1. Opening of Bhagavad Gita Course 2024: Mahabharata Story – Gita Dhyanam V1-3

Summary:

Lesson 1 starts with meaning of opening prayer “Sahana Vavatu”. Guru-shishya-parampara importance. Story of Mahabharata.  Earth is a wish-fulfilling tree.


Explanation of “Sahana Vavatu” Verse:

sahana vavatu prayer verse translation

  • saha nāvavatu : May the Lord (being a source of blessing) protect both of us (teacher and student).
    • Asking for protection at all times – at home, while eating, thinking, talking etc.
    • Praying that the environment and conditions are conducive for growth and learning.
  • saha nau bhunaktu : May he (Lord) nourish both of us (with knowledge). 
    • Besides intellectual nourishment, we also need emotional nourishment. Both needed for knowledge to transform you. 
  • saha vīryaṃ karavāvahai :  May both of us make effort for capacity (required for knowledge to be imparted by the teacher and to be received by the student).
    • Student and teacher need to work together collaboratively — for effective knowledge transfer.
    • Teacher needs to be encouraged with questions, and student remaining alert, engaged.
    • Commitment, persistence to master depth.
  • tejasvi nāvadhītamastu :  May what is studied by us be brilliantly clear (meaningful and free from vagueness). 
  • mā vidviṣāvahai :  May we not be subject to any kind of misunderstanding (so that this communication is complete). 
    • Convert vitanda (intention is to disagree/disprove), into vada (wishes to consider alternative Point of view).
    • Alert of mind tendency to superimpose past conditioning onto present teaching, students, teacher.
  • om śāntiḥ  śāntiḥ sāntiḥ :  Let there be freedom from three possible obstacles (that can deny peace and become a hindrance to the pursuit of knowledge – like:
    1. Adhidaivika: Obstructions from forces over which we have no control.
      • EG: You’re attentive, perfect environment, listening for years, but knowledge is going over your head. So you’re asking God’s help to help remove these unknown factors.
    2. Adhibhautika: Disturbances from environment.
      • Surroundings demand your attention. EG: You’re attentive, but family needs help. Noise pollution, problems within family and you’re in the line-of-fire. 
    3. Adhyatmika: Factors centered on self. 
      • EG: My biases. Physical illness, brain unable to concentrate.

BEFORE ENTERING THE BHAGAVAD GITA – FIRST GITA DYANAM IS PRESENTED:

    • Bhagavad Gita starts with short section called: Gita Dhyanam. They are poetical verses to answer what Bhagavad Gita can do for you. It warms up the student to get involved. This is because our nature is such that we only pursue something if it answers “What's in it for me? Why should I take interest in this text?”Gita Dhyanam has to show how your life will benefit being invested in entering the text.
    • Why does poetry work and purpose of poetry?
      • Suppose you say, “sun rises, rays reach flower, flower opens”. You can express the same statement poetically, “Flower blessed by the sun, opens to receive it’s grace”. What is the need for this poetry? To touch your heart. We all see sun rising (cognitive). In poem, a simple fact touches you in way cognitive explanation can’t do.

GITA DHYANAM – VERSE 1:

ōṃ pārthāya pratibōdhitāṃ Bhagavadā nārāyaṇēna svayam
vyāsēna grathitāṃ purāṇamuninā madhyē mahābhāratam|
advaitāmṛtavarṣiṇīṃ Bhagavad īm aṣṭādaśādhyāyinīm
amba tvāmanusandadhāmi bhagavadgītē bhavēdvēṣiṇīm ||
O Mother Bhagavad gītā! I constantly meditate upon You which was taught to Arjuna by Lord Narayana Himself, which was composed by Vyāsācārya, the ancient sage, in the middle of Mahabharata, which consists of eighteen chapters, which showers the ambrosial wisdom of non-duality, which is divine, and which is the enemy of Samsara.

  • Goddess Mother Bhagavadgita: Mother wishes nothing but best for child. Similarly, Bhagavad Gita can be a blessing, whenever in doubt. It’s no ordinary mother (who operates from pressures), it’s “Goddess mother”.
  • Krishna teaches this to Arjuna (…taught for sake of Arjuna): Why Krishna waits to give Arjuna knowledge at war time? Arjuna asked. Similarly everyone has different entry points to arrive to Arjuna’s case (seeking for answers). Entry point could be:
    • (a) Sudden: Sudden discernment (see nothing prior fills the void).
    • (b) Crisis: Living wonderfully, then came to crises point and wish to resolve.
    • (c) Recommendation: Without having any void, you were told about it.
    • (d) Curious Mind: Actively asking fundamental questions since child.

 

STORY OF MAHABHARATA — How Bhagavad Gita Came To Existence

Arjuna & Duryodhana were cousins because their fathers (Pandu & Dhritarashtra) are brothers. Dhritarashtra was older. And Pandu was younger. Both were princes.

Dhritarashtra was to be king, but was born blind.  But per rules, blind person isn’t capable of ruling. Thus Kingdom went to Pandu.

Duryodhana thought this was unfair, because he can rule the kingdom in place of Dhritarashtra. This is a natural human thought. Dhritarashtra thought this too, but didn’t express it.

Pandu sensed Dhritarashtra’s unhappiness and would quietly retire to forest to give Dhritarashtra a chance to rule for a while. This shows Pandu was relatively evolved in his thinking.

PANDU DIES, WHO IS TO BE KING?

On one trip of Pandu’s forest retreat, he died.

Next question is, “Who would be king?”.

Per rules of kingdom, whoever is eldest son of present ruler, should be king (Yudhisthir).

But Duryodhana thought otherwise, Dhritarashtra was meant to be king, but couldn’t due to blindness. I’m the eldest son of Dhritarashtra, thus I should be king!”.

START OF CONFLICT

Ministers in Hastinapur king referred to “Rajanīti” (similar to constitution) that outlined rules incase of conflict. The book stated, whoever is eldest of the 2 sons, is king.

So that was two confirmed counts that Yuddhisthir should rule. Again Duryodhana thought otherwise, “I don’t go by rules, I refuse to give up my right to kingdom”.

DIVISION OF KINGDOM BETWEEN PANDAVAS/KAURAVAS

Dhritarashtra came under pressure and didn’t want to appear unfair by giving everything to Duryodhana. He decided to divide Hastinapura in two. Gave Duryodhana larger chunk. And a small part of kingdom to Pandvas, called Indraprastha – which was baren desert.

Pandavas could’ve stood up, saying it’s unfair division, but didn’t. They worked really hard to make Indraprastha prosperous, and it did by HARD WORK from the little they were given.

Duryodhana couldn’t stand that Indraprastha was so prosperous. So he devises plan to eliminate them.

DURYO WANTS TO KILL PANDAVAS

Created wax home. Would invite Pandavas there, and set it on fire. Vidur (third brother of Pandu & Dhritarashtra) found out and told Pandavas. They created an underground tunnel, and escaped as house was set on fire. They came back to Indraprastha.

Duryodhana continues to feel envy. Can’t be comfortable with another’s comfort, instead of being happy for them.

SECOND PLAN TO ELIMINATE PANDAVAS

Shakuni (Duryodhana’s uncle) had an idea. He had siddhi to manipulate dice movements. “We can defeat them like this, and they’ll lose all, and they’ll retire to forest, and you’ll get Indraprastha”.

PANDAVAS INVITED TO PLAY DICE:

Duryodhana invited the Pandavas to play dice.

Yuddhisthir saw how Duryodhana was behaving in past (putting them down, no sympathy at death of Pandu). He could’ve decided to go for the game or not. But in name of being “nice”, he went ahead anyway. He also thought perhaps Duryodhana is changing for the better (false hope – common human condition).

Also there was convention, “king has to honor the invitation”; thus Yuddhisthir was going overly by the rules. “For me to be a good human being, I always have to do the right thing”.

When they sat down, Duryodhana said, Shakuni will play on my behalf”. Even then Yuddhisthir could’ve said, “No, I came to play you!”. Again he wanted to be nice.

YUDDHISTHIR STARTED TO LOSE EVERYTHING

He started to lose, and lost whole kingdom. He wanted to get up, but Duryodhana said, “you still have your brothers with you”. He lost 4 brothers. Wanted to get up. Duryodhana said, “You still haven’t lost yourself”. Eventually lost himself. Duryodhana said, “You still have Draupadi wife”. Also lost her. This made Draupadi a dasi (maid/servant).

Duryodhana asked Dushasana, brother, to bring her over. Draupadi was a strong woman, so she resisted, but was brought to court.

DRAUPADI QUESTIONS THE COURT

In the court she stood up for herself. In the course where lot of high officials like Dhritarashtra, Bhishma, Karna, Drona teacher.

She asked them (connected to her emotional side), “Are you all going to sit her and watch me be humiliated? Aren’t you men of honour and ethics? People look up to you! “.

Nobody did anything. Justification of Bhisma was, “I have no role in this event as it was Duryodhana who invited Yudhishthir. And Yudhishthir could’ve said no, but he kept playing. This is Yudhishthir's conscious doing. He has to bear result of his choices”.

Only Vidur said something, but nobody listened to him.

Draupadi came to second argument (got in touch with her cognitive side): “Who did Yudhishthir lose first, himself or me? If Yudhishthir lost himself first, then he had no right to bet me”. Nobody listened to her.

Third thing, she prayed to Krishna. He supplied more cloth, until Dushasana fatigued himself and collapsed.

Meanwhile, Pandavas didn’t interfere as they thought they’re helpless as dasas, and thought not interfering was the right thing.

But in Lord Krishna’s understanding, no matter what position you hold or what situation it is, ethics have the last say (IE: Game was based on cheating, thus instantly disqualified, and Draupadi can't be humiliated to this extent).

FOREST

Rules were the Pandavas are exiled to forest for 12 years, and in 13th year, they must remain incognito. Then they can get Indraprastha. If found in 13th year, must go another 12 years.

In 13th year, they went to kingdom Virat. Yuddhisthir became king’s advisor. Arjuna the dancer/music teacher. Nakul/Sahadev looking after cows/horses. Bhima, cook. All disguised.

Duryodhana was desperately trying to discover them. Sent spies all over. One of spies said, “King of Virat has 5 brothers who are shining!”. Duryodhana thought it was Pandavas, so decided to attack Virat. King wanted to fight Duryodhana’s army, but Pandavas thought king protected them, so it was their duty to fight instead. Duryodhana found them out!

NEXT QUESTION

When did Duryodhana find them out? It was about 1 or 2 days after 13th  year. But Duryodhana kept insisting it was within 13th year. Seems war was imminent!

  • WHAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE MAHABHARATA WAR? Many factors contributed to war. Including Yuddhisthir being overly nice and not standing up when treated unfairly.
  • Common perception of Mahabharata: All Kauravas did was wrong. And all Pandavas did was right. Instead Mahabharata shows you nuances. Even good people can be highly misguided.
    • EG: Bhishma took vow, whoever is king of Hastinapur, I have to support them. He felt obliged to support Duryodhana.
    • The only character that’s not misguided in Mahabharata is Krishna. Not because Krishna doesn’t have challenges, but he never loses perspective in light of challenges.
  • WAR TIME & ARJUNA’S SURRENDER: Upon war, the immensity of situations confronts Arjuna, so he breaks down. He was nursing hurt and resentment of Duryodhana’s actions, until the magnitude of the situation confronted him. He then asked Krishna, “My thinking has brough me to this; a helpless character. You teach me the proper way of thinking. My hands are shaking, my throat is drying up. I can’t think clearly”.
    • Arjuna asks Krishna what is to be done in this situation, and what knowledge leads to fulfillment.
    • And Krishna answers, “advaitamrtavarsimm bhagavatlm astadasadhyayinlm amba tvam anusandadhami bhagavadglte bhavadvesinim”. By showering the nectar of non-dual wisdom, it enables Arjuna to look at life in it’s totality, and how to face daily challenges, with composure without losing perspective.

GITA DHYANAM – VERSE 2:

namō'stu tē vyāsa viśālabuddhē phullāravindāyatapatranētra|
yēna tvayā bhāratatailapūrṇaḥ prajvālitō jñānamayaḥ pradīpaḥ ||
Oh Vyāsācārya, with vast knowledge (and) with eyes as large as the petals of a full-blown lotus! Salutations be to you, by which you has been lighted the lamp of wisdom, filled with the oil of Mahābhārata.

  • When did Mahabharata take place? Taken literally, people try to put dates. But it has no date. It’s an oral tradition carried over to communicate truth through stories. Vyasa was the first one who wrote down the oral tradition. He is not starter of the tradition.
    • If Vyasa’s buddhi is narrow, could he capture the nuances of Krishna/Arjuna’s convo? Meaning, the author had to have a vast mind, so wisdom is captured in its totality. Thus reporter needs to be equally evolved to Lord Krishna.
  • Where does your wisdom show up (eyes are beautiful like soft petals of a lotus)? One indicator is the eyes. They become clearer and clearer.
  • In Upanishads, there’s Brahma-varcasa (spiritual radiance of a wise person), where a certain brightness of the person that comes with their wisdom. People feel comfortable with you, not judged by you. They invoke trust, and people tell you secrets.
    • The more evolved you are, the more you become attractive to others. Because you’re not exuding impurities.
  • Filled with oil of Mahabharata: Oil is Mahabharata (context), which facilitates lighting the lamp of knowledge (BGita).  Thus predicaments of people/characters provides context to Bhagavad Gita. Life story (challenges, stuckness) provides a context for wisdom.

GITA DHYANAM – VERSE 3:

prapannapārijātāya totravetraikapāṇaye
jñānamudrāya kṛṣṇāya gītāmṛtaduhe namaḥ
Salutation to Lord Krsna who is with Jñānamudrā, who is like a wish-yielding tree for those who surrender unto him, who has a whip in one hand, and who has milked the nectar of Gītā.

  • Earth is a wish-fulfilling tree. You’re given free will to guide your life, and objects to engage with. However we limit ourselves through imagined restrictions what I can and cannot do. If you use freewill to do appropriate/inappropriate things, there are consequences. Nothing makes you bad or good. Whatever happens is just a reply to your use or misuse of free will at THAT time.
    • Krishna delivers a whip on one hand (papa) and book of knowledge in the other, which gives final fulfillment. Krishna is the rules of the game, the intelligence, that govern the universe. If you don’t understand the rules, you can’t win.
  • Teaching of BGita gives you perspective so you can intelligently navigate your life responsibly.
  • SUMMARY: Given free will and objects. Depending how use it, is what feedback returns to you. If your freewill infringes on others right to live, there are consequences. If freewill enhances the quality of life, you are blessed with knowledge. If want to live a prosperous life, have to use freewill in light of the rules of the game.
  • NEXT VERSE: What is the source of the wisdom Krishna is drawing from?

Keywords:  

Course was based on Neema Majmudar's Bhagavad Gita & Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya) home study course.

Recorded 28 April, 2024

5 Comments

  1. I’m delighted to have somehow managed to stumble onto the Yes, Vedanta website and course offerings. The internet can gobble up our time, leaving us with nothing, but this resource offers rich returns.

  2. Typo. at third last word: “When did Mahabharata take place? Taken literally, people try to put dates. But it has no date. It’s an oral tradition carried over to communicate truth through stories. Vyasa was the first one who wrote down the oral tradition. He is not started of tradition”
    There was another earlier :Draupadi was a strong woman, so she resisted, but was brough (Dangers of technology; the missing t at the end of brough was added while I looked elsewhere)

    Maybe not vital but interesting to see this potted version of the events leading up to the battle; I would take an educated guess that the exact tribulations etc. are all carefully chosen for symbolic reasons e.g. playing Dice; turning barren land to good use etc.

    I particularly appreciated the translation: “May both of us make effort for capacity (required for knowledge to be imparted by the teacher and to be received by the student)”. I’ve seen a different version many times which is along the lines of give us …….

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