Tuesday, April 02, 2013


I've sometimes been asked to write about the Gita. Since I tend to refer to it now and again.

I've never quite had that level of audacity for the simple reason that I do not know that much Sanskrit, that I've skimmed through the Gita maybe once in my life. And as for the rest, I've had to learn a chapter here or there-once or twice at school, off and on, in later life, because my father had recommended reading a page of it a day.

I cannot with any degree of truthfulness say that I understood much/any of it but there is no doubt that I do enjoy the poetry of the style, the language. 

I can, however, say that an almost daily reading of the Gita's Kavacham (which was taught to me by my father) did transform me. For one thing, I was unable to conceive of an "enemy", once lines from this section of the Gita were well imprinted on memory.

 Behold, O Partha, my hundreds and thousands of divine forms, various in kind, various in shape and hue.
On an amusing note, I recall one situation in which I used this "spell": Delhi's traffic is really scary and I used to be terrified when our two wheeler wove through narrow spaces, amidst reckless buses and other huge vehicles. Feeling all these "dangerous things" were just part of me tended to defuse the sense of fear, I suppose.

The Kavacham has many other parts which, each in their own way, empower self, form protection-or a sense of protectedness.

Ironically, or not, some of these verses seem to be used during cremations, as a reassurance to kith and kin, that the "soul" of their dear departed is, effectively, quite alright:
Weapons cannot cleave it, nor the fire burn, nor do the waters drench it, nor the wind dry.
All in all, it's pretty powerful stuff to tell yourself on a daily basis-changes you, changes how you look at the world.

But let's return to why I tend to refer to the Gita. Besides this life changing Kavacham, I'm almost always deeply moved by the 11th Chapter where "God", as the friend of man/of the human "soul", deigns to offer the mortal a vision of the "Divine Self".

I doubt anything of why it so moves me can be grasped unless one knows some Sanskrit-there is a tone which is lost, however good the translation. Perhaps it is just that it resounds for me with the memory of my father reciting these verses, almost with tears in his eyes.

I am not a religious, nor even a "spiritual" person-nor a rebel...Yet I am a Hindu by birth, am formed of certain common definitions of godhead... That the Divine is Everything, all at once. To be All in one instant: good, bad, beautiful, ugly, big, small...It must, surely, be a unique and fairly terrifying experience...

But that is mere sentimentality whereas, as with the reading of the Kavacham, there are other sections which bear witness to a transforming effect, if I may say so.

And that is probably why I heard that people, especially women, are advised not to read the Gita. When I asked a pretty young woman, who was, by the way, from a Brahmin family, why this was supposed to be so, she replied that she was told that the person who reads the Gita is changed.

Well, most of us, soon after birth and as part of the process of growing up, begin to express and experience our "individual self", our sense of "I". Few get to sense that this is actually quite a zoo! Some of those zoo owners are definitely demented -schizophrenics, for example (the multiple personality thing).

Some of us, however, for one reason or another, find ourselves with some quality time with "self". For most of us, most of the time, this "alone" time is scary - I would go so far as to say that it can be injurious and even destructive unless there has been some exposure to the concepts of that which unfolds when we are with ourselves, concepts of the paths and processes that all this involves...

Anyway, the point is that there is a part in the Gita which talks about these selves in the self.
Witness, source of the consent, upholder of the work of Nature, her enjoyer, almighty Lord and supreme Self is the Supreme Soul seated in this body. 
For those who have spent some time trying to silence the noisy traffic of the mind, there is, already, maybe only subconsciously, the glimpse of the Witness self. The part of us which can stand aside and watch the inside and the outside with a certain degree of detachment.

If practiced enough, this can sometimes lead to a kind of toying with permitting or sanctioning this or that in oneself. "I shall do this, I shall not do that"...

But it does not stop here if allowed to proceed, this path of discovery of self and its works! After a time, in some, there is an attitude of being ok with whatever is...almost like the King on one of the planets St Exupery's little prince visits.
"May I sit down?" came now a timid inquiry from the little prince.
"I order you to do so," the king answered him, and majestically gathered in a fold of his ermine mantle.
But the little prince was wondering . . . The planet was tiny. Over what could this king really rule?
"Sire," he said to him, "I beg that you will excuse my asking you a question--"
"I order you to ask me a question," the king hastened to assure him.
"Sire--over what do you rule?"
"Over everything," said the king, with magnificent simplicity.
And, if one matures beyond this point, one reaches a state where everything is quite enjoyable. I might venture to say that this state is almost in built in a certain age-phase, that as we age there is a point, a rather grandparently stage, where we find a lot in life quite amusing. When one is young one tends to take so very many things with such a lot of seriousness!

The final stage is termed as that of the Lord. In any organisation the Head at the very top is deeply concerned with everything but not necessarily bothered about petty things-I'm just risking a guess for I have no clue what that stage feels like.

It is not necessary for these steps to occur one by one in this order. In fact, all these exist in all of us, perhaps? And should we choose, these selves are revealed to us and, should we have the capacity, we can, through this knowledge, work some degree of control over ourselves, and, thus, over our lives.

The thirteenth Chapter was much recommended to me by my father but it is not one that reads so easy, nor one which I find easy to wrap my brains around.

See for yourself.

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