“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.” (Bhagavad-gita, 10.12-13)
Inquisitive Mind: This Bhagavad-gita really is an interesting book.
Helpful Friend: It sure is.
IM: I’ve always had some belief in reincarnation. I like how Krishna describes it in terms of the changing bodies.
HF: It’s an easier way to understand it, for sure. Our initial tendency is to think of reincarnation only in terms of past lives. “Was I a king before? Did I live in a different country? Was I a bird who could soar into the sky?”
IM: And Krishna says that even in this body there is reincarnation. There is the change from boyhood to youth to old age. Then the next change takes place at death. I also like how He says that for one who takes birth, death is guaranteed and that for one who dies, birth is also assured.
HF: Yes. Those things are true, and knowing them makes it easier to deal with the loss of a loved one, which I believe is what led you to picking up a Gita, no?
IM: Correct. But you know me, I always have doubts. And I often like to bring those doubts to you, if you don’t mind?
HF: Go for it.
IM: The truths that Krishna presents make sense to me. The thing about the frustrated desire leading to anger and then from anger one does stupid things, I TOTALLY get that. I always think of how things would turn out when I would play tennis. I had a desire on a specific day to play a certain way. Then when I had trouble, I got angry. After enough anger, I threw my racket, which then broke. That was a completely stupid thing to do, but I couldn’t help myself. I was so frustrated. From Krishna’s teachings I understand the reasoning behind that now.
HF: Yeah, frustrated desire brings us to do so many things we normally wouldn’t.
IM: And I like how Krishna explains that we should be honest, kind, truthful and the like. I have some issues with the devotional aspect, though, especially the surrender.
HF: That’s not surprising. That’s the most difficult thing to accept.
IM: I mean, we have similar statements in other religious texts. Isn’t it possible that Krishna is speaking metaphorically there?
IM: Like maybe He means we should surrender to the Krishna within us? He means the higher force living within, who is meant to guide us?
HF: That sounds nice, but there is no such thing as a “Krishna within.” Did you read about the Supersoul, the Paramatma.
IM: That rings a bell, but I don’t remember exactly.
HF: The Supersoul is Krishna’s expansion who resides within the heart. We are individual soul, or jivatma, and He is supreme soul, or paramatma. If there’s anything that closely matches the “Krishna-within” concept, it’s Paramatma. However, and this is very important to understand, Paramatma IS Krishna. It is not separate from Him. It is the same person.
IM: So we’re all Krishna?
HF: We’re all parts and parcels of Krishna. We all have Krishna living with us. We just can’t see Him. The collection of individual spiritual sparks is also another way to understand Krishna, but He is still always an individual personality, a separate living entity.
IM: I see, but isn’t that just your interpretation? Don’t other commentaries on the Gita deny that fact or explain it differently?
HF: Ah, I see. That’s your problem. There is only one interpretation. Everything else is bogus. You don’t have to take my word for it. Arjuna himself says that Krishna is supreme. There is a verse where he praises Krishna very nicely, calling Him the Supreme God, the original person, and so many other laudatory terms.
IM: I did see that. Krishna gives Arjuna all this wisdom, and then Arjuna praises Krishna to the hilt. But keeping with my doubts, isn’t it possible that Arjuna was exaggerating a little? They were friends prior to this discussion, no?
HF: Very good friends.
IM: And friends sometimes like to praise each other, especially if someone does something good.
HF: That’s true.
IM: And here Arjuna had a specific interest. He was doubtful prior to a great war. Krishna removed those doubts. So naturally Arjuna would want to embellish Krishna’s qualities a little bit, to repay the favor done to him. That’s what any good friend would do.
HF: Friends are known to act that way. Even strangers, if they have favors done for them they will exaggerate the qualities of the person who helped them.
IM: Exactly. Let me tell you a quick story. Many years back our company was forming a partnership with an overseas company. They were going to use our software in their call center. This company had offices spread throughout their particular country, so this deal had tremendous potential. One week they sent their leading people to come visit our facility. One of the days we took them out for lunch at this Italian place. It was a little upscale, and we were semi-regulars there. After being seated, we made some recommendations to our guests on what to order. When the food came out, their leading guy took one bite from the pasta and declared it to be the best Italian food he had ever tasted. The people from our company gave each other a subtle look of disbelief. We understood that this guy was a little full of it, that he was just trying to be nice to us for the purpose of making this deal. I mean he had barely touched the dish. The food was good, but a typical person would not declare it to be the best food they had ever tasted. As it turned out the deal didn’t go through, but we always remembered that incident. We’d always joke to each other, “This is the BEST Italian food I’ve ever had.”
HF: That’s a funny story.
IM: So isn’t it possible that Arjuna exaggerated on who Krishna was since he was so happy to have received transcendental knowledge?
HF: Well, again, only a cheating commentator would opine as such, since in the very next verse Arjuna backs up his claim.
IM: What do you mean?
HF: As if he knew that people would not believe him because of his friendship with Krishna, Arjuna gave supporting evidence. He said that great sages of the Vedic tradition all said the same things about Krishna. Asita, Devala, Narada and Vyasa all agreed with Arjuna.
IM: Vyasa? That sounds familiar.
HF: Yeah, he compiled almost all of the Vedic literature. Some of the same fools who deny Krishna’s existence also say that Vyasa didn’t exist. This is because they can’t believe that a single man wrote so much. But he did exist, he did write so much, and he says that without a doubt Krishna is all those things that Arjuna described Him to be.
IM: I see.
HF: And let me tell you something. If you stay hung up on this point, if you think that Krishna isn’t real or that there is some Krishna-within that should be worshiped instead, you will not get anything from the Bhagavad-gita.
HF: Seriously. There’s plenty of other things to read, including parts of Vyasa’s very own Mahabharata, on how to deal with stress, be kind, be virtuous, and find material success in life. The Bhagavad-gita is different because it is meant for the fulfillment of the soul’s true desires. The message is potent both because of the content and the messenger.
IM: Great, thanks for clearing up my doubts. I’ll be sure to bring any new ones to you, should they arise.
HF: I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For friend who helped in countless ways,
On them to heap endless praise.
To claim that they are this and that,
In kindness no worry on being exact.
Arjuna to Krishna did this too,
Except words were totally true.
For support to sages of repute referred,
To Krishna’s supreme standing they all concurred.