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Swami Krishnananda in Conversation
by Swami Krishnananda
Compiled by S. Bhagyalakshmi

2. The Gita Rahasya

In the New Year Swami Krishnananda sat in his chair, in the open terrace in front of his Kutir, Guru Kripa, the usual assembly of ashramites, seekers, visitors and tourists, greeting and being greeted for the New Year. The morning winter sun was kind and spread its warmth around. About nine or ten persons were present at first. Later in the morning the number rose to almost twenty. The visitors coming in or taking leave, the office and reception messengers carrying papers and messages to and fro, all lent an informality and freshness to the atmosphere, a constant change in the mood and topics discussed. It all appeared like various scenes in a continuing drama. There were special offerings of gifts by visitors, particularly foreign ashramites, to whom New Year meant so much.

Swami Krishnananda: (to an ashramite) So you are reading the Bhagavad Gita? Which edition?

Ashramite: Annie Besant's translation and commentary.

Swamiji: Oh, that is a small book with translation and very little commentary. The Bhagavad Gita cannot be read by just reciting the verses. It cannot be read merely in its outer form. There's a connection sometimes between one verse and another. There is a connection between one chapter and another… and between the first six chapters, the next six chapters and the last six chapters. A formal reading does not give this connection. Each verse looks independent and appears as if it has no connection at all with other verses. It appears as if it is giving an independent thought in each verse. But that is not true. And the most difficult thing is to find out what the Lord tells us to do. You'll understand every verse, the grammar is clear, the language is clear, the meaning is clear. You read the whole Gita and understand what each verse says. Yet finally you are in doubt as to what it is that you are supposed to do. For instance, the Lord says: “You must work hard. Fight the battle of life, etc., etc. Don't go wool-gathering. Don't be a coward. And don't be lethargic. Work hard. Work, work, work.” This seems to be the idea that is drilled into our mind. And at other places He says: “No, no. He who ever works, he is best only if he is devoted to Me.” This is a very important condition. Whatever work you do, whichever battle of life you fight, it has no meaning if it lacks devotion to Him.

Now, He says, what is devotion to Me, you must understand Me correctly: “Yo mam janami tattwatah”—You must know Me as I am Myself. Not know Me as you see Me or as I am appearing to you.” So this is another big condition. Devotion to Him is very important if you are to succeed in your work. While work is important, it has no meaning if it is not coupled with devotion to Him. But 'Him' means what? That has to be understood properly. And that is knowledge. Then He says you must attain this knowledge by a practice which is called yoga. What is that practice? He has told so many things about it that nothing is left out.

So you have to integrate these thoughts. That devoted you must be, and you must know the object of your devotion correctly, in its proper context, as it is in itself and not as it appears to the human mind. And, you must know the technique of attaining it. So there are the four yogas: Kriya Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga. But He has put all together in one lump and made it appear as one single art, rather than four yogas, as they make it out to be.

Why I am saying this is to indicate that Annie Besant has not made out all these points, nor can anyone. No translation can bring out this meaning.

Even some statements in the New Testament appear very simple, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Very clear. No difficulty as far as the language or grammar is concerned. But, what is the 'Kingdom of God'? And His righteousness—what Is His righteousness? He is supposed to transcend all ethical values. So to attach righteousness to him is anomalous. And everything shall be added unto you—what are those things that shall be added unto you? And what is your status when everything will come to you? Will you still be this individual? The whole world will be following you. You will not be this individual. You'll be someone else.

These things are not implied in the mere surface meaning; there is a great hidden mystical meaning though outwardly it looks very simple. I am giving you another example: “Before Abraham was, I am”. As it is, this is a silly sentence grammatically: Before you were, I am. What is this? It is not good grammar. But it has tremendous meaning—eternal and mystical meaning. And there so many other sentences which are…

Another ashramite: What is the mystical meaning Swamiji?

Swamiji: Whatever the meaning is, it is transcendental. It is not capable of being grasped by a human mind which thinks in terms of empirical ideas. So you'll find such statements in every scripture. You'll find that the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the New Testament and the Zen scriptures—every blessed thing of this type is an enigma. There is a translation of the Gita which is purely linguistic, which Annie Besant or anybody else gives, and we seem to understand the meaning very clearly because we know the English language or the Sanskrit language. But there is meaning of a different type which is connected with the different aspects of life. It has a subjective meaning, it has an objective meaning, it has a social meaning. It has a political meaning, a psychological meaning and a mystical, absolute meaning.

So also with the Vedas. They say the meaning of the Vedas it infinite, infinite in the sense that it is the knowledge of the Infinite. Therefore, its contents must be infinite, it can be interpreted from various aspects of life.

The Bhagavad Gita is an universal scripture and not a Hindu scripture. It is not a religious scripture. It is a scripture of yoga as such, in the sense of the attunement of your being with the Reality. So that is why I said read the Gita with a commentary which gives you these aspects. There is an old verse which says: “Sri Krishna alone knew its real meaning and nobody else, and Vyasa who wrote it also knew. And Suka, the great sage and son of Vyasa, knew. Arjuna knew something, not the entirety of it. And other people merely hear of it, and appear to understand it.” (Laughs.) The Greeks, the Romans shall conquer: thus spoke the oracle of Delphi. You must have heard of this. When there was a war—there was always a war between the Romans and the Greeks—so both the Greeks and the Romans go to the Oracle of Delphi to get the future predicted: “Who will win? The Greeks or the Romans?” And the Delphic Oracle says, “The Greeks the Romans shall conquer.” The Greeks think that they will win and the Romans think that they will conquer (laughs). It is an enigmatic statement.

Ashramite: They both overcome one another.

Swamiji: Yes. It does not say the Greeks shall conquer the Romans or that the Romans shall conquer the Greeks. Likewise, the Bhagavad Gita says things from a literal reading of which we do not know what the Lord means.

Swamiji address another ashramite: The more you share the joy, the more it expands. You see, whenever you are happy, you want to share it with others. The more you share it, the more you happiness expands. When you are in sorrow, that also you want to share with others, and with this your sorrow diminishes. Joy shared increases, sorrow shared decreases.

Ashramite: Why do you want to tell everyone of your sorrow?

Swamiji: That is because you cannot bear the weight of it, it is too much for you. “Ah,” you cry, “I've lost everything.” Everybody sympathises, and your sorrow diminishes. But the joy increases. That is why you tell everyone: “I've got first class.” “I have become President of India. How happy I am.” Your happiness increases.

Ashramite: If sorrow decreases, isn't it because the mind by repeated expression gets a bit tired and gets over it gradually?

Swamiji: No, no. Sorrow is extended to a larger dimension, in a larger field, and so it thins out.

Another ashramite: Can't other vices also be got rid of—thinned out?

Swamiji: Yes, yes. If you go about telling everyone that you have this or that vice, you will not commit that vice. Mahatma Gandhi had that technique. Some people called him a fool. But he wanted to share his thoughts. He would write in the Harijan whatever he thought; even ugly thoughts of himself.

As Swamiji is attending to correspondence, he keeps up conversation with others in the gathering: “Yes, what do you want to tell me?” He addresses a devotee of long standing from South Africa.

Devotee: All my questions have been answered, Swamiji...

Swamiji: Without your asking questions, I've answered them? (laughs)