Q: What does Arjuna-vishada yoga mean?
Ans: “Yoga” has different meaning in different context. Here it means ‘title’. All 18 chapters are named as yoga. Vishada means grief. The attachment to any object causes fear, anger and/or sorrow. Arjuna was full of sorrow as he saw his loved ones against whom he had to fight. Sorrow is different than pain, sorrow is mental and pain is physical. Sorrow often immobilize the person.
Arjuna-vishada yoga is the second chapter of Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna saw his family members and teachers in Duryodhana’s army, but not as the enemy to wage a war against. Due to that vision, he hesitates and decides not to fight. He is taken over by his emotion, sorrow. Due to his nervousness and anxiety at that moment of action, he was completely deluded, confused and justifies his behavior and surrenders to Lord.
Q: How did Arjuna respond when he saw the army with which he was going to fight?
Ans: Ch.1 verse 28-29, reflects Arjuna’s breakdown in the battlefield. As he sees teachers and families on the side of Duryodhana, he was emotionally down and expresses verbally, ‘ I am completely exhausted. My limbs have lost their strength, my mouth is dry, my whole body is shaking, I have goosebumps and I can’t hold my bow & arrow’. In such a situation anything that he sees appears as failure and loss.
In his state of anxiety and low confidence, with negative thoughts in mind due to sorrow, his intellect was deluded, he finds himself unable to act. At his point, he seeks Sri krishna’s guidance, without fully surrendering.
This happens to people all across the world whether taking an exam, attending an interview, having a date, meeting a doctor, buying a car, people often feel stuck. They wonder if the decision is right, whether to continue with their plan of action, often get tensed and sweat. Gita helps to get out of such situations in life.
Q: What arguments did Arjuna present to justify his un-willingness to fight?
Ans: Arjuna, on seeing his teachers and family members on the enemy’s side, against him in the war front, became emotional. He was nervous, anxious, completely confused and decides not to fight the war.
He was trying to justify his decision as an experienced jnani with several points to support his decision.
At first he emphasizes that his disinterest in fame, glory or kingdom, by killing his family members. Secondly he points the war would cause destruction in all families, which would lead to destruction of traditions, cultures, discipline and values. Thirdly, he argues “Is it wise to fight against my teachers and elders of the family?”.
Earlier he had decided to fight against Duryodhana for all the atrocities he had committed but because of his affection and reverence to his teachers and grandfather, was confused and wanted Krishna to call off the war.
Why am I tempted to agree with Arjuna and justify his response?
Ans: Many people feel empathy towards Arjuna for they have experienced similar situations. They have taken tests, or have waited for the doctor’s response when their loved one is sick. Often times, when we face difficult situations, the thought of the negative consequences hits us hard. At that time, we don’t want to take the test, feel shaky and sweaty, we drop out of the test or decide to take the patient to a swamiji to know the future than a professional doctor or vice versa. That’s a clear state of confusion, not able to decide what to do and how to handle the situation. Listening to Sri Krishna helped Arjuna to be objective, which is for all who experience the inner conflict between the good and evil.
Q: Some people think Gita as an originator of war. Is it true?
Ans: There are some people who think so. This is because of non understanding of Gita in a deeper sense. When Krishna says fight, he did not mean literal fight. It means ‘do your duty’. That’s exactly what he told Arjuna, because Arjuna was in the battlefield at that time.
Gita is applicable to anyone and everyone who are in an internal conflict whether to do this or that. It is not about doing good or bad, but doing a right thing. Doing the right thing at all times is more important than doing good things.
Sri Krishna helped Arjuna understand the difference between good and right action. The Kurukshetra was in fact called Dharma kshetra, because the emphasis was on what was right at that time, with the given situation.
Q: What is the role of a citizen in a society?
Ans: Whenever you see anything inappropriate being done, adharmic actions, it is vital that wise people step up and stop it. We see the need for this in every generation. Gita’s message is active resistance to all evil in the world.
Q: What is atma?
Ans: Sri Krishna explain atma in chapter 2, verses 11-30 The limited presence is called jivatma. Brahman when acts in collaboration with the body and mind is jivatma, like the space in the pot whereas Brahman is unlimited space in the universe.
The ‘aham’, “I”, pervades all “Idham”‘ “this”. You cannot experience the world without experiencing the Self!! There cannot be an experience without the subject, the experiencer. Nothing can be known without the “I”. I hear, I see, I taste, I smell I touch, none of these are possible without the “I”. Every experience of this world is due to the presence of “I” in all. I pervade this entire world.
Because you associate with this body, you might find it difficult to comprehend that you pervade this entire universe, just like the space inside a pot which is confined within the walls of the pot is not aware that it is universal. That space inside the pot is the same as the space outside, in the world, in the entire galaxy!!
Q: How do I know atma exists?
Ans: When you look in a mirror, you know you’re different from the reflection in the mirror. A dog when it sees his image in the river, barks at it, thinking it is an another dog. A bird when sees its reflection in a mirror will keep on poking at it, thinking it is a different bird.
You and I know we exist but we don’t know ‘who am I?’
Human go through three states of existence. In Sanskrit, they’re called Jagrat, Swapna, Sushupti, Waking, Dream and Deep sleep states.
During the waking state the physical body and the mind are active. During the dream state, the body is at rest but the mind is working, in the deep sleep state both body and mind are at rest. When we wake up, we say, ‘ I had a good sleep!’ When you’re in deep sleep state you don’t even who is sleeping next to you or where you’re sleeping. Who slept and who knows you were asleep?
Atma is that which is present in all three states. That atma is the witness of everything both in an individual and universally. Nothing happens without IT’s knowledge. It is that One which in present in every being and in every thing. It is also called sat-chit-ananda. Sat is the existence itself, a rock. Anything that exists is IT.
Everything that we say, ‘this’, exists and whenever we say ‘this’, obviously it is not you because you’re able know it through your senses.
The scripture defines it as ‘Idham’ and ‘Aham’. “this” and “That”. “this” is all experiences, “That” is the experiencer, the “I”.
We often say, ‘my body hurts, ‘I can see the stars, I can smell the flower or I taste the sweetness’. Who is that “I”? Those sensory organs are the instruments that interacts with the world outside.
You observe your flow of thoughts. That means you’re not the mind. Therefore you’re neither the body nor the mind. Then who are you? You’re not what you think you are, the name, form, qualification, relationship, body, mind and anything that you claim to be.
Such a knowledge is the misunderstanding of who you are. Non understanding is better than misunderstanding. Misunderstood information when passed on would create a total chaos like a blind leading another blind. That’s why it is very important to study these scriptures by listening to a well educated teacher, who had a guru so that they’re are not the opinion of a single individual that is subject to change but transferred from a teacher.
You’re the witness of everything that’s happening in the body, with the body, in the mind and everything outside the body.
Q: Are there two presence in the body then?
Ans: No. They’re not two separate entities. Firstly, the presence is not in the body. The body is in the presence, like the pot is in the space. Atma and Brahman are one and the same. Atma is limited like the space in a room while Brahman is like the space in the universe. The real witness, let us call it Self, with a capital “S”. The thought “I”, the identification we have with this body and mind is the ego. This ego always likes to be always challenged, feels proud, subject to all actions, changes, emotions and thoughts. We call this ego, as self, with the small “s”. Self is the witness, which is the same in all beings.
Q: How are scriptures of Sanatana Dharma helpful? How can we know atma?
Ans: Everything around you is known by the tools you have, the senses also called ‘praman’. Eyes see the colors, ears recognize the different sounds, tongue the variety of taste, the skin the texture, the nose the smell. All these senses are programmed to project outside. They care programmed to identify the differences. If they don’t do it, then they’re not functional.
I’m the knower, pramata. The instrument is pramana, that which is known is prameya.
If there is ice cream on the table, you’re the pramata, your eyes are the pramana and the ice cream is the prameya. Atma is also called ‘aprameya’, cannot be known by any means.
Scriptures are tools that help you recognize atma as pointers. There are six modes of gaining knowledge even in the world.
Prathyaksha pramana, direct experience (through the senses)
Anumana pramana (through inference, fire is inferred by smoke)
Upamana pramana (by comparison like the minerals in Mars to minerals on earth)
Shabdha pramana (through the words of a realized master like learning music from an artist)
Arthaa patthi (effects reflect the cause, heavy floods means possible downpour, very common in healthcare)
Upalapthi, By negation ( by knowing nothing is there you confirm nothing is there. Negation of certain blood test reveals absence of certain conditions)
All the scriptures are sabhdha praman, through the words of a realized teacher. We cannot see it, we cannot infer it, we cannot compare it. Those words if the teacher are not to gain the knowledge of the Self but to remove the misunderstanding of the Self. By reading, listening, reflecting, intellectually understanding, being firm in the knowledge, one can realize Self. It can take years and even many births.
Q: What happens when a person dies?
Ans: Atma, (consciousness) that is together with sariram is called sariri, meaning that which is identified with the body. Body is also called dheham, meaning one that undergoes dhahanam, capable of being burnt.
All beings go through six stages ~ Birth, growth, modification, disease, decay and death. These are only for the body but atma is beyond these.
When one dies, the inert body which is a combination of five elements space, air, fire, water and earth, merges with the cosmic elements. The thoughts, goals and ambitions are gathered together. These are called vasanas or impressions. These create a body and an environment to purge those impressions. This explains the child prodigy. Without schooling or training we hear children playing musical instruments, doing college math, drawing or many other things as early as five years. The impressions from the previous births take effect to shine forth in the next birth. All our actions create our parents, environment in the next life. We create the blue print for the next birth.
No one can destroy the atma. It is imperishable. Atma is anadhi-no beginning, an-antham-no end, avyayam-not depriciable, imperishable.
Q: What is surrender?
Ans: Surrender is not an action but an attitude. There are four critical steps to surrender. This is applicable even in worldly knowledge. First, you identify that you don’t know something. If you think you know and you don’t know then the attitude to learn is different, if you think you don’t know and you don’t care to know that’s different. All our attitudes are different. Why? The answers come in future chapters called gunas.
Secondly, if you acknowledge that you don’t know then you need to have an internal motivation to learn. Thirdly, you should also recognize that the present knowledge, and resources that you have, are not enough to learn the new thing. Lastly, you choose to approach someone who is knowledgeable to impart that knowledge to you.
For ex: If you have a health condition, first you should know you have it. You then want to get better by doing something. You may try all home remedies but if they didn’t make you better, you recognize it and proceed to a medical professional. That person should be qualified enough to be able to treat your condition. Now you trust that doctor unconditionally and follow the direction.
Such an unconditional faith in scriptures and Lord is surrender. This is surrendering your ego and believing that you’re not the doer.
Q: What is a ‘conditional surrender’ and ‘complete surrender’.
Ans: We often see ‘conditional surrender’ in all temples from all types of people. People pray to Lord,’ If you do this for me, I will contribute ‘X’ amount, or I will do this or that’, or I will donate or volunteer. These are all conditional surrender, practically a deal.
On the contrary, if one says, ‘I am doing this to the best of my ability. whatever maybe the result, I accept it and take it as a gift from you. That is a ‘total, complete surrender’. A little child surrenders to a parent unconditionally. When the parent says, ‘go and play, or go to school’, the child simply knows that s/he will be taken care of without any doubt!!
Q: What is “Sreyas or Absolute Good” that Sri Krishna talks about to Arjuna?
Ans: There are good and not good things/situations. When something is good for one, the same could be bad for another. ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ they say. This is natural balance. But there something beyond these two called ‘Sreyas’ meaning ‘absolute good’. With this everyone gains and everyone has a treasure. Absolute good is dharma or dharmic thoughts, decisions and actions. This is applicable to everyone at all times like ‘do not steal other’s property’ or ‘do not hurt others in any way’, ‘always speak the truth’, called as Samanya dharma in Sanskrit.
Absolute good should synchronize with one’s physical, emotional, intellectual and the common good.
Relationships are important, but are not permanent. Only the relationship with Lord is permanent and ‘absolute’, all others are ‘relatives’. It is important to learn to discriminate between what is permanent and what is passing. We have the freedom to choose every day to do things that improve our health, promote lasting security and deepen relationships-things that in the long run contribute to the well being of our society and the world.
Q: What is the purpose of life?
Ans: Good question. If you look around, there are births, growth, children go to school, get old, get a job, get married, buy homes, cars, all needs and wants, have children, get old and die. During this event called life we experience lots of emotional roller coasters, happiness, excitements, sadness, sorrow, pain and pleasure. We call all these in one packet as ‘samsara’. This is big giant wheel and we keep coming back again and again due to the attraction and attachment to the worldly objects which are all temporary in existence. We aspire to get more and more and then worry about not losing what we got when we know nothing is permanent, including you. We have the choice to be in cycle or get off. Getting off from this cycle of samsara is the purpose of life attained by knowing your true Self