Jai: The Gita reports what was spoken on the battlefield, but who wrote it, Grandma?
Grandma: The teachings of the Gita are very old. They were first given to the Sun-god in the beginning of creation by Lord Krishna. Over time, this knowledge got lost.The Gita in its present form is the teaching by the Supreme Lord, Krishna, to Arjuna about 5,100 years ago.
Jai: So is Lord Krishna the author of the Gita?
Grandma: Yes, Lord Krishna is the author of the Gita. It was put together by sage Vayasa who also edited the four Vedas. Sage Vayasa had the power of recalling events of the past and future, but he could not do the work of both recalling the Gita spoken by Krishna on the battlefield as well as writing it down. He needed a helper to write the Gita. Lord Ganesha, the lord of wisdom, offered to do the work of writing.The Gita was first translated from the original Sanskrit poetry to Sanskrit prose and fully explained in Sanskrit by great guru Adi Sankaracharya in the year 800 A.D.
Jai: Why is Lord Krishna so important?
Grandma: Lord Krishna is considered the eighth incarnation of the Supreme God. The Supreme God comes to earth in different forms from time to time whenever the forces of evil try to disturb and destroy the world peace. Lord comes to set everything right. He also sends prophets and teachers to help mankind. His birth and activities are divine and each incarnation (Avataras) has a purpose. The Shrimad Bhagavatam (or the Bhagavad-Purana) gives details of all ten major Avataras of God. Lord Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad and saints and sages of other religions are also considered minor incarnations of God. At the end of the present time period, known as KaliYuga, the Kalki incarnation will happen in the very distant future.
Jai: Will Lord Krishna give us whatever we want in prayer or worship?
Grandma: Yes, Lord Krishna will give what you want (Gita 4.11), such as success in your study, if you worship Him with faith. People may worship and pray to God by using any name and form of God. The form of God is called deity. One can also worship God without the help of a deity.
Jai: Will we still have to study if we want to do well in examinations?
Grandma: Yes, you must do the work. Do your best and then pray. The good Lord will not work for you. You will have to do your own work. Your work should be free from selfish desires, and you should not hurt anybody. Then you will not earn any Karma.
Jai: What is Karma, Grandma?
Grandma: The Sanskrit word Karma means action. It also means the results of an action. The word Karma is most commonly mispronounced as Karma. Every action produces a result called Karma, which can be good or bad. If we do our work only to enjoy the results ourselves, we become responsible for the results. If our action harms anyone, we get bad Karma, called sin, and we will have to suffer in hell for it. If we do good to others, we earn good Karma and get rewarded by a trip to heaven.
Our own Karma is responsible for our rebirth to enjoy or suffer the results of our deeds. Karma is like depositing money in the form of good and bad action in the bank. We do not take birth when all our Karma is used up. This freedom from the cycles of birth and death is called liberation, Nirvana, Moksha or Mukti. In Mukti one becomes one with God.
Jai: How can we avoid Karma when we live and work in society?
Grandma: The best way not to earn any Karma is not to do anything just for yourself, but do it for the good of society. Always keep in mind that Mother Nature does everything; we are not the real doer of any action. If we strongly believe this and work as a servant of God, we will not earn any new Karma, and all our past Karma will be wiped out by Self-knowledge. When all Karma is finished, we become liberated. This method of uniting with God is called the path of selfless action (KarmaYoga).
Jai: How do we get rid of the Karma from our past lives?
Grandma: A very good question! True knowledge of the Self (or God) acts like fire that burns away all Karma from our past lives. (Gita 4.37) Selfless service (KarmaYoga) prepares one to receive Self-knowledge. A KarmaYogi automatically gets Self-knowledge in due course of time. (Gita 4.38) One who has true knowledge of the Self or God is called a Self-realized or a God-realized person.
Jai: Are there other ways to get liberation, Grandma?
Grandma: Yes, Jai, there are different methods or ways to reach God. These methods are called spiritual practices or Sadhana. Any action that is beneficial to society is also called Yajna, Seva or sacrifice. Different types of Yajna are: (1) giving money as charity for a good cause, (2) doing meditation, worship and yogic exercises, (3) reading the scriptures to gain knowledge of God, and (4) having control over the mind and other five senses. (Gita 4.28)
Lord is pleased by those who sincerely perform any one of these Yajna and gives them the gift of Self-knowledge to reach God. Such a person becomes happy and peaceful. (Gita 4.39)
Jai: How about those who just worship a deity everyday? Can they also reach God?
Grandma: Yes, those who worship the deity with full faith also get whatever they want. (Gita 4.11-12) Most Hindus worship God in the form of a chosen deity to fulfill their desires. This path is known as path of worship and prayer. There is a story in the Mahabharata of a devoted KarmaYogi and an ideal student who worshipped his guru and got what he wanted.
4. Ekalavya, the Ideal Student
Guru Dronacharya (or Drona) was the military teacher (guru) appointed by grandfather Bhishma for all the Kaurava and Pandava brothers. Many other princes also took military training under him. Drona was very much pleased by Arjuna’s personal service and devotion to him, and he promised him: “I will train you to be the best archer in the world.”
One day a very gentle boy named Ekalavya from a nearby village came to Drona and wanted to learn archery from him. He had heard from his mother about master archer Dronacharya, who was the son of the sage Bharadwaja and a disciple of sage Parashurama.
Ekalavya was a jungle boy, belonging to the hunters' community. Then, and even today, such communities were considered socially inferior. Drona was worried how he could teach a jungle boy along with the royal children. So he decided not to keep the boy with him there, and told him: “Son, it will be very difficult for me to teach you. But you are a born archer. Go back to the forest and practice well with deep interest. You too are my disciple. May you master archery as you wish!”
Drona's words were a great blessing to Ekalavya. He understood his helplessness and felt confident that the Master’s good wishes were with him. He made a clay idol of Dronacharya, installed it in a nice place, and began to worship it respectfully by offering flowers, fruits, etc. He worshipped this idol of his guru everyday, practiced the lessons in archery in the Master's absence, and mastered the art.
Ekalavya would get up early in the morning, bathe himself and offer worship to the master’s idol. He cherished the words, actions, and training methods of Drona that he had seen at guru Drona’s Ashram. He faithfully followed the instructions and continued his practice.
While Arjuna had personally mastered archery from Drona, learning from him firsthand, Ekalavya achieved equally impressive skill while worshiping the Master from far away. If he could not do a particular technique, he would rush to Drona's image, present his problem, and wait in meditation until a solution appeared in his mind. He would then proceed further.
The story of Ekalavya demonstrates that one can achieve anything in life if one has faith and works sincerely to reach the goal. The story continues:
The Kaurava and Pandava princes once went to the forest on a hunting trip. Their leading dog was running forward. Ekalavya, a dark-skinned young man dressed in a tiger skin and wearing strings of conch-beads, was engaged in his practice. The dog, on approaching him, began to bark. Probably wishing to show off his skill, Ekalavya sent down a series of seven arrows in the direction of the barking dog, and his arrows filled its mouth. The dog ran back to the princes, who were surprised at this skill in archery and wondered who the archer was.
Arjuna, seeing this, was not only surprised but also worried. He wanted to be known as the world's best archer.
The princes went in search of the archer who had hit their dog with so many arrows in such a short time, and found Ekalavya.
Arjuna said: “Your skill in archery is great. Who is your guru?”
“My guru is Dronacharya,” replied Ekalavya humbly.
Arjuna was shocked at the mention of Drona's name. Was this true? Could his dear teacher teach so much to this boy? If so, what about the Master's promise to him? When did Drona teach the boy? Arjuna had never seen Ekalavya before in his class.
When Drona heard this story, he remembered Ekalavya and went to see him.
Drona said: “Your learning has been very good, son. I am deeply satisfied. With devotion and practice, you have done very well. May your achievement become an example for all to follow.”
Ekalavya was very happy and said: “Thank you, oh Gurudeva! I too am a disciple of yours. Otherwise, I do not know whether I could have done this much.”
Drona said: “If you accept me as your Master, you must pay my fee after your training. Think it over.”
Ekalavya smilingly replied: “What is there to think over, Sir? I am your disciple, and you are my guru. Please say what you wish, Sir. I will fulfill it even if I have to sacrifice my life in the effort.”
“Ekalavya, I have to demand a supreme sacrifice from you to fulfill my word to Bhishma and Arjuna that nobody would ever equal Arjuna in archery. Pardon me, son! Can you give me the thumb of your right hand as my fee?”
Ekalavya stared at Dronacharya for a while. He could understand the Master's problem. He then stood up, walked to the Drona’s idol with determination, placed his right thumb upon a stone, and cut it off in an instant, using his left hand and an arrow.
Drona, while feeling sorry for the injury he had caused Ekalavya, was at the same time deeply touched by such great devotion.He hugged him saying: “Son, your love for guru is unmatched. I feel a sense of fulfillment in having had a disciple like you. May God bless you!”
Ekalavya got victory in defeat! With the right thumb gone, he could no longer use the bow effectively. But he continued his practice using his left arm. By virtue of his supreme sacrifice, he received the grace of God and achieved distinction as a left-handed archer. He proved that nothing could stop a totally sincere effort. By his actions and behavior, Ekalavya, showed that your inferior or superior status is not determined by the community you belong to but by your vision and qualities of mind and heart.
Drona was a great guru, Jai. But there are many false gurus in the world who will try to cheat you.
Jai: Do we need a guru to reach God?
Grandma: We definitely need a teacher to learn any subject, spiritual or material. But to find a real guru is not so easy. There are four types of gurus: the knower of a subject or a teacher (guru), a false guru, a SadGuru and a ParamaGuru. There are many false gurus who just pose as a guru. SadGuru is a God-realized master and is very hard to find. Lord Krishna is called the JagadGuru or ParamaGuru, the world-teacher.
When you graduate from a college and enter family life, you will need to find a guru or a spiritual guide. Meanwhile, follow your scripture and culture and never accept defeat in life.