Report of meeting on 18th November 2014
Scriptural Reasoning - the Bhagavad Gita
On November 18th 2014 Mark Humphries led SAIF members in a study of a text of the Bhagavad Gita, which led to an animated discussion of creation, re-incarnation, death, karma, and ethical issues around violence. Mark distributed the handout printed below.
BHAGAVAD GITA – THE SONG OF GOD
Extracts from the final chapter 18, texts 61-65
Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Lord Krishna and a man called Arjuna, which took place at Kurukshetra in India just over 5000 years ago, where a huge battle between the forces of good and evil took place. Krishna and Arjuna were seated on a chariot and had a long conversation just before the forces of evil attacked Arjuna’s forces of good. Arjuna wanted to abandon his duty to protect the kingdom and its helpless civilians, and run away from the battle, because he had relatives in both of the opposing armies, and feared a sinful reaction if he fought.
At the end of the conversation the supreme personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, explained to the spiritual warrior Arjuna:
“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 (India), surrender unto Him utterly. By His grace you will attain transcendental peace, and the supreme and eternal abode.
Thus I have explained to you knowledge still more confidential. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.
Because you are My very dear friend, I am speaking to you My supreme instruction, the most confidential knowledge of all. Hear this from me, for it is for your benefit.
Always think of Me, become my devotee, worship Me, and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.
Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
The Bhagavad Gita is an extract from the MahaBharata scripture, which records the events in India at the time of Lord Krishna’s appearance there, just over 5000 years ago. Earlier in chapter 4 of the Gita, text 7 the Lord explains to Arjuna that ‘Wherever and whenever there is a decline in religion and an increase in irreligion at that time I descend.’ God can appear wherever and whenever he likes and does so to establish the principles of religion. He teaches according to the understanding of the people of that time and place, and for particular purposes.
There are many incarnations, and types of incarnations of God, and these are listed in the Vedic scriptures. It is not a fact that the Lord only appears on Indian soil. But his mission is the same, to lead people to God consciousness, and the principles of religion. He appears in various guises to do this, including as his own ‘son’ and as Lord Buddha, to even help people who are not keen to believe in God! Messengers of God also appear with great regularity to try and help and encourage us.
In the age of Kali (evil) which started just after Lord Krishna left the planet 5000 years ago, the people in general were to become too unintelligent to fully understand the original Vedic scriptures and so the basic spiritual truths about the soul, God and their relationship, needed to be presented more simply, and this is why God spoke the Bhagavad Gita. (The truth has been presented even more simply in subsequent millennia, as peoples spiritual intelligence has diminished more and more.)
The Vedic scriptures (as do non-Vedic scriptures) contain literal, metaphorical, allegorical, philosophical and poetical elements and are easily misunderstood by ignorant and unintelligent persons. Much trouble occurs in the world of religion due to confusion and misinterpretation of the literal and metaphorical.
Reading the Bhagavad Gita at the metaphorical level, one can understand that the battlefield where the battle between good and evil took place represents the ‘battlefield’ of the material world where every living entity fights to survive.
The chariot on which Lord Krishna and Arjuna are seated represents the material body, the horses represent the senses, the reins represent the mind, and the whip represents the intelligence.
It can also be noted that there are two souls on board the chariot and the supersoul, the Lord in heart (God) is the one driving the chariot, whilst Arjuna, the passenger, is the individual soul (ie he represents us), ‘seated as on a machine made of the material energy’.
Material energy does not live but it can be made in to functioning machines, driven by consciousness (the soul). A car is made out of lifeless subatomic particles just as our bodies are.
The body cannot be killed as it is not alive anymore than a car is. This does not justify unnecessary violence in any form against other living entities. When the body ceases to function, the living entity within receives a new body according to its karma.
Scientific examination of matter shows it to be made of lifeless particles and scientists have never managed to create a living creature by combining it, although some scientists have made misleading claims to this effect, only for it to be found out that they have manipulated existing life forms as opposed to actually creating life from lifeless matter.
So every living spiritual soul in the material realm has a ‘chariot’ of some sort, but when a soul gets a human body it is a chance to understand what is the soul, what is God, and how to re-establish their relationship. If a soul in a human body wastes this chance it is doomed to get an animal body of some sort in its next life. If a soul can only make a little spiritual progress it will at least guarantee another human body in the next life, so that further progress can be made.
Instead of wasting our time trying to fulfil our desires we would do better to fulfil our duties in life while trying to gain spiritual knowledge, and then surrender to God, for it will be to our benefit to go home, back to the kingdom of God, the spiritual world, and not to have to come back to the battlefield of material existence again and again, where there is so much suffering.
Arjuna’s duty was to protect and defend the kingdom and its innocent people from the thieves, rapists and murderers who had taken over power, even though some were related to him.
Krishna recommends that Arjuna ‘deliberate fully on this and then do what he wishes to do’, and asks him to listen to this advice as it is the best advice, as the Lord is our best friend and well wisher. God always gives us free will but at the same time knows what is best for us.
The Lord then tells Arjuna how to come to him, and recommends the abandonment of all religion, just as one abandons a road when one arrives at his destination, and there to fully surrender. The Lord also tells Arjuna not to worry about any sinful reactions (karma), as he will be relieved of this, just as a king can pardon a subject.
So it is not a matter of this religion or that religion but ultimately a matter of surrendering to God. Religion is supposed to help us on the way, unfortunately there is a great deal of irreligion around today and this turns people away from real religion, as football thugs deter people from going to football matches.