Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Bhagavad Gita Interpreted

This title is in progress, and the available chapters can now be accessed by selecting the book cover on the right hand side of this page. Any comments, questions, or criticisms can be directed to me at I expect this work will be another year in production before the complete work is available. It's worth noting that the three chapters that currently appear in the PDF page proofs do not correspond exactly with the drafts I previously posted here. I do intend, however, to continue to post the initial drafts of subsequent chapters here before they go into composition and appear in the book itself. All content is subject to revision at any time.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Goat for Azazel

In the late evening, beside the crumbling stones of the wall that guarded the city, I came upon Iblis, who had taken the disguise of a beggar, toothless and decayed. He outstretched the arms of appeal, but no one offered the coin of mercy. Passersby looked away, forbidding their eyes a glance. Like them, I walked by, pretending no notice of him. But he called after me, saying, “Has even my biographer forgotten me?”

At first hesitating, I stopped and turned, though I still averted my gaze, fearful that his divine beauty might burst forth from the corrosion of his accursed form. I said, “You should not beg from those you despise.”

He said, “I seek redress from their curses. My opinion of them is not relevant.”

I said, “Why do you hold man in such contempt?”

He said, “I am more aware of your faults than you are of your own. Among the Hebrews, I was called Azazel. They tied the unnumbered threads of their transgressions against God’s law to my horns and cast me down to die. You think I am the personification of your sins, but, like the goat for Azazel, I am the victim of them. What use have the innocent with the devil? For every sin you commit, I bear a stripe from the lash of your self-absolution, a wound from the spear of your inconscient denial. God did not disfigure me; you did. And this is why I hate you.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Bhagavad Gita Interpreted - Part Three

Arjuna said,

—If perception of the Most High is my goal, why do you demand that I engage in this monstrous battle? Why do you urge me to terrible action? You have said it is the bondage of action that burdens us, that enslaves us to the transient world. It is better for me to renounce action and make no war against my family. It is better that I withdraw the limbs of perception, renouncing all action, as a tortoise withdraws into her shell.

—I hear contradictions in your guidance. Your teaching eludes me. Show me its straightness, that I may not wander lost, that I might come to perception of the Most High.

Krishna said,

—Through two eyes you may see the straight way. Through the eye of wisdom you will see it. Though the eye of selfless action you will see it. Through selfless action, you are free from bondage.

—Those who believe freedom from action is achieved by inaction have erred. In every breath, in every moment, you engage in action. Who would counsel that you must renounce breathing? The worlds of creation demand action; no man can avoid it.

—The man who withdraws within himself and renounces action, yet secretly craves the fruits of action, deceives himself. A man may fast, but fasting does not sate his appetite. Is he not still hungry? His appetite leads him from the straight way and he wanders lost.

—But the man who engages in selfless action, who surrenders the fruits of action, with the rein of his senses in hand, he is a true follower of the way.

—Know that you must act. Action cannot be renounced, for even renunciation is a form of action. Therefore, act, for this is the way to liberation. Only be sure your action is purified of appetite. Then action is not selfish, but a form of worship. This is selfless action; such action is sacred. Give up the fruits of action, for all action is bondage except action performed in sacrifice. Therefore perform selfless action, free from bondage. The heavens honor him who honors the heavens through selfless action, through the way of sacrifice, by surrendering the fruits of action.

—The Most High has granted you the gift of life and prosperity; to engage in sacrifice is a duty. Yet he who partakes of the good of this world, giving nothing in return, is a thief.

—When a pool of water offers itself to the heavens, the heavens offer up rain. Thus the pool, even dry, is always filled. Selfless action is the way of the Most High. Perform this action in service to the Most High.

—The one who rejects selfless action, rejects the Most High. He is a burden to the world. The one who embraces selfless action is serene; he transcends all bonds of action. He transcends action as the Sun transcends the Earth, his eye on it, yet unmoved by it. Nothing of the Earth may help or hinder his transit through the heavens. Therefore, perform selfless action, transcend attachment and find liberation from the things of the world. When your action is thus purified, you may perceive the Most High enthroned within you.

—When he engages in selfless action, the king becomes a sage; the warrior, a saint. When he engages in selfless action, he becomes a teacher to the world of men.

—I myself am unbound by action. There is nothing in the worlds that I do not already possess. Yet I am never without action. If I were to become still, stillness would fill the worlds. If I did not act, the worlds and all their creatures would cease to be. Selfish men act to achieve selfish ends, to fulfill selfish wishes. The wise act to achieve My ends, to fulfill My wishes. The wise need not preach the truth of selfless action; in their example you will see purity and serenity.

—Every selfish action is driven by desire. The unwise imagine they have chosen, but their desires do the choosing. The wise, however, understand this simple truth. They perceive the forces that govern action and claim no ownership of it. Enslaved by their nature, the unwise chain themselves to selfish action. How will the wise instruct them whose eyes are forever fixed on transient things?

—Fix your eyes on the Most High and sacrifice the fruits of action to Me. This is liberation; this is the straight way, this is the peace of selfless action. The wise follow this straight way, discovering freedom through sacrifice which purifies their actions. But those who cling to the fruits of action, who reject the way of selfless action, follow another path and never reach Me.

—If even the wise are subject to their nature and impulses, why should they restrain themselves? Yet the wise guard against the turbulent passions of their lower nature, recognizing this foe along the straight path, and resist her tyranny. For is it not better to perform one's own duty, even imperfectly, than to do the duty, even with skill and excellence, of a tyrant?

Arjuna said,

—O Krishna, what then drives men to act selfishly, to become distracted by the lures of this world, and to stray from the straight path of sacred action?

Krishna said,

—Desire and wrath, the twin daughters of thoughtless passion, are man's enemies on this path. They are burning fire; their smoke is impenetrable. They are filth on a mirror; who can see what is reflected therein? They envelope the senses, as the womb envelopes one not born. They deprive wisdom of its potency; they make eyes blind, ears deaf. In their unnumbered forms they drive man to sate them, though they can never be satisfied. Once granted entrance to the palace of the senses, they usurp reason, and are tyrants enthroned. Man is blinded by their false radiance, and offers up wisdom in sacrifice to them. Put these tyrants to death, crown wisdom in their place and regain your sight.

—The senses are lands and seas, the mind is the sky, a sea of milk, spreading over both; reason is the procession of sun and moon and stars. Unseen, above these three, you will find Me. Exceed reason, and discover Me. Let the serenity of the Most High become your serenity. Rise up and fight, Arjuna. Put these tyrants to the sword.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Bhagavad Gita Interpreted - Part Two

With Arjuna’s words sounding in his ears, Krishna’s spirit quickened. He spoke to Arjuna, whose eyes burned with tears, overwhelmed by despair.

Krishna said:

—What shameful words are these, Arjuna? This is the hour of trial. Why do you falter? Your despondent grief enfeebles you; it dishonors you. Slunk in the trenches of despair, you will win neither heaven nor earth.

—Impotence and cowardice are not your way; you wear them poorly. Do not yield to these faults or to this weakness. Rise up and fight!”

Arjuna said:

—How can I fight them, immortal Krishna? Among these enemies are my teachers from earliest youth. How can I cut them down when they deserve only my veneration? It is better to wander in rags, begging for alms, than to sprinkle the bread of my sustenance with their blood.

—Who is to say that their victory over us would be the worse outcome? And if we are victorious over them, what reasons would I have to live, knowing that the luxuries of life were bought at this price?

—I am afflicted with blinding tears and cannot see the straight way, the lawful path. Lead me forward, Krishna. I am your student and you are the most excellent of teachers. Tell me what is best, for I see nothing, even in victory in heaven or on earth, which will dispel my doubts and sorrows.

With these words, Arjuna cried out: —I will not fight! and said nothing more. Krishna smiled, hinting of laughter, and spoke gently to Arjuna as they stood between the two armies.

Krishna said:

—Do not weep tears for them. Though your words are sincere and full of insight, your sorrow profits no one. Tears are wasted on the dead; the wise do not grieve for the living or the dead. For life and death shall pass away.

—In time, we have always been, both you and I and all these kings of men; and we will always be.

—Putting on the body of the child, the youth, the old man, a wise man does not wonder that in death, the Self passes into another body.

—Consider your senses, this illusory world bound up in the body. Burning fire and bitter cold, comfort and discomfort, these come and go; they are ephemeral. Rise above them.

—When you have passed untroubled beyond comfort and discomfort, above delight and misery, you become fit for immortality.

—What is transient is never real. What is eternal never is not. The wise see the clear boundary between these two.

—The eternal that supports this universe cannot be destroyed. Nothing can destroy what is indestructible.

—The eternal Self dwells in bodies, but the Self surpasses all bodies. Bodies die in time, but the Self is everlasting.

—The man who imagines he can kill, and the man who fears he can be killed are both in error. The one who kills does not kill; and the one killed does not die.

—The Self is never born nor does it die. The Self is constant, eternal, untouched by death even when his body dies.

—A pitcher filled with moonlight is broken. Do you mourn the loss of the moon? A mirror reflecting sunlight is shattered. Do you mourn the loss of the sun? So does the body die, but the Self does not die.

—When a man knows the Self, how can he imagine that he kills? How can he imagine that he dies? The body ages, crumbles, ceases to be; but the Self is unborn, ageless, without end, indestructible.

—As a man puts off tattered clothes, and wears something different and new; the Self discards the body, and wears something different and new.

—No sword, no spear, no arrow can deprive the Self of life. Fire cannot scorch him; water cannot drown him; wind cannot make him dry.

—Beyond weapon and fire, beyond water and wind, the Self surpasses all, enduring all unblemished, unmoved, unchanged.

—The Self is unseen, beyond sight; unknown, beyond knowledge; unaltered, beyond alteration; if in wisdom you capture this much, you will not grieve for the loss of what can never be lost.

—Even if you believe that a man is born again and again, and that he dies again and again, you should not grieve, for in death birth is inevitable and in birth death is inevitable.

—Being born, he must die. In death, he is reborn. If you understand this, then you will not grieve for the loss of what can never be lost.

—Before the sun rises, the world is dark. After the sun sets, the world is dark again. Do you mourn each night the death of the sun?

—Before birth, he is unseen. After death, he is unseen again. Between these, you merely see him. For this why do you complain?

—Few perceive him; few speak of him; fewer hear him. Even hearing him, no one truly knows him.

—Within every body, the inviolable Self resides. Therefore, do not grieve for the death of any of them. The Self resides beyond death.

—Do your duty, Arjuna. Act without hesitation. For the warrior, the greatest good is righteous war against an evil enemy.

—A righteous war opens the doors of heaven for you. Enter therein, Arjuna. Rejoice in good fortune that this battle is joined.

—But if you shrink before this battle or turn your back upon your duty, casting aside honor, this is a grievous transgression.

—Men will recount your shame, dishonor, and disgrace now and in the future. They shall say cowards possess the courage of Arjuna. For one honored, the loss of honor is worse than death.

—Great warriors will accuse you of cowardice; those who once honored you will treat you with contempt.

—Your enemies will rejoice in mocking you. They will laugh and say, “See how Arjuna fled before us, a deer among lions.” Death in battle is better than the mocking derision of enemies.

—If you are defeated and cut down on this field, you gain glory in the next world. If you are victorious, you gain glory in this world. Arise and fight, Arjuna. Glory is upon you.

—Be detached from happiness and unhappiness, gain or loss, victory or defeat. Be resolved to fight, or you will fall into error. Glory is upon you.

—These are the words of belief. Now hear my words of practice, of sacred action. Understand this practice and you will break the bonds of action.

—On the path of this practice, no exertion or effort is wasted or lost. Even a single step upon this path is liberation from fear.

—On this path, the follower is resolved and finds singleness of purpose. But those who lack purpose wander lost on many endless roads.

—In flowery words, unenlightened men take refuge. They know only the letter of the Vedas and say, “There is only this!”

—Driven by appetite, their heaven is a selfish hunger. Fervently they pray to sate their hunger, but gain only death in rebirth to selfish appetite.

—They delight in their desires for pleasure and power, seeking these in scriptures. But they lack purpose and wander without end.

—The world of the Vedas, their rites and prayers for prosperity, is the world of desire and attachment. Rise above duality; give up the transient world and its possessions and possess your Self.

—The world of the Vedas are a droplet of water to the man who drinks deeply of the Self.

—Engage in action, but never in self-interest. Give up all rewards, but never give up action.

—In the field of action, there is peace, free from selfish attachments, unmoved by success or failure. This peace balances the mind; it is unchanging.

—If you act to achieve your desires, such action will deprive you of wisdom or salvation from attachments. Such action impoverishes the one seeking worldly riches.

—Understanding this, a man vanquishes anxiety. He is untroubled whether work ends well or ends poorly. Become wise, therefore, by renouncing the fruits of action.

—The wise man, relinquishing actions’ rewards, becoming free from attachment, achieves salvation from the bonds of this world and acquires perfect bliss.

—Emerging from the wilds of delusion and duality, you will perceive the difference between what men suppose is true, and Truth itself.

—Long troubled by the contradictions in scriptures, you will rise above these words, you will achieve certitude in contemplation. This is the goal.

Arjuna said:

—The man who achieves this goal, who achieves certitude in contemplation; what is he like? What does he say? What is his manner?

Krishna said:

—The one who relinquishes the fruits of action, who gives up all desires, who sunders the bonds of attachment to all things he achieves oneness with the Supreme.

—He is one at peace, not longing for pleasure, untroubled by sadness, untouched by lust, by fear or anger. His mind is steady.

—He is one free from attachments, neither broken-hearted by evil fortune nor elated by good fortune. He is wise, serene. His insight is unwavering.

—As the tortoise draws in his limbs, so does he withdraw his senses from the world of desires.

—The disciple renounces sensual pleasure, but still he craves what he desires. He is like one who fasts, but longs for food. But his desires vanish when he achieves oneness with the Supreme.

—The senses are restless; they drive even the wisest from achieving freedom from the bondage of attachment.

—But let him be devoted to me, turning his mind toward me to banish all longings, to seek shelter in me, to command his senses.

—The man who seeks shelter in sensual pleasures is lured away from me. The snares of desire, of lust for possession lead to frustration.

—Unmastered passion troubles his mind, clouds duty, disarms reason, and leads a man to ruin.

—The one who has mastery over passion, keeps aloof from attachment. He has found harmony and peace.

—He throws off the yoke of sorrows and finds quietude, untroubled peace in the shelter of the Self.

—The one driven by desire is driven away from harmony and contemplation. Here there is no peace, and without peace, there is no contentment.

—As a storm on the sea drive ships off course, man’s unmastered passions carry him away from insight.

—But insight is firm in the man who draws in his senses from attachments and desires.

—For him, what is darkness to other creatures is his glorious daylight, and what is day to other creatures, is the darkness of their ignorance and vain imaginings.

—All rivers feed the sea, but the sea is never overfilled. Likewise, for the enlightened man, the rivers of desire never overwhelm the calm waters of his peace. But this is not so for the unenlightened, drowning in the desire for desires.

—The man who renounces possession, is unmoved by desire, is unselfish in thought and act, he achieves the most supreme peace.

—O Arjuna, this is man’s eternal Self. Finding him destroys delusion. Even in his final exhalation, man can reach the Supreme, can achieve the Nirvana of Brahman.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Faintest Shadow

Remember the words we spoke as children? Do you recall the silly and foolish things we said and thought? We knew so little, yet still we spoke and imagined we knew all, though in truth we only played at knowing.

When you reached maturity, you cringed at these memories, at the foolish prattle you'd made as a child. But your error was the same. Young men laugh at the gibberish of children; so too do the elderly laugh at the gibberish of young men.

Consider then one day when this life is long over, these words which seem to you so wise and perceptive will be proven but the faintest shadow of true wisdom and true perception.

The Bhagavad Gita Interpreted - Part One

On the field of Kurukshetra, the sons and armies of Duryodhana faced their cousins, the sons and armies of the Pandava. Arjuna, the son of Pandu, stood in a chariot drawn by white horses. Krishna stood beside him, the reins in his hands. On Arjuna's banner was the symbol of Hanuman, the servant of Rama.

Arjuna said:

—Immortal Krishna, drive my chariot between the two armies, between the warriors and allies of my brothers, and our enemies, the warriors and allies of our cousins. Let me look upon them who are eager to shed blood.

Krishna drove their chariot between the two armies, as Arjuna had asked. He turned the chariot to face the chiefs of Duryodhana's warriors.

Krishna said:

—Here are the armies of the Kurus, gathered to do battle with you and your brothers.

Arjuna looked upon them and saw among them cousins, fathers and sons, grandfathers and grandsons, uncles, teachers, and friends. Arjuna fell into despair, sinking to the floor of his chariot, and spoke in a voice heavy with grief.

Arjuna said:

—How can I do battle with my kinsmen, with those I love and who have loved me, for whom I have cared, as they once cared for me? Though they have gathered to serve Duryodhana’s folly, to kill me and my brothers on this battlefield, how can I fight them? My body trembles at the thought. My bow falls from my hands. My flesh burns. My arms and legs have no strength. My mind is confused; my reason confounded. I am lost.

—There is no glory in killing these enemies, to whom I am bound by kinship. To spill their blood is no better than spilling my own. Krishna, I do not long for victory. I have no need of a kingdom, or a kingdom's pleasures if I gain them only by destroying my kinsmen. I have no taste for royal bread dipped in their blood.

—Our cousins, our teachers, their fathers and sons, our friends, are these our enemies? How can I think to kill them, even if they are fixed on killing me?

—And if we kill them, evil will fall upon us in victory, as surely as in defeat. Immortal Krishna, though their minds are overcome with greed, though they are unwary of the evil they summon, and the disorder they conjure by destroying this family, by betraying friends, still how can I act against them?

—The ruin of a family is the ruin of righteousness. It is the overturning of order. It is the source of impurity. To act is to bring upon us a day of pitch darkness. We have come here for the sake of an earthly kingdom; we have come ready to do battle for the point of a needle of earth, for a fist of dirt. But by acting, we reserve for ourselves only a place in Hell. It is best for me if Duryodhana and his armies come before me. I will remain disarmed by doubt. I will not resist them as they kill me. This will be my best reward.

These were Arjuna's words to Krishna as the two armies awaited Arjuna's signal to begin the battle.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

At the End of All Things

May God's favor fall upon this work. May God's forgiveness encompass its author and whomsoever shall read it. May the prayers of the believers comfort them. I seek shelter from God in God, from His justice in His mercy, from His wrath in His love—for there is neither justice nor mercy, neither wrath nor love, except in Him. In the name of God, O Thou Glory of the Most Glorious!