reply to post by AuranVector
That's very interesting indeed.
I would like to add this re: The Bhagavad Gita, for additional context
The Bhagavad Gita
Introduction by Eknath Easwaran
Brings to this volume a rare combination of credentials: knowledge of Sanskrit, an intuitive undersanding of his Hindu legacy, and a mastery of
English. He was chairman of the English department at a major Indian university when he came to the United States on a Fulbright fellowship in
A gifted teacher who lived for many years in the West, Easwaran explains the concepts underlying the classics of Indian spirituality in fresh,
authoritative, and profoundly simple ways.
Also in this series by Easwaran are his translations of The Dhammapada and The Upanishads
Many years ago, when I was still a graduate student, I traveled by train from central India to Simla, the the summer seat of the British government in
India. We had not been long out of Delhi when suddenly a chattering of voices disturbed my reverie. I asked the man next to me if something had
happened. "Kurukshetra!" he replied. "The next stop is Kurukshetra!"
I could understand the excitement. Kurukshetra, "the field of the Kurus," is the setting for the climactic battle of the Mahabharata, the vastest epic
in any world literature, on which virtually every Hindu child in India is raised. Its characters, removed in time by some three thousand years, are as
familiar to us as our relatives. The temper of the story is utterly contemporary; I can imagine it unfolding in the nuclear age as easily as in the
dawn of Indian history. The Mahabharata is literature at its greatest - in fact, it has been called a literature in itself, comparable in its depth
and breadth and characterization to the whole of Greek literature or Shakespeare. But what makes it unique is that embedded in this literary
masterpiece is one of the finest mystical documents the world has ever seen: the Bhagavad Gita.
I must have heard the Gita recited thousands of times when I was growing up, but I don't suppose it had any special significance for me then. Not
until I went to college and met Mahatma Gandhi did I begin to understand why nothing in the long, rich stretch of Indian culture has had a wider
appeal, not only within India but outside as well. Today, after more than thirty years of devoted study, I would not hesitate to call it India's most
important gift ot the world. The Gita has been translated into every major language and perhaps a hundred times into English alone; commentaries on it
are said to be more numerous than any other scripture. Like the Sermon on the Mount, it has an immediacy that sweeps away time, place and
circumstance. Addressed to everyone, of whatever background or status, the Gita distills the loftiest truths of India's ancient wisdom into simple,
memorable poetry that haunts the mind and informs the affairs of everyday life.
Everyone in our car got down from the train to wander for a few minutes on the now peaceful field. Thousands of years ago this was Armageddon. The air
rang with the conch-horns and shouts of battle for eighteen days. Great phalanxes shaped like eagles and fish and the crescent moon surged back and
forth in search of victory, until in the end almost every warrior in the land lay slain.
"Imagine!" my companion said to me in awe. "Bhishma and Drona commanded their armies here. Arjuna rode here with Sri Krishna himself as his
charioteer. Where you're standing now - who knows? - Arjuna might have sat, his bow and arrow on the ground, while Krishna gave him the words of the
The thought was thrilling. I felt the way Schliemann must have when he finally reached the desolate bluff of western Turkey and knew he was standing
"on the ringing plains of windy Troy," walking the same grounds as Achilles, Odysseus, Hector and Helen. Yet at the same time, I felt I knew the
setting of the Gita much more intimately than I could ever know this peaceful field. The battlefield is a perfect backdrop, but the Gita's
subject is the war within, the struggle for self mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious.
The Gita and its Settings
Historians surmise that like the Iliad, the Mahabharata might well be based on actual events, culminating in a war that took place somewhere around
1000 B.C. - close, that is, to the very dawn of recorded Indian history. This guess has recently been supported by excavations at the ancient city of
Dvaraka, which, according to the Mahabharata, was destroyed and submerged in the sea after the departure of its divine ruler, Krishna. Only five
hundred years or so before this, by generally accepted guess, Aryan tribes originally from the area between the Caspian Sea and the Hundu Kush
mountains had migrated into the Indian subcontinent, bringing the prototype of the Sanskrit language and countless elements of belief and culture
that have been part of the Hindu traditions ever since. The oldest part of the most ancient of Hindu scriptures, the Rig Veda, dates from this period
- about 1500 B.C., if not much earlier.
Yet the wellspring of Indian religious faith, I believe, can be traced to a much earlier epoch. When the Aryans entered the Indian subcontinent
through the mountains of the Hindu Kush, they encountered a civilization on the banks of the Indus river that archeologists date back as far as 3000
Roughly contemporaneous with the pyramid-builders of the Nile, these indus-dwellers achieved a comparable level of technology. They had
metalworkers skilled in sheet-making, riveting, and casting of copper and bronze, crafts and industries with standardized methods of production,
land and sea trade with cultures as far away as Mesopotamia
, and well planned cities with water supply and public sanitation systems unequaled
until the Romans. Evidence suggests that they may have used a decimal system of measurement. But most remarkable, images of Shiva as Yogeshvara, the
Lord of Yoga, suggest that meditation was practiced in a civilization which flourished a millenium before the Vedas were committed to an oral
If this is so, it would imply that the same systematic attitude the Indus Valley dwellers applied to their technology was applied also to the study
of the mind. This was brahmavidya, the "supreme science" - supreme because where other sciences studied the external world, brahmavidya sought
knowledge of an underlying reality which would inform ALL other studies and activities.
Whatever its origins, in the early part of the first millenium B.C. we find clearly stated both the methods and the discoveries of brahmavidya. With
this introspective tool the inspired rishis
(literally "seers") of ancient India analyzed their awarenesss of human experience to see if there
was anything that was absolute. Their findings can be summarized in three statements which Aldous Huxley, following Leibnitz, has called the Perennial
Philosophy because they appear in every age and civilization: (1) there is an infinite, changless reality beneath the world of change; (2) this same
reality lies at the core of every human personality; (3) the purpose of life is to discover this reality experiencially: that is, to realize God while
here on earth. These principals are the interior experiments for realizing them were taught systematically in the "forest academies" of ashrams - a
tradition which continues unbroken after some three thousand years.
The discoveries of brahmavidya were systematically committed to memory (and eventually to writing) in the Upanishads, visionary documents that are the
earliest and purest statement of the Perennial Philosophy. How many of these prescious records once existed no one knows; a dozen that date from Vedic
times have survived as part fo the Hindu canon of authority, the four Vedas. All have one unmistakable hallmark: the vivid stamp of personal mystical
experience. These are records of direct encounter with the divine. Tradition calls them shruti
; literally "heard," as opposed to learned; they
are their own authority. By convention, on the Vedas (including their Upanishads) are considered shruti, based on direct knowledge of God.
According to this definition, all other Indian scriptures - including the Gita - are secondary, depandant on the higher authority of the Vedas.
However, this is a conventional distinction and one that might disguise the nature of the document it classifies. In the literal sense the Gita too is
shruti, owing its authority not to other scriptures but to the fact that it set down the direct mystical experience of a single author. Shankara, a
towering mystic of the ninth century A.D. whose word carries the authority of Augustine, Eckhart, and Aquinas all in one, must have felt this, for in
selecting the minimum sources of Hinduism he passed over almost a hundred Upanishads of Vedic authority to choose then central Upanishads, and the
The Gita, I would argue, is not an integral part of the Mahabharata. It is essentially an Upanishad, and my conjecture is that it was set down by an
inspired seer (traditionally Vyasa) and inserted into the epic at the appropriate place. Other elements were added in this way to the Mahabharata, and
to other popular secondary scriptures; it is an effective way of preserving new material in an oral tradition. There is also traditional weight behind
this idea, for as far back as anyone can trace, each chapter of the Gita has ended with the same formula: "In the Bhagavad-Gita Upanishad, the text on
the supreme science [brahmavidya] of yoga, this is the chapter entitled..."
Finally, by way of further support, we can observe that except for its first chapter, which sets the stage, the Gita now only does not develop the
action of the Mahabharata but is rather at odds with it. Battle lines are drawn - the climax of decades of dissention -and on the even of combat,
Prince Arjuna loses his nerve and asks his charioteer, Krishna, what to do. Then what? Krishna - no ordinary charioteer, but an incarnation of God -
enters into some seven hundred verses of sublime instruction on the nature of the soul and its relation to God, the levels of consciousness and
reality, the makeup of the phenomenon world, and so on, culminating in a stupendous mystical experience in which he reveals himself to Arjuna as the
transcendant Lord of life and death. He counsels Arjuna to be compassionate to friend and enemy alike, to see himself in every person, to suffer
others' sorrows as his own. The the Gita is over, the narration picks up again, and battle is joined - a terrible, desperate slaughter compromising
everyone's honor, by the end of which Arjuna's side emerges victorious. But almost every man of fighting age on both sides has been slain. Only great
genius would have placed the Gita in such a dramatic setting, but it stands out from the rest as a timeless, practical manual for daily living.
To those who take this dramatic setting as part of the spiritual instruction and get entangled in the question of the Gita justifying war, Gandhi had
a practical answer: Just base your life on the Gita sincerely and systematically and see if you find killing or even hurting others compatible with
its teachings. (He makes the same point of the Sermon on the Mount.) The very heart of the Gita's message is to see the Lord in every creature and act
accordingly, and the scripture is full of verses ot spell out what this means:
I am ever present to those who have realized me in every creature. Seeing all life as my manifestation, they are never separated from me. They
worship me in the hearts of all, and all their actions proceed from me. Wherever they may live, they abide in me. (6:30-31)
When a person resonds to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union. (6:32)
That one I love who is incapable of ill will, who is friendly and compassionate (12:13)
They alone see truly who see the Lord the same in every creature, who see the deathless in the hearts of all that die. Seeing the same Lord
everywhere, they do not harm themselves or others. Thus they attain the supreme goal. (13:27-28)
Scholars can debate the point forever, but when the Gita is practiced, I think, it becomes clear that the struggle the Gita is concerned with is the
struggle for self-mastery. It was Vyasa's genuis to take the whole great Mahabharata epic and see it as a metaphor for the perennial war between the
forces of light and the forces of darkness in every human heart. Arjuna and Krishna are then no longer merely characters in a literary masterpiece.
Arjuna becomes Everyman, asking the Lord himself, Sri Krishna, the perennial questions about life and death - not as a philosopher, but as the
quintessential man of action. Thus read, the Gita is not an external dialogue but an internal one: btween the ordinary human personality, full of
questions and the meaning of life, and our deepest Self, which is divine.
There is, in fact, no other way to read the Gita and grasp it as spiritual instruction. If I could offer one key to understanding this divine
dialogue, it would be to remember that it takes place in the depths of consciousness and that Krishna is not some external being, human or superhuman,
but the spark of divinity that lies at the core of the human personality. This is not literary or philosophical conjecture; Krishan says as much to
Arjuna over and over. "I am the Self in the heart of every creature, Arjuna, and the beginning, middle, and end of their existence" (10:20).
In such statements the Gita distills the essence of the Upanishads, not piecemeal but comprehensively, offering their lofty insights as a manual not
of philosophy but of everyday human activity - a handbook of the Perennial Philisophy unique in world history.
So while they didn't originate from the Indus Valley, one of those Aryan tribes could very easily have become, the Jews, having appropriate the
coming soon - the star of Bethlehem. Stay tuned...
Originally posted by NewAgeMan
That tree of life of Jewish Mystical tradition surely arose and was developed from the old old Vedic meditations and understanding drawn therefrom.
edit on 27-2-2012 by NewAgeMan because: edit