Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Bhagavad Gita

I decided to read the Bhagavad Gita, as I've been reading up on breathing, and several times, whilst researching this, I have come across the word Yoga. I have to admit, I was pretty ignorant to what Yoga actually is, I knew it was not what you see advertised at the gym, which along with Tai Chi is turning our OAP's into a lean mean fighting machine.

The Bhagavad Gita talks of Yoga as a unified outlook, serenity and the freeing of the mind. I will admit, that if you were to ask us down the pub to explain it, I would be hard pushed to. I do however, have the feeling that I have the starting sentence, and I look forward to completing the paragraph at a leisurely pace.

The book is one of the most sacred works in Hinduism and is consider to be one of the most important philosophical classics ever written.  I am actually finding it quite hard to type an introduction to the contents, not because of the subject matter, but because I feel I would need to provide several descriptions and footnotes to the names and places.

If I was writing this about the Iliad, I'm sure most of you would have an image in your mind;when I start mentioning the Trojan war, Achilles and the Trojan horse - even if it is the film with Brad Pitt ( for my sins I actually worked on that).  I'm sure this is true of many of us in the west, that you'll probably draw a blank at the mention of Krishna, Arjuna and the Kurukshetra war.

The copy of the Bhagavad Gita I bought  came with a glossary at the back and a handy commentary to each of the eighteen chapters.  There is also an excellent written introduction by Eknath Easwaran who translated the work.  Dirty Filthy Hippy Writers take note, as he mentions some of the problems translating the work, which I found to be quite interesting.  I would say the introduction is worth the price of the book alone, but pleased to say you don't need to spend anything, as you can read it online here. Without the glossary, and introduction I would of been lost.

The bulk of the text is a conversation between Arjuna and Krishna, with Arjuna about to go into battle, and he is asking Krishna about... Well everything really, the whole kit, cosmos and caboodle.

There are two themes covered in the book which appealed to myself, the first is the notion of knowledge and more specifically the right knowledge. This is a theme I touch in a 'pop' way in my film Mortus Illumina and is common in quite a few of the worlds religions and philosophies.  This gave the book a welcoming feel of familiarity to it. The second was consciousness, energy and the cosmos. I will go out on a limb here and say, that I think part of what it is saying, that they are essentially the same thing. I do have to admit, I got a bit lost on the concept of duality. It reminded me a bit, when you get an article in New scientist and you spend an entire hour reading it, and in the end, you still have no idea what they are talking about but you enjoyed it. This is then normally followed by discussing with the true experts of the world, your mates down the pub till you eventually achieve a definition- right or wrong. 

In all, I found it a very enjoyable read, as someone who has read a great deal of western classics and very few eastern, it made a refreshing change.

I wrote down a few quotes when reading it, which are below, for a variety of reasons. I think 2.22 maybe the basis of a future fridayflash and if 11.32 seems a bit familiar, that is because it was muttered by Professor Robert Oppenheimer after the first atomic bomb tests.

Underneath this, is a few few definitions I copied from the glossary when I was reading it, in the hope that it will save you you a bit of page turning.

One final thing that I feel I should mention, this book was the "personal guidebook" for Mahatma Gandhi who lived his life according to its principles. Considering this was a man who freed an entire nation and bought down the British Imperial rule without firing a shot, I think that is a pretty good seal of approval.

The Bhagavad Gita (Classics of Indian Spirituality)   - Amazon link
The Bhagavad Gita - online version


2.22 As one abandons worn-out clothes and acquires new ones, so when the body is worn out  a new one is acquired by the self who lives within.

2.27 Death is inevitable for the living; birth is inevitable for the dead. Since these are unavoidable, you should not sorrow

2.52 When your might has overcome the confusion of duality, you will attain the state of indifference to things you hear and things you have heard.

4.19 The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results. All his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge.

4.38 Nothing in the world purifies like spiritual wisdom. It is the perfection achieved in in time through the path of yoga, the path which leads to the self within.

7.4 Earth, water, fire, air, akasha,mind,intellect, and ego - these are the eight divisions of my prakriti

8.17 Those who understand the cosmic laws know that the Day of Brahma ends after a thousand yugas and the Night of Brahma end afters a thousand yugas

I am time, the destroyer of all; I have come to consume the world. Even without your participation all the warriors gathered here will die.

16.21 There are three gates to this self-destruction hell:lust, anager and greed...


Dharma:"That Which supports" The essence of the thing, its virtue, what makes it what it is. "Harmony in the universe"

Karma:"Something that is done" ie deed or action, cause or effect. Every act has consequences, not just physical action, but mental action as well... Basically put, the law of Karma says that whatever you do will come back to you...*

Guna:Quality;specifically, the three qualities which make up the phenomenal world; sattva law, harmony, purity, goodness, rajas, energy , passion; and tamas, inertia, ignorance. The corresponding adjectives are Sattvic, rajastic, and tamasic

Arjuna:One of the five Panava brothers and an important figure in in Inidan epics and legend. He is Sri Krishna beloved disciple and friend.

Ákasha:Space, sky;the most subtle of the five elements

Pakritti:The basic energty from which the mental and physical worlds take shape. Nature.

Brahman:The supreme reality underlying all life, the divine ground of existence, the impersonal godhead.

Yuga: An age or eon. In Hindu cosmology there are four yogas, representing a steady deterioration in the state of the world from age to age. The name of the yugas are taken from a game of dice. Krita Yuga is the age of perfection, followed by Treta Yuga. The incarnation of Sri Krishna is said to mark the end of the third yuga, Dvapara. We are living in the fourth and final yuga, Kali, in which the creation reaches its lowest point. The world goes through 1,000 such yuga-cycles during one kalpa or Day of Brahama

Kalpa:A period in cosmic time equalling one day of Brahama or 1000 great yugas. A total of 4320 million years.

Purusha:["Person"] The soul; the spiritual core of every person in the Gita, the terms Atman and Purusha are virtually interchangeable 

Atman:"Self", the innermost soul in every creature which is divine.

Mantram:[or mantra] a holy name of phrase, a spiritual formula.

One of the sixth branches of Hindu phillosophy. Seeks to liberate the individual purusha(spirit) from the pakritti (mind).... Unification of everything, mind, energy and matter. Purusha is the knower of this field, but belongs to a different order or reality. Purusha is conciousness... not just mind.

*deliberatly cut short as there is a lot more to it than that

1 comment:

  1. Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?



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