Saturday, December 5, 2009


In the Eleventh Teaching: The Vision of Krishna’s Totality, Krishna favors our hero Arjuna by granting his request to see Krishna as he really is. Krishna in this form is terrifying, and Arjuna is of course shaken. Within the roiling apparition of this multi-bodied, limbed and mouthed form, Arjuna glimpses his enemies, grinding between the flaming teeth of Krishna. Which Krishna points out is a vision of the future. These very enemies wait on the field of battle that day, while Arjuna speaks with Krishna, who is disguised as Arjuna's charioteer. As their chariot stands between the lines of combatants, Krishna explains (stanzas 32-35):

"even without you
all these foes
arrayed in hostile ranks
will cease to exist…

They are already
killed by me…

Kill them
without wavering;
fight, and you will conquer
your foes in battle!"

And then in the last stanza of this teaching, Krishna says:

"Acting only for me, intent on me,
free from attachment,
hostile to no creature, Arjuna,
a man of devotion comes to me."

"Hostile to no creature" was hard for me to get my head around, in light of the impending killing, but there have often been elements of Christianity that seem to have this duality to them as well. What I think I’m reading here is that killing other men is sometimes the duty of a devote man of discipline, and follower of Krishna, but killing should be done without hostility, and without regard for the reward, or outcome of the killing. It makes me think of the passive face of St. Michael as he slays the devil. There is no hatred nor joy in this task, it simply must be done.

Thought like this seems to exist on a higher level; a level where there aren’t any real people. I can’t imagine the true, higher functioning followers of this or any faith with similar dualities, really acting this way. I’m not saying there aren’t strict, devout followers or Krishna today, its just that I don’t see them passively marching off to war to mete out justice with the sword.

It seems that the field of battle must have been chosen as the backdrop for this epic lesson because of the revulsion it causes. Where else but in times of extreme fear and strife, do men call on their gods for support, wisdom and meaning. And if the tenets of Krishna’s teachings can help guide you at your absolute worst and fear filled moments, it can certainly work for the day-to-day stresses of one’s normal life.

That’s what I got.

Barbara Stoler Miller certainly seems to know her way around the 'Gita'. The introduction, discussions on Emerson’s and Thoreau’s readings and writings on the Gita, and her glossary of terms (discipline = yoga, action = karma) helps to make sense of the translation.

This is a short book, written in verse, but not necessarily quick. There is a fair amount of thinking and study you’ll have to put in to make sense of it.


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