We have long had a fascination for the final answer, the Holy Grail, the Grand Unified Theory, the ultimate solution, and the quintessential element. Douglas Adams mocks this tendency in his masterpiece Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) by assigning a random number – 42 – to represent the answer to the meaning of life and everything else.
Krishna starts off the Gita by asking Arjuna not to grieve – “Don’t cry for either the living or the dead” (BG 2.11). And he ends his message by asking Arjuna not to grieve – “Just have faith in me. I will grant you the ultimate state. Don’t cry” (BG 18.66). In between these two persuasions of “Don’t cry,” he teaches the Gita. But what of Krishna’s life? Has he ever cried? While all the great warriors of the Mahabharata have shed tears at some point of time or the other, Krishna never sheds a tear. There are instances where he is sad, but he doesn’t show it.
Vijayadashami – the victory on the tenth day – is when Rama killed Ravana. While the victory of Rama over Ravana was a great one, greater still are the several personal battles he fought and emerged victorious. Being the elder son, he was the natural choice for being the king, but he was sent into exile. He took it in his stride. After Sita was kidnapped, he pined for her and did not rest until he fought and killed Ravana. Then circumstances forced him to abandon his beloved wife. Caring little for his personal feelings, he acted according to the ruling.
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.