Chapter three

To remove Arjuna’s confusion about whether he should fight or not, Krishna says this: ‘I have already told you that, in this world, aspirants may find enlightenment by two different paths. For the contemplative is the path of knowledge: for the active is the path of selfless action. Freedom from activity is never achieved by abstaining from action. Nobody can become perfect by merely ceasing to act. In fact, nobody can ever rest from his activity even for a moment. All are helplessly forced to act by the gunas. A man who renounces certain physical actions but still lets his mind dwell on the objects of his sensual desire, is deceiving himself. he can only be called a hypocrite. The truly admirable man controls his senses by the power of his will. All his actions are disinterested. all are directed along the path to union with Brahman. Activity is better than inertia. Act, but with self-control. if you are lazy, you cannot even sustain your own body. Perform every action with Brahman in mind, and be free from all attachments to the results.’

Detachment is one of the most important messages in yoga practice. Self-examination is another. Watching your own thoughts leads to progress along the spiritual path. The Gita explains so many of our questions…

Krishna explains

In answer to Arjuna’s severe misgivings, Krishna explains the Yoga of Knowledge. he says: ‘Arjuna, is this hour of battle the time for scruples and fancies? Are they worthy of you who seek enlightenment? Any brave man who merely hopes for fame or heaven would despise them. What is this weakness? It is beneath you. Is it for nothing that men call you the foe-consumer? Shake off this cowardice, Arjuna. Stand up.’

Arjuna continues to debate the rights or wrongs of this war, and the noble people who he must fight and kill. Krishna explains that the soul does not die and he says: ‘Worn-out garments are shed by the body: worn-out bodies are shed by the dweller within the body. new bodies are donned by the dweller, like garments.’

So we meet the eternal spiritual debate. Is there life after death? Do we believe in reincarnation?

Krishna recommends releasing attachment to actions. He recommends steadiness of purpose. he says: ‘Water flows continually into the ocean but the ocean is never disturbed: desire flows into the mind of the seer but he is never disturbed. The seer knows peace: the man who stirs up his own lusts can never know peace. He knows peace who has forgotten desire. He lives without craving: free from ego, free from pride.’

The first chapter

The first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita deals with Arjuna’s sorrow at finding himself at war with his kinsmen. He asks Krishna to pull up his chariot so that he can see the men in their battle-lines.

Arjuna says: ‘Krishna, Krishna, now I look on these my kinsmen arrayed for battle, my limbs are weakened, my mouth is parching, my body trembles, my hair stands upright, my skin seems burning, the bow Govinda slips from my hand, my brain is whirling round and round, I can stand no longer: Krishna I see such omens of evil! What can we hope from this killing of kinsmen?’

We are put in mind that AHIMSA, non-violence is the first rule of yoga. It is the first of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Arjuna has no desire to fight and kill his family members. At the end of this chapter, he resolves to put down his weapons and to allow his evil cousin to kill him. This seems preferable. This chapter sets the scene for Krishna’s advice to his protege.

 

The back story

The back story to the Bhagavad Gita is this: ‘After the death of King Pandu, in India, his brother Dhritarashtra succeeded to the throne. He educated the five sons of Pandu, along with his own one hundred sons. The Pandavas grew up to be kind, noble and accomplished. Dritarashtra’s eldest son became insanely jealous and planned to murder them.. Duryodhana was the name of this evil man, and he built a palace in a distant town and invited the Pandavas there. His servants were to set the palace alight and to burn all of his cousins. Fortunately, the Pandavas were warned and they escaped with their mother, Kunti. Duryodhana believed them to be dead.

The Pandavas lived in the forest, disguised as holy men, where they encountered many dangers and adventures. Through bravery and skill, Arjuna won the hand of a princess, who Duryodhana also endeavoured to secure. Now, of course, he knew that they were not only alive but connected to an important monarch. Despite Dritarashtra’s desire to see his nephews settled, Duryodhana continued to plot for their downfall. He tempted them to a fixed game of dice, on which they had pledged all their rights and their homes. Having lost this game, the Pandavas were once again reduced to wandering in the forest as exiles.

When the period of exile was over, the eldest of the Pandavas, Yudhisthira, asked for just one village for himself, and one for his brothers. Duryodhana, incensed with greed and jealousy, refused even this humble request and war became inevitable.

The Gita is the explanation of the spiritual journey of man. It features the conversations and relationship between Arjuna of the Pandavas, and Krishna. Krishna is an aspect of Brahman, the ultimate reality. He plays Arjuna’s charioteer in this epic tale.

The BHAGAVAD GITA

All classical yoga practice is based on The Eight Limbs of Yoga, compiled by Patanjali. We have been exploring this route to bliss.

The Bhagavad Gita is often referred to as the ‘bible’ of yoga practice. It is known as the Perennial Philosophy. Mahatma Gandhi was never seen without his Gita, and I would like to move on to an exploration of this great work.

The Mahabharata is said to be the longest poem in the world. In its original form, it consisted of 24,000 verses, and it grew to about 100,000. The Gita is part of that epic poem, and it is said that it was inserted after the Mahabharata had been completed.

The Bhagavad Gita is the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna on the battlefield. This work defines the true yogi as one who acts with detachment, not caring for gain, but who has perfect self-control and total equanimity. The true yogi sees good or God in all things. He walks in beauty.

SAMADHI, bliss

How many times a day do YOU experience bliss?

I was just squeezed in to my big chair with our handsome, furry dog. We sat there together in total harmony. Neither of us wanted to be anywhere else. Moments of pure bliss passed by, and then I thought ‘this is bliss’. In that moment, the spell was broken. Even with that delightful thought, I had dissolved the bliss;  I had named it and reduced it to a thought.

Bliss is the Eighth Limb of Yoga. This is what we have been striving for; this is our goal. ‘Ahh’ moments, when we gaze at a rainbow, the full moon, a rose, or hug a beautiful grandchild. Moments when thought is suspended and we are totally present. Samadhi is Self-realisation, but it is so pure that only that blissful word, bliss, can describe it.

 

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