Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bhagavad Gītā catuḥ-ślokī 3

Gītā catuḥ-ślokī 3

|| 10.10 ||

तेषां सततयुक्तानां भजतां प्रीतिपूर्वकम्।
ददामि बुद्धियोगं तं येन मामुपयान्ति ते॥१०॥

teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁ bhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakam |
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ yena mām upayānti te ||

ahaṁ teṣāṁ (pūrva-ślokayoḥ ukta-budhānāṁ) satata-yuktānāṁ prīti-pūrvakam bhajatāṁ buddhi-yogaṁ dadāmi. kaṁ buddhi-yogaṁ ? taṁ yena te mām upayānti.

  • satataṁ = (adv.) constantly
  • yuktānāṁ = “connected” (past.part. from √yuj, genitive plural) nityābhiyuktānāṁ nivṛtta-sarva-bāhyaiṣaṇānāṁ: “those who are permanently connected and have given up all their external cravings (bāhya eṣaṇa)” (Śaṅkara)
  • bhajatāṁ = “of those worshiping” (pres. part. from √bhaj, genitive plural) sevamānānām. ("of those serving")
  • prītiḥ = (f.) love. snehaḥ.
  • prīti-pūrvakaṁ = “with love” (adding pūrvakam to a noun is one way of creating an adverb or adverbial phrase, “lovingly.” This describes bhajatām. How are they worshiping?) prītiḥ snehas tat-pūrvakaṁ māṁ bhajatām ity arthaḥ.
  • dadāmi = “I give.” prayacchāmi.
  • buddhi-yogaṁ = yoga here means “connection.” “contact with intelligence” buddhiḥ samyag darśanaṁ mat-tattva-viṣayaṁ, tena yogo buddhi-yogas taṁ buddhi-yogam, samyag-darśana-lakṣaṇaṁ. "Intelligence means samyag darśanaṁ or proper knowledge about my position." (Śaṅkara)
  • upayānti = approach, come close. (upa) pratipadyante

To them who are [thus] constantly joined with me, who worship me with love, I give the yoga of intelligence by which they come to me.


Though all these verses are essential (and as such a part of the Bhagavad Gītā catuḥ-ślokī), this verse and the next show most clearly where they fit into the overall scheme of the book, which on the most general level is about the decision making process, i.e., the realm of buddhi. Whereas mind processes the data and presents the options for action, the intelligence makes the decision.

The first verse of the three gave the Gītā's sambandha, the second the abhidheya. The last two give the prayojana. Though the last two verses have similarity, the differences need to be noticed.

Buddhi has been promised from the beginning of the Gītā especially in the first chapter of Krishna's teachings. In 2.38 it is made explicit that there are always going to be two kinds of buddhi, one that consists of the right understanding only, and the other than expresses itself in right action. 2.48-53 also speak of buddhi, and in particular the kind of intelligence that has becomes free of all constraints, religious and scriptural (vaidika) or social (laukika).

yadā te moha-kalilaṁ buddhir vyatitariṣyati |
tadā gantāsi nirvedaṁ śrotavyasya śrutasya ca ||
śruti-vipratipannā te yadā sthāsyati niścalā |
samādhāv acalā buddhis tadā yogam avāpsyasi ||
When your intelligence has passed beyond
the forest of confusion, dark and dense,
you shall become indifferent to all
that has been heard or ever will be heard.

Unaffected by scriptural injunction
when your intelligence stands firm
situated motionless in samadhi,
then will you attain to yoga.
We also saw there in the second chapter the processes by which intelligence is lost (2.62-63) as well as gained through subduing or pacifying the noise distortion that comes from hyperactivity of the mind and senses (2.65-66). And this discussion has been implicit through the intervening chapters and now brings us to this point here where Krishna summarizes the formula for accessing the intelligence to act in this world and for what purpose.

There is one mentality that is authoritarian and will only accept what is ordained by scripture or has been fully vetted by the rational mind. There is another mentality that more recognizes the intuitive function and responds to a wider set of data, including the fundamental emotional needs of the human being. It is the synthesis of these two that results in proper buddhi and which leads to ethical action.

Discriminating intelligence is something that cannot be learned from texts alone. An over-attachment to textual knowledge can hamper one in the decision making process. The surrender that Krishna will talk about in Gita 18.66 is in fact what is being stated here. "You surrender to Me and you act, and don't worry, because whatever you decide, whatever your intelligence dictates to you, right or wrong, that will come from Me; you will act as my instrument and the results are therefore entirely in my hands."

The primary characteristic of the buddhi that Krishna is talking about, therefore, is the one that answers the question: "How will this action or non-action bring me closer to Krishna?" In other words, the inner guidance to ethical action comes to those who fit the qualifications, i.e., have undergone the inner purification process given in this and the two previous verses.

Here Vishwanath writes nicely
satata-yuktānāṁ nityam eva mat-samyogākāṅkṣāṇāṁ taṁ buddhi-yogaṁ dadāmi teṣāṁ hṛd-vṛttiṣv aham eva udbhāvayāmīti | sa buddhi-yogaḥ svato'nyasmāc ca kutaścid apy adhigantum aśakyaḥ kintu mad-eka-deyas tad-eka-grāhya iti bhāvaḥ | 
Those who are always joined means those who desire to always and only be with me. To them I give the connection to their inner intuitive intelligence (buddhi-yoga), in other words, I alone produce it in the functions of the heart. One cannot realize this connection to the intelligence by oneself or from any other source at all. It is mine alone to give, and the one who receives it alone can understand it.
Here the last line is particularly significant. This kind of knowledge is sui generis, in the sense that ethical decisions have to be taken individually, i e. without being submerged into any group think, But at the same time without ego -- selfish or alienated -- motivation.

Compassion and Bhakti-rasa, Part I

kṛṣṇera saṁsāra koro chāḍi anācāra
jīve dayā kṛṣṇa-nāma-- sarva-dharma-sāra

Compassion is a value that is universally admired as essential to the spiritually evolved human being. Indeed, I doubt that any religion on earth does not in some way make it a center point of its concept of spiritual advancement.

In particular, Mahayana Buddhism has a very developed concept of compassion. I am not an expert on Buddhism, just taking a couple of undergrad courses back in the day, but more and more people -- including a lot of disaffected devotees -- seem to be taking shelter of Buddhism, and one of the points to which they seem to be attracted is the Buddhist idea of universal compassion (bodhi-citta).

Looking at several Buddhist websites (forgive my lack of due diligence), it seems that the consensus definition of compassion there is "a mind that is motivated by cherishing other living beings and wishes to release them from their suffering." On a good site comprehensively summarizing issues related to Buddhism and compassion with numerous quotes from various modern authorities, we find the following:
One can distinguish the three different scopes of motivation to engage in Buddhist practices:
  • With the lowest scope of motivation, one realises the problems one can encounter in the next life, and one is concerned about working to achieve a good rebirth. In fact, this is not even a spiritual goal, as it relates to worldly happiness for oneself alone.
  • With the medium scope of motivation, one realises that within cyclic existence there is no real happiness to be found, and one strives for personal liberation or Nirvana.
  • With the highest scope of motivation, one realises that all sentient beings are suffering within cyclic existence, and one strives to free all beings from suffering.
There are many good instructions for developing compassion on that site, and I believe that anyone from any serious religious tradition will find them helpful and entirely acceptable.

Another useful and perhaps higher understanding is the following:
Our compassion is our Buddha seed or Buddha nature, our potential to become a Buddha. It is because all living beings possess this seed that they will all eventually become Buddhas.
It is no accident that the attitude of the mother is a frequent point of reference. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso writes:
If we genuinely want to realize our potential by attaining full enlightenment we need to increase the scope of our compassion until it embraces all living beings without exception, just as a loving mother feels compassion for all her children irrespective of whether they are behaving well or badly. This universal compassion is the heart of Mahayana Buddhism. Unlike our present, limited compassion, which already arises naturally from time to time, universal compassion must first be cultivated through training over a long period of time.
This is of course a very limited selection of quotes about Buddhist compassion, and I will not extend this article to any greater excess by analyzing Christian concepts of compassion. The Golden Rule, the Good Samaritan, the fishes and the loaves, the curing of the blind and leprous, etc., as well as a long tradition within Christianity testifies to the ideas of universal compassion and love. Indeed, as an example, the Dalai Lama himself thought of Mother Theresa [and Jesus] as a Bodhisattva (Dalai Lama (2002). An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life. Back Bay Books. p. 23.)

Though it may be argued that Hinduism or Brahminical culture with its emphasis on personal spiritual culture and mental purity has occasionally lost its way in keeping compassion for others central to its ethos, who can deny that the terms related to compassion, either as an attribute of God, the avataras or of the saints, the guru and the religious texts themselves, are ubiquitous? Whether or not it was characteristic of the times and the influence of Christianity criticism and example in the 19th century, there was a recrudescence of the emphasis of the practice of charity and compassion [along with the work ethic] that is best exemplified by Vivekananda. This emphasis also found its counterpart in the Vaishnava world, who took sharing the wisdom of bhakti to the masses as the highest welfare work and the greatest compassion.

Srila Prabhupada was inspired by the example and teachings of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, but can anyone deny that they had resources in their own textual and practical tradition? One of Srila Prabhupada's favorite verses came from the Seventh Canto, spoken by Prahlad to Nrisingha:

prāyeṇa deva munayaḥ sva-vimukti-kāmā
maunaṁ caranti vijane na parārtha-niṣṭhāḥ |
naitān vihāya kṛpaṇān vimumukṣa eko
nānyaṁ tvad asya śaraṇaṁ bhramato'nupaśye ||
The sages who dedicate themselves to self realization nearly always seek their own liberation and so stay clear of worldly company and practice silence. They have no determination to help others. But I will not abandon these miserly materialistic people who wander through the material world, birth after birth, just to find salvation for myself alone, for I see no other shelter for them than you. (7.9.44)
And Prabhupada repeated this verse to his disciples often, in order to prevent them from falling into what he saw as the error of nirjana-bhajana. Certainly this recalls the bodhi-sattva ethos. One may say that the Vaishnavas had appropriated it from Buddhism or from Christianity, but what does it matter where an idea comes from once it has been made one's own?

Nevertheless, Prahlada's verse does highlight a problem I mentioned towards the end of another article I posted recently, and we will return to that in a next installment, of which I expect there to be several.





Bhagavad Gītā catuḥ-ślokī 2

Gītā catuḥ-ślokī 2

|| 10.9 ||

मच्चित्ता मद्गतप्राणा बोधयन्तः परस्परम्।
कथयन्तश्च मां नित्यं तुष्यन्ति च रमन्ति च॥

mac-cittā mad-gata-prāṇā bodhayantaḥ parasparam |
kathayantaś ca māṁ nityaṁ tuṣyanti ca ramanti ca ||

[te pūrva-ślokoktā budhāḥ]

·         mac-cittāḥ = Like man-manāḥ in 9.34, mayi cittaṁ yeṣāṁ te mac-cittāḥ.
·         mad-gata-prāṇāḥ = to me, gone, life. Again, this is a bahuvrīhi, so the compound is describing the devotees. māṁ gatāḥ prāptāś cakṣur-ādayaḥ prāṇā yeṣāṁ te | athavā, mad-gata-prāṇāḥ mad-gata-jīvanā ity etat.
·         bodhayantaḥ = “making understand, explaining, enlightening.” (Nom. pl. of present participle, masculine from budh in the causative). avagamayantaḥ
·         parasparam = adv. indeclinable. “each other, mutually, reciprocally” anyo’nyam,
·         kathayantaḥ = “speaking” (Nom. pl. of present participle, masculine from kath, kathayati)
·         tuṣyanti = get satisfaction, pleasure (from √tuṣ) paritoṣam upayānti ca
·         ramanti = love, enjoy loving union (from √ram, which is usually ātmanepada) ratiṁ ca prāpnuvanti priya-saṅgatyeva.

Thinking of me, their lives dedicated to me, enlightening one another, talking about me always, they are satisfied and joyful.

This is one of the most joyful verses in the Gita and perhaps more than anything else gives a foretaste of the blissful state of communion with God and the society of devotees.

Madhusudana has some nice insights on this verse.
mayi cittārpaṇaṁ tathā bāhya-karaṇārpaṇaṁ tathā jīvanārpaṇam evaṁ samānām anyonyaṁ mad-bodhanaṁ sva-nyūnebhyaś ca mad-upadeśanam ity evaṁ-rūpaṁ yan mad-bhajanaṁ tenaiva tuṣyanti ca | etāvataiva labdha-sarvārthā vayam alam anyena labdhavyenety evaṁ-pratyaya-rūpaṁ santoṣaṁ prāpnuvanti ca |
The first characteristic is surrendering the mind to God, the next is to offer up the functions of the outer senses and one's bodily existence itself, Then one goes on in the association of one's peers [out of a desire to understand me, i.e, the realities of the Supreme Truth, within the company of the learned one inquires about and discuss the revelations of the past along with logical reasoning], and finally to those who are less advanced one gives instructions about me. By this process of bhajan alone are they satisfied. Their supreme satisfaction takes the form, "By this achievement alone are we completely fulfilled, what need have we for other goals in life?"... Satisfaction means the destruction of desire, and for this reason Patanjali writes: santoṣād anuttamaḥ sukha-lābhaḥ (YS 2.42): "One attains unexcelled happiness from satisfaction."
Vishwanath also speaks with the insight of the Gaudiya sampradaya, seeing the best of the devotional processes, namely smaraṇa, śravaṇa and kīrtana being described here and moreover seeing rāgānugā bhakti being hinted at in the last line. But since I am in the process of mulling over the idea of compassion at the moment, I like it that Madhusudan has paraphrased the madhyama devotee ideals, including disinterest in the non-devotional or non-spiritual (upekṣā).

This verse is the most joyous in the Gita. Even verse 9.14, which also describes kīrtana and the joys of devotion, is not so exultant as here with the word ramanti. It is an indicator of the attainment of rasa, for when the mind is absorbed in single-pointed thought of Krishna, when one's life is surrendered totally to him. When in the association of devotees one can sing and glorify his name, form and pastimes, and when one finds those of open minded curiosity about the Absolute to whom one can speak of these things, then there is unparalleled joy in the life of the devotee. Rasa comes on the individual level through smaraṇa, and in devotional association through śravaṇa and kīrtana. There is no rasa without an audience, and when the audience is sophisticated in its devotional cultured and the speaker or performer imbued with loving insight, then rasa attains flood-like proportions.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bhagavad Gītā catuḥ-ślokī 1

Just as there is a seven-verse Gītā, there is a tradition in the Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas, apparently started by Viśvanātha Cakravartī in the 17th century, of a four-verse Gītā. Like the four-verse Bhāgavatam (2.9.33-36), these verses are found clustered together in a sequence (10.8-11) close to the actual center of the book. Unlike the Bhāgavatam, however, they are not "self-proclaimed" as the essential teaching, nor do they contain mysterious utterances that require extended analysis and interpretation; they are straightforward.

You can decide for yourself which of the two mini-texts better summarizes the essence of the Bhagavad-gītā. But that will take detailed knowledge of the entire Gītā.


Gītā catuḥ-ślokī 1

|| 10.8 ||

अहं सर्वस्य प्रभवो मत्तः सर्वं प्रवर्तते।
इति मत्वा भजन्ते मां बुधा भावसमन्विताः॥८॥

ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate |
iti matvā bhajante māṁ budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ ||

Anvayaḥ: ahaṁ sarvasya jagataḥ prabhava utpattiḥ | matta eva sarvaṁ jagat pravartate | ity evaṁ matvā budhāḥ bhāva-samanvitāḥ māṁ bhajante ||
·         ahaṁ paraṁ brahma vāsudevākhyaṁ
·         sarvasya (jagataḥ)
·         prabhavaḥ = (m.) “the source of generation” utpattiḥ.
·         matta(see 15.15)
·         pravartate = becomes active, begins, proceed (from pra√vṛt, ātmanepada)
·         matvā = having thought, having accepted (gerund from man)
·         bhajante = to worship, serve (from √bhaj) sevante
·         budhā= the wise •   avagata-paramārtha-tattvāḥ.
·         bhāva = love, feeling, knowledge (Śaṅkara: bhāvo bhāvanā paramārtha-tattvābhiniveśaḥ: “it means the same as bhāvanā, which means absorption in the understanding of the Supreme Truth” See also Gita 2.66, page 83). Other commentators have:
    • Rāmānuja: bhāvo mano-vṛtti-viśeṣaḥ mayi spṛhayālavo māṁ bhajanta ity arthaḥ.Bhāva is a particular state of mind. Here it means that they worship me with the hopes of attaining me.”
    • Śrīdhara = prīti-yuktāḥ; “with loving affection.”
    • Madhusūdana: vivekenāvagata-tattva-bhāvena paramārtha-tattva-grahaṇa-rūpeṇa premṇā, “with love that takes the form of accepting supreme truth, i.e, through a mood of awareness of that truth through discriminating knowledge.”
    • Viśvanātha: bhāvo dāsya-sakhyādiḥ tad-yuktāḥ. Bhāva here refers to the particular relationships of service or friendship, etc.”
·         samanvitāḥ = possessed of, equipped with. (p.p. from sam + anu + √i) saṁyuktāḥ.

I am the source of all and all things begin from me. Those wise persons who have accepted this worship me with love.


I refrained from commenting on the previous verses, but perhaps I should say a word or two. The translation "love" here for bhāva seems to be universally agreed on, though there are still differences in the way the commentators look at it.

Does love really arise out of discriminatory wisdom? To some extent, I would say yes. If one has gratitude -- but gratitude usually requires good fortune. Discrimination o doubt helps us to recognize our good fortune: The world is good, life is good, even when mixed with suffering. Therefore, I give thanks with love.

Furthermore, if one sees God as the archetypal source of love and the different modes of love, then love seems a natural response. This is not a response to a tyrannical demand, but the way the part naturally relates to the Whole and the Source of its own being.


Is The Golden Rule a Vaishnava Principle?

This is an old article from way back published on the now defunct VNN site. I came across it as I was doing some research on compassion. There was no copy on the blog so I decided to repost it. It will be somewhat interesting to see the difference of style and content. One thing that springs quickly to anyone who reads my other stuff on this blog, is that I am directly addressing some hypothetical Iskcon audience. Anyway, check out the current article when I put it up. The link is dead.




EDITORIAL, Apr 25 (VNN) — In his article (Practical Standard of Goodness), Akhilesvara Prabhu recognizes the role that the Golden Rule has played in Western moral philosophy and asks the question whether we can find an alternative to it as the basis of morality. This is a significant question, and though it may seem self evident that we accept the idea of treating our neighbor as we would be treated ourselves, it is worth investigating.

The American transcendentalist Josiah Royce identified this ability to empathize as "The Moral Insight." It is in recognizing that whoever we encounter is a sentient being who suffers and enjoys in the same way as we that all moral philosophy is based. Otherwise, what prevents us from causing suffering to others in the name of whatever ideal happens to be moving us at the moment? Many examples could be given here, of events in recent days -- mass shootings in Ottawa, Denver, ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Would any of these things have been possible if the moral agents had been conscious of others as sentient beings?

Recently I read a text by V. S. Naipaul, the well-known Trinidadian author, called "Our Universal Civilization" (1991) in which he mentions his "...discovery, as a child, a child worried about pain and cruelty, ... of the Christian precept ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.'" Naipaul writes from his own experience of Hindu culture: "There was no such human consolation in the Hinduism I grew up with, and -- although I have never had any religious faith -- the simple idea was, and is, as dazzling to me, perfect as a guide to human behavior."

There are two points that I would like to address in this article. First of all, is the Golden Rule absent from Hinduism, as Naipaul holds? I hold that it, or something similar, does exist, though the implications of the idea have been seriously disturbed by the Hindu social system. Second, if it is present, as I believe, what is the implication of this idea for a devotee?

The response to the first question is that this principle does indeed exist in Hinduism, though perhaps it has never found as central a place there as in Christianity and the post-Christian world. There are three types of statement in Vaishnava scriptures about the way to see others: (1) to see all equally, (2) to recognize the similarity of others with one's self, (3) to see the presence of God in all beings.

(1) Egalitarianism

The injunction to see all equally is found in the Gita 5.18:

vidyā-vinaya-sampanne 
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śvapāke ca 
paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ
The truly learned see a Brahmin endowed with wisdom and culture, a cow, an elephant, a dog or a meat-eating outcaste as being equal.
The basis of such vision is, of course, the understanding that despite external differences, all living beings are spirit souls somewhere on their journey to divine perfection, whatever particular body they happen to be trapped in.

(2) Self-comparison

The second idea, which is perhaps closer to the Golden Rule, is also expressed in the Gita, where Krishna tells Arjuna in the sixth chapter:

ātmaupamyena sarvatra 
samaṁ paśyati yo'rjuna 
sukhaṁ vā yadi vā duḥkhaṁ 
sa yogī paramo mataḥ
One who sees everyone as equal through a comparison with himself, whether in happiness or distress, is considered the highest yogi.
This verse also contains the idea of spiritual equality. One recognizes the equality of all beings through comparing them with oneself. Prabhupad elaborates the implications of the idea in a verse from Cāṇakya-śloka (10) which he quoted frequently:

matṛvat para-dāreṣu
para-dravyeṣu loṣṭravat
ātmavat sarva-bhūteṣu
yaḥ paśyati sa paṇḍitaḥ
"One who considers another's wife as his mother, another's possessions as a lump of dirt and treats all other living beings as he would himself, is considered to be learned.
In several places, Prabhupada considers this dictum to be the basis of moral education. He says, "According to the moral instructions of Cāṇakya Paṇḍit, ātmavat sarva-bhūteṣu: one should observe all living entities to be on the same level as oneself. This means that no one should be neglected as inferior; because Paramatma is seated in everyone's body, everyone should be respected as a temple of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." (SB 6.7.30, Purport)

Though more often than not Prabhupada used this verse to argue against meat eating, how can we miss the point that other human beings are to be treated according to the principles of ahiṁsā and compassion? In other words, in the way that we would wish to be treated ourselves?

Other Bhagavata verses support the golden rule idea:

etāvān avyayo dharmaḥ
puṇya-ślokair upāsitaḥ
yo bhūta-śoka-harṣābhyām
ātmā śocati hṛṣyati
If one is unhappy to see the distress of other living beings and happy to see their happiness, his religious principles are appreciated as imperishable by exalted persons who are considered pious and benevolent. (SB 6.10.9; See purport also.)
(3) Divine vision

The third way of looking at others is a transcendental vision based on seeing the presence of the Lord in all creatures, nay in every aspect of the creation. Devotees in the movement generally consider this state to be a distant thing, on the level of the uttama Bhāgavata and not meant for the ordinary rank and file, who should simply aim for the madhyama Bhāgavata stage as their goal. First of all, I would like to say that Prabhupada told us to shoot for elephants. If you aim for the madhyama stage, you are likely to reach some higher realm of the kaniṣṭha stage at best. You can only become a madhyama Bhāgavata when you have genuine insight into the uttama consciousness by spiritual experience.

Look at the Bhāgavata 11.19.19ff where Lord Krishna talks about bhakti-yoga (the discipline of devotion, i.e., devotional service in practice). In verse 21, after the oft-quoted mad-bhakta-pūjābhyadhikā are the words sarva-bhūteṣu man-mati, "see my nature in all beings." To develop this mentality is thus part of the culture of Krishna consciousness.

etāvān eva loke'smin 
puṁsāṁ svārthaḥ paraḥ smṛtaḥ
ekānta-bhaktir govinde 
yat sarvatra tad-īkṣaṇam
This then is considered to be the supreme self-interest of every person in this world: the single-minded practice of devotion to Govinda, whereby one is able to see Him everywhere. (BhP 7.7.55)
This is also the first quality mentioned in an extended description of the uttama Bhāgavata in the Eleventh Canto (BhP 11.2.48-55):

sarva-bhūteṣu yaḥ paśyed 
bhagavad-bhāvam ātmanaḥ
bhūtāni bhagavaty ātmany 
eva bhāgavatottamaḥ
One who sees the nature of the Supreme Lord in all living beings and who sees all beings in the Lord, and the Lord as the Self, is on the highest level of devotion, a bhāgavatottama. (BhP 11.2.45)
Generally devotees argue that if we see the divine everywhere, then there is no idea of doing welfare work for others because everything is seen as auspicious, as perfect. It is said that the uttama Bhāgavata has to "come down" to the madhyama platform. This is one way of looking at things, similar to the Bodhisattva doctrine in Buddhism according to which full Buddha-hood is rejected or put on hold so that one can engage in welfare activities. However, Vaishnavas are not Buddhists.

The point is that the uttama Vaishnava sees supreme VALUE in the OTHER. This is more than a moral precept, it is a mystic experience. The Jewish philosopher and mystic, Martin Buber, described the fruit of belief in a personal deity in the personal encounter with all human beings. This is a particularly difficult practice, but it comes back to the same thing: dehumanizing human beings by seeing them as commodities, as things, as IT rather than THOU, is an aberration of the belief in a personal God.

Improper self-comparison

Prabhupada argues that empathy (ātmavat sarva-bhūteṣu) is the source of the impetus for preaching. But for V. S. Naipaul, the Golden Rule is also the basis for what he calls "the universal civilization." Naipaul argues that we have to be able to see that ideas which are held passionately by one person cannot be inflicted on another on the basis that one person knows better than another. We have no right to inflict our opinions on another.

This kind of attitude, according to Prabhupada, is the result of another type of self-comparison, ātmavan manyate jagat which he often quotes as a bad thing, a false understanding of the world based on self-comparison: "If one is deaf, he thinks others are deaf. If he is a fool, he thinks all are" (750625MW.LA). This false comparison of the world to one's conditioned self provides the erroneous guiding moral principle: "Everyone should be like me" (751214MW.DEL). This, of course, is the very antithesis of the Golden Rule. At the same time, Prabhupada says it is also the reason why one should approach a higher authority. Seeing the world in terms of our own limited frame of reference is the same kind of self-deception and cheating propensity that results in our inability to transcend our limitations and see the world from the spiritual perspective.

The idea that there is a higher standard of understanding also has its ethical dangers, however. The thought process takes on something like: "Since I have insight to a higher understanding, it gives me the right to impose my views on others."

If I sacrifice my own ability to sympathize with other human experience, I run certain risks. By taking the position that I have (through scripture, my spiritual master or even my own spiritual experience) understood a higher truth that relativizes the experiences of others, the need to understand the experience of others becomes unnecessary. Political philosopher Robert MacIver paraphrases the position as follows: "I am right; I have the truth. If you differ from me, you are a heretic, you are in error. Therefore while you must allow me every liberty when you are in power. I need not, in truth, I ought not to, show any similar consideration for you." ("The Deep Beauty of the Golden Rule" from Moral Principles of Action, Harper and Row, 1952)

Since we do not wish to be oppressed, we should not oppress. Since we wish to be treated as human beings with dignity, we should treat all human beings irregardless of their race, color, or creed, as temples of the Lord. As soon as one thinks, because I am a Vaishnava, I have some special privilege, he starts on the slippery slope to fascism. One has to keep the culture of seeing Krishna everywhere, but most of all in other personal beings, topmost in his devotional practice.

Preaching will arise automatically out of the ability to see supreme value in every living being.

Bhagavad Gita Sapta-shloki Verse 7

Gītā sapta-ślokī 7

|| 9.34 ||

मन्मना भव मद्भक्तो मद्याजी मां नमस्कुरु।
मामेवैष्यसि युक्त्वैवमात्मानं मत्परायणः॥

man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru |
mām evaiṣyasi yuktvaivam ātmānaṁ mat-parāyaṇaḥ ||

bhava man-manāḥ. bhava mad-bhaktaḥ. bhava mad-yājī. māṁ namaskuru. mat-parāyaṇaḥ [bhūtvā], evaṁ ātmānaṁ yuktvā, mām eva eṣyasi. OR evaṁ yuktvā, ātmānam mām eva eṣyasi. [ahaṁ hi sarveṣāṁ bhūtānām ātmā.]

  • man-manāḥ = “Me-minded.” (manas is a neuter noun, nom. sing. is manaḥ. Here it is turned into a bahu-vrīhi samāsa refering to Arjuna, so it has to be changed into its equivalent masculine form. The masculine will be the same as neuter in everything except the nominative and accusative. The nom. sing. here is manāḥ -- but only in such compounds! (Masc. declension: manāḥ, manasau, manasaḥ/manasaṁ, manasau, manasaḥ)

  • mad-bhaktaḥ = “My devotee”

  • mad-yājī = “My worshiper.” (nom. sing. of yājin) mad-yajana-śīlo bhava.

  • namaskuru = “bow down to me.” (2nd pers. sing. imperative)

  • eṣyasi = “you will come” (2nd pers. sing. future of āi) āgamiṣyasi.

  • yuktvā = connected, having attained yoga (gerund of yuj) samādhāya cittam.

  • mat-parāyaṇaḥ = “[having] Me as the final end or aim”


Be one whose mind is fixed on me. Be my devotee. Be one who sacrifices for me. Bow down to me. Thus connected, you will come to me, the Self, [for you will have] made me your supreme destination.

Of the seven verses selected by the unknown collector, this is the only one that I would really say is "essential." But I would have chosen that section from Gita 18.60-66 as being more indicative of the Gita's message. The seven verses in this selection seem fairly arbitrary. Not that even an arbitrary selection of verses from the Gita is not bound to be significant.

Swami Veda Bharati writes the following:
There is an ancient tradition of mini-texts that condense the knowledge of a larger text into a small number of verses. There is a one-verse Rāmāyaṇa, the Bhāgavata-purāṇa in four verses, the Durgā-saptaśatī in seven verses. If one does not have the time to do the recitation of the larger text, one may use the mini-text version. Also, the mini-text provides the essentials of the philosophy of the complete text. The Gītā of the seven verses, Sapta-ślokī Gītā, follows in the same tradition. Who first condensed the Gītā into seven verses and in which century cannot be determined without looking into a large body of scholarly apparatus. It is now for the highly trained minds to contemplate and determine the reason for the sequence of the verses and how they are supposed to condense the entire text of the 700 verses of the Gītā.

At any rate, for comparison's sake, I will start posting the Gita's four verse "mini-text" as selected by Vishwanath Chakravarti from tomorrow. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sapta-shloki, Verse 6

Gītā sapta-ślokī 6
|| 15.15 ||

सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि संनिविष्टो
मत्तः स्मृतिर्ज्ञानमपोहनं च।
वेदैश्च सर्वैरहमेव वेद्यो
वेदान्तकृद्वेदविदेव चाहम्॥


sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi saṁniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca |
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham ||

ahaṁ sarvasya hṛdi sanniviṣṭaḥ ca | mattaḥ smṛti jñānam apohanaṁ ca āgacchanti | ahaṁ sarvaiḥ vedaiś ca vedyaḥ | ahaṁ vedānta-kṛt veda-vit eva (asmi) ||

  • hṛt = heart (hṛdi is locative singular) buddhau

  • saṁniviṣṭaḥ = entered, placed, situated (saṁ-ni- viś). Past participle, being used actively.

  • mattaḥ = from me (mat + taḥ)

  • smṛtiḥ = (f.) memory

  • apohanaṁ = the taking away of that (memory and knowledge) apagamanaṁ ca |

  • vedyaḥ = (fut.pot.part.) “to be known” veditavyaḥ . This is a passive construction: “By the Vedas, I am to be known.”

  • vedānta-kṛt = “the doer/fabricator/maker of the Vedānta” (vedāntārtha-saṁpradāya-kṛd ity arthaḥ.)

  • veda-vit = “knower of the Veda” (vedārtha-vid eva cāham).

I am situated in the heart of all. From me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas I am to be known. I am the maker of the Vedanta, and verily I am the knower of the Veda.


Gita Sapta-shloki, Verse 5

Gītā sapta-ślokī 5

|| 15.1 ||

ऊर्ध्वमूलमधःशाखमश्वत्थं प्राहुरव्ययम्।
छन्दांसि यस्य पर्णानि यस्तं वेद स वेदवित्॥

ūrdhva-mūlam adhaḥ-śākham aśvatthaṁ prāhur avyayam |
chandāṁsi yasya parṇāni yas taṁ veda sa veda-vit ||

[yasya] mūlaṁ ūrdhvaṁ asti, śākhā adhaḥ sthitā [asti], yasya ca [aśvatthasya] parṇāni chandāṁsi santi, [tam] aśvatthaṁ avyayam [iti] prāhuḥ [śrutayaḥ] | yas taṁ veda, sa veda-vid bhavati |

  • ūrdhva-mūlaṁ = “with the roots above” (bahuvrīhi-samāsa) yasya mūlāni ūrdhve sthitāni santi, tam.
  • adhaḥ-śākhaṁ = “with the branches below”. These two adjectives describe the tree, so agree in number, case and gender.
  • aśvatthaṁ (acc. sing.) the banyan tree ( na śvo’pi sthātety aśvatthas taṁ kṣaṇa-pradhvaṁsinam)
  • prāhuḥ = “they say” (kathayanti) There is no subject, but the commentaries add śrutayaḥ and refer to a verse in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (2.3.1):
ūrdhva-mūlo’vāk-śākha eṣo’śvatthaḥ sanātanaḥ |
  • avyayaṁ = (adj.) inexhaustible, not spent (vyaya-rahitam)
  • chandāṁsi = the Vedic hymns (n. pl. nom., the singular is chandas)
  • yasya parṇāni = whose leaves (chandāṁsi cchādanād ṛg-yajuḥ-sāma-lakṣaṇāni yasya saṁsāra-vṛkṣasya parṇānīva patrāṇi)
  • veda = 3rd pers. sing. of verb vid. “knows”
  • yas taṁ veda sa veda-vit = “who knows this knows the Veda”

The Aśvattha tree of this world has its roots upwards and its branches downward. Its leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this knows the Veda.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Gita Sapta-shloki 4

Gītā sapta-ślokī 4

|| 8.9 ||

कविं पुराणमनुशासितारम्
अणोरणीयांसमनुस्मरेद्यः।
सर्वस्य धातारमचिन्त्यरूपम्
आदित्यवर्णं तमसः परस्तात्॥

This is an incomplete sentence, since the yaḥ has no referent. You have to look for it in the next verse: sa taṁ paraṁ puruṣam upaiti divyam.

Anvaya: yaḥ = whoever, anusmaret = should constantly remember [the paraṁ puruṣam as:] Now all the adjectival phrases agree with paraṁ puruṣam from the next verse, which is in the accusative:

  • kaviṁ (“poet, omniscient”) sarva-jñaṁ.
  • purāṇaṁ (“ancient”) cirantanam,
  • anuśāsitāraṁ (“ruler”, acc. sing. of anuśāstṛ), sarvasya jagataḥ praśāsitāram,
  • aṇoḥ (abl. sing. of aṇu, “atom, very tiny”) sūkṣmād api, aṇīyāṁsaṁ (acc. sing. of aṇīyas, “tinier”) sūkṣmataram
  • sarvasya (“of all”) karma-phala-jātasya (“of all collective fruits of action”) dhātāraṁ (“God, the support”, acc. sing. of dhātṛ) = vidhātāraṁ vicitratayā prāṇibhyo vibhaktāram (“the one who decides destinies, separating living beings in different ways”),
  • acintya-rūpaṁ (“of inconceivable form”) nāsya rūpaṁ niyataṁ vidyamānam api kenacit cintayituṁ śakyata ity acintya-rūpaḥ, tam.
  • āditya-varṇam (“the color of the sun”) ādityasyeva nitya-caitanya-prakāśo varṇo yasya tam āditya-varṇam
  • tamasaḥ (“from darkness” abl. sing. tamas) parastāt (“beyond”), ajñāna-lakṣaṇān mohāndhakārāt paraṁ (“beyond the darkness of enchantment, characterized by ignorance.”)

One who always things of Him as the Omniscient One (kavi), as the Ancient One, the Ruler, as smaller than the smallest, as the ordainer of everything, as possessing inconceivable form, as having the color of the sun, beyond darkness.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sapta-shloki 3

Gītā sapta-ślokī 3
|| 13.13 ||

सर्वतः पाणिपादं तत् सर्वतोक्षिशिरोमुखम्।
सर्वतः श्रुतिमल्लोके सर्वम् आवृत्य तिष्ठति॥

sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādaṁ tat sarvato’kṣi-śiro-mukham |
sarvataḥ śrutimal loke sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati ||


  • sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādaṁ: sarvataḥ (on all sides, everywhere) pāṇayaḥ (hands) pādāś (feet) cāsyeti sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādaṁ taj jñeyam (that is to be known) |
  • sarvato’kṣi-śiro-mukhaṁ: sarvataḥ akṣīṇi (akṣi, n., nom. pl., “eyes”) śirāṁsi (śiras, n. nom. pl. “heads) mukhāni ca yasya, tat sarvato’kṣi-śiro-mukham.
  • sarvataḥ śrutimat: śrutiḥ (f.) śravaṇendriyam (“the hearing sense”), tat yasya tat śrutimat (-mat is an important suffix. After –a, ā it is -vat. It has various senses, but primarily that of possession, i.e., “having.” )
  • loke (lokaḥ = m. “world, people”) prāṇi-nikāye (“the totality of living beings)|
  • sarvam āvṛtya (gerund, “having covered, after covering”) saṁvyāpya, tiṣṭhati (“it stands, remains”) sthitiṁ labhate ||

That should be known, which has hands and feet everywhere, which has eyes, heads and mouths everywhere, which has ears everywhere, which dwells covering everything.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sapta-shloki, Verse 2

Gītā sapta-ślokī 2

|| 11.36 ||

स्थाने हृषीकेश तव प्रकीर्त्या
जगत् प्रहृष्यत्यनुरज्यते च।
रक्षांसि भीतानि दिशो द्रवन्ति
सर्वे नमस्यन्ति सिद्धसंघाः॥३६॥

sthāne hṛṣīkeśa tava prakīrtyā
jagat prahṛṣyaty anurajyate ca |
rakṣāṁsi bhītāni diśo dravanti
sarve namasyanti ca siddha-saṁghāḥ ||

Anvayaḥ: he hṛṣīkeśa ! tava prakīrtyā jagat sthāne prahṛṣyati anurajyate ca. rakṣāṁsi bhītāni diśo dravanti. sarve siddha-saṅghāḥ namasyanti ca.

Please note that henceforth all the paraphrases in these verses come from Śaṅkara’s Gītā-bhāṣya.

·         sthāne yuktam. (indeclinable particle, adverb). “rightly, properly”
·         kiṁ tat ? tava (“your”) prakīrtyā (by “fame, glories”) tvan-māhātmya-kīrtanena śrutena | he hṛṣīkeśa (vocative)! yat jagat (“the world”) prahṛṣyati (“becomes joyful”) praharṣam upaiti, tat sthāne yuktam ity arthaḥ |
“What is right and proper? By your glories, i.e, when the loud extolling of your fame is heard, O Hṛṣīkeśa, that the world becomes joyful, that is right and proper, this is the meaning.”

·         tathā anurajyate (“becomes attached, loves”) anurāgaṁ copaiti |
·         kiṁ ca, rakṣāṁsi (neuter noun, rakṣas, nom. pl.) bhītāni (adj. agreeing with rakṣas) bhayāviṣṭani diśo (fem.noun, dik, acc. pl., diśaḥ) dravanti (3rd person pl., “they run”) gacchanti |
·         sarve (pronoun masc.nom.pl.) ca siddha-saṁghāḥ (masc.nom.pl.) siddhānāṁ samudāyāḥ kapilādīnām, namasyanti (3rd person pl., “they bow”) namaskurvanti, tac ca sthāne ||

O Hrishikesh! It is right that the world derives intense joy and becomes attached by your extraordinary fame, and that the rakshasas, stricken with fear, run in all directions, and that all the groups of Siddhas bow down to you.