We can evade taxes but can we do about death? Many of us have seen death from close quarters in our lives and those who have not, are most definitely aware of the idea. But imagine when the earliest humans experienced the death of someone around them. They would have seen one of their own people fall down, never to get up again. Their recognition of the phenomenon of death would have suddenly given them a definition for life. Until that time, there was nothing to delineate life. With the cognition of the phenomenon of death, suddenly there arose the awareness of a life-span.
In chapter 13 of the Gita (verses 7 to 11) Krishna gives the various parameters that constitute true knowledge:
Transcript of the keynote address given by Dr. S. L. Bhyrappa at the two-day seminar on ‘Development of Indian Thought up to Modern Times’ conducted by ICPR. 10 September 2016, Sheshadripuram College, Bangalore.
Speaking on a complex topic like philosophy, that too in a more complex language like English is to do injustice to both the listener and the subject. Hence Kannada.
If you ask a Hindu what it means to be one, or what Hinduism is, you will get many answers. Some will say it is a way of life and not a religion. Some will say that it is a conglomeration of various belief systems. Some will say it is a religion. Some will say there is no such thing as Hinduism but it is sanatana dharma. And some will have no clue.
There is no straightforward answer. It is at once utterly simple and extremely complicated. That’s the paradox of defining something so fundamental, so natural.
An important concept that Krishna speaks about in the Gita is that of being a स्थितप्रज्ञ – a balanced person with steady intellect. He says, “One who abandons selfish desires and is satisfied within the true self is a sthitaprajna (BG 2.55). In other words, he is telling Arjuna to let go of देहाभिमान, the obsession with the body and focusing only on the material aspect of living.
What is happiness? It’s hard to define but we all know what it is. We have all experienced it. In fact, we experience it every day – when we eat our food, when we work on a project that we are passionate about, when we smile at someone on the street, when we spend time with a hobby, or when we sleep.
Krishna had the qualities of a good statesman – be it eloquence, integrity, intelligence, wit, or the ability to take quick decisions. One can imagine he was a soft-spoken person. He spoke words that were at once pleasant and honest (see BG 17.15). While his words were practical, they were never devious. He never forgot a promise, he never broke a promise. And yet, for the sake of dharma, he was willing to abandon a hundred promises. Krishna had dharma drishti (vision of overall goodness) and the Gita is full of that.
Which is the oldest religion in the world? Nobody knows. Ask the foremost historian or the greatest saint but they will not have an answer. We know so little about the earliest humans who inhabited our planet. But we can take an educated guess about the first god. Keep aside for a moment the view that god created the universe and just consider how humans visualize god. Most probably, the first god that humans recognized and worshiped was the sun.
The agnishomiya vyuha – the Agni-Soma formation – is the cosmic structure, the eternal arrangement. It is the eternal establishment that binds the consumer and the consumed. This concept has been discussed in the Upanishads and the Yogavasishtha. Krishna speaks about this in the Gita when he identifies himself with the sun, the moon, fire, energy, sap, thought, etc. (BG 15.12-15).
Do you love your spouse? Do you love your child? Do you love your parents? Do you love your wealth? Do you love wisdom? Do you love power? Do you love god? Most of us would answer with a yes to at least a few of these questions, but according to a famous story in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.1-5) the answer is no.