Gita Contest 2020

Jaggery is by nature a sweet food. But if you give jaggery to a jaundiced patient, he will find it utterly bitter. The reason is that while the  jaggery itself is very sweet but because of the jaundice-afflicted tongue, the patient tastes it bitter. And guess what, the best cure for jaundice is to constantly taste jaggery, even though it tastes bitter. And as one continues to have it, the disease reduces, and as the patient becomes normal, he will find the same bitter jaggery utmost relishable.
In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna defines three kinds of happiness. Happiness in mode of goodness, passion and ignorance.Happiness in mode of goodness:(Bhagavad Gita 18.36)

yat tad agre viṣam iva
pariṇāme ‘mṛtopamam
tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam

“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.”

And happiness in mode of passion appears like nectar in the beginning and turns to be poison in the end. And happiness in mode of ignorance is poison from the beginning to the end.

Take for example, waking up early. For those accustomed to waking up late, to wake up early is quite an austerity. The mind and body resist waking up early. It is painful to do so. But if you are determined and make it a habit, suddenly you find yourself an additional 2-3 hours in a day which is fully peaceful, refreshing and gives you opportunity to make a significant difference in your own life. Most successful people wake up early in the day and do the most important activities at the wee hours.

You can talk about similar examples. Eating healthy food, exercising, yoga, meditation, learning new skills – all of these appear difficult and painful in the beginning. But in the end, they all give you life-changing results.

On the other hand, happiness in the mode of passion is instant gratification. It gives you immediate kick and sense gratification. But as soon as it is over, you either feel miserable or you will suffer from the consequences of spoiling your health, time and money. Eating pizza, fast foods, drinking sodas, watching television, movies, enjoying with opposite sex etc.

And happiness in mode of ignorance is distress from beginning to end. Excessive sleep, laziness, alcohol addiction, drug addiction, porn addiction, night clubs etc fall in this category.

If you want to take charge of your own life, Bhagavad Gita prescribes cultivating habits in mode of goodness. They may appear like poison in the beginning but will pay us in the long run. However, cultivating mode of goodness should be accompanied by spiritual practices, else the progress will only be material. Cultivating and practicing mode of goodness is just like maintaining a car nicely. You may keep the car well-cleaned, well-protected and well-serviced, but it is of not much use if you only keep it in your garage. The car’s good condition should be utilized to go to your destination. The better the condition of the car, the easier your journey will be. So cultivating mode of goodness should always be accompanied by practice of Krishna consciousness.

For example, early morning hours are called ‘brahma muhurta’ (auspicious time for cultivating spirituality). One’s good habit of waking up early should be used to think about Lord Krishna, chant His holy names and pray to Him. Especially, one should chant the maha mantra: hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare, hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare, as prescribed in scriptures. One’s good habit of eating healthy food should be spiritualized by offering it to Lord Krishna. Eating food offered to the Lord cleanses our body, mind and neutralizes our various previous sinful reactions. Similarly, all habits in mode of goodness should be spiritualized by dovetailing them in Krishna consciousness. This combination of a life style of mode of goodness and Krishna consciousness makes us happy and peaceful. Thus when we are happy and peaceful, we won’t ever go into the lower modes of passion and ignorance.

Quiz Link:
Please visit the following link and answer a short quiz: Topic 1 Quiz

One day a boy saw his father going out somewhere hurriedly. Upon asking, his father replied that he is going to the water company to pay the water bill. The boy asked him, Dad, why do we need to pay money to them? The father told the boy that unless we pay them money, we won’t get the water to the house. Naively, the boy said, why do we need the water company Dad, we just go to the sink, turn the tap on and there we go, we get the water. Why do we have to pay to the water company?

You get the point!

Our existence in this world doesn’t come free. There are so many natural resources that keep us alive, healthy, sane and happy. A person can think childishly, that I don’t care who is providing these natural resources, I just have it available for me. I will just use them. How does it matter if someone is behind these resources or not?

Just like the water company eventually disconnects the water supply to those who don’t pay the bill, nature restricts its supplies to those who don’t perform ‘sacrifice’ or ‘pay the bill’.

In Bhagavad Gita chapter 3, Lord Krishna explains the science behind this ‘sacrifice’ or ‘yajna’.

devan bhavayatanena
te deva bhavayantu vah
parasparam bhavayantah
sreyah param avapsyatha

Srila Prabhupada explains how the demigods who provide these natural resources are dependant on the performance of yajñas by the human beings.

By sacrifice, one gets ‘esa vo stu ista kama dhuk’ – “its performance will bestow upon you all desirable things.” (3.10)
‘śreyaḥ param avāpsyatha’ – “there will reign general prosperity for all.” (3.11)

Krishna further says that one who leads a life devoid of sacrifice is leading a dangerous life.

istan bhogan hi vo deva
dasyante yajna bhavitah
tair dattan apradayaibhyo
yo bhunkte stena eva sah

Lord Krishna calls such a person a ‘thief’, because he steals God given resources and does not perform ‘sacrifice’ or ‘pay back’. A thief is always in anxiety when he will get caught. His punishment is sure. So, the principle behind happiness in this world is sacrifice.

Well, one might think God is like a businessman who expects some payment for providing us some facilities. Not quite. Sacrifice is actually a trick God uses to reform our corrupt mentality. In this material world, we all have exploitative mentality, or we always hanker for our own sense gratification. And one who obstructs or disturbs my sense gratification is considered my enemy. In this way, because of this principle of leading life of sense gratification, there is constant strife, conflicts and quarrels throughout the world. Between nations, between communities, between members of a family etc.

So in Bhagavad Gita, the Lord is trying to cure this mentality of ours by offering this method of gradually cleansing our disease of hankering always for our sense gratification. By gradually cultivating the habit of ’sacrifice’, one comes out of the habit of sense gratification. We develop the habit of ‘giving’ and not ‘exploiting’. The Lord created this material world for the conditioned souls to learn how to perform yajñas (sacrifice) for the satisfaction of Viṣṇu, so that while in the material world they can live very comfortably without anxiety. Then after finishing the present material body, they can enter into the kingdom of God. That is the whole program for the conditioned soul.

By performance of yajña, the conditioned souls gradually become Kṛṣṇa conscious and become godly in all respects. Gradually, as we continue to perform sacrifices, at the highest stage of purity, one no longer works for one’s own sense gratification, but works to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When God is pleased, everyone is pleased. It is just like watering the root of a tree. When the root is watered, all its branches, leaves, twigs, fruits are considered watered as well. Then begs the next question, how do I know how to perform what sacrifice and when?

Traditionally sacrifice is performed through the medium of fire God (agni), who accepts our offerings and through him the offerings are accepted by the Supreme Lord Vishnu. But this kind of sacrifice is not recommended in this age of Kali yuga, nor is it practical, nor are there qualified vedic mantra chanters who can ignite fire just by the power of their mantra chanting. So the scriptures prescribe that the easiest and at the same time the most sublime form of sacrifice in this age of Kali is chanting the holy names of Lord Krishna, particularly the maha mantra: hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare, hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare.

Also in Srimad Bhagavatam it is said:

krsna varna tvisa krsnam
sangopangastra parsadam
yajnaih sankirtana prayair
yajanti hi sumedhasah

The most intelligent take to this sankirtana yajna in this age of Kali.

Lord Krishna also mentions the importance of the sacrifice of chanting His holy names in Bhagavad Gita.

yajnanam japa yajnosmi – “Of yajnas, I am japa yajna” (BG 10.25)
satatam kirtayanto mam – “Always chanting my glories…” (BG 9.14)
man mana bhava mad bhakto – “Always think of Me…” (BG 9.34)

For beginners, chanting the hare krishna maha mantra at least 108 times everyday is prescribed. This will be considered as your sacrifice and gradually the Lord will reveal in your heart how you can be elevated further. Thus by this sankirtana yajna one can remain happy in this life and in the next.

Quiz Link:
Please visit the following link and answer a short quiz: Topic 2 Quiz

Let’s accept it. We all used to loathe exams. As a student, exam time was the most stressful time for me. The last minute preparations, late night studying, peer pressure, endless expectations from parents, strict teachers, so on so forth. But there used to be one friend of mine who was always looking forward to exams. When I asked him why, he said that he attended all the classes and prepared very well and he was actually looking forward to the challenge. Then I understood. When you are well prepared, you become very confident, you look forward to the challenge. Preparation turns the stress factor into a challenge factor and the anxiety factor into an enjoyment factor. Later, I applied this principle to many aspects of my life and found this to be so true.
Many of us don’t feel comfortable talking about death. In many ways, it is considered inauspicious to talk about it. Society in general tries to cover up the sadness associated with death and always glorifies the attractiveness of life. In Mahabharata, one of the important questions posed by Yaksha to Yudhisthira was, “What is the most wonderful thing you find in this world?” To that, Yudhisthira said, “ahany ahani bhutani gacchantiha yamalayam, sesah sthavaram icchanti kim ascaryam atah param”—““Hundreds and thousands of living entities meet death at every moment, but a foolish living being nonetheless thinks himself deathless and does not prepare for death. This is the most wonderful thing in this world.” (Mahabharata, Vanaparva)
The reality is that everyone dies. “As sure as death”, they say. When the great sage Viswamitra came to King Dasaratha to request the help of Lord Rama in killing the demons, King Dasaratha first welcomed Viswamitra with these words: “aihityam yat punar janma jayaya”—“How is your preparation to conquer next birth going?” In ancient Vedic times, emphasis was given to preparing ourselves for death, for death is the ultimate test!
No one wants to die. It is a very painful experience. But still, we are forced to die and leave everything we claim to be ours, including our own body. And when we die, we get another body, according to our consciousness.
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.(Bhagavad Gita 8.6)
Thus, we could get an animal body, human body, demigod body, tree body, aquatic body, etc. And the miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death continue in all these bodies. But Bhagavad Gita gives a hint about how we can escape all of these, how we can conquer death, by attaining our original spiritual body and going back home to Godhead where we originally belong.
The time of death principle!
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.(Bhagavad Gita 8.5)
Oh, that’s very simple isn’t it! I will enjoy my life and will just think about Krishna at the time of death! Well, not quite!
Remembering Krishna at the time of death is not easy. It is just like writing a surprise test, as death can come at any time. Without proper preparation during our life, we are likely to fail that test. But one who prepares throughout his life to remember Krishna can confidently face the ultimate challenge very easily.
Lord Krishna mentions the importance of this preparation for death throughout one’s life.
The preparation principle:
tasmāt sarveṣu kāleṣu
mām anusmara yudhya ca
mayy arpita-mano-buddhir
mām evaiṣyasy asaṁśayaḥ
Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.(Bhagavad Gita 8.7)
Key takeaways from this principle:
  1. Don’t need to give up what you are doing
    Note that Lord Krishna does not want us to give up what we are doing. Krishna never suggests anything impractical. He is urging Arjuna to fight, or do his prescribed duty, and at the same time think of Him. Therefore, we can also engage in our various duties, but at the same time prepare for our ultimate test at the end of life. The best way to always remember Krishna is by chanting His holy names: hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare, hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare.
  1. Accept the favorable
        We should mold our lives so that we don’t forget Krishna. We should be connected to His service, to His Deity in Temple, to His devotees, to His teachings, to the books that describe Him, and anything else that always keeps us in remembrance of Him.
  1. Reject the unfavorable
        We should always keep away from anything that takes us away from Him, for this life is too precious to drift away from our ultimate goal. After all, this human life is attained after many, many births of transmigrating through various lower species of life!
For one who thus endeavors sincerely, the Lord assures us that He will personally take care of us at the time of death.
teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā
bhavāmi na cirāt pārtha
mayy āveśita-cetasām
 For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pṛthā, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.(Bhagavad Gita 12.7)
The Lord helps those who help themselves.
Hare Krishna!
Quiz Link:
Please visit the following link and answer a short quiz: Topic 3 Quiz

Quiz Link:
To participate in the contest and win prizes, please visit the following link and answer a short quiz: Topic 4 Quiz

Several decades back, one great drama writer, P.L. Raya, wrote a book titled, “Shah Jahan”. But the whole book was about the nefarious actions of Aurangzeb – how he killed his brothers, arrested his father and so on so forth. So one friend of Mr. Raya was bewildered and asked him a question “Mr. Raya, Your book Shah Jahan, in terms of the activities, the actual hero is Aurangzeb. Why did you title the book as Shah Jahan?” So Mr. Raya replied that although Shah Jahan was silent, the effect of Aurangazeb’s activities was going to him. When Aurangzeb killed his elder brother, Dara, the effect was suffered by Shah Jahan. So, like this, in all the nefarious activities of Aurangzeb, it was Shah Jahan who was suffering. Therefore he said, “He’s the hero of my book.”

The point is that the true intent and purpose of a book can only be known by its author. Similarly, the true intent of Bhagavad Gita can be found only when we understand it uncompromisingly from the author Himself, Lord Sri Krishna. For instance, when we are sick, and go to a medical store, and ask for medicine, we cannot make a choice of the medicine based on our preference of color, taste or smell. Although the medical store contains an array of different medicines, we have to take only the medicine prescribed by the physician for our disease. Further, we should consume the medicine according to the directions given on the label. Similarly, Bhagavad Gita should be accepted as it is, directed by the speaker, Lord Krishna, Himself.

The example of such understanding is displayed by Arjuna himself, the direct hearer of this great message from Lord Sri Krishna.

Arjuna mentions in the Bhagavad Gita:

paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma
pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān…
Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person.”
sarvam etad ṛtaṁ manye
yan māṁ vadasi keśava…
“O Kṛṣṇa, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me.” (BG 10.14)
Arjuna accepted everything the Lord mentions in toto. If we have to get the true import of the Bhagavad Gita, we should also accept the words of Krishna, as it is, without any adulteration.
In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna talks about different concepts. karma yoga, jnana yoga, dhyana yoga and bhakti yoga. But when we examine closely at these various instructions in various chapters, Lord Krishna inevitably concludes that each of these yogas will attain perfection only when they lead to bhakti, or Krishna consciousness.
For example, the perfection of karma yoga is mentioned in BG 9.27:
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
“O son of Kuntī, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.”
The perfection of jnana yoga is mentioned in BG 7.19:
bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ
“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.”
The perfection of dhyana yoga is mentioned in BG 6.47:
yoginām api sarveṣāṁ
śraddhāvān bhajate yo māṁ
sa me yuktatamo mataḥ
“And of all yogīs, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.”
And just to re-emphasize this all, towards the end, Lord Krishna concludes the whole message of Bhagavad Gita in two verses. And He calls them ‘the most confidential knowledge’.
man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi satyaṁ te
pratijāne priyo ‘si me
“Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” (BG 18.65)
sarva-dharmān parityajya
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (BG 18.66)
This, in Krishna’s own words, is the conclusion of Bhagavad Gita.
Any other conclusion drawn from Bhagavad Gita is not Lord Krishna’s conclusion.
One should not misunderstand that ‘always thinking of Krishna…’ or ‘surrendering to Krishna…’ is akin to inactivity, or giving up our duties and responsibilities, or think that we can sit idle and Krishna will do everything for us. Krishna consciousness is not inactivity, it is the most pure activity. It is not escaping from duty, it is perfection of duty.
Throughout Bhagavad Gita, we see Krishna urging Arjuna to do his duty with enthusiasm.

What Arjuna did for living was, fighting. But Krishna certified him, bhakto ‘si me . . . priyo ‘si me: “oh Arjuna, you are My dear devotee.” Did Arjuna do anything extra-ordinary outside of his duty? No, he just simply fought, that’s all. But… he fought for Krsna. That is the secret of the Bhagavad Gita! Arjuna did not change his fighting capacity as a warrior, but he changed his mentality. Similarly, we can continue to engage in all our duties, but we should keep Krishna in the center.  We must do all our duties in order to please Krishna. And this is possible to be accomplished by one and all. If Krishna expects Arjuna to follow his instructions in the middle of the battlefield, then it must definitely be possible for all of us! This is the final conclusion of Bhagavad Gita!

Hare Krishna!

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