What It Takes to Be a True Devotee

Love. Passion. Dedication.

To me that are all to be a true devotee of the Sree Sree Gita Sangha. And, not only just of the Gita Sangha, but also a great disciple of the Lord. Whenever I am at Atlantic City and happen to be in the Mandir, I see a lot of things everywhere. Friendship, hard work, people taking commitments to fulfill the desires of others. And, these are EXACTLY what I love to see. Even here in Edison- my current residence, everywhere you go you will hear the chant of Lord Krishna’s name. Seeing all these devotional activities and love for god, makes me feel like doing the right things in life. Sometimes, I even feel like saying a couple of mantras, just to make my mind feel a bit lighter. But, for those of you out there who feel like you are not exactly feeling like a true devotee (and I am personally talking to the young generation out there) here are some steps for you to take a closer step to a  more peaceful life and well- to be a true devotee! You cannot only use these steps in any temples, but also everywhere you go!

1.Anybody can be a real devotee with some love for all the Gods (internally) and some love for others around them. If you are an adult, then show them that you care about them. Ask them “How was your day?” or “How are you _______?” If you are a young one, ask an aunt, uncle, or even your parents if their day was alright. Communicate with them- and yes, that could be a little hard for us kids to do sometimes. But give a thought about it and just do it. It will make you feel a little, if not any happier.

2. A little bit of passion can go a long way. Just like how the Aunt and Uncles sing ‘Hare Krishna’ in the Gita Sanghas, give a lot of deep emotion into your prayers and everything else you do. We also get a lot of opportunities to learn different Slokas in Gita School, so why not use them?

3.Being dedicated in what you’re doing is a special ability that many can’t do. Just like how I said before, focus on what you’re doing. A real devotee does everything with full attention, and takes some responsibility. He or she has some compassion for everything happening in life, with absolutely no regrets.

These are just three simple steps that can take you to a much more modest life. Of course, it’s not easy to reach perfection but remember, without trying nothing will happen in life. And get this maybe someday you can impress someone with these steps and make them say “Hugh, this child does  really know a lot!”

Oh and do not forget, when in doubt or when there is trouble nearby, recite these famous lines of the sacred Maha Mantra and guaranteed you will feel much safer.

Writer: Sharodia Roy (Former Student of Atlantic City Gita School)




Spirituality in Daily Life

One who has “discovered” one’s innermost Reality and identifies oneself with all that exists is called a “sthita-prajna” in Chapter Two of the Bhagavad Gita.

The Lord tells Arjuna how such a person behaves, how he talks, how he sits and moves around. The Gita describes also the behavior of a true bhakta, or devotee, in Chapter Twelve and the characteristics of a person who has transcended the three gunas in Chapter Fourteen. The people referred to in these contexts are extraordinary spiritual personalities who have crossed the ocean of samsara, of relative existence, and whose very sojourn on earth is a blessing to all: “One’s lineage is made pure, one’s mother made blessed, and Mother Earth rendered sacred, by one whose mind is merged in Brahman, the shoreless ocean of consciousness and bliss.”

Here we will deal not with such persons who have reached the highest point in spiritual life, but with sincere spiritual aspirants whose lives in the midst of society reflect the spiritual awakening in their hearts. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” as the proverb says. What are the external signs of a God-realized soul, or rather, how does asadhaka, one who is treading the spiritual path, behave? How is spirituality reflected in a common person whose life is circumscribed by the social conditions around him or her? What about monks who have dedicated their lives to the highest spiritual ideal?

Men and women dedicated to spiritual values develop the ability to withstand even terrible tragedies in their lives. For example, I may mention one such incident which I had the opportunity to see personally. A lady devotee in Kolkata suddenly lost her son, a brilliant student preparing for his Senior Cambridge [present class twelve] examinations, in a drowning accident. The lady is very much devoted to Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi. Even then, when I heard about it, I felt that she would be devastated and went personally to her house to offer some consolation. But to our surprise, instead of being consoled by us, the lady tried to console us, saying, “The Lord gave and the Lord took him away. What is the use of sorrowing?” This attitude was possible for her only because of her deep faith in, and devotion to, the divine personalities.

Spirituality helps to develop detachment to worldly matters and creates a sense of renunciation. I may mention the case of Dr Jiten Dutta, an unassuming bachelor whom I knew in the late nineteen-fifties. He was a man of strong opinions, but, with all that, he had a soft heart and felt for the poor. He would go to treat patients in Kolkata, but would give the fees he received to one of our girls’ schools in rural Bengal, and would have receipts issued to his patients in the name of the ashrama, as if their payments were actually donations. In this way, he donated more than a hundred thousand rupees for the said institution, which would be worth ten times the amount today!

Now I come to some of our swamis who were not well-known but who, by their simple and loving nature, were loved and respected by all who came into contact with them. One such was Swami Shiveshananda, more well-known as Dwaraka Maharaj. He lived most of his monastic life at Belur Math. He was a disciple of Mahapurush Maharaj (Swami Shivananda, the second president of the Ramakrishna Order), who lived upstairs in the old Math building where Swami Vivekananda spent his last days. In the courtyard below stands the mango tree which was there during Swami Vivekananda’s time as well. There is also a jackfruit tree and some other plants there. Dwaraka Maharaj had been told by his guru to see that the courtyard was kept clean and that leaves from the tree did not litter the place.

Dwaraka Maharaj had read about Shabari, who lived an ascetic life in the forest. She had heard that Sri Rama would pass by her hermitage, and she waited and waited for months and years to have the darshan of Sri Rama. She was waiting earnestly to hear his footsteps. At last he came and Shabari’s dream was fulfilled. Similarly, Dwaraka Maharaj was always watchful to see that leaves did not litter the courtyard. As soon as a leaf fell, he would rush forward to remove it! Thus his whole mind was given to his guru, Mahapurush Maharaj. I have seen him reciting those verses that deal with the episode of Shabari from the Ramayana in Bengali poetry, tears pouring down from his eyes. In his room was a picture of old Shabari, which someone had got for him. His was a great example of how an ordinary act can also become a practical spiritual action.

One more example: Swami Muktananda, known as Ban-baba or Banbihari Maharaj. Banbihari Maharaj spent all his monastic life at Ramakrishna Mission Home of Service, Varanasi. All his life he worked in the surgical department of the Sevashrama [hospital], bandaging the wounds—surgical and otherwise—of the innumerable patients who came to the hospital for treatment. With the greatest dedication he worked day after day for years together. His was really worship of the rogi-narayana—God in the form of the patient. He was full of love for all, with a sweet smile. He worked tirelessly, at any time of the day, as a true karma yogi. Ban-baba’s loving and compassionate heart endeared him to one and all. For sixty years he carried on his service to the patients. People, even senior surgeons, believed that a patient would be cured if Banbihari Maharaj would but take up the dressing of the wounds and the care of the post-operative period. Invariably, it came true. He passed away in 1996 at the ripe old age of ninety-three. Ban-baba’s life is a testimony to all those aspiring to live a spiritual life in the midst of intense activity. There are many examples of swamis who had lived exemplary lives, but it is not possible to describe all these lives here.

Now let us look at a grand example from the Catholic Christian tradition, of one who, in the midst of multifarious chores in the kitchen of a monastery in seventeenth-century France, maintained the constant awareness of God’s presence. His name was Brother Lawrence, and what we know about him is from a small book entitled The Practice of the Presence of God: “His conversion, at eighteen, was the result of the mere sight on a midwinter day of a dry and leafless tree standing gaunt against the snow; it stirred deep thoughts within him of the change the coming spring would bring. From that moment on he grew and waxed strong in the knowledge and love and favor of God, endeavoring constantly as he put it, `to walk as in His presence.’”

Thus, Brother Lawrence, in the midst of his heavy duties in the monastery, invoked the presence of God all the time. He said that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s presence by continually conversing with Him. The Lord says in the Gita, “Mam-anusmara yudhya ca; Remember Me and fight.” So to make our lives fully focused on God, continual effort to keep our mind on God is necessary.

This method of remembering Him will make us progress spiritually, without disturbing our day-to-day activities, in whichever vocation we may be engaged. Thus spirituality need not be confined to forests and caves. As Swami Vivekananda said, it should enter the marketplace, and the field and the factory. When all activities are infused with the leaven of spirituality, a silent revolution will come about. The real satya-yuga—Golden Age of spirituality—will begin. For this, continuous effort in this direction—to focus one’s life on God, and give it a spiritual orientation—is highly necessary.

Swami Smarananandaji

Vice President, Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Belur Math


The “Perception of God” by Vivekananda


“You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.”-Swami Vivekananda

Indeed, it was Swami Vivekananda’s that people cannot comprehend god if they don’t understand themselves. He postulated the idea that “all the gods are little beings to you, all the ideas of God and Father in heaven are but your own reflection”. He indicated that we are all gods, and god is not at all far away from us. Vivekananda is revered by many people as a “modern” Hindu philosopher and disciple. He advocated the spirituality of Hinduism both in India and the United States. As a result, he became an influential leader in the revival of Hinduism during the nineteenth century.  In a time where the British influence seemed to take over the lifestyles of the Indian people, Vivekananda spread the message of faith in God not only in India, but also in the United States and other western world. He believed that Krishna, the supreme lord, was omnipotent, and had many manifestations. As a result, he began to question if anyone had ever seen God, and if so, what form have they seen of God. From childhood to middle age Swamiji’s perception of God didn’t change necessarily, but his perception had evolved over time as he gained more knowledge and spirituality. At a very young age, his friendship with Ramakrishna had not only given abundant knowledge, but also cleared up confusions about religion. One day, Swami Vivekananda asked his divine spiritual master, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa that if he had ever met god. Sri Ramakrishna answered “indeed, I did”. He was indeed dazzled by the divine’s answer because he had previously asked numerous amount of people if they had ever seen god. Ramakrishna confided Yes, I have seen God. I see Him as I see you here, only more clearly. God can be seen. One can talk to him. But who cares for God?….If one cries sincerely for God, one can surely see Him”. Even though Ramakrishna was his spiritual advisor, Vivekananda believed that a human knowledge of God was very limited, and even a teacher should be tested. He wanted to teach us that a man had his own limitations. Vivekananda did many tests on Ramakrishna to test if he was really spiritual or materialistic; such as putting a coin on Ramakrishna’s bed to check if he was going to take the coin or not. Vivekananda’s daily visit to Dakwineswar to meet Ramakrishna had been life-changing and had a profound influence on him, and he learned that to attain god you had to surrender yourself unto him.

After Ramakrishna’s death Vivekananda devoted himself to meditation; thereby he founded the Ramakrishna Math. He had developed the idea that whichever right path you take, the long route or the short route, the path will lead to God. He traveled to the Western world to carry out this idea. In the United States, he delivered a speech at the Parliament of Religions which conveyed his own impression of God. He insisted that “Our fundamental idea is that your doctrine cannot be mine, or mine yours. I am my own sect”. In his speech, he admitted that he was devoted to some concepts of the Vedas, but also agreed that Vedas had some contradictory ideas; he admitted that Vedas exemplified God in a way that humans could understand. He knew that humans could approach God only in the five senses. But, he believed that there was a greater manifestation of God which humans could not perceive. Thereby, he believed that a man could only see God in the form of a man, and a fish could only see god in the form of a fish. He believed that Hinduism survived for more than five thousand years for one reason “Hindus had one peculiar idea — they never made any doctrines or dogmas in religion; and the latter has had the greatest growth”-Vivekananda meant that Hinduism does not allow only one path to achieve God, but also entitle any route that takes us toward the realization of God. He believed that religious freedom was the greatest strength in our religion because independence allowed Hindus to worship many different demi-gods such as Shiva, Ganesha, Durga, Kali, and many others. After he returned to India, he had realized a significant difference between the infrastructure of India and the United States. But he had two strong feelings toward his country which were faith, and hope. He believed that Indians should believe in themselves and have pride toward their country. He believed that the greatest weakness in a person is when a person loses a faith in himself. As quoted above, he insisted us that we cannot believe in god until you believe in yourself. To believe in yourself means not to only to have pride in ourselves in the best situations, but to have confidence, perseverance, and faith on god in the worst situations. Vivekananda’s speeches not only touched the people of India but also the western people. The New York Herald noted, “Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions”. Swamiji believed that the greatest strength of the Hindu culture was the richness, and exuberance of its long history. He quoted, “So long as they forgot the past, the Hindu nation remained a state of stupor; and as soon as they have begun to look into their past, there is on every side a fresh manifestation of life”.  As he reached middle age, he began to look at the Indians who desired little materialistic deeds, but had pride in their Hindu spirituality and culture. He began to see the poor Indians just as the rich Westerners; indeed, he saw a genuine envy of British toward the Indians because India had abundant natural resources at that time. As a result he encouraged Indian nationalism, but believed that Indians could not achieve emancipation without believing in themselves. Indeed, Swami Vivekananda revitalized the Hindu religion by simply teaching us to trust ourselves in order to approach God.

Writer : Rajat Baul (Teacher : Atlantic City Gita School)



Where is God?


Every day we pray to God, we pray for our good health, our well-being and safety, but where is HE?  Some might say in temple, some might say in the sky or heaven. While searching God in all of these places, we do not realize the fact that God is closer to us than we think.

In 1836, 17th February was a great day for the human beings of the world. That day in Kamarpukur, a nobleman named Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa was born. Coming from a poor family and growing up like an ordinary human being, Ramakrishna had explained many doubtful questions those wonder us every day when we try to comprehend the real meaning of those words. His answers and advices were put in the form of simple stories like Gospel by one of his devotees. One of the questions that was asked to Sri Ramakrishna was that where is god, and the devotee put his answer in a story.

In a village, a person wanted to smoke at night, so he went to a house next door to get the lighter. However, his friend drew his attention to the fact that he already had a lamp in his own hand. You may wonder how this story relates to God realization or about where God is. Like that man, we do not realize that God is always with us without our knowledge. He is in every human being, every animal, plants, insects etc. We can search Him if we want to, but not until we come to this ultimate realization that He is within us.

Now, a reader may ask how we worship to God who is within the people. Well, we cannot light a candle in front of the people and pray to them like we do to God. We can serve to God by helping them during the time of their necessities. We can start finding God in each other. Sri Ramakrishna gave another example, “A drunkard, deeply intoxicated, says, ‘Verily I am Kāli!’ The gopis, intoxicated with love, exclaimed, ‘Verily I am Krishna!’ One who thinks of God day and night, beholds Him everywhere. It is like, a man is sighting flames in every side of him after he has gazed fixedly at one flame for some time. Believing in God and serving him through assisting others. We can argue all day about the existence of God, but we will not get any possible answer until we truly believe in Him. We have to learn to respect elders and show love to the younger. Instead of being jealous, we have to pray for others’ well-being and always be kind to one another. Everyday wake up and be thankful that we got another new day, always give without expecting anything and you will find everywhere and in your heart.

” We are not human beings
having spiritual experiences;
We are spiritual beings
having a human experience!”  

Swami Vivekananda

Writer : Sukla Mohajan

Krishna’s Birth

krishna -janma

Dear Friends,

Do you know how Krishna was born? Long long time ago there was a King named Kansa .He was evil and never thought twice killing people. When Kansa’s sister Devaki married Vasudev, Kansa heard a voice from the sky that Devaki’s eighth child would be his slayer. Kansa became very angry and wanted to kill Devaki .Vasudev begged Kansa not to slay Devaki and he promised that he would hand over any child born to them. Kansa put them in jail.

Every time a child was born, the guards informed Kansa and he killed them. The day the eighth child was born it was raining heavily and the skies thundered. Then a miracle happened! Vasudev’s chains fell off, the prison door opened by itself and the guards were asleep. So Vasudev decided to escape with the child and leave him at his friend Nanda’s place in Gokul.

Vasudev placed him in a basket and carried the basket on his head. But Gokul was on the opposite bank of the river Yamuna. Because of the thunder and heavy rain, the river Yamuna was full of water. Vasudev prayed to god and another miracle happened. The water of the Yamuna parted and made a way for him. Vasudev then crossed Yamuna and reached Gokul.

When Vasudev reached Nanda’s house, he saw Nanda’s wife Yoshoda had given birth to a baby girl. Vasudev thought that since it was a baby girl, Kansa would not kill her. So while Nanda and Yoshoda were asleep, he placed his child in the cradle and took their daughter. When he returned to jail, the doors closed behind him and the baby girl started to cry. As soon as Kansa heard the news, he rushed to the jail and picked the child to dash it to the ground .Vasudev begged him but he didn’t listen. As the baby was about to hit the floor, she flew up and told Kansa that the one who was born to kill him is still alive and is in Gokul.

This is how our lord Sri Krishna was born in the world. I hope you enjoy this little story about Krishna’s birth.


Shapnil Roy

Bhagavat Sandarbha

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who was born in 1486 A.D. in West Bengal, India is the founder of the vedanta school of Bengal Vaishnavism. Although a great scholar himself he did not write any philosophical works or commentaries on the prasthana-trayi1 as was done by the founders of other vedanta schools such as Sr Shankaracharya and Sri Ramanujacharya. From Chaitanya Charitamrtam2 it is understood that he taught the intricate details of his system to some of his intimate followers such as Sri Rupa Gosvami and Sri Sanatana Gosvami . He had deputed some of his intimate followers to Vrindavan, the place where Lord Krishna lived about 5200 years ago and one of the most holy places in India, to establish his school by writing literature delineating his philosophical system, teaching it to the qualified students, establish temples and places of practice, and to discover the places related with Lord Krishna‟s pastimes which had been forgotten in due course of time. Among these six followers were very prominent and were popular as the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavan. They wrote a big body of literature which is accepted as authoritative by the followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Among them Shri Jiva Gosvami was the youngest and one of the most scholarly and prolific writer. He wrote a number of voluminous works dealing with almost all the branches of Vaishnava literature. It is he who systematized the teachings of Lord Chaitanya and gave it the shape of a school on par with other Vaishnava schools such as those founded by Sri Ramanujacharya, Nimbarkacharya, Madhavacharya and Vallabhacharya. Of all his works the Shat-sandarbha, and Sarva-samvadini are well known for his deep analysis and elaboration of entire theology as well as philosophy of Bengal Vaishnavism in a systematic manner. The original name of the Shat-sandarbha is Bhagavata Sandarbha, being an exposition and analysis of the message of Shrimad Bhagavata Purana.

General tradition in India for a school to be recognized as bonafide is to establish its philosophical tenets on the basis of prasthana-trayi(lit. the three great highways) which consists of the ten principal Upanishads, Vedanta-sutra, and Bhagavad-gita. Sri Chaitnya Mahaprabhu, however, gave utmost importance to Srimad Bhagavat Purana and proclaimed that it is an explanation of the Vedanta Sutra by the author, Sri Vyasa himself. Sri Chaitnya declared that Shrimad Bhagavata fully represents his own doctrine. 3 Therefore, his followers did not attempt to write commentaries on prasthana-trayi but wrote commentaries, essays and independent works on Srimad Bhagavata Purana. Bhagavata-sandarbha or Shat-sandarbha of Jiva Gosvami is one of these. It is an independent essay and very elaborate analysis of the subject of Bhagavata Purana and hence the name Bhagavata-sandarbha. It is popularly called Shat-sandarbha because it consists of six(shat) books, namely Tattva-sandarbha, Bhagavat-sandarbha, Parmatma-sandarbha, Krishna-sandarbha, Bhakti-sandarbha and Priti-sandarbha. Sarva-samvadidni is a supplement to the first four of the Shat-sandarbha.
The Bhagavat Sandarbha 4 is the second among the six Sandarbhas. It is called Bhagavat because its principal theme is the description of Bhagavan, the personal form of God, distinct from the quality-less impersonal Brahman.5
The Vedanta Sutra begins with an exposition of Brahman. Shankaracharya, the propagator of Advaita school of vedanta has explained that Brahman is unqualified (nirvishesa) and formless
(nirakara). He bases his conclusion on the authority of some specific statements of the Upanishads which declare that Brahman is the only reality, nothing else exits in the ultimate sense, it is without any qualities, parts and defects.6 He accepts two Brahman – saguna or qualified and nirguna or unqualified, the latter being the only ultimate reality, the temporal world does not exist in the real sense. All the Vaishnava schools refute his explanations. They have commented on the prasthana-trayi and explained them to establish that the Ultimate Reality is not without form and attributes. Shri Jiva Gosvami also does not agree with Advaita school but he has used a novel approach to establish his conclusion about the ultimate reality. He did not comment upon the prasthana-trayi and thus he does not directly refute the interpretations of Shankaracharya as has been done by senior vaishnava acharys such as Shri Ramanuja and Madhvacharya. He analyses the heart of sage Vyasa, the author of Vedanta-sutra and Srimad Bhagavata Purana, and the heart of the speakers of the Bhagavata Purana and shows that they all realized the superiority of personal form of Bhagavan over impersonal Brahman. He did this on the basis of the descriptions found in Bhagavata Purana. The conclusion of Vedanta-sutra could not be different from that of Bhagavata Purana, both being authored by Vyasa. This is discussed in great detail in Tattva-sandarbha (29-49), the first of the six sandarbhas.
All Vedanta schools agree that Ultimate Reality is one. The differences lie in the understanding of this Reality and its relation to the temporal world. Sri Jiva Gosvami bases his concept of the Ultimate Reality on the famous verse of Shrimad Bhagavata Purana (1.2.11)
“The Ultimate Reality (Tattava ) which the knowers of reality proclaim as non-dual consciousness (advaya-jnana) is called by three appellations of Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan.”
This verse sums up the concept of Reality. The first line of the verse calls the Reality as advaya-jnana and in the second line the same is called by three names as Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan which are Its three manifestations. Sri Jiva has commented upon the first line of this verse in Tattva Sandarbha(51)7 He says that the term jnana(lit. knowledge) in this verse means the Reality constituted of pure consciousness(cideka-rupam). The word advaya(lit. not two) signifies that there is nothing similar or dissimilar to this Reality. It does not signify attributeless consciousness (Brahman) of the Advaita school. The non-dualistic nature of the Ultimate Reality implies that It is self-sufficient, fully independent and Itself being Its own substratum. There is no other self-existent entity similar or dissimilar to it. The living beings are similar to it, being conscious by nature, but they are not self-existent being subordinate to Paramatma. The inert matter, space, time etc. are neither similar to it nor self-existent. In Sarva-samvadini Sri Jiva further explains that there is nothing equal to it in the same category (sajatiya-bheda) or in different category (vijatiya bheda); and because it is an indivisible substance, there being no difference between the essence and form or between one part of body from another (svagata-bheda) the Reality is advaya or non-dual. Advaya thus means unparalleled. It is not the advaita or the sole reality of the Advaita school. This Reality is endowed with multifarious potencies as its assistant factors. Contrary to the view of Advaita-vedantis the Reality is not devoid of potencies. This naturally implies that It has attributes, forms and actions. And these potencies being inherent in the Reality cannot exist separately or independently without It. The word tattva ( lit. thatness) implies that it is of the nature of supreme bliss being the ultimate object attained by human endeavors. 8 Happiness is the topmost goal desired by human beings. Therefore, if Tattva means highest realty then it must be of the nature of bliss otherwise it could not be the supreme goal of human endeavors. That also implies that it must be eternal. In other words the tattva called advaya-jnana implies conscious, blissful, eternal reality. This is identified with Bhagavan.
Shri Jiva Gosvami begins the Bhagavat Sandarbha with an explanation of the second line of the above referred verse of Bhagavata Purana (1.2.11). His purpose in writing this sandarbha is to establish the concept of Bhagavan i.e. Bhagvan is the highest manifestation of the reality,
superior to Brahman, consisting of a supra-mundane form replete with transcendental energies. The concept of paramatma is explained in great detail in Paramatma–sandarbha. He writes that although the Absolute Reality is one and indivisible it has three aspects according to the individual capacity of realization of the devotee (upasaka-yogyata-vaishishtyena). The same Absolute Reality can therefore be experienced as Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. These are three designations of the same Reality according to the realization of a particular transcendentalist. Sri Jiva Gosvami, however, hastens to add that the Absolute Reality is never designated as jiva, an individual soul. The specific sequence in this verse has been employed to indicate the relative importance of Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. To make this clear he defines these three as follows:
“This Absolute Reality is known as Brahman to those transcendentalists (paramahamsas) who have rejected all material pleasures even up to the happiness available to Lord Brahma, and who by ardent practice have realized their identity with this Reality, which is indivisible and blissful in nature, but whose hearts are unable to perceive the variegated ness displayed by Its internal potencies and thus experience It in an unspecific way, just as they sought It; in other words, when the Absolute Truth is defined without any distinction between energies and Energetic, then It is called Brahman.”
“And that very same Absolute Reality is named Bhagavan when, as the resting place of all other transcendental energies, It takes on some specific characteristics by the power of Its internal potency and becomes revealed to the senses, both internal and external, of the devotee transcendentalists (bhagavata-paramahamsas), for whom the entire universe has been colored by the bliss of such experience, whose senses have been imbued with devotion, itself a specific part of that internal pleasure potency and the only efficient means of giving them this realization; in other words, when the Absolute Truth is thus defined according to the distinction made between energies and Energetic, it is known as Bhagavan.”
“When this tattva – Bhagavan (the possessor of supreme majestic qualities) – is described or realized as the controller of the living beings, He is known as Paramatma (Supersoul).”
From these definitions it is clear that there is no ontological difference between Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. The difference lies in the perceptions of the respective transcendentalists. Yet the difference is not just in the name only.
To show the distinction between Brahman and Bhagavan Sri Jiva Gosvami cites two verses from Bhagavata Purana (5.12.11, 4.11.30):
“All-encompassing awareness is the Ultimate Truth. It is devoid of the contamination of material qualities, and hence, is of the nature of Supreme transcendence. It is oneness, free from internal and external divisions (Brahman). It is omnipresence, immanence, devoid of transformations (the unruffled witness – Paramatama). This all-encompassing awareness is designated as Bhagavan, the complete whole, called by mystics as Vasudeva.”
Manu told Dhruva: “ By rendering service unto the Supreme Lord, the possessor of all potencies (Bhagavan), the all-powerful reservoir of pleasure (Brahman) who resides in all living beings as the Soul of all (paramatma), you will very soon cut the tightened knot of ignorance in the form of I and my.”
Analyzing these verses Sri Jiva states that in the Tattva the bliss, or ananda, is the unqualified substantive (visheshya), all the energies are the qualifications (visheshana) and Bhagavan is the qualified object (vishishta). For example, in the phrase „blue lotus‟ lotus is the unqualified substantive, blue is the qualifying agent, and blue lotus is the qualified object. There is no real difference between lotus and blue lotus except that former does not convey any specific features and latter clearly states its color. The distinction between Brahman and Bhagavan is similar. In this way, being qualified with all potencies, Bhagavan is the undifferentiated reality because He is the complete manifestation of the Absolute Truth. Brahman, however, exhibits no specific qualities. Therefore, It is an incomplete manifestation of that Truth, just as lotus is incomplete understanding of blue lotus. Thus although there is no real difference between Brahman and
Bhagavan yet they are not exactly the same. The difference lies in the limitation of realization on the part of the devotee. If the truth of Bhagavan is realized Brahman will naturally be understood, just as one who understand blue lotus knows lotus automatically. For this reason Sri Jiva wrote Bhagavat-sandarbha and Paramatma-sandarbha to explain the nature of Bhagavan and Paramatma respectively but he did not write Brahma-sandarbha separately. It is contained within Bhagavat-sandarbha. This understanding of Brahman is different from that given by the Advaita school who consider Brahman to be devoid of all qualities, form, name and actions per se.
In the same way, there is no absolute difference between Bhagavan and Paramatma, the latter being a partial manifestation (svamsha) of Bhagavan. In this manifestation He is the cause of creation, enters the individual souls who constitutes the part of His Tatastha (lit. situated on bank) potency, enlivens the bodies and all objects beginning with the pradhana and as the inner controller He guides them in their respective functions. Thus although there is no absolute difference among the three aspects of One Absolute Reality yet according to Sri Jiva Gosvami, Bhagavan is the highest manifestation (purna avirbhava) replete with unparalleled multifarious potencies. In comparison to Bhagavan, Brahman is the incomplete manifestation (asamyag avirbhava) of the Absolute Reality. The realization of Bhagavan naturally contains the realization of Brahman but not vice-versa. The rest of the Sandarbha is a further elaboration of the nature of Bhagavan, his form, name, abode, devotees, activities and his superiority to Brahman. Hence he rightly calls it as Bhagavat Sandarbha – an essay on Bhagavan.
From the statements of sage Parashara in Vishnu Purana (6.5.74), Jiva Gosvami shows that the word Bhagavan means one who has six-fold majesties in the form of controlling power, inconceivable potencies, fame, wealth, knowledge and detachment in their fullness. Bhagavan also means one who is never influenced by the three gunas of prakrti (Vishnu Purana 6.5.79). His energies have a relationship of inherence (samavaya)9 with Him and thus he is never devoid of potencies. Although He is endowed with infinite potencies they are categorized in three groups as internal potency (Antaranga or Svarupa shakti), intermediate potency (Tatashta or Jiva shakti) and external potency ( Bahiranga or Maya shakti). The internal potency constitutes the perfect Selfhood of Bhagavan. It is fully and directly displayed in Him while the other two energies are displayed indirectly through the works of Paramatma who is His partial manifestation. By virtue of this inscrutable natural potency the same Ultimate Reality eternally undergoes fourfold manifestations as svarupa or essential form, vaibhava or partial expansions, jiva or individual souls and pradhana or the primordial matter. Thus Bhagavan is simultaneously endowed with conscious energy (chit shakti) and inert matter (achit shakti, also called maya shakti or bahiranga shakti). Maya shakti or external energy can never exercise its influence on Bhagavan. However, it has the power of causing delusion to the individual souls. The chit shakti and maya shakti are mutually antagonistic and yet their manifold functions are founded in the common substratum of Bhagavan.
Shri Jiva Gosvami stresses on two features of the energies of the Lord, namely their inconceivable nature (achintyatva) and their being natural (svabhavikatva) to the Lord. The inconceivable feature means that these potencies are inscrutable and are beyond the reach of human thought and reason (tarka-asaham). They are capable of bringing out impossible effects and they are accepted on the strength of the effect perceived (karya-anyatha-anupapatti-pramanakam), just as the power of some mantras or gems which can cure otherwise incurable diseases. The inconceivable feature also indicates the peculiar relation of these energies with Bhagavan, the possessor of the energies (shaktimat). This relation is neither of difference nor of non-difference and it is because of this peculiar relation that the philosophy of Sri Lord Chaitanya is called achintya-bheda-abheda-vada – simultaneously and inconceivably oneness and difference between energy and the Energetic.
Svabhavikatva means that energies are natural to the Lord and constitute in their totality His very essence although He transcends them. The energies are neither borrowed nor superimposed on
him. In the last part of Bhagavat Sandarbha Sri Jiva Gosvami says that the energies of the Lord have personalities and have distinct name, form and personalities and are depicted as His wives.
The Svarupa shakti of Bhagavan has three aspects of existence (sandhini), awareness (samvit) and bliss (hladini). The sandhini potency is the energy of existence of the Self-existent Bhagavan and it upholds the existence of the individual souls and nature. The samvit potency is the potency of knowledge of Bhagavan by which He knows and makes others know. The hladini potency is the potency of bliss which gives bliss to Bhagavan who Himself is full of bliss and causes others to enjoy. These three aspects of the internal potency are the very nature of Bhagavan and thus exist eternally in Him.
Samvit potency includes and supersedes sandhini potency and hladini potency includes and supersedes both of them. These three aspects of the internal potency always exist together with different combinations and proportions. The combination of these three aspects is called suddha sattva and depending on the preponderance of any of these three aspects it takes different designations such as adhara shakti, atmavidya, guhyavidya. The svarupa shakti of the Lord implies both the nature of the Lord, and his abode, associates etc.
Sri Jiva Gosvami spends much effort to establish that the energies of Bhagavan are real, eternal and not superimposed or borrowed. This is in contrast to the belief of the followers of Advaita school who consider the qualityless, formless, impotent Brahman to be the Ultimate Reality, and Bhagavan as a product of maya (Panchdashi 1.236). Next Sri Jiva establishes that form of Bhagavan is not material like that of human beings. It is spiritual and consists of existence, consciousness and bliss (sac-chid-ananda-rupatvam). Such a form can not be cognized by ordinary material senses yet it is revealed by the inconceivable potency of Bhagavan. Unlike mortal beings, form of Bhagavan is not different from the essential nature of Bhagavan. Although the form of Bhagavan is one it can manifest at unlimited places in unlimited aspects simultaneously in accordance to the mood of his devotees. Form of Bhagavan although manifest in one place and thus may appear limited with hands and feet it is all-pervading. An example of this was witnessed in the childhood pastime of Krishna when once he out of childhood prank broke a mudpot full of yogurt and his mother tried to bind him with ropes. All the available ropes in the house joined together were insufficient to go around Krishna‟s belly to tie him although Krishna was a small child and had a normal size belly. The attributes of limitation and all-pervasiveness were present in the form of Krishna simultaneously. Form of Bhagavan is always beyond the limits of time and place even when manifest in the material world.
Like the form of Bhagavan, His dress, ornaments, abode called Vaikuntha, associates are all manifestation of svarupa-shakti, the internal potency. They are all identical with Bhagavan. Bhagavan has various forms such as with two hands, four hands, six hands and so on and they are all real. But among all these forms the two handed human form is the topmost and the most suitable object of meditation. Sri Jiva identifies this form with Sri Krishna.
Like the form, the name of Bhagavan is also identical with Him. It has the same power as Bhagavan. Thus realizing the name even once can make one free from the bondage of the material world. Not only the name, but even the syllables constituting the name help the power to deliver one from material bondage. As Bhagavan manifests His form in the material world called an avatara He also manifests His name in the same manner. This implies that the name of Bhagavan is not material like the ordinary names. It is of the same nature as Bhagavan. It has the power to transport one immediately into the spiritual realm if uttered by the tongue or meditated upon. Sometimes Lord is called nameless (anama) in the scriptures. It means that His name is transcendental and beyond the comprehension of the material senses. Based upon this understanding Bengal Vaishnavism lays great stress on nama-sankirtana or congregational chanting with the accompaniment of musical instruments, and nama-japa. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said that in the present age, Kali-yuga, congregational chanting of the names of Bhagavan is the most efficacious means for attaining the perfection in spiritual life. He propagated nama-sankirtana in India and thus is rightly called sankirtan-pita or the originator of
the singing of names of Bhagavan. He also predicted that one day nama-sankirtan will become popular all over the world, a prophecy which has come true.
Sri Jiva Gosvami writes that like name and form, the hue of Bhagavan‟s body is also transcendental to the gunas of prakriti. Usually black color is considered as a manifestation of tamo-guna, but that does not apply to the transcendental color of Krishna‟s form. In conclusion, birth, action, name, form, color etc. of Bhagavan are spiritual, being manifestations of His svarupa shakti and they manifest to enhance the bliss of His devotees. The Lord is atmarama, one who delights in Himself, yet He gives His grace to His devotees. His grace is one of his infinite attributes and it is an aspect of His peculiarly wonderfully nature displaying His internal bliss. It is out of grace on His devotees that Bhagavan reveals His birth, form, pastimes, etc. There is no other purpose behind this because He is complete in Himself.
After establishing the transcendental nature of Bhagavan‟s form, name, action, abode, associates, etc. Sri Jiva Gosvami again brings back his attention to the distinction between Brahman and Bhagavan. He says that although the Ultimate Reality is one and indivisible yet the distinction between these two manifestations cannot be ignored as a mere difference in designation. Moreover, one of them is not a transformation of another because none of them is subject to it. The distinction between Brahman and Bhagavan arises because of two types of devotees who follow different paths of jnana and bhakti respectively. Bhagavan manifests Himself according to the qualification of the devotee. Sri Jiva again stresses that although these two manifestations are identical Bhagavan is superior to Brahman because in Bhagavan there is complete manifestation of the svarupa shakti of the Ultimate Reality, while in Brahman the attributes remain unmanifest. Therefore, the vision of Brahman which manifests only the undifferentiated aspect of the ultimate Reality is said to be incomplete. And the realization of Bhagavan and his multifarious specialties constituting the essence of the Ultimate Reality is said to be perfect and complete. Such a complete and perfect realization of Bhagavan is possible only through bhakti. The realization of Bhagavan naturally contains the realization of Brahman in it. Therefore the path of bhakti is superior to the path of jnana. The bliss of bhakti (bhajana-ananda) is much superior to the bliss of realization of Brahman (svarupa-ananda). Therefore, even liberated people take delight in rendering service to Bhagavan. In fact, Brahman realization is not possible without performing bhakti mixed with Brahma-jnana. The path of jnana by itself is impotent to give realization of Brahman.
Both jnana and bhakti are two different manifestations of the chit-shakti of the Absolute Reality corresponding to its two different forms as Brahman and Bhagavan. When the chit-shakti is related with Bhagavan, an aspect of the Absolute Reality endowed with attributes like self-luminosity etc., it is called bhakti; and when it is related with Brahman, another aspect of the same Reality conceived as undifferentiated consciousness, it is termed as jnana.
The superiority of bhakti to jnana leads to the conclusion that the scriptures which speak of Brahma and preach the efficacy of jnana only incompletely perceive the true character of the Lord. The Bhagavata Purana which has for its exclusive theme the Bhagavan, the greatest of all tattvas, reveals His true and perfect character as it deals with the efficacy of bhakti. This text is, therefore, honoured by the devotees as the greatest and most authoritative of all scriptures, the amalam puranam(Bhagavata Purana 12.13.18). It is for this reason that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave it position higher even than the prasthana-trayi. By writing the Sandarbhas Sri Jiva Gosvami has revealed the true glory of this Purana. In this context he interprets the real purport of the four seed verses known as catuh-sloki (, the essence of Bhagavata Purana. Sri Jiva reveals that the word rahasya or secret (2.9.30) used here is nothing but pure love. This is the highest goal of human life and he elaborates on this in Priti-sandarbha. He concludes Bhagavat-sandarbha with the glorification of divine love, prema bhakti, the only means to have realization of Bhagavan.
Sri Chaitnya Mahaprabhu preached the message of loving devotion to Bhagavan. The process to achieve this love is bhakti. To practice bhakti with trust the concept of Bhagavan must be
clearly understood without any lingering doubts. Moreover real bhakti is not possible if Bhagavan is not an eternal, conscious, blissful person, unlike the Bhagavan of Advaita-vedanta . Sri Jiva Gosvami did and excellent work of giving a thorough analysis and explanation about the concept of Bhagavan. It is of utmost importance to Bengal Vaishnavism. About the greatness of this masterpiece Dr. Chinmayi Chatterjee writes,” The concept of Bhagavan as presented in the Bhagavatsandarbha marks the final stage of evolution of the idea of godhead, which has its first inception in the hymns of Rgveda, the fountain source of the philosophy and religious thought of India.”10
1 The word prasthana means a march to victory and trayi means three. The compound word prasthan-trayi means the three literature for conquering over the material bondage. This includes Upanishads, which are also called Vedanta, the Vedanta-sutra and the Bhagavad-gita. There are hundreds of Upanishads but ten were commented upon by Shankaracharya, and are considered as the chief. These are Isha, Kena, Katha,
Prashna, Mundaka,, Mandukya, Taittareya, Aaitreya, Chandogya and Brihad-arnyaka. Vedanta-sutras were written by sage Vyasa .They synthesize and pinpoint the philosophy of the Upanishads. Bhagavad-gita was spoken by Lord Krishna and expands upon the meaning of the Vedanta-sutra.
2 Chaitnya Charitamritam, Madhya Lila, chapters 19 and 20.
3 Chaitnya Charitamritam Madhya Lila, 11.17-bhagavate kahe mora tattva abhimata.
4 Note the difference between Bhagavat and Bhagavata; former is the second sandarbha and latter is the collective name for all six.
5 Bhagavat is the stem word and bhagavan is the singular, nominative form of bhagavat.
6 Chandogya Upanishad, 9.1.1- parmarthasat advyam brahma;
Shvetashvatara Upanishad, 6.19 – nirgunam nishkalam shantam niravadyam niranjanam; Chandogya Upanishad, 3-14.1 – sarvam khalu idam brahma;
neha nana asti kinchana.
7 Sri Jiva derives the name Tattva-sandarbha from the word tattva used in the first line of this verse. The next two sandarbhas i.e. Bhagavat and Parmatma derive their names from the words Bhagavan and Paramatma used in the second line of this verse.
8 The word tattva is used for the ultimate reality, the essence, as well as for Brahman.
9 In Indian logic two type of relations are accepted, that of contact (samyoga) and inherence (samavaya); the first one is a temporary relation as in case of a book and table on which the book is lying, the second is a permanent relation as in case of a substance and its quality, such sugar and its white color.
10 Pp ii Introduction, Bbhagavatsandarbha, edited by Dr. Chinmayi Chatterjee, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India, 1972.

An article by Dr. Satyanarana Das

Founder of Jiva Institute (Institue for Vaishnava Studies , Vrindavan, India)
Hindu Philosophy Lecturer at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Mississippi State University

“Truth is one, but Paths are many”

Truth is one, but paths are many. A statement that is enterprising towards Hindu culture. The Hindu religion has many philosophies and customs that are approached in variant and customized ways. How are you a devotee? Do you idolize deities of gods and goddesses in their still form, or do you regard Brahman the unmanifested as the supreme? There is no difference in the truth secluded behind it, but there is difference in the way you advance towards it. Our views of a religious aspect reflect upon our methods of devotion. Hinduism is Santana Dharma or “endless.” You must choose one of the multitudes of paths to guide yourself towards the achievable truth.

Although there is one truth, an individual’s viewpoints of that truth are numerous. For example, there is one Brahman but many God(s) that represent it. When Arjuna felt depressed at Kurukshetra, Sri Bhagavan Krishna preached on the many paths of life to self-enlightenment and the Ultimate Truth. A few methods or yogas that Sri Krishna addressed are the following. First, there is the path of devotion- where the seeker imagines that the highest reality has takes a human form. This form is cherished with the devotee’s full desire and admiration. His actions become affectionate and soon this devotee becomes a personality of the superior form. Another of the many paths is the path of mind control. One who gathers there mind in spite of distractions and meditate with full content can take this path and achieve blessings and truth. Arjuna soon acknowledges Krishna’s words and decided to continue fighting. The numerous scriptures, teachers, and founders will give you liberal paths to reach salvation. There is no single path that can convey all of the truth and thus there must be more than one path to obtain the absolute Truth. Your principles and morals from your family may guide you towards truth but you have a liberal choice since Brahman is the source to everything, you must be the one to choose how you want to convey it. There is no limited perspective of truth. You must gain it through natural methods of yoga, bhakta, meditation, and pure devotion.

We have the shakti to attain Truth is variant ways. The humble disciples of God are our very own devotees of Gita Sangha. Devotees of Gita Sangha express their utmost admiration for the different formations of Brahman with routine prayers and sacred pujas to symbolize the different idols. We have endless sermons and preaching that guide us day by day to the achievable truth. This is “truth is one paths are many”.

Writer : Trisa Chakraborty, Student of Atlantic City Gita School

The Indus Valley Civilization

Map of Ancient Civilizations

The earliest trace of civilization in India was founded in places close to the Indus River. Excavations first happened in 1921-22. This happened in the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. Both cities are now in Pakistan. Pointed to a highly complex civilization that first developed some 4,500-5,000 years ago, and subsequent archaeological and historical research has now furnished us with a more detailed picture of the Indus Valley Civilization and its inhabitants. The Indus Valley people were most likely Dravidians, who may have been pushed down into south India when the Aryans, with their more advanced military technology, commenced their migrations to India around 2,000 BCE. Though the Indus Valley script remains non deciphered down to the present day, the numerous seals discovered during the excavations, as well as statuary and pottery, not to mention the ruins of numerous Indus Valley cities, have enabled scholars to construct a reasonably plausible account of the Indus Valley Civilization. Some kind of centralized state, and certainly fairly extensive town planning, is suggested by the layout of the great cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. The same kind of burnt brick appears to have been used in the construction of buildings in cities that were as much as several hundred miles apart. The weights and measures show a very considerable regularity. The Indus Valley people domesticated animals, and harvested various crops, such as cotton, sesame, peas, barley, and cotton. They may also have been a sea-faring people, and it is rather interesting that Indus Valley seals have been dug up in such places as Sumer. In most respects, the Indus Valley Civilization appears to have been urban, defying both the predominant idea of India as an eternally and essentially agricultural civilization, as well as the notion that the change from ‘rural’ to ‘urban’ represents something of a logical progression. The Indus Valley people had a merchant class that, evidence suggests, engaged in extensive trading.

Neither Harappa nor Mohenjo-Daro show any evidence of fire altars, and consequently one can reasonably conjecture that the various rituals around the fire which are so critical in Hinduism were introduced later by the Aryans. The Indus Valley people do not appear to have been in possession of the horse: there is no ontological evidence of horse remains in the Indian sub-continent before 2,000 BCE, when the Aryans first came to India, and on Harappa seals and terracotta figures, horses do not appear. Other than the archaeological ruins of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, these seals provide the most detailed clues about the character of the Indus Valley people. Bulls and elephants do appear on these seals, but the horned bull, most scholars are agreed, should not be taken to be congruent with Nandi, or Shiva’s bull. The horned bull appears in numerous Central Asian figures as well; it is also important to note that Shiva is not one of the gods invoked in the Rig Veda. The revered cow of the Hindus also does not appear on the seals. The women portrayed on the seals are shown with elaborate coiffures, sporting heavy jewelry, suggesting that the Indus Valley people were an urbane people with cultivated tastes and a refined aesthetic sensibility. A few thousand seals have been discovered in Indus Valley cities, showing some 400 pictographs: too few in number for the language to have been ideographic, and too many for the language to have been phonetic. The Indus Valley civilization raises a great many, largely unresolved, questions. In general, the area where the Indus valley cities developed is arid, and one can surmise that urban development took place along a river that flew through a virtual desert. The Indus Valley people did not develop agriculture on any large scale, and consequently did not have to clear away a heavy growth of forest. Nor did they have the technology for that, since they were confined to using bronze or stone implements. They did not practice canal irrigation and did not have the heavy plough. The first attacks on outlying villages by Aryans appear to have taken place around 2,000 BCE near Baluchistan, and of the major cities, at least Harappa was quite likely over-run by the Aryans. In the Rig Veda there is mention of a Vedic war god, Indra, destroying some forts and citadels, which could have included Harappa and some other Indus Valley cities.

Writer: Hrithik Mazumder (Student of Atlantic City Gita School)                                                                             

Inside The Bhagavad Gita

We first need to understand the Gita and its context as part of the world’s largest epic, the one hundred –verses Mahabharata. The Gita , with its war-like language occurs about halfway through the epic. As the Gita begins, we learn what will result in a gory, gruesome war is about to erupt. We’re not about to read the Sermon on the Mount or the Buddhist’s Deer Park sermon! All the known kings of the times are gathered –there were even references to Chinese troops, and to Greek and Hun forces.
Whether or not this is historically true, the epic presents itself with material imagery and phraseology because it occurs in the midst of a world war. Arjuna isn’t a disciple giving up everything to follow Buddha or Christ. He’s a six-foot eight tall invincible warrior. Krishna himself is a Kshatriya prince. The narrative is not about turning the other cheek. This can be quite a surprise to someone picking up the Gita for the first time and thinking it will be a pacifist type spiritual text and finding it reads like the script for Mel Gibson’s Braveheart!
As I said, it is part of the Mahabharata, so its context and some of its rhetoric is epic. But it is sometimes called the Gita Upanishad, because a good part of its content is Upanishadic, there are Upanishadic teachings throughout the Gita, and one can find there verses identical to some in the, for example, Katha Upanishad. That is why the Gita was appropriated by the scholastic Vedanta tradition.
Vedanta (along with the Yoga tradition) is one of the six orthodox schools of philosophy or darsanas that came out of the Upanishadic period. The Vedanta tradition set as its goal the clarifying of the Upanishads. That is what Vedanta is: scriptural interpretation or hermeneutics. Unlike Yoga, which is based on experiential insight, Vedanta is based on scrip ritual analysis. The Vedanta Sutras, written by Badarayana (Maharshi Vyasdev), is all about how to interpret the Upanishads in a consistent fashion. (Does he succeed? No, he creates another cryptic text that itself requires interpretations such that it gave rise to a number of different schools of Vedanta such as advaita, visishtadaita, bhedadbheda, dvaitadvaita, shuddhadvaita, and dvaita). In any event, Vedanta, as a cluster of sub-traditions, focuses on three texts: the Upanishads, the Vedanta Sutras and the Gita (known as the Prasthana-Traya Granthas) for the sole purpose of clarifying the Upanishads. So the Gita spans both the epic and philosophical genres.
The first translation of Gita was issued in England in 1875 by Sir Charles Wilkins, but it was a long time before it was noticed. Eventually, as a growing western presence developed in India, traders and colonial administration became interested in understanding Indians and Indian culture. Colonists were looking for the one book, one prophet model with which they were familiar in Christianity and Islam, and in India they were faced with what seemed an exotic chaos and confusion of sects, traditions, gods, and scriptures.
This notion of it being symbolic comes from the Theosophists who were looking for the universal, perennial truths underlying all religions, and thus typically depicted the surface or historical context of religions as symbolic. History has passed Theosophy by, somewhat, but they were very important players in pre-independence India. This type of reading was then picked up by Mahatma Gandhi as a nice, post – enlightenment way of looking at the Gita. The idea that the five Pandavas represent the five senses, for example, was picked up by Gandhiji from Theosophy. He read the Gita every day, but for him, the Gita practically ended at Chapter Two. Fifty percent of his commentary is on Chapter Two. He wasn’t interested in the bhakti element and, because of his nonviolence ethic, what was he going to with the violent setting of the Gita? He appropriated the theosophic notion of the symbolism of the war. While one can appreciate how this may have worked well for Gandhiji’s non-violence agenda, one should be clear that such symbolic readings are modern readings: they are not the pre-modern traditional or classical understanding of the text.
Krishna is consciously drawing on the main things going on in the religious landscape of the time and subsuming these under bhakti. The Mahabharata occurs at a time when Vedic dharma is under attack by both non-Vedic traditions and by ascetic traditions within the Vedic ritualism remains the mainstream religious activity of the time, this is also a period in which ascetic meditative traditions were coming to the fore. The questions in the Gita of action rather than non-action are posed in this climate.
Krishna re-affirms the value of varnashram dharma (the various orders of the life including student, householder, sannyasi) with each of its associated actions and duties, in other words, of action in t6he world rather than renunciation of it. He is presenting a spiritual path that combines atma jnana (wisdom of the Self) with a work ethic. While Krishna puts forth a strong Karma Yoga message, the ultimate message (as revealed in 18:66 and throughout) is bhakti-and surrender to Krishna. Even though some may find the notion of God as Krishna challenging to their own religious sensitivities, the Gita’s ultimate message is surrender to a personal God.
Well, we all bring our own theological baggage to reading a text like the Gita. If you are not interested in Bhakti Yoga, the Gita also present an atma-based world view embedded within a paradigm of working in the world without attachment and without incurring karma- Karma Yoga. So, if you chose to avoid the bhakti part, nana Yoga and Karma Yoga are strong sub-message of the Gita. But bhakti is the ultimate message.
It’s clear that the Gita focuses much more on Ishwara (God) than did the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali promotes Ishwara in a more optional way. The Gita is a more in-your-face theism. Krishna is unambiguously asserting his supremacy. Patanjali’s Ishwara remains unidentified, and therefore you can plug in the God of your choice. But Krishna asserts he is Ishwara, and this is more challenging to western religious sensitivities. So there’s a lot of material in the Gita,. It has Jnana Yoga (the atma discourses), Karma Yoga (dutiful selfless action), sections on Raja Yoga (classical Patanjalian Yoga) and much else, but the fact is that the text consciously subsumes all this under bhakti, which might be more challenging to some. It’s a more forceful theism than Patanjali, through both are theistic texts.
As I said, there is a jnana message in the Gita – that there is atma, a Self –and a section in Chapter Six dealing with Patanjalian meditative Yoga; but this latter sub-theme in the Gita. Patanjali
dedicates his entire text to providing a process to realize this atma (Purusha) in his Yoga Sutras. Patanjali is ascetic in his approach and fairly extreme: Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah. Right in his opening verses Patanjali informs us that his project will be to teach us how to realize the Purusha soul by stopping thinking all-together! That’s about as radical as you can get! The Gita offers a more world- friendly, social –system friendly, career and relationship friendly option. It’s less intimidating option that talks about realizing the Purusha (soul) in the context of action without personal desire and, ultimately higher than that, action as an offering to God, which is bhakti. The Gita allows us to remain in the world and to function in the world. We can maintain our social duties, maintain our relationships but subsume or engage those in Yoga.

Writer : Professor Edwin Bryant (PhD) 

                Hindu Philosophy Professor at Rutgers University
                Indian History Professor at Harvard University

হিন্দুরা কী সত্যিই বহু দেবদেবীর পূজা করে?


“প্রথমেই বলিয়া রাখি যে, ভারতবর্ষে বহু-ঈশ্বরবাদ নাই। প্রতি দেবালয়ের পার্শ্বে দাঁড়াইয়া যদি কেহ শ্রবণ করে, তাহা হইলে শুনিতে পাইবে পূজক দেববিগ্রহে ঈশ্বরের সমুদয় গুণ, এমন কি সর্বব্যাপিত্ব পর্যন্ত আরোপ করিতেছে। ইহা বহু-ঈশ্বরবাদ নয়, বা ইহাকে কোন দেব-বিশেষের প্রাধান্যবাদ বলিলেও প্রকৃত ব্যাপার ব্যাখ্যাত হইবে না। গোলাপকে যে-কোন অন্য নামই দাও না কেন, তাহার সুগন্ধ সমানই থাকিবে। সংজ্ঞা বা নাম দিলেই ব্যাখ্যা করা হয় না।… ভাবানুষঙ্গ-নিয়মানুসারে জড়মূর্তি দেখিলে মানসিক ভাববিশেষের উদ্দীপন হয়, বিপরীতক্রমে মনে ভাববিশেষের উদ্দীপন হইলে তদনুরূপ মূর্তিবিশেষও মনে উদিত হয়। এই জন্য হিন্দু উপাসনার সময়ে বাহ্য প্রতীক ব্যবহার করে। সে বলিবে, তাহার উপাস্য দেবতায় মন স্থির করিতে প্রতীক সাহায্য করে। … মন্দির, প্রার্থনাগৃহ, দেববিগ্রহ বা ধর্মশাস্ত্র – সবই মানুষের ধর্মজীবনের প্রাথমিক অবলম্বন ও সহায়ক মাত্র, তাহাকে ক্রমশ অগ্রসর হইতে হইবে।

শাস্ত্র বলিতেছেনঃ ‘বাহ্যপূজা – মূর্তিপূজা প্রথমাবস্থা; কিঞ্চিৎ উন্নত হইলে মানসিক প্রার্থনা পরবর্তী স্তর; কিন্তু ঈশ্বরসাক্ষাৎকারই উচ্চতম অবস্থা।’ (মহানির্বাণতন্ত্র, ৪।১২)” স্বামী বিবেকানন্দ, ‘হিন্দুধর্ম’, শিকাগো বক্তৃতা

অহিন্দুরা অনেকে বিশ্বাস করেন যে, আমরা হিন্দুরা বহু দেবদেবীর পূজা করি। এই ধারণা সর্বৈব ভুল। আমরা ব্রহ্ম বা এক ঈশ্বরকেই ভিন্ন ভিন্ন নামে ও ভিন্ন ভিন্ন রূপে আরাধনা করি। আসলে, ভারতের বিভিন্ন অঞ্চলের মানুষ তাঁদের ভাষাগত ও সাংস্কৃতিক বৈচিত্র্যের জন্য ঈশ্বরের নাম ও রূপভেদ সম্পর্কে স্বতন্ত্র্য কিছু ধারণা পোষণ করেন। এই কারণেই, আজকের হিন্দুসমাজে ঈশ্বরের এত রূপবৈচিত্র্য আমাদের চোখে পড়ে। ইতিহাসের পথ ধরে হিন্দুসমাজে চারটি প্রধান ধর্মীয় সম্প্রদায়ের সৃষ্টি হয়েছে–শৈব, শাক্ত, বৈষ্ণব ও স্মার্ত। শৈবরা শিবকে ও বৈষ্ণবরা বিষ্ণুকে সর্বোচ্চ ঈশ্বর মনে করেন। শাক্তেরা মনে করেন এই মহাবিশ্বে মহাশক্তিই সর্বেসর্বা। স্মার্ত মতটি অনেক উদারপন্থী। তাঁরা মনে করেন, সকল দেবতাই সর্বোচ্চ ঈশ্বর ব্রহ্মের স্বরূপ। তাই তাঁরা দেবতা নির্বাচনের ভারটি ভক্তের উপর ছেড়ে দেন। অবশ্য এও মনে রাখতে হবে যে, স্মার্ত মতটি হিন্দুধর্মে বহুল প্রচলিত হলেও, প্রধান মত নয়। সে যাই হোক, এই মতবৈচিত্র্যের জন্যই হিন্দুরা একে অপরের ধর্মমতের প্রতি অত্যন্ত শ্রদ্ধাশীল হয়ে থাকেন। শ্রীরামকৃষ্ণ পরমহংস যেমন বলেছেন, ‘যত মত তত পথ।’ অর্থাৎ, সকল মতই সেই এক ঈশ্বরের কাছেই পৌঁছানোর এক একটি পথ।

হিন্দুধর্মের একটি স্বতন্ত্র বৈশিষ্ট্য হল এই যে, আমরা হিন্দুরা ঈশ্বরকে বহুদূরের স্বর্গে বসবাসকারী দেবতা মনে করি না।

আমাদের ঈশ্বর বাস করেন আমাদের অন্তরে, আমাদের হৃদয়ে, আমাদের চেতনায়। শুধু তিনি অপেক্ষা করেন, যতক্ষণ না আমরা আমাদের মধ্যে স্থিত ঈশ্বরকে চিনে নিতে পারি। ঈশ্বর যে আমাদের সঙ্গেই থাকেন, এই কথাটি আমাদের আশা ও শক্তি জোগায়। তাই হিন্দু জীবনের চূড়ান্ত লক্ষ্য হল সেই এক ও অদ্বিতীয় ব্রহ্মকে জানা।

আমরা হিন্দুরা একাধারে মনোথেইস্টিক (একেশ্বরবাদী) ও হেনোথেইস্টিক। আমরা পলিথেইস্টিক বা বহুঈশ্বরবাদী নই। কারণ আমাদের হিন্দুধর্মে সমক্ষমতাসম্পন্ন একাধিক দেবতার অস্তিত্ব স্বীকার করা হয় না। হেনোথেইজম্-ই হিন্দু মতবাদটির সঠিক সংজ্ঞা গতে পারে। এই মতবাদের মূল কথাটি হল, অন্যান্য দেবতাদের অস্তিত্ব স্বীকার করেও এক ঈশ্বরের আরাধনা করা। আমরা হিন্দুরা বিশ্বাস করি, এক সর্বব্যাপী ব্রহ্ম এই সমগ্র ব্রহ্মাণ্ডের শক্তির উৎস। মানুষ সহ সকল জীবের জীবনের মধ্যেই আমরা তাঁকে প্রত্যক্ষ করি। সকল জীবের মধ্যে ঈশ্বরের অবস্থান ও ঈশ্বর কর্তৃক সকল জীবের প্রাণধারণের এই মতবাদটিকে বলে প্যানেনথেইজম। প্যানথেইজমের থেকে এটি আলাদা। কারণ, প্যানথেইজম বলে প্রাকৃতিক ব্রহ্মাণ্ডখানিই ঈশ্বর এবং তার বেশি কিছু নয়। অন্যান্য ধর্মের রক্ষণশীল ধর্মতাত্ত্বিকগণ মনে করেন, ঈশ্বর জগতের উর্ধ্বে, জগৎ থেকে বিচ্ছিন্ন এবং মানুষের অভিজ্ঞতা ও বুদ্ধির অগম্য। হিন্দুধর্ম তা মনে করে না। প্যানেনথেইজম একটি সর্বময় ধারণা। এটি বলে, ঈশ্বর জগতের ভিতরে ও বাইরে দুই স্থানেই আছেন। তিনি একাধারে মানুষের চেতনার আয়ত্তাধীন, আবার অগম্যও বটে। এই বৃহত্তর ধারণাটিই হিন্দুর ধারণা।

আমাদের হিন্দুদের বিভিন্ন শাখাসম্প্রদায়ে ব্রহ্মের নানান নাম প্রচলিত রয়েছে। এই নামবৈভিন্ন্যের কারণ সম্প্রদায়গুলির স্বতন্ত্র ধর্মীয় প্রথা ওরীতিনীতি। আর এই নামবৈভিন্ন্যই অহিন্দুদের যাবতীয় ভ্রান্ত ধারণার কারণ। হিন্দুরা পরম সত্যকে বিভিন্ন নামে চিহ্নিত করে, কিন্তু তাই বলেপরম সত্য স্বয়ং বিভিন্ন হয়ে যান না। এই বিভিন্ন নাম থেকে বিভিন্ন রূপের উৎপত্তি; কিন্তু প্রত্যেক রূপই সেই এক এবং অদ্বিতীয় ব্রহ্মেররূপান্তর-মাত্র। হিন্দুধর্মে ঈশ্বরের কাছে পৌঁছানোর অনেক পথের সন্ধান দেওয়া হয়েছে। আমরা হিন্দুরা প্রতিটি পথকেই অভ্রান্ত মনে করি। তাইকোনো একটি নির্দিষ্ট পথকে সকলের উপর জোর করে চাপিয়ে দেওয়ার পক্ষপাতী আমরা নই। পথ নির্বাচনের ব্যাপারে আমরা হিন্দুরা পূর্ণস্বাধীনতা ভোগ করি।

তবে এই বিষয়ে শুধু অহিন্দু নয়, অনেক হিন্দুর মধ্যেও ভ্রান্ত ধারণা রয়েছে। ঈশ্বর ও দেবতার মধ্যে যে সূক্ষ্ম পার্থক্য বিদ্যমান, তা অনুধাবনকরতে পারলেই এই ভ্রান্ত ধারণা দূর হয়। ঈশ্বর সম্পর্কে আমাদের হিন্দুদের ধারণায় কোনো সংকীর্ণতা নেই। এখানে বলে রাখা ভাল, হিন্দুদেরএকাংশ নিরাকার ঈশ্বরেরও উপাসনা করেন। অন্যেরা দেবতাদের ব্যক্তিগত দেবতা (ইষ্টদেবতা বা কূলদেবতা) হিসেবে পূজা করেন। স্বামীবিবেকানন্দ এই প্রসঙ্গে একটি প্রণিধানযোগ্য উক্তি করেছেন, “যে একাগ্র সাধক জানু পাতিয়া দেববিগ্রহের সম্মুখে পূজা করেন, লক্ষ্য কর –তিনি তোমাকে কি বলেন, ‘সূর্য তাঁহাকে প্রকাশ করিতে পারে না; চন্দ্র তারা এবং এই বিদ্যুৎও তাঁহাকে প্রকাশ করিতে পারে না; এই অগ্নিতাঁহাকে কিরূপে প্রকাশ করিবে? ইহারা সকলেই তাঁহার আলোকে প্রকাশিত।’ (কঠ উপনিষদ ২।২।১৫; শ্বেতাশ্বেতর উপনিষদ ৬।১৪; মুণ্ডকউপনিষদ ২।২।১০) তিনি কাহারও দেববিগ্রহকে গালি দেন না বা প্রতিমাপূজাকে পাপ বলেন না। তিনি ইহাকে জীবনের এক প্রয়োজনীয় অবস্থাবলিয়া স্বীকার করেন। শিশুর মধ্যেই পূর্ণ মানবের সম্ভাবনা নিহিত রহিয়াছে। বৃদ্ধের পক্ষে শৈশব ও যৌবনকে পাপ বলা কি উচিত হইবে?হিন্দুধর্মে বিগ্রহপূজা যে সকলের অবশ্য কর্তব্য, তাহা নয়। কিন্তু কেহ যদি বিগ্রহের সাহায্যে সহজে নিজের দিব্য ভাব উপলব্ধি করতে পারে,তাহা হইলে কি উহাকে পাপ বলা সঙ্গত?” (‘হিন্দুধর্ম’, শিকাগো বক্তৃতা) বিশ্বের প্রাচীনতম জীবিত এবং সর্বাপেক্ষা ঐশ্বর্যশালী ধর্মমতের এইবৈশিষ্ট্য অনন্য। স্বামী বিবেকানন্দের ভাষায়, ‘বহুত্বের মধ্যে একত্বই প্রকৃতির ব্যবস্থা, হিন্দুগণ এই রহস্য ধরিতে পারিয়াছেন।’ (‘হিন্দুধর্ম’,শিকাগো বক্তৃতা)

Writer : Arnab Dutta (Wikimedian & Translator)


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