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Re: The Essence of Bhagavad Gita - Reply

Posted By Ram V Chandran (chandran.burke@juno.com)
Thu, 31 Jul 1997 15:44:26 -0400

Ram Chandran <chandran.burke@juno.com> wrote: "The most important
message of Gita is the assertion that actions are inevitable and excuses
are unforgivable."

In his reply Sankar Jayanarayanan <kartik@Eng.Auburn.EDU> wrote:
> ................................................................
> This is entirely wrong. No doubt the Gita recognizes the importance of
> work obligations, but Krishna urges Arjuna to give up the thought
> "I am the doer" and do his duty _without any thought to the
> fulfillment of the actions_. To such a person, all action is not
> only forgivable, but the spiritual seeker becomes sinless!
> ..................................................................
> You surely must know about the "Kshampana" that is recited at the end
> most stotras. It is to beg forgiveness from the Lord for the mistakes
> that might have crept in during the recital of the stotra.
> If the most important message of the Gita was that excuses were
> unforgivable, there would be no compassion/mercy/grace on the
> part of the Ishvara......................................

Dear Sri Sankar Jayanarayanan:

Let me start my reply with a quotation from Colton (1780-1832) -
"There is this difference between happiness and wisdom that he that
thinks himself the happiest man really is so; but he that thinks himself
the wisest is generally the greatest fool." Please note that your
assertion"This is entirely wrong" is rude, inappropriate and can never be
correct. Such statements only expose the dominance of one's "Ego" over
one's discriminating intelligence. You revealed your Ego by the very
first statement of your last posting - "I had hoped that someone would
have by now pointed out the obvious errors in this article." Did you
ever think why others did not point out those obvious errors? I am
happy to note that with one exception the readers seem to understand the
rights of authors to express their opinion on Gita according to their
perception. Only religious fundamentalists engage in single minded
thought process and prohibit other opinions. The messages in Hindu
scriptures including the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita are against
religious fundamentalism. I hope that you change your attitude and
prepare to tolerate other opinions that may not agree with your point of
view. I hope that you understand that your point of view is not the only
way to describe the essence of Gita . . .
In your assertion - "No doubt the Gita recognizes the important
of work obligations" you appear to agree that "Actions are inevitable."
Your discussion also reinforces this them. When you accept that actions
are inevitable then there are no excuses for rejecting the redundant
second part - "excuses are unforgivable." There can be no excuses if
when we recognize the importance of completing an action! Your
discussions do indicate that you have a good understanding of Gita and I
request you express your own thesis. All of us can benefit more if you
divert your energy and time to write and present another version of the
Essence of Gita from your own perspective! I hope that the divinity
within you will guide you to suppress your ego and stop you making
inappropriate statements in the future. There is no one unique way of
extracting the essence from Gita and Gita contains so many nutrients and
tonics for our spiritual wealth!
Finally, let me try to explain the subtle message of Gita as
expressed in my assertion. The central theme of my article is to assert
that Gita is a manual for both spiritual and material life. My
grandmother who was a believer of our scriptures including Gita was of
the opinion that "Actions are inevitable." She was very strict with
everyone one of us in the family in completing our work obligations. I
have to wake, work, study, eat, play and sleep at the prescribed times.
She will not tolerate our excuses but she had great understanding of our
weaknesses and limitations. She was very compassionate and I can always
go and ask for her help and guidance. She was always available for all
our needs with an open heart with full of kindness and compassion. She
did not hesitate to punish me when I was wrong but was compassionate
enough to explain me why discipline and training are important. I was
able to see the presence of divinity through her presence. She will only
forgive me if and only if I demonstrated to her my change of attitude in
my work habits. I am of the opinion that God will forgive only those who
deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is purely a symbolic gesture to help us
to correct our mistakes! God's forgiveness is determined only by our
action and not by our words!
The "Kshampana" that is recited at the end of Stotras is again a
symbolic reminder to recognize the presence of Total Consciousness when
we commit mistakes. Mistakes can be committed both knowingly and
unknowingly. When we ask for God's forgiveness, we make a pledge to
shred our Ego and our determination to correct our behavior. The
Chinese Proverb - "To talk goodness is not good... Only to do it is"
expresses a similar opinion. The notorious thieves conduct routine
robberies and frequent prayers for God's forgiveness do continue to rob!
God can forgive if and when they become normal citizens. Gita implicitly
informs the public that God is not an object to freely distribute wealth,
lunches and rewards without individual efforts.
I agree that Gita is not meant to be a manual for success or
failure. However, those who follow the guidelines of Gita seem to enjoy
success as measured by the modern standard. Mahatma Gandhi has pointed
out in several occasions that how Gita had helped him to develop the
necessary confidence, courage, moral strength, dedication and discipline.
The spiritual life of Gandhi was evolved from the material life. In
pure spiritual life there is neither success, failure, like, dislikes,
etc. The spiritual life requires a transformation of attitude that
detaches attention of the mind from material benefits. While enjoying
the material comforts we experience illusory success and failure, like
and dislike etc. Gita elaborates the process of transformation from the
materialistic attitude to the spiritual attitude in eighteen chapters.
The important first step for such a transformation is to follow the WORK
ETHICS of leaders such as Gandhi and recognize that Actions are
inevitable. Some skeptics often ask questions on the relevance of
religious scriptures including Gita in a modern society. I feel
obligatory to explain those skeptics that those who believe and practice
the messages of Gita can meet the requirements of living in this modern
stressful society. I am trying to convince the doubters to read and
practice the method of living outlined in Gita. Gita is not only a
spiritual manual but also a great psychological and management guide for
everyone's needs. Though success is not the goal but it happens to be the
destination for those who adopt a life style as envisaged in Gita.

> ...... No. I do not consider myself an intellectual debater who
> has a perfect understanding of the Gita. I'm only trying to
> understand the Gita a little better, that's all.
It is not your word but your actions determine whether you are
an intellectual debater or otherwise. Your discussions in the last two
postings strongly indicate that you are an intellectual debater!
When the subject matter of discussion focuses on relative merits
or demerits of different opinions on Gita then such discussions will
develop an Intellectual Crisis. Intellectual Crisis always brings chaos
and utter confusion. Instead of focusing on the philosophical issues,
such debates concentrate on the abilities of the debaters. Debates
kindle the Ego of the debaters and divert the focus. At some threshold
point it is necessary for the intellect to bow down to faith and
intuition. It is intellectually arrogant for anyone to believe that
through arguments, we can come to a conclusive position and there will
be no disagreement whatsoever. None of us can ever claim that we have
completely understood our scriptures and the philosophical and religious
dogmas that have been postulated in the past.

> ..............For Ramanuja, one can never "get out of" duality, if I
> remember correctly. Duality is a reality. .........
There is ultimate unity between these two diversified beliefs of
Advaitins and viSishTAdvaitins in the end! Logical starting points may
appear different but the end point is the same. They both ascertain the
importance of freeing the mind from ego through discipline and dedicated
service to the humanity. For the purpose of pure intellectual analysis,
they are mathematically equivalent concepts. In abstract algebra it is
possible to establish different sets of assumptions and rules to arrive
at the same outcome. The analytical part of Vedanta is northing more
than high-level abstract algebra. It is no wonder why Sankara and
Ramanuja, the two great mathematical geniuses, came to the same
conclusion! For Sankara, the lack of spiritual practice is the cause for
the illusory duality. For Ramanuja, the human experience of duality is
real but with spiritual practice, it is possible to get out of the
duality. Both these great masters have emphasized the importance of
freeing the mind from ego to realize the Divinity.

> ...... Gita (2.48):
> "Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment
> to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga." ..........
> (Translation by BBT, used with permission)

This verse does confirm that one has to believe and practice
their stipulated duties. It confirms that actions are inevitable. The
destination for success comes automatically when one develops an attitude
to abandon the fruits of an action. Such attitudes are developed from
basic beliefs with dedication, determination, discipline and practice. If
one does not believe that "Actions are inevitable" they will look for all
sorts of excuses to postpone the action (Arjun attempted to do exactly
the same mistake!). This verse is a beautiful illustration for the path
to success! According to Gita we will be more successful when we
concentrate our efforts to complete the duties instead of fantasizing
success or failure.
Finally let me try to describe Vedanta using an abstract algebra
framework. Vedanta defines a logically consistent algebraic system with
assumptions, theorems and corollaries. In fact it can be described as a
"Topological system." The Vedantic Topology contains the several
equivalent definitions that include: Brahman, Atman, Self-realized
Person, Perfect Person or Stithaprajna, Perfect Yogi, Person with a
Steady Mind, Person with no Desires, Person with no Ego, Perfect Bhakta
Yogi, Perfect Karma Yogi, Perfect Jnana Yogi, Person with no illusion,
Person with full wisdom, etc. In this mathematical system if one of the
qualities is established then rest follows automatically! If one of the
qualities does not exist then it can be also shown that none of the
quality will exist. This may explain why there is so much confusion and
chaos. The Upanishads contain lots of such algebraic statements to
establish that infinity can be established in infinity ways but still
there is only one INFINITY! If and when we cross our boundary beyond the
finite human intelligence, we will be able see the unity between zero and
infinity. The Seers who crossed beyond the human intelligence and wrote
the Upanishads were able to see no difference between Niguna (Nirvana)
and Sarguna (Total Bliss) Brahman.
Let me take this opportunity to thank Kartik because he gave me
the opportunity to think, react and clarify my view points on this
important topic.

Ram Chandran

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