Title: Baghavad Gita
Plot: 2-For-1, This is the Hari Krishna's primary religious text, but only one of many of the Hindu's. Krishna is viewed as the Supreme God and he is talking to Arjuna (a prince) about the moral question of whether it's okay to kill our friends and countrymen in civil war.
Note: For researcher types who want a deep study there are four parts. Part 4 is the summary.
Jump to part 1 / Jump to part 3 / See Full Series
Listen to "Baghavad Gita holy book of the Hindus - Part 2 [27 Mins]" on Spreaker.
You are listening to the Book Matrix and you can find me on thebookmatrix.com
Hey, welcome back!
Today I will be reviewing the Baghavad Gita, this is Part 2.
In part 1 I gave you bragging rights. Now I must commend you for your level of commitment. Because as you know, 97% of people don't know their own religious texts and according to an article in Forbes less than 25% of people remain committed to ... I forget what the article was talking about.
While researching that Forbes article, I stumbled onto a different one that said 40% of Americans are overweight and that statistic has been rising at the rate of 1% per year. When I read that I nearly dropped my pizza.
Anyway, where were we? You are a unique and rare individual indeed! And I congratulate you for your followthrough!
Good job Ole boy...
Having listened to part 1 of my Gita summary I would imagine some of you are wondering where I stand so I'll tell you. Having been a book author for about ten years now did me a tremendous favor. And I'm going to share the value of my experience with you. Meaning, I won't insult you by telling you what to think, I'm just going to tell you what the book says. And I bet you are about to observe that I notice things others don't.
In part 1 I set the stage and if you are a Hindu or Hari Krishna, then in this podcast I am going to test your fortitude. If at any time you wonder about my objectivity feel free to listen to the Great Learning by Confucius because despite my differences with that religion, I spend the entire podcast acknowledging he wrote a great book.
In Part 1, we reviewed book 1 which is called the Distress of Arjuna followed by book 2 which is known as the book of the doctrines.
However, we only covered the first half of book 2. This is because the first half is completely dedicated to Krishna’s response to Arjuna’s distress. Meaning it made sense to end there because it enabled us to focus on the question that is the basis for the entire Gita. That set the stage for everything that comes afterward.
The second half of book 2 drifts further away from Arjuna’s original question. Krishna uses the question to segway into a broader discussion to explain the religious doctrines that are the foundation for two religions. And this by the way reminds me of Plato’s style.
The Gita is written like one of Plato's dialogs and the entire book is dedicated to answering the original question. Which was, "How can I kill my kinfolk?" In Plato's book called Meno the question was, "What is the nature of Virtue?"
If you've heard my podcasts on Plato, then you know that I'm generally very hard on him. The author of the Gita did a much better job than Plato — not to mention the addition of poetry, almost as if to show off. But there is an unavoidable fatal flaw when copying Plato, and that's one I explain in the Meno podcast so I won't rehash it here. If you visit my website and search for the word transcripts you can see the text for this entire podcast. And that's useful because I've got links to everything I'm talking about built into the text. The Forbes article, Plato's podcast and so much more. It puts everything at your fingertips so you can followup and take fewer notes. It's worth checking out!
With all due respect, in book 2 Krishna unleashes a big manipulation. Bearing in mind that Arjuna is distressed at the idea of killing his countrymen, Krishna comes at him with all guns blazing. I want you to put yourself in Arjuna's position and imagine this is the advice you're receiving. You're distressed at the idea of killing in civil war and Krishna tells you to snap out of it because you're a warrior and you're talking like a coward. You ask how you can live with yourself after killing your friends and family. And he replies that they will reincarnate and you're taking death too seriously. Next he says meditate, which I would interpret as him saying: push the inner conflict out of your mind. Focus and don't think so much... And then he says push the consequences of your actions out of your mind. And don't take actions seeking rewards or abstain due to fear of punishment, do right because it's right. You may recall that I read all of that to you in Krishna's original words in part 1. Ironically after saying all that he tells Arjuna that if he fights in this battle he will get valor and rulership in heaven. And then threatens him with disgrace, infamy, and the mockery of his enemies destroying any chance he has of a legacy throughout time.
If you're keeping score, after telling Arjuna to do right because it's right. Krishna tells him all the rewards he'll get for complying with the order and all the punishments if he refuses.
Having put yourself in Arjuna's place I'm sure you can see that that is a tremendous amount of pressure to comply, not to mention that the source of this pressure is your god. But it would seem Arjuna the warrior prince was stubborn because all that pressure was not enough to convince him to go to war.
I've read the Gita twice now and I've studied it very closely. And yet I still don't see anywhere in the book where it explains how to know right from wrong, and I think that's an important baseline that must be set when Krishna tells Arjuna to do what is right. How does Arjuna know right from wrong considering the Gita doesn't spell that out?
For example, Krishna says that not killing countrymen in lawful war is a sin, but he doesn’t explain how we know when the war is lawful. I would expect that there have been more than a few unlawful wars. And in fact, it seems like wars are fought because of lawlessness and irreconcilable disputes. Theoretically if everyone obeyed the law, wars would be unnecessary. Unless the laws were bad. And in that case, I would think the war would be unlawful.
Though I haven't yet mentioned it, in book two Krishna spoke of the soul and told Arjuna he had one and that he was therefore supposed to be self-ruled. But it sounds like Arjuna doesn't want to fight in the civil war making me wonder what Krishna means by being self-ruled.
The implication of being self ruled is that Arjuna decides what is right and wrong in his own eyes. And yet Krishna is requiring him to do the opposite of what he wants.
Presumably in an attempt to change the subject Arjuna asks Krishna how he can know who is worthy of emulation.
And I like this part of the text. It’s got a pleasant structure, there is wisdom in it. I like the way it’s laid out. It takes me a minute to realize that Krishna is describing a list of qualities and then summarizing that list with the possessor of those skills.
For example: I’ll quote him. Remember I’ll begin with the list and then assign those skills to a personality type.
In sorrows not rejected, and in joys not overjoyed; dwellling outside the stress of passion, fear and anger; fixed in calms of lofty contemplation; such an one is a Muni.
That’s M-u-n-i, but I would choose a more familiar word like intellect or stoic.
He describes several different personality types such as yoga, saint, muni, prince and then the opposites of all those types and that concludes chapter two.
Book three is called the book of virtue in work
In this book Krishna said it’s best to do right, but even better to think right, and so implied the mandate that it’s best to meditate.
Arjuna then asks: If meditation is nobler than action, then why must I fight?
And so here Arjuna is resisting again and after veering away into doctrine the text has returned to the original question.
But he closes with, “By what road will I find the better end?” Implying that Arjuna is deflecting by changing the subject.
Krishna says there are two paths:
- Salvation through works
- The Yoga which is salvation through meditation spiritually
But they are the same.
Krishna elaborates: He who thinks without acting is a hypocrite. But he who with strong body serves his mind Gives up his mortal powers to worthy work not seeking gain is honorable. Do your task!
And that statement reveals the Krishna knows Arjuna is deflecting, but he's re-applying pressure.
Since I did quite a bit of summarizing and modernizing, I'll give you another quote from the original text:
Do your earthly duty free from desire and you will perform your heavenly purpose.
In the beginning when all men were made and with mankind the sacrifice
Increase and multiply with sacrifice
Your cow of plenty will give back milk of abundance
And it’s at this point when we discover that apparently the Hindus offered
animal sacrifice to the gods in the flames of fire.
If you don’t tithe you eat and drink sin.
Sacrifice is paid with tithes of toil
Arjuna wants to know how one goes down the wrong path. Willingly or by force. And this is Krishna's response:
Passion born in darkness pushes him. Big appetites,
As the womb surrounds the babe unborn, so is the world of things foiled soiled, enclosed in this desire of flesh.
Fair but deceitful subtle as a flame
It maddens man, beguiling him blinding him
So govern your heart and control yourself
Fight! vanquish foes and doubts dear hero!
Slay what haunts thee in fond shapes and would betray!
Book 4 is the religion of knowledge
Again there’s more good writing in book 4.
Book 4 opens with a provocative dialog
Krishna states that in the beginning he gave knowledge to Vivaswata, the Lord of Light, but that it was lost over time.
Arjuna responds, you were just recently born, how is it then possible you gave knowledge to Vivaswata who preceeded time?
And this triggers a conversation about reincarnation. You may recall I mentioned in Part 1 that later in the book we discover that Krishna reincarnates, but retains his memory. Good job to my listeners who remembered that!
And so Krishna begins by telling us about himself.
He says he’s unborn, undying and indestructible the lord of the living. He says he stamps his magic on nature. He rises up whenever wickedness grows and righteousness shrinks back. He becomes a man restoring balance.
And that’s about it. I don't like the rest of the chapter. It seems like double-talk that is designed to sound like wisdom without saying anything at all. But I confess that things have been known to go over my head from time to time. And since I've read most of the holy books repeatedly, odds are good I may re-read this one and understand more later.
I would imagine it's hard to believe we're halfway through the study nearing the end of part 2 considering that I know a brilliant listener like yourself recalls there were 18 books and we just finished book 4. But believe it or not, in part 3 we slam through the rest of the Gita making podcast part 4 the summary of the entire study.
Do you agree? I want to hear from you!
As always thank you for listening! Have a brilliant week! And y'all come back now, ya here?
Podcasts mentioned in this episode
Listen to "The Great Learning holy book of Confucianism [16 Mins]" on Spreaker.
Listen to "Meno by Plato [21 Mins] A Classic" on Spreaker.