From ‘Inner War and Peace. Insights from the Bhagavad Gita’
Historical Background to the Mahabharata War and the Bhagavad Gita
The Mahabharata or Great Indian War, took place some five thousand years ago in India. It began as a dispute between two groups of first cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, as to which side of the family were the rightful heirs to India’s biggest kingdom at the time.
……………It is within this epic, that the text…….Bhagavad Gita lies…….The Bhagavad Gita is the dialogue between Arjuna, and his friend and guide, Krishna, an enlightened being who is Arjuna’s charioteer in this war. Arjuna, a pivotal figure in the war, was the middle Pandava brother……The dialogue takes place on the battlefield and is being narrated to the blind king Dhritarashtra by his general factotum, Sanjay. On the threshold of war, and realizing the imminent massacre of his own family and kin assembled on both sides, Arjuna is torn apart and pleads to escape, but is eventually convinced by Krishna to fight the battle
“O Krishna, seeing my own kinsmen
standing before me, eager to fight,
My limbs give way, my mouth becomes dry,…………”
“…………..My mind appears confused
O Krishna, I see all the portents are opposing this,
and I do not foresee any virtue
in slaying my own people in this battle.”
“Teachers, uncles and sons;
also grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law,
grandsons, brothers-in-law and all other kinsmen.”
“I do not want to kill them, O Krishna,
even if I am killed instead.
Not even for the kingdom of the three worlds,
let alone for this earth”
“O Arjuna, you grieve over what is not worth grieving over
………..But the wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.”
“It is not that there was once a time when I was not,
or you were not, or all these kings were not;
nor will there ever be a time when all of us will not exist.
This is absolute, ultimate.”
“Just as this being
passes through childhood, youth and old age in this body,”
so too it passes through the changing of bodies.
And the serene and tranquil ones do not grieve over this.
“Hence, that which is the whole
know it as subtle, indestructible;
no one is capable of destroying this –
the inexhaustible, the everlasting.”
“These physical bodies have an ending,
but the dweller within is said to be
indestructible, incomprehensible and eternal;
hence, O Arjuna, fight.”
“The one who thinks it is to be the slayer,
and the one who believes it to be the slain -
both do not know.
It neither slays nor is slain.”
“It is never born and never dies,
it has no past, no present, no future;
it is unborn, everlasting, eternal, and ageless -
the indestructible in the destructible body.”
“O Arjuna, he who knows it to be
indestructible, eternal, unborn and everlasting,
how and whom can such a person slay?
And how and by whom can he be slain”
“Just as a man discards his old and worn-out garments
and replaces them with new ones,
so the being discards the old and worn-out body
and moves on to the new.”
A doubt arises…….how can Sanjay see across such a long distance? Is he omniscient? No. And first of all, the power to see and hear from afar is not really such a great power……It is a very modest power and anyone can develop it with some effort. And sometimes it happens that as a result of some quirk in nature this power develops in someone on its own accord.
…….That is why, although there are marvelous truths in the Koran, in the Bible, in Zend Avesta, in the Tao Te Ching, and in many, many other scriptures of the world, the Gita remains special. And the sole reason is that it is less a religious scripture and more of a scripture on psychology. There are no empty statements in it such as: “There is God,” or “There is soul.” There are no philosophical statements and there is no philosophical syllogism in it. The Gita is mankind’s first text on psychology; hence its value is incomparable.
If I could have my way, I would like to call Krishna the father of psychology. He is the first person who tries to integrate the conflict-ridden mind, the anguished mind, and the scattered will………..He not only analyzes and investigates the mind to find out its fragmentations, he also investigates how it can attain to individuation – how Arjuna can become integrated.
Arjuna’s state of mind is the state of mind of us all, but perhaps we are never in such an acute moment of crisis as he is. Even our crises are so lukewarm that we go on enduring them. If our crises could be as intense as his, as dramatic as his, perhaps we too would become eager for integration.
There are two categories of religious people. The first contains those whose religion is borrowed, borrowed from the past. The other contains those whose religion comes out of their inner revolution.
…………the ultimate reach of any scripture is the mind. If it can take one as far as that point, it is a great scripture. And the jump that takes place beyond that will be the beginning of spirituality.
I call the Gita a scripture of psychology because it contains the threads that lead one to the point from where this jump takes place. But no scripture is a spiritual scripture.
Yes, there can be spiritual statements. For example, the Upanishads are spiritual statements. But they do not contain any system in them; hence they are not of much use to man. The Gita, however, is tremendously useful.
A statement such as “There is only Brahman,” is all very well, but we do not know this – it is a bald statement.
……………the Upanishads can only be useful when you have experienced spirituality…………the Upanishad can confirm your experience – but only after you have already experienced it for yourself.
The interesting thing is, however, that once you yourself have known, there is no longer any need for the Upanishads to confirm it.
……….the Upanishads, can at the most become an endorsement for a siddha – for one who has arrived home – but there again, a siddha has no need for any endorsement
Our problems, our troubles, are on some entirely different level, and they need to be addressed at that same level. Krishna is talking at exactly the level where Arjuna is……………that is why the Gita is a very dynamic psychological system………..If Krishna were to speak like an enlightened being, there would be no connection with Arjuna. Slowly, as Arjuna rises, Krishna also rises with him. And Krishna leaves the final sutras of the Gita at a point where the mind ends and spirituality begins……………Gita is a scripture of psychology.
And the future belongs to psychological scriptures. There is no future for metaphysical scriptures.
Spiritual experience is an experience of no thought. Thought does not exist in that moment; hence it is unable to bring forth any message about that experience. That is why the Upanishads keep relentlessly saying, “neti, neti.” They are saying, “neither this, nor that.”
Today, the Gita is not remembered because of the Mahabharata; the Mahabharata is remembered because of the Gita.
Duty has always been clear only to stupid people. To the intelligent, it has never been clear. Intelligent people have always been uncertain. The reason is that intelligent people think so deeply, and usually about both sides of the matter so much, that they have difficulty deciding which is right and which is wrong.
…………….For the ignorant man everything is so clear-cut: this is right, that is wrong: this is Hindu, that is Muslim…………….But the more contemplation grows, the more doubts arise: “Who is mine and who is a stranger? What is right and what is wrong?” And in this world, everything that is of value has always been born from those who have gone through the birth pangs of this contemplative process.
…..All the mystics of the world agree on this point. Whether they are Mahavira, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Mohammed or anybody else, they all say that the moment of bliss, of self-realization, of the experience of the ultimate reality is a timeless moment, is beyond time.
Heaven and hell are not geographical places, but they are certainly psychological states………..it is not that you will go to heaven or to hell after you die. You visit hell and heaven many times in twenty-four hours!
………psychoanalysts talk of developing the ego and I talk of dispersing the ego……….Because western psychology understands the mind to be the highest truth, to talk of developing the ego is justified. I am saying “justified, ” not true.”………..Psychology is bound to want to make the ego more integrated, more crystallized and pure: it should become more clear and synthesized – and that is individuation, that is one’s personality. But Krishna would not agree with this. Krishna would say that there is one more step ahead: the integrated, concentrated ego should surrender some day. This is the final step from the ego’s end, but the first step from the eternal’s.
……………I will say the same thing in another way: integrate the ego, crystallize the ego, so that you can surrender it one day. Only the one who is crystallized can surrender. How can someone whose ego is split into dozens of parts, who is a schizophrenic, in whom even his “I” is not one but rather many surrender?..........According to all the psychological researches, we are poly-psychic…………we have several……….”I’s”
You go to sleep in the night and one “I” promises to wake up at five o’clock in the morning – it swears. In the morning, the other “I” says, “It’s too cold! Just forget it!......”………….you go back to sleep. And later………..the third “I” says, “You made a big mistake!............”
………….The same thing happens in the temple. One “I” prostrates itself at the foot of a statue and the another one is looking around to see if anyone is looking.
………………The ego should be integrated. Only then surrender is possible……….Freud is not the end but he is important and he is helpful in integrating the ego. Krishna is the end……
It has been asked why does one have to place one’s hand on the Gita while taking the oath in the courts of law? Why not on the Ramayana or on the Upanishads?
………..No matter how great Rama may be, the Indian mind does not perceive him as a perfect incarnation of the divine. He is a partial incarnation. No matter how great a sage the seers of the Upanishads may be, they are not incarnations. Krishna is the perfect incarnation…….That’s why Krishna could touch the hearts of the maximum number of people in this country………..the perfect incarnation has to be multidimensional; touching all aspects of the human personality. Rama is one-dimensional…….he has only one note…a man of one note may appeal to a one-track mind, but it cannot win every heart. Mahavira, Buddha, all of them were one-dimensional……and that is why ……cannot appeal to all human beings………….but Krishna is multi-dimensional………a thief can love Krishna, a dancer can love Krishna, a saint can love Krishna………and so can a sinner…….Krishna is an orchestra. There are many instruments, all playing. At least one is bound to fall in love with the music of his favourite instrument.
………….He won’t reject anybody. He is there for everyone. This fact is the possible reason.
Simon Weil has written somewhere that there are some people who want the truth to support them and there are some who want to support the truth.
In the gap between leaving one body and taking another one, is there some manifestation or only existence? There is some manifestation, but that manifestation is not the kind that we become familiar with while we are in the body…….it is the manifestation of the subtle body. It can also been seen through a special kind of tuning…………..but the usual body – the body that we know, that we have disposed of – exists no more.
This is not the only body we have. There are more bodies inside this body………In a usual death, only our first body is dropped; the second body hidden behind it travels on with us. Call it the subtle body or the astral body………it travels with us. It is in this body that all our memories, all our experiences, the imprints of all our actions, the impressions of all our conditionings, are accumulated – and these travel on with us.
This subtle body can be seen………but as the world has become more civilized, it has become slightly more difficult. It was not so difficult before. Certain things have been lost, have become difficult phenomena for us to see. It is just that we are no longer used to seeing them.
………..It is said that a great crowd used to gather in Mahavira’s meetings. But that crowd consisted of many kind of beings…….there were those who came from the sky.
Such beings are present everywhere, all the time. Sometimes from their side they try to get you to see them. Sometimes they can be seen when you try from your side. But to be seen through these efforts requires special talents. Such sightings are not common.
This subtle body exists during the journey from one body to the next, because without it, rebirth will not be possible. To put it in scientific language, the subtle body is a built-in program, a blueprint, a plan, for the birth of the new body………..All that you have accumulated in this lifetime……….all that you are, is in this subtle body.
…………….As soon as you take a new body, the subtle body will start manifesting all these things whenever the possibilities and opportunities to do so arise..
But there is also a kind of death in which even the subtle body doesn’t remain with you anymore. Such a death is called mukti, moksha – the ultimate liberation. After such a death only being remains, only existence remains, without any manifested body……….This other death…….happens only to an enlightened one. Attaining to enlightenment means a person has dissolved his subtle body while he is still alive, he has effaced his built-in program.
…………..What in traditional terminology we call liberation from avagamana, the cycle of birth and death, is nothing but freedom from manifestation. It is the search for pure existence. It is the search for that existence where there will be no more manifestation but only being, only is-ness.
Can the son or wife of someone do something to give peace to his departed subtle body that is still full of desires. The Gita talks about pindadan – the ritual of giving offerings to dead ancestors
Desire is absolutely personal. Another person can do nothing about it. The desire is yours, your wife cannot do anything about it.
………The husband is dead. The wife tries to make her husband free from his desires – she prays, she does fire rituals……….but this can make no difference whatsoever to her husband’s desires. Yes, it can make a difference to her desires – and that is the secret of the whole business.
This whole business of rituals is not to free her husband from desires – because if someone can liberate her husband from his desires, she can also induce desires in him, and then liberation will be impossible in this world!
…………But whatsoever the wife does for the sake of her husband, that prayer, that longing for his liberation from desires will help her to become free from her own desires…………….ultimately all doing is only for ourselves.
………I pull the branch of a tree towards me. Then I ask you: “………I want you to put this branch back in its original position. What should I do?”………You will simply say, “Please stop pulling it. Just let it go………it was just displaced because of your kind efforts!”
Man doesn’t need to make any effort to attain to godliness. If he can just stop the effort that he has already been making to lose it, then he will immediately reach the original space where he belongs – the space of godliness.
No one ever dies and no one ever kills……..Is one therefore to deduce from this that there is nothing wrong in committing violence? Does that mean that……….the genocide that took place in Auschwitz, Germany………..are not condemnable? Are they worthy of acceptance?
No. This is not what Krishna means, and this is worth understanding.
………when Hitler is killing people, he is not in the same state of mind as Krishna is. Hitler enjoys killing………..the passion to destroy, the desire to kill, is violence
……………….”O Arjuna, he who knows it to be
indestructible, eternal, unborn and everlasting,
how and whom can such a person slay?
And how and by whom can he be slain?”
He who knows…! Krishna is saying……….He is not saying, “He who believes this.”…………there is nothing easier than believing, because for believing one doesn’t have to do anything……On the other hand, there is nothing more difficult than knowing, because in order to know one has to go through a total self-transformation.
……….All the religions on this earth…….revolve around believing………..But Krishna is saying “A person who knows like this.”
………….But knowing from reading the scriptures is no knowing at all…….it is just information.
……….To know about swimming is not the same thing as to know swimming. Similarly, to know about truth is not the same as knowing the truth.
……….when an ordinary person dies, he immediately finds a new incarnation, because throughout the twenty-four hours, millions of wombs are available all over the earth. But when an extraordinary person dies, it takes time, because a suitable womb is not so easily available for him. Both an extraordinarily good person and an extraordinarily bad person have a long waiting period…………According to our timescale it might even take hundreds of years before men like Hitler and Gandhi can be reborn.