Saying So Much From So Little

[Krishna speaking to Arjuna]“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)

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rāja-vidyā rāja-guhyaṁ
pavitram idam uttamam
pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ
su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam

If you took only the text of the Sanskrit verses from the Bhagavad-gita, you would get a book that is pretty small. It could fit inside of a pocket, if need be. Yet that small work turns into a much larger reference guide through a bona fide commentary. The person who remains faithful to the verses and simply explains their significance to the respective audience, accounting for time and circumstance, can continue speaking, saying so much in the process. The resulting work is all due to a few short verses.

Why mention the ability of Sanskrit verses to expand like this? We know that there is so much to read already. A person at the office surfs the internet as a way to cure boredom. It is also a vehicle for procrastination. If they come to a point where they can’t think of any more sites to navigate, a friend can joke to them that they have reached the end of the internet.

[classic books]But in fact there is no end. The news is endless. Time accounts for this. If you finish reading today’s newspaper, there is always tomorrow’s. Then there is the one from two days ago. If you’ve read every newspaper since you were born, there are still the many that were published prior to your birth. Based on the newspaper example we see that there is so much available to read. This is without mentioning the classic novels, biographies, and historical texts that are also available.

What are these works saying? What does the newspaper teach? Someone dies. Someone lives. Someone attacks the character of someone else. Someone famous gets caught doing something bad. A politician breaks a campaign promise. It is revealed that a noted television news anchor has been a fraud. A war hero returns to his country and gets a medal. A sports franchise wins another championship.

Among other things, the Bhagavad-gita says that the soul does not die. It does not take birth, either. This is interesting. So what are birth and death, then? They relate to the body, which is temporary. That body does not identify the individual. When a specific body type arrives for a spirit soul and that combination then makes a visible appearance, we call the event birth. When the same body stops functioning, when the soul leaves for another body, that is called death.

na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

This one verse says so much. It has significance to practically everything experienced in life, for the combination of body and spirit is everywhere. This one verse speaks to the nature of time and space as well. The fact that the soul lives on means that time does not influence its existence. The body references space. The body is what we see. It is what roams through space, which is infinite.

So much new literature can be published that uses this verse as a foundation. This verse helps to explain everything we see around us. From this verse we learn that the great lamentation that occurs at the passing of a famous person is not necessary, since that person has not had their existence altered. We understand that the feverish pursuit for a temporary reward is not worth it, as the object’s temporary nature leads to its gradual loss of influence. Why work for something that you won’t get to keep with you for too long? And yes, in the grand scheme, the lifetime of the human being is small. It is like a tiny point on a chart; almost imperceptible.

[Prabhupada with books]This single verse from the Bhagavad-gita already teaches us that people come and go. Thus the volumes of literature focused on the material are not needed. To associate with the body is the default mentality. It does not have to be taught. A fascinating truth revealed by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada touches on the mention of sacrifice and austerity in religious works. The great guru says that things like eating do not need to be taught. Any person can figure out how to eat. The same goes for interaction with the opposite sex. These things are mentioned in religious works for restriction purposes only. With restriction, which only the human being has the intelligence to intentionally implement, the mind becomes more sober and better equipped to consider higher topics like birth, death, reincarnation, karma, the material nature and the Supreme Controller. The motto is simple living and high thinking.

A small work like the Bhagavad-gita provides lifetimes’ worth of education. The volumes of literature focused on the mundane may emerge victorious when the weight scales are the judge, but in terms of educational value there is no contest. The most important questions, the issues actually pressing for the individual, who is a spark of spirit emanating from the storehouse of spirit, get covered in Vedanta philosophy, which the Bhagavad-gita perfectly explains and more. The fortunate person will take advantage of this work and watch their intelligence ascend to heights never before reached.

In Closing:

Volumes of books and newspapers many,

But real value to them not any.


Because nature of soul not to address,

On temporary pleasures the stress.


From Bhagavad-gita’s verses few and short,

Vast knowledge, fear of death to thwart.


Through restriction to come the sober mind,

Then understanding spirit, matter to leave behind.

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