It’s been about two or three months since I last posted any Bhagavad-gita verses. I think I’ll rectify that right now. But first an explanation or two.
Firstly, if you don’t know what the Bhagavad-gita is, think of it as (basically) the bible of the Hare Krishnas (also of many Hindu peoples). It was spoken by Krishna to Arjuna on an ancient battlefield. Krishna is God and Arjuna is Krishna’s friend and servant. Arjuna wanted to neglect his duty and Krishna not only talks to him about duty and responsibility, but of the true nature of soul and our relation to God and the universe. It’s some pretty intense stuff. Well worth a read.
What I’m doing here is comparing four different translations of the Bhagavad-gita. In order: Srila Prabhupada, Tripurari Swami, Narayana Maharaja and Garuda das (Graham Schweig). I don’t do this to say “this or that Bhagavad-gita is better!” I do it simply to compare. It’s interesting to me. Anyway, that’s what I’m doing here.
My selection for today is from the 18th chapter. I mentioned them in my last Gita post.
There are two verses, I’ll combine them into one chunk of words.
Chapter 18, Texts 61 – 62.
The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy. O scion of Bharata, surrender unto Him utterly. By His grace you will attain transcendental peace and the supreme and eternal abode.
O Arjuna, God resides in the hearts of all beings, directing their wandering by the magical power of maya, on which they are seated as if it were a machine. Take refuge in him alone with all your heart, O descendant of Bharata. By his grace you will attain the supreme peace and eternal abode.
O Arjuna, Sarvantaryami Paramatma is situated in the heart of all jivas and is causing them to wander in the cycle of birth and death by His maya, as if they are mounted on a machine. O Bharata, surrender exclusively to the Isvara in every respect. By His grace, you will attain transcendental peace and the supreme eternal abode.
-Narayana MaharajaThe supreme Lord of all beings, O Arjuna, is present within the inner region of the heart, Causing all beings to move about like riders upon a mystical machine, by the divine power of Maya In him alone take shelter with your whole being, O Bharata. Through his grace you shall attain supreme peace, the eternal dwelling. -Garuda dasa
You’ll see that Prabhupada’s, Tripurari Swamis and Garuda dasa’s are all fairly similar, especially when compared to Narayana Maharaja’s.
All start out basically the same, with Krishna addressing Arjuna. “God is in our hearts,” Krishna tells Arjuna. Arjuna, throughout the Gita, is basically us. The everyman. Sort of. Narayana Maharaja uses the sanskrit “Sarvantaryami Paramatma” to describe God in our hearts. It literally means “The Supreme person who dwells in the hearts of everybody.” He uses “jivas,” a sanskrit word for “souls.”
See, we believe that we are not these bodies, that we are spirit souls. A lot of folks think that we have a soul. But really, we ARE the soul, we have a body. Get it?
From here, we learn that God is in us, directing (or causing) our wanderings (or movements) as if we were on a machine. “Machine” is interesting and I’ll come back to that in a second. All of the verses mention “maya” except for Srila Prabhupada’s. Maya is illusion. As defined in Srila Prabhupada’s Gita, maya is “an energy of Krishna’s which deludes the living entity into forgetfulness of the Supreme Lord.”
Prabhupada’s translation leaves out the word “maya,” but describes the machine as made of material energy (which is maya). When put that way, we can really see how this machine that is carrying us around is maya, illusion.
Narayana Maharaja doesn’t use the word “machine.” He describes the machine as the cycle of birth and death. Machines are cyclical. This machine, the machine that is carrying us around, the machine that is simply illusion is the cycle of birth and death. This cycle is everything that we think we know. Everything from our births to our deaths (since we believe in reincarnation), ad infinitum. And so everything we think we know is illusion, it’s not real.
It’s described as a dream. When we’re dreaming, we think it’s real. It seems real, no matter how wacky it is. That’s life in the material world. We think it’s real, but it’s not. It’s a real dream. But still a dream.
Tripurari Swami calls maya’s power “magical.” It’s like magicians (who are also called “illusionists”).
Then, moving onto the next verse, Arjuna, here addressed as the scion/descendant of Bharata (India), is being urged to surrender/take shelter/take refuge of this Supreme person, God, who is residing in our hearts. Narayana Maharaja uses the term “Isvara” which simply means “the Supreme controller.” In every translation, we’re not just being urged to surrender to Him, but to surrender “in every respect,” “utterly,” “exclusively,” and with our “whole being.”
Why? The last line covers it. We will attain transcendental and supreme peace as well as the eternal abode. Transcendental peace means eternal peace. Peace the transcends this material world. As we know, peace in this world is fleeting (if it ever comes at all), but transcendental peace is spiritual peace, the supreme peace. That is eternal.
The eternal abode, or eternal dwelling, is Vaikuntha, the “spiritual sky.” Or as Tripurari Swami put it in his purport “Give your heard to me [Krishna] and by my grace you will come to the end of all sorrow and attain my abode.” Meaning that we will be with Krishna in Krishna’s abode. Heaven, the Kingdom of God.
Now, as devotees, we shouldn’t be thinking of a reward for worshiping God. While we know that by this devotion we will come to Krishna’s abode (get to heaven), we shouldn’t think of God as a vending machine, here to meet our every whim.
To me, that almost seems like we need material proof of God’s existence. “God, if you’re there, show me a sign!” If a sign is shown, this may satisfy our very base spiritual desires, however, if a sign is not shown (as is often the case), our fragile faith is shattered. We have no capacity to see God with our material senses. It’s like looking for the sun with a flashlight. It’s pointless to try. Only through faith can we prove to ourselves that He is present.
But Krishna is so kind that He tells us the reward anyway. We just shouldn’t focus on that. We shouldn’t love God because we’re getting a reward out of it.
That’s sort of how I was raised, in the Baptist Church. Love God and accept Jesus as your savior or burn in hell for eternity. However, if you do accept Christ, you go to heaven. It’s two sides of the same coin. I was taught no devotion, no faith, no humility, only fear. I was told what hell would be like and how horrible it would be. I was told very literally nothing about heaven. “Streets of gold, mansions, etc.” But that’s it. And it didn’t matter, because even though I had no idea what heaven was like, it was definitely better than hell. So I got saved right quick.
But that taught me nothing about faith. It told me to love God or else. When I asked “why?” I was told “because otherwise, you’ll go to hell.” And who wants that?
In these two verses, Krishna tells us that He is in our hearts, but because of material illusion, we don’t know this. However, if we surrender to Him, we will have peace and be with God eternally.
There is no “and if you don’t do this, you’ll go to hell!” No condemnation or fear. The Bhagavad-gita isn’t about fear. What’s needed is there to scare people into believing something? If they are scared into believing it, it’s not that they really believe it, they’re just afraid to admit they don’t.
These two verses are the last of Krishna’s instructions in the Bhagavad-gita. This is the culmination of His teachings. Everything was leading up to this.
And what is “everything”? Well how about you pick up a copy of the Bhagavad-gita and find out? I personally recommend Bhagavad-gita: As It Is by Srila Prabhupada. You can buy that here.
This has been fun. If anyone’s got questions, I’ll do my best to answer. Hare Krishna!