The Bhagavad Gita

Hinduism: Week 2

The Bhagavad Gita
Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Bhagavad Gita describes Lord Krishna, one of Hinduism’s central gods, as both this and that, totally immanent and yet fully transcendent, physical and yet formless, the deepest inner self and yet the Godself (Bhagavad Gita 10). Krishna has even been called “The Unknown Christ of Hinduism”—the same mystery that Western Christians, with their dualistic minds, could not put together in Jesus.

Krishna, like Jesus, also shows the integration of action and contemplation. The Bhagavad Gita does not counsel that we all become monks or solitaries, but in fact, Lord Krishna tells Prince Arjuna that the true synthesis is found in a life-long purification of motive, intention, and focus—precisely in your world of action—which is what makes it “contemplative.” The Bhagavad Gita calls the active person, which most of us are, to a life of interiority and soul discovery, which is still our major concern today.

How can we do “pure action”? Only by gradually detaching from all the fruits of action and doing everything purely for the love of God, Lord Krishna teaches. I think our Christ says the same thing in several places (for example, Mark 12:30: “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”). Jesus even counsels the same love toward the neighbor (Matthew 22:39). Jesus is unitive both vertically and horizontally, illustrated in the geometric image of the cross. The only way to integrate action and contemplation is to go ahead and do your action, but every day to ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it to make money? Is it to have a good reputation? Is it to keep busy? Or is it for the pure love of Krishna, for the love of God? Only then do we recognize who the Doer truly is!

Reflect on these passages from The Bhagavad Gita (4:18, 23-24):

The wise see that there is action in the midst of inaction,
and inaction in the midst of action.
Their consciousness is unified,
and every act is done with complete awareness.

When a man has let go of attachments,
when his mind is rooted in wisdom,
everything he does is worship,
and his actions all melt away.

God is the offering. God
is the offered, poured out by God;
God is attained by all those
who see God in every action.

In the Gita, Prince Arjuna is the noble individual soul (“Atman”), and Lord Krishna is the personification of the Divine (“Brahman”). Already in the ancient Vedas, Atman and Brahman were discovered to be one, at least in a foundational sense. This is exactly as Jesus proclaimed when he said “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30). Teresa of Ávila begins her journey through The Interior Castle by proclaiming God’s castle and chosen dwelling is precisely “the beauty and amplitude of the human soul” (I, 3). Or as the Sufis say, Ishq’allah mahbud lillah—God is love, lover, and beloved all at once.

Gateway to Silence:
The Christ in me sees the Christ in you. Namaste.

Image credit: Dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Bhagavad Gita; The San Diego Museum of Art Collection

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