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Re: Gita - Introduction

I must offer my most courteous thanks to Mrs. Ravishankar for this,
and do hope to benefit by it. I now seek some clarifications to what
has been said in this introduction, and make some comments, and wish
to make it perfectly clear is that my aim is not to play semantics, or
cross swords for puerile one-upmanship, but to satisfy my genuine
curiosity. Let there be no misunderstanding on this.


Shrisha Rao

"Yaavaanartha Udapaane, sarvataha Samplutodake,
 Taavaan sarveshu Vedeshu, Brahmanasya vijaanataha."

      -- Sri Krishna, Bhagavad Gita 2:46

> Here goes the introduction to gita:
>                       hare krishna hare krishna
>                       krishna krishna hare hare
>                       hare   rama   hare   rama
>                       rama   rama   hare   hare
>                             INTRODUCTION
>                             ************
> Bhagavad Gita is also known as Gitopanisad.  It is the essence of all
> vedic knowledge.  We have to receive this knowledge by the proper
> parampara (disciplic succession).  We must accept Bhagavad Gita
> without interpretation, without deletion and without our own whimsical
> participation in the matter.  The Gita should be taken as the most
> perfect presentation of the vedic knowledge.

I would like to know what is meant here by accept "without
interpretation." As I see it, given my lack of knowledge of Sanskrit,
and lack of understanding of the very deep tenets of the shaastras, I
must seek to learn the knowledge of the Gita only from a Guru, as you
have alluded to, and this involves some interpretation of the text by
the Guru for my benefit. Secondly, the B'Gita is supposed to be a
source of knowledge about Dharma, and a scripture from where I can
learn the code of conduct for my own life. However, this involves
interpretation also, as direct meanings may not apply since the actual
circumstances of the Gita do not (necessarily) match those of my daily

Secondly, why must one take the Gita as the most perfect
representation of Vedic knowledge? I think the quality that you
describe as "most perfect" applies primarily to the Vedas and
Upanishads themselves, and secondly, to the Mahabharata and the
Puranas. The Mahabharata is the larger text of which the Gita is a
part, and it cannot be that we consider its worth to be any lower than
that of the Gita, as such a consideration would be illogical. So all
of these must be considered perfect representations of Vedic
knowledge, and none of them is "most perfect." It is to be noted that
the 'Gita itself does not say anywhere that it is the most perfect
source of such knowledge, in the sense that any other source must be
necessarily inferior. On the other hand, we have the following verse
from the Brahmanda Purana, which says --

"Rugaadyaa Bhaaratam chaiva, Pancharaatram atha akhilam |
 Muula Raamaayanam chaiva, Puraanam chaitadaatmakam ||
 Ye cha Anuyaayinaastveshaam, sarve te cha Sadaagamaaha |
 Duraagamastadanye ye tair na Gneyo Janaardanaha || "

The Rig and other Vedas, the Mahabharata, and the Pancharaatra, in entirety.
The Muula Raamaayana, and those parts of the Puranas in line with the previous.
These, and the texts which follow these, are all pristine scriptures.
All the rest are false scriptures, and do not lead to knowledge of Janaardana.

It is to be noted that the composer of this verse is the same Sri Veda
Vyasa, who also composed the rest of the Puranas and the Mahabharata
(and therefore the Bhagavad Gita also), and it is not easy to take His
words lightly.

> The speaker of Bhagavad Gita is Lord Sri Krishna.  He is mentioned on
> every page of Gita as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.  This is
> also confirmed by many authorities of vedic knowledge like Sankaracharya,
> Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, etc.  The Lord Himself accepts this in the
> Gita and He is accepted as such in Brahma-samhita and in all puranas
> especially the Srimad Bhagavatam.  Because Bhagavad Gita is spoken by
> the Supreme Personality of Godhead one need not read any other vedic
> literature.

I think the ways in which Sri Chaitanya and Sri Sankaracharya have
accepted the Lord are quite different, tho. Sri Chaitanya is from the
Guru-Parampara of Sri Madhvaacharya, the modern founder of Dvaita,
while Sri Sankara is the founder of Advaita, and there is a very large
difference between these schools of thought. To Madhva, Krishna is the
Lord who exists in reality, is truly the embodiment of all virtues,
and who is distinct from the souls and inanimate matter, this
distinction being absolute, while to Sankara, He is no more than a
manifestation of the maya which causes us to perceive the illusory
world, and after salvation, there is no more Krishna or the world.

Secondly, it is not clear why one must not read any other Vedic
scripture; to accept the Gita and its claims with no study of
supporting evidence would be akin to the study of a Semitic scripture,
which is supposed to be revealed text, and is not to be questioned or
argued with. Such an approach has not been recommended by any of the
great Acharyas of days gone by, and they all took part and encouraged
debate and cross-fertilization, and asked us to look at all the
evidence and then make up our mind. What exactly is meant by "other"
Vedic literature? Is the Mahabharata also one such piece of "other"
literature? It cannot be, because it cannot be "other" than its own
proper subset, the Bhagavad Gita. Also, Sri Prabhupaada's seniors in
the Guru paramparaa he claims, have all composed Vedic literature
(Sri Madhvaacharya and Sri Vyaasa Tirtha being two prominent examples
that come to mind), and he would be hard put to denounce these while
preserving his own basis.

> So according to the
> statements of Gita, a person who is trying to understand the Gita,
> should atleast theoritically accept Sri Krishna as the Supreme
> Personality of Godhead and with that submissive spirit he could
> understand the Gita.

Which statement of the Gita is being referred to here in the last
sentence? I would much appreciate knowing a specific one.

> Living entities are parts and parcels of Krishna.  He lives in the heart
> of every living being as Paramatma.  Therfore, our consciousness is
> transcendental as that of the Lord's.  But, at the present moment, it is

It seems to me that Krishna's presence in every living being indicates
the converse of what you have said, namely, that Krishna is part of
every living being. Not the reverse.

> materially contaminated ie we are called conditioned.  Hence we are
> subjected to the following defects: (1) sure to commit mistakes
> (2) invariably illusioned (3) has the tendency to cheat others and
> (4) limited by imperfect senses.  False consciousness is exhibited under
> the impression that I am a product of this material nature.  One who
> wants to become liberated, must first of all learn that he is not this
> material body.  Mukthi means liberation from the contaminated
> consciousness of this material world and situation in pure consciousness.
> In pure consciousness our actions will be dovetailed to the will of
> isvara and that will make us happy.  All the instructions of Bhagavad
> Gita are intended to awaken this pure consciousness.

I believe what you are trying to say in the above paragraph has also
been dealth with by Sri Madhva himself in his monumental treatise,
Anuvyaakhyaana, where he says that all misery is due to incomplete
knowledge of the five differences (Pancha Bheda), these being -

1. The difference between a soul and inanimate matter.
2. The difference between a soul and the Lord.
3. The difference between the Lord and inanimate matter.
4. The difference between a soul and another soul.
5. The diffence between different pieces of inanimate matter.

According to Madhva, all these three components of the world soul
(Jiiva), inanimate matter (Jada) and the Lord (Paramaatmaa or Ishvara)
have distinct properties, and these have to be understood. The pancha
bhedas are absolute, and are not illusory, hence the distinction. They
are even said to last after salvation (Mukti). The Lord is the
embodiment of all good qualities, and is perfect, omnipotent and
independant, and so on. The souls are not; they are dependant, limited
in ability, and such. Failure to realize these differences (not
academically, but in practice) causes misery.

Thus, some people think that they are their bodies, and waste their
energies and time on decoration, beauty aids etc, because they have
failed to realize difference 1. Similarly, some assume that they are
independant and try to act on their own, and suffer failure.  This is
because they think they have the Lord's properties of power and
independance, which is a failure to understand 2. Similarly, some
people worship blindly and think of the idol itself as the Lord. Such
worship has much procedure but little devotion, does not yield fruit,
and is an example of failure to grasp 3... and so on. It is easy to
construct examples for the cases generated by 4 and 5.

And it is also worth noting that our consciousness is not, by innate
nature, of the same nature as that of Krishna, as such a claim would
violate 2.

> Gita states that the living entity (soul) is eternal.  We keep changing
> only our material bodies.  No planet in the material universe is free
> from the four principles of material existence namely birth, death,
> disease and old age. This applies even to the highest planet Brahmaloka.
> Therefore, in the Gita worship of different demigods is not approved. We
> need to worship only the Supreme Lord because our ultimate goal is to
> return to His abode. Lord Krishna assures that those who return to His
> abode will never come back again to this material world.

Here, it is not so much the case that no other gods must be
worshipped, but that no other gods must be worshipped as the Supreme.
There is a difference. We do worship other gods who are senior to us
in the hierarchy, and seek their blessings and Guidance in approaching
the Lord. For this kind of worship, the Rig Veda says

"Sarva Deva namaskaaraha Keshavam Pratigachchati."

Salutations offered to all gods go to Keshava.

> Therefore, if we always engage our mind in
> reading the vedic literatures, then it is possible for us to remember
> the Lord at the time of death.

There is a slight contradiction here, don't you think, between this
and what you have said before? There, you have said that one need not
read any Vedic literature except the Gita, and here, your not using
the word Gita, and using the plural (literatures) seems to suggest
that one must read such other literature.

> Lord Caitanya also
> advises that one should practice chanting the names of the Lord always
> as the names of the Lord and the Lord are nondifferent.

I wonder how this is so? It is considered that the names of the Lord
are sacred and special, and that chanting them with the proper respect
and devotion is sure to bring merit, but no symbol can be the same as
the object or entity it symbolizes; that is against the whole concept
of names or symbols. Also, the names of the Lord exist only in our
minds and while we think them or say them, but the Lord is omnipresent
in space and time. If the two are the same, there is a clear
contradiction. How can this contradiction be resolved?

> Gitamahatmya states: Let there be one scripture for the whole world -
> Bhagavad Gita, one God - Sri Krishna, One mantra - the chanting of His
> holy name "hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare hare
> rama hare rama rama rama hare hare" and let there be one work only - the
> service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

I have one last question; I have always wondered what the source for
the "hare krishna hare krishna..." mantra is. It is not from the
Bhagavad Gita, that is for sure. And it is also different from the
Krishna shadakshara mantra, one of the biija mantras. Where is it from?

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