Bhagavad Gita Contest 2023
- Congratulations to all winners! Please visit the following link to see the winners list: Gita Contest 2023 Winners
- Prize distribution ceremony will be held on Sunday, Jan 29th at the temple at 12.30 pm. Please check your email for further details.
Register here: Bhagavad Gita Contest 2023 (Important: Please use unique email for every participant registration)
Participation is free.
Contest starts on Jan 10th, 2023 and will continue until Jan 26th.
One can participate any time during the above period.
4 videos will be posted on this page every three days from Jan 10th through Jan 23rd.
Every section will take around 5-10 mins to read.
At the end of every section, there will be 10 questions based on the content.
Submit your answers to start earning points.
Each correct answer gives 5 points.
First 100 registrants qualify for a raffle prize of Mantra Meditation Kit.
Contest ends for all sections on Jan 26th
- Correct answers will be published after contest ends
Final scores and prizes will be announced on Jan 29th at temple.
Prizes will be given based on total cumulative points for each participant.
- 100+ points: Vedic Essence
- 150+ points: Vedic Knowledge
- 200 points: Advanced Vedic Knowledge
Many times people ask a question, how is your bhakti practically helping serve people in need? Why can’t you spend the money to help the poor instead of building Temples or serving God?
Let’s imagine a drunkard who routinely squanders all his earnings and abuses his family members. When he falls sick, he is offered free medical care. His disease gets cured, but his addiction stays untreated. He goes back to his habitual intoxication and the habitual abuse of his family members and eventually has a relapse of disease. Has the free medical care done him any real good?
Let’s say you gave a hungry man some money to buy food. He spends it on a hamburger. Have you actually helped the person or hurt him (and hurt yourself in the process by taking part in his sinful karma)?
Well, you may say there are many other genuinely good people who need help. True, but the hard reality is this: Bhagavad Gita explains that the suffering of living entity is because of their previous sinful activities:
yajñārthāt karmaṇo ‘nyatra
loko ‘yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ
tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya
Work done as a sacrifice for Viṣṇu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kuntī, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage. (3.9)
Just like the suffering of a criminal in a jail is because of their previous crimes. Jails are often also called as “Correctional facilities”. Jail sentence is meant to bring reformation for those who committed the crime. But if someone, unaware of the jail inmate’s past crimes, sees him suffering in the jail and helps to get him out of the jail illegally, this does not end their suffering, because their previous habits continue, as they did not undergo reformation. And worse still, they will get caught again and they will be punished even more severely. And the person who helped will be punished as well for helping a criminal.
So the real help to the suffering person is not just to merely treat the symptom, but to address the root cause, which is purifying the sinful tendencies from his heart.
One commits sinful activities because of ignorance:
nādatte kasyacit pāpaṁ
na caiva sukṛtaṁ vibhuḥ
tena muhyanti jantavaḥ
Nor does the Supreme Spirit assume anyone’s sinful or pious activities. Embodied beings, however, are bewildered because of the ignorance which covers their real knowledge. (5.15)
The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind. (15.7)
Just like an ignorant man not knowing traffic laws drives dangerously, gets caught and punished – in the same way, out of ignorance of the laws of material nature, we commit sinful activities and suffer the tribulations inflicted by the laws of material nature:
daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī
mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante
māyām etāṁ taranti te
This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it. (7.14)
So how can this ignorance be removed? Suppose one day you are walking on a street and see a poor boy wandering like a vagabond, drunk, disheveled, diseased, distressed and starving. You identify him to be the son of your friend who is a wealthy millionaire! Before you, different people try to help him out with food, clothes, medicines etc. All of these only offer some temporary physical relief, but don’t give any permanent solace. Then you explain to him about his father and his father’s great affection for him. Then you clarify and remove the misunderstanding that had strained his relationship with his father. Then you take him back to his father’s mansion where he is given the best varieties of foods, clothes and medicines. Thus his problems are permanently solved.
We are beloved children of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, who is the Master of the Goddess of Fortune. Therefore we are all like princes in the kingdom of God. But due to our causeless misuse of our free will, we have left the shelter of our all-loving father and are struggling for paltry pleasure in this material world, exactly like the lost son of the millionaire in the above story. The material welfare workers are like the people who offered food, clothing and medicine to the lost son, whereas the devotee is like the father’s friend who took the son back to his father. Bhagavad Gita says that the real welfare activity is to distribute Krishna consciousness to the suffering person, and Krishna says that one who does this becomes very dear to Him:
na ca tasmān manuṣyeṣu
kaścin me priya-kṛttamaḥ
bhavitā na ca me tasmād
anyaḥ priyataro bhuvi
There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear. (18.69)
Krishna consciousness movement not only offers this sublime knowledge of our supreme father Sri Krishna, but also provide other welfare activities -like providing sumptuous sanctified food for the hungry; shelter for those who are spiritually inclined; counseling for those undergoing stress, anxiety and addictions; educating the prisoners; performing vedic sacrifices for the well-being of the society; help build values and character in children and youth and so on so forth…
So bhakti or Krishna consciousness is the process by which one can go back to our eternal father, Lord Sri Krishna and end all suffering in this world by purifying our hearts. Krishna (God) is Supremely pure and one who constantly associates with God also becomes completely pure. The problems of the world are caused by our lust, greed and other impurities in our hearts. Therefore, purifying our hearts automatically brings an end to all our sufferings permanently!
Scriptures say that serving God includes serving everyone:
yasmin vijñāte sarvam evaṁ vijñātaṁ bhavati
The devotee of the Lord knows everything material and spiritual in relationship with the Lord. (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.3).
yo mām evam asammūḍho
sa sarva-vid bhajati māṁ
Whoever knows Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, without doubting, is to be understood as the knower of everything, and he therefore engages himself in full devotional service, O son of Bharata. (15.19)
For example, when we water the root of the tree, all its branches, leaves, fruits etc are all nicely nourished. It is a futile attempt to feed each part of the tree separately. For example, people who are on a mission to rescue stray dogs may be happy to consume beef and thereby sending cows to slaughterhouses. Similarly the service to one’s nation implies hurting enemy nation. But when everyone serves God, keeps God in the center and treats everyone as part and parcel of God, we automatically do the best service to everyone, by dint of our pure consciousness!
In conclusion, service to God includes service to everyone, but not the other way round.
Many times people dismiss practices based on scriptures like Bhagavad Gita to be just blind faith and devoid of any reasoning.
Let’s say In a mother’s womb there were two babies, let’s call them Hope and Doom.
Hope believed in life after their delivery and told Doom, “Hey Doom, you know there is life after delivery?”
Doom said “Ridiculous! What kind of life would that be?” Hope replied, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths.” Doom replied, “That is absurd. How can we eat with our mouths? Completely illogical! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need.” Hope insisted, “Maybe we won’t need this umbilical cord anymore… maybe we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.” Doom replied “Mother? Are you insane? If she exists, can you show where she is NOW?” Hope said, “She is all around us. It is in Her that we live. Without Her our world would not exist!”
For someone outside of the womb, the so-called logical arguments of the baby Doom conveys his ignorance and short-sightedness, whereas the so-called blind faith of the baby Hope appears completely logical, reasonable and sensible. But for someone who is within the womb, Hope appears like a sentimental fool.
In many ways, we are in this universe which is like the womb of mother nature, and we are like the babies. With our present senses which are limited, erroneous and imperfect, we can’t get perfect knowledge about things beyond our comprehension. Our logical reasoning can only reveal limited knowledge.
A frog who lived in a small well throughout his life finds it very difficult to accommodate the idea of an ocean, which is infinite in size compared to the well it is accustomed to. But the fact is that the ocean does exist, even though it maybe incomprehensible for the frog. Likewise, if we stick to only our logical reasoning of our tiny brain, we will miss out on the ocean of knowledge and reality.
acintyāḥ khalu ye bhāvā
na tāṁs tarkeṇa yojayet
prakṛtibhyaḥ paraṁ yac ca
tad acintyasya lakṣaṇam
Anything transcendental to material nature is called inconceivable, whereas arguments are all mundane. Since mundane arguments cannot touch transcendental subject matters, one should not try to understand transcendental subjects through mundane arguments. (Mahābhārata, Bhīṣma-parva 5.22)
By mere speculation we cannot understand who we are, what is our purpose in life, what is the origin of life and universe, why there is suffering, who is God? and so on so forth. We have to understand it from proper authority who is in knowledge and who is not limited by our tiny frog like brain. Just like a child maybe completely ignorant about a watch, but when the father enlightens him about the watch and how it should be used, the child becomes immediately knowledgeable about the watch and immediately goes above his mental limitation. Similarly, if you want to find out who is your father, you can not rely on the power of your logic and reason, you have to go to the proper authority, that is your mother! So you must approach an authority for receiving perfect knowledge!
When we receive knowledge from God, the perfect authority, then we rise above our limitation of our mind and senses! The vedic scriptures, and especially the Bhagavad-gītā is direct knowledge from God, Krishna. And great authorities like Madhvacharya, Ramanujacharya, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Vyasa, Narada etc, who are known for their purity and integrity, have all accepted this knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita and vedic scriptures. And when we receive knowledge from these authorities, it is as good as getting perfect knowledge from God!
Does this mean that there is no scope for reasoning in spirituality?
Absolutely there is. In fact, Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita:
adhyeṣyate ca ya imaṁ
dharmyaṁ saṁvādam āvayoḥ
iṣṭaḥ syām iti me matiḥ
And I declare that he who studies this sacred conversation worships Me by his intelligence. (18.70)
This means applying our logic and reasoning to understand Bhagavad-gītā and gradually become knowledgeable in these higher concepts. For example, in Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says:
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father. (14.4)
To understand this logically, we see that every living entity in this world comes from a father. That father in turn has a father. In this way, If we go up all the way, there must be an original father of all. And the same is being confirmed by Lord Krishna here!
In another statement, Lord Krishna says “Janma mrtyu jara vyadhi dukha dosanudarsanam” – “real knowledge is to see the main distresses of this world are – birth, death, old age and disease“. When we look at the world, we see that irrespective of who they are, all beings undergo these four tribulations.
In another statement, Lord Krishna says:
This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again. (9.10)
To understand this logically, take an example of a space station. To launch, control and monitor a simple satellite or a space ship, it requires so much of system, governance, resources, plans and so on. Similarly this gigantic universe, with innumerable planets, stars, cosmic objects, is running with precise laws, system and order; so logically there must be a cosmic governance and a Supreme Person in charge of that governance. When there are laws, there must be law maker. When there is a system, there must be intelligent person who designed that system.
A kindergartner student finds the concept of negative numbers illogical and absurd. But we do know that as he goes through higher grades applying his reason and logic to the topics presented from his teachers, he will slowly become mature to understand higher concepts like negative numbers.
Similarly, by applying our logic and reasoning to the topics presented in Bhagavad Gita and gradually learning from a bona fide spiritual master, and serving him we can become mature and experience this knowledge ourselves directly (BG 9.2). Hence, this process is most scientific, not just blind faith, as people claim! Hare Krishna!
The word “dharma” is often misunderstood as “religion”. But “religion” typically conveys the idea of “faith”, and “faith” may change. One may have faith in a particular religion like Hinduism, Christianity, Islam etc, But a Hindu may change his faith to become a Muslim, or a Muslim may change his faith to become a Christian and so on. But “dharma” means that which cannot be changed. For instance liquidity can not be taken from water, heat cannot be taken from fire, sweetness cannot be taken from sugar etc… Similarly everyone in this world, male, female, young, old, black, white – it doesn’t matter who they are, they are all ultimately spirit souls and that soul has a property which is intrinsic and can not be changed or taken from it. Dharma or Sanatana-dharma refers to that intrinsic constitutional nature of the soul. It is not sectarian nor some kind of faith nor limited by any boundaries. So what is that intrinsic nature of the soul?
If we look around the world, a father serves his family, his family serves him, mother serves the child, wife and husband serve each other, a friend serves another friend, we serve our pets and pets serve us. The public serve a politician by votes, the politician serves the public when in office. In this way we can see that no living being is exempt from rendering service to other living beings, and therefore we can safely conclude that “service” is the constant nature of the living being and therefore the “rendering of service” is the eternal religion or the “sanatana-dharma” of the living being.
But currently, this service spirit is being misdirected because of our ignorance! Even though externally we are serving someone, we are actually serving our own senses. And when there is disturbance in sense gratification, we give up that service and we see in the world many relations end in this way. Whether it is husband-wife, boss employee, friend & friend, brother and brother – they all break the moment there is disturbance in our sense gratification.
When Sanatana Gosvami asked Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu about the constitutional position of the living being He replied that it is the rendering of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead:
jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya-kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’
kṛṣṇera ‘taṭasthā-śakti’ ‘bhedābheda-prakāśa’
It is the living entity’s constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa because he is the marginal energy of Kṛṣṇa and a manifestation simultaneously one with and different from the Lord. (Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya Lila 20.108)
Factually we are eternally related to the Supreme Lord in service. The Supreme Lord is the supreme enjoyer, and we living entities are His servitors. Just like a father begets children for extending his enjoyment of family life, we spirit souls are children of God, created for expanding His enjoyment, and if we participate in that eternal enjoyment with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we become happy. It is not possible to become happy by chasing sense gratification and ignoring the loving service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind. (Bhagavad Gita 15.7)
Chasing sense gratification is like an animal chasing for water in a mirage. It eventually leads to dissatisfaction, frustration, misery and death! Serving God is our constitutional position.
ye hi saṁsparśa-jā bhogā
duḥkha-yonaya eva te
na teṣu ramate budhaḥ
An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kuntī, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them. (Bhagavad Gita 5.22)
Just like the constitutional position of all the limbs of the body is to serve the stomach by feeding the stomach. If the limbs don’t serve the stomach, the whole body becomes weakened. Similarly, it is not possible for the living entity to be actually happy without rendering transcendental loving service unto the Supreme Lord.
To perfect one’s life, one simply needs to redirect this service spirit towards God. Instead of serving someone in the material world, which is only a masked or extended sense gratification, one can serve Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This process, transforming one’s service from persons and objects in the material world, to the service of Krishna, is the art of Krishna consciousness or sanatana-dharma.
Does this mean we shouldn’t serve anyone else in this world except God? No, all our duties and services towards our family, society, country etc must be carried out as service given to us by God, keeping God in the center. Only then can we have a perfect family, society, country and the world!
Even though Krishna consciousness is non-sectarian, people sometimes mistake it to be sectarian, like any other religion. The name Krishna should not be mistaken to belong to only Hindus. If there is any name that is perfect for God, that is “Krishna”, which basically means “all-attractive”. God must be attractive to everyone, otherwise He is not God. He is God not only to Hindus, but to every living entity of this world, [as Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita that He is the father of all living entities].
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father. (Bhagavad Gita 14.4)
Because Krishna is intimately related to all living entities, people from all over the world, irrespective of their background, nation, culture, language, gender are taking to Krishna consciousness when they hear and chant about Krishna – which awakens their dormant love of Krishna in their hearts, which they had forgotten because of bodily consciousness of many births in this material world.
The next question is, what are the activities of this sanatana dharma? Activities of the nature of sanatana-dharma is not subject to someone’s speculation or mental concoction. Just like no one can manufacture one’s own law of the state. The law is established by the government and everyone must abide by it. The true principles and activities of sanatana-dharma can only be laid down by the Lord Himself
dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītaṁ
na vai vidur ṛṣayo nāpi devāḥ
na siddha-mukhyā asurā manuṣyāḥ
kuto nu vidyādhara-cāraṇādayaḥ
Real religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great ṛṣis who occupy the topmost planets cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods or the leaders of Siddhaloka, to say nothing of the asuras, ordinary human beings, Vidyādharas and Cāraṇas. (Srimad Bhagavatam 6.3.19).
Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita clearly provides what is the dharma that everyone should follow i.e., to give up all varieties of concocted and manufactured dharmas and surrender to Him alone, which means to follow His instructions and serve Him.
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. (Bhagavad Gita 18.66)
This is done by approaching a bonafide spiritual master, a pure representative of krishna. That is the real dharma of all living entities, which makes them completely satisfied, peaceful and happy! Hare Krishna!
People in general become averse to spirituality because the scriptures prescribe so much of sense control tāni sarvāṇi saṁyamya
yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ
vaśe hi yasyendriyāṇi
tasya prajñā pratiṣṭhitā
One who restrains his senses and fixes his consciousness upon Me is known as a man of steady intelligence. (Bhagavad Gita 2.61)
The thought of giving up the enjoyment of sense gratification horrifies them. People even argue that we have been given these senses, life is meant for enjoyment, otherwise why would God give us senses other than to use and enjoy them?
Take for example you want to wrap a laddu sweet with a piece of paper. You ask your young child to bring a piece of paper and somehow he finds a $100 bill and gives you to wrap the laddu. You smile at his ignorance, but you counsel the boy and educate him that even though it is a piece of paper, the $100 should be used for a higher purpose and not merely for wrapping a laddu! Going by this analogy, yes, we have our senses, as do the animals. But the senses of a human being are given for a higher purpose and inquiry. The vedanta sutra says – athato brahma jijnasa – “now that you got a human body, inquire into the Absolute Truth”.
We obtain this human body after transmigrating through 8 million lower species of animal life. So we should not merely use these senses again like animals and risk going down to animal life in our next body.
The senses of animals are naturally designed strongly for a particular kind of sense gratification. For example, a hog’s body is designed to enjoy eating all kinds of filth, a koala bear can sleep for 20 hours a day, a pigeon can mate hundreds of times daily, a vulture can spot a tiny object from miles, a tiger can enjoy eating all kinds of raw meat and so on. But a human being’s senses are not so designed for excessive sense indulgence, but when he abuses his senses, it leads to so many distresses. For example, if we want to enjoy some nice rasagulla sweet and devour one dozen, that will immediately create indigestion. In this way, any kind of sense gratification will produce unpleasant result. And in order to enjoy excessive sense gratification, one needs to work hard to earn and deserve such kind of sense gratification. So it takes away the valuable time and energy of a human to just meet the demands of the senses. And more importantly, sense gratification breeds more passion and lust, and Bhagavad Gita says that lust is the eternal enemy of the living entity (kama esa krodha esa rajo guna samudbhavah). Lust makes us do so many sinful activities and implicates us in severe laws of karma. The root cause of today’s evil in the society is lust!
Unfortunately, in this modern day material civilization, success is measured by how nicely we are in a position to enjoy senses. Advancement of civilization unfortunately has become only how to enjoy senses more and more, in other words, this is animalistic civilization. In the animal kingdom, there is always unrest. One dog barking over the other, one animal fighting over the other animal and so on. So if we remain in animal consciousness, we can not expect peace in the society!
But people may ask what happiness is there without sense gratification? And doesn’t restricting sense gratification lead to mental dissatisfaction and negative energy inside?
Bhagavad Gita says that true happiness is actually beyond sensual happiness:
sukham ātyantikaṁ yat tad
vetti yatra na caivāyaṁ
sthitaś calati tattvataḥ
In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. (Bhagavad Gita 6.21)
That happiness is on the platform of the spirit soul and not the body. Great transcendentalists are always relishing that happiness within. That is the happiness of Krishna consciousness:
yo ‘ntaḥ-sukho ‘ntar-ārāmas
tathāntar-jyotir eva yaḥ
sa yogī brahma-nirvāṇaṁ
One whose happiness is within, who is active within, who rejoices within and is illumined within, is actually the perfect mystic. He is liberated in the Supreme, and ultimately he attains the Supreme. (Bhgavad Gita 5.24)
In order to reawaken to our original happy state of Krishna consciousness, we need to cure our disease of sense gratification. Just like a person suffering from a disease should refrain from doing certain activities, sense control is therefore needed to cure the disease of sense gratification.
Bhagavad Gita gives us a twofold method to cure this disease of sense gratification. One is sense regulation and the other is sense engagement. Sense regulation doesn’t mean zero enjoyment, it means that we should satisfy our bodily needs only as much as we require to keep our body healthy. Just like we need to take care of our car, service it, clean it so it can take us to the destination. But if we only keep taking care of the car and forget our destination, the car is of no good!
Sense engagement means engaging the senses in serving Krishna, which engages all our senses nicely so that there is no scope for our senses to be degraded to bodily sense gratification. And as we go on serving Krishna, our senses become purified and they develop a higher taste:
sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate
‘Bhakti, or devotional service, means engaging all our senses in the service of the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all the senses. When the spirit soul renders service unto the Supreme, there are two side effects. One is freed from all material designations, and, simply by being employed in the service of the Lord, one’s senses are purified. (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.12)
By the power of the higher taste of Krishna consciousness, we can overcome the lower taste of sense gratification, and thus sense control is automatically achieved. Any other method of artificial sense control is bound to fail because there is no positive engagement of senses like in Krishna consciousness. Therefore by following the Bhagavad Gita’s twofold method of sense regulation and sense engagement, one remains happy and free from the disease of sense gratification! Hare Krishna!