While reading or writing any new article, it is pretty common to refer dictionaries for understanding the meaning of unknown words. Similarly in our life also we come across various situations throwing different challenges whose solution is unknown to us. We have tried various ways to overcome those. But we got mostly disappointments in the long run. Many times we wondered what if there was a dictionary of solutions for all the problems! However some intellectuals came forward with an answer to this particular problem. The answer is the Bhagavad Gita. Consider the following examples. Mahatma Gandhi had remarked once, “When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow.” On the other hand the legendary scientist Albert Einstein said, “When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous.” There have been many more such views on the Gita by many prominent personalities.
Now many would be wondering how Gita can solve any problems in our life that so many greats, irrespective of their background, started referring this scripture for inspiration! For the answer we can take a deep look into our life, the various questions which keep hitting us, what is the ultimate goal in our life and some such. Let’s analyze some such problem statements which are relevant even today.
Why do we suffer?
This question often puzzles us. We ponder why innocent beings face turmoil in life even though they haven’t done anything wrong whereas many corrupt people prosper. Why some are born in a rich family while others in poor? Observing such events we believe there is no law and order. However the Gita offers a totally different perspective – the law of karma. Consider the following verse from the Gita:
- “By acting in the mode of goodness, one becomes purified. Works done in the mode of passion result in distress, and actions performed in the mode of ignorance result in foolishness. From the mode of goodness, real knowledge develops; from the mode of passion, grief develops; and from the mode of ignorance, foolishness, madness and illusion develop.” [BG 14.16-17]
Meaning: Thus we find we get different types of fruits based on different types of actions. So unless we associate with the mode of goodness, we would be bound by suffering and ignorance.
- “The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses.” [BG 15.7]
Meaning: As stated above, we are struggling as we are conditioned by considering ourselves as body. So even though we are eternal part of God, we struggle.
How should we deal with our life?
In life we often come across different types of dualities like happiness-distress, friends-enemies, highs-lows, etc. Common people rejoice after getting success and breakdown during failures. During failures we find people taking the shelter of drugs and other intoxicants, some even attempt suicide. On the other hand, people spend in thousands of dollars or even in millions in throwing parties during success. But analyzing deeply, we find in both the above scenarios we lose out precious possessions. Success can make us egoistic which can later cause our downfall. Failure can end our road in life. In this regard, the Gita gives the following instructions:
- “The nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed…the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation” [BG 2.14-15]
Meaning: As mentioned above, thinking deeply we can conclude that success and failures are temporary. None in the world can claim to be invincible. All the greats, be it a sportsperson, movie star, politician, businessman, etc. suffered failures also along with success. There is no exception to this. In this regard, the Gita says, “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action.” [BG 2.47].
Now the question arises as to who will enjoy the fruits of action? The answer is given in the Gita as follows:
- “The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” [BG 5.29]
- “I am the only enjoyer and the only object of sacrifice. Those who do not recognize My true transcendental nature fall down.” [BG 9.24]
Meaning: If we accept Lord Krishna as the owner of everything, whether good or bad, we will attain peace and happiness. Else we are doomed. In today’s world, mostly we consider ourselves as the winner and the enjoyer of the fruits of our actions. That is the reason why we often suffer.
Who is our best friend?
As Lord Krishna says in BG 5.29: He is the well-wisher of all, so we must trust Him and execute our actions for His pleasure. In that way we will attain happiness. In the following verse, He reiterates:
- “I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge and the dearest friend.” [BG 9.18]
Meaning: Hence whenever we feel lonely, we should remember Lord Krishna as He is the abode, refuge and our best friend. Many times we rate some worldly person as our friend and get cheated. However putting similar and unshakable faith in Lord Krishna never disappoints us. A very good example is Draupadi who was saved by Lord Krishna alone when all her husbands and other well-wishers failed.
Now someone can question, what if s/he doesn’t have such strong faith in Lord Krishna? Lord Krishna gives another perspective to this question as follows:
- “For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.” [BG 6.6]
Meaning: In fact, mind is one of the sitting places for lust [BG 3.40] which compels man to commit sin even if he doesn’t want to do so [BG 3.37]. So for those who are not devotees, they must learn to control the mind to enjoy a friend called mind else the same mind is the enemy.
Now how can we curb lust? Here is how:
- “In the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization.” [BG 3.41].
Crisis of the natural resources
Recently there was a big dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over Kaveri. Not just these 2 states, the water crisis is going on in several other places in the world also. Due to the lack of water in rivers, even the farmers are suffering and committing suicide. All these are due to lack of rainfall. Many will say rainfall is not in our hands and hence we are totally dependent on nature. But the Gita has an answer to this problem as follows:
- “All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rain. Rains are produced by performance of yajna, and yajna is born of prescribed duties.” [BG 3.14]
Meaning: Therefore we must conduct sacrifices for rainfall. The prescribed sacrifice for Kali yuga is sankirtan. So we should adopt the easy process of Hare Krishna mantra instead of trying many artificial means. However we hardly conduct this sacrifice which results in scarcity of water, many river disputes, farmer suicides and global warming.
Now a days we are facing lots of health problems like high cholesterol, blood pressure problems, and heart problems to name a few. As per the Gita, all these are due to wrong food consumption. Consider the following instruction:
- “The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” [BG 3.13]
Meaning: Therefore eating food for sense enjoyment means eating sin. Later on in verse BG 9.26, the Lord says which food can be used for sacrifices. It says “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit a water, I will accept it.”
In chapter 17, Lord Krishna elaborates this more as follows:
- “Foods in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one's existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such nourishing foods are sweet, juicy, fattening and palatable. Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, pungent, dry and hot, are liked by people in the modes of passion. Such foods cause pain, distress, and disease. Food cooked more than three hours before being eaten, which is tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed and unclean, is food liked by people in the mode of ignorance.” [BG 17.8-10]
Meaning: Hence we should not eat foods like Pizzas, Burgers and such junk foods which are polluted as we would be eating sin. Rather we should eat remnants (or prasadam) of food offered to Lord Krishna. That would increase the duration of our life as stated in the above verses.
Protection from various threats
Kali yuga is described by the sages as the age of quarrel. This age is filled with murders, molestation, cheating, terrorism, war, etc. Despite so many protective measures, people are still getting hit by different types of threats. If there is no threat from humans, there are other types of threats like epidemics, drought, flood, earthquakes and such natural disasters. The materialists devise many isms to fix these issues. But Srila Prabhupada rejected these. Why? As those are related to the body alone, one solution gives rise to a new problem. Such are these solutions. So Srila Prabhupada prescribes Krishna Consciousness to fix all these problems. The starting point of this spiritual solution is to know who needs the protection – we or our body.
- “For the soul there is neither 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.” [BG 2.20]. Lord Krishna further states “For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain.” [BG 2.27]
Meaning: Thus if we know our real “self”, we will be free from fear as we never die. Only our body perishes which is like changing our clothes as per the verse BG 2.22.
- “Declares it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” [BG 9.31].
Meaning: So we can see by becoming devotees of the Lord, we can attain a very safe and secure state. Consider Prahlada Maharaja, the Pandavas, the inhabitants of Vrindavana; all were saved from various threats as they had taken shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna.
- “Abandoning all varieties of dharma, surrender to Me alone, I will save you from all the sinful reactions. Fear not. ” [BG 18.66]
Meaning: Therefore the best solution as per the Gita is to surrender unto the lotus feet of Lord Krishna which would save us from all types of dangers. This will stop all kinds of sufferings and bring the real meaning of human life or else our life is as bad as that of an animal.
By Ratnadeep Ray