My six week of traveling around India were filled with unforgettable impressions.
The sights, sounds, people, and places – it was unlike anything I have ever experienced. But beyond the physical, I was particularly impressed by the openness and tolerance of the Hindus I met, especially with respect to questions of faith and belief. I met many Hindus who mirrored the sentiment of Mahatma Gandhi, “my Hinduism teaches me to respect all religions.”
Hinduism is an ancient belief system that eschews rigid dogma, and allows the individual to search for his or her own truth. As I understand it, a Hindu can believe in one God, many gods, pantheism, or henotheism (the worship of a single God while not denying the existence or possible existence of other deities.)
I'm not a student of the Vedas, but the Bhagavad Gita is one of my most cherished books. Henry David Thoreau described his daily reading of the “stupendous” cosmology of the Bhagavad Gita as a bath for his intellect, which made “our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.” This most famous of Hindu texts is set on a battlefield and consists of a dialogue between Krishna and a prince.
In Hinduism Krishna is an Avatar. Most of us are familiar with “avatar” from the Internet, but in Hinduism it represents an incarnation of Divinity which can appear on the earthly plane in physical form. Literally the Bhagavad Gita is translated as “the Song of God.” It's an epic Sanskrit poem of 700 verses that predates the New Testament of Christianity. Because it's a poem, it's possible that it was passed on as an oral tradition for centuries prior to being written. In any case, there are differing estimates of its date of origin, but all scholars place it at least a century or more prior to the birth of Jesus.
The Reality which pervades the universe is indestructible. No one has the power to change the Changeless. Bodies are said to die, but that which possesses the body is eternal.
Just as the dweller in the body passes through childhood, youth and old age, so at death he merely passes into another kind of body. The wise are not deceived by that. Chapter II
When goodness grows weak, when evil increases, I make myself a body. In every age I come back to deliver the holy, to destroy the sin of the sinner, to establish righteousness. He who knows the nature of my task and my holy birth is not reborn. When he leaves the body he comes to me. Flying from fear, from lust and anger, he hides in me, his refuge, his safety: burnt clean in the blaze of by being, in me many find home. Chapter IV
Recognition of God
He who does not worship God cannot be happy even in this world. What, then, can he expect from any other?
The form of worship which consists in contemplating God is superior to ritualistic worship with material offering... When you have reached enlightenment, ignorance will delude you no longer. In the light of that knowledge you will see the entire creation within your soul and in me. And though you were the foulest of sinners, this knowledge alone would carry you, like a raft, over all your sins. Chapter IV
And if any man meditates upon this sacred discourse of ours, I shall consider that he has worshiped me in spirit. Even if a man simply listens to these words with faith, and does not doubt them, he will be freed from his sins and reach the heaven of the righteous.
Nature of God
He is all-knowing God, lord of the emperors, ageless, subtler far than mind's inmost subtlety. Universal sustainer, shinning sunlike, self-luminous. Chapter VIII
This entire universe is pervaded by me, in that eternal form of mine which is not manifest to the senses. Although I am not with any creature, all creatures exist with me. I do not mean that they exist within me physically. This is my divine mystery. You must try to understand its nature. My Being sustains all creatures and brings them to birth, but has no physical contact with them. Chapter IX
Even those who worship other deities, and sacrifice to them with faith in their hearts, are really worshiping me, though with a mistaken approach. For I am the only enjoyer and the only God of all sacrifices. Chapter IX
I am the divine seed of all lives. In this world, nothing animate or inanimate exists without me. There is no limit to my divine manifestations, nor can they be numbered. What I have described to you are only a few of my countless forms. Whatever in this world is powerful, beautiful or glorious, that you may know to have come forth from a fraction of my power and glory. Chapter X
Suppose a thousand suns should rise together into the sky: such is the glory of the Shape of Infinite God. Chapter XII
This is my Infinite Being; shall the sun lend it any light – or the moon, or fire? For it shines self-luminous always: and he who attains me will never be reborn.
Purpose of Life
He who is free from delusion, and knows me as the supreme Reality, knows all that can be known. Therefore he adores me with his whole heart. This is the most sacred of all the truths I have taught you. He who has realized it becomes truly wise. The purpose of his life is fulfilled. Chapter XV
Hell has three doors: lust, rage and greed. These lead to man's ruin. Therefore he must avoid them all. He who passes by these three dark doors has achieved his own salvation. He will reach the highest goal at last. Chapter XVI
Bhagavad-Gita: The Song of God
by Swami Prabhavananda (Translator), Christopher Isherwood (Translator), Aldous Huxley (Introduction) 1st Printing1944
A word of caution:
According to the exegesis scholar Robert Minor, the Gita is "probably the most translated of any Asian text", but many modern versions heavily reflect the views of the organization or person who does the translating and distribution.
For more background on the Gita
Pixabay.com free use no attribution required with effects by @roused