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Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.
Today I would like to spend my time thinking about the foreground of the Bhagavad Gita dialogue. Sri Krishna’s life stands distinct, illustrious, exemplary and instructive or instructional so far as the people of Bhārat are concerned. I would like you to come along with me to the Vedic ages. Our Vedas are ageless, they emerged, they were evolved in the prehistoric times. Because it is a prehistoric period, we have nothing to say about it and we cannot do any carbon dating or anything like that with regard to this literature because it is not a physical remnant or a monument. Vedas have always lived in the brain of our people and also in the vocal system, the tongue and the ear. So many times and so many years and so many brains have been learning, reciting, pursuing, perfecting and disseminating Vedas. All of them have gone but the sound heredity still remains with us.
But the entire Vedas are, to begin with and to some extent also to end with, are primarily religious. What do I mean by that? The Vedic thinking has always been associated with the higher powers and sources of nature. In fact, the entire Vedic theme is secular when I look at it because it is concerning human life, its needs, its aspirations and the method of pursuing and fulfilling these. In the process, they look to the higher powers. Where are the higher powers? When we stand on the earth, everything is above. There is nothing that is below. Suppose we are in one point of the earth, you go exactly to the diametrically opposite point. Then also everything is above; nothing is below except the surface of the earth.
So when our Vedic thinkers started looking into the higher powers, there is nothing wrong about it. It is very natural; they can only look up and to the four sides. And they started producing or evolving a number of thoughts. One thought is:
ā no bhadrāḥ kratavo yantu viśvataḥ |
'May noble thoughts enter me from all directions'. This is the type of prayer or hymn they started evolving to begin with.
Very soon, their thoughts focused on the sun because sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening and only during the sun’s brightness and heat, we will be able to transact our life in any manner we like. We did not have any electrical illumination or other facilities in the olden times. So the rising and setting of the sun marked the beginning and end of the day and sun was unfailingly coming up on the east and going into the sea in the west. This unfailing appearance and disappearance of the sun made them feel extremely obliged to the sun and not only that, they also wanted to develop the quality of consistency and fidelity like the sun. So the sun became the first object of worship. Like that it went on extending to further agencies; most of them were invisible.
They very soon developed ceremonies and sacrifices using fire. So from the level of hymns, they transited into the level of ceremonies. Then they found both of them were not satisfying to them. So they withdrew from it and developed a process of meditation and contemplation called āranyaka. The first two are called samhita and brāhmaṇa. When they receded into their own mind, the inner sphere, the entire mystery of creation and the powers of sustenance got revealed to them. All this is clearly recorded in the Upanishadic portions which marked the finale of Vedic thinking.
But the Vedas by their very nature are religious to begin with and spiritual to end with. This is very characteristic of the Vedas. Vedas do not have any secular content as such. Very rarely you find instances like Satyakāma Jābāla who went and sought Brahmavidya but whose fatherhood was doubtful and then this boy was asked, “Tell us your gothra.” He goes to the mother. The mother says, “I don’t know but this is what has happened. You were born. I was serving a number of sages..” etc. Immediately the sages decided, "Here is a boy who speaks truth. Therefore he is not alone Jābāla born of Jabala but he is also a Satyakāma and let us instruct him on Brahmavidya, give him the sacred thread" etc.
Now such very rare personal instances, Śaunaka going to Angiras, Nachiketas going to Yama etc. are there. But generally, it is by and large religious, divine and sacrosanct in nature. Obviously this did not have sufficient connection and relevance with humanity. People wanted to have something which they can read and relate to. It cannot just be prayer and God. It must have some kind of a living and vibrant connection with the interactional and interpersonal life. That is how Ratnakara who was a forest dacoit, who got a divine touch of sapta-rishis, seven sages, got transformed into a spiritual life and he sat mute, absorbed into his own inner bosom for many, many years, so much so that ants started forming a hill on his body. That is why he is called Valmiki having come out of valmīka, anthill.
This sage started thinking ‘I got a mystic touch of the sages. What about the millions who live in the plains? What is the salvation for them? I was doing something which my own conscience did not like. I was robbing the others. At the same time, I would not like to be robbed myself. So, there is a contradiction in my thinking. Such conflicts and contradictions are there every where. Now what to do?’
So he wanted to present a character called Sri Rama about whom he enquired and verified from Narada Maharshi saying that "I will present this Rama as an eternal prince and king for the people. My Rama is not an ordinary boy. He is a prince who later became a King. He had all the power, glory and resources to do anything he wanted but still he was adhering strictly to the tenets and the codes of dharma. Here is a heroic person who revels in sacrifice. Here is a glorious person who remains humble and self-denied".
So he presented Rama as an eternal character with whom constantly people can match their own inner composition and structure. This Ramayana was written in the Treta-yuga. The human society does not remain static at all. I always say humanity is not a granite rock. It is a vibrant society constantly given to a number of interactions, interpersonal complex interactions. And you will find humanity is given to a variety of expressions and a variety of impacts and consequences.
So we started from Krita-yuga where everybody doing everything in a self-fulfilling manner without getting provoked or persuaded, compelled or threatened. They found satisfaction in whatever they did, they thought, they spoke. From Krita-yuga things started declining; that was the best yuga. So in Treta-yuga, this Ramayana was written where the beautiful sweet brotherhood of Dasaratha’s sons was threatened and torpedoed by Kaikeyi, the stepmother and that too at the instance of Mandhara’s evil gospel which she had no business and propriety to listen to. How even a pure and noble mind gets corrupted in the hands of an unbecoming adviser or an unbecoming associate is clearly demonstrated there.
So the decline started when the step-mother started breathing poison and she was poisoned in a matter of hours and minutes by Mandhara. How susceptible the human mind is before any kind of an advice given! If the advice is good, the mind becomes noble. If the advice is bad, the mind suddenly descends to the level of ignoble-ness. But Bharata did not accept it. He shows his adult response and adult behavior. We are all born of parents but when we grow up and becomes adults, we have to look into our own parental behavior and parental qualities and decide whether they are worthy of imbibing or they should be rejected. This is called the growth of adulthood in an individual. That yuga also passed and we go to Dwāpara-yuga.
In the Dwāpara-yuga we find Bhishma - the great grandfather, Drona - the great acharya, Vidura - the great dhārmic proponent, all the three elders were there in the Kuru dynasty Hastinapura. Dhritarashtra was blind but he was otherwise healthy. He had 101 children and Pandu had five. Both of them grew up under the same tutelage but Duryodhana and the rest along with the tacit support of Dhritarashtra chose to become wicked, cruel and destructive. All the three elders could not stop them. They had to witness helplessly the declining values in the Hastinapura dynasty. The larger number took to this decline. They were proponents of adharma and the five, very small in number, they alone stood by dharma. Both of them were not prepared to part with their feelings, tendencies and persuasions. It starts mounting and mounting every day. On the one hand, mounting in the qualities of patience, tolerance and dharmic adherence, on the other hand, wickedness, cruelty, intolerance and destruction. Bhishma had to helplessly witness all these things.
Vedavyasa also was a cousin brother of Bhishma but an ascetic. Vedavyasa was born in a dveepa and soon after birth, his parents abandoned him. He grew up as a solitary child, an orphan but he had access to many things. The Hastinapura affair, he was himself very much aware of because he happened to be Satyavati’s son who later became the queen of Hastinapura; he also had inevitable connections with the Hastinapura dynasty and the events and developments there. So here is Vedavyasa who had a very, very challenging life and he grew up. The one person elder to him was Shantanu, the father of Bhishma. So he knew what was Shantanu’s generation and depiction by Shantanu. Then he himself was there. His son, Pandu, Pandu’s son Arjuna, Arjuna's son Abhimanyu, Abhimanyu’s son Pareekshit, Pareekshit’s son Janamejaya.
Ramayana was written by Valmiki keeping Sita and Lava and Kusa by the side and the first people he asked them to learn and recite were Lava and Kusa. They straightaway went to Ayodhya to narrate the whole of Ramayana. Rama and the rest heard very beautifully their recitation and said it is so true, remote instances are brought very near as if they are occurring before you. They gifted them.
Now Vedavyasa’s composition is enriched by his direct personal interaction with seven generations of life and the manner in which the values declined helplessly, helplessly, helplessly. Bhishma is helpless, Drona is helpless, Vidura is helpless, Vyasadeva also is helpless. Meanwhile you will find the whole dynasty was born of Vyasa himself except Shantanu. So with so much of experience and seeing what was happening in his own family despite four great stalwarts, he wanted to present the whole picture.
The Ramayana’s sweet brotherhood does not depict or answer the state of affairs of humanity especially the mental history, the mind’s behavior. We must also have a Mahabharata which deals with all kinds of crisis, conflicts and contradictions of the human mind and ultimately how the human mind has got the potential to outlive everything and still be glorious and successful. It is a scripture of facing the conflicts and outliving them. It is a scripture where dharma itself is put to test on various accounts and finally dharma approves its own hidden quality, glory, sustenance and magnificence. Now this is the background of Bhagavad Gita. It is not an occasional gospel. It is not a momentary development. It represents the cultural thought process and the outcome of our people. It represents the behavior of man, the potential of the mind, the role of the intelligence and the static position of the soul. All these are clearly represented there.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru.