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I’ve not been reading enough Indian content. I decided to fix that and start with the Gita.
I’ve listened to, chanted the gita in the past, however, I’ve never read it for the sake of reading it. I think I moved away from Indic content a while ago and this is my attempt to get back to it.
I read the gita online here. I did not go into the commentary because I wanted to do my own interpretation of it first.
Its incredibly powerful, I found myself agreeing with several passages of it and I thought I’d list them out here with some interpretations.
To come up with this list wasn’t easy, I actually had a total of 56 verses that I liked, but, one thing I’ve found really helpful personally is whenever I’m dealing with a long list, forcing myself to whittle it down is an act that brings about clarity in thinking, so, I did that and ended up with a list of 11 verses that I think impacted me the most.
The structure of the Gita
The Gita is divided in 18 chapters, each focusing on a different aspects of the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield.
The battlefield to me is a representation of the daily battles (read struggles) that each and every one of us go through, which is what makes the dialogue very relevant.
I’m not a religious person, but, I do not abhor all things religion, I think there is a lot of wisdom out there in texts like the Gita regardless of whether you believe or not, although in the text, Krishna does make it a point that one must believe to receive the wisdom in full.
The structure of the 18 chapters can be found here.
You’ll notice that these selected verses leave out quite a few chapters, that is by design. Some of these verses as said by Krishna in the dialogue himself, require the reader to be one of pure devotion and belief, which I am not, and rightly so, I wasn’t too taken in by those verses. However, as a work of literature in itself, it has been incredibly impactful. I intend to try to put some of these things into practice going forward.
Verses and Impact
1. Chapter 2, Verse 38
sukha-duḥkhe same kṛitvā lābhālābhau jayājayau
tato yuddhāya yujyasva naivaṁ pāpam avāpsyasi
Fight for the sake of duty, treating alike happiness and distress, loss and gain, victory and defeat. Fulfilling your responsibility in this way, you will never incur sin
karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅgo ’stvakarmaṇi
You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.
- The above two verses to me sound so much like Stoicism which is when I really got pulled into the dialogue. I’ve echoed similar thoughts in previous posts and I found myself relating to the 2nd verse on several levels.
buddhi-yukto jahātīha ubhe sukṛita-duṣhkṛite
tasmād yogāya yujyasva yogaḥ karmasu kauśhalam
One who prudently practices the science of work without attachment can get rid of both good and bad reactions in this life itself. Therefore, strive for Yog, which is the art of working skillfully (in proper consciousness).
śhreyān swa-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣhṭhitāt
swa-dharme nidhanaṁ śhreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ
It is far better to perform one’s natural prescribed duty, though tinged with faults, than to perform another’s prescribed duty, though perfectly. In fact, it is preferable to die in the discharge of one’s duty, than to follow the path of another, which is fraught with danger.
- I found 3 and 4 to be apt descriptors of how to go about work, this is something that I don’t do well enough yet, something to work towards I guess.
indriyāṇi parāṇyāhur indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ
The senses are superior to the gross body, and superior to the senses is the mind. Beyond the mind is the intellect, and even beyond the intellect is the soul.
karmaṇyakarma yaḥ paśhyed akarmaṇi cha karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣhyeṣhu sa yuktaḥ kṛitsna-karma-kṛit
Those who see action in inaction and inaction in action are truly wise amongst humans. Although performing all kinds of actions, they are yogis and masters of all their actions.
tyaktvā karma-phalāsaṅgaṁ nitya-tṛipto nirāśhrayaḥ
karmaṇyabhipravṛitto ’pi naiva kiñchit karoti saḥ
Such people, having given up attachment to the fruits of their actions, are always satisfied and not dependent on external things. Despite engaging in activities, they do not do anything at all.
- 5,6 and, 7 are ones that I found very interesting from a personality development perspective. I believe in having intrinsic motivators which enable you to grow and no 7 is a verse that resonated with me.
sādhuṣhvapi cha pāpeṣhu sama-buddhir viśhiṣhyate
The yogis look upon all — well-wishers, friends, foes, the pious, and the sinners — with an impartial intellect. The yogi who is of equal intellect toward friend, companion, and foe, neutral among enemies and relatives, and impartial between the righteous and sinful, is considered to be distinguished among humans.
amānitvam adambhitvam ahinsā kṣhāntir ārjavam
āchāryopāsanaṁ śhauchaṁ sthairyam ātma-vinigrahaḥ
indriyārtheṣhu vairāgyam anahankāra eva cha
asaktir anabhiṣhvaṅgaḥ putra-dāra-gṛihādiṣhu
nityaṁ cha sama-chittatvam iṣhṭāniṣhṭopapattiṣhu
mayi chānanya-yogena bhaktir avyabhichāriṇī
vivikta-deśha-sevitvam aratir jana-sansadi
etaj jñānam iti proktam ajñānaṁ yad ato ’nyathā
Humbleness; freedom from hypocrisy; non-violence; forgiveness; simplicity; service of the Guru; cleanliness of body and mind; steadfastness; and self-control; dispassion toward the objects of the senses; absence of egotism; keeping in mind the evils of birth, disease, old age, and death; non-attachment; absence of clinging to spouse, children, home, and so on; even-mindedness amidst desired and undesired events in life; constant and exclusive devotion toward me; an inclination for solitary places and an aversion for mundane society; constancy in spiritual knowledge; and philosophical pursuit of the Absolute Truth — all these I declare to be knowledge, and what is contrary to it, I call ignorance.
pravṛittiṁ cha nivṛittiṁ cha janā na vidur āsurāḥ
na śhauchaṁ nāpi chāchāro na satyaṁ teṣhu vidyate
asatyam apratiṣhṭhaṁ te jagad āhur anīśhvaram
aparaspara-sambhūtaṁ kim anyat kāma-haitukam
Those possessing a demoniac nature do not comprehend what actions are proper and what are improper. Hence, they possess neither purity, nor good conduct, nor even truthfulness.
They say, “The world is without absolute truth, without any basis (for moral order), and without a God (who has created or is controlling it). It is created from the combination of the two sexes, and has no purpose other than sexual gratification.”
- 8,9 and, 10 are surprisingly detailed descriptors of the right and wrong kind of people. in 10, the part about “without absolute truth” is something that I actually do think about, its something I’m going to investigate further.
dātavyam iti yad dānaṁ dīyate ‘nupakāriṇe
deśhe kāle cha pātre cha tad dānaṁ sāttvikaṁ smṛitam
Charity given to a worthy person simply because it is right to give, without consideration of anything in return, at the proper time and in the proper place, is stated to be in the mode of goodness.
- To give without expecting anything in return is something that is important to me.
yat tad agre viṣham iva pariṇāme ‘mṛitopamam
tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam ātma-buddhi-prasāda-jam
That which seems like poison at first, but tastes like nectar in the end, is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness. It is generated by the pure intellect that is situated in self-knowledge.
Next up is Tirukkural, will update with a post when I’m done reading. This has been super interesting so far. Glad I started doing this.
Thank you for reading