“When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-Gita and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day” – Mahatma Gandhi
This year, on December 13th, all over the world devotees and lovers of Bhagavad Gita are celebrating Gita Jayanti by reciting its 700 verses or couple of chapters and/or thinking about their meaning. For intellectuals Bhagavad Gita is a wonderful book. For devotees these are the words of Lord Shri Krishna. Bhagavad Gita had inspired innumerable Saints, Sages, Spiritual teachers, Scholars, Great leaders, and common people who are struggling to live a decent life.
There are innumerable commentaries, books, and articles written on Bhagavad Gita. Many spiritual teachers and scholars have lived their entire lives talking and elaborating the meanings of the verses of Bhagavad Gita.
At Vivekananda Vidyapith, on December 7th we recited all the eighteen chapters of Bhagavad Gita. Many verses or shlokas appealed to my mind while reciting them. It was an uplifting experience. We cannot agree any more with Sanjay who told at the end of the Bhagavad Gita, “I heard this wonderful dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjuna which created goose bumps due to excessive joy. As I remember this amazing dialogue again and again an upsurge of bliss fills my heart.”
Bhagavad Gita is an ocean of wisdom. Even taking a little of its water in our palms and drinking it makes our life blessed. Meaning that taking even one of Bhagavad Gita’s teachings and practicing it in our life makes our life happy and it fills our heart with satisfaction of living a good life.
I will share one thought which overpowered many other thoughts about the teachings of Bhagavad Gita. We love God and we want God to love us. A question comes: what kind of a person should we become so that God loves us?
It is amazing that Shri Krishna himself describes who is most beloved to God. More amazing is that He did NOT say, one who goes to temples every day, or performs rituals or offers various things to Me or spend hours in singing and meditating on Me or does any external practice is My most beloved! It is not that these practices are not good. But, from Shri Krishna’s answer it seems that these things are not sufficient. Shri Krishna describes the qualities of His most beloved devotee in shlokas Gita 12.13 – 12.19. After spiritual practices these qualities must manifest from the devotees. The following are few of these qualities:
(Note: Swami Vivekananda liked these qualities so much that he included an English translation of these shlokas into his lectures on Raja Yoga.)
– One who hates none: Very first quality is not to hate anyone! Why? When we hate a person or an object, then we give that person or an object a special place in our mind. Giving a part of our mind to that person or an object, we block our mind to think something beneficial to us.
– Who is a friend of all: As a result of our spiritual practices unselfish love for all should develop naturally.
– Compassionate towards all: One who understands sufferings and pain of others and does whatever he/she can to remove or ease them.
– Devoid of possessiveness: One who understands that we did not bring anything in this world when we were born and we will not be able to take anything from this world when we die. A devotee has a firm conviction that everything belongs to God and we are just care-takers.
– Egoless: Ego blocks Reality and contaminates it. With ego, I see the world only from ‘my point of view’ and not from the ‘others point of view.’ I see my big mistake as a small one and another’s small mistake as a big one. As true knowledge comes, then ego reduces and humility develops.
– A person’s mind is balanced in joys and sorrows: There are many examples in which people have lost their heads when they were happy and have committed harmful mistakes. Also, people fall apart in sorrows. A devotee remains balanced in joys and sorrows. When happiness comes, a devotee thanks God for giving happiness and keeps mind alert for not getting carried away. When sorrows come a devotee clings to God to go through the painful time.
– Forgiving: A devotee has a big heart and forgives others for their mistakes and misbehavior. He/she thinks that he/she makes mistakes and so do others. Also, people misbehave because of ignorance. Keeping grudge against someone develops hatred which is not good.
– Satisfied: A devotee works hard to fulfill one’s responsibilities and remain satisfied with whatever he/she gets as rewards (God’s prasad).
– Ever devoted to Yoga: For a devotee the spiritual practice is a 24-365(6) commitment. One who wants to attain spiritual goal has to integrate all activities which leads one towards that goal.
– Posses Self-control: For spiritual progress one has to slowly develop self-control. Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita ask us to control senses by mind, the mind by pure intellect and the pure intellect by Atman (Self). One cannot have spiritual progress without self-control.
– Determined: Many worldly things deviates a devotee from the spiritual path. One needs a strong determination to stick to the spiritual path and make spiritual progress.
– Gives mind and intellect to God: Swami Vivekananda says that both head and heart are needed in spiritual path. We have to engage intellect to think about the goal, the path, the obstacles and ways to remove the obstacles. Also, through various practices one has to develop love for God, like singing hymns, bhajans, dhoons, reading inspiring books and biographies, holy company etc.
– One who does not become a cause of suffering: A devotee is careful not to create any problem to other people. He/she lives cautiously. Sometimes people out of ego or jealousy think that a devotee is a problem, but a devotee has no intention to create any problem.
– One who is not disturbed by the others: Because of lack of hatred, being a friend of all, and having a forgiving nature a devotee does not get disturbed by people’s behavior. A devotee learns how to work lovingly with others.
– Free from fear and anxieties: A devotee thinks that God has created me and takes care of me. With that attitude he/she is free from fear and anxieties just as a child is free from them having parents around.
– Have no expectations from others: A devotee is completely dependent on God. He/she lives in the world having no expectations from anyone. He/she tries to give more than receives. If a person cannot give something in return, then one does sincere prayers for the good of the people from whom one has to receive something.
– Pure: Shri Ramakrishna said that pure mind, pure intellect and Atman (Self) are same. Through pure mind Atman reflects from within. A devotee is always working hard to remove impurities from one’s mind.
– Skillful: Shri Ramakrishna said that a devotee is not a dumb person. He/she skillfully performs every action. A devotee puts one’s full mind and heart into every action. Even if the action is small, he/she tries to do it in a perfect possible way. Saints say that if you want to know how a person’s meditation is then see how he/she performs small actions.
– Unbiased: A devotee does not take a side. He/she looks a situation from all sides. He/she does not try to cover a friend’s mistake or a wrong-doing and never fails to admire a good thing of any person, friend or a foe.
– Never initiates any action with worldly desire: A devotee’s attitude is “Seek not, avoid not.” He/she takes care of whatever responsibilities come to him/her with full mind and heart. He/she knows that there is no need to add more work which he/she does not have to do it. This way he/she has time and energy to do spiritual practices.
– Even minded in honors and insults: A devotee has Self-dignity, but his/her mind does not get disturbed by the external honors and insults given by people. He/she knows that one who honors now may insults him/her later and vice a versa. Many times people honor because of the fulfillment of their selfish desires and insults when they are not fulfilled. In a football, cricket or any game people cheer a player when he/she does good and boo the same player later when he/she does not do good. Lord Buddha said that when a person insults you and if you do not take it then it remains with the person. A devotee offers praises to God thinking that God gave good qualities which were praised. When someone insults, then a devotee thinks ‘do I have to learn something from this, then learn it, and if there is nothing to learn from it then simply drop it.’
– Detached: Detached means attached to God. If we think that ‘everything belongs to God and I am only a care-taker’ then real detachment comes. Detachment does not mean a person becomes rough or heartless or careless. It is completely opposite. A detached person has true love for all and cares for all thinking that he/she is taking care of God’s children and God’s things.
– Has Steady Intellect: The characteristics of a person with steady intellect have been defined at the end of Bhagavad Gita chapter 2. Mahatma Gandhi loved these qualities. A devotee cannot be whimsical. His/her mind and intellect are steady. He/she has a fixed spiritual goal and does everything to reach that goal. His/her character is very strong and does not change by the whims of the mind.
– Whose home is the whole world: For a devotee the whole world is God’s. Thus he/she is content wherever he/she resides. He/she is always with God.
Wow! So many qualities! I am sure each one of us thinks that it is not possible to have all these qualities. Thus, it is not possible to become a God’s beloved devotee. Well, many did become God’s beloved devotees. Why should I think that I cannot? Little children go to KG. It is very difficult to imagine looking at them that few years later one of them becomes a professor, a writer, a musician, a medical doctor, an engineer, a pilot, a scientist, or a responsible person in the society. Similarly, if we work for these qualities properly, then we may acquire them to some extent.
One more important point is that these qualities are inter-connected. If we take one quality and start practicing it, then all other qualities come with it. Saints say that if we sincerely make attempt and pray to God, then by God’s grace all these qualities manifest in us. It is worth trying. Even fractions of these qualities make us a decent human being.