Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Bhagavad Gita Interpreted - Part 12

Arjuna said:

—Some worship God by Your name, the one manifest in Your creation. Others worship God beyond all names as the transcendent unmanifest. Between these two paths, which is the best way to Your presence?

Krishna said:

—Those who love Me above and beyond all others, who are devoted to Me, who know Me without doubt or hesitation, follow My way and reach Me. And those who worship Me as the transcendent unmanifest and who restrain their senses, caring for the highest and the lowest, the best and the worst without preference or prejudice, they also reach Me.

—Yet of these two paths, those who worship Me as the infinite, everywhere present, immortal transcendent, their way is more difficult. Not knowing My name, not recognizing My station, how will they find Me, their ineffable goal? I am manifest among the manifest that they might more easily comprehend Me, and love Me above and beyond all others. In My manifest form, they find in Me deliverance from death. I am their manifest way.

—Turn your thoughts to Me alone and you will find the best of shelters. If this is not possible, if your thoughts stray, continue My practice and your thoughts may yet be tamed. If this is not possible, offer your every action to Me and you may yet attain Me. If this is not possible, be devoted to Me, restrain your senses, and renounce the fruit of your every action. Knowledge is superior to study. Meditation is superior to knowledge. But transcending meditation is the renunciation of the fruit of all action. And in renunciation you will find peace and contentment.

—I love him who is without hatred or arrogance, who is equitable to all, who feels compassion, who is detached from the lures of possession, who is untouched by happiness or sorrow, who is patient and satisfied, self-restrained and resolute, focused, dedicating his every thought to Me.

—I cherish him who neither disturbs the world or is disturbed by it, who is unmoved by joy or misery, who is tolerant, unafraid and untormented.

—I bless him who relies on nothing except Me, who is pure and chaste, who is detached and untroubled, who renounces the fruit of all action.

—I delight in him who relinquishes wrath and joy, who rejects sadness and desire, transcending good and evil.

—I treasure him who is equitable to friend and enemy, who is unmoved by glory or abasement, untouched by heat or cold, who restrains his passions, who sees praise or blame with the same eye, contented with his state, who regards not the world as his home, who is focused and devoted.

—Of all these, I love him the most who is faithful to Me, his thoughts ever fixed on Me, who does not hesitate but drinks from the camphor fountain of My Law.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Likeness

“Christ arose, anointed not by oils, but by the tears of believers. From darkness and grief, He emerged and brought His disciples out of limbo. The Jews believed that the Messiah would be a worldly king of a worldly nation. This was their expectation, the very coinage of their pride and ignorance. And this expectation blinded them to the king of kings among them. Jesus did not arise to overthrow Rome, though Rome itself would one day submit to His decree. He did not demonstrate his sovereignty over living men, He who conquered death. As the Romans crucified Jesus, what could the disciples say as darkness filled their minds? ‘Surely he will be rescued from the cross!’ Even the disciples were chained by their expectations of Him. Truth is veiled, and hope is pinioned by expectation. They did not know that what they saw was illusion to all who witnessed the crucifixion. 

“Remember what Ahmad said of Christ. ‘The Jews said, We killed the messiah, the messenger of God. But they did not kill him or crucify him; only a likeness of that was shown to them.’ In Jesus was the likeness, the mirror of God, the expected Messiah. If they broke the mirror, no harm befalls the One reflected."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Bhagavad Gita Interpreted - Part 11

Arjuna said:

—O Krishna, You have blessed me with the words of the Most High. The light of Your truth has banished the shadow of my delusion. You have revealed that You are the everlasting source and the indestructible support of all being and nonbeing. But let my eyes rest upon Your universal form. Let my eyes testify to the truth of Your words that the darkness of delusion may never again descend upon me or divide me from my love for You. If my eyes can bear it, let me look upon You as You are, O Lord.

Krishna said:

—My friend, look upon Me and see My universal form, radiant and infinite. Look upon My body and see all creatures in the heavens and earth. Look upon Me and see the universe within Me, for there is nothing you desire to see that is not within Me. But mortal eyes cannot bear this divine vision. Therefore, I will give you other eyes.

When Krishna finished speaking, He revealed to His divine form. Arjuna saw Krishna’s countless mouths and eyes, His numberless ornaments and divine weapons shimmering in His limitless hands. Upon His bodies, Arjuna saw celestial robes draped in garlands of flowers scented with heavenly perfumes. Arjuna saw God, infinite and universal, the single source of all miracles.

Beside Krishna, a thousand suns were but a flickering candle vanishing in His light. Within Him, the entire universe, unified, in infinite variations, spun in infinite directions. Arjuna trembled and pressed his palms together, bowing until his forehead touched the fingers of his hands.

Arjuna said:

—Within You, O Lord, I see all creatures of heavens and earth. I see Your attendants, Your devotees, and holy seers making obeisance to You. I see the strength of Your countless arms, the dazzling light of Your numberless eyes. I hear the supreme word from Your countless mouths in the lives of Your numberless bodies. I see in You no beginning, no middle, no end, O infinite God.

—Light around Your crown, Your mace and discus illuminates the universe. My eyes cannot bear this radiance, more glorious than the sun, burning with unquenchable fire. You are the Most High, the best end of all knowledge, the firmest foundation of heaven and earth, the changeless source and support of Your law, the Lord at the beginning of the universe, the Lord at the end.

—Immeasurable Lord, many armed. Your eyes are sun and moon and from your mouths like blazing fires, Your word illuminates Your creation, an unmatched gift to the universe.

—In the span of heavens, there is only You; on Earth, only You; on every horizon, only You; whichever way I turn, only You. All worlds tremble with wonder at Your ubiquitous glory.

—In You, the heavenly hosts press their hands together in submission to Your infinite power. In You, the holiest sages and seers sigh in adoration and sing Your praises without end.

—In You, the hosts of destruction, of fire, of prayer, of sun and moon, of wind and storm, the heavenly charioteers, the spirits of ancestors, the celestial choirs, the treasurers of heaven, the demons of hell, the sages who have attained You, are stunned with awe and amazement.

—In You, they are stunned and wonder at Your limitless forms. They look with fearful eyes into your infinite sharp-toothed mouths. I am terrified of this vision, O infinite God.

—Your head reaches the highest heavens; Your fiery mouths open; Your eyes blazing. I am terrified of this vision, O infinite God.

—Your mouths are aglow with fire at the end of the age. There is no safety or shelter from their insatiable hunger. Have mercy on Your creatures, for there is no refuge except in You.

—The kings and warriors of my cousins and likewise the kings and warriors of my brothers, eager to do battle, I see them hurrying to Your gaping mouths. You crush them, their broken bodies hanging in pieces upon the spikes of Your teeth.

—Like the waters of a great river they gush into the sea, without bottom and limitless. They rush into the blazing fire of Your mouths.

—Like moths before a fire burning brightly they are ablaze and consumed. They hurry to Your gaping mouths, destroyed and devoured.

—Still hungry and unsated, Your mouths engulf the worlds even to the ends of the universe.

—Tell me, O measureless God, why do you fill the worlds with dread? I am obedient; have mercy on Your creation. I wish to understand, O ancient God; I am ignorant and Your ways are incomprehensible.

Krishna said:

—I am Time now ancient, the destroyer of worlds. I am the Last of the age, the Ancient of Days, the End of all things. I have already defeated these warriors, and have destroyed these opposing armies. I spare only you.

—Therefore, stand on your feet, rise up and fight, and your name will never be forgotten. Put your enemies to the sword, for I have conceived their destruction long before you were born. O king among archers, strike them dead with your arrows.

—Your cousins and their allies, the finest of warriors, destroy them! O hand of God, do not hesitate. Destroy them and win victory in battle!

When Arjuna heard these words, he pressed his palms together. Trembling still, he bowed before his friend. Faltering in speech, stunned, he spoke to Krishna.

Arjuna said:

—It is right that You are praised, that You are the beloved of creation. In fear demons fly before You while sages honor You and sanctify Your name.

—In Your presence or in Your absence, though You are never absent, sages make obeisance to You, for You are the Most High, the shelter of creation. You transcend all that is, and all that is not, and all that can be said of You.

—On You creation relies; You are its only support, by You sustained. You are the knower and the best of all things known. You are the straight way and the final destination. All things hang on You, like pearls on a thread.

—You are fire, wind, and water. You are the glow of the moon. You are death. You are the creator, and first of all fathers. I cannot but praise You at every moment for all time. Again I praise You, O God, and yet again without end.

—Whichever way I turn, I praise You. To the north, to the south, to east and west I praise You, for You are found in every direction, mighty Lord; in all directions You are found.

—If in careless ignorance I have called You and named Your name “Krishna, son of Yadu, my friend!” I did not know Your transcendent greatness. Ignorant, but with affection for my friend, if I have dishonored You alone or in the presence of others, or if I have teased You in games, or at rest, or at feast, I seek Your forgiveness, O infinite God.

—Of the quick and the strong, You are the source of speed and strength. Among the sages, You are their worthiest master. Who is better than You, who even Your equal? None! For Your power is boundless and unlimited, extending throughout Your creation, and beyond even what You create.

—Therefore, I praise You and bow down before You and seek Your forgiveness. O infinite Lord, I am the foolish son at the feet of his father. I am the thoughtless friend beseeching his friend. I am the one who loves, and You are the best beloved.

—I am awed by this vision of You. I am shaken and afraid, O Lord. Restore my mortal sight to see You again in mortal form. I seek shelter from You in You, O God Supreme. Let me see You as before, in Your mortal form, O immortal and infinite God.

Krishna said:

—Because I love you, by My grace, I have revealed to you My universal form, ancient and without end. No other has seen this vision.

—Through no offering, no study, no scripture nor rite, no sacrifice, no self-mortification can I been seen as you have seen Me. None but you have seen My universal form. You have seen Me in My divinity. But now I will ease your fear and confusion. Look upon Me now, the man you have known.

With these words, Krishna revealed Himself again, taking his human form. And Arjuna was no more afraid and was at peace when he beheld his familiar friend.

Arjuna said:

—Now that You are again the man I have known, my senses are restored and I am at peace.

Krishna said:

—You have seen Me in My infinite form. Even the celestials are envious of this glimpse I have granted you. Not with scripture or austerity, not with gift or sacrifice, however great and wondrous, can I be seen as I truly am. Only through love of Me alone and above all others can I be seen or ever known. Devoted to Me, acting for Me without selfish motive or desire for reward, at peace with My creation, knowing Me without doubt or hesitation as the Most High, only he shall come to Me.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Her Name on His Lips

O you with the wounded heart,
Whose tears, like smoke, reach the heavens.
Let your eyes rest a moment here,
Upon this tale of love and madness.

Have you heard the tale of Layli and Majnun? In the Hejaz, long centuries ago, Majnun fell in love with the girl, Layli. Every day he recited to any who would listen verses of love for her. The wind did not draw breath that was not suffused with Layli’s name. But her father did not approve of Majnun, thinking him too passionate, which he equated with stupidity, too besotted, which he considered inconstancy, and too poor, a greater fault than the others together. On Majnun’s verses alone, Layli could not subsist. Though Layli loved Majnun, her father forbade her to see him or speak with him. Yet Majnun persisted in his devotion. 

Majnun’s love is an old tale. Layli is not so well-remembered for loving Majnun, but her love was never doubted even, when at her family’s prompting and in obedience to her father, she married another man. When Majnun heard of Layli’s marriage, he exiled himself in the wilderness, living a life of solitude and deprivation. Yet still he wrote verses for Layli, extolling her beauty and her virtues. When pilgrims passed through the land, Majnun gave them scraps of bark or stone upon which he etched words of love for Layli. These they would take to Layli; she would pay them with a few coins and send them back with letters for her beloved. At last, however, Layli’s family discovered the truth and her father intercepted every pilgrim sent to see Layli, destroying Majnun’s messages, and allowing Layli to think Majnun had forgotten or abandoned her. Yet Majnun wrote still faithfully every day, never again hearing a reply from Layli. 

Layli was dejected, wondering why Majnun’s messages no longer came. Her father said, ‘He was inconstant. He has forgotten you; his love was never true or real. He deceived you, tempting you to ruin. But, now that you have children and a household to look after, he has lost interest and moves on to other more easy prey.’ And, at last, Layli wondered if her father was right. Had Majnun ever loved her? Thus, she doubted Majnun’s love, yet it was her love that was weak and wanting. 

Layli remained faithful to her husband, raised their children, worked every day, but always with that emptiness in her heart that Majnun’s voice once filled with joy. Only in absence now did she recall his presence. But resigned to her duties as wife and mother, she lived her life not knowing that Majnun still loved her, dreamed each night of her, and woke each morning with her name on his lips.