dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre. – on the first two words of the Bhagavad Gītā

Failure is such Joy! :) I have spent 3 months contemplating this. I simply cannot write meaningfully of what these words mean to me.

My scrambled notes are below. Please feel free to assist in interpreting!

Bhagavad Gita 1.1

The very first words of Verse 1 of the Bhagavad Gītā are dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre.

These first two words are incredibly potent, they speak of so much more than the identity of a location. They foreshadow and encapsulate the whole of the Bhagavad Gītā.

These first two words point particularly to Discourse 13 in its entirety – the most significant and illuminating, sublimely mystical discourse of the Bhagavad Gītā, a wonderfully revealing insight into the human be-ing. It is the metaphysics of humanity. The immortal being, its physical embodiment, it’s purpose and law are main themes of the 13th discourse. Transcendental, eternal, is the knower of the field. The ‘knower’ liberates.

So, he the knowledge of the Field and the Knower of the Field are illuminated – and this life, this individuation, this body in which we dwell is the Field. Our self is the one, the all is one universal spirit everpresent, everywhere, allpervading.

Dharmaksetre is such a vast a concept. Though often translated in a fairly mundane, seemingly literal sense almost as though it were some ordinary descriptor: “On the hallowed field”; “On the holy plain”. Other translators name it more carefully – “the Sacred Place”.

Kuruksetre is often simply rendered as the field of the Kurus.

धर्म Dharma is mighty – to try to define encapsulate it’s meaning would take a very long treatise, beyond my scope. It can be defined simply as “righteous’, “holy”, “relating to spiritual duty”. In this context it pertains to the moral code of life,  spiritual law, acting in accordance with that code, but also in accord with the nature of one’s being.

The word Dharma is derived from the Sanskrit root dhri , to hold.  In a macrocosmic sense it refers to the principles and agent that sustains, upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe, the mighty all-pervading order and power which underlies all of existence, the natural law that sustains the universe, and that keeps all of nature, existence in harmony and balance. What then is Dharma? The ultimate underlying motive principle, law and truth. Dharma is the ultimate principle of all, and all that encompasses and implies.

Ksetre can be translated as “in the field” There is also much more to this term – ksetra the ‘field’ is referred to in Discourse 1 of the Gita in these contexts:

धर्मक्षेत्र Dharmaksetra – “the field of Dharma”

कुरुक्षेत्र Kuruksetra – “the field of the Kurus”

The word ksetra, ‘field’ does not appear again until the 13th of the 18 discourses of the Bhagavad Gita. This chapter is deals with ‘the field’ and the ‘knower of the field’.

13.1 Arjuna spoke forth:

I wish to know about Prakruti (nature), Purusa (the Enjoyer), Kshetra (the field), Kshetrajna (the Knower of the field), Jnana(Knowledge), and Jneya (the object of knowledge). O Keshava,

Clearly, in Ch 13 we are dealing with far more than a paddock turned battefield!

The Satapatha Brahmana, Part 5, 14.1.1.2 speaks of Kuruksetra as a place of sacrifice and worship of the Gods:

teṣām kurukṣetram devayajanamāsa tasmādāhuḥ kurukṣetram devānāṃ
devayajanamiti tasmādyatra kva ca kurukṣetrasya nigacati tadeva manyata idam
devayajanamiti taddhi devānāṃ devayajanam

Their place of divine worship was Kuruksetra.
Therefore people say that Kuruksetra is the gods’ place of divine worship:
hence wherever in Kuruksetra one settles there one thinks
This is a place for divine worship;’ for it was the gods’ place of divine worship.

Back then to ‘dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre’ and where do ‘I’ stand? Not alone, not a singular being, but a minute organ of the great I Am, charged with a holy duty to know who I am, to do my duty, enact my Dharma in this eternal holy place.

Such Joy.

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Now Reading: the Vedic Experience

Just wanted to share something rather extraordinary with you – A document called The Vedic Experience – let me know what you make of this, please!  A random find while I was searching for some other Sanskrit texts. 

+ Information about the author, Professor Raimon Pannikar.

Thanks.

PS I was looking for the शतपथ ब्राह्मण śatapatha brāhmaṇa, ŚB in Devanāgarī script – I have found a couple of transliterations – would like the original Madhyandina recension if possible – Thanks again :)

Emerson on the Vedas

Whenever I have read any part of the Vedas, I have felt that some unearthly and unknown light illuminated me. In the great teaching of the Vedas, there is no touch of sectarianism. It is of all ages, climbs, and nationalities and is the royal road for the attainment of the Great Knowledge. When I read it, I feel that I am under the spangled heavens of a summer night.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are made of light

I was ill, very ill. As I lay in the afternoon dark, I had a vision, a kind of waking dream:

I was an observer on a dark plain, or plane, in perfect velvet darkness stretching away in solid blackness in every direction. I was the observer.
Then a tiny light appeared, dancing, mutiplying, entwining, creating. I saw. The light became through these movements an infinitely vast web or net stretching across the universe. And that web was the web of life, of material existence as we know it through our senses. I understood.

What did I know from this?

You have been given this life, this embodiment in a mantle of light, to act as a purifying filter.

Your tools for discovering your mission are myriad: meditation or stillness or contemplation or prayer or trance: however you arrive there, whatever path you travel, when you arrive at that place you will know it this way: You know you are connected with your true self and powered  and empowered by perfect love and joy.

When you love, you feed all creation. When you feel the resonance of the supersoul’s creative, unconditional love you will know your life’s purpose in service to your soul and the All-soul, connectedness to your soul family, the unity and oneness of all.

If your own individuated soul seeks guidance, call on higher self, learn from those Mahātmas (Great Souls) who have gone this path before you. You know their names – the world’s major religions are based on the teachings of some – schools of spiritual enquiry, philosophy, yoga, meditation, mysticism are based on the life’s work of others! But there is – not one path – there are as many paths to enlightenment as there are seekers on the quest.

You are uniquely you and at the same time totally at one with all. You have the potential of the whole universe within you!  Anyone who says they have the only or best path for you is full of ego, and possibly greed. Listen to your truth by finding techniques to still your ego, your overactive mind – and listen – to your inner voice.

It is all in you. The knowledge you seek is a song resonating deep within, permeating your whole being. Listen.

You are a being of light and have layers of being, physical and subtle energies that relate to the very structure of the supersoul of the whole. To go beyond our egoic perceptions of our one little individuated life, beyond the material, the illusion and delusions of material concerns, the psychological pain, we must not only connect with our higher self, but connect with our world with love and compassion, act in our world to alleviate suffering.

You yourself are a radiant being, resonating the frequencies of love. The more you broadcast the stronger that frequency signal becomes, the more spiritual resources you will have at your command from your very beingness.

Go beyond doing, learn to be all you are. The one undying, immense cosciousness, magnifying Love.

Practical Spirituality – Seeds.

“Your daily life is your temple and your religion.

When you enter into it take with you your all.”

Kahlil Gibran
Poet, Essayist, Novelist and Symbolist Painter. 1883-1931

In my teens, as many of us did, I read Gibran’s best known work, The Prophet. 

This book helped me a great deal as it showed me that the narrow dogmas I had already rejected as a child were not the only way to approach religion and spirituality.

Gibran was born into a Maronite Christian family but his mysticism is founded in a convergence of Christianity, Islam, Sufism, Hinduism and Theosophical teachings.

I’ve been down those paths since and many others besides. Gibran’s words still shine in simplicity. I commend his writings to you:

“Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’”

Knowselfspirit – the anchor – being a ‘realist’ in non-duality

When we talk about what we can do in transforming our perceptions and finding ourselves, about spiritual awakening, what are the traditional routes? Through working on ourselves to improve our health, centre ourself,  to calm the mind and let go of the thousands of disturbances it throws into the mix every day.  We approach this lofty goal through various practices: through meditation, studying, yoga, contemplation, and seeking the company of people who appear to be on a path to ‘enlightenment’ – satsang.

Many of us wish for a sudden shift in consciousness – a sudden dawning of enlightenment, but most of us experience setbacks in our quest for the inner peace which is only a precursor of the state of knowledge and being that we have long desired.

The realisation which we seek is really far more accessible than this. For many hours of meditation and other inward looking practices leave one sensitive and unable to handle the sensory overload that we experience on a day-to-day basis.  If we are to do this deep inner work, we must also develop strength and resiliance so that our new light does not waver in the wind, does not leave us raw and vulnerable, but strengthens and supports us as we make our way in the world as we must.

Non-duality

When we find the point where we start to see and experience actualisation or nonduality, our identification with the ego or body starts to loosen and alternate visions of our being make their way into our concious mind, but also into the other parts of our knowing mind that are not at the front of conscious understanding.

As individuated beings we are in the grip of life – it’s realities and it’s illusions. If we seek for self-improvement of any kind our lives and relationships, responsibilities and activities must continue – often there will be very little outward change. Actions and interactions change. If you start to actually realise the fullness of self-hood and the humility of oneness it cannot help but change your potentials for interaction. Gradually you begin to behave differently.  This throws up challenges of it’s own. Those closest to you will be puzzled or disconcerted by the outward changes in your behaviour and may feel that they don’t know you as well as they did.  You may be acting from a point of  view where you are less involved in and less concerned about these interpersonal connections. Does this picture make sense?

The sense of freedom that you experience when you start to experience non-duality can lead you away from the desired state. It can compromise your connectivity – with others, significant others in your embodied and individuated life. Is becoming more impersonal the goal of all the work that you have done?

The world may look like an illusion from this point of view, even though you still live in it and daily experience it’s rhythms, ebbs and flows, interdependencies and interactions.  This too, is real.  It is not an illusion. If you are truly aware of the oneness of being you will know that every being and every thing in the material world has it’s reality in the deeper connectivity that we glimpse through yogic practices.

You can be conscious of the truth of oneness without abandoning our worldly ‘reality’, instead transforming it through mindful, aware, actions and interactions.

We all have the inner power and resouces to see beyond the egocentric understanding of ourselves in the world and to reach a sublime state of understanding of our intrinsic connectedness to each other.  This can bring into our lives and sphere of influence a great deal of peace, happiness, comfort and directedness.  The purpose of this blog is to share some insights with you and to assist you to find that state of understanding where we can rise above these challenges without losing contact with the purposes of our life.

When we realise who we really are, it makes sense that we don’t experience that alone or keep it to ourselves, we feel very deeply that there’s a necessity to do something with that. The whole point of knowing we are ONE is to use that knowledge. I’ll be exploring this more in future posts.

In all things, Love.

Introducing myself.

.
Just an introduction

Unlike many, I have very clear memories of childhood (and later life). My recollections are detailed and multi-sensory. I have come to understand that this is a rare thing, that many people have only fleeting memories of their childhood and early life.

Born and raised in a beach side suburb, I was a gentle, contemplative child with a placid temperament. I learnt to read by the time I was four, so my early years at school were not very challenging, and I spent a lot of time daydreaming in class, or reading a book under the desk when I was supposed to be doing something else. I was plagued by severe asthma as a child, and spent a lot of time off school, at home with my mother, reading, sitting contemplating, and meditating when moved to do so.

I had learned to meditate at the age of six, initiating this practice in response to a brief article in a British children’s magazine which pictured a Swami sitting in the ‘lotus position’, (padmāsana), and a brief ‘who, where, what’ description of the swami and his meditation upon the syllable ‘Om’.  I immediately tried this, and found that I could sit in the lotus seat with no problem.  I then began to meditate, by sitting in lotus seat and focussing on the voiced, and then silent, repetition of ‘Om’.

Serendipitously, that same year I was taught to do diaphragmatic breathing by a physiotherapist who was an old friend of my mother’s. Bette was also involved in Hatha Yoga, and though I had no knowledge of that at the time, I do remember that she was complimentary about how rapidly I learnt the diaphragm breathing techniques she taught me.

I had not much notion of what I was doing, or any conscious purpose or awareness that meditation was a very significant practice. I was simply attracted to it and meditated whenever I felt the impulse to do so.  So my practice was intermittent, though I did regularly return to it and meditate at least daily for long periods of time.

After we moved house for the third time in our idyllic seaside town, my health worsened significantly. I spent my nights up battling the asthma. I was pathetically thin and always struggling to breathe. Any exertion triggered worse asthma. It was decided mountain air would be good for me. After testing this theory with a couple of mountain holidays, it was decided, and we moved to a small town in the mountains when I was 9 years old. It worked, I got up to normal weight and started to enjoy much improved health and mobility.

As I got older, I experienced some strange and interesting phenomena as a result of my meditation practice, and had a growing awareness of my own interior being and of the dimensions beyond material existence. I remember the evening of my tenth birthday, I stood outside under an apple tree and made some serious vows to myself, about my ethics and conduct in the world. I have kept those vows.

Without understanding the connection, I also developed an interest in, and attraction to, all things Indian. In my final year of primary school, at age 12, we were given a free choice of a final project to complete before going on to High School the following year. I chose India as my topic. My father organised for a friend to obtain many brochures and booklets from Air India for me to use as a resource. They contained very interesting and attractive pictures of India, but were a little short on information. The final product wasn’t the best work, I was grappling with trying to reconcile patchy information on thousands of years of history, so many languages, and various spiritual traditions. At this point, my father went to a bookshop and asked for something more in depth about India. The sales assistant very helpfully suggested the Penguin edition of Upanishads in translation, by Juan Mascaro. This book set me on this life course.  I started to learn about the possible traditions of my Swami from 6 years before, and my fascination deepened. This book lit a fire in my mind and life.

Approximately 1 month before my 14th birthday, I suffered a very severe acute asthma attack. The usal treatments did not work so I was taken by ambulance to the emergency department of a large hospital 20 miles away. I was in a bad way when I arrived, barely able to breathe at all. I do not remember arriving there, I came to in a large room lined with beds. It was late on a Sunday night, and inexplicably the emergency ward was empty of other patients. I had an intravenous drip in my arm and an oxygen mask over my face. There was an old man polishing the floors down the far end of the room, with one of those huge electric polishing machines with rotating pads. I was aware that my breathing was worsening again. The old cleaner came up to my bed, and asked me something in words iI could not make sense of. He had bright sparkling brown eyes that overflowed with kindness and compassion. I drifted into unconsciousness.

I was now floating about 20 feet above a bed, where a thin brown body was lying, for all the world like an empty cicada shell. I looked and saw that it was me. There were a couple of doctors and nurses at either side of the bed. Away from that body, I was being held in the purest most blissful state, by the most amazing loving being, and I was given a choice, stay in this bliss or return to your body and that life. I knew my mother would need me, so I chose to return to my body. I awoke the following day in physical agony, as of every part of my body had beenstretched and beaten.
I became a student of various traditions of Indian Sanatana Dharma (aka known as ‘Hinduism’) from my early teens.  The next written sources I chanced on were booklets and pamphlets published by the Theosophical Society’s Adyar Publications, including excerpts from key Sanskrit texts, the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, the writings of Krishnamurti and Aurobindo.
After a while other things came my way, and I read voraciously various translations of these principal texts, and many books including Yogananda’s ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’, which led me at age 15, to other yogic texts, including the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali.
In 1970 I moved to Sydney and became a semi-regular at the ISKCON (Hare Krishna) temple. Though I was not attracted to the form of Bhakti Yoga promoted by ISKNON’s Guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I resided in the Hereford Street temple’s dormitory for some months in 1973, and attended early morning classes on Sanskrit texts, primarily the Bhagavad Gita, the Isha Upanishad and Shrimad Bhagavatam.
I attempted to study Sanskrit by myself for several years before I had the opportunities to study Sanskrit with Mr Alan Treloar at the University of New England 1975 and 1979, and Professor Godfrey Tanner at Newcastle University 1980-1981.

The two professors I was originally taught by are both now deceased so I will do not want to malign their reputations, but both had been taught in British Universities, and both carried forward the constructs of western cultural imperialism. At the time of commencing my studies I had been studying Sanskrit texts for more than a decade. I had read Upanishads from age 12 in translation, the penguin edition by Juan Mascaro.
I read some of Aurobindo’s work at age 14 and at age 17 I began decoding what I could from some helpful books, some of which included transliteration, word for word translations, glossaries etc.
In my four years of academic study, I studied and did translations of several Vedic hymns, a few of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the texts in Lanman’s reader etc.

The textbooks used by my professors were 80 – 100 years old, by European indologists. These professors espoused ideas about India, Hinduism and Sanskrit which I recognised as ethnocentric and Eurocentric, based on slight knowledge and poor understanding of other academic disciplines. Frankly, I found many of their theories very half baked and their conclusions rather ridiculous, certainly not in accord with what I had gleaned from the texts and commentaries I had studied.

 

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