fire, consider having emanated from me.

It is I who enter the various worlds and planets and through sheer will, create all beings. It is I that in the form of the moon, nourish all beings with my energy and vitality.

I dwell as the digestive fire in the gut of all beings. I balance the movement of wind in the bodies of all living beings which helps them digest four different varieties of food grains– those that are chewed, those that are swallowed, those that are licked, and those which must be sucked with the mouth.

I dwell in the hearts of all beings as the aatman which gives them life, and it is I who grant them the ability to know, forget and remember the truth of their existence. I am the one worthy of being through the Vedas. It is from me that the Vedas sprout and I am also the one who knows them in their entirety.

O Arjuna! There are two kinds of beings in this world – mortal and immortal. While the physical bodies of all living beings is to be considered mortal, the aatman that dwells within is eternal and immortal.

However, above the two categories of mortal and immortal, there is a third, all-encompassing entity – the Supreme Lord. It is this entity that is not only eternal and unborn, but also takes care of the creation and nourishment of all living beings in all the three worlds.

Since the third supreme entity I talk about is me myself, I am regarded as the Ultimate Man (Purushottam) both in the worlds and the Vedas.

O descendant of Bharata! That man who without a trace of doubt, knows me as the Supreme Lord, holds me in the highest regard and devotes himself to me.

O sin-free Arjuna! I have thus narrated to you the secret of the Shastras. For the human being who attempts to understand this knowledge in the same way as I have narrated to you, I grant divine intellect and ensure that all his effort bears fruit.

Image taken from Google images

[1] This baggage of all past actions of the aatman are referred to as its ‘samskaar’.

 

Chapter 14: The three attributes (gunas) of physical nature

Number of verses: 27

Introduction: One of the simplest and most intuitive chapters of the Gita, this chapter offers a generous description from Krishna about the characteristics of the three physical natures or gunas of prakriti. He educates Arjuna about how it is these natures (usually one or more at a time, constantly changing in proportion) that control human actions. While humans may believe that it is in fact they that perform and accomplish, it is truly the gunas that determine how they think and act.

Krishna talks of three gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas. Each of course, has its own characteristic features, for instance sattva being the most superior, comes from knowledge. Rajas comes from greed and passion and tamas from laziness and darkness. To elucidate his point, Krishna offers several insights into the reasons for their existence and their consequences in terms of life after death, preaching that one should strive to rise above the gunas of physical existence.

An inquisitive and idealistic Arjuna asks Krishna to narrate to him the qualities and symptoms of a man who has managed to rise above the gunas and how it is possible for one to get there. In the last six shlokas of the gita, Krishna yet again explains beautifully, his idea of an ideal man, who strives for perfection in his own behaviour and spiritual understanding.

Translation:

Krishna to Arjuna:

O Arjuna! I narrate for you once again, this most supreme of all bodies of knowledge. It is with this that great sages of all times have been successfully able to redeem themselves of rebirth, having attained the supreme destination, moksha.

Men who manage to stabilise their mind in this knowledge, attain a nature similar to mine. They are neither reborn with the re-appearing of the universe, nor get unnerved when it is destroyed.

O descendant of the Bharata clan! It is this eight-element physical nature of mine (comprising water, fire, the wind, earth, space, mind, intellect and the ego) that is the life-giving mother of all things in this universe. It is I that as the divine consciousness instils life in all beings, in the form of the aatman, It is out of this interaction between my physical nature (prakriti) and my life-giving divinity, that all beings – mobile and immobile are born.

O son of Kunti! For all living beings in all different forms of life, my physical nature is the creating mother and my eternal divinity is the seed-sowing father.

O mighty-armed Arjuna! It is on account of my physical nature that the three gunas or physical attributes are born – sattva, rajas and tamas. Being thus ensnared by these gunas, the eternal aatman ends up getting infatuated with the physical body it lives in.

O pure soul! Of the three, Satoguna is the most superior that enables the human being to free himself of all past evil deeds, thus illuminating the soul. However, it does not come without costs. It results in an addiction to happiness and false ego of one’s own knowledge.

O son of Kunti! Rajoguna, on the other hand, is born out of intense desire and greed that ultimately binds such humans into the fruits of their own actions.

O descendent of the Bharatas! Tamoguna arises out of intense passion towards one’s own body. Such humans indulge in silly, futile activities and develop the habits of laziness, procrastination and more-than-required sleep.

O Arjuna! While Satoguna tends to bind with attachment to happiness, Rajoguna binds in selfish action and Tamoguna in madness, by clouding one’s good sense.

O descent of the Bharata clan! When both Rajoguna and Tamoguna decline, Satoguna tends to get strengthened. When both Satoguna and Rajoguna decline, Tamoguna tends to get strengthened. Similarly, when Tamoguna and Satoguna decline, Rajoguna tends to get strengthened.

It is when the eternal truth illuminates all nine openings of the body (two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, the genitals and the anus) that Satoguna develops.

O best of the Bharata clan! When Rajoguna increases, the desire to consume the fruits of one’s actions and satisfy sensory desires increases manifold. This leads to high levels of restlessness and finally, uncontrolled and unrestrained behaviour.

O descendant of the Kurus! On the other hand, when it is Tamoguna that increases in magnitude, humans develop the tendency to shirk work, indulge in heinous and undesirable deeds. Such men lose their ability to think, their minds clouded with darkness.

When a man in Satoguna attains death, he is born on the higher planets of wise and good men.

When a man in Rajoguna dies, he is born among other men who act for benefit, i.e. those that are extremely passionate about acting for the sake of attaining personal objectives.

Similarly, when one in Tamoguna discards his body, he is born among the lower mortals, usually in the bodies of animals and birds.

Also, know that the fruits of actions performed in the three different modes or gunas are different from each other.

Fruits of actions performed in Satoguna have been termed ‘happiness and knowledge’, those in Rajoguna, ‘suffering’ and those in Tamoguna, ‘foolishness’.

Satoguna bears true knowledge, Rajoguna passion and unending greed, and Tamoguna, madness and recklessness.

In terms of physical planets, men in Satoguna advance to the higher planets, those where men of good deeds dwell. Men in Rajoguna remain stuck on the earth that lies in between the higher and lower planets. Similarly, men in Tamoguna fall to the lower worlds where men of evil deeds live, usually acquiring forms of animals and birds.

When a man begins to comprehend the three gunas as the real doers and others including himself, as mere observers to this phenomenon, he begins to understand me. In this manner, he attains me in my divine form.

When a human being transcends these three physical gunas, he successfully manages to cross the barriers of birth, death, old age, illness and all other suffering and in this birth itself, begins to enjoy the sweet nectar of the supreme reality.

Arjuna to Krishna:

O Lord! How can one identify a man who has managed to transcend the three gunas? How does he act and behave? Also, how can a man actually manage to rise above the gunas?

Krishna to Arjuna:

Such a man watches himself move passively between the three gunas at different times, and does not celebrate the presence of Satoguna in himself, nor detests it when the passion of Rajoguna and the craziness of Tamoguna take over. He remains calm and composed in all these states, remaining passively observant of the phenomenon, neither wanting to indulge nor pull himself out.

He remains indifferent as the gunas keep taking over and switching roles, knowing them to be the real doers and not himself.

Such a man remains equanimous in pleasure and pain, finds peace in his own company, considers all equal – clay, pebble and gold, neither desires nor abhors anything or anyone, and does not lose composure in praise and ridicule.

For such a man, fame and infamy mean the same thing, and he considers both friends and foes alike. Even when he performs actions in his daily life, he never considers himself the doer. Such a man is considered to have elevated himself beyond the physical nature that pervades the universe.

He who in all circumstances, remains unflinching in his faith for me, very soon crosses over the three gunas and places himself in divine consciousness.

And of this divine consciousness that I talk to you about, I am the sole refuge, being eternal, unborn and immortal.

Image taken from Google images

Chapter 13: The physical versus the divine

Number of verses: 35

Introduction: This chapter in my opinion, is one of the most technical in the entire Gita. I say so because throughout it, Krishna talks about a very nuanced subject – the distinction between the physical body and the invisible aatman, using terms such as the field, the knower, and the like. He largely discusses four concepts – the physical body, the physical nature prakriti, the aatman that dwells in the heart and the supreme destination parmatma.

A beautiful aspect of this chapter is the list of attributes or desirable characteristics that Krishna provides in a human being who is truly knowledgeable. He lists, for instance, compassion, equanimity, forgiveness, transparency and lack of ego.

The essence of this chapter is that Arjuna, the representative of all human beings, must consider himself distinct and separate from the body which he sees and through which he operates. While the body shall age with time and eventually perish, he, the aatman, or the speck of the divine light in the heart, shall stay on, unscathed and unhurt.

Krishna claims that true knowledge is to know one as the soul that is the master of the physical body. While the body acts and performs, the aatman passively observes. It neither acts nor gets tainted by anything good or bad that the body engages in. Based on what a human being does while he lives determines significantly the body he shall assume in the next birth.

Translation:

Arjuna to Krishna:

O Keshav! I wish to understand from you about physical nature (prakriti), the divine self (purusha), the field (kshetra) and the knower of the field (kshetragya), and also of knowledge and its pursuit.

Krishna to Arjuna:

O son of Kunti! This body itself is the field (kshetra) and he who knows its true nature is the knower of this field, the kshetragya or the aatman. Such has been believed by great sages who have lived in the past.

O descendant of Bharata! Know me as the knower of all fields that exist, the knower of all human beings there are. Knowledge in my opinion, is the understanding of me as the knower of all there is.

Now hear from me about the nature of this physical field with all its weaknesses, the cause for its existence, and also about the knower of these fields.

The field and the knower have been narrated in detail in several Vedic texts by great sages that once lived. This knowledge has also been sung to music in the form of mantras and chants.

O Arjuna! The body or the physical field is composed of the five key elements, – the earth, water, fire, the wind and the sky – ego, the mind, the three invisible natures or gunas of prakriti (sattva, rajas, tamas), ten sense organs (ears, the skin, eyes, the tongue, nostrils, hands, feet, the mouth, the genitals and the anus), a heart (mann) and five objects of sensory gratification (speech for the ears, touch for the skin, beauty for the eyes, taste for the tongue and fragrance for the nose). This is a store house for desire, abhorrence, pleasure, pain, consciousness and belief. I have just summarised for you the nature of this disease-ridden body.

Understand what knowledge really means. It is the attribute of softness of speech, equanimity in fame and insult, lack of ego or the notion of the self, non-violence, compassion, forgiveness, simplicity, transparency, purity of the body and mind, faith and devotion for the spiritual teacher, determination in actions, self-control, detachment from the need for sensory gratification, understanding oneself as different from the body, as also the tendency to think about one’s own follies, the reason for one’s own birth and thinking about the time of death, old age and illness.

Knowledge is non-attachment to one’s son, wife, house property, and other physical possessions and equanimity in the attainment of both that is auspicious and evil. It means no desire for anything but me, the ability of being determined in my devotion, the constant need to be in solitude in a clean and quiet place, and detachment from human beings embroiled in physical and sensory satisfaction.

Knowledge is the tendency to look for oneself within the self, and the urge to unite with the divine. I have narrated to you all that in my opinion constitutes true knowledge. Everything else must be considered to be lack of knowledge.

O Arjuna! I will now tell you about that which is worthy of being known. Humans with knowledge of this reunite with the divine spirit after death, and are never born again. This is about my transcendental energy, which is neither the cause, nor the effect. It is known as the supreme light (param-brahm).

This supreme light is armed with multiple hands and feet, eyes and mouths, ears and heads on all sides, and remains unaltered in all things in the cosmos. Even when it is the cause for the existence and functioning of the senses, it remains far above them, detached and distant. It is the benefactor of the three gunas of prakriti, remaining far beyond them at all times.

That divine light or spirit exists in all beings, both inside as well as outside their bodies. Given its extremely atomic presence, it cannot be detected by the human senses. It is both distant as well as very close to every being there is.

That parmatma is one unified whole, even when it appears to be divided and situated separately in different living beings. It is this divine light that creates like Brahma, nurtures like Vishnu and destroys like Shiva. It is the source of all light there is in the universe, yet stays beyond the realm of darkness. That is true knowledge, worthy of being known, the ultimate pursuit and the entity that dwells in each heart.

I have thus explained to you about the field of action (the body), the supreme entity in each body (the aatman) and the ultimate entity worthy of being known, the parmatma. My devotees, armed with this knowledge, ultimately unite with me after death.

O Arjuna! Consider both the physical manifestation (prakriti) and the divine light (parmatma) as unborn and eternal. Also know that all conflicts, dualities and disease are born out of the three gunas of prakriti.

It is the physical prakriti that creates action while human beings only avail of the fruits of these actions, whether good or bad. Since all human beings must exist and dwell amidst this physical nature prakriti, they are bound to avail of the materials and objects born out of its three gunas. It is this human interaction with the three gunas that determines one’s next birth into superior or inferior bodies.

It is the speck of supreme energy, the aatman that dwells in the physical body and remaining detached and distant, permits the body to act and avail of the objects prakriti provides. The man who understands this relationship between the aatman, the physical body and the eternal prakriti, remains unattached and is never born again.

Some men seek the divine light within themselves through meditation, some follow religious rituals to attain the supreme and some others, through the practice of nishkaam-karma, or action without attachment.

There are some other human beings who are not well-versed in spiritual matters, but become interested in the subject through shruti, i.e. hearing about it from other learned men. Having thus developed such interest, such men also are successfully able to redeem themselves from this endless cycle of births and deaths.

O descendant of the Bharata clan Arjuna! Whatever is born in this world and all that you behold here – mobile or immobile, consider to have stemmed from the interaction between divine nature (purusha) and physical nature (prakriti).

The man that sees in all destructible beings, the same and undivided supreme force, the eternal parmatma, is the one who truly knows the world as it is. Such a man views all living beings as essentially the same and with this knowledge, never harms his spiritual self. In this manner, he finally attains my abode.

Such a man knows that all actions stem from prakriti, while the aatman merely observes. When such a man sees the same supreme divine light split among all living beings and all beings collectively as the ultimate truth, he attains that supreme destination.

O son of Kunti! This speck of divinity that dwells in the body as the aatman neither performs any action, nor is tainted by anything that the body does. Just as space is omnipresent and yet remains untainted, the aatman, despite dwelling in all parts of the body, remains unpolluted by anything that the body does.

O descendent of Bharata! Just as a single sun illuminates the entire cosmos, just one speck of divinity, the aatman, illuminates all parts and organs of the body with its consciousness.

The man who understands in its entirety, the distinction between the physical body and the invisible master of the body (the aatman), ultimately unites with me.

Image taken from Google images.

 

Chapter 12: The ideal devotee

Number of verses: 20

Introduction: This chapter, rather short, opens with a very logical question from Arjuna. He asks Krishna, whether for attaining him, it is necessary that one worships him in his physical form in which Arjuna beholds him and meditates on him with all the qualities he has so far enumerated about himself?

What about those devotees then who are more spiritually inclined and meditate on him as a formless, divine light that dwells within their bodies? This question is important even in current times when for a large portion of the masses, there is a clear demarcation between being religious and spiritual. Most often, people choose to be one of them, rather than both.

Krishna reassures Arjuna that men taking either route eventually attain him, except that the ego of the human mind makes it more difficult for the devotees of the ‘formless light’ to finally unite with him.

A striking aspect of this chapter is the desperation in Krishna’s tone about wanting, somehow, to redeem his friend Arjuna, from the mental dilemma he faces. Each time he makes a suggestion, he offers an alternative, completely understanding that for a physically strong and mentally, not-as-strong warrior, such suggestions may be too good to be carried out.

In fact, in the end, Krishna suggests to Arjuna that if nothing, he should at least go out in search of a learned spiritual guide, whose company in itself will be motivating enough for Arjuna to know the reality of his human birth.

In the rest of the chapter, Krishna describes his idea of a perfect devotee. One by one, he keeps listing the qualities of a man he says he considers most dear. While these attributes may have appeared in previous chapters too, the take-away clearly is the ideal that one can aspire for.

Translation:

Arjuna to Krishna:

O Lord! You suggest that a devotee can attain you by meditating on you and worshipping you in this form as I see you now. However, what about those who choose to think of you as an unknown, divine light, without a shape and form? Of these two kinds of devotees, which one should be considered more superior?

Krishna to Arjuna:

O Arjuna! Those men who fix their consciousness unto me and at all times, engage themselves in worshipping in me this form, as you know me, I consider more accomplished.

However, know this too – those who believe in me as the divine truth, the aatman that is indestructible, omni-present, unfathomable and formless, and who through meditation, control their mind and senses, maintain equanimity in all situations and work towards public welfare also ultimately come to me.

The only catch is that for those believing in the formless divine, attaining me is much more difficult. This difficulty, however, lasts only as long as their mind makes them to believe that they are the doers.

However, O Arjuna, for men who surrender all their actions unto me and with utmost devotion, constantly think of me, I redeem from this painful cycle of births and deaths very soon.

O Arjuna! Fix your heart and mind on me and this way, you shall dwell in at all times. There can be no doubt about that.

O Arjuna! If you think you are incapable of fixing your mind unto me, through devotion, train it to develop a desire to attain me.

If you think you are incapable of devotion too, try to work and perform action for me and me alone. In that manner, acting for me, you will finally attain me.

If you cannot come to even act for me and my sake, depend on me entirely and surrender with devotion, the fruits of all actions you must perform for as long as you live. Also when you do that, seek a learned man as your spiritual guide, whose company will be enough to motivate you to act as such.

Compared to the act of training the mind without knowing its nature, is following the existing body of knowledge. Better than that is meditation and self-analysis. Even better is surrender of the fruits of one’s actions for it is surrender that brings one closer to eternal peace, in the least possible time.

I adore the devotee who does not abhor any being, is friendly and at peace with all, is compassionate, is free of undue attachment (mamta), free of false ego, who considers joy and grief as equal, and is forgiving of the sins of other men. Placed in the consciousness of devotion, he remains happy at all times, maintains check on the mind and all senses with unflinching determination, and chooses to surrender his mind and heart to me – such a devotee I consider most dear.

I also consider dear, the one who neither stirs up another man’s mind nor gets unnerved by anyone else. Such a man remains free of the dualities of happiness, grief, fear and apprehensions.

Such a man’s desires have dried up and he has chosen to think of me with a pure and clean conscience. He remains indifferent to negativity and pain and surrenders all his actions unto me as he performs them.

Such a man is neither overjoyed, nor ever grieves or laments. He never longs for anything and surrenders everything in his life to me – both auspicious and evil. Such a devotee is truly precious to me.

He who remains composed in the company of both friends and foes, is undeterred in fame and insult, in cold and in heat, and in pleasure and in pain. Such a man, free from the dualities of life, stays away from bad and polluted company.

He regards criticism and reverence equally and his mind and senses have calmed down. He is contented in all situations, and remains free of attachment even for the house in which he dwells. Such a focused devotee I consider most dear.

Men who shall endeavour to taste this nectar of knowledge as I have just revealed to you, and will finally choose to stick by my side with utmost faith and devotion, I shall deem extremely dear to me.

Image taken from Google images.

Chapter 11: The universal form (the Vishwa-roopam)

Number of verses: 55

Introduction: This chapter, one of the longest in the Gita, is considered very important for it is in this very chapter that Krishna appears before his devotee and friend Arjuna in his true form as God of the universe. Not unexpectedly, Arjuna is taken aback at such a sight. He sees all the planets, the three worlds, all demi-gods and goddesses and all beings there are in that humongous form of Krishna that seems to encompass the entire space between the land and the sky. He sees innumerable arms, bellies, and legs and sharp teeth fitted in hundreds of fire-spitting mouths. In short, he beholds all there is in the world condensed in that one figure of Krishna.

Shivering with fear, Arjuna apologises to Krishna for anything silly or disrespectful that he may have jokingly said or done to him, not knowing him as God himself.

To reassure the panic-stricken Arjuna, Krishna then reveals himself in his gentle four-armed form as Vishnu and finally, comes back to his two-armed human form.

The key take-away from this chapter, of course apart from the wonderfully unbelievable description of Krishna, is the concept of an ‘instrument’ that Krishna introduces. He reveals to Arjuna that as he speaks to Arjuna on the battlefield, he is engaged in slaying all warriors present to fight from Duryodhana’s side. Therefore, Arjuna will not really be killing anybody on the battlefield. If he were to choose to fight that day, all he would be doing is the task of acting as Krishna’s instrument, i.e. performing what Krishna has chosen for him to do.

This is exactly what Krishna urges all his devotees must do – train their minds to carry out his will, rather than pursue their own objectives, for even when we may not know it, we end up carrying out his plans.

Translation:

Arjuna to Krishna:

This super-confidential and life-changing spiritual narrative that you have just given me for my benefit, seems to have ridden me of all doubts and confusion.

O lotus-eyed! I have heard from you in detail, the reason for the creation, existence and destruction of the universe and also about your immortal and unfailing splendour.

O Supreme Lord! I see and hear you as you stand before me now, but O the best of men! I want to be able to behold here, your eternal form that you just described to me.

O Lord! If you consider me worthy and befitting of such a spectacle, then O Lord of Yoga! Kindly appear before me in that indestructible and transcendental form of yours.

Krishna to Arjuna:

O Parth! Now behold right here, this magnificent form of mine that encompasses hundreds and thousands of different forms and manifestations. Also behold these multiple and different colours that my forms assume.

O best of the Bharata clan! You can find in me the twelve sons of Aditi, the eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras, both Ashwini Kumaras, the forty-nine Marutas, and other such astonishing forms that have neither been witnessed nor heard of before.

O Arjuna! In this single form of mine, find everything there is – movable and immovable. Behold in me the entire universe at the same time. You will be able to find anything and everything you wish to see.

However, with these human eyes of yours, you are incapable of seeing me as such. I will give you divine sight to enable you to behold me in my God-like form.

Sanjaya to Dhritrashtra:

O King! Having said these words to Arjuna, the Supreme-yogi Krishna revealed his bedazzling Godly form to him.

In this form of his, Arjuna beheld multiple mouths, pairs of eyes, several flummoxing forms adorned with divine jewels, hundreds of divine weapons, bedazzling necklaces and spectacular garments, emanating pleasant fragrances.  This form of Krishna shone with puzzling, blinding light and had multiple faces that seemed to stretch in all directions.

Even if there were to rise a thousand suns in the sky at the same time, they would fail to explain the light that emanated from Krishna’s form.

Arjuna, the son of Pandu, at that instant, beheld all demigods and goddesses of all worlds in this cosmos in that one form of Krishna.

Bewildered and shaking in excitement, Arjuna then bowed before Krishna, folded his hands and spoke the following words:

Arjuna to Krishna:

“O Supreme Lord Krishna! I see in your body, all demigods and goddesses, all great men, the creator Brahma sitting comfortably on his lotus-seat, Lord Shiva, and great sages and divine serpents.

O Lord of the universe! In your body, I see hundreds of hands, bellies, mouths, eyes and uncountable forms on all sides. In this humongous form of yours, I see no beginning, no middle and no end.

As I try to see you in your entirety, I see all the different forms in you donning beautiful crowns, carrying clubs and maces, your discus (chakra), and beaming with light. From all sides and directions, I see you emit heat and light like fire itself. In fact, the light around you makes it difficult for me to keep my eyes open.

O Lord! You are the eternal truth worthy of being known in this world, you are the basis on which the universe stands, you are the unflinching follower of righteousness and from my understanding, it is you alone who is the indestructible and the unborn man.

You are without a beginning and a middle. You are unending. Your splendour has no bounds. You have uncountable pairs of arms, with the sun and the moon as your eyes. I can see the fire that you spit from the mouth, heating the earth.

O the best of all men! In the entire space ranging from the sky to the earth, it is you and you alone. Your form pervades all space and directions. Seeing this bewildering form of yours, I can see the three worlds shivering in fear.

I see cohorts and groups of demi-gods enter your form. Some among these have their hands folded in supplication and are singing your praises to please you. I see groups of great sages and mystics chanting divine mantras, offering blessings and meditating on you.

I also see Shiva, demigods and goddesses, masters of other planets and all demons gape at your form in disbelief.

O mighty-armed! At the sight of your herculean form that encompasses hundreds of mouths, eyes, arms, thighs, feet, bellies and teeth, all planets are fretting. Just like them, even I am beginning to fear.

O Vishnu! With its height, your form appears to touch the sky. Your multiple heads and faces with brilliant colours, and your large, glistening eyes are scaring me to death. I am neither able to maintain composure nor feel at peace.

Your large, frightening teeth bewilder me and so do your fire-spitting mouths. At such a sight, I am not even able to make any sense of direction. Hence O Supreme Lord! Please be pleased with me.

Lo and behold! I see all the sons of Dhritrashtra, along with their allies and warriors, including Bhishma Pitamah, Guru Dronacharya, the son-of-a-charioteer Karna as well as warriors from our army enter your frightening mouth in great speed. Some of them, I see, are being ground into a fine powder under your brutal, sharp teeth.

Just as different streams and sub-streams of water end up entering the ocean at great speed, similarly I see all warriors on this earth enter your fire-spitting mouths.

Just as rapidly as moths advance towards the burning flame towards their own destruction, I see all men gathered in this battlefield enter your mouths towards their end.

O omnipresent God! I can see you swallow some humans that enter mouth and lick some others. The rays of your bedazzling light are penetrating the sky, only to scorch the entire cosmos.

O the master of demi-gods! Please be kind enough to tell me who you actually are, in this dreadful and scary form. I bow before you and accept you as the only Lord there is. Kindly do not be upset with me. For I know you not in your true form, I want to know more about you, in greater detail.”

Krishna to Arjuna:

“I am death that destroys in one stroke, the entire universe and all creation. As I talk to you now, I am engaged in slaying all these warriors here on this battlefield today. Know this Arjuna, all these men fighting in support of Duryodhana today shall not survive this war, even if you were to not fight.

O ambidextrous! You should therefore, with the sole aim of attaining fame as a fierce warrior, fight and slay the enemy and then enjoy the luxuries of this world and the kingdom you will win. I have already slayed all men here, so the only role you will be playing on this battlefield is that of my instrument.

Let me also tell you that I have also slain fierce warriors in your opponent’s army – Drona, Bheeshma, Jayadratha, and Karna including others. Given that, fear no one in this battle and prepare yourself to fight. You are sure to win over your opponents in this battle.”

Sanjaya to Dhritrashtra:

Hearing these words from Krishna himself, Arjuna folded his hands, bowed his head low and prayed before him. Trembling in fear, in a low-pitched voice, he said to Krishna the following words:

Arjuna to Krishna:

“O all-knowing Lord! The entire universe is rejoicing at the chanting of your name and those with demonic tendencies are running hither and tither in fear. I also see great sages and saints bow before you.

O great one! Why should they not, when it is you who have created the creator Brahma? O infinite and Lord of the Lords! O refuge of the universe! You are immortal, the cause of all causes and the transcendental one.

You are the unborn one, the ultimate refuge of the world and its beings, you are the one worthy of being known, you are the complete knower, the pilgrimage and the reason for the existence of the universe in all its variety and diversity,

You are the wind, death, the fire, the rain and the moon. You are the father of all beings, as well as that of the creator Brahma. I salute you again and again. I bow before you a thousand times.

O the infinitely powerful one! I bow to your form from the front, the rear, and all the sides, for you are all there is, the mightiest of the mighty, the creator and the cause for all existence. You are all and everything.

O Krishna! O Yadava![1] O friend! Considering you my buddy, if I have ever been disrespectful while we sat, slept or ate together, kindly forgive me. I apologise for anything silly I may have said or done to you, may be in the company of others. I seek your forgiveness for such behaviour for it was done without knowing your true nature and splendour.

You are the father of all there is in the cosmos – mobile or immobile – and you are its spiritual guide too, worthy of being worshipped. In the three worlds there are, there can be none like you, forget being better than you.

Hence, I bow before thee, the Lord of all beings, and fall in your feet for your mercy and blessing. O God! Just as a father forgives his son, a friend forgives another friend, and a lover lets go of the sins of his lover, kindly redeem me of my follies. Please bear with me.

I am extremely overjoyed to see you in this form of yours that no one has ever witnessed before. However, your awe scares me. Hence O Lord of the demi-gods! O refuge of the cosmos! Being thus pleased with me, kindly reveal to me your four-armed form of Vishnu.

O the thousand-armed Lord! I wish to behold you with your splendid crown, holding your conch, discus, mace and the lotus. Kindly reveal to me your Chaturbhuja roopa, or the form with four-arms.”

Krishna to Arjuna:

“O Arjuna! Being pleased with you, I just revealed to you, using my yogic maya, my divine universal form. No one ever, at any point of time, has beheld me thus, except you today.

O best of the Kuru clan! This infinite form of mine cannot be seen by humans even with the performance of offerings (yagyas), the reading and understanding of the Vedas, the performance of exceptionally good deeds, or even with strict penance and meditation. It’s only you who has beheld this spectacle ever.

O dear devotee! Be not afraid! Do not fret at this form of mine. Now relax and behold the four-armed form of mine that is sure to please you.”

Sanjaya to Dhritrashtra:

Having said thus, Lord Krishna revealed himself in his chaturbhuja-roopa before Arjuna and finally, assumed his human form with two arms. In this manner, he reassured Arjuna.

Arjuna to Krishna:

“O Janardana! Having seen you thus in your beautiful human form, my senses have returned to normal.”

Krishna to Arjuna:

“The eternal form of mine you just beheld is extremely rare for anyone to witness. Even the demi-gods crave to see me in this form.

As I said earlier, it is impossible to behold this sight even with the reading of the Vedas, or making offerings or through stringent penance for that matter.

O destroyer of enemies! It is only through love devotion for me that one can ever get to see me, know my true nature and enter my consciousness.

O son of Pandu! That man who seeks my refuge, performs his daily duties keeping me in mind, remains devoted to  me at all times, is free of desire and longing and stays in harmony with all other beings, definitely attains me.”

Image taken from Google images.

[1] Descendant of the Yadava/ Vrishni clan.

Chapter 10: Krishna’s splendour

Number of verses: 42

Introduction: This chapter is largely a prelude to that what comes in the next chapter in which Krishna grants special sight to Arjuna to enable him to behold him in his universal form (the vishwa-roop). This chapter opens with Arjuna’s inquisitiveness about Krishna’s form which he or any other devotee for that matter, can use to think of him and meditate on him. While Arjuna is by far convinced that Krishna is the supreme Lord, he probably finds it difficult to imagine that one with a human form and someone who he has spent his childhood with could possess the qualities that Krishna has outlined about himself so far. Thus his question.

Gauging form his reply, Krishna appears to be preparing Arjuna for the bedazzling spectacle that is almost round the corner. He clarifies that while the enumeration of his forms and qualities is endless, he is willing to summarise the key attributes of his personality as the Supreme God-head to Arjuna, his friend, cousin and devotee. He then goes on to provide rather mystical descriptions using similes or comparisons with other personalities and figures already well-known in Hindu mythology. For instance, he calls himself the Himalayan peak among the mountains, Arjuna among the Pandavas, and a lion among beasts. This chapter finds a lot of such similes. For the sake of the reader not well-versed with Hindu mythology, brief footnotes are provided with each such term.

All in all, the essence of the explanation provided by Krishna in this chapter is simply that he is the best in every category of beings and objects there is. It must be, he says, for all that is worth beholding in this universe is created merely by a speck of his true form.

The chapter ends on a rather mystical note when Krishna reassures Arjuna that having heard so much about his divine qualities from the Lord himself, it is absolutely unnecessary for him to look for detail greater than this.

Translation:

Krishna to Arjuna:

O mighty-armed Arjuna! Hear my influential words yet again. I repeat them for your sake, who I consider most dear.

None truly know my splendour and powers, not even the demi-gods or great mystics for that matter. How can they, when it is I who has created them in the first place?

The man who begins to understand me as the one free of birth and death, eternal and immortal, one without a beginning and an end, and the Lord that sustains the universe is freed from illusion and all sins. This is despite the fact that such a man carries a destructible body.

Know me as the origin of all human feelings, emotions and attributes. I am the intellect that dispels all doubt, the knowledge that breaks away attachment, forgiveness, righteousness, self-control, stillness of the mind, happiness and grief, birth and death, fear, fearlessness, worry, non-violence, equanimity, contentment, focus in meditation, altruism, fame and infamy.

All the great seven sages, the four Sankadi Kumaras [1] and even the creator of humans Manu have been born out of my sheer will. All other beings that inhabit the planets of the cosmos are their descendants.

Men who know me as the creator of all that is, devote themselves to my cause. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

I am the originator of the cosmos and also the sole reason for its activity. Knowing thus, wise men come to my refuge and unflinchingly think of me.

Men who have established their focus on me and have surrendered their human birth to my cause, keep reminding each other of my heroism and greatness. Seeking pleasure in discussing me and singing my praises, they remain thus contented.

Those that keep their mind and energies fixed unto me, and with complete love and devotion think of me, I provide with such intellect that enables them to finally arrive at my abode.

O Arjuna! I grant special insight to such men through the aatman that sits in their heart. Using spiritual knowledge as the burning lamp, I dispel the darkness of the doubt and illusion that shrouds their intellect. This helps fix them on the path of spirituality.

Arjuna to Krishna:

O Krishna! It is you that is the supreme Lord, the ultimate bliss, the giver and the final refuge too. You are the purest form of consciousness, eternal, divine, unborn, the origin of all demi-gods, and the omnipresent being.

O Krishna! What you tell me now is also narrated by great sages such as Asit, Deval, Vyasa and in fact, Narada himself.

O Keshav! All that you say and have said so far, I accept without doubt and resentment. I take it to be the ultimate truth. O Prabhu[2]! You are such that no one, neither the demi-gods nor the demons can ever comprehend.

O the best of all men! O king of the cosmos! O God of the Gods! O life-giver! O the Lord of all beings! There are only two who know you – you yourself and those you choose should know you. Unless you choose to appear in a man’s aatman and pave the way, there is no way in which one can get even close.

O Krishna! For my benefit, please tell me in detail, of your splendour and charm, your mysticism, something only you are capable of talking about. Talk to me of that divinity that enables you to be still, despite being the cause of all activity there is.

O King of Yoga! How should I think of you constantly to be able to know you? Also, in what form should I worship you? What qualities should I think about when I think of you? In what form of yours do I meditate on you?

O Janardana! Kindly repeat for me, this time in greater detail, your divine qualities and nature for despite having heard so much from you, I feel hungry for more.

Krishna to Arjuna:

O the best of the Kuru clan! For your sake, I will now narrate some of my divine forms, for there is no end to this description.

O Arjuna! I am the aatman that dwells in every heart, and I am the sole cause of the birth, life and death of all beings in the universe.

Of the Adityas[3], I am Vishnu. Of all sources of light, I am the sun. Of all winds, I am Marichi[4]. Of all nakshatras[5], I am the moon.

Of the Vedas[6], I am the Saam-veda[7]. Of the demi-gods, I am the king of heaven (swarga), Indra.[8] Of all senses, I am the mind. Of all beings, I am the pristine aatman that gives them life.

Of all rudras[9], I am Shiva. Of all demons, I am Kubera, the Lord of wealth. Of all Vasus[10], I am fire (agni). Of all mountain peaks, I am Meru[11].

O Parth! Of all priests, think of me as Brihaspati[12]. Of all army commanders, I am Kartikeya[13]. Of all water bodies, I am the ocean.

Of the great sages, I am Bhrigu[14]. Of all vibrations, I am Omkar[15], the holy syllable. Of all sacred offerings, I am japa, the chanting of holy names and mantras. Of all things immovable, I am himalaya, the mountain peak.

Of all trees, I am pipal[16]. Of all holy messengers, I am Narada[17]. Of the Gandharvas[18], I am Chitraratha[19]. Of all mystics, I am Kapila[20].

Of all horses, I am the nectar-born Uchchhaishravas[21]. Of all elephants, I am Airavat[22], and of all humans, I am the monarch.

Of all weapons, I am vajra[23], the thunderbolt, I am Surabhi[24] among all cows. I am Kama[25], the God of righteous sexual pleasure. Among the serpents, I am Vasuki[26].

Of all hooded serpents (nagas), I am Ananta[27]. Of all aquatic beings, I am Varuna[28], the God of the ocean. Of deceased ancestors (pitras), I am Aryama[29].  Of all punctual beings, I am the God of death, Yama.

Of all demons, I am the devotee Prahlad[30]. Of all things that can control, I am time. I am the lion among beasts, and garuda[31] among the birds.

Of all things that purify, I am the wind. Of all men who ever held weapons I am Rama[32]. Of all fish, I am the crocodile. Of all rivers, I am the Ganges.

O Arjuna! Of all planets and worlds, I am the beginning, middle and the end. Of all sciences, I am the knowledge of the divine, the brahma-vidya. Of all things logical, I am the truth.

Of all alphabets, I am the first letter. I am the never-ending time and the humongous form that carries everything within it.

I am death, the powerful destroyer. I am the future that shall re-create everything. I am the virtues and desirable qualities of women – fame, beauty, sweetness of the voice, memory, intellect, faithfulness and forgiveness.

Of the hymns of the Saam-veda, I am the Brihat-sama[33]. Of the Vedic poetic meters (chhandas), I am gayatri[34]. Of the months, I am marga-sheesh[35]. Of the seasons, I am spring (basant).

I am the gamble that strips you of your wealth. I am the intelligence of the intelligent, the victory of the winner, the determination of the businessman, and the truth of the righteous.

Of all the descendants of Vrishni[36], I am Vasudeva[37]. Of the Pandavas, I am Arjuna. Of the sages, I am Ved Vyasa[38], and of all political experts, I am Usana Shukracharya[39].

I am the punishment meted to the wrong-doer and the strategy of those who desire victory. I am the silence of the secret-keeper, and the knowledge of the learned.

O Arjuna! I am the seed from which germinates the universe and all its beings, for there is none, whether movable or immovable that can survive without me for even an instant.

O destroyer of enemies! My physical and divine forms are endless and this narration is merely a summary for the sake of my dear friend which is you.

All things beautiful, powerful and illustrious that you ever behold, think of them as emanating from a mere streak of my true light and illumination.

However, O Arjuna! Why should you need to know all this in so much detail, when you hear this from me, the one who with mere will and out of just a speck of his existence holds this cosmos in place?

Image taken from Google images

 

[1] The first four descendants of the creator Brahma who were devout devotees of Lord Vishnu, as per Hindu mythology

[2] Simply, God.

[3] Literally, the twelve sons of Aditi, all representing sun-gods. A different aditya or sun-god is believed to shine in each different month of the calendar year. Of these, the head sun-god is believed to be Vishnu, which Krishna claims he is.

[4] One among the forty-nine different wind-gods collectively referred to as the maruts. Marichi is the one that causes the pleasant, gentle breeze.

[5] An enveloping term for all celestial bodies – mobile (like planets) and immobile (like the stars).

[6] The oldest body of Hindu literature, divided into four texts – the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Saam-Veda and the Atharva-Veda.

[7] Believed to be the oldest with poetic verses that can be sung to music.

[8] Indra is the head of all demi-gods or devas, responsible for causing rain, lightning and thunder.

[9] Literally speaking, the term rudra means ‘the howler’. According to Hindu mythology, the rudras, eleven in number are the sons of Kashyapa with his wife Aditi. These are all associated with the various forms of Shiva, the destroyer.

[10] The word literally means ‘dweller’ or ‘the one dwelling’. Eight in number, the vasus represent the attendant deities of the Lord of rain, Indra. These eight represent the elements of nature that cause all cosmic phenomenon.

[11] Meru is a mountain peak that lies in the Garhwal Himalayan region in the state of Uttarakhand, India. The word literally means ‘spine’ in Sanskrit, probably referring to the shape and appearance of the mountain peak. This peak has been recognized as one of the hardest routes in the world by mountaineers.

[12] The name of the sage Brihaspati comes frequently in the Rig Veda as one born out of divine light, dispelling darkness. Revered for his intellect and character, he is considered the teacher (Guru) of the demi-gods (devas).

[13] Kartikeya, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is the Hindu God of war. He is believed to be the commander-in-chief of the army of Gods.

[14] Bhrigu is one of the seven great sages (the sapt-rishis) born out of the mind of Brahma, the creator.

[15] Omkar or pranava is the primordial sound from which the cosmos is believed to have come into existence. In Hindu mythology, it is considered both a sacred sound and symbol, being sounded before and after the recitation of any religious and spiritual text.

[16] Pipal, or the ficus religiosa belongs to the fig family and is native to the Indian sub-continent. It is believed that devas or demi-gods dwell in its leaves, for the reason that its leaves appear to move continuously even when the air around it is absolutely still. Incidentally, Gautam Buddha attained salvation under a pipal tree, also giving it the name – Bodhi tree.

[17] A Vedic sage, who went from planet to planet, narrating stories and singing hymns in praises of Lord Vishnu.

[18] Male natural spirits in Hindu mythology, believed to be musicians in the courts of Gods.

[19] The king of the gandharvas.

[20] A Vedic sage, credited with the creation of the Hindu philosophy of Sankhya.

[21] A mythical seven-headed, flying horse that appeared during the churning of the ocean for amrita or the nectar of immortality. Considered the king of horses, this horse was later seized by Indra for use as his vehicle.

[22] The mystical white elephant, believed to guard Indra’s palace, the Swarga.

[23] The weapon of the Hindu deity for rain and thunder – Indra.

[24] Another name for Kamadhenu, the mother of all cows in Hindu mythology. She is believed to have emerged from the churning of the cosmic ocean. She is believed to be the ‘cow of plenty’ providing her owner with whatever he may desire.

[25] The Hindu deity of longing and sensual pleasure. He is also referred to as Manmatha that literally translates into ‘the churner of the mind’.

[26] The king serpent in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. He is believed to carry a gem on his hood, called the nagamani. Incidentally, Vasuki is the same serpent that Lord Shiva wears as an ornament around his neck.

[27] The cosmic serpent (also called Shesha-naag) that is believed to carry all worlds and planets of the universe on its various (endless) hoods. Lord Vishnu is often depicted as resting on this serpent.

[28] This statement has probably to do with the fact that Varuna is believed to dwell in the ocean.

[29] Considered the head of ancestors or the Great Ancestor. Is revered and made offerings for the benefit of deceased ancestors.

[30] An unflinching devotee of Vishnu, born to the demonic king Hiranyakashipu.

[31] A legendary bird in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Also the mount of Lord Vishnu.

[32] The seventh incarnation (avatar) of Lord Vishnu, born to Kaushalya and King Dashratha in Ayodhya.

[33] This is cconsidered the most powerful and spiritually-charged chant (mantra) of the Saam-Veda and is chanted with music.

[34] Considered the shortest and the most sacred of all meters in Vedic literature, comprising 3 verses of 8 syllables each. To know what a poetic meter is, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metre_(poetry).

[35] The ninth month in the Hindu lunar calendar that falls between November and December in the calendar year.

[36] An ancient Indian clan (also called the Yadava clan) that hailed from the city of Dwaraka. Krishna belonged to this clan.  

[37] Another name for Krishna.

[38] Literally, ‘the compiler of the Vedas’. A highly revered character in Hindu mythology, he is believed to have authored the Mahabharata and also acted as scribe for both the Vedas and Puranas.

[39] An expert in matters of politics and administration. Also the author of the Sukraniti.