Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL

Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL
Sri Radha Govinda, Amsterdam NL (Personal Deities)

20 June 2007

The Beauty of the Gita part I


Summary Study of Chapter 1

Verse 1

One will find in the Bhagavad-gita all that is contained in other scriptures, but the reader will also find things which are not to be found elsewhere. That is the specific standard of the Gita. It is the perfect theistic science because it is directly spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord sri Krsna.

The word dharma-ksetra (a place where religious rituals are performed) is significant because, on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was present on the side of His friend Arjuna. Kuruksetra was formerly known as Samanta-pancaka because there Lord Parasurama filled five lakes with the blood of 21 generations of ksatriyas (royal warriors) whom he killed. Later King Kuru performed austerities there and it thus became known as Kuruksetra.

Because the battle was arranged to be fought at Kuruksetra, which is mentioned elsewhere in the Vedas as a place of worship even for the denizens of heaven, Dhrtarastra, the father of the Kurus, became very fearful about the influence of the holy place on the outcome of the battle. He knew very well that this would influence Arjuna and the sons of Pandu favorably, because by nature they were all virtuous.

Another important word here is mamakah which means “my party”. Actually we all belong to Krsna and there is no “my” anything. Although conditioned souls may forget this and under maya’s spell will identify with family and loved ones, this is not acceptable from the executive head or king whose duty is to guide his subjects away from illusion. If the government is in illusion what hope is there for the subjects? The first qualification of government or king is that they represent God. God has given them the power over the citizens so they can uplift them, not exploit them. Thus, to rectify this situation Krsna engineered the battle of Kuruksetra. dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge , “To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium”. (Bg 4.8).

Verse 9

Here Duryodhana uses the words: mad-arthe tyakta-jivitah or “prepared to lay down their lives for my sake “. Although Duryodhana is speaking from the platform of false ego, his words turn out to be an inderect prophesy as Krsna confirms in the eleventh chapter, mayaivaite nihatah purvam eva , or, “they are already put to death by My arrangement”.

Verses 39, 40 & 41

(often quoted by srila Prabhupada in his lectures and writings)

These three verses contain Arjuna’s first argument against fighting. He says: if we kill all the men of the ruling class (ksatriyas ) then the women will be unprotected.

When women are not protected they will be exploited. The vedic system of family samskara (religious tradition) will stop. This refers chiefly to garbhadhana-samskara or the process of producing good progeny. Arjuna: strisu dustasu varsneya jayate varna-sankarah , “From the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vrsni (Krsna) , comes unwanted population”. Good population in human society is the basic principle for peace, prosperity and spiritual progress in life.

In the varnasrama institution there are many principles of religious traditions to help members of the family grow properly and attain spiritual values. The elder members are responsible for for such purifying processes in the family, beginning from birth to death. If the elder members of the family are slain, the younger ones may, lacking good example, neglect their samskaras and develop irreligious habits thus losing their chance in human life of attaining salvation.

Why was this Arjuna’s first concern? Because he was leader of men who understood his duty as a member of the royal order very well. What are the duties and qualities of a ksatriya?

Some of the prominent personalities mentioned in the first chapter

Duryodhana: Eldest son of Dhrtarastra. Determined enemy of the Pandavas having usurped the throne.
Dronacarya: Martial arts teacher of the princes, both Kurus and Pandavas.
Dhrstadyumna: Son of Drupada and born (along with his sister Draupadi) from sacrificial fire. Drupada prayed for a son to kill Dronacarya.
Bhima and Arjuna: Second and third Pandava brothers. Bhima is the son of Vayu the demigod of wind and Arjuna of Indra, king of the heavenly planets.
Yuyudhana: Also known as Satyaki. A Yadava. He was an amsa (empowered portion) of the Maruts, demigods of wind.
Virata: King of Matsya where the Pandavas spent their last year of exile incognito. His daughter Uttara married Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna and Subhadra.
Drupada: King of Pancala. enemy of Dronacarya.
Dhrstaketu: King of Cedi. Son of Sisupala (who was killed by Krsna in the royal assembly of Yudhisthira’s Rajasuya sacrifice). Killed by Drona.
Cekitana: Famous archer of the Vrsni dynasty. Killed by Duryodhana.
Kasiraja: Son of the king of Benares who was installed as monarch after Krsna killed his father.
Purujit: Son of Kuntibhoja and stepbrother of Kunti.
Kuntibhoja: A king in the Yadu dynasty. Cousin of Vasudeva. Foster father of Vasudeva’s sister Kunti. Therefore Kunti is Krsna’s aunt.
Saibya: Great archer. Fought on the side of Duryodhana.
Yudhamanyu: Prince of Pancalas. He was Arjuna’s bodyguard. Killed by Asvatthama.
Uttamauja: Guard of Arjuna’s right chariot wheel. Killed by Asvatthama.
Saubhadrah: Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna and Subhadra. A maharati car warrior almost as good as his father. He is the son of the moon god, Candra. Killed by the combined effort of the Kuru’s maharatis.
Draupadeyas: The five sons of Draupadi: Prativindya (by Yudhisthira), Srutasoma (by Bhima), Srutakirti (by Arjuna), Satanika (by Nakula), Srutakarma (by Sahadeva).
Bhisma: Son of Gangadevi. The paternal grandfather of the princes.
Karna: Secret son of Surya the sun god and Kunti. Adopted by the suta (charioteer, lower caste than ksatriya) Radheya.
Krpa: along with Dronacarya he was the martial arts teacher of the Kuru and Pandava princes.
Asvatthama: Son of Dronacarta by Kripi, the sister of Krpacarya. Fanatic follower of Duryodhana. When the war was lost he unleashed the Brahmastra weapon to try to end end the Pandava dynasty. He was captured and then pardoned by Arjuna at the insistence of Draupadi.
Vikarna: One of Duryodhana’s one hundred brothers and one of the eleven maharatas among them.
Saumadatti: Known as Bhurisrava . Son of the king of the Bahlikas . Fought on Duryodhana’s side.
Sikhandi: He was Amba (princess of Kasi) reborn to cause the death of Bhisma.
Jayadratha: King of Sindh. Married Dussala (Duryodhana’s sister). Kidnapped Draupadi and for this was humiliated by Arjuna who shaved off his hair and mustache and dragged him in front of all the assembled kings and made him swear allegiance to his brother, King Yudhisthira.
Krtavarma: Born in the Vrsni dynasty. Friend of Arjuna.
Salya: King of Madras. Brother of Madri (one of the two mothers of the Pandavas). He was to fight on the Pandavas’ side but was diplomatically ensnared by Duryodhana to join his side instead.

14 June 2007

By way of introduction... a Travelogue

Some notes on the Vedas - their importance to life and love in South India

Tiruchendur, 20 February '06

After three weeks at the foothills of the Western Ghat mountains that separate Tamil Nadu from Kerala, I have moved to a new ashram by the sea at Tiruchendur. I am in a small village well outside the city and 5 minutes from the beach. Kulashekaram Pattinam, the village, is named after the renowned king of Travancore (modern day Trivandrum the capital of Kerala) and is set in a natural harbor. From this harbor Indian navigators sailed to Lanka and further to the Far East to trade their spices such as cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and pepper as well as jaggery (natural brown sugar), dried coconut, cashews and almonds. This was around 3000 BC (yes, that's five thousand years ago). Modern anthropologists, followers of Darwin's theory, do not accept that there was civilized life on this planet at that time, but Vedic written and, most important, oral and cultural tradition, speaks of spiritually evolved society going back millions of years.

Indian books of knowledge are called Vedas and include the Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva vedas which deal mainly with the mantras (chants) and methodology of performing sacrificial rites usually aimed at the demigods like Surya (sun), Candra (moon), Indra (rain), Siva, Durga and so on with the aim of assuring material prosperity. This primary driving force for religious rites is called artha, or material development aimed at kama, or satisfaction of the senses. The supply of light and heat, rain and so on is out of our hands so why not worship the powers that supply these necessities? Something like, if you don't pay your electricity and water bills the supply will be cut off. The majority of people are happy with this. Let our necessities be given and let us enjoy in unobstructed ignorance of our spiritual identity. They forget that cruel death is waiting in the wings to end their part in this illusory stage play. We will be kicked out and it seems madness to me to arrive at that point without having made a concentrated effort to discover who am I really? What am I doing here? Where will I go? Can my action determine the outcome? The convention is to tag these questions as imponderables, but the Vedas very much beg to differ. Therefore there is another, deeper, section of the Vedas comprising of the Vedanta, Upanishads, Puranas and Itihasas (Ramayana and Mahabharata). This section deals with our spiritual identity and how to revive our lost, loving relationship with our creator. The Vedic version is clear: the only absolute reality is the soul, atma, and its relationship with the supreme soul, paramatma. Everything else is but a passing show -- life after life.

But lets get back to the king. Maharaja Kulashekhara was born into the Sera dynasty of the royal family of Travancore, the southern half of the modern state of Kerala, in southwest India. The rulers of the land did not claim to own the kingdom but considered themselves vassals and ministers to Ananta Padmanabha Swami, the Deity of Visnu, whom they regarded as the actual owner of the land. Ananta Padmanabha, situated at Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), was, and still is, the worshipable Deity of the people of that area. The kings of Travancore would come daily before the Lord to offer obeisances and report on the administration of the country. (The tradition of the Maharaja of Travancore’s visiting Lord Ananta Padmanabha Swami goes on to the present day, even though the king has no real political power.) Such was the pious and saintly quality of the ancient line of Vedic kings among whom Maharaja Kulashekhara appeared. Kulashekhara was a ksatriya (ruler and military man) of great prowess and became king not only of the Sera lands but also of the neighboring lands of the Pandya and Chola dynasties. His flawless administration stood for peace, virtue, justice, and happiness. He nourished the people, and he personified magnanimity.

Sometime in the middle of his rule, he had a spiritual vision and renounced the throne, moved to the holy place of Sri Rangam and dedicated his life to spiritual cultivation. He is famous throughout India for writing the Mukunda Mala Stotram, a garland of verses to Krishna, the giver of liberation. A sampler:

“I have no attraction for performing religious rituals or holding any earthly kingdom. I do not care for sense enjoyments; let them appear and disappear in accordance with my previous deeds. My only desire is to be fixed in devotional service to the lotus feet of the Lord, even though I may continue to take birth here life after life.”

“My Lord, I do not worship You to be liberated from this material entanglement, nor do I wish to save myself from the hellish condition of material existence, nor do I pray for a beautiful wife to enjoy in a nice garden. I wish only that I may always be in full ecstasy with the pleasure of serving Your Lordship.”

"The desert of material existence has exhausted me. But today I will cast aside all troubles by diving into the lake of Lord Hari (Krishna) and drinking freely of the abundant waters of His splendor. The lotuses in that lake are His hands and feet, and the fish are His brilliant shining eyes. That lake's water relieves all fatigue and is agitated by the waves His arms create. Its current flows deep beyond fathoming."

With affection,