Everything you need to become Krishna conscious at home

Contents of the Gita Summarized, Part 2

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—by Kirtanananda Swami (ISKCON—New Vrndavana)

Sanjaya said: “Seeing Arjuna full of compassion and very sorrowful, his eyes brimming with tears, Madhusudana, Krsna, spoke the following words: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy.” Having set the scene in the First Chapter with Arjuna’s display of misdirected compassion, here in the Second Chapter, Krsna at once begins His instruction. The Second Chapter is sometimes called “the contents of the Gita summarized,” for actually in its compass, Krsna gives the whole purview of the transcendental message. It will be repeated in so many ways, but it is actually all here in nutshell. However, the Second Chapter deals more extensively with one particular subject than any other, and that is the nature of the individual soul and its constitutional position, or its relationship with Lord Sri Krsna.

The point should again be made that compassion is one of the most noble human emotions, materially considered, but compassion wrongly placed is ignorance. Arjuna’s compassion is ignorance because it is displayed in contradiction to the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is personally present before him; therefore Krsna uses the word kutas, wherefrom. Wherefrom have these impurities come? And “impurities” is the next important word. These impurities which have overcome Arjuna are not befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. The problem which Krsna is pointing out is not inherent in the nature of the individual soul; it is something external—wherefrom. Somehow or other a covering has come over the consciousness. As long as these impurities are present, one cannot know the progressive values of life. One who knows the progressive values of life knows what is matter and what is spirit and knows what will help one to cultivate the knowledge of matter and spirit. A civilization that is based on this knowledge is called Aryan. Aryan does not mean blond hair and blue eyes; it is not so cheap. An Aryan is one who is conscious that he is not the body, who is in full knowledge that he is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord Krsna, and who therefore knows that his duty is to extricate himself from the impurities which are covering that consciousness.

Arjuna was deviating from the great Vedic tradition of his forefathers who maintained a progressive God conscious civilization aimed at helping all living entitles to go back to home, back to Godhead. Instead, he was thinking like the non-Aryans, the materialistic men, about bodily relationships. “Oh, this is my family! These are my relatives, and this is my country!” All such designations are false because they belong only to this body, which is temporary, and since it is temporary, it is ultimately frustrating, or confusing. Therefore Arjuna quickly came to the conclusion, “Now I am confused.”

As was pointed out earlier, atheistic men are always confused because they make their senses the standard, and the senses are like wild horses running in different directions. Krsna says, “The intelligence of the irresolute is many-branched.” And Arjuna frankly admits, “Now I am confused about duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.” This is the point at which spiritual life begins. Without coming to the conclusion that I know nothing, I am in no position to receive spiritual knowledge. Unless I empty myself of all false opinions, I will not be very receptive to the absolute message. One cannot fill a cup that is already full. If the conditioned soul is still under the illusion that he knows something, or can somehow or other figure it out, he cannot make spiritual progress. The Bhagavad-gita actually begins when Arjuna says, “My dear Krsna, I am confused. I know nothing. Now I am Your disciple and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.” The first qualification, therefore, is surrender. But surrender to what? Actually everyone is surrendered; I see some of my friends surrendered to their wives, I see others surrendered to a sport, or to their senses, or to drugs. Some have even surrendered to a dog. Surrendered to what, or to whom? Arjuna gives us the perfect example—he surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna.

Krsna is original spiritual master of the Gita, and Arjuna if original disciple.

Krsna is original spiritual master of the Gita, and Arjuna if original disciple.

If one wants to surrender for the purpose of knowledge, one must surrender to someone who is in knowledge. Now knowledge of the Absolute is not so cheap that just anyone in the street has it. One must test very carefully to see if the symptoms are there. All of the Vedic literatures advise us to approach a bona fide spiritual master to get rid of the perplexities of life which happen without our desire. Bhagavad-gita, 4.34 says: “Just try to learn the truth by approaching, a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” The qualification of the spiritual master is that he has see n the truth. And what is that truth? That is answered in the Seventh Chapter, 19th verse: “After many, many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” So that is the qualification of a spiritual master: he has found out Krsna, he has surrendered to Krsna, and he knows that Krsna is the cause of all causes and all that is. So if one is fortunate enough to find such a soul who is in contact with Krsna, who thinks Krsna, who walks with Krsna, who talks with Krsna, who sleeps with Krsna, who eats with Krsna, whose whole life is devoted to spreading the knowledge of Krsna, he is most fortunate because he has a chance to solve all the problems of life.

And just what are the problems of life? Birth, old age, disease and death. These are the miseries of material nature which are plaguing us like a burning fire, and he who has not solved them is known as a miser, a krpana. In the Garga Upanisad it is stated: “He is a miserly man who does not solve the problems of life as a human, and who thus quits this world like the cats and dogs, not understanding the science of self-realization.” This example is actually very appropriate, for a miser takes something that has some potential value and simply hides it, or effectively wastes it. This human body is the most valuable gift because there is developed consciousness in it. One can ask, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Who is God? What is His nature?” The animals cannot ask such questions. But if we simply spend our life fulfilling our animal desires or economic needs in the matter of eating, sleeping, defending and mating (as do all the animals), then this human life is effectively wasted, and we are misers.

Arjuna is acting like a krpana, like a miserly man, because he is overly concerned with his wife and family, country and society. These exist simply on the basis of skin disease.” He is not thinking about the ultimate solution to birth, old age, disease and death. Arjuna forgets, but Krsna never forgets. That is the qualification of a spiritual master—he does not forget Krsna, and therefore he can save one from death. In the Upanisads it is said that no one should become a spiritual master, or a father, or teacher, unless he can save his dependents from death. Lord Krsna is the original spiritual master, and He can make a solution to all problems, including death. So how Krsna spoke and how Arjuna heard should guide us in making a final solution.

Mundane scholars who deride Krsna as the Supreme Person say that one need not surrender to Krsna personally, but to some unborn, unmanifest within. They do not know that there is no difference between Krsna’s within and without, and one who has no such understanding is the greatest pretender and the greatest fool.

Having surrendered to Lord Krsna, Arjuna now takes the position of a disciple and listens, and Krsna assumes the role of supreme teacher and speaks authoritatively. There is no question, no hesitancy, and He begins by chastising His disciple: “While speaking learned words you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief.” Indirectly He is calling Arjuna a fool, because “those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.” To be a wise man means more than to parrot a few phrases, and to be an enlightened man calls for enlightened living. Therefore Krsna now develops the central theme of the chapter, namely the spirit soul is eternally existing as His own part and parcel.

“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” In both the Katha and Svetasvatara Upanisads it is affirmed that the Lord is the maintainer of innumerable living entities and that by His plenary portions He is alive in the heart of every living entity and is eternally maintaining them individually, both in the conditioned and liberated states. The impersonalist idea that after death one again merges into the Supreme and loses his individuality is here refuted by Krsna. Krsna is the supreme authority, and He says, “Never was there a time, past, present, or future.” Furthermore, this point is central to Krsna’s argument. He is telling Arjuna that there is no cause for lamentation, because whether one is in this body or that body, the individuality is still there. If one could lose his individuality, then there would be cause for lamentation. But Krsna is telling His disciple that there is no cause for lamentation because in spite of all such apparent bodily changes the individual soul is there eternally. In verse 20 He says: “For the soul there is never birth or death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval.” If individuality were only an illusion, as the impersonalists maintain, then how could Krsna say this? Can something which is temporary and illusory, likened by the impersonalists to a ripple on the water, which is here for an instant and soon gone, be described as “unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval”?

Nor can it be argued that the individuality Krsna is referring to pertains to the body only. Krsna has already condemned His disciple for such a bodily conception, so how could He Himself have resorted to it? Again in verses 23-25 Krsna affirms that the soul can never be divided, cut into pieces, burned, moistened, withered, or dissolved. It is “eternally the same.” I have my individuality now, and I have it eternally; the only difference is that now it is exhibited through matter, and when the impurities mentioned in the first verse are removed, that individuality is exhibited in its pristine purity.

Krsna is reinforcing the concept of the eternal individuality of the soul in so many ways. It is eternally His own part and parcel. It cannot be cut into pieces. Since it can never be cut into pieces, it is eternally fragmental, just as it is “eternally the same.” Where is the ground for maintaining that someday the part can become the whole’? That is not Bhagavad-gita, and that is certainly not the way Arjuna understood it. This concept is repeated in many places in the Vedas and in many different ways just to confirm the stability of the conception of the soul. Repetition of something is necessary in order that we understand it without error.

Just to reassure his disciple. Krsna presents the argument from another angle. He suggests that just for the sake of argument Arjuna should suppose that the soul is not eternal. Still there is no reason for lamentation. Suppose this consciousness is just a result of a chance combination of matter, as modern scientists and anthropologists are inclined assert, that at a certain point in evolution consciousness appears for some time, and at another point it disappears due to the decomposition of matter. If all of these bodies on the battlefield are but a lump of chemicals, then why all the concern, for in battle who would withhold some chemicals in order to achieve victory? According to this theory there are so many entities generated out of matter every instant, and so many other entities are simultaneously annihilated. So why is this a cause for lamentation and the abandonment of one’s prescribed duty? Whether one accepts the Vedic conclusion that the soul is an atomic fragment of the supreme consciousness eternally or thinks that it is just a bunch of chemicals, there is no cause for lamentation or the abandonment of duty, what to speak of a duty being personally directed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krsna.

Krsna is making it clear to Arjuna that He does not accept this atheistic philosophy and that neither should he, and that it behooves him to carry out his duty in the tradition of all great Vedic warriors. “O descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any creature. Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat, and, by so doing, you shall never incur sin.” (Gita 2.30, 38) Krsna here definitely asserts that there is no cause for lamentation because in fact no one can be slain. Secondly, Arjuna should fight simply for the sake of fighting because Krsna is requesting this. The materialistic man is forever bewildered, being concerned with victory, gain and happiness, but the devotee is not concerned with these things. Happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat are the same to him. Whatever Krsna desires—that is the devotee’s rule. It is not that he will be Krsna’s devotee when he is victorious or when there is some gain. That is not devotion: that is business. Unfortunately most people, even most religious people, simply want to do business with God. “Give me this day, and I will do such and such.” That is not love of God, that is love of whatever one is bargaining for. Whatever condition Krsna wants, even if Krsna wants to send the devotee to hell, the devotee also desires. It is known as “dovetailing desire” when one makes Krsna’s desire his desire. “Do thou fight for the sake of fighting” simply because Krsna has willed it. Krsna is Supreme, and His reasons for desiring anything are supreme. So we can rest assured that there is divine justice in the battle, just as we understand that when the surgeon amputates an infected limb, it is not violence but mercy. Krsna is perfect, and whatever He does is perfect. Actually, Krsna favors no one, not even his devotee, because Krsna claims all living entities as His children. Thus we can rest assured that whatever Krsna is ordering is best for everyone concerned.

The first 38 verses of Chapter Two deal with what is called sankhya philosophy, or with the analytical study of matter. By means of this analytical study, Krsna has shown Arjuna that the living entity is eternally part and parcel of Himself and that any impurity concerning this knowledge is temporary or illusory. Now the same thing will be shown by means of yoga namely that one can come into perfect understanding of his relationship with Lord Krsna by means of yoga, or renounced work. It says in verse 40 that even a little advancement on this path can protect one from the greatest harm.

There are two main points one should note about this type of yoga: the first is that one must work. It will be more elaborately explained in the Third and Fourth Chapters that work is necessary, but here Krsna is briefly outlining the fact that renounced work is superior to inaction, but not work for the fruits of one’s action. Verse 47 states, “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Neither consider yourself the cause of action, nor be attached to inaction.” Actually there are three concepts here: one is prescribed action, called karma; the second is prohibited action, called vikarma: and the third is inaction, or the failure to perform prescribed action. One of these is auspicious, and the other two are inauspicious; one will help one to advance spiritually, and the other two will degrade him. Krsna advises Arjuna to fight according to his karma, or prescribed duty, but not to be anxious about the results, either success or failure. Simply “fight for the sake of fighting” for Krsna.

Verse 51 states, “The wise, engaged in devotional service, take refuge in the Lord and free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world. In this way they can attain that state beyond all miseries.” Whereas the atheists are always anxious, those in devotional service take refuge at the lotus feet of the Lord. If one knows that the Lord is the factual doer of every action and is the proprietor of every result, where is there room for either pride or despondency? The Lord is the supreme enjoyer, enjoying the fruits of all actions; therefore it is said that He takes as much pleasure in the sting of an arrow that pierces His transcendental foot as He does in the love bites of His lovers in the bowers of Vrndavana. Krsna, as the supreme enjoyer, takes transcendental pleasure in all the actions of His devotees, as long as they are dedicated to Him in love. That is the only qualification. He has nothing to fear, nothing to gain and nothing to lose, but He is always reciprocating with the devotee who is working on His account. That is the first half of yoga—to be engaged for the Lord. And the second half automatically follows, namely that one withdraws his senses from the multitudinous sense objects. “One who is able to withdraw his senses from sense objects, as the tortoise draws his limbs within its shell, is to be understood as truly situated in knowledge.” (58) Without sense control, no yoga system can be complete. We can see today that there are so many so-called yoga societies where they are sitting this way or that, or pushing their noses, exercising and reducing, but where is the spiritual progress. Where is the love of Godhead? When Lord Jesus was once journeying down the road, he saw a fig tree in the distance and went in search of some figs, for he was hungry. But when he came close he saw that there were no figs, only leaves, and so he cursed the fig tree, and it withered up and died. So we must produce fruit. It is not enough simply to have a form of godliness. There must be some fruit, and that fruit is love of Godhead. Unless we develop that dormant love of Godhead, which is within all of us, we will be cursed. Why? Because we have been given this valuable form of life, this human body. If we are simply wasting it on the objects of the senses, then we are krpanas, misers. We are lower than dogs, for at least the dogs are following their nature. But since we have this dormant tendency to love God, and we are not following it out, we are not as advanced as the dogs.

Why control the senses? Because that dormant love of God cannot develop until my senses are controlled. In the Vedic literature it is said that the individual is a passenger in the car of the material body. Intelligence is the driver, and mind is the driving instrument, but the horses pulling the car are the senses. These senses are wild horses, pulling in so many ways uncontrollably, and unless they are controlled by the tight rein of the mind, there is no possibility of gaining that equilibrium known as peace. Actual advancement is dependent on remembering our original position as part and parcel of Krsna. Revival of that memory of Krsna consciousness is explained in verses 62-63: “While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost one falls down again into the material pool.” So it is not possible to revive that memory of Krsna consciousness until the senses are controlled; nor is it possible to develop attachment for Krsna unless we are detached from matter.

But detachment from matter and attachment for Krsna can at once be accomplished by devotional service. The purest, simplest form of devotional service, especially benedicted for this age, is the chanting of this Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. It is the special mercy Lord Caitanya, who is Krsna Himself, that in this Iron Age of Kali, an age of quarrel and destruction, He has especially empowered His name with His full potency, so that by associating with the holy name of Krsna one actually associates with Krsna. There is no need to wait for death to be with Krsna we can be with Krsna every instant through His name. We can also be with Him via His form, pastimes and qualities because they pertain to Krsna and are absolute. On the transcendental plane there is no difference between Krsna and His name, fame, form, associates and entourage. If we will simply associate with Krsna, then our consciousness becomes Krsnized, and our life becomes sublime.

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