The painting above (by B.G. Sharma) is the scene of the discourse that is the sacred text, the Bhagavad Gita, The Song of God, which takes place between the great warrior Arjuna and the voice of God within him, as Krishna, before the great battle, which is essentially an internecine war of the worlds of that era. Arjuna loses his nerve, drops his weapons, and collapses in the chariot. Krishna says to him:
“Why has this mood come over you at this bad time, Arjuna, this cowardice unseemly to the noble, not leading to heaven, dishonorable? Do not act like a eunuch, it does not become you! Rid yourself of this vulgar weakness of heart, stand up, enemy burner!”
Then comes the Wisdom. Most people in the west do not even know that the Bhagavad Gita is only a very small part of the great epic, The Mahabharata, which is essentially the epic tale of this great war. There is one entire book in the epic devoted to war and its strategies, another to law and a king’s responsibilities.
With 100,000 couplets, the Mahabharata is the world’s longest poem and the longest literary work. It is several times the length of the Bible and eight times longer than the Iliad and the Odyssey put together. The epic itself says that the Mahabharata is like ‘an ocean which carries out all types of compositions pertaining to all kinds of knowledge’ (M.N. Dutt).
Rest assured that one of the world’s greatest spiritual traditions would be in complete support of exposing the criminal actions and atrocities being perpetrated on us and our planet by the military industrial corporatocracy. The so-called spiritual people who hide in ashrams, wearing purple robes and other displays of ego, misunderstand and misinterpret the ancient teachings, using them to justify their need to escape life. In our most sacred moments of enlightened revelation, we must understand that we are each of us the instrument of God’s Will. We are therefore very careful to walk that Razor’s Edge, knowing full well the grave responsibility we have been entrusted with. We must maintain an unrelenting adherence to the greater good. This allows us to become and live the very highest and best within us.
Excerpts from my commentary on the Bhagavad Gita: Choosing Krishna
Before the battle began both Arjuna and Duryodhana came to Krishna and asked for his help. Krishna reminded them that he had vowed not to fight personally, but makes the offer that one can have his armies and the other can have him. Ever the impulsive arrogant brat, Duryodhana took Krishna’s armies, believing he had for once outwitted Arjuna. Without a second thought Arjuna chose Krishna and asked him to be his charioteer in the battle and to guide him through the war.
The metaphor is clear: Arjuna is us, human consciousness in conflict and confusion; the chariot represents the body, our nature, Prakriti and the three gunas; and Krishna is the God-within, the guide through the battlefield of life.
Before leaving for battle, Krishna advises Arjuna to seek the blessing of the terrible goddess Durga (Beyond-Reach), the mother of the Vedas, who as the consort of Shiva can take the form of the fiercest warrior and become the destroyer of the world. Durga appeared in the sky and told Arjuna that he would indeed vanquish his enemies as he was both invincible and had Narayana (Krishna) to help him.
Arjuna Whirling & Trembling
Feeling fearless and confident of victory, Arjuna and Krishna got onto their chariot and blew the celestial conchs. Krishna pulled the chariot out into the middle of the field between the two armies (I.21) and Arjuna saw everyone assembled there, his family, his teachers, and friends, Bhishma and Drona, and many others who he had known all of his life and loved – but now he must kill. The sight of his kinsmen arrayed across Kurukshetra caused Arjuna to despair. He told Krishna that his mouth had gone dry, his mind was whirling, his body trembling. He drops the Gandhiva. Arjuna suddenly realizes that he can see no good coming from killing his own family. He no longer wants victory and kingship if the price is the murder of his ‘teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers’ and others who have been his family. (I.26-32)
This is known as Arjuna’s despondency or depression, and some have even speculated that Arjuna was in fact afraid and sought philosophy to justify his reluctance. I find that difficult to believe of my hero; but regardless of his motivation, this amazing poignant moment was the culmination of the lives of generations and woven layers of circumstances that gave birth to Krishna’s glorious Bhagavad Gita.
Arjuna could find no joy in killing Dhritarashtra’s armies even if they had conspired to destroy the Pandavas in so many evil ways. He felt he would be committing an unforgivable crime – and the greatest warrior of that world, in the middle of the battlefield Kurukshetra, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of men, with their chariots, horses and elephants, his heart filled with grief and his eyes with tears, dropped his weapons and sat down in his chariot pit. (I.47)
‘I shall not fight!’
Remember that Arjuna and Krishna are great friends, and in the spirit of male camaraderie, Krishna smiled and spoke laughingly:
‘Why has this mood come over you at this bad time … Do not act like a eunuch!’ (J.A.B van Buitenen). This translation always shocked me and made me laugh as it it so male. (II.2)
Arjuna admits that his mind is confused and says, ‘I shall not fight!’ (II.9)
Krishna is always smiling, but his smile is not mere camaraderie – it is the reflection of the highest wisdom inherent in his divine consciousness. I think of Krishna as God realized in man. Thus Krishna is always the best of the human physical embodiment revealed by his Oneness with the God within him. He is God fully incarnated and man fully enlightened.
Yes, he does possess divine powers in the Mahabharata, but as Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair points out in his writings, Krishna does not stop the war or save Draupadi’s sons or even his own people when much later they fight among themselves and destroy his clan. Krishna is meant to be understood as God working through the human embodiment, just as we too have the choice to align our consciousness and work with the God within.
The Soul is Eternal
Krishna then begins his discourse on Knowledge (Book Two) and says that both he and Arjuna, and all those assembled on that field, indeed all human beings, have always existed and always will continue to exist. We pass from birth to childhood, to youth, old age and death only to change and transmigrate from one body into another. The wise are not confused by this. (II.12,13)
The five senses make their contact the external world and it’s objects, and send their information-impulses to our brain, allowing us to experience the polarities of pleasure and pain, sukha-duhkha in Sanskrit. These experiences are impermanent and are to be endured, for what is temporal has no ‘real’ existence and is unreal (Asat) in the sense that it is fluctuation and change. While the real (Sat) always exists, as the Sufi Mahmud Shabistari says, ‘beneath the curtain of each atom.’ (II.14-16)
It is not that the external world has no value as some believe; however, its state of constant change makes it the unreal (Asat) in the sense that it is impermanent. The external reality is very real to the five senses, but there is so much more to our world that what we can see, hear, touch, etc. Everywhere there is the imperishable (akshara) that permeates, supports and sustains the temporal illusory hologram. Without Knowledge of this eternal, immutable, imperishable Real – we are lost, floating on a sea of delusion and ignorance that tosses us around at whim and fools us into thinking that possessions and pleasure can give us meaning.
Krishna teaches his friend that this universe is pervaded by that which is indestructible and Arjuna has no power to kill that. The body may die, but the soul (Atma) never dies. It simply transmigrates to a new body, just as we get new clothes when our old ones are worn out. (II.17-22)
When our body is worn out we move into new forms that resonate with our thoughts, new data-collecting vehicles to expand our expression of the God within us all. The realization that you never die changes your entire attitude towards living and you have the opportunity to become less attached to the perils, failures, and successes of your current identity self.
There comes a time when in wisdom you will not care if you have been immortalized by the media. Your search for meaning will not be based on the approval or disapproval of others. You will care more about doing what is right, taking action with the greatest integrity and knowledge you have available to you in that moment, and that knowledge will always be changing as you continually reevaluate its worth. You will ask yourself, not so much, what did I accomplish – but rather what consciousness was I in when I acted.
Knowledge has the power to set you Free
Knowing that you move from life to life takes the desperation from your bondage to Time, and this enlightened realization releases you from the illusion that all you have is this one body, this one chance.
As someone who was brought up in the west, I realize that the concept of the transmigration of the soul is at first difficult to assimilate. If you are truly determined and your intention is pure, you do have the ability within you to recall the past lives of your current body. They reside in the DNA as holographic information and you can play them like films. I have done this and so have many others.
The soul (Atma) transmigrates from body to body. The small personal identity ‘self’ you imagine yourself to be does not reincarnate ever again. God forbid we should always and forever be the same repetitious personality. That would be a great bore. Transmigration was misunderstood as reincarnation by those who did not deeply understand Sanskrit metaphysics.
Blinded by Science
You will find the greater freedom and you will realize that for all the comforts science has brought us, it has failed to acknowledge the imperishable (akshara) and only measures what can be perceived by the five senses and those endless machines which have been invented by them. I like to jest that we are blinded by science. Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair calls it ‘scientism’ and in his illuminating book, The Betrayal of Krishna, says that because we ignored the ‘Why’ of the world, we may be destroyed by our ‘know-how.’
The exceedingly brilliant Arthur Koestler said in the book The Sleepwalkers, A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe that he hoped ‘this book would serve as a cautionary tale against the hubris of science. …The dials on our laboratory panels are turning into another version of the shadows in the cave. Our hypnotic enslavement to the numerical aspects of reality has dulled our perception of non-quantitative moral values; the resultant end-justifies-the-means ethics may be a major factor in our undoing.’
Akshara, Dharma & Meaning
Krishna says that the eternal imperishable (akshara) cannot be cut, burned, or wet with water, nor will it dry and wither away. It is the all pervading – sarvagatas – that is inside each and every one of us. It is this imperishable (akshara), eternal, primordial (sanatanas), pervading (sarvagatas) All that we come to trust and rely upon, no matter what. (II.23)
Krishna tells Arjuna that he should not grieve over the ineluctable movements of the Eternal Wheel. Birth and death are certain for all, therefore what reason is there for him to mourn these men who wait on the battlefield Kurukshetra. In fact because Arjuna is a warrior born into the Kshatriya cast it is his duty, his Dharma to fight. (II.25-27; 30-33)
Each of us comes into this world with our own unique Dharma. We are each the accumulation of many lifetimes of a multitude of experiences. These experiences create the reflexive substance of our consciousness and our consciousness – meaning what we think and feel, and which is constantly changing for better or worse – generates the electromagnetic-field-fabric of our hologram. Fabric is a useful metaphor because it conjures up the image of 1000s of threads woven together to create a multiplicity of patterns, colors, strengths and weaknesses.
Sin & Freedom
We find meaning in our lives when we follow our Dharma. Meaning is ultimately far more important to a human being than the temporal rewards of pleasure and gold. Krishna tells Arjuna that he should never abandon his duty. There is no sin in following your own Dharma, because in doing so you are working in alliance – in ‘partnership’ as Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair accurately terms it – with the God within you and sin is only that which moves away from God.
We always have that choice – the choice to align our consciousness with God or to reject the tender opportunity. That is our freedom.
In Book II Krishna has explained to Arjuna that as a warrior (Kshatriya) it is his duty (Dharma) to take action against evil and to fight for the protection of what is righteous and good. In the eras before the Kali Yuga the warriors were dedicated to the protection of truth, especially from from evil rulers. The Kshatriyas were men of wisdom and integrity who were dedicated to more than personal gain, mercenary wars, and corporate greed.
Talking in the chariot, positioned in between the two standing armies waiting for battle, Krishna has advised his friend that there is no sin incurred in the performance of action that conforms with Dharma, meaning Arjuna’s duty as a warrior. This knowledge is from the ancient system of Samkhya and the sage Kapila 500 BC. Krishna now teaches his friend the Yoga of Wisdom and Knowledge, which has the power to liberate him from the great danger (mahato-bhayat) of bondage (bandham), that results from attachment to action – Karma. (II.39)
The Kashmir Saivite Abhinavagupta comments on how action binds us in the temporal illusory hologram: The soul is bound by the subtle form of ‘impressions (vasana) of past deeds’ which remain in the mind. (II.40) My interpretation of this is that our thoughts, which generate our actions, create frequencies that build up as electromagnetic fields around the subtle body and create future tendencies.
We become what we think and do.
Krishna assures Arjuna that even the smallest beginning in the practice of Yoga will give good results, and what is gained by the efforts of a sincere heart will not be lost (II.41); even though, from my own experience, we may slip now and then back into a less than conscious state.
The etymology of the word Yoga is yoke (yuktas) meaning coupling or more profoundly, union. It’s common usage which would have been readily understood in that time, was the yoke pin used to join the oxen together to pull the ox cart. The yoke pin attached the yoke, a wooden harness, to the pole that was built into the cart. Thus when we practice the Yoga of Wisdom, we yoke our consciousness to the God within. You can’t drive the ox cart without the yoke pin – just as Arjuna, who personifies all mankind, needs Krishna to guide his chariot through the battlefield of life.
The tendency of man to commandeer and pervert wisdom for his own selfish needs permeates written history. When religions are turned into elaborate and specialized rituals, they degenerate and lose their cosmic consciousness. (Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers)
Writing itself is a symptom of the Kali Yuga. Vyasa, the poet-author of the Bhagavad Gita in the great epic the Mahabharata, saw that in his own time ‘religion had decayed into ritual’ (Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair) for in the next few verses (II.42-46) Krishna proceeds into a refreshing perspective of those unenlightened ones who use ritual to achieve their worldly desires. Just as Christ threw the money lenders out of the temple, you get the impression that in speaking through Krishna, Vyasa is a radical thinker. (The Betrayal of Krishna)
As we might wryly observe the hypocrisy and failings of any priesthood in our own time, Krishna seems to enjoy pointing out to Arjuna that there are those who, caught up in the flowery words (puspitam vacam) of the Vedas, profess that there is nothing else. Filled with their own desire for heaven, they are ‘addicted’, as Winthrop Sergeant translates the Sanskrit, to the various rites.
Such addiction and attachment to realizing only their desires for pleasure and power would not permit the practice of meditation to birth a discerning intellect that is necessary to achieve a frequency of consciousness which resonates with primordial truth (II.45). Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair feels that the poet Vyasa was ‘unambiguous and forthright here in his rejection of scripture and revelation.’
You never have the right to the results of any action …
Now here’s where the conversation begins to get deep in a vein that to my knowledge is rarely if ever followed in western thinking. Krishna tells Arjuna that he has the right to act, but never to the fruits or results of that action. Never! This statement is completely contrary to western dictates and the rules of ambition, which is all about risk only for reward. This concept of ‘detachment’ from results is something very subtle.
When I am struggling to understand metaphysical ideas, I try to take my conscious back into the golden era, the Satya Yuga, and imagine what I might have felt. So with this in mind, I imagine myself in the early days of this universe, in one of many Satya Yugas, creating. In that golden era whatever thoughts form in my mind appear in the temporal illusory hologram and I have the ability to create endlessly. Therefore my joy – and concomitantly my proximity to the God within me – is based in the Act of Creation and not in the object created.
Attachment to the object created draws me away from my closeness to the within and binds me into the temporal illusory hologram I myself have generated. This is what I think Krishna is pointing to when he says that we never have the right to the results of your actions. Becoming attached to these ‘fruits’ is a symptom of you losing your proximity to your own internal God-within consciousness.
In Satya P. Agarwal’s translation of the Gita, he says that our ancestors, and by this I assume he means the Vedic Seers, never intended us to spend our lives in meditation; it becomes a form of escapism. The experience of partnership, as the feeling of Oneness with God, will open you to a clarity of intellect, wisdom, and vision you could never have previously imagined. Enlightenment will fire your courage to work for the well-being of the world (lokasamgraha).
Book II, Verse 50: Yoga is skill in Action.
योगः कर्मसु कौशलम् .. २- ५० yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam 2.50
‘God will not create history for him [Arjuna], but can teach him Yoga which is the skill in action that can divinise history. History will never be redeemed if man does not enter into the partnership with God with all his being.’
The Betrayal of Krishna – Krishna Chaitanya/KK Nair