BhagavadGita

205

Common Theme Within The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Bhagavad-Gita And Antigone

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Mortality

Mortality is a common theme within The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Bhagavad-Gita, and Antigone. The main characters in each of these texts respond uniquely to the question of death. Gilgamesh wishes to conquer death, Achilles decides to seek revenge, Arjuna accepts the inevitable, and Antigone stays loyal to her family against the odds. However, while they are different, comparisons can be made within texts. Gilgamesh, Achilles, Arjuna, and Antigone link together in their outlook and behavior towards mortality.

Gilgamesh begins his quest for immortality as a result of the death of his friend, Enkidu. The death of Enkidu caused Gilgamesh to realize his mortality because he saw Enkidu as his equal in power. It scared Gilgamesh when Enkidu died on his bed as opposed to in war (Gilg. 9.1-6). It is not the way any warrior wishes to die, not in battle, but at home due to an illness. As a result, Gilgamesh travels to find Utanapishti and discover how he reached immortality. Utanapishti tells Gilgamesh about the Deluge and how Ea saved his and his wife’s live. When Gilgamesh attempts to reach immortality by fighting Sleep for seven days, he fails immensely. Gilgamesh ends up sleeping the entire seven days. The failure does not stop Gilgamesh on his quest. He goes to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve the rejuvenation coral. After he manages to retrieve the coral, a snake then comes and steals it. Now Gilgamesh’s chances of finding immortality are lost. Gilgamesh realizes the inevitably of death.

Gilgamesh’s reaction to mortality was fear which caused him to run away from Uruk and towards immortality. When Gilgamesh fails the test of immortality, it is important to note that Sleep is similar to Death in that a person is vulnerable in sleep as one is when they are facing Death. So by not being able to defeat Sleep, there was not a possibility that Gilgamesh would be able to defeat Death. Gilgamesh faced a harsh truth at the death of Enkidu, and he was not able to fully accept it, or the possibility of his own.

The death of a beloved friend can be linked to Achilles and his realization of mortality. Achilles has always known the parameter of his Fate. In Book Nine Achilles states that:

if on the one hand I remain to fight

around Troy town, I lose all hope of home

but gain unfading glory; on the other,

if I sail back to my own land my glory

fails – but a long life lies ahead for me

-9.502-506

In the same book, Achilles says he will go home and die, peacefully. However, after the death of Patroklos in Book 16 Achilles promises to avenge his death, even though he knows it’ll mean he shall die soon after he kills Hector (Iliad 18.98-101). Achilles goes and fights, even though he knows it will lead to his death because it is his duty to his friend to avenge his death. Achilles does not care about his death anymore as he feels responsible for the death of Patroklos and will do his duty in making sure that he is forever avenged. Between the moments that Achilles hears about Patroklos’s death and until Hector is killed, Achilles refuses to eat (Iliad 19.230-236). He is so overcome with grief and anger for the death of his best friend that Achilles, like Gilgamesh, is not acting rationally. He is also anxious to go fight and almost went into battle without any armor (Iliad 18.227-252).

Achilles and Gilgamesh have a sudden realization when their respective best friend dies. They are overcome with grief and put all of their focus into one thing. For Gilgamesh, it was the quest for mortality that drove him. For Achilles, the thought of revenge was finally what got him to start fighting and to drop the petty feud between him and Agamemnon. By avenging the death of Patroklos, Achilles was then able to honor his friend and provide a proper burial for him.

As Achilles honors Patroklos, the need to honor the dead connects to Antigone. When Antigone decides to honor her brother, even though she knows that she will face death, she does so knowing that she is breaking the law. Antigone deliberately goes against Creon’s order to leave the body of Polyneices, her brother, alone because she does not agree with his law (Antigone 509-534). She faces her mortality in order to fulfill her duty to her brother head on. When confronted by Creon, Antigone does not lie or attempt to avoid her punishment. She accepts the consequences that came with her decision in honoring her brother.

When Antigone’s time to die comes nearer, she cries out about how her tomb has now become her bridal chamber (Antigone 997). She will join her family with the hope that they will be pleased to see her (Antigone 1006-1009). Anitgone’s coping mechanism was to remind herself that she was doing the right thing and that she will be joining her family soon. Antigone speaks to Polyneices when she says, “But now, Polyneices, this is my reward for covering your corpse” (Antigone 1011-1012). However, Antigone did not regret her actions. Antigone remained loyal to her brother, even with the knowledge of her imminent death.

Loyalty to family connects to Arjuna because when he first faces mortality it is regards to killing them. Antigone and Arjuna both wish to be loyal to their family. Krishna tells Arjuna that it is his duty to fulfill his warrior tasks. Krishna also explains to Arjuna that he is not killing his family because their soul will not be harmed (Gita 2.18). The only thing killed would be the desire that they are experiencing, leading them to want to fight. Krishna also states:

Death is certain for anyone born,

and birth is certain for the dead;

since the cycle is inevitable,

you have no cause to grieve!

-Gita, 2.27

This quote explains why the Gita differs from the other texts mentioned. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, and Antigone death is the end of life. While Antigone alludes to an afterlife, this does not adequately show that death is an actual continuation life. In the Gita death is a necessary step to reach Krishna and Heaven. The people in the Gita are not afraid of death and its unknown. If they reach their end then, they have been granted the privilege to be with Krishna.

Through the teachings of Krishna, Arjuna comes to learn that death should not cause one to worry. Gilgamesh did not understand this teaching until he went on his epic journey. Gilgamesh had to face his fear in order to accept the inevitable. Achilles did not wish to die. Even when he joins the battle, Achilles is still in turmoil about his forthcoming death. It is his loyalty to Patroklos that keeps Achilles fighting. Antigone reaches the same realization the Arjuna did, but for different reasons. It is her loyalty to her brother, and her beliefs, that keep her from fearing death. She buried her brother with the full knowledge of what would happen to her. Death is not to be feared.

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301

Main Themes in Bhagavad Gita

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Renunciation and Asceticism in the Bhagavad Gītā

The Indian mystic and controversial teacher Chandra Mohan Jain, also known as Osho, in reference to renunciation once said, “Dropping the idea of ownership is renunciation. Renunciation is not dropping the possessions but possessiveness.” While the “Rolls-Royce Guru” may have been regarded by many as a fraud or cult leader, his insight into the nature of renunciation reflects those of the Bhagavad Gītā with astonishing accuracy. The themes of renunciation presented in the Gītā are then closely tied to its presentation of asceticism which the Gītā portrays as perhaps the antithesis to Osho’s notions of renunciation. The goal of this essay then will be to summarize the Gītā’s themes of renunciation and asceticism in the context of individual duty or sva-dharmaḥ

In the opening verses of the Gītā, the predicament of Arjuna can clearly be seen as a conflict of duties; his individual duty (sva-dharmah) and his universal, human duty (sanatana dharmah). While it eventually becomes evident that sva-dharmah supersedes sanatana dharmah, there is much more the Gītā has to say on the subject. One of the primary aspects of dharmah that is discussed and is useful to the topic of renunciation is the attitude or posture with which we are called to perform our dharmah. The Gītā makes it clear that it is not sufficient to simply perform our dharmah but that we must also perform it with detachment to the results or “fruits” of our actions; we must relinquish all attachment to the outcomes of our actions to Krishna. This can clearly be seen in 18.6,”But even these actions should be done by relinquishing to me attachment and the fruit of action – this is my decisive idea,” and 2.51,”Wise men disciplined by understanding relinquish the fruit born of action.”

Furthermore, we see that attachment to the fruits of our action leads only to a chaotic state of happiness and sadness. As long as we take ownership of the fruits of our actions, we are directly tied to their “goodness” or “badness”. We are told in 2.48 to “be impartial to failure and success.” However, the only way to detach ourselves from the fruits of our actions is, as we have already seen, to relinquish them to Krishna. What does it mean exactly however to relinquish the fruits to Krishna? This question is answered in 3.30 and 3.31 when we are told, “Surrender all actions to me,” and “men who always follow my thought, trusting it without finding fault, are freed even by their actions.” Thus, the only way for us to escape the roller coaster of disappointment and false satisfaction is to perform our duties to please Krishna; not for our own fulfillment but rather for our relationship with Krishna.

This idea that we are to perform our dharmah with detachment to its outcomes and with the intent of deepening our relationship with Krishna is directly related to the Gītā’s presentation of renunciation. As the proper fulfillment of dharmah has been established as the performance of actions solely for Krishna, it would be a logical step to conclude that proper fulfillment of dharmah requires that we renounce all claims to the fruits of our actions. Indeed, because according to the Gītā all things emerged out of Krishna, are sustained by Krishna, and will be destroyed (or transformed) by Krishna, we cannot claim any ownership to the fruits of our actions. Therefore, it is not that we must actively renounce the fruits of our actions to Krishna, but rather that we must realize that we never actually could claim ownership over the results. The issue of renunciation can then better be perhaps understood as realization as to our actual situation; it is an issue of renouncing our attempts to control. In the analogy of life as a theatrical play where we are the actors, trying to claim control over our actions and their results is like the actor trying to re-write the script when they should be listening to the director. Thus, if our actions are performed as the result of duty and we renounce claim to the results, our actions can be seen as neither good nor bad because we are not the ones who chose the outcome. Indeed, if we renounce control to Krishna, our actions are neither good nor bad, but rather beyond.

With this idea of renunciation primarily defined as the renunciation of perceived ownership and control, the ideas of asceticism and material renunciation can now be analyzed. Many ascetics find support for their worldview in the Vivarta-vāda Vedānta, or Illusionist School which argues that this world is merely an illusion and that consequently, all desire must be eliminated. This renunciation of desire is taken up in a pursuit of inaction and of knowledge. As knowledge of the atman and Brahman is achieved, the unity of the two becomes realized and the ascetic achieves liberation or moksha. This process of material renunciation, acquiring knowledge, meditating, and realization is a long and arduous process taking place over a long portion of one’s life. In response to this path of moksha, the Gītā has the following to say in 12.12, “Knowledge is better than practice, meditation better than knowledge, rejecting the fruits of action is better still – it brings peace.” Thus, two paths to peace can be seen. The first, the path of the ascetic, is long, arduous, and not guaranteed success; the second, the path of the renouncer, leads directly to peace. This is iterated in 5.5, “Men of discipline reach the same place that philosophers attain; he really sees who sees philosophy and discipline to be one.”

Having seen the comparison between the paths of asceticism (the path of the philosopher) and the path of renunciation (discipline), several very important things can be said regarding world renouncers, sādhu’s, sannyasin’s and the like. It must first be addressed that the Gītā fully rejects the idea that one can fully renounce action. This can be seen in the first half of 5.4, “A man cannot escape the force of action by abstaining from actions,” So we see that inaction is impossible; for even inaction is a conscious choice and thus inaction entails the action of choosing inaction. Thus, the goal of many yogis and other aesthetics to cease action is ultimately futile. To achieve ultimate peace then, it is not enough to renounce action and material possessions. If the action of material renunciation is to succeed, it must be coupled with the renunciation of claims to the fruit of our actions and the devotion of all our actions unto Krishna.

This concept of two modes of renunciation, simply futile material renunciation and successful material renunciation and possessive renunciation, raises an important distinction which is at the heart of many conflicts within all religions. That is the distinction between piety and religiousness. While the exact definitions of these words may be quite similar, they will be used presently to represent concepts rather than definitions. Piety can be understood as the practice of determining the underlying reasons for religious rules and applying them to all areas of life whereas religiousness can be seen as following the specific, laid out doctrine of a specific interpretation. Thus, with these two styles of religion, four possible combinations are possible. A person can be pious and religious, pious and non-religious, non-pious and religious, or non-pious and non-religious.

The Gītā then seems to be supporting two of these combinations, while condemning one and pitying the other. It can clearly be seen again in 12.12 that the pious path of renouncing control and devoting oneself to Krishna is the best path. However, 12.12 also says that while the path of the philosopher-ascetic is less preferred, it is just as valid. This path of the philosopher-ascetic can be seen as the pious and religious person. The condemned path, that of the non-pious, non-religious person, corresponds to individuals who do not renounce control unto Krishna and who do not follow religious rules. The Gītā identifies these people as caught up in the roller-coaster of the self-ego. The last possibility then, of a non-pious, religious person, is the path that the Gītā expresses pity toward. This is because whereas the non-pious, non-religious person does not know they are on the wrong path, the non-pious, religious individual thinks that they are on the right path; when in reality, their actions are completely futile and misdirected.

While the Bhagavad Gītā has far more to say on the topics of duty and renunciation, the above discussion is informative in regards to renunciation and its relation to asceticism. Out of this discussion of the relation of the two in the context of dharmah, sever important conclusions can be drawn. First, successful performance of dharmah is conditional upon the renunciation of the fruits of action. And second, that attainment of ultimate peace is dependent on piety (or in terms more familiar to the Gītā, devotion) but can also include religiousness. This leads to two acceptable paths, one admittedly better than the other. These two ideas lead us to a final conclusion; that the goal of material ascetics to eliminate desire is not wrong, but rather misguided. That desire in and of itself is not wrong, but desire directed toward ourselves, for our own fulfillment, for the satisfaction of the false self-ego, is wrong; that we are not to eliminate desire, but desire for our own sake. Instead, the Gītā tells us that we are to renounce self-seeking desire for desire to satisfy Krishna. For indeed, the Bhagavad Gītā tells us that renunciation of ourselves unto Krishna is the only way to be delivered from all sinful actions, not simply withdrawal from the world.

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369

Hinduism in Bhagavad Gita

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Hindu View of Human Self

The ideals and concepts of life vary immensely for each religion. From the approximately twenty different religions that exist, each religion consists of its own perceptions and beliefs of life and the human self. The Bhagavad Gita strongly emphasizes a majority of the Hindu’s conceptions of the human self. Hindu religion believes that God remains a part of the human self and most of the actions that one performs are of God’s doing. Additionally, a human needs to work to receive happiness and eternal bliss similar to many other religions. Disobedience and poor behavior result in no endless peace in that lifetime. It appears as though humans tend to possess bad behavior and to reach a state of yogi, or peace, they need to overcome it. Overall, it seems that human beings are not worth anything unless they work to conquer their sins and rise above.

To begin with, in Hindu religion, God remains a part of every single being that he creates. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains the presence of God in all creatures:

“I am the Spirit seated deep down in every creature’s heart; from Me they come; they live; at My word they depart!” (Page 50)

Each human contains a part of God and God influences many of the decisions and actions that a human takes. Many of the activities of mind, actions, and emotions are a result of God’s behavior.

Additionally, in Hinduism, those who do not try to better themselves will remain in their current state and never reach eternal peace. Those who attempt to follow God’s wishes and better their behavior will eventually reach a state of never-ending bliss:

“Vowed to the Infinite. He who thus vows his soul to the Supreme Soul, quitting sin, passes unhindered to the endless bliss of unity with Brahma.” (Page 32)

Followers who abide God and rid themselves of sin will easily reach a state of bliss with Brahma. Brahma remains the highest known power and being in the Hindu religion:

“I Brahma am! The One Eternal God, The Soul of Souls! What goeth forth from Me, causing all life to live.” (Page 39).

Brahma, the one supreme God, remains the level of eternal harmony that people work to reach. Brahma emphasizes in the Bhagavad Gita the standards the one needs to be in order to reach eternal bliss:

“He who with equanimity surveys luster of goodness, strife of passion, sloth of ignorance, not angry if they are, not wishful when they are not; “These the Qualities!” He unto whom – self-centered – grief and joy sound as one word; to whose equal heart holds the same gentleness for lovely and unlovely things, firm-set, well-pleased in praise and dispraise; satisfied with honour or dishonor; – he is named Surmournter of the Qualities! And such – with single, fervent faith adoring Me, passing beyond the Qualities, conforms to Brahma, and attains Me!” (Page 75-76)

The ones who follow Brahma’s standards of staying selfless along with the characteristics mentioned above will be the ones who reach everlasting tranquility with Brahma. Those that do not follow Brahma’s standards will keep going through different lifetimes and never reach endless bliss:

“He who should fail, desiring righteousness, cometh at death unto the Region of the Just; dwells there measureless years, and being born anew, beginneth life again in some fair home amid the mild and happy.” (Page 33)

Reincarnation, the rebirth of a soul into a new body after death in the previous one, remains a strong concept in Hinduism. If one does not reach Brahma in their first lifetime, they will continue to be rebirth until they finally follow the ideals requested. Those that exhibit qualities of evil, or sin, will not attain Brahma and be rebirth in degraded places:

“Deceitfulness, and arrogance, and pride, quickness to anger, harsh and evil speech, and ignorance, to its own darkness blind, – These be the signs, My Prince! Of him whose birth is fated for the regions of the vile.” (Page 81-82)

Furthermore, in the Hindu religion, the human being is given the impression of being evil or impolite from the start and they need to improve from this stage. To reach the highest level, one needs to work to advance themselves. In the Bhagavad Gita, the three kinds of faith that exist consist of two evils ones along with one good, untainted one:

“Threefold the faith is of mankind, and springs from those three qualities, – becoming “true,” or “passion-strained,” or “dark,” as thou shalt hear!” (Page 85)

Two out of the three different faiths associate with wrong ideals, passion-strained and dark, according to the Bhagavad Gita. This depicts that human faith leans towards wickedness. One needs to work hard to reach the only one pure faith of true.

Overall, Hindus believe that to earn endless freedom and happiness one needs to free themselves of sin. Those who fail to do so will continue living in the cycle of birth and death. As they work off their karma in each lifetime, they will become closer to reaching Brahma. Once a person works off all of their karma, sins or bad deeds, their soul will join with the greater power and they will reach enlightenment. If one acts selfishly, they will keep accumulating bad karma and keep remaining the cycle of birth and death. Their soul will continue to move from one lifetime to another. Like many other religions, Hinduism focuses strongly on human beings following the orders or standards of God to reach happiness.

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207

Bhagavad-Gita And Dante’s Inferno: A Religious Comparative

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Some say that Bhagavad-Gita and Dante’s Inferno are among the most popular scripts supporting a detailed account of the Hindu way of life. Others argue that Dante’s Inferno is characterized by ideas of Catholicism, a likely illustration of Dante’s Italian background. Most debatable are the concepts of Dharma (world maintenance), Karma (“what comes around goes around”), and Samsara (rebirth) as found in Bhagavad-Gita in comparison to the strict Catholic beliefs of Dante’s upbringing. Both beliefs deal with critical ideas of the afterlife, hell, and more importantly, the concepts of sin, justice, and divine retribution. The pair has striking parallels as well as differences in their portrayal of the afterlife.

The concepts of Dharma, Karma, and Samsara are significantly important for understanding Bhagavad-Gita and how the Hindus are expected to live, including their predetermined fate. For example, Dharma contains three paths to salvation; one of these paths is known as the “path of duties,” or simply put, the inescapable social obligation or duty that must be fulfilled before death (Basham). At the beginning of Bhagavad-Gita, in a fight for the land owned by Dhritarashtra (the king) and his people, Arjuna has to kill Duryodhana, despite being cousins. Family members and friends are on both sides of the battlefield, and Arjuna realizes he is not ready to kill his family members. Krishna quickly reminds him that he must fulfill his obligation by destroying his enemy, Dhritarashtra (Arnold). Here, we can see that Arjuna’s “duty” is to kill the King – a predestined fate. According to Krishna, it would be dishonorable to disrespect Dharma. Plus, killing, in this case, is not a sin, since both the murdered and the murderer will live better lives after death; the death of the enemy would restore the power of good.

Dante is undergoing similar struggles to the extent that he is willing to forfeit the bigger divine mission. Dante is lost, confused, and suffering in a “dark woods,” a personification of his fears, nonetheless. His journey, however, is meant to be the same path every human being takes to understand his or her sins and find peace with God. It’s important to note, too, that to gain an understanding of the afterlife, the duo (Arjuna and Dante) experience guardianship. Virgil and Beatrice both lead Dante through his several encounters while Krishna acts the role of a guide in Bhagavad-Gita. In Bhagavad-Gita, it is explained that people are reborn according to one’s actions and the lives they lived. Throughout Dante’s Inferno, there are similar views of rebirth and events that prove there is life after death. After all, Dante places people in different levels of Hell according to the severity of the sins they committed; the punishments fits the crime, nonetheless. For example, those that have committed suicide are sent to the Woods of Suicides where they exist as trees; since they took their life into their own hands on Earth, they have absolutely no control over their body in Hell (Alighieri).

Though this epitomizes the Hindu belief of Karma, it also exemplifies the Catholic religion, where committing suicide is equally as sinful as killing another person; similarly, Catholicism helped dictate what sins qualified someone to spend eternity in Hell and what sins were worse than others. In fact, the sins represented in this written Hell parallel the ‘Seven Deadly Sins,’ which is commonly taught in Christian teaching to define sins that typically lead to other immoralities. For example, Dante chose five of the seven sins, the worst according to Catholic faith, to be represented in his version of Hell: level two represents lust, level three represents gluttony, level four represents greed, and level five represents wrath and sloth. Dante also chose other sins that exemplified his Catholic faith, or at least those surrounding him. For example, the souls in Limbo were all upstanding citizens in life, but they did not believe in God; that means they were not saved and would, therefore, end up in Hell.

The Catholic faith also views going against the Lord in any form is a serious sin. Thus, he had special punishment for those that openly spoke out against the Christian religion in the deeper levels of Hell. The traitors against the Lord were punished in the lowest level of Hell, level nine. Bhagavad-Gita and Dante’s Inferno both address, in detail, the consequences of human actions – good and bad that must be faced in the afterlife and somehow envisioned heaven and hell in a way that was similar in almost all aspects of their conceptual framework.

Both texts, despite being so far apart in time and space makes these coincidences all the more remarkable. Though both stories detail the Hindu way of life, Dante’s religious upbringings seem to contribute to the tale. In fact, the vast majority of people found in Dante’s Inferno committed a sin in contrast to the views of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the two scripts reveal the most debatable mysteries about predestination and life after death. As evident from the description of the text, the two articles differ theoretically more specifically on the concepts of Dharma, Karma, and Samsara as found in Bhagavad-Gita. Still, the articles share similarities that prove there is a life after death, which is determined by the way we live our life. Even after this analysis, it is debatable whether Dante’s Inferno embodies the three Hindu concepts or is based solely on the Catholic belief of the author’s upbringing. This explains why the scriptures will continue being most sought by future generations.

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230

The view of the presence of personal uniqueness as explained by Bhagavad Gita

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Does individuality exist according to the Bhagavad Gita? From the onset of the text, Arjuna is placed as a limited mortal and Krishna as the supreme infinite other. These dualisms are a leitmotif throughout the text and offer light into the definition of one’s individuality in the context of a larger presence. From these dualism in the text, human beings are made self-aware of their own individuality, and it is in this “individuality” that lies the basis of the concept of a supreme infinite spirit and it’s distinct relationship between itself and the true infinite spirit. This true individualistic essence of the “self” is essential to the validity of the Bhagavad Gita and provides a dualistic approach to the text that reflects the hierarchical difference between Krishna and the individual “self.”

To define individuality in a living being is to assign a it a distinct essence that is distinguishable from other being, for a lack of a better term – a “self.” In the Bhagavad Gita, this idea of a “self” is described as a double spirit, one that is “transient and eternal” and the other as “the supreme spirit of man” (125, 15.16). Outside of the individual “self” that each living being encases, is a larger spirit that is manifested as Krishna. Krishna describes himself and his vast being as the “seed-giving father” (119, 14.3) from which all forms had come to be. Granted that this manifestation of Krishna defends this transcendent idea of a supreme infinite spirit, it challenges a dualistic reading of the Bhagavad Gita and the “individuality” of every living being. Is Krishna inherently synonymous with the “self” or are they separate?

Should the Bhagavad Gita suggest that the individual “self” is inherently synonymous with the supreme infinite spirit Krishna, it poses a large contradiction to the foundation of the Bhagavad Gita and challenges the validity of Krishna’s expanse and power. If the “self” and Krishna are synonymous, then by extension, every living being holds a part of the deity and divine essence within, and is therefore deified to a level of Krishna, or close to. This not only invalidates the influence and power of Krishna, but it also questions the “beginningless” of the divine spirit. Krishna claims that “since I transcend what is transient/and I am higher than the eternal,/I am known as the supreme spirit of man/in the world and in sacred lore” (126, 15.18). This claim serves as a huge ellipses that Krishna is the manifestation of the Divine. Yet this portrayal is a double-edged sword. Granted that this manifestation of Krishna defends this divine infinite spirit, it challenges the idea and extent of every living being’s individuality. If there is a portion of Krishna in all beings, and the ultimate goal, according to the Bhagavad Gita, is to become detached from our physical bodies and mind in order to free our “self” into the Divine, then it is suggestive of there being a true beginning-a time where Krishna existed as a large expanse before dividing parts of itself to be infused into all beings-and an end-a time when each living being has reached nirvana and returned back to the infinite spirit. This interpretation also demolishes the religious purpose of the Bhagavad Gita as a religious text.

By assuming that a nondualistic, rather monistic, reading of the text is an incorrect interpretation, one can only then assume that people have an innate individuality to their self. This allows the idea for a Diving being, like Krishna, to exist and a spiritual hierarchy and division to exist between Krishna and living beings. This distinction between the Krishna and the “self” is expressed when Krishna says to Arjuna, “I am not in them, they are in me” (74, 7.12). With a dualistic perspective to the Bhagavad Gita, it allows the text to be fully read and understood as an education guide for living beings to progress and evolve out of their dualistic state to a nondualistic existence with the infinite spirit. Arjuna is a limited being, while Krishna is the infinite spirit. Attachment to sensual attachments lead to delusion while devotion to Krishna leads to nirvana. It is in the dualisms, that the larger concept of nirvana is able to be sustained. One cannot possibly understand the existence of this infinite spirit through temporal means, but rather through disciplined action. To reach Krishna, one must see “the self through the self” (116, 13.24) somehow elevating one’s being from a dualistic relationship between the “self” and the infinite spirit, to one where the “self” can transcend reality and become synonymous with the Divine. This eventual nondualism between a living being and the Divine is based on a union, but not on an interchangeable level. However by acknowledging this initial individuality is the beginning of developing a greater consciousness.

Individuality must exist for the Bhagavad Gita to function as a religious and philosophical guide for a larger “truth.” The Bhagavad Gita emphasizes a movement of consciousness from a dualistic perspective to a nondualist perspective where the text begins on the premise of individuality and serves as a guide to attain oneness with the infinite spirit. “Human” and “supreme infinite spirit,” for “self” and “Krishna,” cannot and will not, be interchangeable terms, but the substance of their essential nature is one.

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268

The Fundamental Role of Discipline in the Bhagavad Gita’s Moral Teachings

May 3, 2019 by Essay Writer

The Bhagavad Gita presents a unique system of moral teachings that characterized the “…sociopolitical and religious reality of South Asia…” in early first century AD (Flood, Martin, pg. xiii). It involves an interaction between two characters: Arjuna, a powerful warrior, and Krishna, a supreme deity who acts in human form. Arjuna faces a challenging dilemma when he perceives that his duty as a warrior will eventually lead him to slay his kinsmen who fight for his enemies. Krishna uses this conflict to remind Arjuna of the importance of fulfilling his prescribed duty, also referred to as his dharma. The idea of dharma is a foundational aspect of Krishna’s teaching throughout the Bhagavad Gita. A person’s dharma dictates the way they must act and varies depending on their social class. It is not limited to mere completion of responsibilities but rather extends to the individual’s mindset and intentions as they act upon their tasks. To achieve the highest form of dharma, the individual must focus on action alone without becoming attached to its consequences or results. Krishna emphasizes this teaching by encouraging Arjuna to disregard the impending deaths of his kinsmen and to concentrate on his job as a warrior. The ultimate goals of fulfilling dharma without attachment include a deep relationship with Krishna and eternal purification. As Krishna states, “One who, in acting, consecrates / all of his actions to Brahman / shed of attachments, is unstained / like a lotus leaf by water” (5.10). While dharma is the ideal of human behavior, it cannot be achieved without the consistent exercise of discipline. As a fundamental element of the Bhagavad Gita’s teachings, discipline involves both physical action and mental detachment from action’s results as a means of achieving liberation from the cycle of reincarnation.

The practice of discipline begins with physical action. As demonstrated by Krishna’s dilemma, a person’s dharma may include tasks that they find challenging to complete. It is in these situations that discipline is paramount, driving the individual to prioritize their duty over their emotions. They must accomplish their tasks regardless of their feelings. In addition, discipline in action is a defining quality of one’s daily behavior. Krishna outlines a model for disciplined behavior throughout the Bhagavad Gita. According to his teaching, a disciplined person is “…solitary, lightly eating / controlled in body, speech and mind, / meditating, doing yoga, / finding refuge in dispassion…” (18.87). As they practice these things, they achieve the highest form of discipline by dissolving all attachment to their actions’ effects. This is defined as “…karma yoga: the practice of detached action rooted in virtue in which the results of that action are surrendered to God” (Flood, Martin, xii). Based on this reasoning, an individual’s actions serve as a means of glorifying Krishna and fulfilling dharma, rather than achieving a goal. Acting according to the practice of discipline plays a crucial role in this process. As Krishna tells Arjuna “One disciplined by higher mind / here casts off good and bad actions; / therefore, be yoked to discipline; / discipline is skill in actions” (2.50). Man learns this skill by consciously practicing action without thought for attachment and by fighting against his natural tendency to derive motivation from external results. Krishna continues to reiterate the importance of discipline in action throughout the text, stating that “…he whose mind controls his senses, / who undertakes the discipline / of action by the action-organs, without attachment, is renowned” (3.7). In this manner, discipline acts as the virtue that leads man to a purified form of physical action. Therefore, as man practices it through action, he is able to more fully detach from his work’s consequences and legitimately fulfill his dharma.

In addition to physical action, discipline extends to the activity of the mind. Krishna acknowledges the steady stream of thoughts that compete for man’s attention. However, he teaches that these distractions must be ignored because they often lead to attachment to action. Throughout the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains that the mind is often a wild scene where a person’s perceptions of their external reality challenge their core convictions. If discipline is employed, then these perceptions will be subdued and redirected in a positive manner. Krishna explains the practice of mental discipline by counseling Arjuna that, “When, unvexed by revelation / your higher mind is motionless / and stands fixed in meditation / then you will attain discipline” (2.53). Discipline, for the purpose of gaining wisdom, is practiced by keeping one’s mind in a harmonious state of equilibrium where these perceptions have no effect on mental processes. This discipline is not man’s natural predisposition and thus requires concerted practice. As Krishna states, “…having utterly restrained / the many senses by the mind, / Gradually let him find rest, / his intellect under control, / his mind established in the Self, / not thinking about anything” (6.24-25). He emphasizes yoga as the best form of mental exercise in which man consciously works to focus his thoughts on a single point. By using discipline to train his mind, man draws closer to Krishna and learns to absolve all attachment from his works. Mental discipline complements physical discipline, and both depend upon the other in order for man to advance in his process toward eternal purification.

Discipline of the body and mind yields eternal rewards despite the obstacles that oppose it. The first benefit is the ability to know Krishna more deeply and to establish a stronger bond with him. By learning to exist with a steady mind detached from action, a person shifts the focus of their desires and decisions toward Krishna. This leads to discipline’s second reward: advancement in the process of eternal purification. This process occurs through the cycle of reincarnation where man dies and is reborn until he reaches a state of perfection. Discipline is the key to liberation from this cycle because, as Krishna states, “…having freed oneself from ego, / force, pride, anger, lust and grasping, / serene and without selfishness, / one is fit for the absolute” (18.53). Through a perfected practice of discipline, a person advances toward a state of unchanging existence. This in turn grants them the reward of experiencing Krishna more completely. Throughout the Bhagavad Gita, “Liberation (moksha) from the cycle of reincarnation (samsara)…” defines the ultimate goal of existence: to assume an absolute, rather than transient, state of being (Flood, Martin, xviii). This goal is only accomplished through discipline of the mind and body. The two primary rewards of discipline, union with Krishna and absolute existence, form the pinnacle of man’s life. Thus, the value of these rewards merit the effort one must exercise to attain them.

An argument may arise that perfect discipline in unattainable in the context of day-to-day reality. In their occupations and relationships, people face situations that may cause them to feel “…anger, fear, and passions…” (2.56). These emotions are the obstacles that Krishna deems as detrimental to the practice of discipline. Many individuals appear to be trapped in a dilemma: avoid these feelings or fulfill their dharma which may cause these emotions to arise. Because everyone’s dharma differs, not all people are granted the luxury of the yogi lifestyle, one in which duty includes secluded meditation and constant prayer to Krishna. In contrast, a majority of people are called to more common occupations as peasants, warriors or merchants. In these roles, emotions often run high: the peasant feels frustration over his servitude, the warrior experiences the passion of battle, the merchant becomes excited after making a hefty profit. In light of the correlation between these occupations and emotions, the discipline that Krishna commands may seem unrealistic.

However, Krishna refutes this argument by stating that the differing natures of people’s duties are not preventative to the practice of discipline. As he teaches, “By worshiping with one’s own actions, the Origin of all Beings by whom the cosmos is pervaded, perfection is achieved by man” (18.46). He recognizes the differences that arise as certain classes act according to their dharma. Discipline, as he explains, can still be practiced in these situations if a person surrenders his actions as a form of worship. Krishna illustrates this through several examples. In the case of the peasants, he teaches that they may exercise discipline in the midst of their “Plowing, trade, and cattle-herdings…” by releasing their connection to their work and replacing it with a mindset of worship toward him (18.44). This applies to other classes of people, including the warriors who must use their “Valor, majesty, firmness…and lordliness…” to glorify Krishna rather than themselves (18.43). In the midst of action, Krishna commands his followers to work with their minds fixed upon him while absent from attachment to consequences. In this manner, they master perfect discipline and advance toward absolute purification.

Demonstrated throughout the Bhagavad Gita, discipline is a fundamental element of Krishna’s teachings on how his followers must think and act throughout their lives. The practice of this virtue involves both the external action of the body and the inner thought processes of the mind as man accomplishes his dharma. Krishna teaches this through the counsel he offers to Arjuna as he faces his battlefield dilemma. In the midst of a tumultuous world, the obstacles to maintaining discipline are high, including the forces of emotion, passion and tension. Nonetheless, regardless of a person’s position in life, discipline can always be practiced by absolving all attachment to action and using it as a means of glorifying Krishna. Through discipline, man is released from reincarnation and enters into eternal union with Krishna. This virtue leads to the greatest of all rewards. As Krisha teaches, one “whose senses, mind and intellect / are firmly fixed upon release / shed of desire, fear and rage / will soon attain bliss forever” (6.28).

Works Cited

Flood, Gavin, and Charles Martin. “Introduction.” The Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation. Norton Critical Edition. Trans. Gavin Flood and Charles Martin. New York: Norton, 2015. vii-xviii. Print.

The Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation. Norton Critical Edition. Trans. Gavin Flood and Charles Martin. New York: Norton, 2015. Print.

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348

Questions of the Hereafter in Gilgamesh, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Bible

April 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

Questions like these that baffle the human mind, and have done so for centuries: what happens after we die? Is there truly life after death? Such riddles can never be known to those who have not crossed over “to the other side”, so to speak, and the only ones that do know the answer can never reveal it. As the saying goes, dead men tell no tales. It is a question central to the identity of every civilization, dating back before the common era. In the ancient epic of Gilgamesh, the afterlife is nothing but darkness and dust. In the Bhagavad-Gita, there is only a cycle of reincarnation that may or may not lead to “enlightenment”. And in the book of Job, there is a belief that God-fearing, righteous people may one day enter paradise.

Gilgamesh was a man scared to death of dying. He felt like this since his beloved friend Enkidu had a vision of the underworld on his deathbed. Enkidu describes it as “the house whence none who enters come forth” (Tablet XII, line 134) and “the road from which there is no way back” (line 135). Both of the descriptions haunt Gilgamesh severely. Furthermore, Enkidu sees “crowns in a heap” (line 142), the crowns of past kings. Not even a royal bloodline can save Gilgamesh from the one certainty in life. Gilgamesh is deeply distressed, and cries out, “Shall I not die too? Am I not like Enkidu?” (Tablet 8, line 3). He begins a frantic search to find a source of immortality, to stay the hand that all man are dealt. He fails…but, in a ironic sense, he also succeeds. No, he does not live on forever, but in a way he does. He lives on through his his accomplishments, such as his wall that be built and his story, which has been passed down through the ages. In the culture of his day, that is the closest anyone could come to being immortal.

Arjuna was a confused man . His everyday quest to fulfill the wishes of the gods and achieve enlightenment was under attack by his morality and opposition to war. He speaks to Krishna and cries out, “I foresee no good resulting from slaughtering my kin in war!” (Chapter 1, stanza 31). He, like many of his day presumably, has no desire to engage in war and conquest because he sees no benefit from killing his kinsmen and countrymen. He dreads the bad karma that is associated with such acts. But Krishna tries to relax him, saying that “Death is assured to all those born, and birth assured to all the dead; you should not mourn what is merely inevitable consequence” (Chapter 2, stanza 27). In essence, death and birth and just two sides of a never ending cycle. Krishna also says to Arjuna “Nor should you tremble to perceive your duty as a warrior” (Chapter 2, stanza 31). It is Arjuna’s “sacred duty” to be a warrior and to kill his enemies, family or not. In effect, life is just one constant reincarnation after another, with “enlightenment” being the only true afterlife. Krishna goes on to say that “When, unvexed by revelation, your higher mind is motionless and stands fixed in meditation, then you will attain discipline” (Chapter 2, stanza 53). In other words, enlightenment is only attainable by those who have learned to act without any feelings. This is the duty of all.

Job was a submissive man, and a righteous one. The writer of Job said that he “was blameless and upright and feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). He was the best example of a “man of God” of his day. Even when God allowed Satan to come and destroy Job’s family, possessions, and health, he did not sin. After his wife told to him to curse God and just die, he replied, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). His whole world revolved around honoring God, whether with having plenty or nothing. Job acted the way he did because of his respect for God and his vision of the afterlife, or heaven. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Whats the point of holding on to the things in this life if, in the end, we have to give them up anyway? Only one thing is eternal: God. Job is remembered to this day for realizing that possessions mean nothing without the One who gives them to you. This is the ideal Jewish and Christian way of thinking about life after death.

The three cultures discussed above have three very different views of the afterlife. One was trying to immortalize oneself in actions and monuments, one was about reaching action without feeling and enlightenment, and one was about giving up the things of this world to focus on the God from whom all things come. Maybe we, as humans, can never truly understand the concept of life after death. But, then again, maybe we should be more focused on the things we do in life instead.

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299

Actions and Sense of Self

February 18, 2019 by Essay Writer

In The Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna, a skilled warrior, faces a dilemma in the midst of battle. He ceases to fight and admits that he could not live with himself if winning this battle meant conquering his own family. He turns to his charioteer, Krishna, for advice. Through their dialogue, one learns how the external war Arjuna faces is irrelevant compared to the internal war within himself. The following will argue the validity of Krishna’s advice, and suggest that by following these principles, one can discover a happier and more successful life.

This paper will discuss three key elements of wisdom contained in Krishna’s words. First, I will analyze the idea of detaching oneself from the results of one’s actions and how doing so can help the individual. Next, I will discuss the realization of Self and why this is so crucial for Arjuna. Lastly, this paper will analyze the key role that meditation plays in this process and that although the mind is difficult to tame, it is not only possible, but vital to a life of happiness.

In a fast-paced world, people are often thinking ahead and worrying about what is to come. Decisions and actions, even the smallest of such, have a grand impact on the future. Therefore, it makes sense that so many individuals, from an athlete to a businessperson, cling to the results and possible repercussions of their actions. However, by overwhelming oneself with thoughts of the future, a person only faces detrimental consequences. When Arjuna drops to his knees in the middle of battle unable to accept the action he must take to succeed, Krishna tells him, “Fulfill all your duties, action is better than inaction” (105). The fact in life is that we cannot escape our duties; things must be done in order to survive that one cannot avoid. The key for Arjuna is the he must perform these duties “without selfish attachment to their ‘fruit’, or outcome” (101). In other words, he must be disconnected from his expectations and not be affected by the result, whatever it may be. I admit that expectations are a natural occurrence in the mind. As a golfer, I expect or at least hope to shoot a good score. But oftentimes, I get so worried about what could go wrong that my round becomes a train wreck of angst and uncertainty. Instead of having no expectations for my results and just playing, I get so caught up in anxiety about the result that I feel similar to Arjuna collapsed in the middle of an important event. Just the simple act of worrying about a result can have catastrophic consequences. If an individual can live without a connection to the results of what they do, that individual will feel peace and freedom, embodying the cliché “live in the moment.” This is Krishna’s first advice to Arjuna. He then professes that in order to do so, Arjuna must realize Self. Krishna tells Arjuna that “actions do not cling to your real Self” (113). He tells him that those who have discovered Self “have nothing to gain or lose by any action” (106) and are satisfied in every way. Therefore, Arjuna’s ability to detach himself from actions lies in his ability to discovery his true Self.

Each person is unique and possesses a distinct Self, but when one obtains the knowledge of Self, the results are universal. Those who realize Self “are free, without selfish attachments; their minds are fixed in knowledge” (119). According to Krishna’s advice, detaching oneself from actions and discovering the true Self go hand-in-hand, meaning one cannot exist without the other. If one is detached from actions, then one has found Self; if one has found Self, then one is free from attachment. It is incredible to think that despite the differences between people, every individual is capable of attaining the same peace and satisfaction through the discovery of Self. A person who seeks wisdom above all else will “enter into perfect peace” while “the ignorant…waste their lives” and “will never be happy in this world or any other” (121). According to Krishna, knowledge fuels one’s path toward Self-realization, while the unenlightened remain unhappy and distracted by selfish desires. Krishna reveals to Arjuna that they have all faced many births and rebirths and in realizing this, they are unified in knowledge. He says that by having this knowledge and realizing Self, one has “found the source of joy and fulfillment, they no longer seek happiness from the external world” (106). The source of joy is turned within oneself. Instead of searching for happiness in the material world, one can find happiness beyond original expectations by gaining the knowledge of Self. As humans, we often embody the mantra “find your purpose in life” with the idea that purpose can be found in external things. But according to Krishna, “Only knowledge of the Self…can fulfill the purpose of his life and lead him beyond rebirth” (125). Once again, the answers Arjuna seeks are internal, and once he has the knowledge of this, the external will become obsolete. Now that Arjuna understands the connection between his true Self and detachment from results, the last issue that remains is how does he reach this ultimate goal? Krishna transitions into a discussion of yogis and how “Those who aspire to the state of yoga should seek the Self in inner solitude through meditation” (140). Krishna’s last piece of advice to Arjuna is to seek Self through the practice of meditation.

Krishna emphasizes that meditation is the first step “to climb the mountain of spiritual awareness” (139). He gives Arjuna basic guidance, such as where to do it and how to begin. He says, “Make your mind one-pointed in meditation, and your heart will be purified” (141). Meditation holds the key to finding fulfillment through internal peace. In the modern world, success, fulfillment, and happiness are sought through material things. These things lose novelty, expire, and will never create true peace within ourselves. Meditation is constant and unchanging, and gives people the ability to find purpose and contentment through practice. A form of meditation that has been gaining popularity over the years is Transcendental Meditation (TM). Krishna tells Arjuna that “Wherever the mind wanders…lead it within” (142) which is a basic principle of TM. This type of meditation is strikingly similar to the meditation that Krishna encourages. The benefits include productivity, clarity, health improvements, and a general feeling of peace and control over one’s life. Krishna admits that “the mind is restless and difficult to control. But it can be conquered” (144). Anyone who meditates can reach Samadhi, which is when the “sensory and emotional tides have ceased to flow” (126). It is a feeling of stillness within the mind, where one is restful, yet alert, and the mind is at peace. After learning TM this past summer, I can confidently say that this feeling is unlike anything else. No material thing can replicate it, and I can only attain this sense of freedom and fulfillment by turning my mind inward through the practice of meditation.

Krishna’s advice to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita outlines principles for a happier life. By detaching oneself from the results of actions, one becomes free and no longer feels tied to the external world. In doing this, one realizes the true Self and how it allows for selfless service and overall purpose in life. In order to be successful in these two things, meditation must be practiced. It seems complicated, but is actually very simple. Through meditation, an individual discovers realms of life they never imagined. A world where happiness is obtained through internal realization is a world freed from greed and material attachment. Arjuna is just a metaphor for any individual feeling overwhelmed by attachment. The message is that any person can discover Self and become detached. Doing so is not only suggested, but crucial to a fulfilled life.

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389

Did Arjuna Make the Right Decision?

February 1, 2019 by Essay Writer

Civil War. There are few things in life that can better quantify as morally gray. In these situations, difficult decisions must be made, and principles are put to the test. Is it truly right to undergo such a divisive and consequential action for the sake of an ideal? This is the dilemma Arjuna faces in the classic historical text The Bhagavad Gita. Guided into a way of living that promises to ultimately lead to salvation, Arjuna debates the course of action he is about to undergo with the Hindu god Krishna. What is ultimately meant to be an inspiring and enriching religious ideal turns out to be a very tailor-made and contextually specific argument, which is not without its flaws. Whether Arjuna ultimately makes the right decision by listening to Krishna and choosing to fight the war with his family is subjective, but the arguments presented within the text reveal several implications that call for further analysis.

The first conflict of ideals between Arjuna and Krishna is that of Arjuna’s conscience getting in the way of his war with the family. Upon seeing the full realization that his enemy was family, Arjuna is said to be overcome with compassion and physically withers in response to this realization (Bhagavad Gita 1: 27-30). A real life parallel can be drawn from this in the form of military propaganda, as successful reactions to warfare come from the process of dehumanizing the enemy. This has been made apparent by the drastic differences in United States reaction to World War II vs the Vietnam War.

In World War II, we were fighting beings that were made out to be these inhuman manifestations of evil ideals; not people, but rather nazi soldiers (American Historical Association). This war received widespread support from a heavily nationalistic nation to such an extent that the economy grew like never before in its aftermath due to the many sacrifices the American people had made in the name of the military. The Vietnam War, however fared an opposite reaction, as the success of the war was largely put at risk by the opposition the American people had to the conflict. Being one of the first media documented clashes to reach public attention, the American citizens saw the conflict as humans fighting humans, and became much more sensitive to the consequences of the war. This led to an opposition to the war, which put in jeopardy its very success in much the same way as Arjuna’s opposition jeopardized his own success (Peters) (History.com).

This is actually one of the counterarguments that Krishna makes to convince Arjuna that fighting is the right decision. He makes an appeal to Arjuna’s sense of honor, attempting to rally his spirits by dissuading his sudden onset of weakness (Bhagavad Gita 2:33-37). He pulls Arjuna’s reputation into play, making very surface-level arguments such as the stain Arjuna’s decisions will bring on his legacy. Arjuna counters this argument with the assertion that no good can come from killing his own kinsmen (Sawyer). This calls to attention the true moral grayness of the situation, as the war seems to offer only glory as a benefit with many consequences accompanying both decisions.

The true question is whether the damage he causes with the intent of war outweighs the lives he spares with the renunciation of the battle. If legacy is truly as important to one’s salvation as Krishna would have us believe, then the definition of what constitutes a legacy becomes very important. After a person dies, then what remains of them is memories and stories of their accomplishments, but what of the deeds that go unheralded? Would the lives of the people spared by the prevention of this war be a part of Arjuna’s legacy as well, despite his condemnation for it? Furthermore, would it not be more noble to sacrifice his own integrity in the minds of others in order to prevent the worse outcome? Krishna argues that it isn’t.

Krishna further argues that Arjuna should not allow himself to be so defeated by the idea of killing his own family due to the nature of the immortal soul, and the fact that he’ll be sending them down the reincarnation cycle as opposed to actually ending their existence (Bhagavad Gita 2:20-31). While there is some merit to this argument, the implications far outweigh the benefits of it, as it completely devalues the physical body. With the logical thought progression that accompanies the thought that the soul cannot be killed, making the fate of the body inconsequential, the conclusion is a justification for avaricious motives. Murder no longer has a relative meaning because the person’s essence cannot actually die. Gluttony and sloth can proliferate because what happens to the body doesn’t affect the soul, and many other sinful acts become very easy to justify through that lens. Granted, this is not the point Krishna was attempting to make, but it’s a logical conclusion that can be drawn via implication.

The infallible argument of the text however is Krishna’s main and overpowering statement that fighting is Arjuna’s duty (Bhagavad Gita 2:31-33). What Krishna goes on to expand upon throughout the entirety of the text is the principle of devotion to an ideal and the fulfillment of duty. Specifically, Krishna creates the ideal that: when faced with a situation where there is no right answer, the only choice you can make is one guided by good intentions. If this decision is made based on a foundation of devotion to the ideals of Krishna and chosen for the right reason, then one is exempt from the bad karma that would otherwise accompany that decision (Sawyer). This argument is infallible from a religious standpoint, because it is based on the assumption of an all powerful and infallible god guiding you.

When this assumption is in place, there is no possible way of countering this argument. However, if the assumption is removed, then two problems arise with the claim. The first is that it essentially becomes an argument of “because I said so,” which removes the aspect of choice from the equation at all. It becomes a submission to an authority figure as opposed to a moral decision, which again is not an issue assuming the authority figure is an omnipotent and incorruptible force of pure goodness. The other issue with this argument is that it can again be used as a justification to invoke sin in the name of righteousness. While the argument does make logical sense as a guide to follow in crisis, the basic principle stands as a matter of intent. “If you do the wrong thing with the right intentions, you’ll be exempt from bad karma” (Sawyer). However, if you do the wrong thing with the right intention, you still do the wrong thing.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux expressed an ideal that would conflict with that principle of the Gita and evolve into the popular phrase “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” which expresses that bad decisions are rarely made with the consequences being intentional (Johnson). However, many atrocious acts have been committed with good intentions at heart. The Spanish Inquisition was meant to spread the good word of Catholicism, and ended up as one of the most brutal and torturous moments in history. The Indian Relocation Act was meant to clear room for incoming settlers and provide a comfortable location for the Native Americans to move to, but ultimately spawned the Trail of Tears. Modern day terrorism attacks in the form of jihadism are largely based on this same ideal, and the attacks have a “good intent” behind them: damage to regimes that conflict with their religious beliefs. This being said, religion is perhaps the strongest destructive tool in the world, by the sheer fact that people are easiest to manipulate when they think they’re doing the right thing. This is the very reason why this argument is so dangerous and why it is so vital that it be made by an infallible god.

Taken from the proper perspective, the arguments of the Bhagavad Gita are a vital part of the modern Hindu religion, and can be a very strong force of good. The arguments however can very easily become twisted due to the implications they raise in the more skeptical modern day society. While very thought provoking and powerful, the arguments have a larger sphere of influence in the day and age the text was written, and over time, lose some relevance due to the shift in our cultural perspectives. Whether Arjuna ultimately made the right decision is still subjective, since Krishna’s attempt to persuade him to fight is based on a series of arguments with clear and exposed weaknesses. One thing is certain, however. In the eyes of Krishna, Arjuna made the right decision, and that decision will be the source of further discussion and debate for many years to come.

Works Cited

Peters, Brad. “Vietnam War.” AP US History. Martin Luther King High School, Riverside. 4 Mar. 2015. Lecture. Taken from notes on a lecture given in my history class in high school on the background, context, and reaction to the Vietnam War

Prabhupāda, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Bhagavad-gītā as It Is. New York: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1972. Print. The copy of The Bhagavad Gita used “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions.” The Samuel Johnson Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2015. Origin to the Quote: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

Sawyer, Dane. “Understanding the Bhagavad Gita.” Global Ideas. University of La Verne, La Verne. 9 Sept. 2015. Lecture. “Vietnam War Protests.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. Used as background research on the reaction to Vietnam

“War Propaganda.” American Historical Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Sept. 2015. History of wartime propaganda

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