Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 1

Currently I am reading the Bhagavad Gita, translation and commentary in Malayalam, by Swami Chinmayananda (Chinmaya Publications, 1990) [1].  I started reading it because I felt we all should, given it is considered one of the greatest texts by many great leaders for the last 2000+ years. In the preface of the book, Swami Chinmayananda gives a reason to read the Gita, which I paraphrase here:

Compared to the challenges of life we face, for eg, a project deadline, traffic, sore back, etc, the challenges Arjuna was facing were ENORMOUS - he was fighting a war in which he was on the far outnumbered side and a big chunk of responsibility of winning the war was on him; and more importantly, to win, he has to KILL his Pitamaha Bhishma, Guru Drona, cousins, many relatives and friends. Realising this challenge, Arjuna lost all confidence and essentially gave up. From that nadir, after the Gitopadesha (advice of Gita), Arjuna NEVER had any self doubt even for a moment throughout the war and won it. So Gita helped someone who had utterly given up mentally. And is Gita a specific answer to Arjuna's problems alone? No, it is a generic guide on life and how to attain your life goals.

So, why not?

But I will be honest, reading the Gita was not a walk in the park. I am still in the 2nd chapter after 4 months. It is quite deep and the concepts are quite hard to grasp for me. Hopefully, I can put down my thoughts and understandings into this blog and come back to that summary later. I sincerely hope I cover all the 18 chapters!

Gita Dhyanam (Invocation to the Gita) is usually prefixed to the Gita, even though it is not part of the Gita. One of my favourite verse (4) from that is:

Sarvopanishado gavo Doghda gopalanandana
Pardho valsa sudheer bhoktha Dugdham geethamrutham mahath

Sarvopanishado gavo = all upanishads are cows
Doghda gopalanandana = milkman is Krishna
Pardho valsa = arjuna is disciple
sudheer bhoktha = those who have consumed (it) are wise
Dugdham geethamrutham mahath = the great elixir milk is Gita

Essentially saying Gita is the summary of all the Upanishads, given to us by Lord Krishna.

Chapter 1: Arjunavishadayoga:
The Gita starts with description of the war scene, and Arjuna asks his charioteer Krishna to take him to the middle of the 2 sides. He observes the opposite army, and gives these arguments (along with the verse number where these arguments are presented):

  1. How can there be greatness (sreyas) in killing relatives (swajana) 1:31
  2. What is the use of material pleasures (bhoga) (after winning the war) 1:32
  3. The people in the opposite army are exactly the people I would have loved to serve (they are friends and relatives) 1:33-34
  4. Killing is a sin (paapam) 1:36
  5. How can we be happy after killing relatives (swajana) 1.37
  6. Kulakshayam (thinning of families (kulam), due to the death of so many people in the war) will cause dharmanaasham (destruction of Dharma [2]) 1.40-44
  7. It looks like I have to kill swajana for kingdom, is kingdom so important? 1.45

With these arguments, Arjuna feels helpless, loses the will to fight, drops his weapons and sits in his chariot. And thus ends the 1st chapter - Arjunavishadayoga. Gita starts with Vishada (distress) of Arjuna, because the beginning of knowledge is the feeling of incompleteness. Even in "Yoga Vasishta", Guru Vasishta tells his student Sreeram, that the first step towards knowledge is the acceptance of our ignorance. Only when we realise we lack something, can knowledge enter our minds. Arjuna didnt know what to do next, and that is when he was ready to get the knowledge of Gita. 

[1] I am unable to find an online version of this book, I believe the English version is this.
[2] Dharma is a key concept in the Indian religions, repeatedly mentioned in many Indian scriptures, including the Gita, but it doesn't have a good translation to English or other Western Languages. Rough translations are "the right way of living", "duty", "the most fundamental character". 

I am not an expert in any of - Sanskrit, Gita, Malayalam, Advaitha Philosophy, Hinduism. This is just my interpretation and summary of the Malayalam translation of Chinmayananda's English translation and commentary of Gita! If you have read Gita and understood differently, please let me know in comments, I am more than happy to discuss.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


My Dad was the topper of his school in the 10th std board exam (SSLC). He had scored 420/600 which was pretty decent in those days. He then went on to study in St. Thomas College in Thrissur. Full of confidence, on the 1st day in class, he asked the guy sitting to his left his SSLC score. That guy replied "Naanootti muppathe ullo sta! (Just 430, dude)". Then Dad asked the guy sitting to his right the same. He replied "Naanootti irupathi anje ulloda, aarodum parayanda, naanakked! (Only 425, man.. dont tell anyone else.. what a shame!)".

My Dad has not asked anyone else their SSLC scores.

I was the topper of my school and district in the 12th std board exam and I was the only guy who made it to IITM from my district that year. Full of confidence, I boasted on the first opportunity I got to some friends at IITM - "Dude I have studied 18 hours in one day!". My friend from Hyderabad replied "Just one day? We used to study for 18 hours a day for 5 days a week. During weekends, we used to chill a bit and study around 16 hours a day." Another guy from Kota said "You guys could chill during weekends?! Lucky ass!".

I have never asked anyone else how many hours they studied.

My Dad and I learnt the same lesson, from very similar situations at very similar ages. :)

PS - a few exaggerations here are there ;)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

ആറാട്ടുപുഴ പൂരം

ഇക്കൊല്ലത്തെ ആറാട്ടുപുഴ പൂരത്തിന് ഇന്ന് പരിസമാപ്തി. ഇത്  പണ്ടൊരിക്കല്‍ ആറാട്ടുപുഴ പൂരത്തിന് ഉണ്ടായ സംഭവമാണ്.
ആറാട്ടുപുഴ പൂരം നടക്കുന്നത് ഒരു 2 കിലോമീറ്റര്‍ നീളവും 1 കിലോമീറ്റര്‍ വീതിയും ഉള്ള വലിയൊരു പാടത്താണ്. പൂരം പ്രധാനമായും നടക്കുന്നത് രാത്രിയാണ്. അന്ന് കറന്റ്‌ ഇല്ല. അത് കൊണ്ട് പൂര കമ്മിറ്റിക്കാര്‍ വെളിച്ചത്തിനായി 10 - 50 പെട്രോമാക്സ് ലൈറ്റുകള്‍ വാടകക്കെടുത്ത്‌ അത് ഓരോരുത്തരുടെ തലയില്‍ വെച്ച് കൊടുത്തിട്ട് അവരോടു ഇരുട്ടുള്ള ഓരോ മൂലകള്‍ നോക്കി പോയി നില്ക്കാന്‍ പറഞ്ഞു. അപ്പോള്‍ ഒരു വിധം എല്ലാ സ്ഥലത്തും വെളിച്ചം ഉണ്ടാവുമല്ലോ. ഒരു വിദ്വാന്‍ തലയില്‍ ഈ ലൈറ്റും വെച്ച് ഇരുട്ടുള്ള മൂല തപ്പി നടന്നു. അത്ഭുതം തന്നെ, അയാള്‍ എവിടെപോയാലും അവിടെ ഇരുട്ടില്ല! അയാള്‍ ആ രാത്രി മൊത്തം അങ്ങിനെ ഇരുട്ടുള്ള ഒരു മൂല തപ്പി നടന്നുവത്രേ!

Disclaimer - this story is not my original. I heard this story from my grown ups, who must have heard it from someone else.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Holy Cow!

A couple of friends and I have the habit of singing a song in the worst manner possible. We used to be very enthusiastic about it, and it was even a competition among us. Those good old days are past, and such competitions are kinda rare these days. The following story, [spoiler: believe it or not], is a real one, with no exaggerations and happened in one of those golden days. A few of the mallu dialogues, I could not translate in a good enough manner to express its essence, so non-mallus, pls forgive me.

This happened during my 12th std in school. In one of the hours, I forgot why, there were only a handful of (unlucky) students in the class without any teacher too. I seized the opportunity and started my saadhakam (practice). I hummed the 1st few lines of a popular song from the movie Nandanam, got in the groove, and continued, louder.

Soon, it was pretty loud. Within a few minutes, the teacher from the neighboring class, with a look on her face that you usually get when you step on something nasty, came running into our classroom, and cried - "Ithenda ivade orocha!!? (What is all this noise here!!?)"

Ok, she didn't ask "Who is singing?" - I could forgive her for that. But she didn't even ask "What is that sound?". Irritated from the lack of appreciation I was getting, I thought "Athrekkayo?" and with a straight face, replied - "Ath porathe etho pashu aa teachere (It must be some cow outside, Madam)"

"Oh..", she said, convinced, and left.

THAT, was the proudest moment of my singing career.