“O conquerer of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.7)
Amarnath was running late for work on this morning. There was construction on one of the streets he takes to get to the train station, so his short commute became a little longer. Running with his bag in hand, he just made it through before the train doors closed. Surprisingly, he was able to find an empty seat, where he sat down and prepared for his morning routine. He took out his Bhagavad-gita book from his bag and started reading as usual. At the next stop the seat next to him opened up, and a new passenger occupied it. Intrigued by the sight of the book, the man struck up a conversation with Amarnath.
“Is that the Bhagavad-gita you’re reading,” he asked.
“Yes. Do you know of it?” replied Amarnath.
“Oh, I love that book. Its wisdom is breathtaking. I read it a long time ago, and I go back to it every now and then when I get into trouble.”
“That’s nice. I try to read it every day on my way to work.”
“That’s a good idea. I should try doing that. That book has helped me so much. Whenever I get stressed out at work, I remember the verses about staying detached. I try to do my job without worrying too much over the outcome. The lessons in that book are so great. Everyone should read it, especially people who are looking to succeed in their efforts.”
Amarnath then explained to the man that the essence of the Gita is devotion to Krishna, the speaker of the famous work. While there were many other lessons to take away as well, they all depended on the ultimate truth of Krishna being the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the person to whom everyone is intimately tied. To get his point across, Amarnath relayed a story from his personal life from a few weeks back.
It was his parents’ wedding anniversary. Amarnath and his brother Suresh were in a mild competition to see who could give the better gift. “What are you going to get them?” Amarnath asked one day. “I’m going to send them on a cruise,” responded Suresh. Amarnath told his brother that he was getting their parents an iPad and that they would like that gift much more than a silly cruise. In this way they poked fun at each other as anniversary day approached. On the day of, when the parents opened Suresh’s gift, tickets to the cruise, they were very happy. They thanked him very much. When they opened the iPad, however, they were a bit puzzled.
“Thank you, Son, but what do we do with this?”
“It’s an iPad. You don’t know what that is?”
“We’ve heard of it, but you know how we are with technology.”
Amarnath then explained to them that they could use the device to browse the internet, video chat with friends and family, read books and check email.
“Oh, that’s nice,” his mom said politely, though still not showing much interest in the device.
“Mom, you can also use it to take pictures and video.”
“Oh, so it’s a camera?” asked his father.
“Yeah, but a lot more than that. I guess you could call it a camera,” Amarnath said regrettably. Suresh was chuckling in the background, having a little fun at his brother’s expense.
Amarnath came over to the house a few days later and noticed that the iPad was on a stand in the living room and automatically cycling through pictures. When she saw her son looking at it, the mother was happy to share her joy.
“Oh, you didn’t tell me that the pad thingy was a picture frame too. How great does it look? Now we can always have a new picture showing.”
“Mom, it’s much more than a picture frame. You can do so many other things with it.”
“Oh, that’s alright. We really have no need for email or those other things.”
A little later on, Suresh started ribbing his brother about the gift he got them. “Oh, they loved it for sure. That’s got to be the world’s most expensive picture frame, haha.” Amarnath couldn’t help but chuckle as well.
In relaying that story to the stranger seated next to him on the train, Amarnath explained that the Bhagavad-gita similarly has many uses. One could get knowledge on how to meditate in peace, on how to handle stress, and on how to stay loyal to their duties. But the true gem of the work is the ability to associate with Krishna Himself and to learn devotion to Him. That was the lesson Arjuna, the direct recipient of Krishna’s instruction, took away.
“Another way to think of it is like having a jar of honey,” Amarnath continued. “If you lick the outside of the jar only, you’re not getting the real taste. So if you simply figure out how to advance materially, you’re not getting the most out of the Gita. I’m not sure what translation you have in your possession, but the better ones are those authored by devotees of the Lord, people who taste the essence of the Gita and kindly show others how to taste it themselves. Devotional service is the true boon to an existence. It is the one occupation that you never have to give up. It brings more happiness than anything else, and so it’s no wonder that devotion is the predominating message of Krishna’s song.”
“Wow, I guess I totally missed that,” said the stranger. “I like your story, though. I’ll have to read the book again. Maybe I can read the translation that you have.”
Amarnath then insisted that the man borrow his copy. “You can give it back to me whenever. I have another one at home.”
If only outside of bottle to taste,
Then jar of honey goes to waste.
Gita’s wisdom like pearls on a thread,
In so many directions can be led.
But devotion most important to take,
For best use of Gita to make.
In consciousness follow Arjuna’s lead,
And think of Krishna when Gita you read.