In one sloka, Krishna says, `All the worlds (where beings exist) up to the world of Brahma-ji are subject to return. However, having reached me, Arjuna, there is no rebirth…Is it possible for a jnani to make a mistake in Brahmaloka and be re-born to start his/her unfinished journey? Does the shastra say anything about this?—Mohan S

Let me make it clear that a jnani is free right here and right now, and he does not go to Brahmaloka. He is free right here and he remains one with all-pervading awareness. But, yes, a person who has gone to Brahmaloka because his nishtha has not been complete will go to Brahmaloka and he has to wait there to be taught by Brahma-ji. If he is distracted there and slips, he can come back in the next kalpa to start his journey again. Chances are good that at that stage he would have gained enough to know the truth in Brahmaloka itself unless, of course, he went to Brahmaloka on the strength of the rituals and meditation he has done. In that situation i.e. if he has not understood the truth because he is not open enough to know it, he will have to come back and start his journey.

Further to the above question, Swamiji, if the problem of finitude is a problem of the human, then how would one experience this finitude in Brahmaloka?—Anusha R

In Brahmaloka, the identification with the human condition is not there, but, at the same time, one doesn’t enjoy complete ananda, one enjoys only an experiential ananda. One still has the limitations of avidya, one is still identified with the sukshma sharira, the mind, with one’s personality. One who reaches Brahmaloka may be proud of himself, believing `Hey, I have come here, and so I am superior to the other beings’. Which is not untrue, but if you take that position, then it becomes a block for your knowledge.

What is Svadharma?–Sunita Savla

The idea of dharma is very large. It covers all types of people in all types of situations. The questioner here is a married home-maker and a professional, and, therefore, the dharma of a monk, for example, or a solider will not apply to the questioner. The principle of universal ethics applies to this person, and, for this person, the role of nurturing and supporting a partner in life and children are all part of svadharma. I am not saying cooking for your husband is svadharma, I am just talking of principles of nurturing and support. How one expresses the principles of nurturing and support may be culture-specific, person-specific, and so, very often, my svadharma will depend upon my place in life–whether I am married or not, whether I am working or a retired person. It depends on a lot of these factors, and keeping all these factors in mind one should apply the universal principles in one’s life. The universal applied in my life will become my svadharma.

Why does Arjuna get scared on seeing Krishna’s vishwaroopa?—Sunita Savla

Arjuna is not exactly frightened, he is awe-struck. When you see the whole universe, it can be very awe-inspiring. Why stop at that? Come with me on a 10,000-ton ship in the middle of the Indian ocean and you will find 100-feet high waves that can be awe-inspiring. Similarly, Arjuna was not exactly scared. To see the whole universe in one form can be awe-inspiring for anyone, especially a mind like Arjuna’s which was calm and centered and filled with the wonderment of the universe.[pullquote]Without understanding Ishvara, if I invoke the Himalayas, it will not work. Himalayas will merely remain a symbol. When Krishna says, `Worship me as  the Himalayas,’ I should be looking at the Himalayas as something sacred, as a manifestation of the divine. If I do that, there is no way I am going to pollute it. [/pullquote]

 Like Arjuna, we are all nimmita/ instruments. What role does freedom of choice have ?

`Nimmita’ does not mean I don’t have a choice. I am instrumental in certain functions of the Lord’s plan. Freedom of choice is also God-given and, therefore, it forms a part of the plan. For example, you function as a doctor. You are a nimmita as far as people’s healing is concerned, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the freedom to choose how to go about your work. You have a lot of freedom in how to carry out your work including the freedom to abuse it. Like, taking commissions from pharma companies, etc. It is your freedom of choice which makes it healthy or unhealthy.

Does understanding the Reality make us immune to the ups and downs of life, the death of near and dear ones? Life and pain appear more than real at such times—Sunita Savla

If you don’t understand the Reality, you will be bogged down by every little up and down in life. If you do understand the Reality, you are not bogged down by life. Remember, what I am saying is that you will not be bogged down but you do have a sense of empathy, and you will be awake, alive to the pathos of a situation. The pathos of losing someone dear will be there but you will not be drowning in sorrow, because you know there is no birth and death and the so-called dead one is not different from you. At the same time, a form is gone. You are not going to meet the form again. To sum up, you are alive to the pathos of the situation but, at the same time, you are not bogged down in grief.

How does one practice `Om’ meditation ? How do I know I’m doing it right? Are there any signs and indications that I am on the right track?—Mahesh R

Generally, when you talk about meditation on Om, you do it only when you come to Mandukya Karita. Otherwise, remember, when you say `I am meditating on Om’, `Om’ stands for `Ishvara’. Therefore, truly speaking, I am meditating on Ishvara. I am using a mantra to focus on Ishvara. Om also stands for the Reality. Therefore, meditation on Om can also mean `nidhidhyasanam’ or contemplation on the non-conceptual, on Reality, on the pure awareness, Brahman that we have been talking about.

If I am contemplating on Ishvara and if I find Ishvara becoming more and more real in my life to the extent that I start recognizing everything as Ishvara, if I feel a sense of divinity, and if I function naturally as a karma yogi, then I am doing it right. If I am using it to contemplate on Reality, the more the Reality is clear to me, the more certain I can be  that I’m doing it right. There are no other signs for this unlike energy meditations etc; in the course of which there may be some physical signs e.g. I may feel some movement of energy in some part of the body or the other. Here, as this questioning is concerning the Reality of Ishvara, such signs will not be there.

Swamiji, in an earlier post, you said `A person needs to the attitude that if you don’t get what you wish for, then you don’t need it.’ But if one had this attitude, then one would already be wise. Isn’t it too much to expect of ordinary mortals like us?—Mahesh R

I had said this in the context of a wise person. More than a wise person, I had said it in the context of a sanyasi. This is how a sanyasi functions. It is true that most mortals are not ready for sanyasa, the vast majority is not ready for sanyasa. You are not expected to have this attitude when you come as a student to study Vedanta, at least not in the beginning. This attitude requires a lot of growth. A wise person can have it naturally, a sanyasi who is not yet a wise person but is committed to it will develop this. A karma yogi will also get it in time. In fact, that’s where it starts, because you are willing to accept. You may still say `I need it’, but you are willing to accept `I have not got it, I am ok if I don’t get it, I’ll try again’. That’s how karma yoga culminates in a sanyasi’s mind who can say, `If I don’t get it, I don’t need it.’

Language has changed, meanings have changed. There is lot of symbolism in the Gita. For example, Krishna says, `Worship me with a flower’ and people don’t go beyond offering a flower or water, Krishna says, `Worship me as the Himalayas’ and people continue to worship the Himalayas and pollute them at the same time. What has gone wrong? And how can one get around the gap between the symbol and the understanding of God?—Mahesh R

What has gone wrong is that people take the words literally without understanding the whole. Without understanding Ishvara, if I invoke the Himalayas, it will not work. Himalayas will merely remain a symbol. When Krishna says, `Worship me as  the Himalayas,’ I should be looking at the Himalayas as something sacred, as a manifestation of the divine. If I do that, there is no way I am going to pollute it. But if I take it literally and believe that the Himalayas are God, then I will worship them and pollute them at the same time. To take the symbol literally is like climbing a sign-post instead of following its directions. Polluting our environment is also because of a lack of understanding of the environment. This understanding was higher in our ancient culture, but our modern Indian minds have a very poor understanding of it. Maybe, now that we are going to have environmental studies in our schools, it will become better.

People have to understand what God symbolism is about. A symbol represents an idea or an ideal, a symbol is not sacred by itself. Like the linga. It’s just a stone. The stone is not sacred, it becomes sacred because of what is being represented. A stone on the road may be kicked about, a linga in a temple will not. Those who think of the Himalayas as sacred should understand what it is really about. We have to understand that the finger that points to the moon is not the moon.



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    • Kamala Ramnath

      Swamiji Swadharme nidhanam sreyah paradharmo bhayavah and Sarvadharman parityajya mamekam saranam vraja Please explain this apparent contradiction.

      • Swami Brahmavidanada

        Thank you, Kamala, but you have jumped too far ahead into Chapter 18, Verse 66..
        The first quote is clear and we have dealt with it in our earlier posts on Chapter 3, highlighting the importance of doing one’s duty.
        The second quote (Ch 18/Verse 66) is talking about renouncing all actions. One can take it in the literal sense. When one has grown out of all one’s needs and priorities and only the spiritual priority remains, then one is ready to renounce all actions and seek this vedic wisdom/Ishwara/Moksha exclusively. Therefore, there is no contradiction.
        The verse can also be interpreted to mean that in the discovery of the abtaining identity between oneself and Ishwara (Me = Ishwara from Krishna’s presentation) all actions fall away. All actions etc; were imposed on the Self through the Ego/one’s conceptual self. Now one’s identity is that of the Self, the Limitless Awareness. I have dealt with some of it in this post and will elaborate more when I cover Chapter 18.