"Unless he realizes that he doesn't want suffering but rather wants to make
a solution to all sufferings, then one is not to be considered a perfect
I've never had any formal religious instruction. I've absorbed bits and
pieces of the colors and ceremonies and stories from pilgrimages to temples
at home and in India, and from squirming through neighborhood get-togethers
on the occasional full-moon for a katha. And, of course, the annual
holidays, particularly Diwali, the festival of lights, the birth of Lord
Krishna -- coming up October 20th.
I've actively resisted learning too much about Hinduism and even the more
intricate rituals. Frankly, I learned the most about it in public school --
world history class. Still, it's something I've been exposed to and is part
of my cultural comfort zone. More to the point, it *is* part of my parent's
lives, down to my father's daily morning readings. I've never once read that
volume. I wonder why.
Anyway, I'm obviously doing some heavyweight soul-searching here, and in the
move, I came across a slim ISKCON (Hare Krishna) introduction pamphlet. It's
tough sledding, not an easy sales pitch but an academic preface.
Nevertheless, in fifteen minutes I could see the outlines of the occasional
stories my father told me, and more to the point, the life-stories my family
and other elders upheld.
So forthwith, a few excerpts that reminded me that for all my cultivated
religious ignorance, I am living my life in obeisance to certain cultural
PS. I'm using FoRK in scrapbook-mode. I'm sorry, but I don't have time to
explain the broader context. Briefly: Arjuna's story as he is paralyzed on
the battlefield from attacking his own cousins; Krishna descends and
expounds the philosophy of life at length; and Arjuna realizes it is his
duty as a warrior to go forward. How's that for irresponsible
Online edition at: http://www.webcom.com/~ara/col/books/BG/bg-intro.html
it can be stated that a devotee is in a relationship with the Supreme
Personality of Godhead in one of five different ways:
1. One may be a devotee in a passive state;
2. One may be a devotee in an active state;
3. One may be a devotee as a friend;
4. One may be a devotee as a parent;
5. One may be a devotee as a conjugal lover.
[This is close, but not quite, the five stages of Hindu life that informs
the 30 hypothesis: the child, the student, the spouse, the parent, and the
sanyaasi (philosopher/penitent in the forest).]
The purpose of Bhagavad-gita is to deliver mankind from the nescience of
material existence. Every man is in difficulty in so many ways, as Arjuna
also was in difficulty in having to fight the Battle of Kuruksetra. Arjuna
surrendered unto Sri Krsna, and consequently this Bhagavad-gita was spoken.
Not only Arjuna, but every one of us is full of anxieties because of this
[Religion, like other forms of ideology, is always nurtured by injustice,
ill fortune, and inhumanity. Oppression in this world demands another world,
equal and opposite (good) to make up for it.]
Out of so many human beings who are suffering, there are a few who are
actually inquiring about their position, as to what they are, why they are
put into this awkward position and so on. Unless one is awakened to this
position of questioning his suffering, unless he realizes that he doesn't
want suffering but rather wants to make a solution to all sufferings, then
one is not to be considered a perfect human being. Humanity begins when this
sort of inquiry is awakened in one's mind. In the Brahma-sutra this inquiry
is called "brahma-jijjnasa." Every activity of the human being is to be
considered a failure unless he inquires about the nature of the Absolute.
[hence my belief that there is even less rest for the gifted than the damned
-- I must reach for the Big Thing to merely be true to my self]
Prakrti [material nature] itself is constituted by three qualities: the mode
of goodness, the mode of passion and the mode of ignorance. Above these
modes there is eternal time, and by a combination of these modes of nature
and under the control and purview of eternal time there are activities which
are called karma. These activities are being carried out from time
immemorial, and we are suffering or enjoying the fruits of our activities.
For instance, suppose I am a businessman and have worked very hard with
intelligence and have amassed a great bank balance. Then I am an enjoyer.
But then say I have lost all my money in business; then I am a sufferer.
Similarly, in every field of life we enjoy the results of our work, or we
suffer the results. This is called karma.
[It is not at all surprising that all the little cues in my upbringing and
selective memory have trained me to a numbing fatalism that I dare not do
wrong, because I am absolutely, positively going to get caught. I never get
away with anything bad; though it's not consequent that I feel there's a
reward for doing good. Doing good, after all, is one's duty, dharma, as
raised in preceding excerpt]
Dharma [duty of service] refers to that which is constantly existing with
the particular object. We conclude that there is heat and light along with
the fire; without heat and light, there is no meaning to the word fire.
Similarly, we must discover the essential part of the living being, that
part which is his constant companion. That constant companion is his eternal
quality, and that eternal quality is his eternal religion.
the Lord replied that the svarupa or constitutional position of the living
being is the rendering of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If
we analyze this statement of Lord Caitanya, we can easily see that every
living being is constantly engaged in rendering service to another living
being. A living being serves other living beings in two capacities. By doing
so, the living entity enjoys life. The lower animals serve human beings as
servants serve their master. A serves B master, B serves C master and C
serves D master and so on. Under these circumstances, we can see that one
friend serves another friend, the mother serves the son, the wife serves the
husband, the husband serves the wife and so on. If we go on searching in
this spirit, it will be seen that there is no exception in the society of
living beings to the activity of service. The politician presents his
manifesto for the public to convince them of his capacity for service. The
voters therefore give the politician their valuable votes, thinking that he
will render valuable service to society. The shop-keeper serves the
customer, and the artisan serves the capitalist. The capitalist serves the
family, and the family serves the state in terms of the eternal capacity of
the eternal living being. 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 companion of the living being
and that the rendering of service is the eternal religion of the living
[Note the fine line in Hinduism of selfless service, and ossified Indian
history of casteism and feudal obedience in government, industry, and
academia. The strict dominance of the guru-chela (teacher-student)
relationship can easily degenerate into blindness and brittleness. I would
have been chewed up and spit out by Indian culture -- I am Rohit only
because I am American...]
Yet man professes to belong to a particular type of faith with reference to
particular time and circumstance and thus claims to be a Hindu, Muslim,
Christian, Buddhist or any other sect. Such designations are
non-sanatana-dharma. A Hindu may change his faith to become a Muslim, or a
Muslim may change his faith to become a Hindu, or a Christian may change his
faith and so on. But in all circumstances the change of religious faith does
not effect the eternal occupation of rendering service to others. The Hindu,
Muslim or Christian in all circumstances is servant of someone.
[I have always cherished the eclecticism of my Hinduness, the sense that it
is above sectarianism and hadn't ever instigated a war or policy of
prosyletization. I'm might embarrassed by the notion of Hindu nationalism.]
"Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me, and at the same time you
should continue your prescribed duty and fight. With your mind and
activities always fixed on Me, and everything engaged in Me, you will attain
to Me without any doubt."
He does not advise Arjuna to simply remember Him and give up his occupation.
No, the Lord never suggests anything impractical. In this material world, in
order to maintain the body one has to work. Human society is divided,
according to work, into four divisions of social order - brahmana, ksatriya,
vaisya, sudra. The brahamana class or intelligent class is working in one
way, the ksatriya or administrative class is working in another way, and the
mercantile class and the laborers are all tending to their specific duties.
In the human society, whether one is a laborer, merchant, warrior,
administrator, or farmer, or even if one belongs to the highest class and is
a literary man, a scientist or a theologian, he has to work in order to
maintain his existence. The Lord therefore tells Arjuna that he need not
give up his occupation, but while he is engaged in his occupation he should
remember Krsna. If he doesn't practice remembering Krsna while he is
struggling for existence, then it will not be possible for him to remember
Krsna at the time of death. [because at death you are reincarnated as
whatever you are thinking of, put simplistically].
[And thus, the precept that work is life and life work -- and ever more so,
the "higher" up in society one is, the more gifted one is.]